Heroes: the Army
"...We approached the river and were on a small hill overlooking it. A winding road for about 100 yards led down to the boats. We stopped on the top of this road when all hell broke loose. The Jerrys had the place zeroed in and big artillery shells started dropping around us. A big one fell about 50 yards in front of me and I could hear screaming and moaning of the wounded..."
Eugene M. Greenburg
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. F., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1943 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: S/Sgt., (2) Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1922
- Entered Service: New York
Gene Greenburg: Background Information:
Gene Greenberg was a Sgt. in Co. F., 405th and was in Jim Hansen's platoon. Greenberg's story is very unusual because it was kept as a daily diary while in combat conditions. The keeping of such a diary under those conditions was "strongly advised against".
The following story is part of a collection of stories entitled the "Kitchen History Collection" which is a history preservation project of Mr. Edward L. Sauder -- the subject of another of our stories of men who served in Co. F., 405th Regiment, 102nd Division (2nd Battalion).The following narrative is descriptive and extremely well written by the subject of this essay -- Gene Greenberg.
Webmaster note: You will obviously notice a series of these numbers throughout the following narrative [158-15]. The reason these appear is to give a referrence point. The first number is the page number of the typed text submitted to this reseacher while the second number is the actual page number as assigned when the story was saved into my database for quick referrence.
Eugene M. "Gene" Greenburg
Image taken somewhere in Germany in 1945
(Image courtesy of Eugene Greenburg)
Gene's World War II Diary:
Men in Platoon of 1st squad only up to Rhine
Smith -- Baltimore, Md. -- Transferred to 1st plt.
Parise -- Fall Rivers, Mass. -- Hit in foot at Lefarth.
Molina -- Arizona -- Killed at Beeck.
Taverez -- Marfa, Texas -- Drowned in Roer River.
Doherty -- Utah -- Hit mine at Breyar Woods, broke leg.
Wright -- Nebraska -- Shot in arm at Geronsweiler
Brophy -- Fargo, N.Dakota - Home.
Galloway -- (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.) Duncan, Oklahoma -- Hit in foot and hip at Roerdorf
Overman -- N. Carolina -- Hit in arm at Roerdorf -- back with company.
Coudira -- Louisana -- Drowned in Roer River.
Burke -- Detroit, Mich.-- Captured at Roer and was M.I.A. for five months.
Ybarra -- Arizona -- Drowned in Roer.
Hill -- Iowa -- Transferred to 4th plt.
Nolan, Leonard -- Newark, N.J. -- Drowned in Roer River.
Ravera -- N.Y., N.Y. -- Drowned in Roer River
White -- Keidveky -- Captured ar Roer and was M.I.A. for five months.
D. Giovanni -- Illinois -- Home.
Saturday, September 11.
We left Camp Kilmer with all our belongings and marched down to the train. After the usual delays, the train started and in about an hour we were in Hohoken. The people in the houses along the tracks knew where we were going and waved us goodby. It was dark when we detrained and boarded a ferryboat that took us down the bay to Staten Island. The lights of Manhatten disappeared as did the few lights of the Statue of Liberty and I knew it would be some time before I saw those sights again. None of us spoke very much and when we did it was a masquerade to cover up our emotions. A. band played for us as we waited to board theship. Red Cross women gave us coffee, donuts, and candy. We were checked off, boarded the ship, and were assigned to our bunks. Went to sleep.
Sunday, September 12.
Woke up, dressed, and looked around. The ship had weighed anchor at 4 A..M. and land was no longer in sight. It was a grey day and the sea was rough. The ship was larger than I thought it was. It was the "John Erickson" sister ship of the "Gripsholen", a 28,000 tonner and the largest ship in the convoy. It must have been a German ship as we found places where swasticas had been erased and many of the signs were still in German. It was the largest ship and the flagship of the convoy. The convoy consisted of 59 ships and [145-02] an escort of 15 warships - the largest a destroyer. Obviously, there was little fear of U-boats or surface raiders.
Monday, September 13.
The day was pretty rough (the sea) and many of the men were seasick. I felt funny but did not get sick. We got up a 8 and stood in line to get show and then ate chow standing up in a very hot atmosphere. It took a long time to eat and doing this three times per day made the day quite short. Lunch was very short consisting of coffee or soup plus a few crackers. To supplement this food we would buy from the P.X. whole boxes of candy that we would devour.
