Heroes: the Army
"...The task of carrying a litter was the hardest that I had to perform. We went past the tank which was stuck in the mud and we sank into the mud up to our knees. I stumbled several times and once mentioned to Karge about several dead GIs in a group over to our left, who had been killed that morning..."
Fred C. Sutton
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Med. Det., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC, Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Minerva, OH
The Attack on Beeck:
by Fred Sutton, 405th Med. Det.
(written in 1946)
Part #1 of 3 Parts:
At night they would shell us a few times and one big shell hit the corner of the kitchen next door. There were a few German civilians living here but they stayed indoors most of the time and were not permitted on the streets at all after dark. We were trying to make a place for the ambulance to stay beside the aid station, using a lot of boards in a lumber pile nearby. A German tried to tell us that we couldn't take them. Rapp piled into him and told him to get out of there. He persisted and so I took him over to Krastek in the kitchen who could speak German. The Military Government had told the German that no one was to use that lumber so we shooed him away and used it anyway.
The 327th Med. Battalion sent their first ambulance team to us. They were Wilson (Francis G.)and Philpott (Walter S.), a very slow Missourian with a drawl. Mac was on Cq and woke us one night to get a fellow down at Baker Company. He had fallen and suffered a bruise on his head. We walked over to Baker and got him from Ted Currier and brought him back to the aid station.
We slept in our clothes and didn't get a change or a bath. We smelled a little although we soon became accustomed to that like a lot of other things. Krput joined us here as Epler left us because of ear trouble. Moser made T/4 and we had a small gathering. The fellows drank the two officers liquor rations that they were good enough to share with us. Maitland left us with appendicitis the day before we took off for lmmendorf. As a surprise, we took off from Palenberg for Immendorf on the 20th of November.
The 406th was the first regiment to make an attack and took several small towns with heavy resistance. We had seen them riding on tanks a few days previously and wondered where they were going. We had a very poor idea of what was going on most of the time, but got an idea of what was happening from the newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Even in our little sector we didn't know the situation half the time because we were so active and no one had the time to tell all the latest to us, so the people at home got a better picture than we who were fighting the war.
The 84th Division moved in on line for the first time, relieving part of our Division. They planned to take off with us in the big attack that was to break the Siegfried Line and go to the Rhine. We were issued sleeping bags here and found that they were better than blankets in some ways. They were handier and warmer. We would put a blanket or two inside the bag with us and they were good and warm.
Jenny, Capt. Gray and I took off in the jeep as the advance party and went to an old monastery to meet the major. The place had just been taken the day before and the lines were 1000 yards in front of us. During the afternoon, the Germans sent in the first 88s that I had heard and saw them land in the woods next to us, a few hundred yards away. A Lieutenant from the antitank company drove in and asked where the lines were, etc. I couldn't tell him. He was supposed to put up some antitank guns near here and wanted to know what was going on. I told him to find Capt. Gray. While Homer, the driver and I were talking, a sudden flash and crash to our left (about 200 yards) hit the woods. We hit the dirt and got inside the house.
The monastery had been a sleeping place for the Germans. In one corner was a barbed wire enclosure where American prisoners stayed and worked the farms in the neighborhood. Four of us explored the cellar and general premises of the enclosed courtyard and found a bunch of reconnaissance men from the 84th Division in the front part. There was a school building down the road which was a Regimental Command Post for the 84th. A GI caught a Jerry sulking in a hole and brought him back past the monastery with his hands high.
We could see to the front of us that a house was on fire and shells landed several hundred yards away where the war was going on in the big attack. The major finally found us and told us that the Battalion Command Post was to be a pillbox up the tree-lined road which was well battered by shells. The Jerries had plenty of ammunition and used it. We were rather short of artillery because of the heavy use of it instead of tanks. It was wet, muddy and damp this time of year and the tanks couldn't maneuver, so the artillery was called upon more than usual to support the infantry. A shortage of shells occurred.
Lieut. Rapp (James D.) and other members of the Aid Station joined us about five that afternoon and we cleaned up the cellar in preparation for setting up an Aid Station there. That afternoon, later, a Medic aid man from the 84th plodded in and said that he was without morphine and bandages and that there were about ten casualties located up the road. He flopped on the floor and panted as he was completely exhausted. He hadn't eaten in two days so I gave him a slice of dry bread and some morphine and he took off again to get someone to take care of the wounded.
I was selected by Capt. Gray (Frank D.) to be the runner and we walked to Battalion, about half a mile away in a pillbox out in a field. Col. Robinson (George B.)and the Major and the switchboard were there and A & P platoon was there also, to guard the place. Capt. Gray took off for the Aid Station and I reported to Cheek, who was in charge of the Message Center. I told him I was planning to dig my foxhole just across a small railroad track - the main line to the Ruhr valley from Aachen. This was about 50 yards from the Message Center.
I ran into Padilla (Manuel O.), who wanted some bandages and I gave him some from my aid kit. He was there with his platoon of riflemen guarding the Battalion Command Post. I went across the railroad and chose a nice spot and dug in, digging and throwing the dirt in a small breastwork toward the enemy. Artillery was going over both ways and the 84th Division was laying down a barrage when we came up to the lines. The sky was overcast and it rained most of the night. I found a Jerry overcoat in the Jerry trench nearby and found two French coins in it. The Jerry had evidently gotten them in the occupation of France. I sent them home to someone.
About 6 pm the ambulance brought a wounded Jerry past the Command Post and Lt. McKenna (Charles F.) went to the ambulance and questioned him in German about his unit, strength, artillery, etc. The boy was frightened and told all without hesitation. Our first wounded Jerry, and the ambulance drove him back to the Clearing Company.
