Heroes: the Army
"...It is very cold and a blanket of snow, pockmarked by black spots show where artillery shells have hit. The Ardennes battle is not too far off for the division is spread out on a 8 mile front which is the Corps line, so other divisions can be sent to the battle of the Bulge..."
Albert A. "Al" Hottin
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. F., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1943-1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: S/Sgt.
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Springfield, MA
Al Hottin: Copies of "Up Front" -- Army Newspaper!
From: Al Hottin, Springfield, Ma.
The following is from copies of the army newspaper " UP FRONT" from the files of Al Hottin, Camp Maxey, Tx. Jan. 3, 1943.
[15-01] F. Co. Supply room draws praise: Sgt. Contino cay rightly be proud of the supply room. He is the keeper of the keys. He has gotten some very nice compliments from the Div. He seems to be the envy of the other sgts who come over to take pointers. Yes sir, right on the ball. To Pvt. Boekhaus go our thanks for new writing desks along the wall in the day room. Congrats to the following: for recent promotions -- Cpls. Clarence Day, Eugene Gray, and Alfred Piccirillo; T-4s Wm. Rivers, & John Coronado, Pfcs Raymond McGarty, Joe Collins, John Evans, Paul Davidson, James Hansen, Albert Isbell, Moses Michael, John Ostman, Geo. Mitchell, Carlos Sequeiros, Charles Simcock, Erwin Shubert, Ken Walker, Joe Wyzga, and Carl Bez. Pvts, Jamison and McColey at their Jersey Mosquito and Pennsylvania coal mine duet, & Pvt. Kintzel and his " strang music". Feb. 1, 1943 -- F. Co. more stripes sowed on --
F. Co has been blessed with a group of promotions: They are as follows:
Sgt. Clarence Day, Cpls Ray Mcgarty, Theodore Bilyk, John La Samba, Thomas Mattusiefsky, and Geo. Smith; T-5 Wm. Bockhaus, & pfc's Moran, Hembree, and Nichols. There was sadness among members of the 3rd platoon at the loss of their platoon leader Lt. Edwin M. Brown to Co. H. Best of luck Sir. Best of luck to Pvts Thos. Houlihan to the MP's and Harry Schein now to the Medics.
Things and stuff -- Those who think mess gear includes " knife, fork and spoon". Stafford the wooden spoon soldier, the only one to pass inspection in 2nd platoon the other day. To Pvt. " Shorty Hottin", who asked the supply Sgt.if he had a shorter rifle? Pvt Scott and his dreams of the air force. Sgt. Kusek and his 8 ball platoon, and Pvt. Mc Clellan falling out of bed. Know who F Co's favorite crooner is? -- Sgt. Keene drilling his platoon to the beat of a drum. Why do we use turkey for a mess Sgt?. Woe is us??
Dated Aug. 30, 1943 Beaulac covers much territory -- From Paris to Berlin -- Texas to New Hampshire, that is, -- his Journey a couple of months ago., that is. Pvt. Feuntes is in his second war. He was a mine layer during Spain's troubles. Frank " Buck'" Reardon can't seem to get rid of his dove. He let it fly away a couple of times but it always comes back to him. "Rabbitt foot" Pat Fitzpatrick " the Terror" has yet to loose a wressling match to Pvts Bratten and SCHUBERT. Sgt. Geo. Smith finally learned the name of the flash-hider spring lock washer. He could't get the words in the proper order. Pvt. Stewart is with us again after a short stay at the cross bar hotel. We wonder what Wava thinks about that.
