Chapter 7

Through the Siegfried Line to Mekel and Trier

"G" Company (that's us!) took up a position on the Saar River overlooking the German Siegfried Line. The Siegfried Line was a series of pillboxes and cement pillars about 5 ft. tall (in the valley). They were pyramid shaped, and mine fields surrounded them. Most pillboxes were 3 stories deep with ladders and air pumps inside. Walls and ceilings were 5 ft. thick and all steel reinforced, armed with 88 mm canons. Some are there to this day. As the crow flies, over five miles deep, the line was from southern Germany to the Netherlands. For "G" company to replace a unit of the 87th Division it was necessary for us to hike at night under cover of darkness because the enemy still held some area of Luxembourg.

It was not possible to get a swallow of water from my canteen, as it had frozen solid on my hip. Arriving in a bombed out village, Hinkel, Luxembourg, at night the first requirement was water. In a dank cellar a small pipe against a dirt wall was seeping water. This was now our source of water assuming it was pure and perhaps coming from a small spring. Proceeding further in to the village there was a wood shop set up producing lined caskets. I counted 5 in all and was about to use one, but too late as others claimed them first. It would have made such a nice bed for me.

Early next morning a skinny cow showed up and one of the guys claimed to be in charge of the milk. This was allowed except the cow was dry and there was no milk. I found out one of our men was a butcher by trade. Several of us encouraged him to butcher the cow. Soon the beef was hung to cool and we were able to slice off pieces to fry in our mess kit. Also potatoes were available but they were frozen and tasted so bad we could not eat many. We could only pretend to enjoy this kind of food.

Foxholes were dug by us at night and crude covers were made over the top, as snow camouflaged the area. This was so we could look across the Saar River and observe the enemy without being detected during the day. One night near the river, a firefight happened. Three of the enemy had tried to float across to our side and two were killed, one taken prisoner. This was the first for our Company and Division. I was at the top of the hill and helped take the prisoner to our C.P. (command post). No effort was made to be gentle. Even though he was wounded, there was every reason to not trust the enemy. Expecting our Captain to interrogate (with interpreter) it was disconcerting to see him cringe and shirk his duty. This was the last I saw our chicken Captain and a 1st Lieutenant took his place. Morale didn't waiver although several were becoming anxious about the future. Days and nights passed until a Captain came up from the rear. He wanted three of us to go to the rear and learn to fire a flame thrower. This was something new and no one was familiar with it. Lieutenant Spiller, platoon leader, chose me to be one to go. The Captain made a stupid decision to drive us to the rear in a Jeep during the day. Because the German's still had a significant area on our side of the river it would only be safe to travel at night.

Driving along on the side of an open hill we were like ducks waiting for the German 88mm cannons to open up on us. And they sure did! The first round whistled over the top of the moving Jeep and was a near miss. The stupid Captain ordered the driver to stop. What?! We did as a second round landed just short of us. We were told each man for himself, so I started timing the rounds. The German chose me as primary target and I knew it. Running down the hill towards the enemy, I visualized them opening the breech, passing the ammo and the firing. Each time I sprawled out flat on my face and repeated the timing. Meanwhile I tried to tell the captain to follow me down the hill to the stream that eventually flowed into the Saar. I hardly recognized my own voice as it had gone up at least three octaves. The captain tried to take cover in a hole that was too small to do any good. He followed after he was hit and his hand was all but blown off. I had dodged 8 rounds from the 88mm cannon before I reached this small stream. It was almost covered with ice. Because I was now out of sight of the artillery, it was no problem to jump into the water and float down stream. Anyone could realize I was in deep trouble of over exposure and freezing to death. Under these conditions it would not take long. As I got near to the Saar River I got out and climbed the hill returning to the hidden village I had started from (Hinkel). Jim Kitchens was there and realized how seriously exposed I was, so with a bit of straw he started a fire in a bombed out shell of a building. This was not a good idea because the enemy could zero in on the smoke. Jim took the risk for me. I stripped down, wrapped in a blanket and in a short time was able to dress and pretend nothing had happened. I was assured I would be paid $10 a month more and receive the Combat Infantry Badge (should I base my retirement on these funds?). That night the Jeep came back and the three of us went to the rear about 20 miles without the Captain. This was a very interesting time, seeing our entire Division, the 76th, all assembled in a valley next to Echternach, Luxembourg. There were tanks, trucks, half-tracks, tents, big artillery, 105 Howitzers and 155's. We made a "helluva" (Swedish) war scene. Patton's Headquarters was a short distance behind us. The sky was gray and mean looking. Girls from Echtemach came to cook pancakes, clean and help any way they could. These people loved us and loved freedom.