I went over to the foxhole and tried it out for size but had to dig some more. I went up to the Aid Station with the new password and everyone was settling for the night so I returned to my foxhole and went to sleep in the mud. I got into my sleeping bag, muddy boots and all. It would have been cold if I took anything off. I put the old Jerry overcoat over me and made a structure of branches and boards for my roof and slept fairly warm and comfortable and dry. The next morning I ate K-rations and put the part that I didn't eat in my big pockets for later. We had finally gotten a radio to communicate with Headquarters, so I walked up the road with my entire equipment, pack, aid kits, pistol, belt, canteen and sleeping bag. I found that the truck had been buried in debris. Harry had parked it close to the building and a shell hit the other side of the building and it caved in on the truck, just a few minutes after Harry had parked it.
As I walked up the road, I could see the artillery bursting on ahead and part of the 84th Division moving up to the line and the tanks with their air markers of big cloths, brightly colored that the airplanes could identify them. The companies had walked in that night and were in reserve.
The next morning I had gone down to the Command Post with Lt. Rapp and he got into an argument with Capt. Pancho of C Company about a medical evacuation. Pancho wanted to send a fellow who had a very bad cold, approaching pneumonia, back and Capt. Gray (Frank D.) had sent him back to his company because he had been given orders not to evacuate any men unless it was an emergency. They needed all the men they could get, being shorthanded. That afternoon we moved in to Immendorf and spent the afternoon cleaning two houses for the Aid Station. We threw all the junk out of the houses and into the back yard, fixed a good blackout and ate K-rations and went to sleep.
The next morning we were told to get ready for the works. I got on my pistol belt, aid kits (one of them half full of my toilet articles), and raincoat. It was raining and kept it up all day, making it muddy. Harry was litter bearer leader in charge of we medics. We went down to the square of town and got in on the tail end of the 1st Battalion column and waited two or three hours, in the rain, for them to start. We were attached to A Company.
Sgt. Martin (David C. or James B.) was nervous and couldn't control himself, barking at everyone. So they finally got order to take off. We went past what was left of a nice brick church and out past some tank destroyer outfit. I think it was the 771st TD Battalion which supported us in the attack. The 2nd Battalion was all lined up waiting for us. One ASTP fellow from the 2nd yelled at me and the litter bearers, carrying litters, saying "Hope you fellows have an easy day." and I yelled back that I hoped so too. The general attitude was one of confidence. I noted the younger fellows particularly; they were cracking a lot of jokes of how nice the picnic was going to be, etc. However, many of the fellows were scared underneath and only wanted to bolster up their confidence by joking. Others were openly scared and worried. I had no compunction of my present status and was actually a little bored that we had to stand so long waiting to get going. I had no idea what was coming off.
We were given no briefing except that we were making an attack. I had no idea about our objective, what the opposition might be and how grand a scale this attack was. This was the morning of the 22nd of November and the attack was attempting to break the German resistance on the Siegfried line and break through to the Rhine.
We met heavy resistance and didn't even get through the line. Artillery was going over our heads all the time as we slowly wound out of the town and at the edge of town we saw Bell and his jeep from the Third Battalion and Ziets (Leon) and Ballin (Orrin B.)and Salyers (Raymond C.) coming in with a casualty &emdash; plowing through the mud, spraying us all, wading through six inches of deep muddy silt that was along the edge of the road.
We stopped at the edge of the woods near town and let the 2nd Battalion go by. There were plenty of fellows in the 2nd I knew from ASTP Roth (Robert M.) of George Company and the third platoon of Fox Company stopped by me and I got to talk to all the fellows I had run around with in the States (Ed Ebbing, Dan Neukam, Frank Wojniak, and Sgt. Reardon of Boston who was singing. Red Calloway, Brooks Garth, and Tex Hall; Red was the BAR man and Frank was his assistant.)
I learned from Frank that Dick Tettlebach had been transferred to Personnel back at the Division and Frank was swearing at the people who took their boots. They had only leggings, as I had, in that deep mud. These fellows had been in foxholes for over two weeks on defense and were now going into the biggest attack that they would ever see and the last that a lot of them were to see. Frank said that Kenny Searle had gotten a Purple Heart in helping to get back a wounded man on a door when he got nicked. I knew Kenny was that type -- young and impetuous and with no regard for his own safety.
So they moved on and I wished Frank good luck and all the other fellows, too. They took off and spread out in front of the orchard on the left. We stood at the edge of the woods and talked to two TD men. These men had dug their guns into the earth and found two dead Jerries, one an SS man whom they searched for watches. He had been killed yesterday when he started to run across the field. He was ashen gray and cold. He had sniper's pants on, camouflaged to match the scenery. He was my first vision of fresh dead. The TD man was gripping because there were several American dead, still lying about that hadn't been picked up yet.
Finally, we moved on and I mentioned to Sgt. Sharp that I should have brought along an extra pair of socks, for my feet were already wet. We went through a little orchard, circling around to the left, following each other at ten yard intervals and crouching. I was bringing up the rear, followed by Sgt. Jones (Chester L.)and his antitank platoon, who were to act as litter bearers. We wondered why they were following us but we found out when we got out into the field. We circled out wide, following a small valley where the Germans couldn't see us so well, passing fellows lying on the ground in reserve ready to attack in a short while. We could see the tanks up ahead, a few hundred yards, firing tracers at the Jerries, as the supporting infantry were making the attack. Our Battalion was attacking and at the moment were doing all right. As the tanks moved into better position to cover the fellows, the Jerries started to send in some 88's and then it started.