Sgt. Foley is happy again, the Dental office called and he now has his own false gimmicks so he can eat an apple again. Pfc. Clements is a happy man -- his wife is coming to Paris to visit him. Pvt. Mastrofransisco is doing pretty good at identifying planes. Pvt. Hollenback can disasemble an BAR and assemble it again -- in a weeks time. Beau " Brummel" Hansen cant get away from his latest acquaintance. He met her at a show and she held his hand during the performance. She was 5 years old. Fireman -- save my child -- Pvt. Piccivilla has been hearing that song a lot lately -- he is the flame thrower in one of our platoons. Most of the fellows are back from furlough. (Sept. 6, 1943) Cpl. Ed Nelson has a big smile -- but remains very quiet about it. Pfc Jennings will show anyone how to take a 3 day pass. Lets have the truth -- which Sgt. wrote home to his " honey" that he was up for 1st Sgt.?? Did it make Mary happy?? Why are Beaulac, O'Malley and Reardon called the mysterious trio?? We understand they batt .000 in Baseball. Pfc. Hottin has been learning a new trade -- making dog tags. Sgt. Lira is going farming when he gets out of service. When sleeping in town the other day he woke up and found a barnyard and its occupants all around him?? How come?? [16-02]
From the UP FRONT REVIEW SAT. Dec. 15, 1945
COMPANY OF THE WEEK -- F. CO.
By special correspondant E.S. Smith.
Life in the States:
I asked myself one day last week what one of those infantry divisions now pushing the armed might of germany back into germany and its destruction was like back in the States. How mich training they went thru and what it consisted of. I'm at a POE now visiting F Co. of the 405th Infantry Liv. and here is my answer. I will try to give you what the infantry sees in the way of training in the States. This division was activated in Sept. of 1942 at a time wnen Rommell was hammering at El Alammein and american troops were meeting stiff resistance on Guadalcanal. In Nov. & Dec. the men streamed into Camp Maxey, Texas, fresh out of the reception center with their initial shots and sore arms. It was then in Dec. that the original men of this company were permenantly formed together and 9 months of training followed in the Taxas plains where mud and dust abound side by side. There they learned soldering from the bottom up. They learned to drill hike and shoot, to dig in and read maps and keep guns firing and men healthy. Starting in September they put all this into practice when they went to maneuvers in Loiusianna. The two months of sweating cursing and laughing welded these men into camradship. Coming off maneuvers there were many men who did not make the grade. The ones who remained were infantry men. In March of 1944 they were augmented by 400 former ASTP men and new recruits and were now back at full strenght. April and May were again months of training with the old men giving the new men the tricks and knowledge they hasd long ago leaned -- (and the ASTP men gave the same to the old men too). n une the division moved to F. Dix, N. J. for final processing overseas. This meant passes to Trenton, Philadelphia, New York City. When the troops were about to move to the POE a month ago, they were called into the Transit strike in Philadelphia, and spent many sleepless nights keeping the trains moving. They found a real love for and by the people of the city. They returnd to Dix for last minute check of clothing and equipment and final physicals. Then on the 2nd of this month, moved on to Camp Kilmer. They are shipping now and next you will find them fighting in a foreign land. They are well trained and will make a great fighting machine. Lets watch their history unfold.
By Special correspondant William Tideback, Geronsweiler, Germany, Nov. 20, 1944.
Here I sit in one of the foxholes occupied by the 2nd platoon of F. Co, 405th Reg. near Geronsweiler, Germany. Half scared and and half starved waiting for the big attack to begin in a few hours. Occuping this hole is T/Sgt. Bob Lira of Houston Tx., and Sgt. Ted Bilyk of Cleveland, Ohio. Two of the swellest guys I've ever met. They've seen a lot of combat and know their business. As I sit here I can see the anxious expressions an Lira's face as he is waiting the return of a 3 man patrol that he had sent out into enemy lines to feel out the enemy. 500 yards to our front we can see 3 pill boxes with gerries occupying them. The sound power phone just rang and Lirs is answering it. He is called down to the Co. CP to get orders on the attack. On our left flank is the weapons platoon and a rifle platoon. Lira is now back with the message. Lt. Vince Fletcher of Seattle, Wash. is the platoon leader. He has called the 3 squad leaders in to give them orders. They are really fine examples of American manpower. [17-03]
Their names are Sgt. Frank Rackie of McKeesport Pa., Sgt. Joe Mucci of Canton, Ohio and Sgt. Geo, Smith of Baltimore, Md. The rain is now falling which makes the attack that much rougher. The rain reminds the men of the attack, made a week ago at BEECK a few kilometers away. I can tell from the way they talk, that the situation was anything but good. They spoke in words that I can't use here -- but I gather that it was a very rough time. The attack running into unexpectedly, into too many tanks and troops of a crack German Panzer outfit, the 10th 86 Panser division. I asked Mucci a few words about what they had done up til now, and he tells me they have been in action a month now, part of the time in defense and the rest, kicking the germans out of the Siegfred line and across the Roer River. Its easy to see that their Job has not been an easy one.
