Battle of the bulge
It seemed like we rode for days in those huge open trailer trucks. Actually it was more like 14 hours I think, twice MP’S who seemed anxious to be rid of us, diverted us Away from where they were. Our Convoy made to much noise and was too much of a tempting target. We arrived at a place called Werbomont, which was in a state of mass confusion. We formed up on the high ground above the town and were told to dig in. It was a relief from the trucks. We could hear rumblings of large caliber guns of toward the opposite side of town and some small arms closer in. Most of us fell asleep and I figured better get some rest, who knows what tomorrow will bring. It didn’t take long before we were rousted out and told to move forward, with bazooka men to the front. We would stay backup for the 1st Bn who were going to attack the town of Cheneux The following morning, as they moved out a heavy German unit engaged them We would find out later was the 1sr SS Panzer Division. As the fighting became touch and go, We (Co/I-H ) were ordered into the attack from the north. It was hand-to-hand in fierce fighting. (This is where the picture of me running toward a machine gun nest with a Tommy gun was taken.) But again the Krauts came out second best to the 504 “Devils” The 1st BN would later receive a Presidential Unit Citation for this action We would hold the area around Cheneux, Trois Points, with occasional firefights and counter attacks, with Night feeler patrols. Christmas Morning I woke up to a sight that made me think I had died or was hallucinating. Snow was covering everything, but what stood out were the trees, mostly pine, were covered with what looked like decorations. I would find out that the “Tinsel that covered the trees was aluminum foil drooped from our bombers to break up and confuse the German Anti-Aircraft Radar we managed to have turkey served by our cooks who did a good job getting it to us (we heard two of the cooks were wounded in their efforts) we also had captured a German Flak Wagon which was loaded with American mail including packages with cakes and stuff sent to an American unit the Germans had overrun. More Patrolling and brief fire-fights brought us into the New Year. 1945. I could not believe I was still alive while so many of my friends were gone. Casualties were high I lost two friends, Al Bains, and Don Johnson, and a S/SGT, John Hamilton from G/Co who I knew from Jump School. There were others I can’t recall the names. The weather, the snow and bitter cold was starting to effect us. It was almost a relief to be told to go on patrol so you could move, and knowing the dangers, your blood seemed to warm you. I tried to keep my feet dry. Very few of us had overshoes, or waterproof “shoe-pacs” and our jump boots had long since given up the fight to stay dry. I could tell my feet were starting to see the effects. Sgt Johnson picked me and Billy Hicks to go with him back to HQ’S for a radio battery for the SCR 300 and other supplies. We had no trouble finding our way down a firebreak and without incident found the rear supply area we loaded up a makeshift sled with the battery, reels of sound-power wire, a couple of cases of C-rations and Bill Hicks had found a mess hall and talked the mess Sgt out of a dozen loves of bread and cans of fruit. And a bottle of some kind of booze. We left and headed back to find I/Co It started to snow, as we each took a few drinks of the bottle. Somehow between the booze and the snow, we got lost and got off the beaten path. It was then we spotted a couple of figures in the snow walking toward us, also pulling a sled. We called to them, asking what Company they were from. The Answer was something in German, and we realized we had stumbled into Germans. Everyone went for their weapons. I had my Thompson already pointing toward them, but in my excitement, instead of pushing off the safety, I ejected the double clip into two feet of snow all hell was breaking by that time Billy Hicks was blasting away with his M-1 and Johnson was firing his 45 alongside my ear, and I heard the crack of German bullets over my head. While I was stupidly trying to dig my Tommy-gun clip out of the snow instead of grabbing another out of my belt. When all the noise and smoke stopped all three of us was lying flat staring across the snow at an abandoned sled. The Germans who apparently were not hit by either Billy or Sgt Johnson had run off and left us with their supplies, which when we recovered our composure and my embarrassment, revealed boxes of hard black bread, cans of British bully