What happened to the 422nd before and after
What Happened to the
422d Before and After
(Editor's note: On
the 25th of September 1945 Lt. Col. Joseph C. Matthews, formerly
Regimental Executive Officer addressed a memorandum to former members of
the 422d summarizing what had happened during the Bulge and after. For the
benefit of members of the other units of the Division, it is republished
here... H.B. Livesey, editor)
From: Lt. Col. Joseph C. Matthews
AG & SF RS
Miami Beach, Florida
25 September 1945
Memo to: Former
Members of the 422d Inf:
1. Purpose. This
bulletin is an attempt to furnish you with the available information on
casualties, awards, etc. pertaining to the 422d Inf. and to bring you a
message from your former Regimental Commander, Colonel Descheneaux, who is
hospitalized in Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Denver, Colorado, as a
result of tuberculosis, which he contracted while a POW. Please make this
bulletin available to any former 422d men who may be near you.
2. Summary of Combat
Operations. The 422d Inf. went into combat in the Schnee‑Eifel Area of
Germany on 10 December 1944. On 16 December, the regiment was hit by the
German Ardennes counter‑offensive, and was quickly cut off. Several
sectors of the regimental zone received heavy artillery fire and ground
attacks, all of which were repulsed. Co. “L” and CN Co. counter‑attacked
towards AUW on the afternoon of 16 December and prevented the Regimental
CP, AT Co. and Cn Co. areas from being overrun. On the night of 17
December, 2d Bn was swung around facing north, to meet a threat from
strong enemy forces which had outflanked us. On 18 December, orders by
radio from Division Headquarters directed the 422d Inf., in conjunction
with the 423d Inf., to attack and destroy enemy forces at Schönberg, and
continue along the Schönberg St. Vith road and clear the enemy from that
road, which was originally our principal supply route. Meanwhile, the 7th
and 9th Armored Divisions were committed in the vicinity of St. Vith,
where the 106th Div. CP and other installations had been located, but they
were unable to stop the German drive at that point. The 422d Inf. made an
extremely wellexecuted cross‑country withdrawal during the day and night
of 18 December, to assembly position southeast of Schönberg, and attacked
towards Schönberg on the morning of 19 December.
3. Events after
Capture. Most of the regiment was marched about 50 km to Gerolstein and
from there was marched or moved by box car further into Germany. A large
part of the officers and men went to Bad Orb. Others were scattered
throughout German POW Camps. A number of officers reached Poland, from
which they made a winter march of several hundred kilometers, finally
arriving at Hammelburg, where the officers from Bad Orb meanwhile had
been moved. The Hammelburg Camp was liberated by a raiding force from the
4th Armored Division on 27 March but most of those liberated were
recaptured before they could reach the American lines, and were marched
back into Germany, finally being liberated at Moosburg and other places in
the Munich area about the last of April. Bad Orb and other camps were also
liberated in April and returned via Camp Lucky Strike or through
hospitals. A few officers and men were liberated in Eastern Germany by the
Russians and evacuated via Russia. Many members were killed or died while
Prisoners of War.
Message from Col. Descheneaux, CO 422d Regiment
The war in which we
took such a brief and tragic part is over. Most of us were fortunate
enough to have returned to our families and friends. Time will dim but
never entirely erase the memory of our trying experiences. I have found,
through conversations with many former members of our regiment confined in
this hospital, that information as to our mission and the circumstances
leading to our capture are not fully known. Events happened so fast and
under such difficult circumstances that it is understandable why such
information did not reach everyone. I hope that this bulletin will serve
to clarify that undesirable situation.
As to our part,
after we were cut off we were ordered to leave our position on
Schnee‑Eiffel and to attack and destroy a German Panzer Combat Team along
the Schönberg St. Vith Road, after which we were to proceed to St. Vith
and then west from there. We were almost entirely surrounded and in order
to reach Schönberg We had to move across country. I was separated from you
not long after capture and with a few exceptions, have seen none of you
since. It was only after my arrival here, and through correspondence with
officers and men of the various companies, that I have been able to get a
fairly complete picture of many details of the attack. We ran into a trap
near Schönberg and were subjected to heavy fire from nearly all directions
and by tanks and artillery. By the afternoon it became evident that the
accomplishment of our mission was impossible. It became further evident
that there was little we could do to help any operation. The paramount
question became that of saving the lives of as many of you men as possible
and every possible action to accomplish this was discussed. Our situation
was rendered hopeless by our great distance behind our lines, the weather,
our ammunition supply, and many other factors. And so, though my spirit
revolted against such a decision, surrender seemed to be the only
solution to avoid needless loss of life and further suffering. I am
convinced that there was nothing else to do and I know that opinion is
shared by most every one of you.
It is my sincere
desire, and that of all our officers, to secure the recognition and awards
which so many of you richly deserve for gallantry and meritorious
service. This may be slow, due to administrative difficulties, but you may
be sure that many deserving cases will be recommended for awards as soon
as full information can be secured in proper form. The Combat Infantryman
Badge was awarded to all Infantrymen of the Regiment and the Medical
Badge to members of the Medical Detachment, and Regimental Colors of the
422d Inf recently were appropriately decorated as a Combat Regiment at a
Division Review in the ETO.
I wish all of you
the best of luck, and whatever course your lives may take in the future.
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for having made it possible
for me to be as proud of his officers, men, and regiment as any commander
ever could be.
L. DESCHENEAUX, JR Colonel, Inf.
5. Promotions: All
officers and EM who were POW's receive an interview at the Redistribution
Station or hospital, which is considered by a special board of officers in
Washington, to make promotion in cases of those whose service, position
held and other factors indicate that they presumably would have been
promoted had they not been captured. A letter was also written to this
board, giving details of the situation which existed in the 422d Inf.,
and providing information calculated to effect promotion of the maximum
number of deserving cases. W. D. Circular No. 185, dated 21 June 1945,
provides for restoration to grade under certain condition, of
noncommissioned officers who were reduced without prejudice because no
suitable assignment was available. See your unit personnel officer for
6. Combat Infantry
and Medical Badges: The officers and men who were present with the
regiment when the German counter‑offensive began on 16 December 1944 were
awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, retroactive to 16 December 1944
(including the additional pay), on Letter Orders No. 140, Subject: Combat
Infantryman Badge, The Adjutant General's Office, Washington, D. C.
Medical Badges were awarded to all members of the Medical Detachment, but
I do not have the order number available. If you have not received your
Badge, see your unit commander or write to The Adjutant General,
Washington 25, D. C.
7. Unit Awards: All
members of the 422d Inf. who were POW's are entitled to wear two bronze
stars, one for the Rhineland Campaign and one for the Ardennes Campaign.
Any member who joined American forces and engaged in combat after escape
or liberation, as did a number of those who were liberated at Hammelburg,
is entitled also to a bronze star for the, campaign of Central Germany.
8. Individual Awards
and Decorations: I have heard many accounts of splendid performances by
members of our regiment, including some who were killed. Some of these
have been recommended for awards, but most cases will never receive the
recognition they deserve unless persons who have knowledge of the facts
will make suitable statements on which to base recommendations. If you
are not equipped to prepare the recommendation yourself, I will undertake
to prepare and forward an appropriate recommendation for any individual
action for which you will furnish me the essential information. A sworn
statement is required (officers only may make a certificate), stating the
facts in your own words. Be sure to include the name of the person to be
recommended, the location, date, time, weather, visibility, casualties,
nature of the terrain, enemy activity and location, the effect of the
deed, and any other information which will serve to give a true picture of
the action. Submit statement in triplicate, and either give me the name of
another witness, or say in your statement that you were the only known
witness, as statements from two witnesses are normally required, in order
to support the letter of recommendation. If you know of cases deserving
of awards, please prepare your recommendations, or submit the necessary
statements to me without delay. Address statements to Lt. Col. Joseph C.
Matthews, Jr., Western Boulevard, Route No. 4, Raleigh, North Carolina.
9. It is estimated
that the 422d Inf sustained casualties of approximately 100 killed and 750
wounded, including deaths and injuries sustained after capture. The
following list of those killed is not complete, but is the most accurate
available at this time:
Lt Col Thomas Kent, Hq 1st Bn
Capt Wm. H. Perkins, Co M
Capt Julius Hene, Medics
1st Lt John M. Krol, Regt Hq Co
1st Lt Wm. B. Brice, Co B
1st Lt Emmit I. Harman, Jr, Co H
1st Lt Clifford F. Blacke, ‑Medics
1st Lt Richard C. Diamond, Medics
1st Lt Norman A. Engle, Co K
1st Lt Thorold J. B. Sharitz, Co B
1st Lt Karl Luck, Co A
1st Lt Leon Kastenbaum, AT Co
2nd Lt Bernard M. Christensen, Co L
2nd Lt George E. Hammond, Co H
1st Sgt Douglas J. Reichenau, AT Co
T Sgt Samuel F. Baxter, Co H
T Sgt James F. Melton, Co M
S Sgt Laverne E. Borreson, Co M
S Sgt Raymond F. Jones, Co H
S Sgt Robert J. King, Co M
S Sgt George E. Thomas, SvCo
T 4 Patrick V. Thomas, Regt Hq Co
S Sgt Paul Wannamaker, Hq 3d Bn
Sgt Steve J. Koscak, Co E
Sgt Thomas W. Ahlberg, Co G
Sgt Claude E. Brown, Co H
Sgt Charles L. Rizzoli, Co H
Tec 5 Harry Washer, Co G
Pvt Charles P. Gulios, Co E
Pvt John J. Heagney, Co B
Pvt Nicholas J. LoSavio, Co B
Pvt Anthony H. Pandini, Co L
Pvt John J. Rogosienski, Co D
Pfc Leonard Golardi, Co M
Pfc George A. Anderson, Co C
Pfc Carl A. Aylesworth, Co H
Pfc Saul Bard, Co G
Pfc Murray Brenner, Co E
Pfc Bert E. Butler, Co H
Pfc Wm. J. Cannon, Co B
Pfc Eli Cohen, Co I
Pfc Louis A. Croce, Hq 2d Bn
Pfc Charles G. Frair, Co B
Pfc Sheldon N. Franklin, Hq 3dBn
Pvt Norvel E. Ingle, Medics
Pfc Charles A. Lubke, Regt Hq Co
Pfc William B. Kempf, Co E
Pfc Don S. Kinzer, Co F
Pfc David S. Mueller, Co M
Pfc Robert Porter, Hq 1st Bn
Pfc Raymond L. Obert, Co H
Pfc Arthur S. Rosen, Co F
Pfc Hayden Seymour, Co G
Pfc Duane P. Ward, Co L
Pfc Harry H. Weissinger, Co G
Pfc Earl F. Ballew, Medics
Pfc Robert H. Wilson, Co H
T 4 Robert J. Burns, Hq 3d Bn
Pvt Antonio Carraturo, Hq 2d Bn
Pvt Charles H. Clark, Regt Hq Co
Pfc Von W. Gordon, Co E
Pvt Philip F. Greenspan, Co A
Pvt Milton Rothman, Co B
Pvt Donald S. Rowe, Co F
Pvt John W. Thomas, Hq 2d Bn
Pvt John P. Viborka, Co B
Pvt John B. Wharton, Co G
Pvt Creslow P.
Zguzenski, Co F
10. Conclusion. I
regret that space does not permit me to reprint the tributes paid to our
Division by the Secretary of War, General Eisenhower, and other high
commanders, nor to bring you many warm expressions of pride and
appreciation of their comrades which have come to me from officers and
men of our regiment. I am equally proud to have been a member of the 422d
Inf and to have served in combat with such men. Those who gave their lives
will be remembered with deepest respect and reverence. Both for myself and
for the many who would welcome the opportunity, I wish you the best of
luck in all things, wherever you may be.
Joseph C. Matthews, Jr.
Lt. Col, INF
(Formerly Regt Exec Off, 422nd)
The Story of 422d Cannon Company
by Lt. Irwin Juster
On the morning of
December 16, 1944, when the Germans started their drive through the
Ardennes, we were occupying positions in the Siegfried Line. Our company
area and gun positions were located approximately 3,000 yards Southwest of
a little town called Schlossenbach, which at that time was our regimental
headquarters C.P. Between regimental headquarters and our positions was
located the anti‑tank company of the 422 Regiment. We had occupied these
positions from December 11 until December 18, 1944. Our guns were so
registered as to be firing due East, and we had fired on numerous targets
within our zone of fire, one being the town of Waschied.
On December 11,
1944, amid much confusion and in bitter cold, we moved into our positions
that were formerly occupied by the Second Division. It was surprising to
our inexperienced minds to find such well‑prepared gun positions and
section huts. The particular position that we occupied was a beautiful
pine woods with a broad opening to the East, which gave us excellent
fields of fire for our howitzers, We immediately layed our guns, and got
everything in instant readiness for whatever surprises might arise. We
were all quite excited and anticipative of what was in store for us, this
being our first experience in actual combat.
The days between the
12 and 16 passed with routine duties, such as improving our gun positions,
establishing O.P.'s, reconnoitering routes to our battalions, and working
out fire plans with our S‑3, On the morning of December 16, we were
awakened at approximately 0530 by artillery fire which began falling in
our area, We were quite surprised as this was our first taste of enemy
fire. At about 1300 commanding officer of Cannon Company received a
message from Regimental Headquarters stating that about 70 German
infantrymen and several tanks had broken through to the northeast of our
positions and were endangering the positions of the Regimental C.P.,
anti‑tank company, and cannon company, and ordered us to establish a
defense line running East and West, with our positions facing to the
North. We quickly organized our company into three platoons, leaving just
enough men behind to man the howitzers, We established this defensive line
which ran along the road from Schlossenbach to Auw to St. Vith, Shortly
after establishing these positions we received word by radio that our
company was to advance to the northeast and attack the town of Auw. We
were to do this with the help of Company L. Our company being a cannon
company had only carbines, M1 rifles, and a few anti‑tank grenades. This
attack had to be made across wide open terrain which offered us absolutely
no protection or concealment.
After we had
proceeded about 250 yards, we were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire.
We had also noticed a German armored car to our northeast. We dispatched a
patrol to investigate this armored car. The majority of the machine gun
fire seemed to be coming from a small clump of woods located to our
northeast, We dispatched another patrol to make a wide encirclement and
come into the woods from the rear of where this machine gun fire was
located. In the meanwhile we had contacted our company C.P. and asked for
some support. We were given two howitzers, which firing from our original
company positions were able to knock out two enemy machine guns and route
an enemy tank.
After this we
pressed the attack further, feeling that our patrol which had gone down to
silence the machine guns in the woods was at that time reaching its
objective. At this point we received a message from our regimental C.P.
telling us to withdraw to our original company area and set up a perimeter
defense. We had to inform our patrol of these instructions. Pfc. Eldon E.
Marks volunteered for this assignment. Showing outstanding courage, and at
great personal risk, he crept, crawled and finally ran to the woods, enemy
fire constantly kicking up the dust behind him. Our withdrawal to our
company area was executed without suffering any casualties. We returned to
our C.P. and established a perimeter defense for the night. On December
17, we had our communications with regimental C.P. severed.
At 1100 of that day
was the time it happened, and we tried to combat this deficiency by
sending Lt. Clarence A. Husterlid with his radio operator and another man
as liaison. On their way to the C.P. they had to pass through the area
occupied by our anti‑tank company. As soon as they reached this area, they
were fired upon by members of the A.T. Co. thinking they were enemy
machine gunners, and they were never able to complete their mission. Lt,
Husterlid at this point was very seriously wounded.
Later in the day,
the commanding officer of the cannon company made his way to the
regimental headquarters, where he stayed, and was able to direct the fire
of our howitzers on several enemy convoys, knocking out many horse‑drawn
artillery pieces, and ammunition trucks. Our observers constantly on the
watch throughout the day were able to spot a large concentration of enemy
vehicles that were located to our Northeast. That night plotting our fires
very carefully we were able to set fire to the woods in which these
vehicles were located causing a large explosion and a huge fire, and
probably demolishing most of the vehicles.
From about 1600, we
had been out of contact with the regimental C.P, and had no information as
to what the situation was, as our commanding officer did not return. We
received a message at about 1900 stating that supplies of food and
ammunition would be dropped at certain coordinate points, and that we were
to send a patrol out to pick these up. Whereas regiment could contact us,
we could not contact them. Later we received a message that these supplies
would not be dropped, Sensing the worst, a meeting was called, and it was
decided that if we had no further word, we would withdraw from our
positions, and head in a Southwesterly direction the following morning, We
laid plans to destroy the weapons and vehicles, so as not to cause any
At about 0500 of the
morning of the 18th of December we contacted the company commander of
regimental headquarters company by radio and asked him what the situation
was. He said he could not tell us over the radio but that there was a
plan. The reason he could not tell us more was that the Germans were in on
our radio frequency and had succeeded in tapping some of our phones. As we
were making ready to vacate our positions the morning of the 18th, we
received a message from the regimental headquarters stating that we were
to fire smoke and whatever remaining ammunition at points designated by
regimental headquarters to cover their withdrawal, and the withdrawal of
regimental headquarters company.
After firing this
mission, we made ready to vacate our positions, Our instructions were that
after firing this mission, we were to destroy our howitzers. We left in
vehicles by a route which we had reconnoitered earlier that morning. After
we had gone approximately four or five miles, we ran into the 423 Regiment
of our Division, which was going to attack the town of Schönberg. Later
that afternoon, we contacted elements of our Regiment, namely,
headquarters company, anti‑tank company, and together with them, and the
majority of the regimental vehicles, set up positions about four miles
west of Schlossenbach. We were told to remain here while the remainder of
our regiment went into the attack of Schönberg with the 423 Regiment.
We spent the night
of the 18th being constantly harassed by enemy patrols. The following
morning we set up a perimeter defense around the woods that we had
occupied during the night. For the first time in our army career we found
the men anxious to get their foxholes dug a little deeper and to have
their fields of fire exact enough. As the day progressed we noticed a
large number of men at a great distance to our northeast. At first we
thought, perhaps, they were the advancing Germans, and we were getting
ready for a real fight. At this point, two officers from our regiment came
upon us and told us that the men we saw in the distance were our own men
that had been captured by the advancing Germans. These two having escaped
capture. We were also told that the Ninth Armored Division was on its way
to assist us, and at this time should be at the town of Bleialf.
At this point, Capt.
E. Bruce Foster, the commanding officer of the special units battalions
namely, cannon company, anti‑tank company, and headquarters company, asked
for a volunteer to go to the town of Bleialf and contact the Ninth Armored
Division. A patrol of three jeeps was organized. As the patrol proceeded
to the town of Bleialf, we realized that the Germans were already to our
rear, as we captured two German linesmen stringing communication wires,
but we decided to proceed to the town anyway.
As we approached the
outskirts of the town, we were met by overwhelming enemy forces which
opened fire on us as we went down the road, causing the vehicles to stop.
Showing exceeding courage, Cpl. Troy H. Kimmel manned a 50 caliber machine
gun and emptied a full belt of ammunition into the onrushing enemy. After
doing this, he wanted to bring up another jeep and continue firing into
the advancing Germans, but he was ordered not to do so.
By this time, our
patrol numbered about twelve men. We had all left our vehicles and were
lying in a ditch alongside of the road. It was decided that we would try
to withdraw over a hill to our left and rear. As we made our way up the
hill, being hotly pursued by the advancing enemy, we discovered that the
hill was much steeper than we had anticipated, and we were forced to stop.
Corporal Kimmel was sent to the top of the hill to have a look on the
other side to see whether the coast was clear so that we could continue
our withdrawal. As we got up to continue our withdrawal several men were
wounded, one of them by a land mine. As we once again paused to regain our
breaths, we decided to make one more try to get over the hill. However, we
were so greatly outnumbered that we were overtaken and captured by the
enemy. As to how the remainder of the special units battalion was captured
is not known by me, as I was a member of the advance patrol.
As it was my pleasure to be an officer with the cannon company from its inception until the day that it no longer existed. I wish to commend each and every man for the spirit and loyalty which they displayed throughout their training as well as their fighting days.
By LEWIS R. WALKER, 2d Lt
This is a story of
desperate men fighting with fierce valor‑a story of sacrifice, of
teamwork, of devotion to duty. This issue, which tells of the Company in
the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge, will be followed next month
with a second installment describing the life and death action on the
hillside overlooking Schönberg, Belgium, and later by a third installment
about the last two days before the remnants of Co H were captured on 21
Dec. 44. The author explains that one of his main purposes in writing the
history of his company is to refute the aspersions cast on the 422d in
Robert Merriam's “Dark December”.
Our first engagement
was about 0500 16 Dec. when a strong enemy combat patrol contacted the Co
G outpost. The squad held off the enemy until reinforcements arrived from
company, but not before S/Sgt Arnold W, Almond, H Co's mortar observer,
had called for fire on his own outpost. I know that Sgt Almond called for
mortar fire on his own position because I confirmed it with him over the
sound power phone, and helped the instrument corporal compute the fire
data. Almond's action retired the enemy but they reappeared later in the
morning far stronger in numbers.
At 0700 I took my
turn as mortar observer at Co F outpost. Ten minutes later the CP squad
engaged a German patrol. The enemy was forced to withdraw a half hour
later, after wounding two men of our outpost squad. At 1000 I was relieved
from OP duty, returned to company area, and took over 2d MG Plat while its
regular leader, 1st Lt Emmitt F. Harman, led a 50 man combat
reconnaissance patrol for Col Descheneaux. About 1100, Co G OP engaged in
a serious attack, killing a German officer and several EM, and bringing
in a number of prisoners. The enemy patrol was estimated as 200 men. Capt. Kielmeyer of Co G had eagerly entered the fray and supervised the return
of the wounded enemy and prisoners. Curiously, the enemy dead were seen to
be wearing light and flimsy clothing, even the officer.
In the April issue's
advance notice of this story, the editor mistakenly asserted that Lt.
Walker was the only surviving officer of Company H. He immediately wrote
to correct the statement‑Capt Jacobs, CO, 1st Lt Mather, Exec, 1st Lt
Albertson, and 2d Lt Lange were captured by the enemy on 19 December. 1st
Lt Weigel was captured with Co F on 18 Dec. We should have stated that Lt
Walker was the only officer who survived the action on the Schönberg
hillside and continued to fight on for two days thereafter.
I can throw no light
on what happened to the left of the 422d that day, though I knew at the
time that there was an 1800 yard unguarded gap to the 14th Cav Gp.
Exactly at midnight
we were routed out, out‑posts drawn in, battle packs fixed, extra rations
handed out and all ammunition that could be found was carried by hand. At
0300 of the 17th we moved toward Schlaussenbach. As mortar observer for
Co G, I went right to the outskirts of Schlaussenbach, where G Co was
protecting 422d HQ and the regiment's north flank. I have two main
memories of that day and night. Every time I tried to use the little hand
radio to contact my mortar section, several rounds of enemy artillery
would fire at our location: no one was hurt. That night 1st Lt Robert E.
Davis (G's Exec) and I tried to sleep in a shelter dug by the Germans and
every hour all night we had to bail out the seeping water.
About 1600 the 18th
an H Co runner recalled me to Bn Hq to help supervise a move from the
Schlaussenbach vicinity. Upon return, I learned that 2d Lt Elmer F. Lange
and a jeep driver had returned to the company's old area, secured some
mortar ammunition, all portable food in the kitchen, and some luggage, Up
to that time on the 18th the Germans had not occupied the original 2d Bn
area. At that moment I can recall Lt Col William Scales bitterly wishing
the battalion had been allowed to fight it out from the old well‑dispersed
and dug‑in positions. We pulled out of Schlaussenbach and marched
about 6 or 7 miles toward Schönberg.
It was dark when we
heard rifle and MG fire ahead in the direction taken by Capt Stewart and
his Co F along with the 1st MG Plat of Co H, I believe toward Radscheid.
We never saw those men again. 30 minutes later we learned that all our
motor transport, with 18 enemy prisoners, was bogged down somewhere in the
At twilight on the
18th we were surprised and pleased to make contact with Col. Descheneaux
and his staff‑it had been rumored that we were out of contact with Regt
Hq. We learned that we were to counterattack Schönberg in the morning to
free elements of the 331st Med Bn and wounded Americans. The regiment
moved ahead, pretty much in single file, for several hours in total
darkness. My recollection is that 2d Bn was on the right, 3d Bn about 800
yards to the left, and 1st Bn to the rear right.
realization that I had that we were out of contact with Division was when
I personally heard Col. Descheneaux ask Lt Col Scales and his S‑3 “Where
in the hell are we?” We finally located in a small patch of woods about
2,000 yards northeast of Oberlascheid and were aroused at 0530 19 Dec. My
enthusiasm was low due to a painful infection on my leg where the shoe and
We moved out from
the woods at 0615. For the first time, the men openly grumbled about “all
the running and no fighting”. They of course realized we were withdrawing
toward St. Vith. The majority of them had a few D rations, although a few
had K rations. All had the same ammunition they had brought out with them
At 1000 hours, tanks were rumored to be mauling the 1st Bn, The 2d Bn was advancing with E on the left, G on the right, and Hq Co as rear guard, with Co H well in the center prepared to offer heavy weapons support in any direction. We were without Co F and 1st MG Plat of H Co, both of which had been lost the night before.
Enemy riflemen or
snipers started firing on us as we advanced over turnip and sugar beet
fields. One piece of lead ricocheted off the base plate of a mortar I
happened to be helping mortar squad S/Sgt Willis Smythe carry for his
About this time,
everyone realized we were well cut off with little hope of immediate
supply of ammunition. I am sure that most of us had enough D and K rations
to get along several more days without starving. Also about this time the
rumor came back to me that E and G Companies did not have forward patrols
out and that the Bn was not maintaining good contact with the 3d and 1st
Bns. These rumors have never been confirmed. I have them on hearsay only.
At 1030 the 19th my
platoon leader told me that Lt Col Scales had said to “throw away” one
section of mortars, and my section was selected because it was lowest in
strength. I refused to do this, and was advised to see Col. Scales
myself. He was scarcely 50 yards distant. He agreed that they should be
destroyed but had said “throw away” because that would be noiseless. So
we pulled pins, crushed sights, and buried the base plates, tubes and
pods in a stream which would soon corrode them beyond use.
At this point
everyone was milling around. Enemy small arms fire broke up our bunched
concentration. T/Sgt Archer of 2d Bn Hq was seriously wounded in the right
hip, and two exceptionally brave medics carried him to safety up the bare
face of a hill. Major Albert A. Ouellette, 2d Bn Exec Officer, was wounded
freakishly ‑ a bullet glanced off his collar insignia and creased his neck
for an inch or so. He carried on effectively and helped Capt. Kielmeyer
and it Orton guide Co G and Hq Co over the hill.
This is the second of three installments of the combat story of this company.
Schönberg was just
ahead. Co E and a platoon of G Co were advancing along a ravine toward the
Andler‑Schönberg Road. Vehicles were crowded bumper to bumper along this
road. We believed them to be 423d vehicles until they opened fire with
detonating HE shells. Small arms fire drove us out of the ravine.
Col. Scales, Capt.
Jacobs of Co H, and all other officers had gone on ahead. Lt. Emmitt I.
Harman, Jr. and I decided to fight it out with what ammunition we had.
Harman's machine guns successfully countered small arms to our front,
while the remaining four mortars went into action against the
self‑propelled half‑tracks in the valley about 1,900 yards away. All four
MG and four mortar crews were without cover or concealment of any kind.
They performed heroically. All four Mgs and two mortars were put out of
action by enemy artillery hits. My mortar observer field glasses were
knocked out of my hands by a shell fragment.
T/Sgt Samuel F.
Baxter rushed in to man a jammed MG, immediate‑actioned it, and was killed
by a shell fragment after his MG was blasted from between his legs. He was
posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
Lt. Harman was
killed when aiding seriously wounded S/Sgt Gerald D. Meadows to safety. I
can still see Harman standing erect, observing and correcting fire, and
then ordering the withdrawal of his men. He received the Silver Star
S/Sgt Raymond F.
Jones and Pfc Carl Aylesworth were reconnoitering a withdrawal route, were
killed by small arms fire, and were recommended for the Silver Star. Pfc
Joe D. Benedetto was seriously wounded when he crawled back to his MG to
complete its destruction, and was later killed by bombing at Gerolstein on
Christmas Eve on the way to POW camp. He too was recommended for the
Sgt Edward Murphy
was blinded in one eye by a shell fragment while correcting MG fire. Pfc
Calvin C. Alexander and Lawrence Post completed demolition of Murphy's MG,
then carried him to the cover of the brow of a hill some 300 yards away.
All three were recommended for the Silver Star.
S/Sgt Arnold W.
Almond set out down a hill to get an enemy machine gun. He silenced the
gun after having tumbled and sprinted downhill for a hundred yards with MG
tracers floating all around him. Miraculously, he was unwounded. This
earned him a Silver Star recommended to go with the Bronze Star he had won
three days earlier.
2d Lt George E.
Hammond was killed while observing and correcting fire from a standing
position. He received the Bronze Star. T/Sgt Herbert R. Cassidy calmly
took over his duties and supervised the withdrawal of many men over the
hill's brow. S/Sgt Woodrow W. Moss and S/Sgt Meadows, along with Cassidy,
were recommended for the Silver Star for outstanding bravery and
leadership under direct enemy fire. Likewise were S/Sgt Lloyd G. Pearsall,
S/Sgt Smythe, and Sgt Roger B. Martin recommended for decorations for
gallant work in this action.
Sgt Charles L,
Rizzoli tried to retrieve his squad's MG after T/Sgt Baxter had been
killed, and Rizzoli was killed in the attempt. Tec 5 Hampton, with wild
abandon, tried to keep a jammed machine gun going, and checked ammo belts
out in the open. Pfc Perry Dupuy and Pfc Ted W. Cathay stuck to their gun
until it was shot out from under them. Dupuy, painfully wounded in the
leg, helped Cathay demolish the gun and Cathay helped Dupuy over the
hill's brow to safety. All were recommended for the Silver Star.
Pfc James L.
Meagher, after his weapon was destroyed, flew among the wounded, and
although not a medic, was personally responsible for saving the lives of
three men. He could have withdrawn to safety, but stayed on the job until
hit by shell fragments. He had turned down a West Point appointment to
stay with the 106th. Other men of the 2d MG platoon performed in much the
same exemplary way. I mention only those acts of heroism which I
Like the machine
gunners, the mortar men were without cover, on the forward slope of the
hill facing Schönberg, Mentioned in the above paragraphs were mortar men
Cassidy, Moss, Almond, Pearsall and Smythe. Corporals Edward W. Dorn,
Andres N. Madson Jr., Irvin K. Brough and Robert I. Snovel Jr. manned
their mortars and scored three hits in eleven rounds at about 2,100 yards,
knocking two enemy self‑propelled guns out of action and crippling a
Each of the above
was recommended for the Silver Star, along with the following of their
crewmen: Cpl Everett F. Van Houten; posthumous for Pfc Chrispin L.
Miranda, previously awarded the Bronze Star, and killed in the Gerolstein
Christmas Eve bombing; Pfc Walter Nowaczyk; Pfc Eugene Paananen; Pfc John
H. Niven; Pfc Fred L. Parra; Pfc Douglas D. Rubnitz; Pfc Leo Rossin; Pfc
Morris Sobel. Others of the 3d Platoon well merited awards for similar
courageous acts in that awful half hour that seemed to last an eternity,
or was it ten minutes. I was hit twice, in the left arm and left shoulder,
while directing mortar fire, but I had time to see that all guns were
demolished and all wounded evacuated before being the last man of the 2d
and 3d platoons to take cover behind the brow of the hill.
The action described above took place about 1100 to 1120 December 19. What I found on the other side of the hill was awful. Scores of men were milling around, many with hands up, others in the act of discarding weapons and ammunition. It became painfully apparent that I was the only officer in the area. Most men crowded around urging surrender, but I couldn't do this and face my own sergeants. A number of E Co men filtered back to wildly tell about their slaughter and surrender. I had time to notice that we were almost completely encircled by enemy fire.
I led a column of
men into a second growth pine woods. Men from the 423d, 81st Engrs,
artillery and even AA men began to join my impromptu command when 2d Bn
S‑2 1st Lt Hartley and a 2d Lt Wassels of C Co, 422d, appeared. When I
felt we had at least eluded the enemy for a short time, Hartley naturally
assumed command of the column while I took stock of the men. There were
199 men of 15 different companies and six different basic units.