At night I went up on deck and saw a beautiful sight. There were no lights on any of the ships that I could see clearly in the moonlight - they looked like ghosts. The water sparkled like diamonds because of flourescent plants.
Tuesday, September 14.
The sea was calm and the weather warm. We always carried our life belts with us and had lifeboat drill every afternoon. We lived two decks below the observation deck in the hold of the ship. Every available space was used for bunks and there were three layers. The bunks were not long enough for me. Every bit of the ship is used for carrying something-lifebelts, lifeboats, rubber floats, even a motor boat. We had only one load on this ship which made it a little more comfortable. On some ships which were doubly loaded one shift would stay on deck while the others slept and then they would change over. There was a Regimental Combat Team plus special units on board -- 5500 men in all.
Wednesday, September 15.
The sea was rough and cold. More men sick. I didn't feel anything and didn't have any trouble the rest of the trip. For entertainment we had movies, shows, read books, wrote letters and slept. There was one entertainer who I liked very much and whom I think after the war will go places. His name is Danny Mento and is a soldier in the Division. I think I must have read at least thirty books in coming across. Walking along the deck in the afternoon was quite a job. There were G.I.s sprawled out sleeping, reading, or playing cards. We would get the news over the loudspeaker system every day.
Saturday, September 18.
The sea was not calm but the weather was fair. The fellows started talking about girls, where we were going, girls, would we go to England or France, girls, how we "love the Army", girls, and last but not least, girls.
Sunday, September 19.
Things still quiet and the trip quite boring.
Monday, September 20.
[146-03] The sky was grey and a bit foggy. We were in the U-boat area and the escorts were on thin toes. At one time an escort charged a little to our right and dropped depth charges. However it was only a false alarm. However during those few minutes the convoy did all kinds of contortions and maneuvers in order to get ready for trouble. The crew rushed to their posts and in a few seconds had the guns and ack-ack ready for action. These Merchant Marine boys know their stuff and seem to lead a pretty good life. Every day the gun crew would go through maneuvers practicing for probable combat with Jerry Planes. The ack-ack guns were fired at imaginary planes.
Tuesday, September 21.
All's quiet on the Western Atlantic.
Wednesday, September 22.
In the afternoon we saw land for the first time. We kept seeing them most of the day including the famous "White Cliffs" of England. Toward evening we entered the harbor of Weymouth for the night. Our ship was guided thru the mine fields and then we stopped. We could see gun positions jutting out among the cliffs. There were also a group of L.S.T.s in the harbor. We learned that we would land in Cherboury the following day. Went to sleep for the last time on this boat.
Thursday, September 23.
We left England for France at daybreak and arrived in Cherbourg at noon. The port took a terrific pounding before we arrived. We did not get off the ship till night. The port was brilliantly lit as there was little fear for German aircraft. We went ashore in barges as the piers were damaged too badly. It was raining now and we waited on the pier that the Normandie once used. The trucks finally arrived and we passed thru the station that was partially destroyed. The trucks took us in a driving rain 10 miles from Cherbourg. We detrucked and carrying all we owned including full duffle bag we marched 3-1/2 miles up and down hill to our area. This is one of the most trying marches I ever had to partake in. When we arrived we pitched tents in a downpour in total darkness. It was 4A.M. when I crawled into tent all wet. This was Army life at its best. The area we were in was called Area M-119 and it was to be our home for a month. Quite a muddy home, at that.
Friday, September 24.
Spent the day getting set. Normandy is divided into fields with hedges. Each Company was assigned to a field. We were cautioned not to get near hedges as many of them were mined or booby trapped. Inspected the surrounding area. All hilly but the scenery isn't bad. I am able to speak with the natives a bit. I guess 3 years of French in school wasn't in vain. We didn't like the Normcius. They were not too [147-04] friendly and seemed to have never taken a bath in their life. We are eating "C" rations till the kitchen comes up. No mail. We are in the 9th Army. Never heard of the 9th Army. The nearest town is called LeVast. This is the type of terrain that gave the American Army so much trouble when it first landed in France.
Saturday, September 25.
It's raining. In fact it rains most every day in Normandy. Tents are no help as the rain comes thru. We spend most of the day reading, sleeping and eating "C"s. We give the natives chocolate, gum, and cigarettes for eggs, potatoes which we eat. A very interesting observation -- every man runs to the latrine 7 or 8 times a day due to the dampness of the ground, to urinate, At night there is a regular procession to the latrine. Since it is pretty cold at night it is quite an effort to get up and go 100 yards to the latrine. Hoover dug himself a tunnel from his tent to a nearby ditch so he would not have to get up. Received a ration card for P.X. rations but there were no P.X. rations to get in the area.
