Heroes: the Army
"...I was lying on my left side digging with my entrenching tool trying to get underground when a mortar exploded right beside me. I felt like someone had thrust a red hot poker into my right thigh. I remember screaming with pain. The concussion numbed me and I thought both my legs had been blown off. I frantically reached down and found that I was still in one piece. The one fragment that had hit me had fractured my femur..."
Charles R. Rose
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. C., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942-1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: Sgt.
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Los Angeles, CA
A Diary of my Experiences with 405-C Company
Charles R. Rose
I completed basic training at an IRTC at Camp Fannin, Texas, then I was sent to an advanced training regiment at Camp Van Doren, Mississippi. Somehow we were assigned to the cannon company of that regiment and spent the first week doing nothing, just a few hikes. On the following Monday we were transferred to a line company and informed that our vacation was over and that intensive training would begin. After we stowed our gear and tidied up the barracks we were called out to a formation about 10:00 am. Everybody whose 19th birthday was imminent was ordered to step forward. That afternoon those of us who were called out were on a train bound for Fort Dix, N.J. to join the 102nd Division.
Surprisingly, I was assigned to Cannon Co. of the 405th Infantry, although I had never seen a 105. (No K.P. on the John Erickson.) A few days after we arrived in France, we camped in the hedgerows near Cherbourg, I learned that Cannon Company was two men over strength and C Co. was two men under strength. Being one of the last to join the company I was sent down the road to join Pancho's galloping Charlie company and joined the 3rd Platoon third squad as assistant BAR man.
The first couple of weeks in Germany near the Palenberg-Ubach area were uneventful, but then we found ourselves in foxholes outside Apweiler. The ground was littered with corpses of dead Krauts and my buddy and I managed to find a German pistol on one of the bodies. In the late afternoon, not under the cover of darkness, we moved up into a forward position in preparation for the attack on Beeck. The enemy zeroed in on our position and we suffered our first two casualties in our platoon. Two Italian buddies, Abbatello and Galutz, were killed. Fortunately there were many foxholes available.
The next morning when we started the attack the kitchen sink came in. The second squad of our platoon was decimated, and those of us who got out quickly were fortunate. In the attack to take higher ground we suffered many casualties, including our platoon leader and company commander.
Those of us who made it climbed the hill and occupied a trench that was knee deep in mud. We could go no further and retreated to the down side of the hill where we spent the night. The terrain was very muddy, and hitting the ground as we were continually forced to do resulted in our rifles being covered with mud. The M1 s would not fire, and many men actually urinated on them to clean them off. We did not know that we had been surrounded, but in the late afternoon the way was clear for our strategic withdrawal.
I had assumed that we would not be available for combat for some time since we badly needed replacements. But I was wrong. A few days later we occupied a trench outside Gereonsweiler. We were in reserve, and we had a ringside seat watching the battle going on in front of us. The 2nd and 7th armored divisions attacked, driving toward Linnich and Rurdorf. The 84th Division attacked through us. We were relatively secure because the incoming mail was directed at the attacking troops or back into town behind us. I remember that out of the chaos unfurling in front of us came a small rabbit jumping over our trench, hell bent for the rear. The Sergeant alongside of me watched the rabbit and then said "There goes the only sensible living thing within miles of here."
That night we moved forward to assist in the attack on Linnich. The British to our left were using their artificial moonlight searchlights and the Krauts spotted us. We came under intense artillery fire, which lasted for quite a while. All of us felt that we had had it. Fortunately there were foxholes there and none scored a direct hit on any foxhole, but the concussion was felt and fragments of shells landed on us. A small fiery piece hit me on the palm of my left hand, burned through my glove and inflicted a small scratch. It wasn't even bleeding so I paid no attention to it. When the firing ceased we scattered in all directions.
I got back to Gereonsweiler and we regrouped. The next night we were sent out to a captured pillbox and then proceeded forward to attack Linnich. I shared a foxhole with my squad leader, Chemelewski. I remember the lieutenant who was commanding the company crawling over to our foxhole. "Chimmy," he asked, "How many men have you got in the third platoon. Chimmy pointed to himself and me and said "This is the third platoon."
By this time the little scratch on my hand had become infected and my hand was swollen. The first Sergeant came out in a jeep delivering supplies and took me back to town to have my hand treated at the aid station which was set up in the ruins of the town church. I offered to go back out, but the sergeant said I wouldn't be of any use. I was sent to Beggendorf and there awaited the return of what was left of the company which was relieved that night.
When we counted noses we found we had just enough men in the platoon to form the cadre so I was promoted from buck private to sergeant and became assistant squad leader. Our squad then received eight replacements. A few days later when the orders listing all the promotions were posted at company headquarters Pancho returned to us. I remember him standing reading the list of promotions when I walked by. He looked at me, grinned, and said "Hell, make them all sergeants."
Although we were supposed to train our replacements, we only had a couple of sessions because Pancho would get up in the morning, look up at the sky and say, "Enemy planes are coming; get everybody in the cellars." Then we were kept awake all night by the sound of tanks moving out. The bulge had hit.
We moved, I think to Prummern, and laid barbed wire. Cannon company was there, and I got the opportunity to visit with my former buddies. They first thought I was a ghost because they had been told that C Company had been wiped out in the attack on Beeck. One day they gave me the opportunity to pull the lanyard and fire the 105, and I thanked them for the honor.
We were then sent to the front at Wurm. There were a couple of German pillboxes outside the town and they had their mortars in the trenches alongside the pillboxes zeroed in on the streets and crossroads in the town. Our mortar platoon zeroed in on their trenches. Both sides fired mortars at indefinite intervals. We set up a rotating schedule -- one squad out in the foxholes and relieved at night to spend time in town. No one walked through the streets, everybody ran.