Practically every man had some ammunition for his own weapon. After a
couple of hours of movement, we found the 422d Regt supply base and motor
pool and crossed an enemy machine gun field of fire to rejoin it, about
1645 on the evening of the 19th. Major Ouellette and Major Moon were
senior officers. I assumed command of the 96 survivors of Co H, and took
over a sector of the defense. By this time it was dark, I had lost a lot
of blood from my minor but free‑bleeding wounds, and gladly accepted
treatment from 1st Lt John D. Shidemantle, M.D., Assistant Bn Surgeon who
was doing magnificent work for the many wounded. T/Sgt Cassidy, S/Sgt
Richard L. Russell, and the Co H Motor sergeant, S/Sgt Richard Thomas,
took over for me. Captain Kielmeyer brought all his officers and 156 EM of
Co G through the hill episode.
The area had been
under artillery concentrations, mostly tree bursts. The men dug in as well
as they could in the cold oozing mud, and covered their foxholes with
branches and earth for protection from cold and from tree bursts. Careful
check was made on food. There was enough to deliver two scant but hot
meals to all men in the next two days. We were exchanging scattered rifle
fire with the enemy in the woods, who were very noisy, probably to make us
overestimate their numbers. Complete darkness fell. My sergeants came to
the log shelter which served as company CP.
The third and final
installment of the combat story of Company H in the Battle of the Bulge.
It was here that I
learned of the heroism of S/Sgt. Richard A. Thomas, 39 000 006, in leading
patrols that had brought the area a truck and trailer load of food, saved
the remnants of the 81st Engr. Company at Auw, scouted out cross‑country
routes to St. Vith, and attempted to save a captured American officer. For
these and later deeds, Sgt. Thomas has been awarded the Distinguished
Service Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor.
For participation in
these actions, Silver Stars were awarded to Tec 5 Ernest C. Gerry of F
Co., and, from Co H, Cpl. Herman W. Pace, Cpl. Lawrence J. Doerr, Sgt. Roy
J. Jensen, and Cpl. Clyde McDaniel. If I can learn the full name and ASN
of Pfc. Potter of Co H, he too will be a Silver Star wearer.
While in this log
shelter, we heard an enemy sound truck open up from a hill across the
valley. It demanded our surrender, played popular American songs, and told
us how nice it would be to be playing baseball in a prison camp. S/Sgt.
Thomas rounded up a few volunteers, took out a patrol, and one of his men
erased the sound truck with a single well thrown grenade.
All was still well on the morning of the 20th. Increased enemy activity was observed. S/Sgt. Russell's heavy MG Sec was brought to the top of the hill. Crossing fields of fire were set up to command the sky line road which we were astride.
Shortly after noon,
Sgt. Thomas went out to a German recon car which approached under a white
flag, coming from Schönberg down the Andler‑Lauderfeld Road. He brought a
German medic and a captured 423d medic to Maj. Ouellette for a meeting.
The German non‑com requested permission to use the roadnet which we
controlled for his ambulances, to evacuate wounded Germans and Americans.
Majors Ouellette and Moon decided to send Lt. Houghton, Co D, 422d, along
to make sure the enemy didn't use the ambulances (mostly our captured
ones) to transfer tactical troops and weapons.
A hold fire order was issued to the men in all sectors of our 1000 yard oval defense until Lt. Houghton returned at 1830. Houghton brought back a German surrender demand, with an ultimatum of surrender before 2100 hours.
He told of artillery trained on our area and of troops poised for instant attack. We heard nothing from Division or higher headquarters during this time, except for radio messages that bad weather made it impossible to fly in food, ammunition or medical supplies.
called a conference of Company Commanders, and recommended surrender
because of the uselessness of rifles against tanks and artillery, because
of the lack of ammunition reserve and food and medical supplies. Capt.
Kielmeyer and I were the only ones who suggested that we continue to
resist for another two days in the hopes of planes and help coming to us.
The consensus of the meeting was that additional loss of life would be
frightfully large and of no help to the general tactical situation.
At 2100 a German
officer hostage appeared to extend the hold fire order and to continue
dickering. Maj. Ouellette held out to full surrender at 0800 the 21st,
requesting a truce until then. The German argued against this, because he
could not guarantee us against attacks from another division bearing down
from the north. We took a chance to give our men time to get some sleep,
gather what food they could, scrounge extra clothing from all the bags in
the area, and for those who felt they could — a chance to escape. Many
attempted, as evidenced by small arms fire all night long everywhere but
on the east. We were not supposed to damage our weapons, but I think that
most were rendered useless and ammunition was buried in the mud. At 0800
21 Dec. 44 several hundred disillusioned men and about four dozen officers
assembled in the gulley and were marched to Schönberg through the valley
road and woods where the 423d was so badly shot up.
Here Walker's story
ends. The editor takes the liberty of quoting from several of Walker's
letters, to fill in a few more details. All of the following paragraphs
are from Walker, mostly in reply to questions asked by various persons.
“Many left the motor
park that night in the direction of Meyerode. I have no doubts they are
the guerrilla fighters.” (described in “The Incredible Valor of Eric
Wood”, Saturday Evening Post article Dec. 20, 1947, by Col. R. E. Dupuy).
“A Captain Rowland
of 422d Sv Co took off northeast immediately after the conference, He had
fought the Hun in World War I and in North Africa with the 34th Div. We
have never heard of him since, Sgt. Claude E Brown and Pfc. Raymond Obert
died of disease and malnutrition in POW Camps. Tec 4 Claud V. Bolding and
Pfcs. Joe Benedetto and Chrispin L. Miranda died in a bombing raid on
Christmas Eve while POWs.
“Cpl Thurman Jenkins of Co H smashed his jeep directly into a German machine gun nest, put the gun out of action, was not wounded, but was captured by the gun's crew. He should be cited for bravery, but I can't find anyone who saw it first hand for affidavits.”
Two medics have not
been mentioned for their bravery ‑ Pfc. Wayne Menteir, attached to Co G,
has been mentioned by many of my men, but I haven't been able to get
affidavits from those who saw his feats. Tec/4 Marly Hall, attached to 2d
Plat, Co H, has received the Belgian Croix de Guerre and has been
recommended for the Silver Star for heroic acts on the hill on the 19th
and for later acts on the long prisoner march. S/Sgt. Richard A. Thomas
has also received the Palm for the Croix de Guerre, and T/Sgt. Samuel
Baxter received this coveted decoration, but posthumously.
In closing the stark
tale told by Walker, we are inserting two other quotes from a pencilled
note he wrote to Herb Livesey more than a year ago.
“Thomas was the real
hero of Co H, though many men of our company do not realize it. But all
the men were magnificent.
'Your records show that the writer was awarded the Silver Star for the work his men did. I only wish I could have deserved it more."
by Colonel Charles C. “Moe” Cavender, Commanding
Thanksgiving, the units of the 423d Infantry started moving from their
billets in the Cotswolds to embarkation points. Members of Regimental
Headquarters and Special Units, on the Empire Javelin, went down the rope
nets onto the LST's and debarkation in the vicinity of Le Havre was
completed on 1 December 1944.
Closing into the
staging area at Red Horse the Regiment was reassembled by 3 December
except for one LST containing the vehicles of two battalion headquarters
companies and one heavy weapons company. Here, information was received
that the division was to be attached to 1st Army and finally, on 8
December, Regimental Combat Team 423, with various attachments, commenced
the motor move that will be the topic of conversation by GI's at many a
Division reunion for years to come. Following the road markers of the
“RED BALL” express, the convoy reached St. Vith, Belgium, a distance of
270 miles, in two days. Rumor had it that the one truck containing part of
a platoon of C Company, which was corralled by one of Capt. Spence's men
on 11 December, was detoured through Paris by a British M.P. It was bitter
cold and snowing the second day, roads were slippery and treacherous, and
radio silence made control of the lengthy column extremely difficult.
December 10th was
spent in reconnaissance of positions down to and including Platoon
Sergeants. On the morning of 11 December the regiment moved out of St.
Vith through Auw and Schönberg, names which were to be stamped indelibly
in the minds of all in only a few days. Just prior to departure from Red
Horse our 1st Army “Expediter” Lt. Col. Throckmorton, talked by phone to
1st Army G‑3 and was assured that the missing LST would unload our men in
sufficient time to join their units before departure. The landing was
finally completed and the convoy, under Major Carl H. Cosby from Atlanta,
Georgia, Executive Officer of the 1st Battalion, made the entire trip From
Le Havre to St. Vith without stopping except for refueling. The vehicles
arrived in time to join their units which were moving into the lines.
Favored by snow and
a low ceiling the daytime relief of the famed 38th Infantry of the Second
Infantry Division was completed at 1700 hours and Colonel Boos and his
“Rock of the Marne” boys were on their way to “position” from which they
were to launch their attack against the Roer River Dams. “It has been very
quiet up here and your men will learn the easy way,” Colonel Boos said
During the move into
position the Regimental Motor Sergeant, MSgt William C. Deviney
of Niagara Falls, 'New York, was critically injured and had to be
evacuated. Joining the regiment from the 80th Division, “Sarge” Deviney
was a capable and efficient soldier, who was the idol of all the jeep
drivers in the regiment.
The Regiment, less
2nd Battalion in Division Reserve at Born and Medell, Belgium, with Troop
B, 18th Cavalry Squadron attached, occupied and took over the defense of a
Sector of the 106th Division Area. The Sector included a portion of the
former German fortified area approximately twenty miles east of St. Vith,
Belgium. Due to the extreme width of the Sector approximately seven and
one half miles frontage, the position could not be occupied in depth, and
reserves, except for Service Company and Clerks were not available. Orders
were, to take over, man for man, and job for job. The period 12 to 15
December was spent in familiarization and readjustment.
Preceded by intense
artillery and mortar concentrations, the German Infantry supported by
armor, attacked the right of the Regimental Sector prior to daylight, 16
December, using search lights. This Sector extending from Winterscheid to
Bleialf, both towns inclusive, was defended by a composite Battalion
commanded by Captain Charles B. Reid of Richburg, South Carolina,
consisting of Troop B, 18th Cavalry, AT Company, 2nd Platoon Cannon
Company, fighting as riflemen and one composite rifle platoon from 3rd
Battalion. A wedge was immediately driven between Troop B, on the extreme
right, and AT Company, in the vicinity of the Railroad Tunnel and contact
with Troop B was lost by the Battalion Commander and never regained.
Barrages were laid down in front of our positions in Bleialf and accurate
cannon company fire along with the stubborn resistance of our GI's
succeeded in breaking up repeated attacks of the German Infantry.
The 106th Division
Reconnaissance Troop, which occupied the town of Groslangenfeld between
the right of our Sector and the left of Colonel Reid's 424th Infantrymen
was overrun and Captain Fossland's Troop B was forced back giving ground
slowly. A counter‑attack at noon of the 16th by Company B, 81st Engineers,
3rd Platoon and Headquarters Group of Cannon Company and all available
cooks and clerks from Headquarters Company and Service Company restored
Bleialf and partially closed the gap between AT Company and Troop B. In
order that Captain Reid could devote all of his time to his company, the
Regimental Executive Officer, Lt. Col. Frederick W. Nagle of North Dakota
took command in Bleialf. Throughout the night pressure against our men,
who had taken up a positions in front of Bleialf increased. By noon 17
December Germans overrun our thinly held lines and units of the composite
Battalion isolated into small groups.
Nagle's C.P. was taken and he was critically wounded he re‑formed the
remnants of AT and Cannon Companies on the right of the 1st Battalion. A
small group of Troop B under Capt. Robert G. Fossland regained allied
lines on 21 December. Company B, 81st Engineers, under Capt. William J.
Hynes of Great Neck, Long Island, N. Y. fought their way back to Schönberg
where they were surrounded and captured by German Armor on 18 December.
Capt. James L. Manning of South Carolina, Commanding Officer of Cannon
Company was killed in Bleialf.
On 17 December,
about 1600 hours, the 2nd Battalion under Lt. Colonel Joseph F. Puett of
Eastman, Georgia, joined the Regiment on SchneeEifel Ridge. Upon
completion of a Division Mission to extricate the 589th Battalion,
Colonel Puett found his return to St. Vith blocked by German armor which
now fully controlled the Auw‑Schönberg‑St. Vith road. Lt. Col. Vaden
Lackey of Nashville, Tennessee, also moved our combat team artillery, the
590th FA Bn, onto Schnee‑Eifel and a perimeter defense was formed by
darkness, 17 December.
Belated orders to
withdraw to the line of the Our River were received about midnight 17‑18
December. A subsequent message directed the Regiment to take up positions
south of the St. Vith‑Schönberg road with information that one of our
Armored Divisions was to attack down this road. Moving out of positions in
Schnee‑Eifel under cover of heavy fog, the 2nd Battalion, which was in the
lead, encountered enemy groups which were pushed back to Radscheid.
Previous orders were revoked and we were now ordered to move against the
main German strength at Schönberg, thence west towards St. Vith. The 3rd
Bn, under Lt. Col. Earl F. Klinck, moved to the east of the 2nd Battalion
with orders to cut the Bleialf‑Schönberg road. At 1600 hours the 1st
Battalion under Lt. Col. William H. Craig attacked on the left of the 2nd
Bn and by nightfall had pushed the Germans back, relieving the pressure
on the 2nd Battalion.
The last message
received from Division at 2000 hours stated it was imperative that
Schönberg be taken. The 1st and 2nd Battalions were moved into positions
in rear of the 3rd Battalion by daylight, 19 December. All efforts to
establish contact with the 422 Infantry on the right failed. At 0830
Battalion Commanders were assembled and orders issued for attack on
Schönberg at 1000 hours. At 0930 heavy artillery concentrations started
falling on the entire regimental area. Lt. Col. Craig was mortally
wounded. Captain James L. Clarkson, Co D, and Captain James H. Hardy, Co
M, were killed.
Company L, on the
Bleialf‑Schönberg road, ran into heavy opposition and by 1300 hours had
been knocked out. In the 1st Battalion, Co A had been unable to withdraw
the preceding evening and the following morning Major Sanda B. Helms,
Regimental S‑4, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, took over command of A Company
and other small detachments and fought his way north of the SchönbergSt. Vith road, before being surrounded and captured. Company B pushed
forward to the same road where they forced a German armored column to
deploy before they were knocked out. By 1300 the 1st Battalion had been
eliminated. The 2nd Battalion moved to the right and attached themselves
to the 422nd Infantry. The 3rd Battalion, less Company L, pushed forward
to within 200 yards of their objective but were hopelessly pinned down by
fire from 88mm cannon emplaced on the high ground just north of
Schönberg. By 1600 hours it was apparent that further resistance was a
useless sacrifice of life and the remnants of the Regiment were
surrendered. Small groups of men were selected to endeavor to infiltrate
through to St. Vith.
and cut off from all resupply of ammunition and food and evacuation of
wounded for four days, all elements of the Regiment fought stubbornly and
heroically against overwhelming odds.
All contact with Division was lost early on 16 December except for the Division Command radio set, which worked in spite of enemy interference and unfavorable climatic conditions, until it was knocked out by enemy action early 19 December. Adverse weather conditions prevented our aircraft from dropping desperately needed ammunition, food and medical supplies.
Supply Sergeant, Master Sergeant John L. Hall of Port Allegheny,
Pennsylvania, was enroute from Division D.P. with rations on the morning
of 16 December. Encountering enemy small arms fire at Schönberg he set up
a machine gun in a German farm house. He was finally captured when tanks
appeared on the scene. Breaking away with Pvt. Edgar M. Decker of Lee,
Massachusetts, he returned to St. Vith, secured trucks and an armored
escort and again started back with the rations which he knew would be
desperately needed. His trucks were knocked out by German armor but he and
Pvt. Decker again returned to Division D.P. loaded trucks and waited in
vain for armor to clear the road to Schnee‑Eifel.
resistance of the 423rd Infantry delayed the Germans in their seizure of
the necessary road point at St. Vith by four days thereby materially
slowing the flow of German armor into the communication routes of
Division, Corps and Army. Many heroic acts of individuals have been
acknowledged by awards, many of them posthumous awards. Many acts can
never be recognized and the individuals concerned given a suitable
decoration, because the necessary facts to substantiate the award cannot
be pieced together. Each and every member of the 423rd Infantry joins in
extending heartfelt sympathy to the families of those of us who did not
come back. To the 106th Division Association and the splendid start they
have made, we extend our very best wishes.
Every soldier of the Regiment can be justly proud of the fact that because of his actions The Regimental Colors and Company Guidons of every unit of the reconstituted 423rd Regiment were decorated with Combat Infantry streamers at a fitting ceremony in France, shortly after publication of General Orders No. 52, 106th Infantry Division, dated 1 August 1945, announcing such awards. Quoting Major General Gilbert R. Cook at the Critique of the First Division Exercise near Camden, South Carolina, after the Regiment had made a line of departure on time during a blinding snow storm ‑ “I like the 423rd ‑ in spite of all obstacles they get there on time.”
A Soldier Salutes Colonel C.C. Cavender, 423d
by Richard W. Peterson, Ph.D.
Former S/Sgt Mortar Section Leader, Ft. Jackson, South Carolina until surrender on 19 December 1944
I was with him from
the birth of his regiment, the 423rd Infantry in Ft. Jackson, S. C. when
the Regimental Colors were unfurled for the first time. I was with him in
Tennessee, in Indiana, and in England. I was with him when he returned to
Europe to face the German again as he had in 1917. And I was with him when
the 423rd as we knew it, died.
In December 1944,
Colonel Charles Cavender, Texan, West Point graduate, former World War I
private, came back to Germany as the commander of the regiment he created
and trained. With him into the Ardennes forests he brought men like me,
physically tough, individually capable and ready for combat
Only a few knew
Cavender's innermost concerns about the overstretched positions of his
beloved 423rd in the Division line when we replaced the 2nd Division. 40
years later in his notes to Charles MacDonald he expressed dissatisfaction
with the task assigned. Wide gaps in the defensive line resulted from the
blindness of the High Command and its refusal to acknowledge the dangers
in the Ardennes. Cavender's thinly stretched regiment was forced to defend
without Armor and its reserve battalion. “Good Luck,” said the one
commander who could help. “If they come, just slug it out with what you
have,” as he left a frustrated Cavender standing along the
Prüm–Bleialf–St. Vith road.
A massive and
vicious German attack did come through that indefensible Gap. Ordered to
attack the German and fight his way out of the noose they had drawn around
him Cavender's regiment fought alone. Promised help and supplies never
came. With one battalion totally destroyed, he stopped the charge of his
last remaining battalion against overwhelming odds. The 423rd and its
sister regiment the 422nd held off the best the German Army could throw at
them for three bloody days. Their struggle would only be properly
acknowledged by the German whose sensitive timetable of battle was
destroyed by the defeated regiments. As he surveyed wounded men needing
aid, riflemen without ammunition, and a total loss of communication with
Division, he accepted the abhorrent decision to surrender his command.
It meant putting his
Army career on the line. The General's star he would probably earn in his
second war was not an acceptable trade for more lives of his men. Cavender
was a casualty of the battle in the Ardennes as surely as if a German
bullet had struck him. The sacrifice he made for his comrades was heroic
Few know of his
valiant efforts to alleviate the suffering of his men in the Stalags. The
records of his personal battles with the Germans commanders are buried in
still classified records. He argued, he demanded, he bargained to little
But he never gave
How many would have
died on that hill outside Schönberg if Cavender had not the courage to
surrender? I know I live today because of him. His example and training
served me in battle, in captivity and in the later competition of civilian
life. I am alive because he cared.
Not until forty
seven years after I first saw Colonel Cavender did I meet him personally.
He was a major influence in my life, and he will always be.
Charles Cavender, For the joys of my life, I thank you. As an old Sergeant, I salute you.
© 1991 R.W.Peterson, Ph.D.
423rd I&R Platoon ‑ 20‑21 Dec 1944
Lt. Col. Ivan H. Long (US retd)
(former Lt 44‑45) I&R Platoon Leader, 423rd Regiment
Having read Rev.
Harris' article (pg 13, Apr, May, June '88), I feel compelled to comment
briefly on the incident and my participation therein.
Please find enclosed
a copy of the article from the Tactical Department of the Infantry School
(see parts of that article following this letter...editor) which is the
Army record of the action at St. Vith. Passing of time erodes memories,
but I will mention some highlights.
First, my Platoon
consisted of professionally trained experts in intelligence and
reconnaissance and excelled in scouting and patrolling. We received the
highest marks in the Army Ground Forces Tests! During the Ardennes
Offensive, when combat conditions dictated, we changed our mission from
one of defense to one of aggressive patrolling. We were prepared!
Time and space
prohibits detailing our incidents and brushes with the enemy. Against my
better judgment, I assumed Command of three separate groups of
stragglers, an officer and his A&P Platoon, another officer and two men
and the group with Harris. These people were untrained in our specialty
and could have possibly led to our capture by the Germans. However, we did
reach St. Vith and the non‑members under my Command were released and
returned to their units.
I was reassigned as
S‑2 to a Battalion in the 424th Infantry and my Platoon members were
assigned to units where they were needed.
The Signal Corps
picture (taken at St. Vith 21 Dec 1944) shows my lead scout (Bordelon) on
the right facing me, and the rear scout (Sheehan) on the left facing me,
two of the best!
Tactical Dept of the
Infantry School article
During the night of
20‑21 December 1944, approximately 68 men and two officers lead by
Lieutenant Long of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, 423rd
Regiment (one of the surrounded regiments of the 106th Infantry Division)
infiltrated back through the CCB's lines.
When interviewed, Lieutenant Long stated the commanding officers had told them that two regiments (422d and 423d) were preparing to surrender, and that orders were being given for the destruction of their arms and equipment. These troops had been told that any personnel wishing to attempt to infiltrate to friendly lines, rather than surrender, were authorized to leave. These men were some of those who had chosen to risk returning and fighting again, rather than lay down their guns and surrender. CCB established an assembly point in the schoolhouse at St. Vith where these men were given rations, and such other supplies as they needed, and a well deserved rest. During the night 21‑22 December, when the situation became critical, these men were put back in the line, their enthusiasm was high, and subsequent reports obtained from troops with whom they had fought indicated without exception these men discharged their duties in an exemplary fashion.... (note ‑ 1991.. Long has since the time this article was published in The CUB, located John Sheehan (rear scout) and Sam Bordelon (lead scout). Sheehan has become a member of the 106th Association.. CUB Review editor)
Collins, 423d Service Co, long time member and Association
Dec. 1, 1944 — On
this day we sailed from Southhampton, England on a British channel ferry.
Our first sight of France was the next day at Le Havre. The town was an
utter wreck. Rumor had it that the damage was largely done by Allied
bombers and that the townspeople were a trifle unfriendly over it,
especially since it was also rumored that the enemy had previously pulled
out. Debarkation was by landing nets over the side into LSTs or LSIs. Upon
unloading, the anchor gave way leaving three of us still on board. After
about 3 hours the crew had loaded up and ran for the beach again. My
company was not to be found so I snagged a truck ride to the bivouac
area‑the muddiest field I nearly ever saw (excusing Tennessee maneuvers).
Upon awaking next morn we gazed at the wide open spaces of Norman France,
the most jarring note being the small British cemetery close by our tent.
Dec. 3— Trucks moved
us near Yerville where we bivouacked in a farmers front yard to await our
own motor transport coming up from Rouen. We spent a miserable, wet week
there, taking nearly all the irate farmer's straw to try to keep our tents
dry. The day before our departure, we drew rubber boots — a godsend!
Dec. 7— We started a long 2‑day convoy into Belgium, soon moving into icy, snowy country and spent that night sitting up in the trucks trying to sleep.
Dec. 9— We arrived
outside St. Vith and found our bivouac area to be a snow‑covered,
evergreen forest. Next day we dispersed, set up pup‑tents and dug in; this
time it was no dry run.
Dec. 12— This day
our regimental mail section (3 of us) was ordered to move to Division Hq
rear, so while one member went forward with the troops into the lines, the
other two went to set up shop at the Caserne in Vielsalm.
Dec. 16— We had
gotten mail ready to go and when our forward man came for it he reported
patrol activity by the enemy. That afternoon he came back saying he was
unable to get back up to the regiment, having been shelled and forced to
take shelter under his truck. Thus we awaited news of the action up front
only a few miles away. After several days of waiting, during which time
rations became scarcer and news more alarming, we became aware that there
would be little word from our regiment nor from some of the other units,
as it was reported that they had been surrounded and weather made it
impossible to supply them. A few men began a find their way back thru the
lines on foot. Their lot had been a dreadful one. We watched our recon
troop with their light tanks and vehicles go out to fight, come back for
supplies, and take of again, ever in more reduced numbers. Rumors began to
fly. It was said we were cut off but then that the 82nd Airborne had
reopened a route. (They had begun quietly to dig in behind us back of the
Salm River.) Then truck drivers began to tell of 7th Armored and 9th
Armored columns moving up to take over and we began to say that the Boche
would back down now. But it was not to be! The enemy had superiority and
in spite of the heroic defense of St. Vith, the 106th had to retreat.
Dec. 20— Today we
moved by convoy to the little town of Ferriers, where Division Hq offices
all tried to set up in one little schoolhouse. Our mail section talked
it's way into the nearest house and slept on the floor of the dining room.
We got along well with this large friendly family in spite of our language
barrier. They soon began to worry about the Germans getting that far and
taking their sons as slave labor (They never did). What was left of one of
the regiments pulled into town and a more pitiful lot I never saw. After
some rest they were sent back out to help stem the tide. While here, our
first clear day came and thousands of American bombers and fighters began
going over. What a thrill! It seemed unreal‑ like a movie, as we saw AAA
down a few and some parachutes blossom out.
Dec. 25— Christmas
Day! We spent it traveling. We seemed to spend all holidays and most
Sundays moving. This time it was to the town of Lince near Sprimont.
Having hung onto our mail equipment, we set up shop in the dining room of
one ground‑floor house and bunked on the third floor of another. We shared
our small store of 10‑in‑1 rations, our sign language was improving, and
everything was peaceful until we discovered a new danger ‑ Buzz‑bombs
(V1's) or Robots as the natives called them were coming right across the
front of the house on their way to Liege. The civilians were more afraid
of them than we were, due to their ignorance of them, I suppose. Here too
we watched Jerry planes bomb Liege in the distance without opposition.
Jan.1— On this day
we loaded up and pulled out again landing in the small town of Anthisnes
where we found adequate quarters with family of one of the two local
butchers. This turned out to be our most pleasant stay of the winter‑six
weeks with this fine family, with whom we shared and were shared with. We
worked mail in the dining room and parcel post in the slaughter shed. We
have not forgotten the steak and french fries we enjoyed when a beef was
killed. The mystery was ‑ where did the beef keep coming from?
This concludes the
narrative for now. As for reflections on or over the past and present. I
thank my Maker that I did not have to suffer the misfortunes that many of
my comrades did. Our little group performed their assigned tasks in the
best way possible, including the rather heart‑breaking one of returning
hundreds of pieces of mail marked “Missing in action”, realizing to some
extent then and more so later how lucky we were. Like many others, I am
still learning what “happened” over there. I feel and have felt very
strongly that it is our duty to properly honor our fallen comrades as best
we can. As for the present situation concerning our fighting men I join
the “hawks” in deploring the no‑win policy through which our boys have had
to suffer. At least our generation could depend on an all‑out effort for
victory. And I almost but not quite join with the “Doves” in saying if we
can't win then let's come home.
Association has been and is one of my prime interests in our time. Long
may it's banner wave!!!
Your letter dated 18
November reached me in early December just as I was “taking off” to
become the Chief of a Military Mission to one of our sister republics in
Latin America (Venezuela, to be specific).
In order that I
might comply with the request contained in your letter that I furnish you
with the story of the 424th Infantry Regiment in the Bulge; I brought your
letter with me. At this time (very late in December 1946), I am writing my
response from the tropics ‑ far from the ice and snow of northeastern
United States. And similarly, far from the ice and snow that so many of us
got to know all too well during the Battle of the Bulge.
In direct reply to
your letter, Livesey, let me say first of all that I heartily endorse the
idea of a 106th Division Association and the publication of a 106th
Division paper. In witness of the foregoing endorsement, I append my
check for membership and would have done so sooner had I known that such
an association existed. (Unfortunately, for me, my entrance into the
hospital after being wounded and my subsequent reassignment to another
division precluded my attendance at the founders meeting which, I am told,
took place in Karlsruhe in August 1945. To summarize, then, I think you
have undertaken a worthy project. I consider that you are entitled to
loyal support, and as far as I am concerned you shall have it.
Now then, I come to
your request for the story of the 424th in the Bulge. It is not my
intention to evade all issue. There are certain remarks which I would like
to make through your publication, but it is neither my intention nor my
desire to re‑fight the Battle of the Bulge from the viewpoint of the
424th Infantry. If I am adopting a position which differs from that of
Colonel Descheneaux of the 422nd or from that of Colonel Cavender of the
423rd, each of whom is an old and esteemed friend, I am most regretful for
my failure to conform.
I do feel, however,
that there is no point in reviewing the story of the 424th Infantry in
the Battle of the Bulge. Those who still live to remember the stirring
days of approximately two years ago (as this is written) will recall, far
more vividly than lies within my power, the events in complete detail
which transpired during that critical period. Those who did not return
are enshrined forever in our memories by the heroic manner in which they
gave “that last full measure of devotion” for our country and for the
cause for which it stood.
Rather would I
prefer to pay a much deserved compliment to the members of the 424th
Infantry, living or dead, who responded so creditably “when the chips were
down.” Without taking the time to consider the details contained therein,
I take direct exception to Mr. Frank's article in the Saturday Evening
Post of 9 November 1946. I arise to declare that there was NO COLLAPSE of
the 106th Division (glorious or otherwise). In fact, it is outside my
ability to conceive of a “glorious collapse.” From what I know and from
what I have been told by those that know, the 422nd and the 423rd gave
their all, but due to the extended frontage which was held and the great
force of the offensive blow which was dealt them, they were finally
overwhelmed. The 424th, after counterattacking and restoring their
original position on 16 December, held their original position throughout
17 December and, on orders from Division Headquarters, withdrew from
their original position on the night of 17 December. Thus, Mr. Frank, “the
little man who wasn't there,” in my opinion errs seriously in his use of
the word “collapse” in the title of his article.
The item which
stands out preeminently in my own mind is the manner in which the
personnel of the Regiment reacted to the critical situation. To the
everlasting credit of the members of the 424th Infantry, I have nothing
but admiration for the manner in which they reacted to the one punch
“championship‑winning” blow (as the Krauts hoped ) which the 424th
received. Such behavior demonstrated again the basic will of the average
American man to FIGHT, with bare fists if necessary, no matter what the
odds appear to be.
But I do not choose
to end my letter upon that note. Those of the 424th who recall clearly
will say: “The old S‑O‑B is up on his soap box again!” To that charge, I
plead: “Entirely Guilty.” But to what purpose have we fought a war if we
do not form and adhere to some fixed ideas to govern our post‑war thought
and behavior? If my readers are honest with me and with themselves, I
daresay that most of them will admit that at some time during our action
against the enemy they had the same reaction which I had on certain
occasions: “Here we are — an allegedly civilized people — expending our
every effort. to blast from the face of the earth, our opponents the
Germans. And they — an allegedly civilized people — are conversely
expending their every effort to blast us into eternity.” The incongruity
of the whole situation impressed itself upon me occasionally — but I had
little time and less ability or inclination to do anything about it. The
primary consideration at that time was to stop the Krauts and then to
start kicking HELL out of them! However, the point I am building up
to‑and without guile or indirectness — is that you surviving members of
the 424th Infantry NOW have a means at your disposal to do “something
about it.” At the time you were experiencing the unpleasantness of war,
I'll wager that you said to yourself: “I hope my kid never has to go
through this.” Maybe you didn't have a “kid” at that time, but there was a
girl waiting for you when (and if) you came back and you had hopes!
But from what ‑ you
have seen of our own people during your training in the States, from what
you've seen of the various nationalities in Europe with whom you came in
contact, from what you have seen of conditions in that part of Europe in
which you served, are you ready to say that we as a nation are ready for
disarmament ? Are you ready to say that our surest means of avoiding
another war is to be impotent — totally unable to defend ourselves but
willing to demonstrate our faith by our impotence — or would you say that
our best bet to avoid a repetition of what you saw is to be ready to come
out of our corner, when challenged, in a reasonable state of training and
at a reasonable “fighting weight?” There is with all of us a distinct
tendency to forget the unpleasant features of an experience, more so as
time softens the losses we suffer. But, if you would be true to yourselves
and to your sons and daughters, it is incumbent upon you to remember
enough of the unpleasantness which you experienced so that you will be
determined to assist in establishing conditions which will spare them
similar unpleasantness in the future.
