Here are excerpts from his Fourth of July letter:
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July 4, 1945
I am going to try to explain all the things that happened to me. The map is on the other side so you can see where I have been and the route the 80th Division took after D-Day and where we ended up.
I was assigned to the 317th Infantry Regiment, which was at Wiltz,
, and having a pretty rough time of it. There we were given quarters in some houses that were still standing, with a stove and no windows. We had to make out the best way we knew how, so we put a blanket over the windows so the candlelight wouldn't shine out and let the enemy know where we were.
The first night, the Germans were shelling the town, and it was the first time I had heard a German artillery piece. Before a shell would hit, you could hear a long whistle, which scared you half to death because you knew what was coming. That kept up all night almost, so I didn't get any sleep. The next morning everything was quiet again, except for our own artillery, which was giving the Germans a pounding. We learned later that day that the 1st Battalion had gone into an attack at 3 that morning and had caught the Germans off guard and had already captured quite a few Germans. That night, the first sergeant came around and asked for volunteers to take food and clothing and ammo up to the 1st Battalion about 5 or 6 miles away. We were to go by truck to a little town near a blown-up bridge which hadn't been repaired as yet. We had to ford the stream and carry the food about 2 miles .
I went with the first groups up to the 1st Battalion, A Company, then to B Company. As we went up the hill to where they were, I slipped on a rock and fell and hurt my side. We stayed up there on the front for five hours, because a German patrol had gotten behind our lines, and it wasn't safe to go back at that time. When we finally got word that the patrol had been captured, we started back to the 1st Battalion headquarters but got lost and wound up about 5 miles behind German lines, but we finally found our way back about 6 in the morning. We also were passed by two German patrols, of which we captured one and brought them back with us. Six Germans in all were on the patrol. They were all dressed in white, and we didn't see them till they were right on top of us. It was lucky that one of our fellas could speak German, and they thought we were Germans. When they had passed us, we took them by surprise and brought them back with us. Boy, was I plenty scared, too!
We sure were lucky
Well, we finally got back with the prisoners and turned them over to the MPs, who, in turn, turned them in to the 1st Battalion headquarters for questioning. We got a lot of information from them. In fact, it led to the breakthrough at Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne was surrounded. A few hours later, we got back to Wiltz, and we stayed there for almost a week and got orders to move to Heffingen, Luxembourg, for a week of earned rest.
Before we got to Heffingen, we went to a little village near the front, and that is where I joined my company [Company L]. We stayed there that night and were shelled again all night. The next morning, we got ready to move out and just as we got out of the town, the shells started to come. One shell hit the CP [command post] of K Company, but they all had moved out about 15 minutes before. We sure were lucky, I think.
After walking about 5 miles, we got on a truck which took us to Heffingen. Before I got on the truck, I got a ride with a jeep because my side hurt from the fall I had the night I took the food, ammo and clothes up to the 1st Battalion at Wiltz. I went to the medics at Heffingen, but they told me it was only a bruise.
Later we moved from Heffingen to Diekirch, Luxembourg. We were at Diekirch about three days waiting for the Our River to go down. It was flooded. While we were there waiting, we were housed in a hotel that had missed being hit by bombs and shells. I stayed in a room with a bed in it, but the windows were all broken, and I caught
and was sent back to Luxembourg City to the 12th Evacuation Hospital. I was there for a week and missed the crossing of the Our River. The fellas said it was pretty rough, and they lost quite a few men crossing it.
Tanks on a hilltop
I finally returned to my outfit about three weeks later after going through about three replacement depots. [My company was] about 15 miles from Bitburg, Germany, on top of a hill. My corporal rating came through, so I was assistant squad leader again.
While I was in the hospital, I had them take an X-ray of my left hip and it showed that I had chipped a piece of the hip bone. It didn't hurt any more, as it had healed by the time I got back to the company.
I found a foxhole that had already been dug. My friend, Nicky P. Hardman, was assigned to the same squad and we shared the foxhole. [T]hey told us to get ready to attack. Well, we started to walk, and we walked and walked for about 15 miles and suddenly we saw some tanks on the crest of a hill. We thought they were German tanks, but we were relieved to find out they were our own 4th Armored Division. How they got there before us is more than I know. Anyway, it was the first time I had seen these tanks with the 60-barrel rocket [launchers] on them, and they sure gave the Germans trouble. We passed the tanks and went to the next hill, and while we were going down one hill, the Germans were going up the others.