Bilyk asks me if I want to visit some of the foxholes the infantry are occupying. The first fox hole has 3 men in it. They are Pfc. Lyle Munger of California, Oscar Bustes of Texas and Gene Greenberg of N.Y. The Jerry artillery comes in and thank God, we are in good foxholes. As the barrage lifts I notice they have rifles and one has a BAR. The BAR is a weapon the jeries dread. Pfc. Phil Digiovonni from Chicago is the platoon messanger, and has just reported to Sgt. Lira that the patrol is back safely and they have a lot of information for the attack. The men have a continuous guard at night. 2 hours on and 2 off. and by morning they are pretty tired. All they have to eat is K rations and a few bars of chocolate. Not too bad a diet but after a while it ges monotonus. Going back to the CP, we are halted and Sgt. Bilyk gives the passwword. Lira has already given the patrol information to Lt. Fletcher and the platoon leaders and the CP is quiet for a while. There are some incoming and outgoing shells now. and a few bursts of Machine gun fire. They start to brew some hot coffee, on those wonderful stoves a man called Coleman invented, otherwise the front line men would not have anything hot to drink. They are a God send to the men. The Sgt. says the attack will come at 0600. It is now 0530. You can see men turn to their equipment as the word is passed along. Their faces seem to ask " will this be my time to get it??" This is war and they know the germans must be beaten and its men like these that will have to do it. [18-04]
By Spcl. Corr. E. S. Smith Liefwrath, Germany -- Jan. 22, 1945
I've been spending a few days with the weapons platoon of Co. F, 405th Reg. in a small shell wrecked town of Liefwrath. It is deserted. This town, 5 miles from the Dutch border in the Siegfred line marks the front line of the 102 Div area in the 9th Army sector. On the outskirts of this town Co. F has their foxholes maintaining a defensive line 200 yards from the German lines. It is very cold and a blanket of snow, pockmarked by black spots show where artillery shells have hit. The Ardennes battle is not too far off for the division is spread out on a 8 mile front which is the Corps line, so other divisions can be sent to the battle of the Bulge. When they are not on the line they are digging defenses to the rear. It is rough on these men, the terrible cold the deep snow and little sleep. But for morale, theve got it and are ready to hit the road for Berlin. Im living in the weapons command post, a not too badly wrecked house with a good cellar for a roof. The platoon Lt. is Lt. Eldon Pollock, an old army man that won his battlefield commission a week ago. He has the highest confidence in his team of 60 mm mortar men and 30 cal. machine gunners. As he puts it " if youve got men like this, you don't need a platoon leader". I found out what he meant when I met the 3 platoon leaders, the 3 non -- coms. T. Sgt. Billy Tedford, S. Sgt tom Lake, and S. Sgt Al Swirka, the two are the mortar Sgts and the last is the machine gunner Sgt. These men have been in defensive positions such as these since the first of December, their scheduled attack across the Roer River, held up by the Ardennes campaign. This company defending in this position and also at Worm, Germany 2 Km. away. Instead of silence they have taken an aggressive side of defense and are constantly harrassing the enemy. This mortar sec ion alone averaged 200 rounds a day and sometimes 100 rounds per mortar. I've seen the gunners and their assistants Pfc. Bill "automatic" Blyth, Armond Aronson, and Earnie Smith, Bruce Humpfrey, Jim Mc Manamy, D. Clemens and Pfc. Stone firing night and day, dropping their rounds on pin point targets and covering sections of enemy trenches with very effective fire. The machine gunners have to keep constant harrassing fire on the enemy dug into the emplacements of Honsdorf which the germans occupy in their front line. Men like Pfc Smeeton, Eddie Rellihan, Ray Jankowski, Bob Steele & Francis Carpenter have kept the krauts under cover. Along with the constant sniping fire by other members of Co. F. They have cost the germans many casualties and many sleepless nights. As an example -- we were sitting around talking one night when the sound -- power telephone rang and said a kraut with a burp gun was firing from his usual hole in a hillside. Within 30 seconds F Co had the 2 machine guns a 50 Cal Machine gun 2 mortars and 2 bazookas firing at that spot in the hillside. It hasn't fired since. From all Ive seen here, if the germans are thinking of attacking in this sector -- theyd better think again.