My best friends and
my most severe critics will agree that I'll never get off my soap box
until I have made my point. At long last, then, my point is this: Until
you members of the 424th are convinced that by your collective weakness
(or by your collective lack of preparedness) you will be assured that you
and your loved ones will be spared a repetition of the Bulge or its
equivalent, it is your solemn duty as responsible citizens to be assured
that your country is adequately prepared. This you can and must do by
taking an active and effective interest in our national affairs and in our
I know that the
foregoing sentiments will be interpreted by some as “an effort on the part
of the military to hang on to their jobs.” I am equally certain that 99.9%
of the so‑called military with whom I have come in contact during more
than twenty‑three years of service will gladly agree with me that they
stand ready and most willing to “turn in their suits” on the least
reliable indication that their services are no longer required.
In closing, please
accept my apology for taking this opportunity to “climb up on my soap box”
again. When I took command of your Regiment on 23 August 1944, I told you
in all honesty and in complete sincerity that it was my chief objective
to help you make your Regiment the kind of a regiment in which you would
be proud to have served. If, during the comparatively short time I was
with you, I had some part in achieving that objective, I am both glad and
But you have now
re‑joined the larger organization from which you came to the 424th; you
are again active members of “Civilians, U.S.A.” And the remarks I have
just made to you “from my soap box” have been made in the same spirit and
with the same‑but more comprehensive‑objective as were my remarks when I
became “The Old Man” of the 424th.
To each of you, I
desire to say that I am proud to have had the privilege of commanding your
Regiment in action and that I wish for each of you the full measure of
success and happiness which you so richly deserve.
A. D. Reid
former commander, 424th Regiment
13,1945 With 106th Inf. Div.
It was a grudge
fight for A Co. all the way—a grudge fight founded on the death of a
They started of on
the attack like the other members of the 424th Infantry Regiment of the
Lion Division methodically cutting slices out of the bulge, methodically
cutting down Von Runstedt's “grab plan” troops. They had a score to
settle, for many of their buddies had fallen in the initial Ardennes
breakthrough. But it was the death of Bob McKay that spurred them to
The first objective
was the Belgian Town of LaVaux. Before the company jumped off Lt. Donald
W. Beseler of Marshfield, Wisconsin directed reconnaissance and set down
every strong point and crossroad. When the company attacked, they had only
to call for target one, then on two. Company A moved in fast. The whole
business was too much for the Germans, and they took off in such a hurry
that the company got only 11 prisoners. Thais was Beseler's work.
The first objective
taken, the company advanced across country toward Coulee. They were
skirting a woods, moving fast, when out of the woods came mortar,
machine‑gun and small arms fire. CO 1/Lt. Robert G. McKay, jumped into
action. His men knew what to expect.
Into the woods went
the men from Company A. Sgt Everett S. Hilliard, of Santa Cruz, Calif. and
his 60mm mortar section were getting beautiful tree bursts. The German
mortar and machine‑gun fire slowed down. The battle was reduced to M‑1s
Pvt. Edgar H. Stoopes of Springfield, MO, said “I saw a bunch of the Jerries scurrying off like rats who didn't know where to go. We finished them off fast.” Soon the woods were littered with Germans. Company A moved on.
The advance rifle
platoon found itself pinned down with heavy machine‑gun fire. An armored
self‑propelled 88, at the bend of the road had grazing fire across the
When the fire stopped, several of the men started across the road to get into to position to return the fire. McKay saw the gun swing around.
Jumping to his feet,
he let go with his M‑1. Back swung the machine‑gun full blaze. McKay
succeeded in drawing the fire away from his men, but gave his life to do
To a man the
doughboys let go with their weapons. The armored vehicle streaked off.
Company A had
another score to settle.
The ground in front
of Coulee was the next objective. The Germans had assembled a large force
there. Artillery and mortar fire covered the area. Company A went into the
attack “like men possessed. I guess every one of us kept thinking about
Lt. McKay all the time We were just plain mad.” Pvt. Millard Stokes, of
Portageville, MO. said.
Nothing could hold them back. 1st Sergeant Wallace G. Rifleman, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, for example had several pieces of shrapnel crash into his chest. When the medics insisted that he be evacuated, he told them to go to Hell, and led an attack which cleaned out a MG nest. It was that way all along the Company A sector.
F Co 424, Not K Co, Took ENNAL
by Richard J. Comer, Commander 424/K
Editor “The Cub”
First I wish to add
my congratulations to the many that you must have received concerning the
founding of the 106th Association. It is a great and wonderful thing. If
the Association lives up to the reputation that the Division had it will
truly be great.
I noticed in your
last issue that Lt. Col. Jerome G. Taylor mentions a correction
concerning the town of Ennal where he says Co. F took the town also. I
call this to your attention in connection with a story in the Saturday
Evening Post where the writer says that Gen. Perrin had to lead two
platoons from Co. K and in doing so he lost his pistol.
The point, that I as
the Company Commander of Company K, wish to make is first that my company
was not given that objective to take, and second it would not have been
necessary for Gen. Perrin or anyone else for that matter to lead the
Spearhead Company. We were a team. At that time when Co. F was to take
Ennal, Co. K was detailed to protect the left flank of the 2nd Bn 424th
Inf. from counter‑attack northeast of Collee. We were in contact with Co.
E at all times until relieved.
The reason I bring
this to your attention is that it hurts my pride to even think that a
superior officer would have to come down to lead Co. K 424th Inf. the best
outfit in the Division. (At least we thought so.) Can you please see to it
that in future publications that this error is corrected ? I think that if
Gen. Perrin were contacted he would bear me out that he led Co. F into
Richard J. Comer
Ex‑Commander Co. K 424th Inf.
B Company, 424th Combat Infantry Battalion
From “ Letter Home”
by Edward Prewett, “B” Company, 424th Combat Infantry Regiment
(I introduce this letter by reprinting an article written by the Division Artillery Commander, General Leo T. McMahon, where he pays tribute to Ed Prewett, the author for his “HISTORY” of the 424th. I started to reproduce it in the “Individual History” chapter, but it seems fitting to class it as a “Unit History,” as seen from the eyes of one of its soldiers.”... CUB Review editor (1991)
From the Column —
(Memorial to Maj. General Alan W. Jones 1894 ‑ 1969)
Easter Sunday 1971
Ever since the
organization of the Division Association in 1945 and the resumption of
publication of the CUB, many Golden Lions have contributed their memoirs,
their letters and their stories of the war to its pages. These are always
intensely interesting to other members of the Association who were
familiar with or participated in the events recounted.
Such a letter was
published in the April,May, June 1971 issue of the CUB (Vol. 27, No.3)
It was headed
LETTER TO HOME, dated 26 May 1945 Germany addressed to his mother
and dad. It is very well written. It covers, in time, the whole sweep of
activities participated in by the 106th Division from it departure from
Camp Atterbury, Indiana to the Port of Embarkation until after VE Day in
Germany. He keeps very well oriented and always mentions the town in which
he is located or near which each event occurs. The letter is written by
some soldier in the 3rd Platoon of an unmentioned infantry company,
battalion or regiment. Of course this information would not be included in
his letter to his folks who already knew it. The communication covered 8
pages in the CUB. As I read the letter I deduced from it and from my
knowledge of the Division History that he had served in the 1st Bn. 424th
He started his
letter from Biebelsheim Germany, near Bingen on the Rhine. He does not
mention his specific duty, but his regiment was guarding 160,000 German
prisoners with Prison Camp A‑7 located near Biebelsheim guarded by the 1st
Bn. and AT Co. 424th Inf. In his letter he follows the moves of his
Company form Camp Atterbury Ind., overseas to England thence to France and
Belgium and into their initial position near Lommersweiler as part of the
1st Bn. 424th Inf., placed in that area in Division reserve. The Bn. was
still there in the morning of 16 December when the Germans attacked the
front line positions of the 424th.
When his 2d. and 3d.
Bns. and Antitank Co. holding the front line became hard pressed, Colonel
Reid Regimental Commander, asked Brig. Gen. Perrin Asst. Div. Comdr. who
was in Winterspelt to release the 1st Bn. to him. This was approved and
Colonel Reid ordered Lt. Col. Lamar Welch Bn. Comdr. to send a company
down the road to Eigelschied to reinforce the AT Co., followed by the rest
of Bn. As Ed Prewett tells it in his letter: “We boarded trucks raced
across into Germany to help our boys hold them.” By this time intense
enemy artillery and mortar fire was interdicting the Winterspelt road
holding up the remainder of the 1st Bn. on the outskirts of that village.
When night fell the Winterspelt perimeter consisted of Companies C, B and
A from left to right (facing the enemy) with Co. C 81st Engrs. on the
south‑west flank, which position it reached before the next dawn. As the
16 December 1944 ended, the Germans had not attained their objective. The
southern route to St. Vith was still obstructed. The 424th Infantry Combat
Team had acquitted itself well in its initial action.
I thank Ed (Dutch)
Prewett, “B” Company, 424th Combat Infantry Regiment for his letter and
the opportunity to review the military history of the 424th Inf. on the
initial day of the German attack ‑ 16 December 1944. (Ed's letter
follows... editor 1991)
Gen Leo T. McMahon
by Ed (Dutch) Prewett 424/B
Dear Mom and Dad:
At last the lid is
off so I can give you a little history. First of all please save this
envelope converted to a 6 cent air‑mail.
I can even tell
where I am. That is if I can figure it out myself. The town I'm living in
is Biebelsheim. I doubt if it's on any maps. It's 6 km to Bad Kreuznach in
one direction and 11 km to Bingen in the other. If that's still too small
well, they say Bingen should be on the map. We're practically on the Banks
of the Rhine. Biebelsheim is a one‑horse town. It is typical of all the
towns around here. Every two or three km there is a town. Each has its own
home bakery, drug store, etc. Their mainstay is the farming land around
the town. Every house has its oxen or maybe a horse and its chickens, etc.
And every day they take off out into their fields with a bottle of wine
and some bread for their lunch meal.
27 May 1945
They interrupted me
by telling me that there would be a show last night. It was “Foreign
Correspondent” with Joel McCrea. It is an old picture, but we got to see a
show so seldom that I went anyway. Well let's see: shall I start here and
work back or start back at Atterbury.
We left dear old
Camp Atterbury, on the 10th of Oct. 1944 and headed north. No one knew
where we were going, but there were a lot of rumors. As it is, I would
have never guessed it because I had never heard of the place. However we
did realize that we were seeing some of New England. And soon after we
passed thru Providence R.I., we arrived at our destination ‑ Camp Myles
Standish (and I didn't spell Myles wrong, that is the way they spelled
it). The nearest town to the camp was Taunton; however we could go on pass
to Taunton, Providence and Boston. Boston was the farthest ‑ being 35
I never left the
camp although I wanted to. We were permitted to leave only twice. Half of
us could go one time and half the other. I won on the first time but
someone else's buddy didn't, so I let him go in my place. When the next
time came around, we got stuck because of some training, etc. I didn't
mind tho because there was more than enough entertainment in camp. About
all I cared to go to town for was to see it and say that I'd been to
Boston. We stayed in Standish (or CMI as we called it; because we could
never name it in public) about a week getting some last minute training
and completing our final clothing and equipment check up.
We left CMI on the
20th for places unknown. Most of us thought that we were headed for
Boston, but we landed up in New York. However they maintain now that we
were supposed to go to Boston only the last minute they caught some spies
around there and changed our orders. About that same time it was in the
papers about catching or uncovering some espionage work up there; so I
guess that may have been true.
We arrived in New
York under cover of darkness and much to our distaste, rain. By daylight
we were all on the ship. The Red Cross handed out doughnuts and served
coffee, while we were waiting our turn to board the ship.
We left New York and
the good old U.S.A the next morning 21st of Oct. 44. There was a lot of
joking about now we're getting 20% overseas pay, etc. But down underneath
everyone had kind of an empty feeling. Everything was new to us so we got
busy investigating the ship, which took our minds off it. Our ship was the
British's 3rd largest the “SS Aquitania”. It was a big baby all
right. It had speed so we traveled alone. The trip was uneventful as far
as the war was concerned except for a few incidents. Once another ship
came a little too close and our ship fired across its bow. It veered off
quick. Then later on as we came to England we spotted mines floating
loose. But by that time we had picked up a couple of destroyers as escort
and they would locate them for us and explode them by shooting them. Also
we would spot a few planes now and then but all friendly.
I've already told
you how we all got sick. The trip was a lazyman's trip so you know I liked
it. However it wasn't pleasant like you'd imagine. We were crowded and the
air conditioning system (or ventilation) broke down. We were down in the
hold where they used to store the luggage and keep the pets. Then we were
continually having inspection, etc. And they would have boat drill which
kept us out in the rain and icy wind for hours. Also we had different
chores. They didn't amount to much, mine was carrying boxes of P.X.
rations from the swimming pool, which was being used as a storage room, to
the P.X. That was a good job, if you know what I mean. The chow was
terrible, which I think made a lot of the guys sick. Not only that, but we
just seemed to have our rounds with Limey Merchant Marines. There were a
lot of Scotchmen, etc., on board. They were all soldiers who had been thru
quite a bit. A lot of them had been evacuated form Dunkirk. They were
being used as MPs and were taking prisoners to America and this was their
return voyage. We could get along swell with them. They were swell guys
but these blasted Limeys. Even before we left New York Harbor; in fact
before we got on the boat, one of our cooks, who was in the advanced
party, landed in the brig. It seems that he told them to stick his royal
Majesties royal ship up his royal ass.
We never knew our
destination. But when we got in close the Scotch started identifying
places for us. We slipped in close by the Isle of Man and on up into
Scotland and up the Clyde River. The name of the port slips my mind and no
one seems to be able to remember it (it was the Firth of Clyde up to
Greenock and Glasgow.. CUB Review editor 1991). Its name isn't
prominent although its a big port. However it was the same one used by the
Queen Mary, Elizabeth, etc. The same one where they torpedoed that air
craft carrier in, etc. Its on the West coast of Scotland opposite Glasgow.
Just over the hill from there was the “Bonny Bonny Banks of Lak Lommon.”
We arrived on the 27th of October and first set foot on Scotland on the 28th of October ‑ Zaragozo's 19th birthday. (see Individual History Chapter for article on David Zaragoza... Cub Review editor 1991) From there we boarded a train. Once again our destination was unknown. While it was daylight we enjoyed the beauty of Scotland. It is beautiful. Not rugged like one thinks. It's roaming hills like our small foot hills. Everything was green and nice it seemed so clean. It wasn't cold either although it probably would be at night because a way far off you could see snow capped mountains. Once again before we left the station we were served coffee and doughnuts. This time by little red headed Scotch Lassies Red Cross once again. They were darlings. Someday I'd like to go back to Scotland. The country just seemed to be alive with rosy checked healthy little children. We figured them to be the evacuated children from London, etc.
before daylight the next morning turned out to be a little town in Oxford
county with quite a famous name ‑ Banbury. I dropped a hint to Sis at the
time. There is some poem; “Something about riding a horse to Banbury Cross
to see a fair maiden. She has rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
and she shall have music where ever she goes (or something). Tried to
memorize it; but have had too many things to remember. Didn't stick very
well. Our homes, while there, were some old factories, etc., which had
been fixed up with double decker chicken wire beds. These same billets (as
English call them) were used by the D‑Day invasion soldiers, while they
were waiting for that eventful day.
I've told you all
about Banbury and its people and pubs etc. We stayed there about a month
getting our land legs back and toughening up by breaking our feet down
hiking all over English countryside on hard pavements. The hikes were
long, but they wouldn't have been so hard if we wouldn't have had to stay
on the roads. We had our Thanksgiving Turkey there and I celebrated my
Around the end of
the month we packed up and left. Had a few dry runs to throw any enemy off
the track then one night slipped away. Down to South Hampton and onto
another Limey boat. This time the “Cheshire” was our home for a few days.
This English boat was manned almost entirely by Indians. The damned Limey
like to use some one else for the hazard duties. The trip was short, but
we had to land in L.S.T.s which would run right up onto the beaches. We
had to wait for the water to be very calm. So we stayed on board quite a
few days. We landed on D+6. We don't have to tell them that 6 stands for 6
months. There we boarded trucks and took off. We had heard all kinds of
rumors as to where and how we would spend the night. It had rained for
quite a few days. So all along the way the truck would stop then go on
again, each time we'd make cracks about no this can't be the place, the
water is only 3 feet deep, etc.
Finally, we arrived
naturally after dark and it was raining cats and dogs. We picked out our
spot to pitch by feeling out a spot in the dark a clear spot between the
cow turds. Then the details flew thick and fast. We spent two days there.
“There” this time is Yervilla (or Yersville or something close to that) I
doubt if its on any map either. But that where I got my first taste of
Cognac. I was on a detail which took me to the town, so o o. There also we
received our arctics (galoshes.) I lost out there because I was on detail
and when I got back all that were left were size 7's. You know what good
those would do a Prewett's feet. Right there was the start of foot
trouble. We also got paid there. Our first contact with the wall paper
Francs. They really came in all shapes and sizes.
From there we headed
North and ran into our first snow. We were soaked from sleeping in the
rain and everything was damp and over crowded on the trucks. The cold
really hurt. We spent one night traveling all night and the next night we
landed in the Huertgen Forest, in the dark as usual. We were getting used
to that by now. All in all we were on the road about 2 days and one night.
A lot of the fellows suffered form cramps, etc.
Well our new home
was covered with snow. I hadn't had much experience with snow and was kind
of scared of it. But we made out all right. We only stayed there a couple
of days, while our officers went up on line to check it out. They came
back with good stories. “Its a quiet front. We send out patrols in the day
time and they send them out at night, so that they'll never meet, etc.”
Well you know the story its been written up enough.
My platoon was kind
of separated from the rest of the Company and Battalion. We lived down at
the railroad, about a mile form the town. Some of the guys lived in the
railroad station. Others of us lived in the attic of the civilians homes.
How I'd like to find that attic again with everything untouched. There
everything I owned, except the few things I carried on me, were left when
the Krauts broke thru.
We had it figured
out that we would be on line Xmas, so we (the 3rd Platoon) were kind of
planning to plan a little party for ourselves. We were going to hunt down
a deer and have a real dinner. Well we never got the dinner or did we
complete our week and go up on line. The line came to us. One night all
hell broke loose (Dec 16th). The noise of the Field Artillery echoed and
re‑echoed down our canyon. Long before we got any news, we knew that
something was up. We packed our stuff up, ready either way the orders
came. They came down, “fighting equipment only.”
Being green, we
started off wrong to start with. We left our shovels on our packs. We sent
back after them and later were damned glad we had, because it turned out
to be one of our most valuable weapons. We made lots of mistakes, in our
choice of clothing and everything. I wore my O.D.'s the extra clothes was
a sweater under my shirt and a field jacket. My weapons were a rifle, a
shovel, two hand grenades and eight clips of ammo. That wasn't of our
choosing. That's all we had. We boarded truck and raced across into
Germany to help our boys hold them. We didn't know what it was. I figured
that since we were a new outfit on line, the krauts were throwing a little
attack to see what we were made of. Anyway we held them all that day. But
that night we were over run and we had to get out as best we could. That
first night we got busted up and although I stuck with my platoon leader,
he wasn't with the company and only about half of my squad was with us.
From then on we never knew what happened to the rest of the Company until
we were all ordered out and re‑organized ourselves. As it worked out
although each Company was split up the parts all banded together and
reformed new fighting companies. And they did a good job.
Here is where my
story and the main body of the company's story differs. After we were over
run that first night the group I was with withdrew to Steinbruck where we
fought for about 3 days and held the bridge there. There also is where I
learned a lot. After freezing thru that first night I managed to get a
hold of another shirt and pair of pants, also a blanket, which later had
to be left behind. From that day on until we moved back into France I
always wore double pants and shirts. Besides keeping you warm it gave you
more pockets. There isn't much that we can say about fighting. For some
reason or other most of it seemed to be done at night. Everything would be
more or less quiet during the day then about 3 o'clock in the morning all
hell would break loose. If we held them until daylight, we were sure of
another day. Of course all the time they would lob in 88's and mortars but
not so intense as early in the morning.
At first we moved
back across the river and set up road blocks with bazooka teams, but we
didn't have the equipment to carry them thru. So finally we just stuck to
Steinbruck. Then after about 3 days (a guy kind of lost track of time
every minute seemed like years), I went with my platoon leader and about 4
others back to Lommerswieler, the rest of the men were ordered out to
Steinbruck. We found ourselves, six men, alone, cut‑off and facing the
whole German army coming over the hill into Lommerswieler.
We took off across
country and met up with some units of the 9th Armored. From there its all
mixed up. The Lt. and I were the only two who got back with the outfit.
(The rest may still be tankers.) But for the time being we were tankers.
The first night I was with a light tank. But things got too hot for us the
next afternoon. We were just foot soldiers riding the back (exposed on the
top of the tank) and helping during the night keeping anything from
sneaking up on them. They could button up and ride out, we were exposed.
We hooked up with a
half‑track mortar bunch next. (I say “we” because the five of us enlisted
men tried to stick together ‑ we'd usually be with different vehicles, but
all a part of the same group we didn't know where the Lt. was.)
the tank I worked with later got knocked out and all occupants killed. We
were only with mortars a short while when they needed some Infantry men to
spot the enemy in a wooded area. We were part of it. We went with their
reconnaissance men and Armored Infantry. There is where we got separated.
I was with a machine gun group a couple of days during which time we drove
For a long time now the enemy had been practically all around us. St. Vith was in their hands. We were ordered back and once again I rode back on a tank. We swung by a column of Infantry heading back. They were a sorry looking bunch. Yes, it was the 106th. Right then and there I rejoined my outfit.
I jumped the tank
and joined the column. It was the same Regt. but the wrong battalion. I
went with them as far as they went then tried to locate my company. I
hitched a ride from there to Commanster where at last I found my unit.
They had just withdrawn from Bracht.
Much to my delight I found a lot of the guys that I never expected I'd see again. We were hoping to get relieved but we found out differently. We were due to join some tanks and ride back in. That would have been sad. My Lt. was back also and he was kind of glad to see me. At least right there I was put in charge of the squad. At least what was left of it.
We went under cover
of darkness and arrived the next morning at Ferrieres. There we were
allowed to crawl into a hay mound and pass out. We rested all day. The old
Johnny on the spot ‑ Red Cross ‑ was on the ball again. They issued a few
razors and blades, a little candy, gum, etc. They couldn't have been
nicer. The people of the town were swell. The little kids gave us apples,
etc. It seems the Germans committed some of their atrocities against them
We got a little
cleaned up and they held a sick call. There wasn't anything that they
could do. We all had rheumatism and trench feet. I'd gotten a pair of
arctic's at Lommerswieler, but even they couldn't protect us. After the
first night our feet were soaked and never given the chance to dry out. I
fared better than most because of my few days with the 9th Armored. When
night came we moved out of the town and the woods once again was our home
for the next couple of days.
We didn't have
anything, but that was nothing new by now. Three of us shared one blanket
and a overcoat between us. The overcoat, I stole from the 9th Armored and
the other guy stole the blanket at Ferrieres. We weren't far behind the
lines. Because we had to keep fires down to the minimum. Also from there
we watched the famous air flight on the 23rd and 24th of Dec. The one
which was talked about so much and photographed so much. It was in “Life”
and in the News Reels.
We spent Xmas Eve there and I happened to be one of the lucky few who had an old wrinkled up V‑Mail form in one of my many stuffed pockets. So I wrote you a letter and then addressed it to myself. What a guy! That I found was one way to be sure to get mail. Although it took until the 15th January to get back to me. That's fast service.
We started back up
Christmas Day and moved up to Harre. There we each got an overcoat and a
few other things were given around. We cleaned up all the weapons. In the
meantime we (my platoon) found a building with a stove and everything. We
all went on a scavenger hunt and dug up quite a Xmas dinner for ourselves.
We were to stand by
so I snuggled into one of the beds for a little while anyway. It was
heavenly. But just like Alice in Wonderland at one minute after midnight
my dream was over. We moved on up into the line. However we were only used
as a secondary defense. By this time the Break thru had been checked and
we were backing up the front line in case another attack came. We weren't
far back, only about 500 yds. behind the front line. Artillery and what
not was zooming over our heads. We could see it set fire to buildings,
etc. But we now had superiority. They were throwing Screaming Meemies and
88's back at us naturally. But in comparison it was a quiet front. I
understand that the towns out to our front were Manhay and Grandmenil. We
were there about a week and then were relieved by the 75th Division, green
as could be. The first Sgt. actually came along with his flash light and
inspected each hole before he put his boys into it. He got a few Screaming
Meemies down on his head for doing it.
From there we drew
back to Clavier, where we stayed in a school house. There we spent our New
Years Eve. We got some reinforcements. The only celebration was done by
one of the new men, who shot a hole in the bumper of a Jeep when the
driver was a little too slow in giving the password. The Company Commander
was more than pleased because he knew that he had one good soldier in the
new men anyway.
We didn't stay there
long but moved to Tavier. The reason for these moves might be explained on
a map. I don't know the reason, unless it was to move us to where they
were expecting trouble. Any way at Tavier we were going to be quartered in
an old fort like barn. It was one of those with high walls all around it
and the barn house combination inside and a big court yard or barnyard
inside the walls. The kitchen was set up in one of the barns and we were
to live in another part above the people who owned it. We scouted around
and found some people, who could spare a room or two until we'd gotten
almost everybody in more comfortable places. My squad stayed in one room
of a swell little Belgium lady. She had a sweet little baby, who promptly
won us all. I think the baby got all our soap and a good part of our candy
rations. There wasn't anything we wouldn't do for the baby. Even to this
day its a big joke among the fellows, who used to be in my squad, that
when ever they get to wrestling around they always come out with,
“remember the baby down stairs”. Those who did have to stay in the barn
were about three stories up. Everyone's kidneys were weak from sleeping on
the ground and in the dampness too long. One of the guys couldn't make it
one night and the next day the 1st Sgt. had to give the company a little
talking to because of complaints made by the people who lived below.
From Travier, we
went to Winamplanche, which is just outside of Spa. But we spent one night
at Balmoral. Ah! Balmoral! It's a resort hotel above the city of Spa. What
a palace! It was like a dream to us, because we didn't know where we were
going and it was snowing and miserable. The trucks stopped “De truck”, Oh
my God! There wasn't a building in sight Nothing but woods and snow. Lots
of snow. Well there wasn't anything we could do we braced ourselves for
the worst and de‑trucked. But practically before our eyes our palace arose
up around a bend and there it was. Beds electric lights, mirrors galore,
everything. Like all good dreams, it was short lived. That was too good
for the doughboy. An Engineer outfit was due to take over the palace for
their home in the morning. So come morning, we packed our belongings and
reluctantly left our Palace in the sky and moved down the hill to
There my platoon barracked in the upper stairs of a coffin makers home. It was very pretty country around there. In back there was a babbling brook with all the scenery to go with it. It was here that I wrote you about how beautiful the snow looked, especially when you're on the inside looking out. And from that you tried to picture me hurt and in the hospital by reading between the lines.
The rest of the names to me are just names, but to the rest of the gang they each spell adventure. From Wanne to Heunemont, Eibetange, Diepenburg, Medell and Meyerode and the Strivax. You mentioned something about Medell being announced over the radio as being taken by the 424th. I'll remember Medell, because my squad (no longer mine) got into a little trouble on a patrol.
Enclosed is my hospital tag, which incidently was supposed to have been turned in. It gives my history better than I can tell it. I went from Wanne back to collecting and from there to clearing. I stayed a couple of days there. Saw a swell movie just layed back on my stretcher and watched it. About Abbott and Lou Costello in a “Night in a Harem” or something. Also had a tooth yanked. The Doctor did a good job, too. From there I went on to a special hospital set up by the medics of the 422nd and 423rd, just for treatment of frost bitten feet and bad colds. This was just outside of Spa. We were permitted to go in groups to take baths at one of the famous bath houses. It was swell, brass tubs, etc.
Spa was a swell place. It was strictly resort stuff. There was plenty of beer and cognac. Also we could get pie's and cookies and ICE CREAM. It was really kind of tasteless but it was ice cream. In the hospital we all swapped stories, etc. There were a few Paratroopers of the 517th and they got the razzing about taking Coulee at sling arms. They paid us some nice compliments. They said, “That next to their airborne infantry division, they would rather be working with the 106th Division than any other outfit.” I considered that to be quite a tribute coming from paratroopers.
From the hospital, I
worked my way back to my outfit. That turned out to be quite a process. I
had to go thru a Casual Company, where I would get re‑equipped, etc. There
I got held up quite a while, while waiting for certain equipment to
arrive. There is where I met Madam Henin. Once again, we more or less had
to take care of ourselves for a home. They provided an old abandoned
building, but that was mighty cold. So when we got the chance, we looked
over the town. We weren't exactly looking for a home then, but Madam Henin
came upon us and offered. It was a language of signs, an international
one, but we easily understood that she was offering us a bed to sleep in
and we graciously accepted.
She gave me the
enclosed card. Evidently her sons were in the transporting business before
the war. They had a Ford truck. The card also shows the town to be
“Anthisnes.” I told you all about her and she wrote that note in my letter
to you. They really were swell to us.
I finally got back to the Company around the end of the month and joined them at Strivax. Strivax is near Esneux. Its a little bigger town, I visited it and was able to get a post card picturing it. There I rejoined the gang and the world had gone on without me. My assistant had my squad and he had a new assistant.
At Strivay, Marie
Jose came into our life. We lived up stairs in this old ladies home.
Evidently form this address, which Marie Jose wrote, her name was Madame
Bouillon. (Marie Jose Pouilus, Strivay Plainevaux, NO 216 Chez Mame
Bouillon.) She was a swell old lady, who took care of this little girl,
Marie Jose Paulus. Marie was about 9 or 10 and quick to catch on to
things. We called her “no compree.” By the time we left, some joker had
taught her to say “I love you Kiss me quick”. And no cracks, I wasn't the
From Strivay, we
were to go back to France; but it seems that there was a little hole,
which we could fill up on a quiet sector on the Front. Another of those
quiet sectors, Hum! But this time it really was quiet. We relieved the
99th up in Germany and for better than a month we sat and stared at the
pill boxes and dragon's teeth in from of us. It was too well fortified so
they were breaking through at other spots and going around it.
At that time we were
the right wing of the 1st Army. On our left was the “Fighting 69th” an on
our right was the 87th Div. (a part of the 3rd Army). Around the 5th of
March they broke thru some place and the Kraut started to pull stakes. We
moved in on them. Could have picked up a lot of nice souvenirs from the
Pill Boxes, but didn't know how long we'd have to pack the stuff, before
we could send it home. We moved on past the pill boxes, etc. and took the
towns of Berks and Bassum, then we were pinched off and were out of the
fight again. There wasn't any fighting on my part at those two towns. Some
of the forward elements might have hit some. The Germans were on the run
by then and didn't stop until they were on the other side of the Rhine. In
fact they didn't stop long there.
We spent one night in Bassum, then drew back to some abandoned pill boxes and prepared to spend the night there. Right there is when my pass came thru to go to one of our rest areas in Eupen, Belgium. I wrote you all about that with out naming Eupen. Enclosed is my pass to Eupen. From Eupen, I came back to the Pill Boxes. We were still in the same place awaiting orders. I spent one night there. Then was sent as advance party to San Quentin. (there we became part of the 15th Army) And you know all about that. Enclosed also is the pass I used while there. Again I'm not supposed to have had that.
While there, we
lived in an old factory and had double decker beds with wooden springs, if
you know what I mean. While there they started training this special
demonstration platoon, which was supposed to be the best in the Division.
Just before we left San Quentin, I went on pass to Paris. Enclosed also is
that pass. I told you about that.