One day I went back to the company CP to pick up cigarette rations for the squad, and Pancho decided to go back up front with me to look out of a building which we used as an observation post. We jogged down the street, turned a corner and encountered one of the members of the mortar platoon whose name I don't recall. Pancho grabbed him, shoved him into a doorway and chewed him out royally. The soldier listened patiently and then said "Aw, you run, you run into one." The three of us walked slowly the rest of the way up the street.
Two members whom I knew from Canon company were there, acting as forward observers. On days when I was in town I would often visit with them. One day when I was out in the foxhole I heard an unfamiliar sound like a huge freight train turning over in the air. Then there was a large explosion back in town. The Krauts had brought up a railway gun, probably a 15 inch canon. When I got back I learned that the shell had hit the house occupied by my friends from Canon company, killing one and badly wounding the other. When we first got into town the ground was frozen, but a thaw came and we found that there were mines in the area. One of the platoon members stepped on one and lost his foot. Our platoon leader was wounded and had to be replaced.
At that time I was inflicted by boils on the back of my neck. I would get a boil, go to the aid station and have it lanced. But then a whole series of boils broke out there. I was running a 102 degree fever and was sent back to the hospital for treatment. I don't remember whether it was a regimental or division hospital, but it had been set up so that anyone who was sent there would get back to his outfit and not have to go through a replacement depot. I missed the walk in the park "attack" on Brachelen.
I was routed through Supply Company on my return and acquired an 03A6 sniper's rifle with a telescopic sight. Then I, along with two members of my squad, were sent to Ederen as an advance quartering party to fix up houses for the company. We were scheduled to come in, spend one night, and take off spearheading the attack over the Roer. We were supplied with K-rations but found there was an artillery outfit feeding hot food. We joined the chow line and when I got to the door there was a sergeant counting noses. He looked at me and said "We'll feed you twice for the rifle." "Once will be enough" I replied. They did feed us and the next night we dined at Battalion Headquarters Company. They were scheduled to move back the following morning and Co. C was to arrive that afternoon.
It was at this time that I accomplished what may have been my most memorable feat, for the officers had just received their liquor rations. They treated us to some beer. I called my two buddies aside and then gave them strict orders. I told them not to drink too much and to stay awake. I said that the officers would either get drunk or pass out, and when they were all sleeping soundly, we would collect all the bottles they left behind and go out in the field and hide them in a foxhole. My plan worked and when the Company arrived we shared our spoils.
We had fixed a small cellar for our squad across the street from the houses the rest of the company occupied. Since I had imbibed rather heavily I went alone and lay down and went to sleep. When I awoke the next morning the whole squad was there fast asleep. I looked at my watch and it was 6 a.m. I wondered whether they had forgotten we were there and had gone off without us. I walked out into the street just as our cooks were arriving and learned that the Germans had opened the dams and flooded the river and the attack had been called off. Pancho was upset. He said the Company was so liquored up that we would have gone all the way to Berlin before they stopped us.
We stayed in Ederen until the morning of the 23rd of February when we were the first company in the regiment to cross the Roer. We had grouped up and advanced a ways when we were ordered to halt because we had encountered a mine field. We were told that there were engineers trying to figure out how to get through it. Mortars began zeroing in on us. I was lying on my left side digging with my entrenching tool trying to get underground when a mortar exploded right beside me. I felt like someone had thrust a red hot poker into my right thigh. I remember screaming with pain. The concussion numbed me and I thought both my legs had been blown off. I frantically reached down and found that I was still in one piece. The one fragment that had hit me had fractured my femur. I was carried back out of mortar range and left alone.
I spent some three or so hours alone before I was discovered and medics were called who carried me back on a stretcher to the forward aid station. Later that afternoon I was lifted back to Battalion aid in Rurdorf and then sent to the clearing company, collecting company and finally to a hospital somewhere in Holland where a doctor first cleaned the wound. The nurse looked at my dog tag and said: "Oh doctor, look at his name!" because the doctor's name was also Charles Rose.
I was then sent to the tent hospital in Liege, which we were informed was in buzz bomb alley. A surgeon probed the wound to see if he could extract the shell fragment from the opening it made, but found that when it hit the bone it had ricocheted slightly, and he could not do so. I was then placed in a body cast from neck down to my right ankle and flown to a hospital in England located in Manchester.
I'd spent about a month in that cast when one Friday morning the doctor turned to the ward boy and said that the cast could be taken off. I was overjoyed. I was finally going to get out of that damned thing. Friday came and went and nothing happened. I had faint hopes for Saturday but they turned out to be faint. Sunday I knew nothing would happen. By Monday afternoon I was livid, shouting and screaming at everyone. Finally two medics arrived with their saws and I was freed. I remember trying to sit up and having the whole room spin around like a pinwheel.
A few days later when I was on crutches the doctor told me to try to put weight on my right leg. Just as I was about to do so, he changed his mind and said I'd better not. I remained a litter patient. The next week, during his morning rounds, the doctor asked the ward boy "Are this man's papers in?" The ward boy nodded, and I knew what that meant. I was Zled. I was going back to the Zone of the Interior, the USA.
I was sent by train from Manchester to Liverpool to board the Liberty ship S.S. Henry Gibbons. It had just arrived and sitting on the dock was a contingent of aircorps ground crew soldiers. They did not have a very auspicious welcome to the ETC as they watched the hospital train unload with all kinds of wounded men. I, however, was very happy to leave it.
----- Charles R. Rose
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
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
The above story, "A Diary of my Experiences with 405-Company", by Charles R. Rose, Co.C, 405th Regiment, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 57, No. 3, April/June 2005, pp. 4-6.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 27 June 2005.
Story added to website on 27 June 2005.
September 5, 2002.
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