We finally stopped at the top of Hill 29 near Bitburg and dug in. The next morning we awoke and found that the 4th Armored had passed us during the night, and we could see them from the hill we were on. It was one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen -- 4th Armored tanks all over the valley below us , having a battle with German tanks. I saw the tank battle in the movies, about the battle in Africa the 4th Armored had with the Germans. This was just as good as that one.
All that day the Germans in the town that the 4th Armored had bypassed kept coming up to us and surrendering. By 3 that afternoon, we had captured 1,300 Germans, and they were still coming in by the twos and threes. Before we left the hill to go on another run, we had captured about 5,000 Germans. That is [as many men as] the whole 3rd Battalion.
A fine birthday present
We walked about 3 or 4 miles to a little town, where we got a rest and [were] put in division reserves. We stayed there for a week and a half and had a regular training schedule. We ate like kings, plenty of chickens, ducks and geese, turkeys. Naturally we had to cook our own, and it was good, too! We also got plenty of PX [post exchange] rations all the time we were there and all during the war. We always got cigarettes when they could get them up to us, and plenty of them. Only once while I was on the front lines, we didn't have any cigarettes for a week, but that couldn't be helped.
We finally got orders to go back to Luxembourg to a little village and start another push through the Siegfried Line. We were to relieve the 101st Airborne Division. We took over the 101st's positions and started the attack at 3 in the morning of March 12, which was my birthday. A fine birthday present -- attack!
Well, anyway, we crossed a river and [went] up a hill, following a road. We got halfway up the hill when the Germans started to shoot mortars at us. I don't believe they knew just where we were, because it was too dark and the shells landed pretty far away. We all hit the ground, but got up again and started on. We finally got to the woods and someone set off a flare, which scared all of us to death. Then the mortars started again. They were a little closer this time. We kept moving, though, and finally got back on the road.
We had to cross a roadblock [for] which the Germans had cut down trees from both sides of the road, about 20 from each side of the road. We found out later that the roadblock had been mined with antipersonnel mines. We didn't lose a man. Two companies came through the roadblock before the engineers cleared the mines.
A horse gets guns blazing
At this time we were about 5 miles behind German lines, the whole 3rd Battalion. We stopped along the road to rest just before the next roadblock. We captured a patrol coming out of the woods, five men in all. They had burp guns (machine pistols), which are very dangerous. They could have killed my whole squad if I hadn't seen them and covered them.
Then a German chow wagon came up the road which we captured, and some silly guy turned the horse loose, and it went down in the field in front of where we were in the woods. Well, the Germans saw the horse and opened up with everything they had, including "screaming meemies" (a rocket-type shell) and 20 mm guns, and we really caught it. Later that day, we went into the village and cleared the town. We lost a few men going down over the hill into town, but they were only hit with shrapnel and were all right in a few days.
We stayed in town that night and were shelled continuously all night. We had a roadblock out with three BARs [Browning Automatic Rifles], one bazooka and one light machine gun. The next day we pushed off on another attack after the 1st Battalion, and 2nd Battalion had cleared the woods on our right flank and left flank that night. We walked all night and finally got to where the tanks were. We captured those Germans, and I was told to take them back to the 3rd Battalion headquarters to be questioned. While taking them back, a shell landed near me, and a piece of shrapnel wounded my eye. I didn't want to tell you at the time, because I thought you would worry about me too much. When I took the Germans back, I went to the medics and they evacuated me to Luxembourg to the 34th Evacuation Hospital, where I stayed for two weeks. By the time I got back to the company, the division had crossed the Rhine River.
When I did get back to them, we went into an attack and walked all night and wound up on the other side of Erfurt and captured Erfurt that day.
Fun capturing prisoners
The next day we moved on to Chemnitz without any resistance, all this while we were riding tanks. We stayed at Chemnitz for about a week, then we got orders to head for Nuremberg, which was to be taken by the 3rd Infantry Division. We finally got to Nuremberg and stayed there a week, and then we were put in a task force and headed for Simbach,
. We met our first resistance which were six SS troopers on a roadblock who [encountered] two of our tank destroyers and one reconnaissance tank destroyer. We really had fun there as we went on a combat patrol the next day to find a gas works and put a guard on it. We never found it, but we captured about 1,000 prisoners and sent them in to the POW cage at Simbach, and we all had about five or six pistols we had taken from the Germans.
The next day we moved on to Vocklabruck, where we got the news that the war was over. Well, I hope you liked this story about me and how I got along in the war. Believe it or not, I wrote this all today, the Fourth of July.
Darling, I love you and always will as long as I live. God bless you and keep you safe.
All my love,
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