From Paris, I joined
the motor convoy just outside of Paris on its way to Rennes. The most of
the outfit came by 40 & 8 box cars. At Rennes, the Demonstration platoon
was separated from the rest of the company and sent to this Infantry
School, where we did the demonstrating and other work around there. There
we lived in our chateau, which I wrote all about. We moved down there, I
think to take over those pockets of resistance at St. Nazzare and
Lorrient. Some of the outfit did see some action here, but I wasn't in on
All of a sudden, we
got orders to pack up again. On the 40 & 8's again. 40 & 8 stands for box
cars, which hold 40 men or 8 horses. We ended up a few miles from here on
the banks of the Rhine. There we pitched tents and stayed (here the news
came of the end of the war in Europe, which I wrote you about) until we
got our duties assigned over here and came to live at our present home
We're still on the
West Bank of the Rhine, but I'll cross it before I leave this country if I
have to swim it. Well, that's the story from start to finish. Now I'm
beginning to wonder how I'll ever mail it to you. I'll need a special
Love to all,
RT.# 2, BOX 730
Brentwood, Calif. 94513
How I remember The Battle at Coulee, 1st Sgt Rutland
by Roger Rutland, former 1st Sgt B/424.
This is how I
remember January 9‑13, 1945.
We moved in
around Spineux the night of January 9th. As we approached the house where
I planned to set up Company Headquarters we heard a noise in the basement.
We threw in a few hand‑grenades and the German soldiers who had occupied
the house got away in the dark.
We remained in the area until early morning January 13th.
Company A and B of
the 424th moved forward and by 1200 noon we had accomplished our first
mission of the day. It was about noon when 1st Lt. McKay, Commanding
Officer of A Company was killed. Soon after noon we moved on toward Coulee
with C Company taking the lead position. At 1400 we stopped for a break
and it was at that time an artillery shell landed near us. 1st Lt. Herman
Slutzky, Commanding Officer of B Company was wounded. 1st Lt. Charles E.
Brown assumed command of B/424 at that time. I assigned a man to take Lt.
Slutzky to the Battalion Aid Station.
We continued on
toward Coulee, through the deep snow, until 1700 (5:00PM). Near Coulee the
German 88's hit us very hard.
Commander Lt. Col. Lamar A. Welch and S‑2 Lt. Huddleston were hit. About
fifteen men in my weapons platoon were killed on the spot. Col. Welch was
hit in the hip and leg and could barely walk. He told me to take charge of
the Battalion, and to please not let the men run.
Lt. Huddleston had
both legs blown off but was still alert enough to pack snow on the
remaining part of his legs to help stop the bleeding. He directed the two
men carrying him to the Aid Station and died after arriving there.
Lt. Daniel B.
Woolcock of Company B was hit the same time as the others in the weapons
platoon. T/Sgt Clair D. Adams and Pfc Thomas B. Cowan were assisting Lt.
Woolcock when a shell landed near them killing Woolcock and Cowan and
wounding Adams. All of the killing and maiming happened within five
We moved back
several hundred yards and set up the best defense we could. It was dark at
that time and there was no other action for the next few hours.
Colonel Welch had
been wandering around for the past few hours in a daze. About 9:00PM he
found me and wanted a cigarette. I could tell he was weak and had lost
much blood. After he smoked and rested awhile I had a man take him to the
Aid Station. I did not see him again until April.
A Major that I was
not familiar with was sent, later that night, to take command of our
Battalion. The next morning we were relieved by another Battalion and
moved from our position near Coulee.
January 13, 1945 was without a doubt, the worst day of my life.
Re‑visiting the Battle of Coulee
By Edward A. Prewett 424/B
Andre Hubert was
born two miles from the important crossroad in the Battle of the Bulge
known as “PARKERS CROSSROAD.” He was a child during the battle but has
become an ardent student of the Battle of the Bulge. He is now
Vice‑President of CRIBA, which stands for Centre De Recherche Et
D'Informacion Sur La Bataille Des Ardennes (Research and Information
Center of the Battle of the Ardennes). He was a guest speaker at the
Arlington, Virginia Veteran's of the Battle of the Bulge (VBOB) convention
in December 1985.
When Dr. DeLaval
realized that he would be hospitalized at the time of our visit, he
arranged for Andre to fill in for him. Andre was overly generous with his
time, seeing to our every need. Since our main reason for the visit was to
see Dr. DeLaval, we were not seeking old battle areas. One area we did
explore was around Coulee.
Andre knew of another member of CRIBA, who had written articles of this particular battle and was trying to obtain all the information he could from veterans of that particular engagement. We made a date to meet in the village of Wanne. We arrived first and had time to admire a monument to those killed during World War I. It had been altered to honor the World War II dead also.
Under words that
were confusing to me was a list of others who obviously died during the
battle. At least the dates would so indicate. Serge Fontaine, our expert
on the battle, explained that those were the people, who the Germans took
and killed during that period. They were not killed accidentally, but were
picked out of a line up and murdered by the Germans.
One readily should realize that the French speaking people who live close to the border of Germany, to this day do not forgive the Germans. Some of this feeling exists within Belgium between German and French citizens of Belgium.
Also St. Vith and
Vielsalm are only about 10 miles apart, but there is a much wider gap
between them. St. vith was originally a part of Germany and was given to
Belgium when Germany lost the 1st War. Changing the boundaries did not
necessarily change the people. This I was not aware of in December 1944,
prior to the Breakthrough. It does explain much now, when we reflect on
the events of the that time.
brought a copy of his map and his writings on the Battle of the Bulge.
Unfortunately they were in French and I could not read them. He spoke very
good English and proceeded to explain what he knew about the battle known
as the Battle of Coulee. This he knew was the engagement I was interested
in. He explained that he had received information from other
organizations, but had never received much from the veterans of the 106th
Infantry Division. The objective of CRIBA is to get the facts recorded
correctly, while the actual participants are still alive. he definitely
knew more about the Battle of Coulee than I. His map spelled out exactly
where the various units were and where they went.
He explained to me
that the 1st Battalion/424th started from Spineaux. Company A/424 attacked
the village of La Vaux. Company B/424, my Company, attacked the hill to
the left of La Vaux. We then proceeded to advance on the Village of
Coulee. Stopped by darkness and the loss of over 250 casualties, including
our Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Welch, the 1st Battalion drew back
Serge Fontaine's explanation cleared up some things in my mind. In my papers, I had the name of Spineaux but didn't know where it fit. I never saw a map nor were we ever told much about where we were. Once in a while we would catch the name of a place, but nothing was ever mapped out in any pattern.
He had the facts
down nicely. What he lacked was the finer points. He wanted to know if we
reached the bridge across a small stream. If there was a stream I wasn't
aware of it, nor the bridge. It was all covered by snow in 1945. He didn't
know that Company B's 1st Sergeant Roger Rutland had been put in charge of
the 1st Battalion by Lt. Col. Welch, before he allowed himself to be
I tried to answer
his questions and promised to write to Roger Rutland and ask him to write
his recollections of the Battle of Coulee. He had other questions as to
who held Wanne on January 12, 1945, just before the attack. He had the 3rd
Battalion/424 located in that area but would like it confirmed by someone
who was there. It is still important to preserve the truth while we are
still able to do so. Anyone who might be able to help should contact:
Serge Fontaine, Chemin De Ster 11
B 4970 Stavelot,
I know he would be
grateful for any information you can supply.
Edward Prewett 424/B
articles referring to Colonel Riggs and the 81st Combat Engineers in
chapter entitled ‑ “Individual History”
A reprint of an
earlier CUB article, by the Commander of the 81st Combat Engineers,
Colonel Thomas J. Riggs, Jr.
The 81st Engineer
Combat Battalion attached a company to each of the Infantry Regiments. The
Battalion CP was in Heuem, about four miles east of St. Vith, on the
We were still
reconnoitering and improving our positions, when a heavy artillery barrage
hit the sector at about 0530 hours. After putting the staff on alert, I
went to the Division CP in St. Vith to check other reports. St. Vith was
being hit from what was described as railroad mounted artillery capable of
firing up to 14 inch rounds.
From the G‑2
section, I learned the whole front was under heavy attack by enemy
infantry supported by tanks and artillery. The Division G‑2's attempt to
convey this information to the VIII Corps who obviously thought, that as
“green troops,” the Division was exaggerating the intensity and scope of
the action. Even an attack plan, taken from a captured German Officer,
confirming the scope and nature of the attack was either not recognized or
never arrived at Corps.
Since the 106th had
no infantry in reserve, I was asked by the G‑3 to assemble and prepare the
81st Engineers for their secondary mission as an infantry reserve. I
returned to the Bn CP about 0800 hours and found that one platoon of
Company A and all of Companies B and C had already been committed as
infantry reserves by their regiments. This left only the Headquarters and
Service Company plus the headquarters and two platoons of Company A.
Cpt Harmon, Company
A, was the only line company commander on hand at the Bn CP to attend a
meeting, and he was called back by the 422d Regimental Combat Team to
defend his Company CP in Auw. Auw was already under attack by enemy
infantry in white uniforms and supported by tanks. By 1500 hours, Auw was
lost to Germans, and remnants of Company A were working their way back to
Company B, Which had
its headquarters in Schönberg, was ordered by the CO of the 423d
Regimental Combat Team to clear the village of Bleialf. Our last contact
with Company B was through Chief Warrant Officer Carmichael, Bn S‑4, who
was expediting delivery of ammunition to the company. He also located a
few self‑propelled tank destroyer guns which eliminated some enemy strong
points in the village. Carmichael returned to the Bn CP by early evening
before Company B was cut off by the German Advance.
Meanwhile, at the Bn
CP in Heuem, phone communications were out and radio channels were jammed.
Schönberg and Heuem were being shelled. Auw had fallen, and CPT Harmon
escaped with only a dozen men. Co C. in the meantime, had been committed
as infantry to defend the east side of Heckhalenfeld and later to fill in
a gap in the line between Heckhalenfeld and Winterspelt.
All reports continued to show a deteriorating situation for the 106th Division. The 14th Calvary Group had fallen back in some areas west and north of St Vith so that the northern flank was wide open. It become clear that the Division was being hit by at least four to six divisions, including two Ranger Divisions ‑ not the two Volksgrenadier Divisions originally identified.
by Thomas J. Riggs
of the 81st Combat Engineers, 106th Infantry Division, 1943‑45
article in the FALL 1975 “THE ENGINEER” a quarterly publication of the
United States Army Engineer School, Fort Belvior, Virginia
Editor's Note: (THE ENGINEER) Mr. Riggs' article is a true story which,
until now, has never been told. Although it portrays only a small segment
of the actions of WWII, it exemplifies the versatility and importance of
engineers as part of the combined arms team. It is a particularly timely
article, in that, DA has recently redesignated engineers as combat arms.
Training, youth and
discipline are key factors in most pursuits in life; they are crucial in a
My military career
began in February 1941 when I graduated from the University of Illinois
and received a ROTC commission, as a second lieutenant, in the Corps of
Engineers. After attending a refresher course at the US Army Engineer
School, I was assigned to the Engineer Replacement Training Center, Fort
Belvoir, as a platoon leader in a training battalion. The following two
years moved by rapidly and during this time I received a Regular Army
commission, completed the Engineer Officer Advanced Course, and became a
battalion commander with the rank of Major.
By 1943, I was becoming impatient with my role in training, and I began investigating the possibilities of a transfer to the Paratroopers, or the Rangers, or some combat division. My opportunity came in the spring of 1943, when I was ordered to the 81st Engineer Combat Battalion as the Executive Officer. The Battalion Commander was Lieut. Col. William J. Himes, who recently returned from duty on the Alaskan Highway.
By late summer of
1943, I had been ordered to establish an Engineer Combat Battalion in Camp
Gordon, GA. LTC Himes insisted that I hand select the best officers from
the 81st to make up my cadre. Sixty days after we had started to train the
new battalion, I was ordered back to the 81st to replace LTC Himes who was
moving on to command an Engineer Corps.
We continued our
training at Camp Jackson in preparation for maneuvers in Tennessee during
January‑March of 1944. We inserted some training in guerilla warfare which
helped sharpen the individual instincts of our young group.
From Tennessee, the Division was ordered to Camp Atterbury, IN, to continue training and await deployment. Shortly after our arrival at Camp Atterbury, I was ordered to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS. I returned to the Division shortly before we were ordered to the embarkation port. In my absence, the Division had supplied over 7,000 enlisted infantrymen, or 60% of its trained men, to an overseas replacement center. Fortunately, the Engineers lost only four officers and no enlisted men in this transfer. There was to be no time to adequately train the enlisted infantry replacements for the Division.
By late November,
the 106th was assembled in England as a Division and by 1 December
embarked for the channel crossing. A few days later, they debarked in
Rouen in mud and rain and moved by unit convoys into a combat sector
around St Vith, Belgium. We relieved the 2d Inf. Division which was being
deployed to launch an attack through the 99th Infantry Division.
The relief of the 2d
was accomplished in three days, man‑for‑man, and position‑by‑position. The
two sectors occupied by the 422d and 423d Infantry Regts, of the 106th,
were astride the old Siegfried Line in the Schnee Eifel mountain range.
As the 81st relieved
the 2d Engineer Combat Battalion, there was a lot of banter from these
combat veterans about the “country club” atmosphere of the position due
to the daily exchange of fire but no real action. From an engineer support
point of view, there was the difficult task of maintaining the roads which
were critical for resupply. We inherited the fortifications, mine fields,
and barbed wire which had been established by the 4th Infantry Division
and reinforced by the 2d.
By 12 December, the
106th had taken over the sector and began to review their mission and
means. The mission of the Division was to defend a salient that was over
20 miles wide and extended 8 miles into the German lines. To accomplish
this, the 422d, 423d, and 424th Infantry Regiments were on line from north
The 424th adjoined
the 28th Infantry Division to the south. The 14th Cavalry Group,
reinforced, occupied the northern five miles of the front and were tied
into the 99th Infantry Division to the north. In addition, the Division
had the following attached units: 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion,
820th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 634 AAA Battalion, and the 168th Engineer
Combat Battalion. The last unit was assigned to maintain the road net in
the rear of the sector.
The 81st Engineer
Combat Battalion attached a company to each of the Infantry Regiments. The
Battalion CP was in Heuem, about four miles east of St Vith, on the
We were still
reconnoitering and improving our positions, when a heavy artillery barrage
hit the sector at about 0530 hours. After putting the staff on alert, I
went to the Division CP in St Vith to check other reports. St Vith was
being hit from what was described as railroad mounted artillery capable of
firing up to 14 inch rounds.
From the G‑2
section, I learned the whole front was under heavy attack by enemy
infantry supported by tanks and artillery. The Division G‑2's attempt to
convey this information to the VIII Corps was misunderstood. VIII Corps
obviously thought that as “green troops,” the Division was exaggerating
the intensity and scope of the action. Even an attack plan, taken from a
captured German officer, confirming the scope and nature of the attack was
either not recognized or never arrived at Corps.
Since the 106th had
no infantry in reserve, I was asked by the G‑3 to assemble and prepare the
81st Engineers for their secondary mission as an infantry reserve. I
returned to the Bn CP about 0800 hours and found that one platoon of
Company A and all of Companies B and C had already been committed as
infantry reserves by their regiments. This left only the Headquarters and
Service Company plus the headquarters and two platoons of Company A.
CPT Harmon, Company
A, was the only line company commander on hand at the Bn CP to attend a
meeting, and he was called back by the 422d Regimental Combat Team to
defend his Company CP in Auw. Auw was already under attack by enemy
infantry in white uniforms and supported by tanks. By 1500 hours, Auw was
lost to Germans, and remnants of Company A were working their way back to
St Vith. Company B, which had its headquarters in Schönberg, was ordered
by the CO of the 423d Regimental Combat Team to clear the village of
Bleialf. Our last contact with Company B was through Chief Warrant Officer
Carmichael, Bn S‑4, who was expediting delivery of ammunition to the
Company. He also located a few self‑propelled tank destroyer guns which
eliminated some enemy strong points in the village. Carmichael returned to
the Bn CP by early evening before Company B was cut off by the German
Meanwhile, at the Bn
CP in Heuem, phone communications were out and radio channels were jammed.
Schönberg and Heuem were being shelled. Auw had fallen, and CPT Harmon had
escaped with only a dozen men. Co C, in the meantime, had been committed
as infantry to defend the east side of Heckhalenfeld and later to fill in
a gap in the line between Heckhalenfeld and Winterspelt.
continued to show a deteriorating situation for the 106th Division. The
14th Calvary Group had fallen back in some areas west and north of Saint
Vith so that the northern flank was wide open. It had also become clear
that the Division was being hit by at least four to six divisions,
including two Ranger Divisions ‑ not the two Volksgrenadiers Divisions
Corps and Army were finally, convinced of the true situation and were
committing Combat Command B (CCB), 9th Armored Division, and CCB, 7th
Armored Division. The 7th Armored would arrive at 0700 on the 17th of
December and be assigned to attack through the St Vith‑Schönberg road to
the entrapped 422d and 423d regiments.
I returned to the Bn
CP to instruct Headquarters and Service Company to clear the St
Vith‑Schönberg road and to evacuate the engineer heavy equipment from
Schönberg to Rodt, just west of St Vith. The remanent of Company A and
Headquarters and Service Company were to hold in Heuem.
The previous day of
heavy combat action left a very confused impression on me. We had lost
many men in Company A. Communications, both internal and external, were
confused and growing more difficult by the hour. Rumors were growing and
difficult to dispute without facts. Unit commanders were jittery. Some
service units, such as Corps Artillery, were starting to move to the rear
without their artillery. At the Division CP, I could sense the desperation
of the Commanding General for his two regiments that were being cut‑off
and his relief when given the two armored CCBs. Meanwhile, the commanding
officer of the 14th Calvary Group was desperate and unable to marshall any
organized resistance in his critical sector on the north flank.
I felt frustrated
because most of the 81st Engineers were under other commands, and the sole
function of the Headquarters and Service Company was one of resupply where
the roads were still open. Although the men of the 81st were fighting as
infantry, we were not doing it as a unit.
Later, in the early
morning, I returned to the Division CP in St Vith. The situation in front
of St Vith was becoming more fluid. By 0830 hours, my headquarters had
lost contact with Company B beyond Schönberg and were preparing to
evacuate the CP at Heuem in the face of approaching enemy infantry and
tanks. At 1000 hours, I was ordered by the Commanding General, Alan Jones,
of the 106th, to organize a task force to defend St Vith. The 168th
Engineer Combat Battalion was attached to the 81st with orders to
assemble all available men from both units as well as division
headquarters personnel. We were to hold St Vith for the counter attack of CCB, 7th Armored, through, our positions. After relaying these orders to
the 81st and the 168th, I left for Heuem and met my staff and part of the
168th command group on a natural rise about a mile east of St Vith. They
were being followed by an enemy task force of infantry and tanks which had
cleared Heuem. That particular location, in addition to having a line of
woods at the top of the rise to the north, had a good field of fire back
down the Schönberg road for 1000 yards. To the south side of the road was
a 20 feet wide fire break running parallel to the wood line on the north
and leading to an opening and a farm house about 200 yards to the south.
As units arrived
from the 91st and 168th Engineer Combat Battalions, they were placed
astride the road and a skirmish line of engineers, converted to infantry,
gradually dug in with some automatic weapons. Knowing that the counter
attack by CCB, 7th Armored, would be through us, I elected to place
several daisy chains of mines across the road and placed 2 bazooka teams
in the woods for cover. A 37mm anti‑tank gun was placed with an engineer
squad to cover them. This gun was lost in the first exchange of fire.
We were fortunate to
have a platoon of six tank destroyer guns which were set up in the edge of
the woods to the north of the road. Before the position was consolidated,
we had an exchange of fire with the enemy. By about 1600 hours, the
position had been consolidated and four tanks plus an estimated battalion
of infantry began to advance on us from the woods about a 1000 yards
away. The tank destroyer platoon engaged the tanks by boresightng the guns
which had been received in the morning. While they did not disable the
tanks they did force them to retreat to the woods with their infantry. The
tank destroyer platoon was then ordered to shift their position north on
the leading edge of the woods for future action. They moved north and out
of our sector without reporting. This was the first of several units that
left our sector to join a movement to the rear. It was this kind of
attitude that increased my determination to hold our position.
Later in the
afternoon, the Division Air‑Ground Liaison Officer made contact with the
only American aircraft that we were to see. We assumed that the enemy
tanks and infantry were hidden in the woods to our front and had requested
a mission to be fired by the Division Artillery, but they were not able to
respond. I got on the radio with the Air‑Ground Liaison Officer to guide
the P‑47 over the woods. According to CPT Ward, CO of Headquarters and
Service Company, the plane made 4 passes before sighting the tanks. He
then made several strafing passes over the area and hit one tank.
At about 1700 hours,
a Major Boyer arrived with the first elements of B Troop, 87th
Reconnaissance Squadron, CCB, 7th Armored Division, to support our
position. I did not like the idea of putting this fine mobile unit in a
fixed defense position, but their heavy automatic weapons were ideal for
the ample fields of fire in front of the wooded position to the north of
the road. As they moved in, Headquarters and Service Company, 81st
Engineers, plus part of A Company were moved to the south of the 168th
Engineer Combat Battalion to extend that flank. Some medium tanks had
arrived and were ordered to hold in the defilade back of the hill crest.
Boyer reported the
roads to the rear were full of retreating vehicles and the remainder of
CCB, 7th Armored, would be delayed until the 18th at the earliest.
As the Headquarters
and Service Co, 81st, were deploying into their new position, they were
engaged at close range by an enemy tank and infantry. A daisy chain of
mines disabled the tank and the infantry was driven off by small arms
fire. CPT Ward requested the fire support of some American medium tanks in
his area; however, they refused because of the deadly 88mm gun on the
enemy tank. I suggested that he and his officers “ride” the tops of the
tanks to steer them into position. He “rode” the lead tank into position
and was knocked off by the first 88mm round, but he scrambled to safety.
The American tanks then knocked out the enemy tank and withdrew to
At about 1900 hours, an enemy combat patrol penetrated our lines and got within thirty yards of the CP. I gathered about four people in the CP and ran up the hill to the point of penetration, closed the gap and ordered a clean‑up of the infiltrators. I found that the gap in the skirmish line had been made by men fading to the rear. From that point on, I visited our front line every hour or so, particularly at night, to let the men know that their commander was there.
Later in the
evening, the Forward Observer from the Armored Field Artillery Battalion
reported that his unit was in the area and wanted to provide artillery
support. The unit could provide close support fire, but tree bursts would
create casualties for us as well as the enemy. To combat this problem, we
covered the foxholes with logs and earth with a space to roll under when
an incoming mission was signaled. It worked many times for us.
As units of the 38th
Armored Infantry began to arrive, a staff meeting was held at about
midnight. The meeting included officers of the two engineer battalions, B
Troop, 87th Reconnaissance Squadron, 38th Armored Infantry, the attached
platoon of medium tanks, and the Armored Artillery Battalion. It was
decided to move Company B, 38th Armored Infantry, into the positions
occupied by the 168th Engineers. The 168th Engineers, which by now was
reduced to two companies, would move into a gap on the right flank of the
position in order to connect the line with a company of the 23d Armored
Infantry, CCB, 9th Armored Division, to the south. This action was
carefully organized and executed by digging a parallel line of foxholes
behind the 168th Engineers position. The engineer platoon leaders then
led the infantry forward to individually relieve the engineers so as to
prevent an internal fire fight.
By 0300 hours, the
position was fairly well consolidated. This finished the second day of
battle testing for me. In the previous 24 hours, I had seen blood,
bravery, fear, and death. It was also confirmed that the two infantry
regiments, the 422d and 423d, were now completely surrounded, and we were
their closest possible contact. We were still expecting a counter‑attack
by the 7th Armored, but they seemed to be gradually absorbed in our
Early in the
morning, the enemy began a series of probing attacks. About 0930 hours,
they launched a company size attack and supported by a Tiger tank. The
attack was directed at the clearing south of the fire break which was
defended by the remaining men of Co A, 81st Engineers. The attack was
repulsed and the Tiger tank was knocked out by three American medium tanks
which had been placed in position behind the engineers. Lieutenant
Rutledge, acting company commander of Co A, 81st Engineers, directed this
attack. He was wounded in front of his own position, refused first aid,
and was killed trying to pursue the enemy himself. The loss hit hard, and
his actions were a great inspiration to us all.
At about 1500 hours, another company size attack penetrated this same area and reached our task force CP. I heard the small arms fire and saw soldiers crouching along the roadside. I gathered the officers and men in the CP and got the soldiers crouching at roadside to launch a charge back up the hill into the break in the line. We killed 4 of the enemy and closed the gap.
At about 1600 hours,
A Company, 38th Armored, arrived and was ordered to relieve B Troop, 87th
Reconnaissance Squadron, which then moved to reinforce the position
occupied by Co A, 81st Engineers. B Troop had lost 40 officers and men in
At 1700 hours, I received verbal information that the 106th Division Headquarters had moved to Vielsam and that the 81st Engineer Task Force was being attached to the 7th Armored Division. This shift of Cps and command did not sound like the aggressive attack that we were expecting.
By 1900 hours,
Lieutenant Colonel Fuller, commander of the 38th Armored Infantry, arrived
with instructions from General Clarke, Commanding General of CCB, 7th
Armored. Since most of the units in the position were now infantry, it had
been decided that LTC Fuller should take command, and I was to be his
Executive Officer. I felt a personal let‑down in the change of
responsibility, but I did get the first sleep that I had since the early
morning of the 16th.
During the day the
81st Engineers laid mine fields in the area in front of Co A. While we had
prepared the bridges in St Vith for demolition, we did not mine the St
Vith‑Schönberg road in order to keep it open for the expected
counter‑attack through our position.
During the morning,
enemy patrol activity increased. By 1500 hours, a concentrated barrage
began and continued until about 1730. During the barrage, I was hailed by
the Forward Observer of the 275th Armored Artillery Battalion to report
that his CO wanted to “talk to me.” I got on the radio to hear LTC Clay
reporting that he was down to his last round. I instructed him to fire his
last round and to get out. The enemy barrage was taking a heavy toll. One
tree burst killed a company commander from the 38th Armored Division, his
supporting tank unit commander, and two others. Being on the scene, I
adjusted the command of the unit and committed a provisional platoon from
the 423d to this unit's sector.
At about 1800 hours, LTC Fuller announced he was placing me in charge of the position while he reported back to Hdqtrs, CCB, 7th Armored, to plan alternate defensive positions. He never returned and our orders stood to defend St Vith.
About 2200 hours, an enemy attack was launched up the Schönberg‑St Vith road straight into our position. The enemy force consisted of six Tiger tanks and supported by about a battalion of infantry. Our temporary daisy chains of mines and bazookas were ineffective against their massive attack. We committed four and then a total of six American medium tanks to this point blank contest. It was really no contest. The German tanks lobbed flares to the rear of the American tanks and fired their 88s directly at the silhouetted American tanks. In three successive shots, they disabled three of the American tanks, and the other three vanished in the direction of St Vith.
Our position was now
split, and I ordered my staff to fall back to St Vith. I picked my way to
our front positions and learned that, subsequent
It was now close to
daybreak. I issued instructions to assemble in a nearby park that
overlooked St Vith. By dawn, every incoming road to St Vith was filled
with enemy traffic. We scouted a line of vehicles abandoned by the 9th
Armored at the base of the hill below our position and recovered some
“grease guns” (45 caliber sub‑machine guns) and ammo. With only two
officers and thirty or forty men completely fatigued, an attack appeared
hopeless, so we made terrain maps and split into 5 or 6 man patrols. All
of this group were subsequently captured.
prisoner‑of‑war, I was marched with a 20‑man group for 140 miles in 10
days to a rail head in Germany. I lost about 50 pounds and witnessed the
death by starvation by at least three of the group. In Poland, I escaped
after 28 days of imprisonment and was picked up by the Polish Underground.
A rendezvous was arranged with the Russian Army who evacuated me from
Warsaw through Odessa on the Black, through Istanbul to US Army Control in
Port Said, Egypt. I was then moved to Naples for shipment home.
I was terribly disturbed and distressed over the terrible losses taken by the 106th and the 81st Combat Engineers and our failure to hold our defensive sector. It was difficult to believe that the units on our flank had fallen back on the night of 21 December without notifying us. I had been so localized in that position in front of St Vith that I did not perceive the magnitude of the total action and the strategic importance of denying the road net at St Vith to the enemy.
I began this report
with a view on the importance of training, youth and discipline. I feel
that the infantry training of the 81st Combat Engineer Battalion enabled
it to be committed effectively as a ready reserve. We took pride in
weapons training and special training such as the Ranger program. Most of
the officers in the 81st Engineers were qualified as experts in every
weapon authorized the unit. The high degree of discipline was the result
of programs involving weapons, explosives, and physical fitness.
In our totally
professional and volunteer army, combat proficiency should continue to be
encouraged for engineer units. I know from experience that engineers
will have to fight for survival in many engineer support circumstances.
Mr. Thomas J. Riggs completed his tour of active duty in November 1947 and retired from the Army Reserve as a colonel. For 13 years, Mr Riggs was Group Vice President for Textron, Inc., based at providence, R.I. In October 1972 he became Executive Vice President of Operations and a Director of Katy Industries, Inc. of Elgin, Illinois and Boston, Mass. Mr Riggs is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of Lawson‑Hemphill, Inc. of Central Falls, R.I.
William Lyle Mowlds
This select group of
men had to do one of the hardest jobs in the Division take care of
traffic, straggler lines, road blocks and prisoners in time of conflict,
and at other times handle traffic and keep their buddies throughout the
division from getting into trouble. This latter job was their hardest, for
when a soldier wanted to have what is known as “a good time,” many times
he was breaking army regulations and it was the MPs who had to “spoil his
fun.” We hope that now as the others look back on their army life they
will see that we were trying to help them.
The 106th MPs were
born at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in March 1943, and were a highly
selected group of men, many of whom had just come from civilian police
forces and knew much of the technical work that they would be expected to
perform. This first group passed off their basic tests with the highest
rating in the division, but we soon lost many of them to O.C.S. Those who
replaced them soon fell into step with the rest and went through D series,
Tennessee maneuvers and on to Camp Atterbury together. Again they were to
be broken up when word was received that seventy percent were to be
transferred to the infantry of our division, and replacements were
received from Military Police units in California. These older men that
went to the infantry continued to carry on in their excellent record and a
few were to later lose their lives in the Battle of the Bulge.
When the Division
arrived at the staging area (Camp Myles Standish) they, along with the
artillery and other service units of the Division, had a three week wait
before they finally boarded ship for England. The platoon, minus the
advance party which sailed three weeks earlier, landed at Liverpool,
England, the evening of the 17th of November, 1944 with 63 members. From
here we entrained to Morton‑in‑Marsh where we stayed until December 2 at
which time we left for Southampton and the continent, arriving on the
beach outside LeHavre, France on the 6th of December, 1944. From here on
across France and Belgium the platoon performed traffic duty in some of
the worst kinds of weather.
Arriving at St Vith,
Belgium on the evening of December 9, the platoon set up pup tents in the
snow and rain just outside of town. The next day contact was made with the
2nd Infantry Division MPs and arrangements were made to take over their
duties. This was completed on the 11th of December when the 100 MPs set up
control posts at seven different points in the forward area. It was from
these points that the men were driven during the second day of the Bulge
Traffic through St.
Vith was quite heavy with 7th and 9th Armored Divisions in addition to our
own. It was while handling this traffic that three of the members received
slight wounds from enemy shell fire.
While making a road
reconnaissance in Houffalize, Belgium on December 19, Lt. McGuire, Sgt
Cramer and Pvt. Pegg were confronted with a German tank. After crippling
the tank and setting up a road block, they managed to escape and returned
to Division Headquarters where more men and bazookas were obtained. The
group proceeded back to Houffalize where they found the tank had
disappeared but they did accost a German Staff car and killed all
occupants but the driver. Throughout the entire Bulge Battle the MPs had
many other close shaves, especially when out making road reconnaissance.
Traffic, prisoners, and the straggler lines were handled through St. Vith,
Vielsalm and all the way back to Anthisnes where the Platoon was
reorganized and increased in strength from 65 to 112 men and 5 officers.
When the Division
went to Rennes, France, one section of MPs was giving a demonstration to
the officers and non com's of the reactivated units, when one of the MPs
stepped on an unremoved enemy mine. Nine members were placed in the
hospital, but fortunately none were fatally injured. Several were returned
to the States for further hospitalization and discharge.