Soon we were out in a small grove of trees. I saddled on the harness of a flame thrower. It had two tanks filled with jelly gasoline and a smaller one full of hydrogen. It was easy to realize this was one big bomb on my back. I stood, legs spread, flicking a flint in one hand and squeezing a bike handle grip with the other. My grip was much too casual and the result was ignition while pointing downward and big flames burning at my feet. I learned to hop and jump really very fast. It was similar to throwing hand grenades only hotter. God was merciful and I tried it again. This time I had 100% success and a tree in front of me burned to a crisp very fast. In the afternoon the Lieutenant who was training us, a group of 12, said we had a choice whether to take a flame thrower and bum up a pillbox or not. We sat there for a while and pondered how it would be to crawl up a hill, find a slit in a pillbox and let the fire fly. No doubt it would work except for getting up and into range without being blown up yourself. I don't know if you would have guessed, but all 12 of us said if we had a choice let's forget it and use hand grenades and rifles instead. This proved to be a wise choice and the flame throwers were put into reserve. Is this Democracy or what? I got a good nights sleep in the rear and it felt good (on the floor of a bombed out building).

The next day held another meeting and this time we had a lot of pressure. Two Lieutenants in the rear were itching to destroy the German positions that still remained in Luxembourg. They were forming a special force, the Tiger Patrol. The 12 of us who were learning about flame throwers looked good to them so they tried hard to convince us to join them. Again I pondered hard and at first was eager to be part of an elite force. Upon thinking about my regular squad, the ones I had trained with and knew so well, I decided I'd rather go with the men I had learned to know and respect, 2nd Platoon, "G" company. Maybe six were chosen to go into the Tiger Patrol and that night they took off on their first encounter. The enemy was protected by mine fields and the Tiger Patrol was quickly defeated. One fellow I knew well returned to report the terrible loss and all the casualties. He was reassigned to be an M.P. and to direct traffic in the rear. The over anxious Tiger Patrol was no more.

On my way up to the Saar and back to 2nd Platoon, I ran into Sterns from Stanford. He had been busy at Regimental Headquarters making combat maps and there was no doubt about his being a good soldier. I congratulated him for using his head and doing such an important job. All too soon I was back up on the line. Two of our men had kept up a running dialog of bickering about chow. One was our cook, the other a rifleman. This conflict was the only on going open disagreement and several would choose sides and make comments. I was glad not to be a part of it. Typically name calling and threats of consequence during battle were made.

The building I was assigned to had two stories and was much like a barracks. One evening as we gathered all together it was crowded inside and everyone checked equipment and arms. A Lieutenant misfired his rifle and the round went through the ceiling to the second floor. I ran part way up the stairs to find out if anyone was hurt. Two men were sitting on a bench and using a table to write letters home. One turned to the other and asked, "Did you hear that shot"? The other replied, "Yeah, it hit me in the ass". Quickly he was carried to the Medics, but in vain. Very little was said as each one of us felt the trauma and loss.

It was the next day I heard automatic gunfire. A cook had been issued a new "Burp gun" without a safety, patterned after a German automatic. As he jogged along a trail the "Burp gun" misfired and hit a rifleman. As I ran upon the scene, I found the rifleman was down with a couple of 45 caliber slugs in his leg. He was looking straight up and had a pleasant smile on his face. The feud was over and he was on his way home.

Both of these incidents were totally by accident and investigation was not necessary. By count we now had eight non-battle casualties in the Company.

Moving on to Dickweiler a short way from Echternach again risks were taken. We practiced filling glass bottles with gasoline and stuffing them with cloth wicks and lighting them. Anyone doing this without a good reason would have to be nuts! Expecting to use these in combat gave us a reason to use them for light and heat now. Gasoline is more explosive that dynamite I'm sure. On only a couple of occasions we were allowed to dig a small hole and pour in some gasoline. The small fire was very comforting as a large group of us surrounded it. Other fuel was not available and later every drop of gasoline was used for vehicles as we moved into Germany.