We were sitting on the bank of a little stream, eating a K ration, among Able Company, who were in reserve at that time. We got word to move forward because there were casualties up front. We passed Salvanto (Vito A.) and John Campbell in holes with Able Company, walked up the small stream bed with Harry leading, filed across past the tanks, some of which were stuck in the mud two feet deep, and crossed a small bridge into a partly harvested field of beets. I stepped into water and got my foot wet, and soon got both feet soaked.
A fellow from A Company came back through and told me that he had seen a fellow get hit by that tank, on the side of the hill to our left. So I took off on a crouch, and ran to a pit where the Jerries had dug in a gun. I was winded from carrying all this equipment and so threw away my toilet articles, having learned that an extra ounce was a burden. Crouching again, I ran towards the tank and found no one on the ground or in any of the tank tracks, which were three feet deep. After a ten minute search, I found a helmet, rifle, pistol and a pool of blood not far from the tank. I yelled several times trying to find him, but he was not around so I took off again for the boys. Lieut. Hirst, (Hearst, Harry) executive officer of Able Company, called and waved to me to keep down as the Germans could see me. We had no medical markings except a Red Cross brassard on my raincoat, and that was muddy so I ran back to the gun pit. Now I got scared for the first time. I began to think of what could have happened, always a big factor in our thoughts from then on.
We were now without artillery support, or it seemed that way. We could hear Jerry artillery coming in on the crest of the small hill in front of us. The tanks were still firing tracers at the Jerries so things were not too loud for a time. The noise was mainly from tanks trying to get out of the mud in back of us. I ran back to the ditch and the other fellows had found several wounded who had been so for several hours from the dawn artillery-sniper barrage. One fellow was sitting on the bank of the little stream with a bullet in his foot. His foot was shaking with cold so Homer and I got him on a litter with Jonesy and Karge and we took off.
The task of carrying a litter was the hardest that I had to perform. We went past the tank which was stuck in the mud and we sank into the mud up to our knees. I stumbled several times and once mentioned to Karge about several dead GIs in a group over to our left, who had been killed that morning. They were a group from Baker Company and were lying outside of their holes in all kind of positions. Some had been thrown out, after they were killed, to make room for the other fellows. We stumbled on back down the gully, hearing some artillery to the back of us. We arrived at an old shack which was our aid station and set the litter down and then sat down ourselves, exhausted. We rested a few minutes and then took off again with some 3rd Battalion boys. Back up the gully we went and got another casualty. The fellows went back with him and I slopped up to the top of the hill and found Tittelbaum (Saul) with a hole in his leg. (to be continued)
Part #2 of 3 Parts:
Fred Sutton's Story, cont.
1st Btn. Medic litter bearer for the
405th (Story written in 1946)
(He had found Tittelbaum at the top of a muddy hill, with a hole in his leg.)
He was fully conscious and had a tourniquet on his leg. Another fellow, with a wounded nose, was standing by him trying to make him comfortable in the rain and mud. I told him we would get him out as soon as possible and moved on as Harry had told me to spot casualties so that a litter bearer team could get a casualty without taking the time to find them. A lot of them were in holes and couldn't be seen.
I found a Mexican boy in a hole with a leg wound and a board on top of him. He had had no attention and I tried to put a Carlisle on him but did a bad job of it. Having no morphine I couldn't get him out of his misery and he was sobbing quietly. I left him and took off to the left and found a fellow in a tank track. I couldn't see him until I got right up to him because the track was a half foot deep and an 88 had hit him in the leg, tearing it half off. He could hardly speak, the concussion was so great. He whispered hoarsely that an 88 had hit the tank about 10 yards away and had hit him too. He managed to crawl to this tank track for a little protection and wasn't able to bind his wound.
Garman (William T.) came and helped me bind him and give him some morphine. At first, I wasn't sure of the process of what to do with a wounded man. Garman taught me in a hurry; something we had not been taught in the States. If we'd had a little more of this kind of training and less drill, we might have been able to perform our job more efficiently. However, there were a lot of things that we had to learn while on the job because we had to adjust ourselves to the situation.
We found Sgt. Wylie of the 3rd platoon of Baker Co. and fixed him up and put him on a board so that he would be off the ground. Then Harry returned with more litter bearers and I helped carry Tittelbaum out. I stumbled and almost let him roll of the litter. He screamed so we got him back.
I was completely exhausted and sat down and ate a K ration. Then I took off with Homer to get Wylie. Kraut (Arthur H.) was with us and he was wearing a big overcoat because he didn't have a raincoat. He was perspiring a lot.
My feet were completely wet and every time I took a step they would "squish". Milker (Edward J.), Harry and I went back and got a guy out of a dugout. He had been hit in the hip and with the help of four or five guys we got him on a litter. He had been hit early in the morning and was shivering violently. He had just a few clothes on and was cold. We got him back to the aid station and they sent him on back.
I sat down and tried to eat a K ration but only managed a fruit bar from breakfast I went over in a corner and tried to sleep. Pancho came in with a wound in the wrist, sat down and said he wished he was out there with the boys. They brought in a fellow, a Mexican, who had been hit in the foot by a sniper. He talked in Spanish to the 327th litter bearers. The telephone message center was in operation trying to make contact with the Companies but were unable to do so except once in a while. The wiremen went out to find the break in the line; it was pitch black, rainy and muddy. I finally got to sleep early in the morning for two or three hours. I awakened to learn that the relief boys, under Percival (William E.), had followed Capt. Woollsey (Charles E., Jr.) to get some casualties but had gotten lost and a Jerry machine gun opened up on them while they were trying to make contact with somebody.