When the Division
took over the P.W.F, the MPs continued to handle traffic, do police duties
in the Division area, as well as handle all the German and Hungarian
Generals that were turned over to the Division stockades. In all, 79
Generals were guarded and later taken back to Army enclosures in France.
While at Bad Ems and
Karlsruhe, underpoint men of the platoon were transferred to the 3rd
Reinforcement Depot at Margburg, Germany, and many fine men from the 28th
Infantry Division and the 449th MP Company were assigned to join us in our
return to the States.
Germany, the MP Platoon handled the Division Stockade, did traffic duty,
and in cooperation with the civilian police and specially assigned men
from the 424th Infantry, handled the raids that were made, guarded
Division Headquarters, the “Dug Out,” and last but not least, processed
A.W.O.L's from the French Army. From Karlsruhe, the MPs handled the
Division traffic back through France to Camp Lucky Strike.
It would not be proper to finish this article without giving credit to 1st Sgt. Myles Brazill who did more to keep the unit in top condition than any other enlisted man. I also want to show appreciation to Sgt. William McCreery who handled the supply problem so thoroughly, and all those other section leaders, officers, and men who served as well.
The Story of the Division Artillery
(by a high ranking Artillerist who wishes to remain anonymous)
anonymous writer of this 1947 article was in fact General Leo McMahon,
Division Artillery Commander. (editor 1991)
A recent request for
a history of the Division Artillery in 1000 words, to appear in the CUB, a
rather difficult order to fill. Too much has to be omitted. However, shall
content ourselves here very briefly with the three main contributions of
the Division Artillery to the interruption of the Germans' timetable
between December 16 and 23d.
Bastion On The Left
When the German
storm broke against our “front," two prongs attempted to drive in toward
Schönberg, through Roth and Bleialf, while a third attacked northwest
through Winterspelt toward St. Vith. The two latter were handled by the
424th and 423rd Combat Teams, but the northern one, through Roth and
Losheim rounded the northern flank of the 422nd Infantry and hit the 14th
Cavalry Group which guarded the twelve kilometers between our left and
right of the 99th Division. The cavalry was very thin, and is not designed
for such operations anyhow. They gave, though not without putting up a
tough scrap first. This left the north flank of the 422nd Infantry hanging
in the air in the vicinity of Roth. The Krauts, tanks and infantry, were
in Auw by noon, behind our Infantry, in spite of a determined stand by our
The entire left of the Division, as far south as Winterscheid, would have been rolled up and destroyed that first afternoon, had it not been for the 589th and 592nd Field Artillery Battalions. These boys took all that the Krauts had to offer and returned it with interest. There isn't space here to go into the exploits of the tank‑busting 4th Section of A Btry, 589th; of Lieutenant Siekierski directing fire from atop a pile of ammunition in a 592nd battery position; of the gallant work of the linesmen, keeping their lines in through an iron storm; of the thousand individual acts of heroism of officers and men. A good deal you will find in the Division history. A great deal more will never be recorded‑too much happened there, and no one had time to write it down.
Meanwhile, what of
the center and right? While not as spectacularly engaged as their
fellow‑artillerymen on the left, the boys of the 590th and 591st,
supported by the VIII Corps Artillery battalions, were adding materially
to the German difficulties. Rundstedt's schedule called for one column to
seize St. Vith through Winterspelt and another via Bleialf and Schönberg,
both on the first day. He should have given more thought to our
Infantrymen, who didn't give easily, and to the enterprise and accuracy of
our Artillerymen. Maybe he thought some other division would be there when
he planned it. Anyhow, the iron curtain that the Krauts found between
themselves and our doughboys further, and very materially, contributed to
holding the German surge until the arrival of the divisions that came
from far away to back us up the 9th and 7th Armored, the 82nd, the 30th,
the 3rd Armored, the 84th, and 75th.
Of the twelve
organic battery positions that we had been ordered by VIII Corps to occupy
“man for man and gun for gun,” only that of C Btry 591st FA Bn was
properly selected for defense, and this alone enabled the 424th Combat
Team to withdraw intact in the early morning of the 18th, and to escape
the fate of the 423rd. This was a combat team operation for the books. All
routes to the rear were cut off, but Captain Black's boys put down their
fire in the right places and lots of it, the 424th Infantrymen rushed the
German lines back clear of the crossroads, and all the vehicles of the
Combat Team, including our 591st Battalion, made good their displacement
through Berg Reuland, and in turn supported the withdrawal of C Btry and
the foot troops.
And as long as their
ammunition held out, the lads of the 590th were piling German dead in
Brandscheid, Muhlenberg, and Bleialf; in Prüm, Sellerich, and Hontheim;
and in the stream beds, at the road junctions, and through the dismal
corridors of the Schnee Eifel.
They Shall Not Pass
After A Btry with
other elements of the 589th fought its way through the closing door at
Schönberg, leaving behind their stout‑hearted executive 1st Lt. Eric Wood
Sr. and steadfast 1st Section, they were not destined to enjoy the rest
that their heroic efforts had earned them. After various close shaves,
they found themselves, on the afternoon of the 19th, at Baraque de
Fraiture Crossroads, where they were ordered to rest and reform. Small
chance. Already Houffalize, twelve kilometers to the south had fallen,
and before nightfall the boys at “Parker's Crossroads” had already run
hostile tanks out of Samree', six kilometers to the west.
The position was a
highly important one, at the intersection of two main roads, and guarding
the right flank of the 82nd Airborne Division. Major Parker decided to
hold it, and hold it they did for three crucial days while power was
building up to hold the German push. They had help at times, a platoon of
quadruple‑mount 50‑caliber AA machine guns helped break up one attack; a
Captain Woodruff with a platoon of 82nd Division Infantrymen gave some
help; a lost assault gun came by and gave its best in the cause as long as
its ammunition held out; and some armored elements took part in repelling
one attack. But these people, while welcome, came and went. The rock that
protected the right of the stanch 82nd Division, and therefore the whole
north shoulder of the Bulge, was the remnant of the 589th Field Artillery
Battalion that rallied around its three remaining guns and beat back
everything that the Krauts had to offer.
And they had plenty, in ever‑increasing waves. The first attack, after a day of feeling out and interdicting, was approximately a company of infantry in the early morning of the 21st. From then until the position was overwhelmed by a coordinated attack of everything that the book recommends for such occasions in the late afternoon of the 23rd, they never faltered in their trust. They could have abandoned the position early in the game and been well within their orders. They could have abandoned their guns and made it safely away until the last few hours. But they didn't. They stayed and wrote a chapter of American fighting history that fits right in with the best we have —the Alamo, the Round Tops, the Lost Battalion. They were one of the outstanding of the devoted bands of unsupported American soldiers against which the best plans of Rundstedt and Sep Dietrich were useless and against whom their best troops beat in vain. Nobody told them to stay. But nobody told them not to, except the Germans. And so they stayed.
by Francis Aspinwall
From the Lion's Tale 1953
March 1943 to October 1945
The 589th Field Artillery Battalion was activated as a part of the 106th Infantry Division March 15, 1943. Its cadre was furnished by the 80th Infantry Division.
Basic and unit
training were completed at Fort Jackson, S.C. The Division engaged in
maneuvers in Tennessee in February and March 1944. On April 2 it went to
Camp Atterbury, Indiana, near Indianapolis. Here its organizations
received unit training designed to coordinate the various units and give
them practice in working with each other as a team.
A large number of
men were transferred overseas in May and June and were replaced by new men
from Replacement Centers at Fort Bragg, N.C. and Camp Roberts, California.
The Division was
alerted for movement overseas in September and moved by train to Camp
Miles Standish on October 9 and 10. The month following was spent in
awaiting transportation during which time the equipment was packed and
training was continued.
The 589th Field
Artillery Battalion left for the European Theater of Operations with the
following officers in command:
Commanding General, Division Artillery ‑ Brig. Gen. Leo T. McMahon
Lt. Col. Thomas P. Kelly
Executive ‑ Major Elliott Goldstein
S‑3 ‑ Major Arthur C. Parker III
Headquarters ‑ Capt. Alva R. Beans
A ‑ Capt. Aloysius J. Menke
B ‑ Capt. Arthur C. Brown
C ‑ Capt. Malcolm H. Rockwell
Service ‑ Capt. James B. Cagle. Jr.
Historical Journal of the 589th FAB
November 10 the
Battalion moved to the Port of Embarkation in Boston on special trains
from Camp Miles Standish. It rained hard most of the day and the troops
were pretty wet by the time they boarded the train. They detrained
directly on a covered pier and were served coffee and doughnuts by the Red
Cross, leading immediately onto a transport, USCGSS Wakefield, the
former luxury liner SS Manhattan, sister ship to the SS
Washington and one of the largest ships ever built in America.
The battalion occupied D and E decks forward, sharing the ship with the 590th, 591st, 592nd Field Artillery Battalions, Headquarters Battery, Division Artillery, and the Division Special Troops. The ship was crowded, there being 5 canvas berths between floor and ceiling, with little space left for passageways. A few men were on deck at about 1030 when the ship slipped out of the harbor in the fog and driving rain.
About the 3rd day
out the weather got milder and the water smoothed out. The decks were
jammed from morning till night. The mildness of the temperature and the
phosphorescence in the water at night revealed that the ship was taking a
southerly route to England. The ship moved fast and alone, nothing but
water was seen for about 6 days.
November 16 ‑ In the afternoon another transport was sighted off the entrance to St. George Channel. A destroyer escort also appeared to guide the ships through the mine fields and protect against submarines. The water got very rough that afternoon and night. K rations were issued to cover the first meals ashore.
The ship turned east in the afternoon and headed up the Channel for Liverpool. The water was shallow and the ship moved slowly passing a constant stream of merchantmen both inbound and outbound. An interesting feature of the harbor was the anti‑aircraft installations, large metal houses built on peers and placed so as to give a warm reception to any enemy planes attempting to attack shipping.
November 18 ‑ The
battalion arrived in Gloucester about 0400, detrained and was met by the
forward party which had preceded it from Camp Atterbury by about 3 weeks.
The camp was situated on the edge of town. It was small and had previously
housed the British Gloucestershire Regiment. The battalion was housed in
individual barracks of about 20 men each, One large mess hall was shared
by the 589th and 590th.
November 18 to 30 ‑
This period spent in unpacking, assembling and adjusting equipment. Motor
vehicles drawn in England were driven from Ordnance Depot. Other items of
equipment were drawn from bases and depots in the vicinity.
Training was carried
on with emphasis on tactics, uniform and equipment of the Germans.
Some of the men had
several passes into Gloucester. Others visited the town by an exit made by
our predecessors. The town was blacked out and everything was pretty well
closed up by 2000. Everyone began to appreciate the difficulties in the
life of a civilian living in a war zone.
December 1 ‑ Left
Gloucester about 0530 and arrived at a casual camp just outside Waymouth
(Portland Harbor) at dusk. “C” rations for supper and slept that night on
cots in barracks.
December 2 ‑ Moved
down to the harbor at dawn, were issued doughnuts, coffee, life preservers
and seasickness preventative pills. That morning the battalion loaded on
two LST's and spent the day at anchor in the harbor. Accommodations on
these ships were far better than those on the transport. The food was good
and the berthing was luxurious in comparison with the transport. There
weren't enough bunks to go around but the men slept in shifts and some
made beds in the trunks and slept on deck.
December 3 ‑ Left Portland Harbor and arrived in the mouth of the Seine River in the evening. The water was rough but few were seasick. Anchored about 5 miles from LeHavre which was barely visible thru the glasses. Water very rough that night and the ship tossed violently.
December 4 ‑ Cruised
slowly back and forth all day, one of a long column of LST's and
merchantmen waiting to go up the river. Started up the river in the late
afternoon and anchored in the channel that night.
December 5 ‑ Arrived
in Rouen about noon and tied up, awaiting turns to unload directly onto
the beach. The first LST was unload about 1500 and proceeded to the
bivouac area in the field a few miles from town.
December 7 ‑ Left
early in the morning and proceeded to camp area near Roselle, Belgium,
arriving late in the, evening; route was via Amiens, Cambrai, and
Maubeuge. Bomb craters and wrecked German material were much in evidence
along the route, evidence of the retreat from France the previous summer.
December 8 ‑ Marched
to St. Vith, Belgium arriving in the early afternoon. Parked on a hill
just east of town, ate lunch and awaited orders, and then moved into
bivouac area near Wallerode. Everything was very peaceful with the noise
of an occasional round of artillery to disturb the quiet. It was cold and
the snow was quite deep.
December 9 ‑ Moved into the line about 1 1/2 miles south of Auw, Germany. The 106th was relieving the Second Division and the 589th took over the position of the 15th FA Bn. The CP was set up in the kitchen of a substantial German house. The firing batteries took over log huts and dugouts vacated by the 15th. The howitzers were put into the holes dug by the 15th, as the division was relieving the 2d Division in place. Service Battery sent into position a few miles to the rear (about four miles south of Schönberg, Belgium), The veterans of the 2d Division assured their successors that they were in a very “Quiet” sector where nothing ever happened. They hated to leave and when the 589th saw what relatively comfortable quarters they were leaving they could understand it; they had been prepared to live in tents. By 1630 registration was completed, by “A” Battery and the battalion fired harassing fire that night.
December 10 to 15 ‑
The 422d Infantry, which the battalion was supporting, was occupying the
first belt of pillboxes of the Siegfried Line which had been cracked at
this point the previous fall. The Germans were well dug in opposite them
in pillboxes and other defensive positions in the area of the
Schnee‑Eifel, a wooded ridge about 3 miles to the front. The enemy
communications center for this area was Prüm which was at maximum range
(12,000) yards for “A” battery.
During this period
there was little activity other than few patrol actions. Few observers
missions were fired due to the poor visibility. The Battalion did,
however, have a substantial, unobserved, harassing program which was fired
every night. The forward observer adjusted by sound, using high angle
fire, which necessitated re‑digging the gun pits. Alternate positions were
selected and surveyed by the survey officer and his party. There were some
reports of enemy activity but nothing, apparently, more than routine truck
and troop movements. headquarters Battery crews reported being fired upon
on the 15th and the night of the 15th an enemy “recon” plane circled the
area for an hour or more. Numerous flares were seen to the flanks of the
battalion and a patrol was reported in the area.
December 16 ‑ at
0605 German artillery began shelling the battalion area. The barrage
lasted about 30 minutes during which time several shells landed in the
immediate area of the CP. The battery positions also appeared to be
targets however, no casualties were suffered. The survey officer made
studies of craters for determining azimuth of fire (shall‑reps) and from
an inspection of the fragments it was determined that the enemy was using
88mm, 105mm and 150mm guns.
forward were reported going out and the wire crews were alerted to service
At about 0800 the
battery positions again came under heavy enemy artillery fire. And again
no casualties were suffered.
At about 0900 communication was again established with Division and with the 422d Infantry. However, the lines were soon shot again and after 1300, the battalion was, for all practical purposes, isolated from its supported regiment.
Officer and the Assistant Communications Officer went forward to the
Infantry Regimental CP at about 0900 and while returning were fired upon
and the Communications Officer was wounded. He was brought in and later
At 0915 a report was
received of enemy patrols in Auw. An observer from “C” Battery went
forward to a position commanding a view of Auw and from there directed
effective fire on the town until he was pinned down by small arms fire.
“C” Battery was unable to bring guns to bear on Auw due to a high mask of
trees between it and the target.
At about 1030 a patrol was sent out; as additional security, to man defensive positions along the road from Auw. Since it was now apparent that the enemy held Auw, an attack from that direction was expected. This patrol soon reported small arms fire from enemy infantry moving out of Auw. An OP was set up in the attic of a building used as quarters for part of Headquarters Battery. At about 1500 three tanks were seen coming along the road from Auw toward the battalion command post. At about 400 yards range the lead tank opened on one of our machine gun outposts, damaging 3 machine guns. Small arms fire was directed against the tank, it buttoned up and came on. When it came within range of our bazookas, they opened fire. One hit immobilized the lead tank, it was immediately hit again by guns from “A” Battery and burst into flames. The crew and other personnel attempting to escape were taken care of by small arms fire. The second and third tanks were brought under fire and a hit was scored on the second; however, it and the third tank were able to withdraw to defilated positions under heavy fire from our guns. One of the tanks firing from a hull down position kept up a harassing fire. Counter fire was directed on its position and it is believed that it, too, was knocked out. The effective work of this patrol and of our firing batteries kept the whole battalion position from being overrun that afternoon.
During the evening a
new position was selected by a reconnaissance party, in the vicinity of
Service Battery (which had not moved) about 3 miles south of Schönberg on
the German border.
December 17 ‑ The
battalion moved out for the new position at about 0400. The enemy was by
now astride the only exit from “C” Battery position so that it was unable
to move. The Battalion Commander and the Survey Officer stayed behind
until this battery could be extricated with the assistance of the
infantry. “C” Battery never was able to move out and subsequently was
surrounded and captured together with the Battalion Commander and the
“A” and “B”
batteries moved into their new positions with four guns, the fourth gun in
Battery “A” arriving at the position at about 0730. Headquarters commenced
setting up its CP in a farmhouse almost on the German‑Belgian border,
having arrived just before daylight. At about 0715 a call was received
from Service Battery saying they were under heavy attack from enemy tanks
and infantry and were almost surrounded. Shortly after that the lines went
out. Immediately thereafter a truck came up the road from the south and
the driver reported that enemy tanks were not far behind. All
communications went out to the batteries, and a messenger was dispatched
to order them to displace to St. Vith.
The Batteries were
notified and “A” Battery with some difficulty got 3 sections onto the road
and started for St. Vith. The fourth piece was badly stuck, however, and
while attempting to free the piece the personnel came under enemy fire.
The gun was finally gotten onto the road and it proceeded toward
Schönberg. Some time had elapsed between the departure of the 3rd and the
4th pieces from “A's” position.
“B” Battery then
came under enemy fire and its howitzers were ordered abandoned and the
personnel of the battery left the position in whatever vehicles could be
into its vehicles and got out as enemy tanks were heard in the woods about
100 yards from the CP. Enemy infantry were already infiltrating the area.
The column was
disorganized; however, most of the vehicles got through Schönberg and
continued toward St. Vith. The last vehicles in the main column were fired
on by small arms and tanks as they withdrew through the town.
As the vehicles were
passing through Schönberg on the west side, the enemy with a tank force
supported by infantry was entering the town from the northeast. Before all
the vehicles could get through they came under direct enemy fire. The “A”
Battery Executive, with the last section of “A”, almost made it through
the town under fire; however, his vehicle was hit and he was forced to
abandon it and the piece and take to the woods. Several “straggler”
vehicles loaded with Battalion personnel arrived too late and were fired
on before they could enter the town. They took to the woods and, with few
exceptions, were captured.
assembled west of St. Vith where they were joined by Service Battery of
the 590th FA. They were ordered into position north of St. Vith to
establish a road block protecting the town. That night they were withdrawn
to the vicinity of St. Vith into bivouac area.
December 18 ‑ After
this halt, orders were received from the Commanding General 106th Division
Artillery to proceed to the west and to be prepared to take up positions
in the vicinity of Recht. The battalion was halted at 0100 and remained on
the road until 0730 when it moved forward. At approximately 0800 the
column was halted by word passed along the column that tanks and infantry
had attacked Headquarters Battery, 106th Division Artillery on the same
road to the west. The column was turned and pulled off the road into a
clearing. A perimeter defense was organized and a road block set up with 2
guns covering the approach from the north. A noon meal was served. Orders
were received to withdraw to the vicinity of Bovigny. The battalion loaded
up and proceeded to the designated spot in good order.
Apparently, the preceding night, the Germans dropped parachutists into the area behind St. Vith. They were not in great strength but they did do a lot of shooting and spread confusion in the communications to the west of St. Vith.
At Bovigny the
Commanding Officer of the 174th FA Group requested that the three
howitzers of the battalion plus attached personnel be sent to positions
near Charan. This was agreed to and the battalion was split into two
parts; Group A composed of the three gun sections, Fire Direction Center,
most of the officers, and part of the ammunition. Group B was composed of
the remainder of the battalion plus remnants of the 590th Service Battery.
Group A: Departed
for Cortil, went into position and laid the guns ready to fire on Charan.
The town was reconnoitered and no enemy was found so the battalion was
withdrawn to Bovigny for the night. Observers were sent out as outposts
and preparations were made to fire at any enemy.
Group B: Left
Bovigny and traveled west through Salmchateau and bivouacs for the night
on a side road near Joubieval.
December 19 ‑ Group
A: At 1100 the battalion moved to Salmchateau and was ordered to go into
bivouac for reorganization. While the bivouac was being reconnoitered,
tanks were reported near Baraque de Fraiture and the unit was moved there
to repel the attack. At 1600 two howitzers were emplaced about 500 yards
west of the crossroads firing south. The threat did not materialize and
the unit organized a perimeter defense and bivouacked for the night.
At Vielsalm on the
19th the majority of Service Battery returned to the division. After
having been surrounded, they used their bazooka, machine guns and carbines
to kill or wound the bulk of the enemy forces opposing them. They
succeeded, after a four hour battle, in clearing the enemy from the road
in front of their CP, and driving the few that remained into the hills
surrounding their positions. Using white phosphorous grenades for a smoke
screen, they were able to move all of their personnel and equipment out of
the position with the exception of a few men. Finding the road blocked at
Schönberg, they took to the woods, where they were joined by personnel
from other outfits. By moving at night they passed through the German
lines and joined the Ninth Armored Division, from which they returned to
the division at Vielsalm. They immediately came out to Baraque de Fraiture
to rejoin the elements of the battalion located there, and provided it
with support that can only be given by determined men who have proved
themselves in battle.
Group B: Withdrew
from Joubieval to the vicinity of Phillipeville via La Roche and Dinant.
Camp that night was on a road in front of a French‑style chateau, owned by
a Belgian count. It was a refuge from the war for about 100 orphaned
Belgian children and operated by the count and his wife with a Belgian
Army Chaplain as spiritual adviser. The Belgian Army Chaplain and the
count were very kind and many of the men got cleaned up and took advantage
of their radio to get some news. (It was disquieting to hear a report of
German paratroopers in the immediate area. However, this report later
proves to be untrue.) Part of the night was spent in the chateau and part
in the trucks. A double guard was placed on the column.
December 20 ‑ Group A: The battalion on order from the CG Division Artillery prepared to move closer to Vielsalm to draw equipment and supplies and to reorganize. Additional personnel and supplies were sent from Vielsalm. At 1500 the battalion received orders to set up a road block at Baraque de Fraiture to protect the Division Supply line from the south and west. Enemy was reported in Samree by an observer and initial data was figured by using a 1/50,000 map and a safety pin for plotting. A monkey wrench was used as a fuze wrench. Two rounds were sufficient for adjustment and two volleys were then fired for effect. The observer reported “mission accomplished”.
Plans were made for
coordination of fire of all weapons and outposts were manned and telephone
Group B: Established
contact with Division at Vielsalm and was ordered to return there which
was done via Dinant and Marche. Arrived in Vielsalm about 2200 in a
complete blackout. The group spent the night in a very warm shower room in
one of the Belgian Army Barracks.
December 21 ‑ Group
A: At about midnight the southern outpost reported a party of about 12
enemy on bicycles had arrived at a daisy chain (mine field) which had been
laid at this position and were standing in front of it. They were fired on
and scattered by the .50 caliber machine gun at the outpost and the guard
withdrew under orders for greater security. During the night all outposts
reported enemy movements which indicated the enemy was present in
strength. At 0530 the German attacked. They were repulsed without loss
after about two hours of fighting. Six German dead were left on the field,
and fourteen prisoners were taken, six of them wounded. Other German
wounded were evacuated by their own forces when they withdrew. From
interrogation it was learned that approximately 80 men from a
Volksgrenadier Division had attacked led by an officer from a Panzer
Division. Their mission had been to feel out our defenses. Although tanks
had been heard during the night, none had participated in the attack. At
noon, a message was received from CG Division Artillery to withdraw to the
vicinity of Bra for reorganization. However, the Battalion could not
withdraw until additional troops had come in to reinforce the few that
would be left.
Prisoners were evacuated to Vielsalm and preparations were made to bury the dead when the Germans attacked again at about 1530 from the east and approached to within 300 yards without being detected. At the same time they set up a road block of wrecked American trucks about 800 yards to the east.
The attack was
repulsed at 1700 by the timely arrival of 2 platoons of medium tanks from
the 3d Armored Division. German casualties were heavy as all weapons were
firing point blank into German positions. The Germans retired to their
positions in the woods and to the road block.
Two assault guns
arrived to aid in the defense and our lines were withdrawn to form a more
compact unit and to make communication and supply problems simpler.
Group B: The day was
spent in reorganizing at Vielsalm. We were all partially equipped and
trucks were given much needed maintenance. There was plenty of firing off
in the distance and during the afternoon a load of prisoners taken at
Baraque de Fraiture was brought in.
A group was made up
to go out and repel a tank attack. Most of this group were subsequently
taken prisoner due to confusion in where the front lines were. Several
badly shot up vehicles were towed in, evidence of the battle going on not
December 22 ‑ Group
A: A patrol was sent out during the night to reconnoiter enemy positions
to the east and south. The patrol reported the enemy digging in along the
road to the east inside the woods.
It was expected that
the Germans would attack about 0530. A preparation of 30 rounds of
artillery, 75 rounds 105mm direct fire, and about 2000 .50 caliber machine
gun rounds were fired to simulate a counterattack. Unfortunately a
reinforcing company from the 325th Glider Infantry, 82nd Airborne
Division, which was approaching us from the north, deployed on hearing the
fire and consequently did not arrive until noon. When they did arrive they
were sent forward to our line to relieve our men and dig in. They were met
by a mortar barrage and driven back. About 15 casualties were evacuated
and the men of the 589th relieved the 325th on the outposts until the
infantry was able to reorganize. The battalion was unwilling to withdraw
until this reorganization was completed. This did not occur until after
dark so that the battalion remained in position.
Additional enemy moved in during the afternoon and fired on at intervals. Visibility was poor, however, and effect was therefore hard to judge. Our positions were heavily mortared during the afternoon and evening. The Battalion Commander was struck by fragments and had to be evacuated. The Battalion Executive then took command.
We headed north
toward Liege, passing thru numerous artillery positions of the 82nd
Airborne Div. which was giving ground with great reluctance. We didn't go
far however, and stayed that night in a small village between Vielsalm and
Trois Ponts. We were bivouacked in barns although not many slept. Most of
us were spending a bad night on guard. It was a clear night and very cold.
We heard quite a few planes flying around in the darkness and we were
expecting an airborne attack so we spread way out into the surrounding
country, stood around, and shivered. During the night there was a big
display of fireworks a few miles south of us and the next day we heard
that paratroopers had been dropped but unfortunately for the enemy they
fell into positions of the 82nd where they were taken care of with great
relish (at least that's what we heard).
December 23 ‑ Group
A: During the night the Germans infiltrated into the woods to the north
and set up a line in front of the woods running to the east‑west road. At
about 0430 an SS Offizier Patrol attacked from the southeast at the same
time an attack was made from the east and north. All attacks were beaten
off and an SS Lieutenant and Sgt. were taken prisoner. Interrogation
disclosed that the 2nd SS Division was approaching from the south.
During the morning
the Germans continued to fire mortar and artillery. It was discovered that
during the night a platoon of towed tank destroyers from the 643rd TD Bn.
had come to the Crossroads, set up outside the perimeter and had been
surrounded by the enemy. They surrendered about 0900 and the Germans set
up their 3 inch guns to the north. A number of Germans were cleared out of
the woods to the north by direct artillery fire from the two assault guns.
Two mortar crews were knocked out and one rocket gun was destroyed.
During the night,
adjustments were made on German mortar crews which moved into the open. At
dawn they moved back into the woods where observation became more
difficult. In addition to observation difficulties, radio communication
became almost impossible due to enemy interference. Probably they were
using radios from our captured tanks. These difficulties were increased by
the fact that the Germans fired mortar artillery into the position
whenever a round was reported on the way.
Group B: The group
traveled further with numerous stops. Stopped for supper in a Belgian
farmyard and the boys got hold of souvenirs in the form of part of German
parachutes and equipment which had been dropped by mistake, into the area
the night before. The Belgians were very good to us and we hated to think
that the enemy might soon take these towns again. Actually they did a day
or so later. We camped that night in a small village where some slept in
barns and others in the trucks. Somewhere blankets were found and
issued. This was a God‑send to us as it was bitterly cold and few of us had
more than our overcoats.
December 24 ‑ Group
A: About 1000 a company of the 509th Parachute Infantry moved in from the
north, recaptured the tank destroyers and prepared to attack to the west.
Enemy artillery and mortar fire was heavy and all the telephone lines were
shot out. New wire was laid.
Prisoners had indicated that a large scale attack was impending in the late afternoon or evening. Outposts were still further withdrawn into more mutually supporting positions.
The remnants reassembled and returned to the battalion in the vicinity of Eronheid.
The days and nights
from 22 December to 28 December were very clear and cold which enabled the
air force to get out and slow the enemy down by attacking his lines of
communication and forcing him off the roads. It was inspiring to see the
fleets of bombers in great strength going out. Nothing ever looked better
than those hundreds of shiny planes in the clear blue sky. The enemy AA
was very heavy and it got the range of one formation. Shooting down five
in the space of a few minutes. One blew up with a blinding flash. Many of
the crews got out by parachute.
The night the
outpost guard was organized with “walkie talkie” radio units and it kept
us in contact with them very well. There was a mysterious light which for
a couple of hours, moved gradually down a hillside a couple of miles away,
but nothing developed. It was thought that it might be the fliers from one
of the wrecked planes, however, nothing developed. The remnants of the
outfit that was at the “Crossroads” returned.
December 25‑ Started
north in the direction of Liege. During a stop at about 1000 the
unexpected happened again. Two explosions shook the ground about 300 feet
from the column and dirt flew 50 feet into the air. The column was in open
country near the edge of a small village, cover was scarce, but the men
left the vehicles in a hurry and did the best they could. It was thought
that the explosions were caused by light bombs from a high flying enemy
accommodations were found in a village a few kilometers back in which we
arrived at about 1600. Since it was Christmas Day, somewhere some candy
and cigarettes were found and were issued. Billets consisted of haymows in
the barns that night.
December 26 ‑ At about 0800 two wicked looking German pursuit planes circled the village at low altitude. Taking cover proved unnecessary, as they flew off.
Left about 0500 and
proceeded without incident to Delembreaux, about 10 miles south of Liege
where the battalion was billeted in houses and public buildings. The
village was on the “buzz‑bomb route”, and those on guard could see the
flickering glow produced by the exhaust appear in the South fly over a
high speed and suddenly go out as it got over Liege. This was followed by
a big flash and then about a minute later the sputtering, like an old Ford
car would stop, to be followed by a dull boom as it exploded. Not all of
them hit Liege either, some of them that didn't, fell fairly close and the
ground shook and windows rattled all night long. For hours there was
almost always one in sight or hearing and the air siren in a town in the
valley wailed every time one went over. It was a senseless idea that
night. They might as well have let it run continuously.
December 27 ‑ The
battalion spread out through the town into various civilian homes not
previously occupied. Supply managed to get hold of enough clothing and
other personal equipment to outfit the battalion and commenced to draw
howitzer and trucks. The weather shut down and the buzz bombs started to
come over by day as well as night. During the night the town was bombed
lightly. One landed close to A Battery Headquarters but luckily no one was
hurt. It broke a high tension electric line but it was quickly put under
control by a volunteer crew from the batteries, led by Lt. Pratt of the
590th FA Bn.
December 28 ‑ The
Germans had reached their “high‑water mark”. Things looked black; the
pessimists didn't see how they could be stopped short of the Meuse River.
Travelling at night was a risk. There were many Germans in American
uniforms and vehicles. Guards were alert and suspicious.
The battalion left
Delembreaux in convoy about 1600 with the townsfolk lined up to wave
goodbye and headed for Chateau Xhos near Hody. It was understood the
battalion would be reorganized. Arrived about 1800 and “took over” the
Chateau. It was a large building in which about 2/3 of the battalion
managed to find quarters in the wings of the main building. The remainder
of the outfit billeted in the surrounding farm buildings.
December 29 and 30 ‑
Spent the time resting, reorganizing, and caring for equipment. Some new
trucks were delivered and two truckloads of signal equipment were drawn.
