Heroes: the Army
"...I had a front row seat laying in the mud watching one of our light machine guns (firing about 250 rounds a minute) duel it out with a Kraut machine gun on the other bank (firing about 1250 rounds per minute)..."
Edward J. Blackburn
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: HQ Co. 2nd Btn., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC, Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1923
- Entered Service: Houston, TX
"Wiring" the River
by Ed Blackburn
During January and February, 1944 we were in Linnich, Germany waiting for the flooded Roer River to get back in its banks. Our wire section was kept busy trying to maintain telephone communications which the Krauts had a uncanny knack for being able to knock out every time we got them repaired. When not repairing phone lines, we spent our time liberating wine and whatever else was available for drinking.
Some time in late January or early February someone in the higher echelons got the bright idea that we should lay some heavy duty phone cable across the river, so that when the actual river crossing took place all we would have to do was tap on to each end of the cable and phone communications would be established between both sides of the river. Our wire section was assigned this job along with two other teams (I assume they were from the other two battalions in the 407th.)
Sometime after midnight we all assembled at the river's edge about three hundred yards upstream from the blown Linnich bridge. Counting the engineers who manned the boats and the wire people there must have been fifteen or twenty of us out there. Two of us from the second battalion were there and we flipped a coin to see who would get in the boat to take the cable across the river. The other one would stay at the river's edge to feed the cable off the large cable reel. I won the coin toss so I stayed on our side of the river.
The three boats made it about half way across when a flare went up and all hell broke loose. I laid in the mud at the waters edge for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for the firing to stop. I had a front row seat laying in the mud watching one of our light machine guns (firing about 250 rounds a minute) duel it out with a Kraut machine gun on the other bank (firing about 1250 rounds per minute). When it died down I crawled back across the dike and made my way back to the CP in the hospital building. There I was reunited with my buddy who had to swim back to shore. Needless to say he was soaking wet and shivering like a coon dog trying to pass a peach seed.
I never did find out how many casualties we had that night, but I'm sure it must have been quite a few. This was a total waste of time, material, and men because when we finally crossed the river the advance went so fast we never did see the river again. I've always wondered who finally laid phone lines across that river.
---- Ed Blackburn
(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 way to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
12 January 2005.
A photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment, 102nd Division. This image is on a page that is dedicated to Mr. Edward Marchelitis, Sr., by his daughter Carol. Most of the men in the photo taken on December 20, 1943 are identified on the back of the image.
To view the photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment as well as other photos of Edward Marchelitis, click on the image above.
The family of Mr. Marchelitis is seeking information on his platoon.
A special Thank You is extended to the daughter of Edward Marchelitis, Sr., Carol Marchelitis Heppner.
Interested in some background information?
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by Ed Blackburn
The above story, "Wiring the River", by Ed Blackburn, 407th HQ Co., 2nd Bttn., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 52, No. 2, Jan/Mar 2000, pp. 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 19 October 2004.
Story added to website on 22 October.
September 5, 2002.
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