The next morning we didn't know what was going on but were told to go this way and "you will find some wounded." Krout and I with these 327th boys started out just before dawn feeling somewhat refreshed. We went up the stream gully, over our old haunts, and met Lt. Hirst and Sgt. Martin of Co. A. just beyond a little cement bridge. They told us to get out of there because the Jerries had this covered and we couldn't get up this way but should try going over the hill and down the next gully. Martin couldn't navigate at all and crawled from hole to hole on his hands and knees just to keep moving.
Some TDs had pulled into position behind us and when it was daylight enough for the Jerries to see them down the gully (from a house we now could see in the mist) at the edge of the town of Beeck. This episode is known to us of the 405th as the Battle of Beeck, our worst time in combat, the worst attack which we had encountered.
The Jerries let go at these TDs, 25 yards behind us, with their 88s in a barrage, lasting half an hour -- it seemed like an eternity to us -- shooting point blank at us. We cowered in a ditch as low as possible and sweated out that barrage. The Mexican fellow got down on his hands and knees in the water, leaving just part of his body above the surface. He was calm and composed but really scared. Kraut looked like he was going to a picnic, calm and collected although keeping down.
They hit one TD twice and I think hit another fellow or two. The 771st TD Battalion retreated out of range as soon as things let up a bit. We saw two British tankers which had been on the extreme left flank and gotten lost from their outfit. They walked down the ridge and the Jerries followed them with some mortars, getting close several times but the Limeys walked on in comparative security although ducking occasionally when a close one came in.
I told the fellows to return down the stream to the little bridge and then we would cut across the hill to the other gully past the abandoned tank in the mud. Krout and I took off across the field, panting before we had gone 25 yards. We got into some holes at the top of the hill with some dead men and Sanchez (Manuel, Jr.), from Charlie Co., with two fellows who had gotten lost from their company in the dark last night. We asked them if they had seen any wounded or if they knew where the company was at the time, but they didn't know. I asked Krout to wait and I would try to get the best way to the general position of the company.
I went along the ridge where just yesterday I had seen a tank get a direct hit from an 88 and burn up. I ran into the 81 mm mortar platoon of Dog Co. and asked them if they knew where the line outfits were and they pointed in the general direction. I saw Hardesty (Gerald E.) and he was doing OK. This platoon had had one killed early that morning and asked if I couldn't take him. I got a little angry and said that there were too many wounded to do a thing like that since he was beyond help and misery.
I started up the ridge and soon heard a shot ring out across the valley and a bullet whiz past me. I got out of there and back to the foxhole, waited a few minutes and then went on back to Krout and I told them we could cut to the right and hill, on the right hand side of the second stream. We couldn't be seen and could make better time. So I took oft and the others followed, at intervals, across a plowed field and into a clump of trees. We gathered together and I led them up the valley. I asked a Guadacanal veteran, holed up in the side of the hill, where the Company was but he didn't know. He had joined up a Swift; we had talked to him several times about combat; he had been a BAR man, had been wounded and sent back to combat with us so he was in no mood to fight and had holed up here and was taking it easy
We went on up past a dugout and started up a road over a little stone bridge again and the Jerries started to throw in mortars. I hit the dirt and waited for the rest to come in. We took off for the protection of the hill and yelled to the others to come there when they didn't hear any whine, so they did. I told them to dig in if they had shovels and only one fellow had one so they spread out behind the crest of the hill. We waited half an hour and nothing happened so we took off again.
It so happened some of the fellows of Dog Co. were coming across the field so we all got shelled again. The fellows with the heavy mortars having to run to foxholes had a tough time of it. We got out of there when things let up and went back around the curve of the hill and waited. I told the fellows we couldn't do any good for a little while so we holed up and tried to keep dry. We attempted to find a dugout to stay in while waiting and stopped in Dungess' where he had set up an advance aid station for the 3rd Battalion. He was doing a good job and this was where Harry and Stanley Kaufman had holed up the night before. A flew more boys stopped in and he chased us all out because he had wounded from the 3rd Btn. coming in.
We went back to another dugout on the crest of the hill but only a few fellows got in there. So Krout and I went back to the dugout artillery position and sat down in the rain and the mud and ate a part of a Breakfast ration which I had in my pocket. We split it with two infantry men who were on their way back for flood and water. We sat and talked and the sergeant said he was ready to settle for any kind of peace. They moved on and we went back up again and Lt. McKenna (Charles F.), Warfield and Dugan were wading through the mud up the road and the sniper was cracking away every once in a while in our general direction.
The Jerries started to throw artillery so we returned and sat outside Dingess' place wrapped in blankets.
Some infantrymen stopped and talked to us, asking what was going on and we said we couldn't get up to the fellows. Just then, the Jerries started to shell us again, one landing about 20 yards to my left and about cracking my ears. We sat there sweating them out hoping that there weren't many. However, several more came in and Krout ran for the ditch across the fence. One hit in the ditch just back of him. Twenty or more shells fell and then Lieut. Rapp came up with the Mexican from the 327th and told us that Col. Robinson (George B.) had been hit and was dying. I told him that we had been trying all day to get up there but couldn't. So he and the Mexican took off with a litter and returned in about half an hour saying that they couldn't get up there either. They had been seen and were shelled, so they went on back to the aid station.
Ernsdorffer of the mortar platoon of Charlie Co. had a Red Cross band and he went up after some of the fellows of Charley Co. who had been hit. Lt. Whitlook (Whitlock, Donald H.), a young, brazen fellow went up with some fellows from Headquarters with litters. We waited a flew minutes and nothing happened so I got the fellows together and we took off. I was leading and was certainly ready to take to the ditch at any moment. WE met a GI returning with a wounded GI, carried by two Jerries, on a coat. I gave them a litter and told the GI to prod those Jerries and keep them moving. We passed a dead GI almost half standing in a forward position, his face gray. We followed the road that lead out to an open field leading up to the house that was on the edge of the orchard. This was at the edge of Beeck and we found Charlie dug in on the protected side of the hill. I found a wounded guy who was shaking from cold and shock and he told us to get the other fellows who were wounded worse. I went up the hill and found Evans (Forest E.) and Salas (Eusebio) with several wounded and told them to take them off and get out of there as fast as possible.