The battalion was visited by a Red Cross Clubmobile and all enjoyed coffee
and doughnuts and throwing snowballs at the Red Cross girls. A
representative of the War Department Historical Section arrived and
conferences were held where all concerned contributed to the general story
which was recorded officially by the Historian.
The buzz‑bombs were
particularly in evidence and all night long the house shook and windows
rattled as the bombs fell here and there around the area. Most of the
windows of the Chateau were broken and one of the bombs landed about 400
yards away, blowing in more windows and covering the occupants of one room
with splintered glass. All slept rather fitfully. The most anxious moments
are spent as the thing approaches and you lie there and hope it will keep
going and not cut out over your head! We had our first baths here in real
bathtubs with hot water (the lucky ones).
1 January 1945 ‑ The
Battalion Commander called the men together in the courtyard of the
Chateau and announced that the battalion would not be reorganized but
would be broken up to supply fillers to other more fortunate units in the
Division that had not suffered so badly.
The next day or so
most of the men left. Most went to the 592nd FA Bn. and to Division
Artillery Headquarters. The rest went to the 591st FA Bn. with a few
(including the medics) to the infantry.
A nucleus of seven or eight men from personnel was left to carry on and clear up the routine business of the battalion and it became inactive.
INACTIVE PERIOD: 2
January, 1945 to 2 April, 1945.
During this period the Division, with some attached units, and less the 422nd Infantry, 423rd Infantry, the 589th FA Bn., and the 590th FA Bn. saw action on the north flank of the “Bulge” near Stavelot and at Hunningen during the final drive that broke the Seigfried Line.
2 April to 22 April
‑ The new area was an airfield (St. Jacques de la Lade) which had
evidently been built by the French and improved by the Germans. It was
about 5 miles south of Rennes. The hangers were completely gutted and
there was very little air traffic, however, the field itself was very
large and in good condition. The whole field was about three miles square.
Four and six lane concrete taxi strips, like super‑highways, fed into the
main runways from all directions. These strips which lead to the farthest
corners of the field were used to bring planes from their dispersal points
to the main runways. The dispersal points were walls, trapezoidal in plan
formed by bush mats with dirt packed between. They stood 20 or 25 feet
high and were very efficient from bomb blast. There were also numerous
flak towers, about 75 feet high scattered throughout the area. It was a
very efficient setup and aside from the damage to the hangers our raids
seemed to have done little harm to anything. However, the whole area was
littered with wrecked planes which had apparently been hit on the runways
The “old” men
started to return on 2 April and within three or four days most of the
boys who had been at Xhos back in Belgium, were present for duty.
There was lots of
work to be done on the new camp. It was thought that the battalion would
be there semi‑permanently so they set about making it into a sort of a
“garrison.” sixteen feet by sixteen feet pyramidal tents were set up and
streets and walks roped off.
The battalion scavenged nearby wrecked buildings for timber and lumber and built floors for the tents. This was a great convenience as the ground was very marshy for about a month or so. A German ammunition dump provided a gold mine of building materials furnished hundreds of beautiful panels by taking apart bomb boxes which were used for floors, tables, benches, etc.
The battalion was
fortunate in having available nearby a source of labor. In Rennes, there
were large P.O.W. enclosures and every morning a truckload or two of
German prisoners arrived and took over some of the more unpleasant jobs,
such as digging latrines, and sumps, making graveled walks, etc. Toward
the end of our stay there everyone got passes into Rennes quite often and
explored the town, saw some movies, and in general relaxed a bit.
The nearest artillery range was at Camp Coetquidan about 38 miles away so any actual practice was a problem. A small scale range for practice in conduct of fire was built which worked very well.
On 21 April it was decided to move to Coetquidan both to be nearer the base of supplies (the 66th) and to make available the artillery range. The battalion moved into the new position on the 22nd on a high knoll just east of Beignon, a small French village. It was ideal for practice. The guns could be put into position and fired from areas right next to the camp itself.
7 May to 14 May ‑ On
7 May the battalion was moved to the “Lorient Pocket” to reinforce the
870th FA Bn. At both Lorient and St. Nazaire, the enemy held the cities
and an area about 100 square miles of adjacent territory. There were
elaborate minefields and defense installations guarding the approaches
(including the big submarine pens).
assigned were generally in an area 4 or 5 miles west of Quimper. The
airfield was just north of Plouay. The battalion arrived about 1200 and
was going into position when instructions were received to stand by ready
to fire, but not to fire except on direct orders from the 870th.
Negotiations had been begun for surrender of the enemy garrison. The
battalion remained in readiness until 1600, 9 May at which time it was
announced that the surrender had been completed. The positions were
undoubtedly the most beautifully organized and camouflaged of any the unit
had ever occupied.
V‑E Day was celebrated 9 May but it was rather subdued (in most cases). Everyone seemed to take it as a matter of course. Plans to live underground were suspended and tents were erected. The battalion was assigned sections of Lorient to occupy during the collection of prisoners and weapons, but only “C” Battery actually moved in.
Emphasis was placed on the new program of education and key men were sent to Paris from time to time to attend the I&E Staff School at Cite Universitaire.
A liberal pass quota
was authorized and all men had one or more leaves to Paris, Eupen, Namur,
the United Kingdom or the Riviera.
A few high point
enlisted men left the unit for home and discharges. Several of these men
were fortunate enough to go by air.
Service Practice and
Battery and Battalion Tests were held regularly at the range near
Kempernich, about 10 miles north of Camp Jones. The range was in heavily
rolling country providing many good OP's as well as Battery positions and
much progress was made during this period.
Several very good
USO shows were well attended at the Jones Bowl, about 1/2 mile from the
20 June ‑ The initial training period was completed and the battalion took its first AGF Tests. On Battery Test 1 “Able” Battery scored 97.4%, “Baker” 76.3%, and “Charlie” 86.6%.
22 June ‑ Battery Test 2 was taken today, “Able” Battery scored 88.4%, “Baker” 76.0%, and “Charlie” 86.6%.
24 June ‑ 8 July ‑
Most of this period was spent on the range in preparation for the Infantry
Battalion firing tests and artillery battalion tests 1, 2, and 3. With
each successive day everyone seemed to sense our improving efficiency and
the morale at the end of the period was higher than at any previous time
during the training period.
9 July to 11 July ‑
An RSOP for the infantry battalion firing tests was completed. Three days
of firing over the heads of the doughboys added excitement and kept the
battalion on its toes. We came out of these tests with added confidence
and the knowledge that we were now ready for a combat mission.
12 July ‑ The
battalion left the rendezvous area at 1330 for reconnaissance of position
for Battalion Test 1. The test was passed easily with a score of 81.65.
The outfit was short on its T/0 of officers which added immensely to the
difficulties. Each battery was reduced to 2 officers and the battalion
staff had to struggle along with 4.
13 July ‑ Battalion
Test 2 was taken today. There was a misunderstanding among the umpires in
the identification of targets and the final score 76.0% dropped off a bit.
We did have the satisfaction however or scoring a direct hit on one of the
few targets which had been misidentified.
14, 15 July ‑
Battalion Test 3 is a night problem and the afternoon was used for
selection of positions and survey of the area. Scoring is done by short
base triangulation of the red flash of the exploding shell in the target
area. For this purpose aiming circles are usually set up and oriented on
the OP's during the daylight hours, although sometimes this too is done in
The night was a busy one and when circle readings were finally computed and plotted the results left little to be desired. The umpires who are very hard to please awarded us the very creditable score of 82.4%. The battalion final score for all AGF Tests averaged 80.45%.
16 July to 6 August ‑ The Battalion in company with the Division marches to the bivouac area in the vicinity of Mingolsheim, Germany (25 miles south of Mannheim). The new area was in the vicinity of an old German ammunition dump in a woods. Several of the buildings were cleaned up and used as “Rec” Hall, Red Cross Clubs, etc.
An officers club and
a Non‑Commissioned Officers club were opened in Mingolsheim. Passes to
various recreation centers continued to be issued liberally.
On July 21 the battalion was engaged in a Seventh Army “Tallyho” operation. The 589th was assigned the town of Kronau and at 0400 began systematic searching of all buildings in the town. The object of the search was firearms and other contraband and also serve to check on civilians without proper credentials. The operation was executed smoothly in about 16 hours.
Some of the newer men were transferred to divisions on the way to the States for redeployment to the Pacific.
Preparations to start the I&E Program on a large scale were interrupted by news that the division would fill up with high point men and sail for home in September. All but forty enlisted men and all officers with the exception of the Battalion Commander and the Executive Officer were transferred to “low‑point” divisions and the battalion was refilled with high point men predominantly “Medics” from the 31st Medical Group of the Seventh Army.
September 11 ‑ Moved
to Metz, France.
September 12 ‑ Moved
from Metz to Soissons, France.
September 13 ‑ Moved from Soissons to Camp Lucky Strike at St. Valery en Caux.
September 14 to
September 25 ‑ At Camp Lucky Strike waiting for the transport. Lived in
tents in mud and water. The wind blew all the time but no one minded it a
bit! Our departure was delayed one day by high winds at LeHavre.
September 25‑ Moved
to LeHavre, about 40 miles by truck and loaded onto the ship, the SS West
Point. We were the first battalion on the boat.
September 26 ‑
Sailed about l500.
September 27 to
October 1 ‑ A smooth uneventful trip.
October 2 ‑ Arrived
at Hampton Roads, Virginia about 2200.
October 3 ‑ Debarked
at Newport News, Va. and went immediately by rail to Camp Patrick Henry,
October 4 ‑ The 589th FA Bn, was deactivated this date.
On request from a reader, we print the citation of the 589th Field Artillery battalion which accompanied the award from the French government of the Croix de Guerre with silver gilt star. This award was published in Department of the Army General Orders 24, par. II‑3, 10 December 1947, and the citation reads:
590th Field Artillery Battalion
Richard A. Hartman, Bn. Survey Sgt. (Copyright 1949) A reprint of the
article appearing in the 1953 “Lion's Tale,” published by the 106th
Infantry Division Association.
The first installment of this story originally appeared in THE CUB, Vol. 5, No. 5, Apr‑May 1949. The second installment originally appeared in THE CUB, Vol 6, No. 1. Aug‑Sep 1949.
They were not heroes
to be sure, but they were not without honor. Though awkward, they were
dogged, and fought an infantryman's battle. And so, that the remembrance
of what they did do may be preserved from decay, and that their action may
not lose their due meed of glory. I hereby set forth their story as it is
known to me.
The story of the
590th most necessarily must begin with an account of that battalion's
channel crossing. To omit it would be to neglect an incident which was a
foreshadowing of the disaster that was to come. This story begins,
therefore, in England several weeks before the Battle of the Bulge.
On the morning of November 30, 1944, the 590th FA Bn. boarded LST,s at Portland Bill on the English Channel, as did other battalions of the 106th Division. The next day, December 1, the small fleet left England and sailed up and across the channel to LeHavre. There the ships waited in the outer harbor for orders to proceed up the Seine River.
anchorless ships were ordered to return to Portland Bill. The remainder of
the fleet sailed up the Seine to Rouen, and there waited for the missing
batteries. And so it was that Nature, in a preview of what was to come,
caused the 590th to be left behind for the first time.
The damaged LST's returned to Portland Bill, picked up their new anchors, and were back in the harbor of LeHavre two days later. On December 7 they started up the Seine; and on the 8th at noon, nine days after boarding the ships, Hq. and A Batteries of the 590th rolled off the LST's at Rouen.
The 106th Division
was in the process of moving forward on the very day that the missing
batteries of the 590th disembarked at Rouen. These batteries, therefore,
in order to rejoin the Battalion, were forced to motor march from the
docks immediately upon disembarking. The reunion was effected near the
town of Rosee as the Battalion moved along the Red Ball highway toward the
For the next 30
hours, the 590th, in company with other units of the Division, pounded
along over snow‑covered roads, traveling northeast through France and into
Belgium. Finally, at 1800 on December 9, they arrived at St. Vith, Belgium
and rendezvoused in some woods on the outskirts of the town. This journey
was uneventful for the division as a whole, but during it the 590th
suffered its first casualty. High in the mountains near La Roche, Belgium,
Warrant Officer Collins of Service Battery was crushed to death between
two skidding vehicles.
The 590th remained in the woods near St. Vith until the morning of December 11. At that time, they moved forward with other units as the 106th replaced the 2d Division on a 27‑mile front along the Schnee Eifel inside Germany.
The 590th relieved
the 38th FA Bn. and took over the same gun positions previously occupied
by that battalion. These positions were near the town of Radscheid and
several hundred yards east of a highway which connected Auw to the north
and Bleialf to the south, both towns held by the Americans. Battalion
Headquarters was located in two buildings along this road, almost directly
behind C Battery, the center battery. B Battery Battalion was directly
supporting the 423d Infantry Regiment.
To the north the
589th FA Bn. supported the 422d Inf. Regiment. Behind the 589th was the
592d, the Division's medium battalion. The 591st supporting the 424th
Inf., was some 15 miles to the south of the 590th. Three miles behind the
590th, near Schönberg, was the 333d FA Bn., a negro “155" battalion.
Farther back, in St. Vith, were Service Battery of the 590th, and Divarty.
This entire sector
was relatively quiet for several days. The guns of the 590th fired only a
few rounds every hour or so. During this time there was no return fire on
The Battalion was
below T/0 as respects officers when it went into combat. Rather than
requisition new officers from a replacement pool it was decided that an
effort should be made to have several of the Battalion's non‑coms
commissioned. There was then to be a series of promotions right down the
line to fill the gaps created. It would be necessary, it was hoped, to
requisition only privates as replacements.
In line with this
scheme, three sergeants of the Battalion were made acting lieutenants.
They were put on trial as forward observers for what was to have been a
thirty‑day period. If, at the end of this time, they were deemed
satisfactory, commissions were to be requested for them. None of the
three, S/Sgt. Halsey Smith, B Btry, T/Sgt. Michael Fox, and Sgt, Richard
Ferguson, Hq. Btry., completed the period.
All three were
captured by the Germans a few days later. None of them ever was
commissioned, and of the three T/Sgt. Fox alone was raised in rank upon
return to the States.
The night of
December 15 unusual noises were heard coming from the German lines. Near
midnight, Major Irvine Tietze, Bn S‑3, who was operating from a forward
OP, reported to Divarty that he heard railroad cars in Prüm. He was
informed by Divarty that they were aware of the sounds, and that they were
coming from loud‑speakers which the Germans had set up along the front. No
fire was ordered on the town.
Early the next
morning, this quiet sector erupted. At 0510 the German attack began, and
the Battle of the Bulge was born.
Shortly before 0700,
one lone 88 shell struck just outside of C Battery's mess hall. Two men,
Pvt. Pikula and a cook, Joseph Novatny, were wounded. This was the first
shell fired on the 590th.
It was twenty
minutes before we were fired on again. At this time what appeared to be
battalion fire or its equivalent opened up on Radscheid. Several buildings
were hit, but no one was injured. The attack then shifted to the
intersection of the Radscheid road and the Auw‑Bleialf road, and then to
the gun positions.
appeared at Bn. Hq. about this time and ordered alternate gun positions
located behind Schönberg. The Battalion survey section proceeded
immediately toward Schönberg to carry out this command.
Because Bleialf was
under direct observation of the Germans, the engineers had connected the
Auw‑Bleialf road to the Schönberg‑Bleialf road by building a cut‑off
through the woods some distance from the intersection of the two roads.
This cut‑off permitted unobserved travel from our positions to Schönberg
and vice versa. The Battalion survey section used this route in proceeding
0830 the three vehicles of the survey section emerged from the wooden
cut‑off and began the winding descent to Schönberg. Almost simultaneously
the Germans began a general bombardment of the rear areas. Shells of all
sizes came screaming over the mountains. Some crashed on the crest of the
mountain to our right, others, clearing it, slammed down into the valley
on the left. Our range of vision being limited by the numerous curves, we
thought at first that the attack was local. But as we raced on and on and
found no respite we realized the entire area was under fire. We were soon
to find that Schönberg and even St. Vith were being shelled.
We sped on through
the barrage and finally reaching Schönberg raced through it and out the
other side. The shelling increased in intensity, however, and we were
forced to seek shelter in a house just on the outskirts of the town.
When the shelling
showed no signs of subsiding after more than half an hour, Lt. Fred
Gardner, Bn. Survey Officer, decided to go on to St. Vith to telephone for
instructions. Pvt. Jay Simmons drove him there while the rest of the
section waited in the house. While we waited a woman with four children,
one in arms, came running down the road and sought shelter with us. They
were Belgians as were the owners of the house. None of them was visibly
frightened. The old owner opined, however, that the Germans were “nichts
slackened within another hour and Lt. Gardner returned. He reported that
St. Vith had been hit heavily by shells of large caliber (some were found
to be 35.5 cm. fired from railroad guns) and that wire communications were
out between St. Vith and Bn. Hq. He had reluctantly resorted to radio and
had been ordered by Col. Lackey, the Bn. Co., to return to the Battalion.
The time was then approximately 1130.
We attempted to
return to the Battalion by way of the Auw‑Schönberg road. It was clogged,
however, with armored vehicles moving toward the front, and we were forced
to return the same way we had come. We found out later that German tanks
and infantry entered Auw at 1150.
While we were in
Schönberg the guns of the 590th began firing mission after mission. These
consisted of prearranged concentrations in front of our lines fired on
call of the forward observers, and many observed fires. The latter were
chiefly in the Bleialf area. The Battalion fired almost continually for
the next 24 hours, and prevented the Germans from leaking through in our
The Germans did,
however, attack and capture Bleialf. The 423d's Cannon and Service
Companies were committed to recapture it, and with our artillery support
managed to do so, but only after heavy losses on both sides.
Lts. Zane Donaldson
and Charles N. Schenck, III, radio operators T/4 Eugene Womack and T/5
Akey, and driver Pfc, Donald Sheehy, all of B Battery, directed fire for
this mission. After its recapture they returned to Bleialf with the
infantry and continued to observe for the Battalion.
Early the next
morning the Germans redoubled their efforts and finally did break through
to capture the town. The three artillerymen were trapped in the building
from which they had been directing fire, T/4 Womack volunteered to go for
aid. He escaped on foot and ran all the way to Radscheid. It was decided,
however, that nothing could be done to save the other two.
About 1000 the same
morning Lt, Donaldson and Pfc. Sheehy escaped, breaking through the ring
of Germans in their jeep. Although two tires were punctured and the jeep
itself riddled with bullets, the two were unharmed.
About the time the 423d was recapturing Bleialf on our right flank the Germans were capturing Auw on our left. They sent tanks and infantry into the town shortly before noon. Some of these tanks then headed south toward our positions. The Battalion was alerted for the attack, and so it was that the survey section returned from Schönberg to find every able bodied man in the Battalion crouching behind a tree, in a ditch or a foxhole apprehensively awaiting his first glimpse of German armor. Cooks were on outposts with bazookas, and clerks peeped around doorways awkwardly hefting grenades.
The expected attack
never came, however, thanks to the 589th. They courageously stood their
ground and halted the drive by knocking out five of the tanks.
Artillery fire fell
intermittently on the gun positions all afternoon. Battery A was hit the
hardest. Captain John Pitts, the Battery Commander, was killed and several
others wounded. One shell fell directly into a gun pit, but fortunately it
was a dud, Lt. Rex A. Roden succeeded Captain Pitts.
Captain John Pitts
was in one sense a fortunate man ‑ not because he died in battle, but
because of the circumstances which preceded his death.
Early the evening of the 16th the ammunition train which had been sent to St. Vith for a full load that morning returned with but one day's allowance. This was the last supply the Battalion received. It was learned that the larger supply had been refused. It was also learned that Service Battery's positions had been hit during the shelling of St. Vith and that S/Sgt Stone, the mess sergeant, had been killed. Cook, oddly enough, was proving to be the most dangerous job in the 590th. The shelling of our immediate area ceased as darkness fell, and it seemed to slacken considerably along the entire front. The Germans by this time, however, had driven well past Auw, and were rapidly moving on Schönberg via the Auw Schönberg road.
About 2000 that
evening the Battalion was informed by Divarty that the 589th and 592d were
being withdrawn. The 590th was to remain in position and cover their
withdrawal. When it had been completed, the 590th would then be ordered to
pull back also. March order was given the Battalion with the exception of
the guns. They, of course, continued to fire. The trucks were moved into
the gun positions, however, so the entire outfit was ready to move within
ten minutes. The withdrawal began. The 589th moved first. Battery by
battery through the pitch‑black night rolled slowly down the Auw‑Bleialf
road past our positions to the engineers cut‑off. From there it supposedly
marched to its new positions behind Schönberg. The 592d, using the same
route, filed past us a short time later. Little did we know that we were
never to see either one of them again.
unfortunately, was not accomplished without incident. In the darkness of
the night, A Battery of the 592d missed the cut‑off. It blundered on
toward Bleialf and was quickly blasted off the road by the Germans. Every
vehicle in the convoy with the exception of one jeep was destroyed.
The 1st Sgt, and his
driver were in the lucky jeep. They returned immediately to Hq. of the
590th and told of the disaster. Volunteers were asked for to go out and
pick up the wounded who were reported to be lying all over the road. Many
bravely volunteered, but the plan was abruptly abandoned.
The 590th was now
the only artillery battalion still in position inside Germany in that
general area. For the second time, the Battalion had been left behind.
This time, however, there was to be no reunion. What had been foreshadowed
on the channel had been fulfilled on the field.
In vain, the
Battalion waited for the command to pull back. Shortly after midnight,
Captain Irving Chapnick, the Bn. Communications Officer, reported that he
no longer could contact Divarty by wire. This left us completely isolated
as we had no radio contact with them since early morning when the set had
gone haywire. The remainder of the night dragged slowly by. The guns
continued firing their missions. The rest of the Battalion, still alerted,
just watched and listened and waited.
Sunday, December 17
dawned cold and misty. The tempo of the German attack on Bleialf increased
and about 0630 the town finally fell.
The Battalion still waited and wondered. About 0800 communications with Divarty were resumed as suddenly and mysteriously as they had ceased. Col. Lackey immediately reported the Bleialf breakthrough. General McMahon ordered him to displace to the alternate positions west of Schönberg at once.
The survey section
was dispatched immediately to reconnoiter the route. We started toward the
rear in three weapons carriers, each mounted with a 50 cal. machine gun.
As we drove slowly along the cut‑off toward the Bleialf Schönberg road,
expecting at any minute to be blown sky‑high, we came upon four or five
vehicles of the 589th which had been knocked out the previous night. We
became even more apprehensive but continued on without incident until we
reached the paved road.
A strange but
welcome sight greeted us as we emerged from the woods for the second
straight day. An American ambulance, apparently knocked out, sat idle in
the road. Beyond it, one lone American infantryman could be seen marching
a group of some twenty‑odd Germans back towards Schönberg. Foolishly,
without further investigation, we decided that everything was all right.
Two of the carriers, with Cpl. Bill Barton in charge, were left at the
intersection while Lt. Gardner and I returned to the Battalion to report
what we had seen.
We raced back to rejoin the others and were greeted with another surprise. While we were gone the group had captured two Germans, both of whom were wounded. We loaded the prisoners, one on the front right fender of each of the last two trucks, and started off toward Schönberg. The lone infantryman had long since disappeared around a 90‑degree curve about a half mile down the road.
rounded the same curve and came face to face with the enemy. An American
recon car sat directly in the center of the road blocking it, and behind
it stood several Germans. To the left, in the window of a farmhouse, some
200 yards across the valley a German machine gun sat trained on the curve.
Three American medics, two of them wounded, lay in a ditch on the right.
One of them shouted, “They're shooting at us.”
Pvt. Mac Marshall
slid the lead vehicle to a stop, and the others piled up behind him. At
the same instant, Pvt. Paul Bernard, also in the first vehicle, opened up
with his 50 caliber. He beat the Jerries to the draw, and all three of the
vehicles backed safely out of sight around the curve.
As soon as we were
out of sight we left the vehicles and scattered up the side of the hill
which overlooked the curve. From there we exchanged fire with the Germans
for some 15 or 20 minutes. Finally, they sent up some red flares which we
interpreted as a signal for artillery fire on our positions, Acting
accordingly, it was decided by Lt. Gardner that further firing was futile
and that it would be better to return and warn the Battalion of the
The Germans peppered us with rifle fire as we withdrew up the road. Each of the vehicles was riddled with holes, but fortunately, only two of the men were wounded, and they only slightly. Pvt. Marshall was nicked in the neck, and Pvt. Maurice Sauer was hit in the palm of the hand.
When we returned
with our two prisoners and told of our near ambush Col. Lackey abandoned
all plans of withdrawal. It was clear that even then the Germans had
complete control of the only two roads leading back to Schönberg. Two
sides of the triangle formed by the roads connecting Auw, Bleialf, and
Schönberg were in the hands of the enemy. We, on the base, were completely
All of the batteries had pulled out of their positions when the order for withdrawal had been given. When it was abandoned, Col. Lackey ordered B and C Batteries to return to their former positions. Battery A was sent into new positions west of the Auw‑Bleialf road. The time was then about 0930.
During the morning
the Battalion received two visitors, both colonels and artillery battalion
commanders, Lt. Col. Kelly, CO 589th FA Bn. appeared on foot running to us
from across the fields. He was summarily put to bed. The other, the CO
333d FA Bn, appeared in a jeep with his driver. Both remained with us for
the next two days.
About this time,
Lt. Col. Puett, CO 2d Bn., 423d Inf. reported to Bn, Hq. and stated that
the Germans were driving his battalion south along the Auw‑Bleialf road.
He said he had one company holding them and that he would try to continue
holding them long enough for the artillery to move out.
Various plans were
discussed. It was decided that both the 2d Bn. 423d and the 590th would
move forward and join the main body of the 423d on the Schnee Eifel. It
was thought that the combined force or these units might possibly hold
that high ground until help arrived. Liaison was sent to 423d Hq. and
reconnaissance of positions was instituted. By this time all
communications with Divarty had been lost once again and were never
regained by the Battalion.
While the Battalion was preparing to execute this move, Nazi fighter planes appeared and B Battery's positions were strafed. They were engaged almost immediately by several P‑47's which arrived on the scene as suddenly as the Germans. Two of the enemy planes were shot down and the rest driven off.
About this time,
several U.S. trucks appeared on the highway speeding toward us from Auw.
One by one they were knocked out as German shells scored direct hits on
them. One of the vehicles, a fully‑loaded ammo truck, burst into flames
and in a few seconds all hell broke loose as case after case exploded.
Shortly after 1300
Col. Lackey shepherded his tired, and for the most part, bewildered troops
out onto the tortuous dirt road which led to the Schnee Eifel, and farther
into Germany. It was a somewhat motley array which marched forward that
day, for in addition to the battalionless colonels, the remnant of every
outfit in the immediate area seemed to have attached themselves to the
All of the
personnel of the Battalion did not make this trip forward. The wounded
under the care of S/Sgt. Bullard were left at the Battalion Aid Station.
Also included among the wounded were several infantrymen and Germans.
The artillery which
had been harassing us during the morning ceased when we moved onto the
road. Terrific barrages, however, could be seen and heard on our right
flank. German aircraft were sighted again but we were not strafed. So,
with the 2d Bn, protecting our rear and flanks, we proceeded without
Late that afternoon the long column reached the Schnee Eifel, and artillerymen suddenly found themselves front‑line troops. Hurried efforts were made to dig in everyone and everything before dark. And as night fell, a fourth of the Battalion was loaned to the infantry for outpost duty. The rest of the men were ordered to get in their holes and stay there. Few needed to be coaxed.
It was a long, cold
and noisy night. It intermittently rained and snowed. The nebelwerfers or
“screaming meemies” came to life with the darkness. Barrage after barrage
of artillery fire pounded the right flank and rear areas, and overhead was
always the ominous lumber of the V‑1's as they labored with monotonous
regularity toward the rear. Despite this great activity we were almost
totally ignored by the Germans. The weather, however, played havoc with
us, Many men had their feet frozen during the night.
Two radio messages
were received from Division by the CO of the 423d during the night. The
first commanded that the present positions be held. The second, received
toward dawn, that we attack toward Schönberg and attempt to recapture the
There was a frenzy
of activity from the time the message was received until 0930 when the
march back began. Battle plans were drawn up. Mess was served as far as it
would go. Everything that was deemed burdensome or excessive was
destroyed. Orders were passed down the line. And then, at approximately
0930, our battle lines were completely reversed.
The 590th moved out
of the woods and went into position facing west. The 423d, led by the 3d
Bn, left the pillboxes and the bunkers of the Siegfried Line, and advanced
toward Schönberg. The artillery covered their advance. When a half mile or
so had been gained, B and C Batteries pulled out, dashed up the road
behind them, and pulled off into new positions. Battery A remained in its
original positions and covered the entire movement. All missions were
carefully selected however, as there had been only 500 rounds left in the
Battalion. (There had been 2000 rounds left in the Battalion the morning
of the 16th and a day's supply had been received the night of the 16th.)
December 18 was a
dark and dreary day. A steady drizzle added to the general discomfort. We
continued the leapfrog tactics all morning and afternoon, but made slow
progress as the infantry was being engaged all along the line. By
nightfall we were no farther than Oberlascheid, a town little more than
half‑way between the Schnee Eifel and the Auw‑Bleialf road. Battery A was
brought up at that time and the Battalion went into position just east of
the town and some 800 yards behind the 3d Bn 423d.
It was thought at
first that we were going to spend the night in Oberlascheid. That proved
to be merely wishful thinking, however, for shortly after 2000 the order
to move on was given. The Battalion loaded up and moved out onto the road
en masse. From that moment on, none of the howitzers fired another round.
Bumper to bumper
the Battalion moved slowly through the night toward the Auw‑Bleialf road.
It was nearly 2330 before it was reached. The vehicles were dispersed, and
Bn. Hq. was re‑established in the original CP. The men, nearly exhausted
after more than 60 hours of little or no sleep, dropped in their tracks.
But their rest was short‑lived, for about midnight they were alerted
The two roads
leading back to Schönberg were in the hands of the Germans. The cut‑off
was impassable for the same reason. It was decided, therefore, that we
would make our own road back across the fields and through a valley to the
heights overlooking the town. The 590th no longer was to leapfrog behind
the infantry, but was to ride as closely as possible to them and be
protected by them on the flanks. The noisy cavalcade started south along
the Auw‑Bleialf road shortly after midnight. About halfway between Bn. Hq.
and the cut‑off, it left the road and started down across snow covered
fields. Hour after hour we inched along, momentarily expecting the enemy
to open fire on our column. But the only sounds heard in our sector were
the whine and roar of engines straining to pull 2.5 ton GMC's through the
About an hour before dawn on December 19, the little progress the column was making ceased. The Battalion sat massed where it was until it grew light enough to see. The men remained in the vehicles sleeping as best they could.
When dawn broke we
saw we were in a narrow valley. Steep, densely wooded slopes rose up on
either side. There was swampy ground on our right front, and flowing
directly across our path was a stream some six or eight feet wide. The
infantry, unable to get its vehicles across the stream during the night,
had abandoned them completely blocking our way.
As we sat in the
valley that morning we were completely vulnerable. The infantry which had
been guarding our flanks had forged ahead during the night. Our forward
observers were out, but had no means of contacting us as it had been
impossible to lay wire and none of the radios would function. We had no
idea where the enemy was, but felt sure that he was aware of our position.
A little after 0900
the vehicles were dispersed and the batteries went into position. A and C
batteries were forward near the stream, while B battery was about 200
yards to the rear around a curve in the wood‑line. The Aid Station was set
up in the scrub pine along the lower edge of the far slope, and all the
wounded, including those left with S/Sgt Bullard who had been reclaimed
when we returned to the original positions, were carried across the stream
to it. Colonel Lackey went forward with his executive, Maj. Meadows, to
confer with Col. Cavender, the CO of the 423d, Maj. Tietze was in command
of the Battalion.
About 0930 a large
detail was trying frantically to bridge the stream, the survey section was
running orienting lines for the guns, the howitzer crews were readying
their pieces and most of the others in the Battalion were sitting or
standing near their vehicles. Suddenly the soft two‑toned whir of 88's was
heard and shells began exploding among the vehicles in the valley. Some
men ran to the woods and began to dig in, others attempted to carry the
wounded to safety, many were pinned where they had initially dropped by
machine gun fire, which began poured down from the ridges.
was a feeling of complete frustration. The howitzers were utterly useless
for no one knew where to fire them. The machine guns were useless for the
same reason, and for the added reason that they were on trucks directly
exposed to the shelling and the enemy machine gun fire. There wasn't a
German visible from the floor of the valley and it was impossible to
ascertain where they were firing from because of the terrific noise.