Changes happened fast and my Platoon was assigned to Division Headquarters downtown Echternach. We were to guard our General Staff and be an Honor guard. This duty was done on a rotating basis in the Division. (Odds were 250-1 of our platoon getting this duty).

Weather was finally breaking and while on duty during the day, here came Patton driving up in a Jeep. We all saluted as he was escorted inside. Before Patton's arrival three of us lifted a forth G.I. out of the muck and mud. Carrying him to a relatively clean water hole, he was immersed to his knees and we did wash off his lower extremities. Then we carefully deposited him in front of the door to General Schmidt's C.P. He assumed his best posture as he saluted General George S. Patton (as I did too).

During Patton's visit with our General I was outside interviewing Patton's driver. Consider, the Jeep was immersed in mud and goo. As I spoke the driver had a large paintbrush and kept busy brushing off the hood and dashboard of the Jeep. Also, he wiped the windshield. This seemed an exercise in futility. The lesson learned was neatness counts and morale was a high priority. He was more than our General. He was "Patton", "Blood and Guts". Word was spread "Our blood, our guts with a grin".

Patton gave orders to our General Schmidt that we were going to cross the Saar right near where a stone bridge had been blown up (we were given this information at the same time Patton was leaving). The river was twice as wide as normal as the snow had started to melt. What we didn't know was that the 5th Division next to us had tried to cross but lost a lot of men (approximately 60) very fast in the river. Every night flares went up and descended on small parachutes. The 417th Regiment was chosen to go first. I had a front row seat. I felt like pacing a lot as it took about five days to get a foothold on the far side. There was a tremendous loss of life. Some of our bravest exploded a land mine and blew up another without knowing it. This is hard to describe. I won't forget going across a bridge built of scrap railroad rails and spit. On the other side we had one pillbox on the first hill. 2nd Platoon occupied it for five days and no one else was around us. Lieutenant Spiller was the youngest officer and like me always got the tough assignments.

The Germans in the next pillbox were not interested in fighting us. It was their reasoning that said, no way can anybody break the Siegfried Line, but it was being done. One day I lay on my back on top of the pillbox (usually we were inside), the enemy were firing artillery over the top of our captured pillbox. Their target was our frail (one and only) bridge across the Saar River. At times our Platoon was isolated and alone in Germany. The enemy was successful in knocking out our bridge by floating mines down stream and blowing it up. Our Army engineers persisted and continued to rebuild this all important bridge using bent and broken railroad tracks and any other materials they could find. Our flares continued in use at night and German artillery continued to pound us. The shells they lobbed over the top of us were visible shadows as they passed. I was able to see their shadow in the sky. It helped to learn about where to expect them to land. This proved important to me later. The strain was too much and a couple of the guys were taken out and returned to the rear. I think we had a total of 35 now. I removed my zippered Bible from my field jacket and thumbed through pages and realized there was no time for study only remembering and trusting. A break came one night at dusk. I had crawled along the trench north to the next pillbox full of the enemy. The distance was about 40 yards. I crawled over German remains and it made for a real sense of my own mortality. After looking at the incline that went down to their pillbox, I was satisfied there was no way to attack them. Later we learned how to do it.

Returning to the only pillbox we had across the Saar, I found that everyone was out and into a ravine. A heavy meeting was going on so I joined. I was welcomed to cast my vote. This felt good because I was not always consulted. The question was whether we should attack the pillbox next to us 40 yards away or should we go into Germany and raise hell? The vote was unanimous and early, 4:00 a.m., we headed due east. It didn't take too long for the enemy to catch on and they did hit us hard. The first casualty I remember was our radio operator. We had no contact to our rear or anywhere else. Leaving the hill behind we came to a more heavily wooded area. Mined areas were anywhere the enemy might put them. Having found a mined area I knew we would make contact and have a fire fight. The Germans had withdrawn away from us, but too fast. They left some of their "mine" signs and it took only a minute to figure out that if we ran to each of their signs we would not blow a mine. One of my favorite friends was "Mr. Meek". I can't remember his name, but it's what I called him. Going through the minefield he was just in front of me and we were on the run. It was good I wasn't too close because Mr. Meek made an error and had a grenade in each pocket. The pins loosened and he was killed instantly in front of me. How do I write this to soften the effect? Many years later at 3 a.m. I awoke and came immediately into clear consciousness. The first thing to come to my mind was Mr. Meek. He was such a mild, wonderful man. Any wise person would want to emulate him.