ROER RIVER CROSSING
by Maynard Sallet.
The day they were to cross the Roer, I Joined the first platoon of F Co, 405th at Freialdhoven, Germany. The town like all others in this area was a town in name only. It is a stretch of the immagination to call this pile of bricks a house and there are 50 othrs Just like it. The platoon waited in one with 4 walls still standing and shared it with a couple of tanker crews. They a found a mattress and put it down on the floor in one of the rooms. This is where they had slept the past. 4 nights. I met a small good looking Lt. named Bob Herrick from Ca. He was young, younger than many of the men he commanded. They call him, " Junior". Earlier in the day he [19-05] had taken the 3 squad leadrs to the river bank. These were S. Sgt Wales Otis, James Burnett, and Bob Fisher, and from an OP, had pointed out the mine fields the germans had laid down on the other side of the river. These mine fields were along the line of their projected advance and would have to be avoided. When they returned the whole platoon went thru the plan again. So now it was getting dark and nothing to do but sit and wait and batt the breeze. The Co. was to start out for the crossing at 0130 and Jr. thought it a good idea to try and get some sleep. However, there was little sleeping done. The boys in an adjoining room were getting some " old time religion", Led by Horace DeSousa, John Sapolla and the revisions to the original was loud and strident. They were laughing and having a bull session. The session broke up about midnight and some tried to get a few winks of sleep. Not feeling much like sleeping I sat around the stove and talked with Lt. Herrick, and Platoon Sgt, Big smiling Jim Hansen of Iowa. Hansen later got his battlefield commission after the river crossing. They had plenty of confidence that the crossing would go alright. The boys are young, but there good. About 0130 Hansen woke the boys up. Check everything once more and be ready to move in 15 minutes. They were carrying a lot of extra stuff, extra ammo, bangalore torpedoes, MG ammo. Stuff that wouldn't be easy to get over to the other side right away after the crossing. We moved out into the dark icy ankle deep mud and down the road to join the other platoons ahead of us toward the crossing point. As we stumbled along we could see the artillery crews preparing their big 155's, 240's, 155 howitzers, and 150 self propelled guns every type of artillery immanginable. They were preparing for the opening barrage that was supposed to prepare the way for the infantry, blasting every foot of the way on the other side of the river. The artillery boys would stop now and then and watch us go by. Some would wave an arm or shout words of encouragement. After a slow 2 hour drag the artillery barrage opened with a never to be forgotten roar. We were now in the town of Roersdorf, which was to be our jumping off point . When we got there, the 1st platoon had already crossed with little opposition from the German artillery. As the Engineers had up to that time been unable to get a foot bridge across we had to cross in boats. E Co. was to cross first. There, at E. Co's sector was mass confusion. The 88's began to zero in on the site. The 88's were taking a terrible toll of the engineers and the boats. So with no boats available, we waited on the river bank and it finally got so hot we returned to the town to await the boats. Word came that the boats were again available and we took off again for the river bank. This time we crossed but only after the second squad boat had overturned. Lt. Herrick took over, reorganized the platoon and led them on toward Tetz. There joining the 3rd platoon we went on to our objective. We soon found the second Platoon and Capt. Evenson " Golden Boy". We dug in and around 5 PM were relieved by another part of the 405th. We returned to Tetz and stayed there over night. During the night we heard of a german counter attack made with tanks. You can understand our relief that the TD's finally stopped the attack before reaching the town. In the morning we headed for Hotsdorf. [20-05]
The Allies Drive for the Rhine
On March 12, 1945, LIFE magazine ran an article on the crossing of the Roer River. This article was by LIFE photographer, Geroge Silk who took some dramatic photographs of just one small part of the crossing. If you wish to read this article and see the haunting images, click on the link below. This article offers an insight into what the men of Co. F experienced.