The litter haul was about a thousand yards back to Dingess' dugout, an old artillery position. A daring fellow in a jeep came up with water and food and returned with two of the wounded. They carried Col. Robinson out, white as a sheet. Major Meyers had been hit in the arm and several walking wounded took off when there seemed to be a break in the general shelling. Everything was quiet for an hour or so and we hauled several fellows, exhausted as we were, by putting the litter on our shoulders and having it cut almost to the bone before we could put it down and change shoulders and take off again, moving as fast as possible. One Mexican from the 327th was a game fellow; he only weighed about 120 pounds but he kept up with the rest of us.
I went back up again and we returned with an old Army man, Tech Sgt. Daves (Davis, Warren M.) of Charlie Co. He had a gut wound. He was semiconscious, trembling and suffering from shock, having been wounded almost 12 hours before in the dawn attack. He kept mumbling that a Jerry had popped up out of his hole and knocked his carbine out of his hand, and had hit him on the arm and stomach. He then became unconscious. I kept telling him that we just had a little further to go when we would get to a jeep. Every few minutes he would ask how much farther we had to go and he also kept asking for water. My canteen had been empty since early morning and I was spitting cotton myself. We continued to slop through the mud and at last got him back to the dump.
All of us collected 10 or 12 wounded and, having no more litters, waited for the jeep. A man from Baker Co., I think, came grinding through the mud in a jeep and when he got to us he put off his water and put on two wounded fellows at a time; we selected the more seriously wounded and sent them back.
The Sgt. kept asking for water and Ernsdorffer (Ernsdorff, Thomas J.?) said "no" when I started to give him some. Ernsdorffer knew more about first aid than I did so I wet the sergeant's lips and he was thankful. We got some wood and different things to cover the wounded so the rain wouldn't hit them in the face. This driver returned and took two more wounded and I think one fellow died while we were standing there. I found one more litter and asked Krout if he wanted to go with me as I was going back up to see if there were any more. He said he would stay with the fellows.
I walked up to Charlie Co. and asked if there were any more fellows wounded and Salas didn't know of any. Then the Jerries started to shell again so I got into a hole and sat down, sweating out the most intense artillery barrage that I had hitherto encountered. It lasted almost an hour and was continuous.
Previously I had ventured up to the crest of the hill and the fellows told me to keep my head down because the sniper could see me. They had us spotted and the fellows had orders to hold the position They sat there and I prayed several times after each shell that came in. I couldn't sit comfortably having to keep as low as possible below the surface of the ground. A shell struck 15 yards from me and a piece of shrapnel whizzed past my left and hit the edge of the hole in back of me. I began to get the shakes and started to shiver all over and could not control myself. Every shell that came in I said to myself "well, here goes". It sounded like they were in the close vicinity.
Only a few came close enough to make my ears ring and gasp for breath from the concussion. I prayed that if I were going to get killed that it come instantly and no lingering. Later, it was rumored that some of those shells were our own and so they were. The artillery didn't know the position and was shelling where they thought the Jerries were. At the time we had no means of communication with the artillery.
I saw Leonard Zdara, a boy who had been in the same units with me since we had been in the Army. He was in A Co. and was trying to find battalion headquarters. I waved to him as he moved on and shells came to our front and he kept moving on. I could see he was a cool fellow and a good man in the field.
Cautiously, I got out of my hole and went up the hill to where Salas was located. He asked me if I had any supplies and I threw him my first aid kit full of Carlisles. He had one fellow with a slight wound in his leg. He told me that Evans had been scratched in the back and was evacuated the next day for that plus trench foot. While I was unfastening my first aid kit, a wounded fellow crawled out of his hole and came towards me and a guy called me to get up there and help him.
I said to take it easy and then threw Salas my aid kit and waved to Moe. Moe had done a good job with the machine guns, attached to C Co. The wounded fellow threw his arm around my shoulder and I half carried and half dragged him down the steep hill, but left the litter behind. I was tired out and when we had gone a flew yards we stopped and he sat down in the mud until I got my breath.
After starting out again, another fellow got on the other shoulder and helped me back around the corner. The wounded man could not go any further so I decided that I had better get him to some shelter. We turned off the road to a hole and it wasn't big enough. The other fellow said "Let's get him someplace, and in a hurry" and he pointed to a dugout up the side of the hill. We took off and got him inside and then sat down and rested. It had been a Jerry dugout with rough double deckers. I found Leo Weiner with Sgt. Hammac (Novie L.), and George (Jessie G., Jr.) and Rodrigues (Rodriguez, Sabino), a Mexican from the States, and as I remember, a good Joe and he proved to be one of the best fellows in the C Co. Lt. Hoffman (Huffman, Stanley M.?), a tall, lanky intelligent fellow from A Co., was shell happy and Leo was trying to take care of him. Sgt. Hammac shook when trying to load a machine pistol. Leo gave my wounded a shot of morphine and laid him down.
Another fellow popped in and told us that the sniper was seeing everything we were doing and that we couldn't move out of there before dark. An ASTP Charlie Co. fellow was the only one there who was taking it calmly and he tried to soothe the others and help Leo and me. Every few minutes we could hear the sniper pop away in our general direction and I sat down and tried to collect myself and thought "so this is war". I could see no heroism, no honor, no glory in the entire thing. It was so insane, so crazy, so wasteful, especially in human lives that I began to question my entire philosophy of life, asking why was all this necessary -- but I haven't fully answered that question yet.