Perhaps to avoid further stress and anguish of this violent combat, he pulled the pin. In any event I would have liked to have stopped and knelt beside him to hold him as he went down. These thoughts happen in micro-seconds.
(Who was the most humble man in the Bible? Numbers 11: 14
"I am not able to carry all these people alone. because the burden is too heavy for me.
And if this is the way you deal with me. kill me, I pray you, at once and be granting me a favor, and let me not see my wretchedness (in the failure of all my efforts)". Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.

I had just learned earlier that our Platoon guide had chickened out. His job was to prevent anyone from displaying cowardice in front of the enemy, by shooting him. Continuing in the attack all true behaviors show up and nothing was concealed. Two in my squad were turned around and running back toward me. They were suffering severe upper body wounds. It was an ugly sight. The Germans had set up an ambush, so as I came to the edge of the woods I looked past an open area and located their positions. A machine gun nest was to my left and foxholes were right in front of me. I was about ready to engage, which would have been an error. At this critical time Sergeant Klein prodded me to go out into the open, become his bodyguard, an order not appropriate as I was not part of his command. With regret I swung completely around pointing my BAR at him instead of the enemy. Quickly I faced forward and followed orders of my squad leader. Klein tried to use me as his shield. My squad leader then signaled for us to flank the machine gun. Staying in the woods and running parallel to their line about six of us were able to flank their position and knock out the machine gun crew. The enemy fire was also effective. Two of our bravest used marching fire, went head on into the machine gun as we flanked it. I wish we could have been faster and perhaps we would not have lost them. A mortar went off as the enemy started to retreat and Keller was hit from the tree burst. He was exceptional, and wrapped the wound, put his helmet back on and wouldn't quit. When disengaging the enemy we continued east.

At this time our Company followed by Battalion was entering into the fighting also. Late in the afternoon we pressed the enemy hard and ended the day by wiping out another machine gun nest set at an unlikely place in a woods. This position had been dug in, it was good cover and because we overcame the enemy, it was decided to spend the remainder of the night here. Soon it was dark and I had carefully memorized the area. Lieutenant Spiller assigned me and three others to run a patrol all night to keep contact with "L" Company. They were about a mile north of us and the distance between us represented a large gap in our line.

At dark, the four of us took off down a logging road that had a shallow ditch on each side. Immediately we had been observed and artillery opened up on us. Laying in the ditch for too long would destroy us so jumping up and running a few yards and falling back in the ditch was the only choice we had. In the intense darkness the enemy finally lost track of us. We came upon an outpost of "L" Company, a password was used, and established contact telling them to expect us to return at least twice more during the night. "L" Company cooperated beautifully and were glad to supply us with some water. Returning to "G" Company was going to be difficult because the road was being monitored by the enemy. Our route would be through the woods and direction would be a problem. After what seemed far too long, there was an opening in the woods and we stumbled into the battle area of the day before. Not easy to describe this so let's call it the area of "G" Company.

Having memorized it earlier helped to locate our C.P. (Command Post). That night we made two trips to "L" Company and the enemy was not aware of the hole in our line.

I felt exploited because I was unable to relax or close my eyes. The Company Supply Sgt. had made contact from the rear and brought up some very important gloves. He also had a G.I. pot with a warm pork chop at the bottom. Using two slices of bread I now ate the best sandwich of my life.
(Many years later I remembered the bread and learned to make four loaves each week with help of a Jewish baker.)

A German field oven had been captured and was attached to the rear of one of our trucks. The bread we occasionally received (twice) was special.

Soon it was daylight and we were in the attack. 1 particularly noticed that our Platoon was especially weary even though most had slept some. The sandwich served me well and was just about the only fresh food for six weeks or more that I would get.

Meanwhile, in the rear, our 385th Regiment was coming across the river and the entire valley around the Dragons Teeth was being cleared of mines and was occupied. Getting ready to cross the Prum River, I felt better about organization. Companies followed by Battalion and 304th Regiment felt solid to me. A Major (Regiment officer) directed us at the bank of the Prum River to slide down to the sand below then follow each other to a foot bridge. A rope served as a handrail and the bridge was a narrow plank. Because it was almost midnight seeing was difficult. After sliding down I ran through the sand then without using the hand rope I jumped several times and was across the river. The man following me lost his balance and we heard his helmet as it clanged and banged down the bank. He was totally disoriented and unable to follow me across the river. I'm guessing about 150 of us were on the far side when this break down happened. Our Battalion Commander (Big Red) stood up calling out for all of us to gather around as he directed us to act as though nothing was wrong and instead go directly into the attack. Forget surprise or silence. These orders were very positive and expletives were used to the max. The Germans were not prepared for this assault.