Sunday, September 26.
We decided to go to Cherbourg. It was "OFF LIMITS" but that didn't bother us. We were hungry as "C" rations weren't filling and we were tired of eating green apples. We walked 3-1/2 miles to the highway and then hitched to Cherbourg. It looked quite different in the daytime and had been shelled quite badly. We went directly to the Red Cross and ate 12 donuts. We wandered around the town, took in a movie and came back same way. Saw some German prisoners and among them were some Japs.
Monday, September 27.
Started training. Consisted of going on hikes and listening to lectures plus physical training and bayonet drill. This lasted till 5 when we were free. For entertainment we saw an occasional movie or U.S.O. show.
Tuesday, September 28.
Raining. In fact it rained most of the time we were in Normandy and therefore the training wasn't too intense as we spent most of the time in tents trying to keep the tents from leaking. The kitchen arrived but the food was so poor we wished we were back eating "C" rations. Still no mail. The weather was pretty cold and especially at night. When we saw a movie here it wasn't in a theater but in an open field. The screen was set up on some sticks and a small motor would power the movie machine. We would freeze waiting for the picture to start and then freeze thru the whole show.
Wednesday, September 29.
We took a hike to a French castle. Very interesting but [148-05] that's all. There were two men to a tent. We had new tents that allowed us to close it at both ends, unlike the old pup tents. We kept all our belongings at one end of the tent and it was always a battle to get something because whatever we wanted was at the bottom of the pile.
Thursday, September 30.
Training schedule when it stopped raining for a few minutes. Spent the time in tents reading books and writing letters. Were able to get some potatoes from the natives and baked potatoes in the evening. Still no mail.
Friday, October 1.
Training schedule as usual. General Keating spoke to us saying that we would be in action before the snow flies. Told us to brush our teeth and shave.
Saturday, October 2.
Training as usual. In the evening we traded the natives for a rabbit and chicken and decided to cook it on Sunday. The people here didn't seem to have suffered from German occupation very much. There was ample food for all and the children had the rosiet cheeks I've ever seen on any body.
Sunday, October 3.
We were able to get potatoes and carrots and together with the rabbit and chicken we made a very interesting meal. Of course we weren't the best cooks but then again we were hungry.
In the afternoon we went to Cherbourg. Chipped in a dollar a piece to buy a Black Market bottle of wine. Drank it but didn't like it. Wandered around. Went to the Red Cross and loaded an ammunition bag with about 40 donuts that would last us a few days back in camp. We were now getting P.X. rations if you wish to call it that. We would get a tropical Hershey Bar and a stick of gum each day.
Monday, October 4.
Took an all day hike to the coast where we inspected some of the German pillboxes overlooking the coast. We could also see the barbed wire entanglements about 50 feet out from the beach that was to impede landing boats from getting ashore. The pillboxes had been hit pretty hard by direct hits by air power and were in a poor condition. However the 15 mile round trip up hill and down dale wasn't worth the little there was to see. Came back pretty tired. We then usually washed our feet and rested them as we did not want them to get blistered or swollen.
Tuesday, October 5.
Training and raining. The mail has finally arrived and it was very welcome. Received about 15 letters. The Red Cross came around with some coffee and donuts.
Tuesday, October 6.
[149-06] Still raining. In between showers we would play baseball and football. The company had a team and we would play the various other teams in the Reg't football.
Captain Peterson was the C.O. at the time and Lt. Fletcher my platoon leader. We didn't think too much of "Fletch" as a leader. No self-confidence and no authority. According to Peterson the Ziegfried Line should be very easy to breach. We were to learn this as being very wrong at a later date.
Thursday, October 7.
Training. Never mentioned the planes that were constantly flying overhead. They were C-47's and squadrons passed overhead bringing up gas and ammunition and bring back the wounded.
Saturday, October 8.
Raining and very little training. A few men who could drive trucks were put on detached service and were put on the "Red Ball" express route to Paris. The Red Ball was the name given to the trucks that brought supplies directly to Paris. They had a red ball painted on the truck and had first priority on the roads and went as fast as possible. Trucks were the main way of bring up supplies at the time as the railroads had been knocked out by both the Allies and the Germans. The trucking service from Paris to the front was call the "Blue Ball" express.
Sunday, October 10.