Krefeld and rest.
By Spcl. corr. E.S. Smith
Krefeld, Germany, March 20, 1945
I am visiting one of the combat divisions that led the 9th Army on their drive from the Roer River to the Rhine. Men of the Ozark division, Co. F, 405th Reg. with whom I have traveled before. They and their Capt. Don Evanson says that upon reaching this city, the largest one they have been in, that his troops are a pretty tired bunch of soldiers. The men now have radios, baths, and soft beds. It is now 2 weeks that they have been here and the effect is noticable on them. Men with clean clothes and full bellies. Men with lots of mail from home and time to write letters and a living like they have never known since being in Europe. The Rhine River and the Germans are a few miles away, but the men consider themselves strictly rear eschelon. Even when a german plane flies over or german long range rockets and artillery fires. Now they can be seen playing baseball or taking a bath. For these few days anyway, the war is far away. Its not their war and they know it.
Rhine to the Elbe.
Spcl Corr. Robt. Yolk.
Gardelegen, Germany, Apr. 15, 1945
The last 2 days I have been traveling with Co. F, 405th Reg. Fox Co. Has been riding instead of walking. Its leader, Capt. Don Evenson and his assistant Lt. Jack "Windy" Weigand the Exec. Officer. Top non com is Sgt. George Smith. The platoon Lts are Bob Herrick, Walter Fletcher, Jim Hansen and Elton Pollack. The last 2 just got their battlefield commisions recently. But they know their jobs very well. The all important supply force is headed by S. Sgt. Mort Zimetbaum with Ed Stofko, Harry Blake and D' Argenie. This army is no different than armies of the past, they all move on their stomachs. The cooks are S. Sgt. Burke, Morgan, Rivers and T-5 Harwell. Capt. Evenson suggested I tag along with the platoon leaders of 2nd and 3rd platoons. This all happened on the night of Apr. 3rd before the company climbed on the trucks for the long motorized march to the Elbe River. We crossed the Rhine at Wessel. I soon learned that a rifle company was always moving. It was truck ride by day and truck bed down at night, and truck start up in the morning. From the 3rd to the 13, the men started to relax and once again started to look like young men again. Then the news came that the germans had decided to make a last stand at Gardelegen with an outpost at Estedt. From here on, it was foot power, not truck power. They hit the Jerries with the 1st and 3rd platoons, on their east flank. Pfc Harry Servos was carrying the SCR 300 for Lt. Fletcher. It was thru the efforts of E. Co on our left that the capture of the german garrison at Gardelegen was accopmlished. Now the men are resting and wondering what the future holds. What ever that may be, this Company will be ready for the challange.
From the '" Up Front"' Sat. 15, Dec. 1945.
For a long while Ive wanted to revisit a unit I traveled with in action, to see how they handled redeployment. So I'm with Co. F. 405th Reg. again. The last time I saw them they were West of Berlin at VE day. Now they are in Bischofsgrun outside of Nurnburg. The company is down to 95 men, many having been shipped home already. Those with over 59 points have left. One of the best teams in the Division in soft ball is Co. F. Until redeployment they were almost unbeatable. They have a good
----- Al Hottin
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
Information and photographs were generously provided to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Mr. Edward L. Souder of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The subjects of these essays are all members of Co. F., 405th Regiment.Our sincerest THANKS for allowing us to share their stories!
Original Story submitted on 19 September 2002.
Story added to website on 27 September 2002.
September 5, 2002.
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