I asked the lieutenants if they wanted to get out of there tonight and said that the best time would be just after dusk after the Jerries had thrown their evening shells. I assigned two men to each lieutenant and told them that when we took off to follow the road until after you crossed the little bridge, then turn across the stream and go into the dugout there for a breather, cross the hill and back to the aid station. About five o'clock Dog Co. took off running along with part of Charlie Co., back down the valley and out of there. I do not know whether they had orders or not but I think they had. It was pitiful to see those poor fellows, burdened down with guns and equipment, sliding and slipping, sometimes falling on their faces, while they got out of there in a hurry.
(to be continued)
Part #3 of 3 Parts:
1st Btn Medic litter bearer for the
405th (Story written in 1946)
(They are in a Jerry dougout,with a wounded
man and two shell shocked officers.)
It was getting dark so Leo, the other fellows and I got lined up. First, the two lieutenants, with two fellows beside them to help them if they went off completely or something. We were shelled for about 15 minutes straight and then I told them to take off and not to stop for anything.
Leo and I dragged the wounded man down the hill to the road. He asked me if we had got a wounded buddy of his and I lied, saying "yes". I didn't know him and he might have been rescued or maybe not. Leo praised me for staying behind to help him and the fellows. We didn't see the rest of the fellows until we got back to the dugout except Rod, who stopped about halfway back, walked with us and carried some of the equipment. Rod was a good Joe to remain with us and help. This type of men were the heroes who did a little extra to help others, forgetting themselves.
We met Farni (Robert F.) at the dugout and put the wounded on a litter and got him across the stream into the dugout with Lt. White of the 3rd Btn. Mac came out and asked if there were any more that we knew of and for us to go back to the aid station and get some relief.
I led what was left of Charley Co., Sgt. Hammac, Jessie George and for or five others. We returned across the beet patch, over the hill along the path that Krout and I had hauled wounded out yesterday. Sgt. Hammac remarked that he had a notion to turn in his stripes because the responsibilities of a noncom were heavy here. If he would mess up some of the fellows would be killed. I agreed with him.
The others started to lag behind and asked us to slow down, so I took some of their rifles and told them that we had better keep moving since the night artillery were starting to come on the lines a thousand yards ahead. We plugged on. I was relatively fresh compared to them as they had been out there three days without sleep and I'd had about three hours of rest back at the shack. They had endured constant shelling which was reported to be as heavy as the first few days of D-Day. This campaign had as heavy casualties as the Normandy campaign. We went past the old windmill, stopped at the water dump and all the fellows gulped down a lot of water and filled their canteens. I told Rodrigues that Immendorf was just on the other side of a clump of trees, so they left, thanking me for helping them. I was glad that I had been able to help these infantrymen who had been through hell and back. When he had been wounded, Titlebaum had said that he was very glad to see the medics come. Others of the wounded had said the same thing.
I was quite fatigued and plodded down the road to the aid station. I learned from some communications men that the aid station had moved out and the 407th was replacing us. I asked where they had gone and he directed me to Apweiler. I slowly plodded through the mud, knee deep, falling on my face twice, toward Apweiler. I first thought that it was Immendorf but I had gone to the left of Immendorf.
I found a group of engineers eating chow with messkits in the semi-moonlight. I laughed to myself. It would have been a distinct pleasure to eat out of a messkit. I inquired my way to Immendorf and was directed down through the village. At the far side of the village I came to a crossroads.
I noticed a light behind a poor blackout in a house nearby and pushed the blanket aside and stumbled in. I asked a captain where Immendorf was. He said down the road to the left. I thanked him and went out. I sat on the doorstep and took a short rest, not caring whether I returned or not. I soon got up and started for Immendorf, passing a crucifix that had been standing for a long time.
I continued plodding on down the road which was now level and open. To my right I could see the flares on the lines going up and lighting the area before fading out. I met two linemen fixing telephone wire along the road. They said Immendorf was the next town down over the hill. In the faint moonlight I could see the ever prominent church steeple of lmmendorf ahead of me. There were some planes overhead and artillery was booming occasionally &emdash; all else was quiet. I though just a few hours ago I had been where men were dying and being mutilated. Now I was safe and it was a relief to be out of the mess.
I gained some hope that I might live through the war. The thought also came to my mind that I could get lost on purpose and hole up somewhere. I didn't want to go back up front and get killed. However, I went on slowly and came into the town we had left two days ago. I recalled talking to Frank I and the fellows of F Co. and wondered how they fared. Near the place that I had seen Ballin (Orrin B.) and Zietz (Leon) bring in a casualty two days ago, a jeep stopped and picked me up. The driver had the Charley Co. boys that I had brought back to the water dump. They wondered where Charley Co. was and I said they could spend the night at the aid station and find the company in the morning. I gave them some K-rations and they slept on the floor upstairs.
I went over to the aid station and found plenty of business. Soon they brought in the fellow that I had helped drag back to the dugout where the lieutenants were. Casualties poured in all night. I went out to the kitchen and Currier (Theodore V.) gave me a drink of hot cocoa which he was keeping warm for the fellows as they came in. Lt. Rapp came up to me, grabbed my arm and said he was sure glad to see me and that the others were all right as far as he knew. Chaplain Hill (Charlie E.) and Pike were there, trying to comfort the wounded. The ambulances were coming in all the time and going out with more wounded. Mac said that I was the last of the litter bearers to get back in.