The shells continued to pour into the valley. The urgent cry of “Medic! Medic!” was heard after every barrage. Officers and section leaders also lent their voices to the din as they frantically tried to locate their men. It was an impossible task, however, and after more than three quarters of an hour, the Battalion had accomplished little or nothing in the way of extricating itself.
By that time it was
quite apparent that if any were to escape from the valley they would have
to do so singly or in small groups and that all of the equipment would
have to be abandoned. Consequently orders were given to destroy the
howitzers and as much else that could be destroyed. It is my belief that
all twelve howitzers were made useless to the Germans.
destruction of equipment was being carried out an officer, not of the
590th, climbed atop an ambulance and began waving a white flag and yelling
“We surrender!” Maj. Tietze came running across the valley bellowing “Who
surrenders? Who surrenders?”
For all practical purposes the combat history of the 590th FA Bn. concluded at that moment; for it was that time, approximately 1030 December 19, 1944, that the Battalion ceased to exist as such. All members of the Battalion did not surrender at that time, however, a few, Colonel Lackey, Major Meadows, the FO's and others were forward with the infantry; others managed to escape from the valley; still others attempted to hide where they were in the valley. All, however, were captured eventually for the Germans by that time were far beyond Schönberg knocking at the gates of St. Vith and Bastogne.
The 590th FA Bn.
lost its only battle. It did not fight to its last shell, as has been
reported. It did, however, fight until every chance for victory had been
exhausted. And it did help to upset the German timetable to such an extent
that their drive was doomed from the start.
Few of the men in the Battalion realized that the end was near until the order for surrender was given. I like best to remember them as they were typified by the remark of one who had not heard the cease fire order. He continued firing his carbine, and when Maj. Tietze ran up the slope toward him angrily commanding him to stop, he yelled, “But there are Jerries up here!”
After Action Report – 591st FAB, 31 Dec 1944
submitted by 1st Sgt Joseph Gross, 591/C
Here is the
information promised. It was nice talking to you in Roanoke and sharing
the information and photos of our trip in June of 1988 with you. We
visited battles areas where the 591st fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
The Roanoke reunion was my third, and it was most thoroughly enjoyed. It
was a pleasant surprise meeting you and I look forward to seeing you again
in Chicago. You are doing a good job on The CUB. Keep up the good work!
The rough sketch
shows the position of the 591st on 16 December. Since the 424th was pushed
out of Winterspelt twice on the 16th and 17th, the 591st had no way to
withdraw except through the little trail back to Steffeshausen. We tried
to take that trail on our trip, but had to turn back because of the swampy
terrain. We went back through Heckhalenfeld, Winterspelt and took the
narrow road through Auel.
Steffeshausen from the north, the first building I recognized was the old
schoolhouse where battery members slept. My office had been located in
the tool shed behind the schoolhouse.
Any person who read
Dupuy's, St Vith: Lion in the Way or other books on the Battle of the
Bulge, know of the historic stand made by the 589th Field Artillery at
what was to become known as Parker's Crossroads, hence the two snapshots
of that intersection as it appears today.
I think the pictures along with the “After Action Report” will explain the rest.
Best Wishes, Joe
former 1st Sergeant
Headquarters 591st Field Artillery Battalion
c/o PM, NY, NY
31 Dec 1944
To : The Adjutant General
The 591st F.A.Bn.
relieved the 37th F.A. Bn. 2nd Inf Div in position 10 Dec in the vicinity
of Heckhalenfeld, Germany (coord 90.2‑78.8). A, B, and Hq Btry were
situated in and around Heckhalenfeld. C Btry was in position at
Steffeshausen and Service Btry was located at Burg Reuland.
The first round was
fired by B Btry, commanded by Capt Robert A Likins at 1653, 10 Dec 1944.
The Bn was engaged
chiefly in firing harassing fires with a primary mission of direct support
for the 424th Inf until the early morning of 16th Dec.
The enemy began
shelling the front lines shortly after 2400 15 Dec and also started
sporadic counter battery fire on our positions about 0530. This later
continued for about two hours and then Germans launched a determined
attack all along the Division front, No casualties were suffered in this
unit from enemy shellfire at this time, but communications were
During the next 24
hours the Germans moved up and attacked with heavy forces, including
tanks, infantry and artillery.
The Bn fired 2622
rounds of HE during that time in support of the infantry and could have
fired more if it had been available.
Late in the
afternoon of 16 Dec the 1st Bn 424th Inf was committed at Winterspelt to
fill a gap caused by the overrunning of the Inf Cannon Co. and the Div
Recon Troops. Capt Edward R Scheringer, his wireman, Lt John MacKinnon,
the forward observer and two men from his section, Cpl Harold B. Walker
and Pvt Frank Carey were reported missing in action during this operation.
While the Combat
Team awaited assistance from the 9th Armd Div advancing south from St Vith
and held doggedly to its position along the 2nd and 3rd Bn fronts, the
enemy succeeded in driving the 1st Bn from Winterspelt in a savage, costly
attack by tanks and infantry.
With the loss of
Winterspelt the only good route for withdrawal was lost. Div Arty
relinquished control of the 591st F.A. Bn to Col Reid, commanding the
424th Inf. Col Reid, still counting on support from the 9th Armd Div,
decided to hold his position and the Bn remained in support.
Fighting continued throughout the night and considerable enemy patrol activity was encountered on our north flank and to the rear.
The following day,
17 Dec, the situation remained critical and the 9th Armd Div made no
During the day some
of the forward observers with the 2nd and 3rd Bns. were cut off but
managed to withdraw back into our lines.
In spite of their inexperience, all FO's displayed a marked courage and coolness under fire and did a superb job.
1st Lt James J. Kelly, FO of C Btry, was cut off twice. The first time he was rescued in a counterattack by our infantry and 193 prisoners were taken in and around the battered house in which he was situated. The second time he managed to crawl back to safety under cover of darkness.
1st Lts Herbert A. Pihl, John H. Stauff, Peter F. Fleischman Lawrence O. Meyers and Bernard Rosenthal and 2nd Lt William Nolan all had similar experiences and in several instances during the day were compelled to defend their OP's with their pistols and carbines while conducting artillery fire on the attacking enemy.
The infantry of the 424th Regt fought savagely and heroically, and a firm bond of mutual respect and confidence between them and the artillery was cemented in the cooperation and support that existed throughout the battle.
In the artillery Bn
the critical item was ammunition. The main supply route had been cut off
and the only alternative was across country route to Sv Btry at Burg
Reuland. Due to the heavy mud this route was impassable to all but light
vehicles. All day long ammunition for both the artillery and the infantry
was hauled over this route in jeeps.
Just prior to the
fall of Winterspelt the Bn Executive, Maj Carl H. Wohlfeil managed to get
a detail of three trucks back to Elcerath to get the ammunition left there
by the Inf Cannon Co. This ammunition was used by the artillery batteries.
About this time, too, Pvt Bill T. Ervin B Btry, driver of an ammunition
truck displayed great courage and heroism in hauling a truck load of
ammunition through the enemy fire which knocked off the right front shock
absorber and riddled the truck with holes.
1500, 17 Dec, Col Reid decided that the situation was no longer tenable.
The enemy was pouring into the gap at Winterspelt and the 112th Inf Regt
of the 28th Inf Div on the right flank was being hard pressed and falling
back. Lt Col Hoover called in the BC's of Hq, A and B Btries, 1st Lt
Bernard L. Lockridge, Capt Arthur W. Corcoran, and Capt Robert A. Likins
respectively, explained the situation and showed them the route of
This route led back
to within 300 yards of the then known front line and proceeded northward
to Burg Reuland. He then left with Capt Wetherill, the liaison officer
from the reinforcing 965th F.A. Bn, who had been over the route, the S‑3,
a route‑marking party. The remainder of the Bn under the Bn Exec followed
about a half hour later.
During the march
the route was under sporadic nebelwerfer fire. About 1900 the infantry
withdrew on a compass of 270. At approximately 2330 the Bn was reunited at
Burg Reuland and proceeded to Grufflingen where the batteries were put
Except for three vehicles and some personal equipment abandoned at Heckhalenfeld, the Bn remained intact and no casualties were suffered.
C Btry abandoned one truck and howitzer at Steffeshausen but returned the next day, 18 Dec, and retrieved the howitzer, the truck had been burned. (Here 1st Sergeant Gross inserted into this report “6 guys and myself' he also added they picked up all their kitchen equipment.)
At Grufflingen the
Bn again rendered direct support to the 424th Inf which had taken up a
defensive position along the high ground between Bracht and Burg Reuland.
The Bn commander adopted one platoon of the Inf Cannon Co. which had
managed to escape and employed it as a fourth battery. This platoon
remained attached to the Bn for the following two days and, under Lt
Buedingen, the Cannon Co. Exec did a magnificent job.
While in position
at Grufflingen, all batteries of the Bn were continually under enemy
artillery fire and two linemen, Pvt Richard D. Savage and Pvt John R.
Panizza, both of Hq Btry, were wounded. The Bn Cmdr decided to displace to
Braunlauf and this was accomplished the night of 21 Dec.
That night the
enemy again broke through at St. Vith, thereby threatening our flank and
rear once more. The Bn received orders to withdraw to the vicinity of
Commanster the following day.
occupation of Braunlauf the Bn continued to receive hostile enemy fire but
no casualties were reported.
At daybreak 22 Dec the Bn Commander with the S‑3 led the Bn less C Btry to the new positions in the vicinity of Commanster. The Bn Exec with a section of the FDC was left behind with C Btry to give the infantry artillery support as the infantry withdrew. Visibility was limited to approximately 50 yards and radio communications was very poor ‑ only one FO was in the net.
No missions were
fired for almost three hours and finally the FO reported that the infantry
was moving to the rear.
C Btry fired and
unobserved mission to the front of the infantry to cover its withdrawal
and then, having received permission by radio from the Bn Commander,
executed a march order and proceeded to its position at Commanster.
The Bn remained in
this position, attached to the 7th Armd Div, and continued to support the
424th inf until the morning of 23rd Dec when a general withdrawal was
ordered to the west of Salm River. At 0800, 23 Dec, the Bn Cmdr and S‑2
left to reconnoiter a rendezvous area in the vicinity of Ville, Belgium.
The Bn, under
control of the Bn Exec, followed at 1130 crossing the river at Vielsalm.
At about 1600, the Bn closed in Ville and were quartered in civilian
homes. The next day, 24 Dec, was spent in reorganizing, cleaning
equipment, and replacing supplies.
At 1900, 24 Dec,
the Bn again moved up to the vicinity of Chene‑al‑Pierre to go into action
behind the 7th Armd Div. Since the position was exposed to threatened
enemy armor attack, positions were reconnoitered by the Bn Exec to the
rear in the vicinity of Fays. These positions were occupied on the morning
of 25 Dec with the Bn CP at Sodelheid.
Meanwhile the 424th Inf was again committed on the front of the 7th Armd Div and the Bn rendered them direct support. This situation continued until the 75th Inf Div relieved the 424th Inf about noon 28th Dec at which time the Bn again displaced to the vicinity of Chevron and was attached to the 82nd A/B Div with a mission of general support.
In this position replacement supplies are being received daily and replacement personnel are on the way. By midnight, 31 Dec the Bn had lost in 21 days of continuous action against the enemy, 2 enlisted men wounded; 2 officers and 3 enlisted men missing in action; and 7 men evacuated sick or injured as non‑battle casualties.
No material was lost with the exception of one howitzer which B Btry was forced to abandon and destroy in the general withdrawal on 23 Dec. This howitzer has since been replaced and the Bn continues to perform its mission at 100% efficiency.
a) Personnel ‑ 2 officers and 3 EM MIA; 2 EM WIA; 7 evacuated sick or non‑battle casualties.
b) Awards ‑ Recommended for citations: Pvt Bill T. Ervin, B Btry; 1st Lt James J. Kelly, FO, C Btry; 1st Lt Lawrence Myers, FO, B Btry.
c) Command Personnel Changes ‑None.
d) Supply and Evacuation ‑ Ammo Officer, 1st Lt Robert R. Ringer,and Bn S‑4, Capt Morris M. Dolitsky, with assistance of the Bn Motor Officer, 2nd Lt Howard W. Kriz, rendered outstanding service to the Bn, especially in the early stages of the battle at Heckhalenfeld. Bn Surgeon, 1st Lt William Davies, MC, rendered valuable service to the Infantry medical sections by assisting the Regimental Surgeon in caring for and evacuating infantry casualties. The Artillery Bn suffered only 2 minor casualties. Wounded were evacuated often through roads which were reported under fire from enemy patrols.
e) Unit Journal ‑ Accompanies report.
f) Supporting Documents ‑ None.
g) Overlay of Operations, Marches. etc ‑ See attached overlay (includes route, positions, and zones of fire of positions fired from.)
a) Battle Lessons
1. Particularly in
a stable situation, a company will try to maintain communication to the
platoon and thence to each squad on line with its power phones. By hooking
on to their line, you have unlimited possibilities for keeping abreast of
the situation and firing missions from any point. This gives you a party
line with all the infantry, the FO, the Ln O and Fire Direction. Any
infantryman can adjust fire if the FO is on line to convert what he wants
to a proper sensing. One draw‑back with this set‑up is the extra pull on
the Ln O‑FO line makes ringing very faint and sometimes negligible. This
is easily taken care of by arranging whistle signals between two parties
and keeping the earpiece within easy hearing range.
(editor's note —
That completes that portion of the “After Action Report,” but 1st Sergeant
Gross included a part of another, possibly a continuation of the former,
that included the action where he was wounded and taken out of action — it
follows... J. Kline editor)
. . from the
reinforced artillery units and periodic registrations when observation was
permitted. During the four final days of the attack from 4‑7 January , the
Battalion fired 749 missions with an expenditure of 4,997 rounds‑which is
an average of a mission every 7.5 minutes.
rejoined the 424th Inf again on 8 January, 1945 under 106th Division
control and moved to Moustier (68.0‑ 04.0) and Roanne (67.8‑03.7) from the
“vicinity of Odrimont (62.7‑91.6) and Arbrefontaine (64.7‑90.8), which
latter positions had been occupied on the night of 7 January. No firing
was done from Ordrimont‑Arbrefontaine positions.
At Moustier, the Bn relieved the 229 FA Bn and took over their positions. We worked alongside this Bn at the time the Germans started their offensive, and now, as then, we found them very helpful and cooperative.
From 8‑12 January
the Bn fired very few missions in comparison to the last week's activity.
Blinding snowstorms and heavy ground haze constantly hindering the
observation of the forward observers (FO's).
Again on 12 Jan the Bn Exec and the BC's reconnoitered for forward positions near Ster (69.5‑00.9) and Parfondary (70.5‑00.5). the positions were occupied in the evening of the next day, the Bn moving by echelon, first C Btry, then A and B Batteries as soon as C Btry had completed registration. The burned and mutilated bodies of three civilians found in Parfondary were mute testimony to the cruelty of the German SS Troops who had been there.
The weather cleared considerably on 13 January as the 424th Infantry jumped off in an attack against LaVaux. The Bn fired 1198 rounds in 235 missions in support of the infantry this day. Although the regiment advanced steadily, resistance was stronger than had been expected and progress was slow. The following day in an attack on Coulee several of the FO parties suffered casualties from enemy artillery, mortar, and direct fire from tanks.
2nd Lt Paul H
Seehausen A Btry FO; 1st Sergeant Joseph J. Gross, C Btry, who was acting
as FO, in order to qualify for battlefield appointment Cpl McLure, Hq Btry
radio operator of the Ln section No. 1.
It was during this
attack that Lt Herbert A. Phil, artillery Ln officer with the 1st Bn
distinguished himself by such courageous leadership in reorganizing a
badly decimated and lost group of infantrymen, and in evacuating wounded
under fire that he was recommended for the Silver Star decoration.
officers and enlisted men were also recommended for Bronze Star
decorations as a result of their performance during the days attack. M/Sgt
Howard D. Crank, Bn Sgt Major, also led an FO party during this engagement
and did a superb job.
Clear weather and
heavy firing by the Bn continued on 15 January. Our aircraft had a field
day knocking out German vehicles and equipment streaming out of the
dwindling salient. The infantry gained all but one of it's final
objectives by nightfall and dug in.
B Btry was moved
forward to vicinity of Aisemont in order to register on the 16th, but
visibility was so poor it was impossible. A and C Batteries continued to
fire harassing missions from . . .(end of report, as received.... editor)
By 2nd Lt. Howard D. Crank
From “The Lion's
(1953): In our search for short stories of the 106th Division, you will
note that we have found interesting material on the 589th and the 590th
Field Artillery Battalions. It wasn't until we had assembled the book and
numbered our pages that we found another story, right under our noses, in
the hands of Robert Ringer of Columbus, Ohio. We offer this as our reason
for the splitting up of the series on the Field Artillery Battalions.
Mr. Ringer, a former member of the 590th and 591st FA Bns., tells us that the author of this story was the former sergeant major of the 591st, and he also hastily adds that he is responsible for a little bit of editorial revision. To Lt. Crank and former Lt. Ringer go our sincere thanks for this story.)
The History Of The 591st Field Artillery Battalion
BY 2nd LT. HOWARD
Along with the
Division, this Battalion was activated at Fort Jackson, South Carolina
with a cadre from the 80th Infantry Division and trainees from many
States. Basic training and the D Series were completed in South Carolina,
followed by three months of maneuvers in Tennessee. Following the
maneuver, the Battalion moved to Camp Atterbury,
Indiana for further training. While there a goodly number of officers and
men were transferred out as replacements for units overseas. Alert orders
for overseas shipment were received late in August and the month of
September was spent in packing, crating and assembling equipment.
Toward midnight on
the night of October 9, 1944, the members of the Battalion made their
final police of the area and marched to the railhead. Members of the
Battalion were pleasantly surprised to have decent train accommodations
which made the trip to Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts quite enjoyable,
One of the last events at Atterbury was
the inspection and talk made by General Ben Lear to the men of the
Division. Two things of note came from the talk: one, he did not like the
flies in the mess halls which resulted in an intensive campaign of
wielding fly swatters by all hands for the next few days and secondly, he
made one statement that was to turn out pitifully true. His statement, “It
is later than you think” was only too true for many of the men of the
Standish on October 11, the Battalion settled down to a long wait fraught
with rumors that we had been detached from the Division, were going to the
Pacific, etc. Mornings were spent in supply and administrative work,
afternoons playing softball and basketball and evenings with forays into
Taunton and Boston. Those who ventured into Boston will remember the
merry‑go‑round bar in the Copley Plaza, Jake Wirth's Saloon, the Boston
Common, the Old North Church, Boston College's football games in Braves
Field and the cold, raw weather of the New England coast. The Battalion
had the distinction of never winning a softball game and never losing a
basketball game at Standish.
Of course the
basketball team was headed by Sgt. Smiley, one of the Illinois Whiz Kids,
and other stalwarts such as Lt. Gordon True from Maine and Lt. Herbert
Pihl from Illinois.
On November 9 the
Battalion moved by train to Boston, where we loaded aboard the SS
Wakefield which had formerly been the Manhattan, a passenger liner. On
November 10 the Wakefield slipped out of the harbor in a cold,
drizzly night and into a terrifically rough sea which soon had most
everyone aboard, including the crew, sea sick. After getting into the Gulf
Stream the sea quieted somewhat and the rest of the passage was uneventful
except for the cramped Quarters and the poor food. On the 17th the
Wakefield arrived at Liverpool and the personnel debarked and
entrained for Gloucester in the Midlands. At the Gloucester Reservoir
Camp, a small dingy hodge podge of brick and frame buildings, the
Battalion stopped for a week and had prepared to uncrate our material when
orders were received to proceed to Weymouth the following day. Then
followed a mad rush to throw everything on the trucks and race to
Weymouth, where we loaded on LST's and the following night crossed the
After four days of waiting for the rough seas at LeHavre to calm, the LSTs were finally moved down the Seine to Rouen and we stepped ashore amid a rainstorm, which the travel guides did not mention occurred in “Sunny France.” The Battalion pulled out into the countryside near Rouen and on December 8 moved out with destination St. Vith. The convoy rolled through towns with names well remembered from World War I; Amiens, Baupaume Cambrai, Valenciennes, Maubeuge, stopping at Phillippeville briefly to refuel and then on through Belgium to the vicinity of St. Vith.
On the morning of
December 10 the Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Philip F. Hoover, assembled
the battery commanders and the train commander and issued the orders
necessary to relieve the 37th Field Artillery Battalion of the Second
Infantry Division in their position in the Schnee Eifel country southeast
of St. Vith.
Battery along with A and B were located at Heckhalenfeld, C at
Steffeshausen and Service Battery at Burg‑Reuland.
B Battery commanded
by Capt. Robert A. Likins fired the first round at 1653 December 10, just
30 days to the day after the Battalion had smiled out of Boston harbor.
The Battalion's mission was direct support of the 424th Infantry and was
engaged in firing chiefly harassing fires until the early morning of
December 16, 1944. Shelling of the Infantry began shortly after midnight
and by 0530 in the morning counter‑battery fire started. No casualties
were suffered from this fire in the morning but the wire lines were badly
disrupted. The Battalion fired 2622 rounds the first day and the observers
reported targets too numerous to fire on, including everything from
horsedrawn vehicles to tanks. At Winterspelt the Germans succeeded in
driving a wedge into the Regimental Area and the First Battalion 424th
Infantry was committed to fill the gap. In the see‑saw battle in this area
Capt. Edward Chateneuf, liaison officer with the First Battalion, and his
wire man, Pvt. Harold Schnaringer, were captured and later in the day Lt.
John D. MacKinnon, B Battery Forward Observer, and Cpl. Harold B. Walker
and Pvt. Frank Carey of the Battery were also captured. Lt. Robert Ringer,
with the Third Section of the Ammunition Train, was also ambushed at
Winterspelt with one truck breaking through the roadblock and getting into
Heckhalenfeld and the others being able to extricate themselves.
On the following
morning Lt. Ringer, Staff Sgt. John Schlesser and six men loaded uncased
artillery rounds into two three‑fourth ton trucks and two jeeps and
followed the wire line cross country to Heckhalenfeld with ammunition for
the batteries cut off by the Winterspelt attack. The firing batteries then
used the route for the remainder of the day. During the 17th of December
action, the observers with the Second and Third Battalions were cut off
but managed to get back to our lines.
Lt. James J. Kelly
of C Battery was twice cut off by the Germans but escaped. Lts. Herbert
Pihl, John H. Stauff, Peter Fleischman, Lawrence Myers, Bernard Rosenthal,
and William Nolan all met with similar experiences and were compelled to
defend their OP's with their pistols and carbines. The Infantry fought
heroically and a firm bond of mutual respect between the Artillery and the
Infantry was formed.
When the Germans
captured Winterspelt, the only good route to Heckhalenfeld was lost and
Division released the Artillery to Regimental control. Just after dusk on
December 17, a lieutenant from the 112th Infantry, 28th Infantry Division,
worked his way into Service Battery with a message for Col. Reed, the
Regimental Commander, that his unit was falling back exposing the right
flank. In this situation, with both flanks in the air, withdrawal by the
combat team was necessary. In the darkness, Headquarters, A and B
Batteries moved by a roundabout trail to within 300 yards of the front
lines and then on to Service Battery position at Burg‑Reuland. The units
came under enemy fire but with the aid of the Infantry all escaped with
the loss of two vehicles and some personal equipment. One gun section of A
Battery lost the way but rejoined the following day. One gun of C Battery
was abandoned but regained the following day.
At 2330 hours
December 17 the Battalion went into position in the vicinity of
Gruffligan. One platoon of Cannon Company 424th Infantry under Lt.
Buedingen joined the Battalion and was used as another battery for the
following two days. In this position the unit was under heavy enemy fire.
Pvt. Richard Savage and Pvt. John Paniza were wounded.
With the ammunition
dumps being threatened and on the move, it was a great problem to maintain
the supply of ammunition. Major Carl Wohlfeil obtained some from the 7th
Armored Division at one critical point. The ammunition train of Service
Battery rendered heroic service, coming under enemy fire and roadblocks
several times. Sgt. Chas. Datte and the 2nd Section along with some men
from the 590th fought with troopers from the 82nd Airborne during one
roadblock battle near Trois Points. Lt. Robert Ringer with two sections of
the ammunition train were at the bridge in Aywaille when four of Hitler's
“Trojan Horse” brigade were captured as they sought to blow the bridge.
They were dressed in American clothing and almost succeeded in their
Again the Battalion
was forced to displace to the vicinity of Commaster, where as the
fortified goose egg was growing smaller, artillery units on one side of
the road were firing south and those on the other north! On the morning of
December 23 a general withdrawal west of the Salm River was ordered and
the Battalion moved to Ville Belgium for a one‑day rest to reorganize.
At 1900 hours on
December 24 the Battalion moved to Chene‑AlPierre in support of the 7th
Armored Division. On the morning of December 25 the Battalion moved to
Sedelheid. The 424th Infantry was again committed with the 591st in direct
support until December 28. At 1200 hours December 28 the Battalion moved
to Chevron and was put in general support of units of the 82nd Airborne
The New Year found
the Battalion at Veucy La Marteau still in general support of the 82nd
Airborne Division. On January 3 a reconnaissance party under Major Carl
Wohlfeil was shelled at Basse Bodeaux and Pfc. Minurd Burke and Lt. Peter
Fleischman were wounded. On the same day the Battalion moved to Basse
Bodeaux during a heavy snowstorm.
On January 8 the 106th Division moved into the line and the Battalion moved to Moustier. Here we relieved the 229th FA Bn., an old friend from start of the Bulge battle. Heavy snows and fog held down the number of missions fired.
On January 12 the Battalion moved to Ster and Parfondrey under the cover of darkness. In these towns were evidence of atrocities committed by German SS troops. Dead men, women and children brutally murdered were found in both towns.
On January 13 the
Infantry jumped off in an attack on Lavaux and the Battalion fired 1198
rounds in 335 missions in direct support that day. The fighting was heavy
and on the 14th Lt. Paul Seehausen, lst Sgt. Wm. Gross and Cpl. McClure
were wounded. Lt. Herbert Pihl distinguished himself by reorganizing two
groups of infantrymen after their officers had been killed and assuming
command until relieved. Lt. Pihl's helmet with a crease down the center
made by a bullet was mute testimony of the fierceness of the action. He
was recommended for a Silver Star.
January 15 was clear and the air force was out in great strength. B Battery was moved forward to Aisemont to register on the 16th but visibility was so poor that it was impossible.
The Battalion moved to LaNeuville on the 18th and had to pass over a heavily mined road to get there. Engineers were busy elsewhere, so Cpl. Creath, S/Sgt. Hosler, Major Brousseau, Major Wohlfeil, Lt. Smith and Lt. Lockridge cleared the mines and no casualties were suffered. The 19th was a red letter day as two officers and nine enlisted men received 72‑hour passes to Paris.
On January 23 the 424th Infantry relieved the 508th Parachute Infantry and the Artillery went into position at Montenau relieving the 470th FA Battalion. At 0930 hours on the 24th a Forward op manned by C Battery personnel received a direct mortar hit and Lt. Ronald Kaulitz, S/Sgt Ray H. Blackwell, Pfc. Homer Miller were killed and T/5 William Monroe was seriously wounded. On the 24th the Infantry in conjunction with the 7th Armored Division jumped off in an attack on Meyerode and Medell with St. Vith as the final goal. During the day 2162 rounds were fired in 172 missions.
On January 27 the
Battalion moved out of the battle area for the first time into a rest area
in the vicinity of Hestreux and Liment.
On February 1 Lt.
Col. Philip Hoover and Cpl. Peter Vestich of Battery C were awarded the
On February 5 the
Battalion moved to the vicinity of Hunningen Belgium as general support
for the 99th Division. On February 6 the Infantry and the 106th Division
took over a sector from the 99th Division. The sector was quiet and the
Battalion fired propaganda leaflets in an effort to encourage surrender.
degenerated into mudholes and the Service Battery supply and ammunition
section had great difficulty in bringing in supplies. Mines were numerous
and T/5 Guaman of A Battery lost a leg on an anti‑personnel mine and Lt.
John Stauff was injured by a Schu mine.
On March 5 the
Infantry jumped off in an attack on the Siegfried line positions and the
Artillery moved into positions near Neuhof in the Siegfried line. Several
vehicles were damaged by mines and some minor injuries reported.
On March 15 the
Battalion moved from Neuhof to St. Duentin, France, arriving on March 16
after a long, cold ride.
On April 1 the Division moved to Rennes, France to reorganize the lost units. Major Carl Wohlfeil, the Battalion Executive became the new commander of the 590th Field Artillery Battalion, Lt. William McCue became A Battery CO, Lt. Gordon True C Battery and Lt. Robert Ringer Service Battery CO. Several non‑coms were cadre'd to the 589th and the 590th FA Battalions also.
On April 22 the
Battalion moved back into Germany near Mannheim with the Battalion
Headquarters in Huttenbach with missions of rear guard and bridge guards.
The Battalion then moved to Grosgatarch and took over the mission of
guarding prisoners. An example of the size of the task involved was that
it took 60 trucks of bread a day to feed the prisoners in the Battalion
area. During August and September many men were rotated out of the unit
and “high point” replacements were received. In September the Battalion
moved to Camp Lucky Strike and after 11 days in the rain and mud boarded
the West Point, formerly the liner America, and sailed for home.
Among the officers that went overseas with the Battalion only Major Brousseau, the S‑3, Capt. Gaggin, the S‑2 and Mr. Reilly returned to deactivate the unit. S/Sgt. Hardee of Sv. Battery and a few others, not more than a dozen, went over and returned with the Battalion. Lt. Robert Ringer went over with the Battalion and returned with the 590th FA Battalion. During its approximately 90 days of combat, the Battalion fired 60,000 rounds of artillery ammunition.
Colonel Phillip F.
Hoover, Arty., who so brilliantly commanded the 591st F.A. Bn. from the
time of its organization as a part of the 106th Division until the
Battalion departed from France to return to U.S‑., has just retired from
active duty after more than 20 years service. Eventually he and Mrs.
Hoover plan to live in northwestern U.S., but at present are back in their
home state. Their address ia 907 East Maple St., Enid, Oklahoma.
It will be recalled
that the 591st was the direct support of the 424th Infantry, commanded by
Colonel Alexander D. Reid. It is well for members of the Association to
remember their Division history. It is an appropriate place at which to
repeat an extract pertaining to this gallant combat team on 17‑18 December
1944 ‑ from “St. Vith: Lion in the Way”
Colonel Reid, reporting to Division aa 11:40 A.M. announced his ability to stick to his present position, although he relayed a report from one of the artillery liaison planes that Kraut armor was moving up the Habscheid‑Winterspelt road. . . . This message reached Division at 5:30 P.M.
In the meantime,
General Jones at 3:25 P.M. had ordered the 424th to withdraw west of the
OUR River. Reid planned his withdrawal by echelon under cover of darkness,
pulling out his center battalion first. The trickiest part of this
maneuver was to get the 591st Battalion's two forward batteries, A and B,
away from their Heckhalenfeld position. The only exit, since the northern
route via Winterspelt was in enemy hands, was directly toward the Kraut
infantry who had been surging all day against G Company south of Hill 569.
At all costs the infantry must hold.
“They did and while
C Battery back at Steffehausen took over the battalion missions, Batteries
A and B displaced.
All in all, the 424th Combat Team, it seems, put up a pretty good exhibition of infantry‑artillery team‑work during that bitter night of 17‑18 December.
Colonel Reid is now
retired and he and Mrs. Reid live at 105 Alameda Padre Serva, Santa
Wohlfeil, at that time the Battalion Executive of 591st FAB, a graduate of
West Point, is now Colonel Wohlfeil, FA Instructor at the Signal School,
Fort Monmouth,N. J.
(Col. Carl H.
Wohlfeil is still a member of the Association (1991) and contributes from
time to time for the “Mail Bag” section of the CUB...CUB Review editor
Capt. M. M. Dolitsky, then the Supply Officer of the Bn. is now Lt. Col. Dolitsky, commanding a Bn. of Artillery in the New York National Guard. He and Mrs. Dolitsky live at 37 Summit Ave., Port Chester, N. Y. He is a member of the Association, but we need many more members from that Battalion.