Next day we engaged the enemy again and were able to push them through a grove of large trees, Indian style. Most of our guys were becoming exhausted so we slowed down. I knelt behind a tree to catch my breath and discovered I was kneeling in "Kraut" crap. I got some energy back very quickly, jumped into a German fox hole with about six inches of water in the bottom and washed my pants. Three of us then continued the chase. We came to the edge of the woods and could see the enemy on the far side of the clearing just out of rifle range. In front of us we had shot two Germans, one was gone, the other was wounded badly. One of our guys, to my right, hollered let's kill him. Instead I said, lets vote. Sure enough two of us voted that if he could crawl up to us we would take him prisoner. It made me feel good to be so merciful. We signaled for the wounded German to crawl to us. He tried very hard to raise up on his elbows and struggled to move towards us. I was heart sick to realize he wouldn't be able to make it at all. I had no quick answer, but the man who voted to kill him threw down his rifle, ran out into the open, picked him up and brought him back as a prisoner. Our enemy was surprised that time.

Next, we experienced a man from the rear. He was a forward artillery observer and we encouraged him to call for phosphorus rounds and lay down a smoke cover in front of us. He did this quickly and with accuracy to give us a breather 'til night fall. Next day, I'm guessing that we were about 5 miles deep into "Der Fader Land". After crossing the Prum River it took a day to push the enemy half a mile to the Nims River. My memory of crossing the Nims is vague. I think we splashed our way across and paid little attention about being immersed in water. By constant moving we became dry due to our body heat. This included our boots drying out. I do remember our resolve and the courage displayed by everyone around me. Our pushing further east would surely destroy us as the enemy could literally surround the Platoon. At that time I guess there were 25 of us and we were becoming battle wise. To think of what we had accomplished so far was gratifying. It was important not to think about our casualties. Lieutenant Spiller told me and a man from 3rd squad to advance a couple of hundred yards and dig in. Spiller was about to decide to travel a different direction, and I was to warn (by shooting) of any frontal attack. After digging a fox hole, my buddy told me that the Platoon had left without us. I was very anxious and prayed a lot. The stress was too great and my new buddy started to fire on any kind of imagined target and emptied his rifle shooting at leaves and trees. I struck him hard with my rifle butt and he calmed down fast. We wandered around trying to figure out what to do because sure as the world we were M.I.A. (missing in action). We spent the night in super silence, hoping that the enemy would not have patrols out who might hear us. Day was bright and we began to check directions. Going back west was not a good idea and going north made me imagine running into the enemy because there were hills. A decision to go south became the most likely. The day passed quickly, soon it was night again and I was definitely in charge as my buddy was becoming like a zombie with fear. On the third day we followed a logging road, sometimes on the road, sometimes off. By late morning I looked carefully to see two GI's in front of us. I started jumping jacks hoping they would not fire on us. They made hand signals for us to get off the road, as the road was mined every few feet. We did and continued to approach. We were recognized as Americans by these troops and it was all I could do not to hug each one. At the road intersection, I watched as a truck came to unload artillery shells and make this an ammo dump. It was important for me to tell them that this was the front line and we were only a short distance from the Germans. As I tried to make myself understood the enemy opened up with mortars and soon blew up the huge amount of our stacked ammo. Fortunately our truck pulled out and I was barely able to jump on it. Driving a short distance south it was with pride that I was in position to greet Lieutenant Spiller and join 2nd platoon again. I cleaned my rifle and magazines that night in the dark. Knowing we would fight in the morning, I slept very little and was cold and miserable in a root cellar. Also I thought of meeting up again with 2nd Platoon and doing my part. Being dependable was important to me. It was at this point we crossed a significant north-south highway that was a main link between Trier and Bitburg. History records that it was accomplished by "G" Co., 304th Regt. Without the use of this highway the Germans, at least a Division, was trapped near Trier.