I returned to the kitchen and sat down. Leo remarked to the fellows that I had done a good job. I answered that we all had done our part, and that the aid men had the worst job with the companies. Harry came in, noting that I had gotten back OK and said that Barricelli (Mario G.), Held (Henry R.), and Wilty (Henry S., Jr.) had also. A little while later I went over to the cellar of the adjoining house, went downstairs and awakened John Campbello had gotten lost from A Co. when I squeezed in beside him into my sleeping bag. I tried to go to sleep but I was so emotionally tense that I couldn't sleep for awhile.
When we awakened the next morning we found that Leo had been evacuated for trench foot and that Currier (Theodore V.) had gone back for battle fatigue. We made a fire in the stove in the back room and Moe of D Co. and I tried to dry our wet clothes. Lt. Rapp came over with a pair of heavy wool socks for me as I had burned mine while trying to dry them. Schmidt (Robert A. Jr.) brought me a pair of boots which I desperately could have used the last three days, but I told him I didn't want them now.
Just then two big shells came in up the street killing Cheek (John R.) and Tunis of Headquarters Co. and almost getting Navarre (Eudis C.) who was standing in the doorway with his head out of the cellar telling us we better get downstairs. Moe remarked casually that they wouldn't get us. Then another big one in and Yount ducked in the doorway shaking like a leaf. Hammac thanked us for letting them stay there and he and his group went to find the Co. A. A few more wounded came in and Moe said that Englemen (Geroge S.) went back with battle fatigue. We ate a few K rations and tried to relax. Then in the late afternoon we packed the aid station to move out for the rear.
About 4 pm Hammac (Novie L.), Jacobsky (Jacobus, Carl A.?) and several other fellows of C. Co. brought in Jessie George who had gone crazy from drink. We tried to get him to lay on the floor and Harry hit him on the jaw and stunned him a little. He soon woke up and kept sobbing and struggling, yelling "I can take it. I'll show those Jerries. Give me a gun, I'll show those Jerries." Hammac tried to soothe him by telling him about Portland, OR. Then Capt. Gray brought in some sodium amytal and gave him a shot. He was very strong and it took six fellows to hold him down until the drug took affect. Harry accompanied him to the ambulance and he told us later that Jessie woke up and hit Harry, who hit him again and knocked him out.
They brought up the first news bulletin for the Regiment. The "Up Front News" made up by Capt. Schwabacher (Albert E., Jr.). It stated that the present battle was the worst since Normandy and that the battle for Leyte was progressing. We left just after dark in the ambulance. Fuller (Wilbur W.) asked me how I could whistle at a time like this. Moe swore and said that we had to keep a little of our sanity. I had been whistling unconsciously and it just occurred to me then that I hadn't done that for several days. We felt so good to be out of the war for a little while.
We located in Palenburg, first where regimental aid had been two weeks ago and then Lt. Hirst of A Co. chased us out to a place across the street. We fixed up two stoves and went to sleep in the cold because the stoves wouldn't work. I slept on a sofa out in the hallway. Just before we went to sleep A Co. came in across the street. The fellows were feeling good because it was such a relief to get out of the lines. Leonard was on guard at Co. HQ. He told me that he had heard a rumor that the Americans had attacked the Paramoshiri Islands. We lived on rumors. The companies had lost heavily from both wounded and trench foot.
We got up the next morning and ate a good cooked breakfast of french toast. Then we sat around the feeble kitchen fire and talked to a German boy of 13 who spoke English which he had learned in high school. He said he didn't like Hitler and would have to join the Hitler Youth next year. We couldn't tell whether he was telling the truth or not.
We received some mail that afternoon. I got a package and we ate it all in a few minutes. Padilla (Manuel O.)was evacuated with ear trouble and Fuller (Wilbur W.) returned to the Regt. with Capt. Krush (Thaddeus P.). I delivered a package to Carlin, (Clarence J.) at A Co. and we got our duffle bags. I threw a lot of stuff out and packed a lot of items that I needed. We took a shower at Heerlen, Holland. Tried to find a show that night but was disappointed. A part of the 327 Hospital and the 48th General Hospital were in Palenbung. I slept on the sofa in the lobby and it was cold.
The next morning we packed again, understanding that we were going on a defensive position and moved up this time to the edge of Geronsweiler to the right of Beeck. That evening we stayed with the truck in the house at the crossroads. Some outfit of corps artillery were using it for an CP. Harry, a few litter bearers including Krout and Schmidt and the others settled down in a house a few hundred yards back of us. While we were waiting for Capt. Gray we told the artillery lieutenant and several other fellows about some of the experiences we had just been through. They wondered how we made it and could not comprehend it to the extent we did.
This was a hot corner and every few minutes shells came in, hitting the house. We assembled and turned to the left and went into Geronsweiler, passing the 3rd Btn. Aid Station, and got to a school house where we were to set up.
Division. We parked the vehicle in a driveway and ran across to the school house and down into the cellar. We were assigned two rooms -- one on the right where we slept and one on the left where the technicians slept and worked. It was quiet around our place most of the day and when the 84th men moved out after dark we settled down and got some sleep. However, our building was shelled that night a couple of times and the next room was caved in to some extent. We were frightened and now it was dangerous to be outside; if one ventured out at all they ran to wheneever they were going.
We did not go out much the first day or two, just ate those ten-in-one sandwiches Schmidt and Homer fixed and brought over on plates to us. We received mail once on twice. I got a couple from home. Utley, from Hdqs on the other side of the cellar came over and told us the latest. After listening to this Tennessean we learned to like him and appreciate his enlightenment about everything. John Campbell had accidently got it in the leg from one of our grenades which had exploded in his foxhole. I went oven and talked with him, asking if he wanted anything. The next morning they got him on an ambulance and ran him back. The ambulance drivers said that the corner was still hot. It was on the main section of road leading to and from the front. We were only one block from the church, another hot place and the Jerries had hit it and our place also. It rained a few days and then we had several nice days. It was better for the men to have dry weather. We attacked on the third day.