10th—31st December 1944
(5/1/46) After Action Reports, 592 FA Bn, 1944, supplied by Sherod
Collins, 106th Inf Div Assoc Historian, 1991
On the morning of
10th December 1944, the Battalion moved from a bivouac in the woods about
one and one‑half miles North East of St. Vith, Belgium at 0600 hours. The
march was made in blackout under conditions of heavy snow and extremely
slippery roads. From about 0845 until 1430 hours the Battalion stopped in
a defiladed position on the dirt road between Andler and Laudesfeld,
Germany, while the 12th FA Bn, 2d Inf. Div. vacated the positions we were
to occupy in the vicinity of Laudesfeld. Two howitzer sections of each
battery were in the near vicinity of each battery position to be occupied.
These sections moved in as soon as the pieces from the 12th FAB moved out.
At 1345 hours the number two piece of Battery “B” fired the first round
for the Battalion in a registration on the base point. This mission was
conducted by an unknown observer from the 15th FAB (105H), 2d Infantry
Division. The occupation of the position was completed by 1800 hours. (A
P992899 B 986892 C 984899 Direction of fire — compass 1900).
No missions were fired until the 12th of December 1944 because of the extremely poor visibility, but on that day registrations were fired for each battery to check laying and velocity error in the base pieces. The remainder of the period until December 16th was spent in improving positions, drawing ammunition to bring the battalion up to its basic load, and establishing observation to supplement that of the 589th FAB (105H) which we were reinforcing. it was originally planned that observers would remain in line with their parties for three days. After the first two observers (one each from Battery “A” and Battery “B”) returned the observing tour was made two days. One observer from Battery “C” manned an observation post at Roth on the north flank of the Division sector each day from 0830 hours until 1630 hours. Mission for the most part consisted of harassing and interdiction missions in the towns and crossroads in the Battalion sectors. The bulk of the missions were selected by the S‑3 who based them on observers reports.
On the morning of
December 16th at about 0500 hours, personnel on guard, or on duty, heard
extremely heavy artillery fire falling seemingly on our front lines to the
South, opposite Prüm Germany. At 0600 hours Battery “A” reported that
artillery fire of an undetermined caliber was falling in the position
area. During the morning, the battalion fired two missions reinforcing
fires from the 589th FAB on German infantry attacks. Fire was effective in
stopping each attack. At approximately 1100 hours the 589th FAB reported
that there was an estimated company of German infantry in Auw, Germany, a
small village about 1800 yards North East of the battalion area. All the
Batteries were immediately notified of this and patrols were organized for
future needs. At about 1200 hours, Captain Bernard Richman, 01171328,
Commanding Officer, Headquarters Battery, reached the fire direction
center on foot and reported that he had been forced to fight his way out
of Auw, Germany, after having been ambushed there. he lost his driver, but
organized a dozen members of Company “A” 81st Engineers into a patrol and
brought them cross country with him to our command post. At this time
patrols of Headquarters and Battery “A” had already circled a wooded hill
to the North of the battalion area in an effort to stop an enemy
penetration from that direction. During the lunch period which followed,
considerable small arms fire — seemingly unaimed — fell into the village
of Laudesfeld. This caused rather hurried trips to the mess shacks.
1500 hours, Battery “A's” patrol was forced back to its dugout at the
machine gun outpost, about 600 yards from the battery position, and there
it supported one section (40mm) of Battery “D”, AAA AW Bn, and Battery “C”
589th FAB in stopping three observed tanks (reported to be Mark Ivs) and
to SP 88's. This patrol suffered heavy casualties from mortar, tank and
machine gun fire. The battalion S‑2, Captain Samuel N.Richbourg, 0304885,
attempted to adjust one platoon of Battery “C” on the tanks, but he could
not observe to do so. He was finally told to withdraw with his patrol
because of the intense fire he was receiving. By 1630 hours, mortar and
machine gun fire in Battery “A” position became so great that the battery
was ordered to withdraw the personnel to a defiladed position. During the
fire fight that ensued in the afternoon, Pvt Alfred E. Macaluso, T/5
Robert W. Touchette and Corporal Lloyd Marty of Headquarters Battery aided
an unidentified gunner corporal from Battery “C” 589th FAB by serving as a
gun crew. This group destroyed one German tank with fire from a 105
howitzer. During this same period of time a bazooka team from Battery “A”,
T/5 Koscuisco, Pvt Andrews and Pvt Maw, definitely destroyed another
German tank, these men were subsequently wounded. When Captain Richbourg
was unable to secure an adjustment on the German tanks, 1st Lt. A.V.
Siekierski, 01176507, Battalion Forward Observer, attempted to adjust fire
of the left platoon Battery “C” on the tanks in the village of Auw. He
secured his adjustment on the Church steeple in Auw, and several volleys
were fired in the town. While he was adjusting fire Lt. Siekierski
received an overshot from a tank and then a short which hit the mess shack
of the Service battery. This round instantly killed T/4 William F.
Kouskie, 36477759 and Pfc James T. Campbell, 34141257, cooks, and
destroyed the kitchen equipment. At 1327 hours the battalion fired an
observed concentration on German Infantry assembling in woods (P 047902).
The fire for effect apparently broke up the assembly. The observer was
Captain Joseph W. Cocke, 01176582, 589th FAB. 1st Lt. Issac N. Alexander,
Executive of Battery “A” was hit by a tank shell while attempting to go to
the aid of some of his men who were wounded. 1st Lt. Rex C. Matson, RO of
Battery “C”, and his party were ambushed while they were going to their
observation post at Roth.
This news reached Captain Robert Smith, 01165563, Commanding Officer, Battery “C” while he was returning from the rear echelon.
Captain Smith found
the Battalion ammunition train at Schönberg, Germany north of which it was
unable to travel because of enemy activity, The train was forced to return
to St. Vith.
1830 hours Battery “A” was ordered to return to its pieces in the position
area. Despite fire from light machine guns which was falling in the area,
Cpt Genero H. Mondragom, Commanding Officer, Battery “A” and S/Sgt Joseph
W. Fielder, Senior Chief of Section, rallied the remaining personnel of
the battery (about forty‑five men) and winched the pieces out of their dug
in positions and saved the bulk of their equipment, including all the
howitzers and five tractor.
At 2000 hours,
Brig. Gen Leo T. McMahon, Commanding General, 106th Div. Arty, ordered the
Battalion to displace to the vicinity of St. Vith. To do this the
Battalion Commander sent a reconnaissance party under Captain Richbourg to
Division Artillery Headquarters to carry out this mission. The battalion
proceeded to move out to the rear at 2300 hours. It was necessary to take
the road which passed within an estimated eight hundred yards of German
machine gun positions and forked sharply to the right.
It was necessary to
“back and fill” all two and one‑half ton trucks with towed loads at this
corner. The withdrawal drew no aimed fire, although machine gun passed
over this corner too high to be effective. In the course of the march one
gun section, the mess truck, one fifth section M5 tractor and M21
ammunition trailer and one three‑quarter ton truck and one‑quarter ton
trailer from Battery “A” made a wrong turn on the route of march and were
caught in a concentration at a road junction. This report was received at
Division Artillery headquarters at 0630 hours from 1st Sgt John C. Beck,
who proceeded to the Command Post of the 590th FAB (105H) to get aid for
the wounded. They have not since been seen or reported. The battalion
closed in St. Vith by 0630 hours.
At 0830 hours the
battalion moved into position about one mile northeast of St. Vith The
ammunition train arrived in the area at about 1100 hours and proceeded to
dump three hundred rounds of shell H.E. at the positions. The train then
departed to pick up another load of howitzer ammunition and to replace
bazooka and small arms which had been expended in the close defense of the
position on the previous day. Around 1400 hours, 1st Lt. R C. Johnson,
Division Artillery Survey Officer, arrived at the command post. He stated
that the Commanding general, Division Artillery, had directed that the
battalion be prepared to displace to the West on short notice. Meanwhile
communications by wire were established with the Division Artillery Air
Field. 1st Lt. Alonzo A. Neese, Air Observer, and 2d Lt George Stafford,
Pilot, took of to attempt to register the battalion on a point along the
St. Vith‑Schönberg road. When they flew over this area they suddenly drew
machine gun fire from at least five observed points. 1st Lt. Neese
observed a column of German tanks and Infantry on the road about
thirty‑five hundred yards east of our position area. He adjusted the fire
of Battery “B” on the column and observed in the first volley of fire for
effect, the leading tank took a direct hit and blew up. The column stopped
The fire from
Battery “C” on this mission was stopped because all communications with
the battery from fire direction center was disrupted after the second
adjusting volley. Tanks, tank destroyers and tractors of heavy and medium
artillery battalions tore out all wire communications. Battery “B” fired
fifty rounds on the tank column, and 1st Lt. George Peddicord, 01180294,
the Executive reported that the bursts from the battery's rounds landing
could be observed, in part from the battery position. The battery was
given march orders and moved out at 1545 hours. Small arms fire was then
falling in the positions and continued to do so in very light volume while
the column was halted on the road north of St. Vith, because of the heavy
traffic jam in town. However, no casualties were sustained at this time.
The Battalion moved to the heavily wooded area approximately two and
one‑quarter miles west of Rodt on the St. Vith—Vielsalm road. Rations were
consumed sparingly at this time, and those members of the command who were
not on guard duty found little difficulty in sleeping.
On the morning of
December 18th, very heavy small arms and machine gun fire, as well as
occasional platoon volleys of light artillery fire fell on a point
estimated to be fifteen hundred yards from the battalion bivouac.
Preparations were being made for close defense of the area, when at 0830
hours, Colonel Malin Craig, Division Artillery Executive, arrived with
instructions from Brig Gen Leo T. McMahon for us to move South and
South‑West through Hinderhausen and Krombach to Bovigny. This order was
carried out at once, although Battery “C” had to abandon one M5 tractor
which could not be repaired to run. The battalion proceeded to a point
fifteen hundred yards Southeast of Bovigny where it occupied a position of
readiness, but did not fire. Through a misunderstanding of orders which
were passed down from the Commanding General, Division Artillery, the
battalion moved into an overnight bivouac at Ottre (P 646851) where a hot
meal was served from a consolidated battalion mess, and trucks were
completely gassed. A strong guard was established and the battalion rested
until 0630 the next morning.
At this time the
Assistant Battalion S‑4, CWO James B. Bennett arrived and conveyed orders
from the Division Artillery S‑3 for the battalion to move out to the West
towards LaRoche and Marche. The battalion moved within one‑half hour. Once
the entire battalion was on the hard pavement, the vehicles were stopped
and the chains taken off the wheeled vehicles. When we reach Marche, the
Battalion Commander attempted to reach Eighth Corps Headquarters by
telephone, but all communications with the outside were by now disrupted.
He failed to find anyone who had information for him, although the
Division Headquarters, according to the Division Adjutant general, was
moving to Marche. The battalion proceeded to the vicinity of Haversin (P
193865) where the battalion Commander again attempted to get instructions
and information. This was again impossible, and at 1530 the battalion
moved to an over‑night bivouac in the vicinity of Serville, about eight
miles west of Dinant.
The next morning
(December 20th) the battalion Commander proceeded to the vicinity of Rosee
where he met Colonel Craig, who directed the Battalion Commander to move
back to Vielsalm. This the battalion did, although the route originally
planned had to be altered, since LaRoche was under artillery fire when the
battalion reconnaissance party arrived there. At 1930 hours, the battalion
arrived at the Division Artillery Command post at Rencheaux and the
Commanding general Division Artillery directed the battalion Commander to
occupy positions in the vicinity of Commanster (P7685) and reinforce the
fires of the 591st FAB (105H). This was accomplished by 0230 hours, 21
December, under cover of darkness and a heavy mist which made blackout
driving difficult. Service battery and the maintenance sections of the
other batteries remained at Neuville (P 718883)
On December 21st a
forward observer from the 591st FAB adjusted the battalion on a base
point, and the battalion fired approximately one hundred rounds from these
positions over a front of about 1600 mils. On the morning of 22 December
several headquarters, including the 424th Infantry (106th Infantry
Division), Division Artillery (106th Infantry Division) and CCB, 9th
Armored Division moved into Commanster. At 1500 hours General McMahon
authorized reconnaissance from position to the west, and at 1700 the
battalion except one platoon each from Battery “B” and Battery “C” and
part of the fire direction center moved to new positions. (A 7222887 B
724887 C 737878). At 2145 hours the second echelon was ordered to
displace. General McMahon ordered the Battalion Commander at 220 hours to
move the battalion out at once and for him to report to Colonel Craig at
the Division Artillery Command post at Rencheuz (P 695891). The Battalion
moved out and stopped at Neuville for approximately twenty‑five minutes to
gas, and then proceed to the vicinity of Chene‑al‑pierre, as directed by
Colonel Craig, where it arrived at 0300. A guard was posted and the
personnel slept as best they could despite the severe cold.
arrived at the bivouac at 0830 hours on December 23rd and directed that
the battalion would reinforce the fires of the 82d Airborne Division
Artillery from positions in the general vicinity. By 1400 hours the
battalion was in position, dug in and ready to fire starting at 1515 hours
the battalion fired 260 rounds, chiefly on the crossroads at Baraque de
Fraiture. At 1800 hours the battalion was attached to XVIII Corps
(Airborne). At 0400 hours 24 December, urgent calls for fires in the
vicinity of Odeigne (P 536862) were relayed through Captain Joseph M.
Potts, 0413103, Commanding Officer Battery “B” who was at Manhay with a
radio. After much difficulty in getting this request cleared through Corps
Fire Direction Center (because of the rather confused picture of the front
lines), the mission and other in the area were fired. A total of fourteen
hundred eighty‑one rounds were fired on December 24th from this position.
The battalion was ordered to move to positions approximately fifteen
hundred yards North West of Webonmount (P540000), and did so at 1730 hours
on December 24th. The command post was at Ernonheid (P 530025) and the
batteries were at ( A 529015 B 530041 C 531025).
On December 25th,
the battalion fired three hundred forty rounds. It participated in two TOT
missions at 1335 and 1355 on the town of Manhay (P 532902); the battalion
had been registered on the cross roads in town by air at 100 hours. Later
observation by Infantry Officers indicated that they found three hundred
fifty dead Germans and eighty wrecked vehicles in the town as a result of
artillery fire. The battalion was attached to the 211th Group on this
26th and the 30th, the battalion continued to fire from these positions.
In this time the fires were chiefly unobserved or K‑transfer missions on
enemy troop concentrations in the heavily wooded area South of Manhay; a
few missions were against either individual self‑propelled guns or enemy
batteries. It was at this time that a combined force of troops from the
82d Airborne Division, 7th Armd Division and the 424th Regiment (106th
Infantry Division) stopped the determined attack of the German 9th SS
Panzer Division towards the North. A total of eighty four missions and
approximately eighteen hundred and fifty rounds of H.E. were fired in this
At 1600 hours
December 30th the battalion displaced to positions which had been
reconnoitered in the vicinity of Rahier (A 604003) B 610001 C 604001);
this was done on the order of Col. Dixon, Commanding Officer 211th Group.
From these positions the battalion fired two unobserved missions on the
night of December 30 on the town of Malempre (P 592889). On December 31st
the battalion fired thirty‑five missions which included three
registrations, and three counter‑battery missions. The bulk of the other
missions were on troop assembly areas. One mission on a nebelwerfer
battery was observed to be “range and deflection correct.” On the stroke
of 2400 the battalion participated in three TOT missions with the
remainder of the Corps in a New Years greeting to the enemy.
III. Battle Lessons —‑ None
IV. Comments —
A. The four (4) ton
ammunition trailer M21 was found to be undesirable. The trailer when
loaded is so heavy that it is difficult to maneuver when on soft ground.
It is too difficult to unlimber unless the load is exactly balanced. It
has no pintle in the rear.
B. Six tractors in
a battery is one tractor too many. The sixth tractor should be replaced
with a four(4) ton truck. Better yet both fifth section tractors and
cannoneers two and one‑half ton trucks should be replaced with four (4)
ton trucks. The tractors are not suitable for use in the ammunition
section since their road speeds are very low, under fifteen miles per
hour. The four (4) ton truck can haul the 155mm howitzer when necessary.
Annex No. I — Personnel
Actual Strength ‑ 15th
Actual Strength ‑ 31st
Annex No. III – Command Changes
19 December —
Captain Samuel N. Richbourg, 0304885, assigned to command Battery “A” vice
Captain Genero H. Mondragon, MIA 17th December 1944
Annex No. IV – Supply and Evacuation
Class I and II
On December 18th
the normal chain of supply was not in operation. By contacting supply
points well to the rear, Namur and Huy, the battalion was kept well
supplied at all times. The battalion maintained itself until Dec 24th,
when the normal chain could again be used.
Class II and IV
On December 20th an
emergency drawing of essential equipment, mess kits and clothing were
drawn at Huy. After Dec 24th issues were received through normal channels.
On 17 December
drawing of ammunition was difficult due to the enemy cutting the supply
routes. December 18th and 20th no ammunition was expended. Thereafter
ammunition was drawn in vicinity of Leige and no difficulty was
Evacuation — During Dec 15 ‑ 31st incl.
2 Officers, 22 enlisted men, WIA
1 Officer, 20 enlisted men, NBC
On 16th ‑ 17th
December evacuation of twenty wounded simultaneous with a move of the
battalion resulted in forced abandonment of considerable equipment in
order to furnish two trucks, one three‑quarter ton and one two and
one‑half ton truck.
Richard E. Weber, Jr.
Lieut. Col. 592d FA Bn.
Memories of the 592nd FAB from its Members
Liaison Pilot, 592nd FAB Hdqtrs
The 592nd was the
155 Howitzer Battalion assigned to the 106th Division Artillery in March
of 1943. It trained at Fort jackson, Tennessee Maneuvers and
Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
It moved to the Port of Embarkation with the Division. It reported to Laudesfeld on December 10th 1944. It moved around St. Vith on the 17th, from then on it was turmoil.
It continued to
operate as a support unit with its eleven guns.
Battalion is assigned two aircraft, two pilots and a ground crew of
mechanic, Assistant and truck driver.
When the Bulge
broke we were ordered to report to our commander, Colonel Richard Weber.
He ordered us to be alert to fly missions for the 592nd. We operated in
this manner until the Bulge was stabilized. Then we reported to Division
Artillery, Senior Air Officer to run regular scheduled missions along the
On December 15th,
1944 the 592nd was stationed at Laudesfeld in support of the 106th
Infantry Regiments. Records indicate that the Pilot Stafford and Observer
Neese registered fire on Schönberg to St. Vith road that delayed the
German time table. The 592nd fired there quota of rounds as ordered by
When the Bulge
stopped I was ordered to handle fire problems of the 592nd from Werbomont,
Odromont, Erie and Petitnthier. These were names in my log book and
doesn't mean necessarily that the 592nd was stationed there.
On January 25th the
106th Division consisted of the 424th Regiment, 591st and 592nd Field
Artillery battalions with headquarters at “the Loshiem Gap.” The 592nd was
located in the “Am Kruetz” area. My records indicate that I handled fire
problems from there.
On March 5, 1945
the 592nd was stationed at Murringen until March 7th, when it was “pinched
out,” ordered, eventually to Rennes France for re‑activation.
I understand that
one gun of battery “A” was hit by an 88mm, killing the battery Commander
and the gun crew. Also the mess hall was hit with three people killed. A
Lt. Kennedy received the Silver Star for returning to the area to retrieve
one of the guns.
C..W. (Pete) Lauman
592 Headquarters Liaison Pilot
From Its Supply
Officer, Charles Walsh
The 592nd Field
Artillery Battalion left Gloucester, England, crossed the English Channel
on LST landing craft, then up the Rouen River to Rouen, France in early
We were a medium
Field Artillery Battalion with full track prime movers pulling 155mm
Howitzers. Our destination was the front lines near St. Vith, Belgium. We
were to relieve the Second Division. Our march to St. Vith was to be three
days. The column moved out at 35 mph which, needless to say, caused many
problems with our steel track prime movers. The 592 F.A. Maintenance crew
battled the 18 tractors for three days and three nights around the clock,
replacing bogey wheels and one complete tractor, that had been in an
accident coming down the mountain.
Maintenance crew consisted of two maintenance trucks and a battalion
wrecker, and six men. They did a fantastic job getting the battalion up
into the line at Laudesfeld without the assistance of the Division
Ordnance Company that was supposed to be supporting them. The Ordnance
Company made the trip on schedule with all their tools still packed in the
shipping cartons the way they left the States.
After taking the
position of the Second Division in the line, which appeared to be a quiet
sector, and we were assured that it was, all Hell broke loose on the 16th
of December. This was the beginning of The Bulge.
Our position was shelled that afternoon, by a column of German tanks. We received considerable damage from the shelling and lost three men. An 88mm got a direct hit on our kitchen where the men were. I missed that one, by the Grace of God, having been in the kitchen less than five minutes before.
Our kitchen was in
an old barn that had been hit before and was without a roof. Service
Battery had thrown an ammunition tarp over it for the roof. The kitchen
was set up there inside, out of the weather.
starting coming in to the effect that our Division Headquarters had been
overrun and was no longer functioning, that our Infantry regiments and
light Artillery Battalions were all out of commission. Fire commands to
our batteries was Nil, meaning that our forward observers had been killed
We were extremely fortunate in that we had an excellent Battalion Commander in Colonel Weber. He realized we were sitting ducks without our Division Artillery Headquarters, or other support. He sent out Liaison Officers and moved our Battalion out under the cover of darkness. The retrograde movement was successful except for our “A” battery making a wrong turn in Schönberg which resulted in the loss of 40 men captured or killed.
We moved into a
wooded area near St. Vith that night only to be hit by small arms fire
again the next day. This time, we pulled back a considerable distance,
where we regrouped and went right back into action under Corps
Headquarters. We went into firing position right alongside the 101st
Air‑Borne. They had a little 75mm Pack‑Howitzer in position and we had a
155mm Howitzer pumping shells out right beside them.
It wasn't long
until the tide seemed to change and we were reunited with the Division,
and went into reorganization. It was along about this time that we were
instructed to send our tractors into 4th Echelon Ordnance for a complete
inspection. Our Battalion received a letter of Commendation on the
excellent condition of our vehicles. It was noted that the M‑5 tractors,
such as we had, were normally ready for salvage at the mileage ours were
If my memory serves
me correctly, we were recommitted to action and I was ordered to draw a
bulldozer from an Engineer Company so that we could dig the Artillery in
for a more permanent and delaying action. The reason was to allow the
Russians more time to take Berlin.
After this mission
was accomplished, and the war was drawing to a close, our battalion was
moved to Heilbronn. We were detailed to care for prisoners that were
surrendering in unreal numbers.
I was charged with
feeding and clothing them which seemed like a monumental job. I was unable
to get enough “C” rations from the Quartermaster to begin to feed them. My
final solution was the Knorr Soup Factory in Mannheim. We hauled large
burlap bags of dry soup out by the truckloads.
I was fortunate in
finding a factory warehouse that had large cooking vats equipped with fire
boxes under them. One was put in each cell‑block of 1,000 prisoners. We
got firewood from a pulp factory in Mannheim and, by the Grace of God, we
were able to feed them.
continued to grow until we were caring for 108,000 prisoners. It was
necessary to have an Engineering Company come in and build enclosures. It
was like building a city. We needed a hospital, a morgue, interrogation
tents, and typewriters. The list goes on. I was able to get 50 typewriters
out of the basement of a bombed out office building after a little
persuasion with the German guard. The typewriters were German, of course,
and were difficult for our clerks to use. It was only a short time,
however, until the Interrogation Teams turned out German clerks from the
trustworthy prisoners. They relieved the G.I. Clerks and the German
typewriters were fine for them.
After the prisoner
episode was in operation for a while, we relieved and sent to Karlsrhue
where the entire division was ordered to the Camp Lucky Strike, enroute to
the States. That is all men with 85 or more points were eligible to go
This was where I
received one of my worst heart‑aches. After serving the Division from its
beginning at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I was sent to the 478th FAB who
need an officer with my M.O.S. number. I only had 84 points and could not
go home with my Division.
592nd F.A. Battalion
the 592nd from Glenn Hartlieb, Service Co.
I would like to
take this opportunity to express some of the things that I recall from my
days in service and especially the 592nd field artillery battalion. My
memory has been dimmed somewhat by time but this is what I remember.
I went under the same training as the rest of the Division during our basic training. They told me how lucky I was to be in the artillery as I would ride in trucks while the rest must walk. I doubted that and for the next few months about all I did was walk.
I trained all through the summer and fall and into the winter, spending lots of time on bivouac. Sometime in December there was a three or four inch snow while on bivouac which was a disagreeable situation. Little did I know this was just a prelude as to what we were going to experience in combat.
Sometime in January
1944 I left Fort Jackson and headed for Tennessee maneuvers. This turned
out to be a bone chilling experience as it was quite cold, lots of rain
and nothing but mud. I went through this until around the first week in
April. I then left Tennessee and moved to Camp
While at Ft. Jackson just prior to going on maneuvers quite a few men volunteered for the airborne divisions. After getting to Atterbury it was decided to take all privates and PFC's and send them out as replacements. This left only officers and non‑coms After the men left all new replacements were brought in to bring the battalion up to it's original strength. The summer sort of drug on as our division was getting back in good shape.
Around the last of
September and beginning of October I left Camp Atterbury and wound up in
Camp Myles Standish which was located close to Taunton, Massachusetts.
This was a staging area for troops heading over seas. All that remains now
is a bronze plaque set in stone denoting this was the past site of Camp
Myles Standish through which several million soldiers passed on their way
I well remember the
day I left Myles Standish. It was Nov. 11, 1944, raining very hard,
standing in the rain with all my gear on my back waiting to board the
ship. This only added to my misery as I was less than enchanted by the
thought of going up that gangplank. A short time later I boarded the ship
and was on my way. The next day almost everyone got sick after running
into a storm. I won't go into details on that but I found I had picked the
wrong bunk when I reached my compartment. The bunks were five high and I
had the center. I should have been on top.
The ship I was on
was an old luxury liner called the Wakefield. Needless to say it
was overloaded and space was at a premium. The ship went over without an
escort ‑ thus every seven minutes it changed course. This was to keep a
submarine from zeroing in on it. It also added to the de‑stabilization of
After 7 days we
landed in Liverpool, England. The next morning we got off the ship and
boarded a train that took us (I can't remember where) somewhere close to
the center of England. I don't remember too much what happened while I was
in this area.
On Dec. 1, 1944 we boarded LST's at South Hampton. Our battery plus all equipment were loaded and we proceeded across the English Channel and then up the Seine to Rouen, France. It took ten days to cross the Channel.
We immediately got
off the LST and began motoring across France and Belgium pulling into
position in the St. Vith area, taking over the position of the 2nd
division. On the 16th of December all hell broke loose.
I was part of the
ammunition train in service battery. I was a radio operator and assistant
driver for the ammunition train commander who was Lt. James Malesky. Our
duties were to lead the train to the ammunition dump and then lead them to
our firing batteries which were A, B, and C. One of the duties of
headquarters battery was to set up communications by laying wire for the
phones. I really don't know too much about the other batteries as
everything pertaining to me occurred in the service battery. I went on
almost all the runs driving the 3/4 ton weapons carrier. (Through the
Bulge all radios were on radio silence and weren't used much.)
There were some
very bad times during the Bulge as everyone there can attest to. I will
never forget when the Bulge started. After all this was not supposed to
happen. We left that morning to get a load of ammunition for our guns. We
never got back to our position as it had been over run by Germans. The
situation at this time was unbelievable. We were trying to go down this
road and so was everybody else. I had never seen such confusion. Everyone
was going somewhere and no one knew where. We finally got our convoy off
the road and a meeting of non‑coms and Lt. Malesky tried to figure out
which course to take next. We knew we couldn't get back to our unit and
had no idea where they were. We finally decided to go back to the
ammunition dump and see if we could find out where our outfit was. The
next morning we joined our outfit in St. Vith. The next couple of weeks
was pure hell. In about two days time we lost 2 out of 3 infantry
battalions. Some of the men had only seen a day or two of combat and then
There were a couple
of very frustrating occasions during this time as far as we were
concerned. One bad situation was to go to the ammunition dump for very
badly needed shells to find there were none. The 592nd guns were 155 mm
howitzers and each projectile weighed about 100 pounds. No one expected
this offensive to happen and everyone was caught short. Even the infantry
was denied sufficient ammunition. Another thing that was a nightmare was
to know where the firing batteries were and leave for ammunition and find
when you returned that they had moved. This was extremely tough at night
when you didn't really know where you were or had been or where you were
going to next.
I'm sure everyone
remembers the snow, mud, fog, rain and Hitler's buzz bombs. I think the
proper name was V1 rockets. You could hear them and see them coming and as
long as the trail of flame was burning you ignored them, but if the noise
and flame stopped around where you were you had better take cover.
After we lost over 2/3 of our division we still stayed on the front lines in support of any unit that needed help and they all needed support. I don't remember a lot of the places we were but Stavelot, Tros Ponts, Dinant, Ververics, Houffalize, Malmedy and of course St. Vith come to mind. The 592nd stayed pretty well in the lines until the final days of the war. We, of course were in support of the 424th infantry in all the battles they were in.
Just prior to the
end of the war the 592nd was sent to the bombed out city of Heilbronn to
set up a prisoner of war camp. At one time we had over 250,000 German
prisoners. I stayed in Heilbronn until the middle of July at which time I
and five other men were transferred out of the 106th. We were sent to a
155mm self propelled gun group and were to go directly to the Pacific.
(Tough break? No!) We left Marseilles France ‑ destination unknown ‑ and
were out about five days when the war ended in the Pacific and the course
of our ship was changed to — New York.
Then came the day I
was looking for — the day I would be discharged. (It happened Nov. 10,
Glenn O. Hartlieb
592nd Service Company
Certain Units eligible ‑ Foreign Awards, Membership
Sherod Collins, Treasurer‑Historian
Certain members of the 106th Infantry Division have been invited to join an organization, the name of which will be mentioned later. This invitation comes as a result of citations by the Governments of Belgium and France after the Battle of the Ardennes (Bulge) and largely while attached to the 7th Armored Division Headquarters and Service Co., 81st Engineer Combat Battalion; 3rd Platoon, F Co/423rd Infantry Regiment (all attached to the 7th Armored) CITED IN THE ORDER OF THE DAY of the Belgian Army by decree No. 7253—13 July 1950, by Charles, Prince of Belgium, Regent of the Kingdom (as follows);
The 424th Infantry
Regiment; 591st Field Artillery Battalion; C Company, 81st Engineers; C
Company, 331st Medical Battalion (all attached to the 7th Armored
CITED IN THE ORDER OF THE DAY of the Belgian Army by Decree No. 7253— 13 July 1950, by Charles, Prince of Belgium, Regent of the Kingdom (as follows):
(1940) awarded by this Decree No. 7253, 13 July 1950, by Charles, Prince
of Belgium, Regent of Kingdom.
FRENCH CROIX DE GUERRE with SILVER—GILT STAR awarded under Decision No. 247, 15 July 1946, by the President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic—with the following citation:
Battalion whose brilliant conduct was greatly valued during the battles of
St. Vith and Manhay on 16 to 23 December 1944. Attacked by an enemy
operation in force, filled with the desire to conquer at any cost, it
remained in position and with direct and accurate fire kept the attackers
from access to vital communications south of Manhay. Short of food, water
and pharmaceutical products the 589th Field Artillery Battalion endured
three attacks without flinching, inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and
forced him to retire.
The above obviously refers to the stand at Baraque Fraiture or Parker's Cross—Roads. We have learned of late years that the troops at St. Vith were not attacked by “eight” divisions—but by only parts of two, but this does not and should not take away from the great stand that these troops accomplished—they are deserving of all the credit they are afforded.
The AMERICAN ORDER
of the FRENCH CROIX DE GUERRE, Inc. indicates to all of us that those of
us that are eligible are free to join their order as ASSOCIATE MEMBERS.
AMERICAN ORDER of
the FRENCH CROIX DE GUERRE, Inc.,325 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013
ASSOCIATE: A member of the Armed Forces who was assigned to a Unit at the time it was awarded the Croix de Guerre during World War I—II or other Campaign: Registration Fee...... $ 5.00 Annual Dues...... $ 5.00 Life Membership $ 50.00.
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