Becoming a combat formation next morning, our platoon now started to head west and climb up a road toward a small town.
(This town was named Mekel and became the pivot point for the 76th Division. We had fought our way through the entire Siegfried Line with pillboxes (100's) every 40 yards. On Patton's orders we would turn back and fight our way through the Siegfried Line again, attacking a main town,Trier. No other Division had this accomplishment. The time I spent M.I.A. east of Mekel made me realize that during that time I was the furthest east of anyone in the Division [Army]).
German paratroopers had again set up an ambush for us. This time we headed directly into an 88mm cannon. It was extremely accurate. As the firing commenced, I was the point (lead) and could almost feel the heat of the bullets as they made near misses. There was a German fox hole in the middle of the road so I jumped in. It would be only a short while before an 88mm shell would be placed in the hole with me. I needed to leave soon and look for better cover. When jumping into the hole, I lifted my left arm to shield my face. This resulted in breathing hard and my glasses were completely fogged over. Having glasses for so many years this was the last thing I would have expected to happen. Now I was totally without sight. Crawling out of the hole under fire was nasty. I stumbled to my feet and staggered off the road. I was weaving and bobbing from side to side and I used my rifle for balance. Suddenly, just as my glasses had fogged, they cleared. Looking up straight ahead among the trees, it was a miracle, three German soldiers were standing there and with hands behind their heads, became my prisoners!

We continued the attack as the enemy commenced to fire on us as well as our prisoners. By our flanking and out maneuvering, the town and more prisoners were taken. Third Battalion relieved us in Mekel. It was so pleasant to relax and lay down inside a barn. This was the first relief in over two weeks of combat. After a total of 20 minutes, excited orders came down that Third Battalion was bogged down. Time for us to go back and take Mekel a second time.

Lieutenant Spiller disappointed me about digging in and being M.I.A. (missing), but who could criticize every choice? I turned it around as on one occasion I crossed an open field and went head on into a two-man foxhole. I assumed I had kept the enemy pinned down and was confused to find the two enemy were retreating with more of their troops through the woods. It would make no sense for me to chase them by myself so I jumped into the vacant foxhole to wait for support from the rear. Lieutenant Spiller came up to me, his stature was truly a joke. Waddling like a duck with his rear almost touching the ground was not a position to be proud of. As he looked at me in the hole, I had opened a can of ham and cheese and crackers, having brunch of my "K" rations. Conversation between us didn't happen. Again contact was discontinued and we changed our direction to confuse the Germans.

Heading west was bringing us back to the Saar River as we were closing a circle. The entire valley inside the circle continued to fill with our ordinance and supplies. German troops headed for the high ground. Leaving town was different than expected, as a German half-track was in the way and would try to stop us. A glass bottle of gasoline with a rag wick quickly eliminated this problem and we watched it burn. Moving south again we attacked, pressed the enemy, took hundreds of prisoners and came to the Mosselle and Saar Rivers as they joined at Trier, historically the oldest town in Germany. Days blurred into night and back to day. It seemed we were in constant motion. Approaching Trier and night caused our expectations to multiply. Perhaps the buildings and their silhouette exaggerated the victory we experienced. Too exhausted to glory, there is no glory in war. It was a major victory to prevent the enemy from retreating.

After a wild day of battle several of us gathered and I heard excited voices describing what had happened and some were gloating. I was tempted to enter into the conversation but felt restrained and decided not to. Later, I was learning Proverbs 24: 17 "Rejoice not when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles".

Marching at night back towards Echtemach we pushed the Germans through a woods and they suffered many casualties as we did also. Our platoon had lost at least 18 and there was still no end of fighting. Enemy losses were much greater, a ratio of 6 to 1. Travel at night was the safest way. Without sleep we were covering a lot of ground as we left the Trier area. Our column of bone weary, "Dog Face Soldiers" was less than energetic. A second column was merging with us from the left. I had a feeling of security to be joined by these additional troops. What a shock to my system as now I was marching side by side with a column of German prisoners. We silently became their guards and would have to be on a double alert.
(Patton noted that our relatively green Division had captured over 1,000 prisoners at this time. He was impressed.)