Joe Duehn, a Dog Co. aid man, was hit in the left calf by a sniper while crawling out to a wounded man. He crawled into the aid station, losing a lot of blood on the way. For the attack, Harry and Snookie and several of the fellows as litter bearers went out just before dinner, going up past the church and the graveyard. They couldn't get to the wounded because of the machine gun fire and the Jerry tanks. They all came back except Krout who waited until dark to do anything.
The fourth day we were there Brewer (Clarence W.) was sent to Co. C to help Salas (Eusebio), Barricelli (Mario G.) went to Baker Co. to help Garman (William T.). Three replacements came up, too. The evening before the attack, Arthur (John Jr.), Chambers (Otis L.) and I were sent out in the jeep to get a casualty from C. Co. just at dusk. Artie was excited and turned left at the church and so had to turn around. Upon returning to the corner by the church, he was stuck behind a tank which was letting a wounded man off at the aid station. He had a bad leg wound and I helped a fellow take him off and into the house so we could get by. Artie yelled for me so I ran for the jeep and we took off past the church and graveyard and out onto the flat field. We looked for C. Co. and I finally found Salas who said he knew nothing of a casualty.
Chambers and I ran down a trench to the left and found a man in a dugout 300 yards from the road. He had been hit in the back by shrapnel. We got him out and then TDs were moving up towards us and a fellow ran out to guide them around us. The vision of a tank driver is very limited and he couldn't see the man in the trench at all.
We put the man on a litter and with two men from C. Co. went towards the jeep. When we got to the jeep we were panting. Arther had picked up two walking wounded, so we put the litter wounded on the litter racks and I node on the hood with him to steady him. I told Artie to step on it since it was time for the usual shelling at dusk.
Just as we got to the cemetery more TDs were coming from town and blocked the road. They stopped; so I yelled for them to pull over to let us past. They slowly moved over and just as we passed the edge of the trees the Jerries threw in about 20 shells along the road. A Baker Co. jeep coming from town blocked our path because the driver had jumped into the ditch. I yelled for Chambers to help me take the man down and run for the nearest house 200 yards away. He got the walking wounded out; then started to help me.
Just then Artie yelled at the Baker driver to move his jeep and trailer over. He did. We got the fellows on again and took off. Artie was so scared he took the corner at the church at about forty. I almost fell off because the litter came unhooked.
I had to fight to keep my balance and the litter on. We all sweated that short ride to get out of the shelling area. Some of the TDs were lit, I think.
When we reached the schoolhouse we yelled for help. I wasn't fully coherent. I had to get hold of myself and figure how to get this man out of there. We feared more shelling on the schoolhouse itself. Sgt. Burns of HQ and two other men from the aid station came out and got the wounded. As soon as Arthur got to the steps to the basement he started to cry vehemently. We tried to soothe him and he finally cried himself to sleep. I had trouble getting to sleep that night.
After getting the new password from me, Sgt. Schmidt (Robert A., Jr.) took off for the field and found a Jerry sniper in a hole along the road and brought him in. He had been hit in the head. They found a signal outfit on him made of reflector glass which was used to send messages back to the Jerries. He was only 17 years old, an SS man and a Hitler Youth. He was taken back for questioning and from then on things were quiet around the aid station, maybe because of him.
A shell had hit the church and knocked the steeple to pieces and set a house on fire which burned for a day or two. A day or two later we went out with the jeep and left it by a small apple orchard. Three of us, guided by two infantrymen went up the road that led to Lindern and came to a cabbage patch where we got a sergeant with stomach cramps. McKenna and his I & R platoon were trying to locate gunfire across the Roer River. We were sending plenty of artillery over to them. The Jerries tried to retreat from the river bank as the 406th took Linnich completely.
We took our casualty back and slept until Harry awakened us by telling us that Lt. McKenna (Charles F.) had ordered us out. He had received a report that there were casualties at Baker Co. He wanted the jeep to go into town but Harry said he couldn't have it. McKenna told Henry he could be court-martialed for disobeying an officer but Henry said he had orders from Capt. Gray to use the jeep for casualties and he wouldn't budge until he received orders from Capt. Gray. McKenna got a call from Baker (about 500 yards up the road) asking about a litter. Henry told us to go out some distance and see if we could find anyone and if not, to return. When we found Baker Co. We also found the wounded had already been evacuated.
I found Leonard and all his fellows were plodding along through the mud. I offered to carry someone's gun and belt, but he refused so I fell back to the rear to help stragglers. One man went flat on his face at the church corner and I helped him up and offered to take his gun but he declined.
You can't help but have the deepest admiration and respect for those fellows who wouldn't quit. Something that a person cannot realize until one experiences it himself is this deep comradeship that men can have for one another, forgetting themselves and trying to help the other fellow when in danger and when wounded. The infantrymen praised the medics, saying we would go and rescue men while they could stay in their holes. I said "yes". that the aid men, with the infantry, did have the most dangerous job in the medics.
While our position was sometimes tough, it was not as dangerous as the infantrymen.
----- Fred Sutton
(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, "The Attack on Beech", by Fred Sutton, 405th, Med. Det., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes",
Part #1:Vol. 51, No. 4, July / Sept., 1999, pp. 10 - 13.
Part #2:Vol. 52, No. 1, Oct./ Dec., 1999, pp. 7 - 10.
Part #3:Vol. 52, No. 2, Jan./ March, 2000, pp. 8 - 11.
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 2 July 2003.
Story added to website on 4 July 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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