beef, blankets, (with several fresh bullet holes, Hicks and Johnson were at least close) We eventually got back to our area and I begged both of them not to tell what a stupid thing I did. Neither one ever spoke of it. January was fast coming to a close, the fighting was from one town to another, the names many of them I only vaguely remember, but St.Vith, Stavelot, Grand Helleux, stand out. By this time my feet were starting to bother me when walking, and my right foot was starting to discolor. When Sgt Davis seen my feet he called the Medic Doc Kane to look at them. He told Lt Blankenship that I should be looked at back at the Aid station. I did not want to leave the Company; I tried to convince them I would be OK. But they put me on a jeep and sent me back to BN. I gave my Tommy gun, 45, and a P-38 I had acquired. from a Kraut prisoner, to Lt Picard (I think it was he) I didn’t know it at the time but I was on my way finally to Paris, First stop was the Cider Blue Aid Station It was February 11, 1945 They marked the card, “Trench Foot Severe”. The card which was attatched to my foot was signed by Capt Kitchen. Then to Liege where as bad as my boots were, some rear echelon Commando took them when I was asleep. In the morning I left by Army Ambulance headed for the 48th General Hospital in Paris. My participation in the great “Battle of the Bulge” was over. I was not sorry about that, but I felt guilty leaving my fellow troopers. I cried for the first time since I had been in combat with the Regiment. Perhaps I had a premonition at the time, but many of the friends I was leaving behind would die before I returned to the Company.
The trip from Liege was faster than the trip up with the trucks. We stopped once at an MP station somewhere in France to use the facilities and were treated to Spam sandwiches coffee and do-nuts. I fell asleep as rough as the road was and woke up just in time to see large buildings going by the rear window. So this is Paris I thought. The Hospital was not unlike most of the buildings around the area except there was an American Flag hanging over the door. G.I.’S were all over the place. And I tried to walk from the meat wagon but four big medics threw me on a stretcher and carried me in the building, and up two flights of stairs to a ward where the prettiest nurse I ever seen told me to get undressed and gave me pajamas to put on. (she said after you have a bath) I was looking forward to the bath as I hadn’t had one in almost two month’s. After I was assigned to a bed in a ward with about twenty other G.I.’S. It was a coincidence right away that the guy in the next bed was also from Brooklyn. I told him the guys in my Company called me the, “Brooklyn Kid”or as Sgt Davis called me, “Brooklyn!” the fellow in the next bed was Bill Hurley from the 7th Armored Div. and came from my own neighborhood, South Brooklyn. It wasn’t long before we found out we knew some of the same people A Doctor, (a Major) examined me the next morning and ordered Pills and Sulfer treatment. I didn’t like him right off the bat. He acted like I was just another pain in the butt, and probably keeping him from some French Broad. And he always seemed to be half loaded, and he was a leg. The one redeeming thing was Nurse Janice, or Lt Janice, Everyone perked up when she walked in the ward. She was from Ohio, and was going With some guy, (Officer) from the Air force. Well at least he wasn’t a S.O.S Officer. (That’s Service Of Supply) What we called, a “Blue Star Commando” I found out I couldn’t get a pass out of the Hospital even as my feet started to look and feel better. I was in now over three weeks when I got the shocking news from Nurse Janice that they were going to operate on my right foot in the morning. Probably to remove several toes, or even the foot. No Way was that going to happen. Not while this Brooklyn Kid could walk….. And I was walking better. That did it, I conned a guy who had a uniform to give it to me and with two friends, A guy from the 101st and another from the 517th we left the Hospital at 4AM the next morning heading back to the Regiment. Our trip back is another whole story, but we were helped by guys from the Red Ball Express and with a few diversions along the way. five days later I stumbled into G/company’s Rest area and was greeted with open arms. I was back home, I was back with the 504. Two hours later I joined I/Company and the first words Ed Hann said was where have you been goofing off to. I could have kissed him. I was back where I belonged.
More to come
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