One morning our entire company formed a line as we now were going to meet the second line of defense. In the 30's, Hitler also reinforced the Siegfried Line by building fortifications to look like innocent barns. At 8:30 a.m., on line, we started across an open field. The first obstacle was a smooth wire fence about five feet high. I decided to climb over because of all my equipment, instead of going under. Supporting myself with the fence post I got to the top and was ready to jump down. The mortar fire was very intense and one round struck the bottom of the fence post. I became unbalanced as the base of the mortar shell hit my left shoulder. Spinning then falling to the ground, I glanced at my left hand and moved it. My arm was numb as I had lost feeling in it. Looking back for a medic was futile as a constant barrage of artillery hit the woods behind me. I picked up my BAR and placed my numb finger in the trigger housing. By pulling the rifle forward with my right hand I was able to fire it. Then I made a blunder that I promised myself wouldn't happen to me. An expended shell ejected against my left leg, and jammed my rifle. This had happened once before in training and I had to remove it with a screwdriver. I shook my BAR with all my might and the cartridge fell out. Another miracle! Cocking the rifle, I was back in business and using marching fire, headed across the field taking the point.

Next, to my left, I observed a small barn. It seemed too small and as it turned out, it was a solid concrete bunker with double doors in back. A large Tiger tank drove out with about 12 enemy Infantry on it. As it was driving head on toward me, my knees started to knock. It was almost close enough for my BAR and besides mine there were two more near by to eliminate their Infantry. The tank veered off and withdrew up the hill. This was providence, as we were very exposed. Still determined, our attack continued into a hidden machine gun nest. The whole Platoon became pinned down, including me. There really was no choice so I got to my feet and signaled, waving my arm to attack. Lieutenant Spiller let out a loud cry. He had been hit in the helmet by a wooden bullet. The Germans used some of these to avoid hitting their own troops. 1 felt his calling out would perhaps delay our attack so I yelled as loud as I could, "You're hit but not hurt. Let's go!" (how could I know if he was hurt? I couldn't) The troops rallied and we did attack.

This ambush we had entered had been well thought out by the Germans. Their machine gun was well concealed by the rise and fall of this rolling terrain. A network of slit trenches fanned out on each side. The important thing for us to do was get the machine gunners. I rose to my feet and stood to discover exactly their position which was slightly to my right and only a few yards away. Because of a knoll I could not get a field of fire. To my right Second squad had a BAR and their man was next to stand. I knew he had a clear field and would soon fire and eliminate the all important enemy gun. During the noise of battle I could hear the sickening click of his rifle as it failed to fire. A simple problem of a clogged gas port. His BAR was not clean enough to fire. There is no excuse good enough as now we would lose good soldiers needlessly. Dropping back onto his knees he was without a weapon. Another BAR man jumped up using marching fire and closed in on the machine gun nest from the far right of me. Success was his at the cost of his life. Controlling the enemy that were in two man fox holes was accomplished (I don't remember any prisoners at this time). Mine was the only BAR as we continued our attack. A stunned Lt. Spiller handed me a scrap of paper and a pencil. I scribbled my name as fast as I could. Why? I had watched as the BAR man of Third squad made the ultimate sacrifice and now his mother would receive a Silver Star medal. The Lord knows I could have signed for at least 20 of these. This pause was unexpected but very important.

Advancing several hundred yards I glanced down and saw a new German mortar base plate. It was three or four times bigger than ours. This explained why their mortar (small canon) fire was so devastating. Obviously their mortar shells were twice as big as ours. The only defense was to continue to overrun their positions (hard for them to carry such large baseplates and ammo).

Nearing the top of the high ground was another full size pillbox (3 floors deep) overlooking the Saar. My BAR was more than fantastic. It was overwhelming. The ball of fire it created overwhelmed a foxhole in front of me and quieted the return fire from the pillbox. I learned that this is how it's done. Meanwhile, I had looked to the rear and hoped to have help. Keller came up to my right side, but was taken out as a mortar shell landed right behind him. He shielded me. What can I say...a micro-second demonstrated his purpose and firm intent. It was written on his face. Jim Kitchens took his place and capture of the pillbox was complete. While others took control of prisoners and decided what our next move would be, I climbed a short distance to the top of a knoll. I wanted to see how far the enemy had withdrawn (if at all) and would they try a quick counter attack. The artillery was the most intense that I would ever experience. The rounds seemed to land like hammer blows every few feet away from me as I continued to crawl to the top. Finally, peering over, I discovered the enemy were located in a house at the bottom of the hill. They probably would not expect to counter attack up the steep incline. Artillery continued to explode every few seconds as I turned to crawl out of there. My body bounced with concussion more times that I could count. These memories never fade.

A short while later a second box about 40 yards away was taken. As I came up to it, a German Lieutenant came out and demanded we take him prisoner in a Jeep. I escorted two prisoners back into the pillbox and was surprised as they disarmed two booby traps. Think about the fact that these Germans had surrendered to us with hands behind their heads. With their eyes pleading that we would not kill them. In spite of our showing mercy, they hid a grenade under a helmet and another under a coat. Their actions caused our attitude to harden. (I was never trained to make a booby trap). The German Lieutenant continued to demand his rights and was eliminated.

For the first time in over three weeks I was able to sit in the sun on a hill looking down across the Saar River at Hinkel.
(We had occupied Hinkel, Luxembourg over a month earlier.)
This lasted maybe 45 minutes.

It was now about 4 p.m. and 8 hours since my left arm had been made numb by the mortar shell. The mortar shrapnel was a flat piece that hit me like a hammer. No deep cut, but an abrasion and bruise. Feeling was returning and I knew I was going to be OK. Noticing that my G.I. scarf was in two pieces and my throat was becoming chilled, I started to inquire of those near me. "Who could have torn this"? I thought someone was responsible. Certainly I would not ruin my own scarf. The same shrapnel that hit my shoulder had caused this damage. Again I paused to give thanks as my throat was untouched

During a lull in battle we were enabled to regroup and officers would plan new strategy. There was a small rail yard with a switching tower. Some of us (4) climbed up three tiers of inside steps and were looking over the area from windows high above. Looking across an open field we observed some motion that would have to involve enemy troops. Our spending time in this tower could prove stupid if the Germans were to counter attack. Returning to ground level I settled down in snow and pulled my poncho around me to perhaps wait until early morning before again going into the attack. All the time being alert that a counter attack could happen to us at anytime. Daylight was fading as a small Piper Cub airplane hovered above us (it was ours). Then suddenly it landed in the field between the Germans and us. The pilot got out of his small plane and I ran as fast as I could (waddled) keeping the plane between me and the enemy. I yelled at the top of my voice for him to fly out as quickly as possible. He was in a posture of going "big poopy" and without pulling up his pants he climbed on board. I'm not sure how! The propeller revved up and the plane took off without hesitation. I returned from the field and thought it would be interesting to meet him again sometime.

Early morning we again went into the attack. In most of these battles the Germans either countered our attack or formed an ambush. Because I was the point I was allowed to enter the trap and when enough of our troops followed the Germans opened fire. Having a BAR in the lead of our troops had to confuse the enemy. In training this was not practiced, but obviously this was very effective for us. I use the word providential constantly. To define the word, it is "Divine care and guidance". How else could we have been so successful as I really did lose track of how many ambushes we were involved in.

We headed north and east and came to a wooded, hilly area. This area had been cleared and hiking through was not stressful. The Platoon took a short rest for a few minutes. Being curious, a buddy and I walked into the woods to investigate noise. Surprise! a column of our tanks had driven up from behind and were now on line. This was the first I'd seen them ready for combat. I suppose the tanks were medium size and each one had what looked like a shed roof canopy over the top. Actually they were equipped with rocket launching tubes much like bazookas, three rows of about ten each. A command was given and the rockets were launched ten at a time from each of about eight tanks, a total of over 200 rockets. There was a loud swooshing sound and flashes of fire. What power, how destructive, how merciless. Again I asked God to scare the enemy and let me capture them. The explosions in the distance were in fast succession and the sound was loud and scattered. I ran up to the Tankers to express how efficient I thought they were. Each man was totally occupied as they strapped shovels (for leveling tanks) and equipment onto the tanks. I stood there talking to myself. There was absolutely no response. The Tankers jumped aboard and buttoned down the hatches. On command they pulled out fast into a single column like aircraft and off into a cloud of dirt. Somehow I was offended by their quick departure. Suddenly, return fire from enemy artillery came. My buddy and I jumped into a new shell crater hoping a second shell would not hit the same spot. This return fire was probably more intense than our rockets had been. The tankers were trained well to get out of harms way. After this I would see our tanks only in larger towns as they were used for mopping up. German tanks built for the Battle of the Bulge and after were larger and I don't like to admit were better than ours. Patton was wise not to direct tank battles, but depend on our Artillery and Infantry including Cavalry troops to travel through Germany as he said, "Like crap through a goose" (his voice was pitched high).

Chapter 8

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