Went to Cherbourg. At our area we were given P.X. rations once a week and would have it checked off on our ration cards. We were according to this not supposed to get anymore rations for another week. However we would go the P.X. in Cherbourg and get what we were entitled to but couldn't get in camp. We would then go outside, erase the card, and go in and get more P.X. rations. By the third time, the card would have a hole in it from so much erasing. By that time it would be necessary to argue with the Frenchmen who ran the P.X. why we had holes in the card. He couldn't speak English and I told him I couldn't speak French so nothing could be done and he would give us the rations and we would go to the Red Cross, load an ammunition bag with donuts and go back to the area.
Monday, October 11.
Raining and training. Getting tired of eating apples. Had our first chance to get a real shower. Walked two miles to where an Engineering unit at a water plant had set up a shower unit where ten men could go in at a time for five minutes. We had to work fast but the water was hot and we cleaned off the worst of the dirt on us. We had the privilege of coming to this place about once every two weeks. Usually we washed ourselves by taking a bird bath. This consisted of washing ourselves in a steel helmet. We [150-07] also washed our worn clothing in this manner. The clothing has sort of a tattle -- tale grey when we finished but it was the best we could do.
Wednesday, October 13.
Training. The hikes we had everyday or so really were something. In the afternoon it would get pretty warm and we would sweat while walking. The country here was just one hill after another but it seemed as if we were always going uphill. We always carried light field pack, belt, and rifle. We passed the B.A.R. around as it was heavy.
Thursday, October 14.
Training. We were shown demonstrations using Jerry weapons and soldiers dressed as German soldiers. Very interesting to learn how a Jerry squad operates. Also saw a demonstration explaining the various uniforms and insignias of the German Army and Air Force. We were given a lecture on security especially with mail that we always has on us. We learned and executed later on line when receiving a letter always to destroy the address, so in case of capture by the enemy our outfit could not be found out. We spent a great deal of our time cleaning our weapons as the damp air in Normandy made them quite rusty.
Friday, October 15.
Nothing different except rumors that we were going to move soon.
Saturday, October 16.
Training and rumors seem to be true. Heard we are going to move up to the Paris area for awhile.
Sunday, October 17.
Went to Cherbourg for what was to be our last time. Had a good time and came back.
Monday, October 18.
Training as usual. Told we would be leaving soon.
Tuesday, October 19.
Wednesday, October 20.
No training today. Told to get our equipment ready as we would be moving the next day -- not to Paris -- but up on line, or near it anyway.
Since there were no radios we became dependent on two publications to inform us with what was going on in the world. They were the "Stars and Stripes" and "Yank". The "Stars and Stripes" was the newspaper that we usually received two or three days late but that didn't bother us as we enjoyed reading it. "Yank" magazine gave us very interesting articles and last but not least "Sad Sack" as in it. [151-08]
Thursday, October 21.
Woke up in a drizzling rain. Knocked down our tents and rolled full field packs. We started out on march carrying following: full field packs, ammunition bag with toilet articles, belt, rifle, steel helmet. Duffle bags were to be carried by truck. The rain was a little heavier as we walked 10 miles to Valogne. This town had been badly damaged during heavy fighting. It was a miserable trip and we were pretty tired. Told we wouldn't board boxcars till following day. We set up tents in any fashion, ate "C" rations and tried to get some sleep.
Friday, October 22.
In the morning we loaded onto the boxcars with our equipment and duffle bags. It was sort of crowded as there were 35 of us in each car. Not very comfortable. We passed thru St Lo and Caen. There was nothing but rubble left of these cities. We would wave and yell at every female we would see from 6 to 60 and they would wave back. We threw the kids gum and candy the men cigarettes and the girls propositions. It turned out to be a giving affair, nothing coming. The phrase "chocolate for mama" took on new meaning.
Saturday, October 23.
After a sleepless night we had another chance to look at the French scenery. Today we passed thru Versaille and Campaigne. We ate 10 in 1 rations while on the train. Every once in a while the train would stop and we would jump off and attempt to heat something with our squad stove. However the train would usually start moving and we would have to throw everything back onto the train to hop on. We passed most of the time playing cards, reading books or trying to sleep or trying to heat some coffee in a cup while the train rattled to and fro.
Sunday, October 24.
Again we had little chance to sleep as we were packed like sardines. We stopped at Liege for awhile and finally arrived at Tongeren where we detrained. We heard but did not see some U-1's near Liege. We spent the night in Tongeren and heard that we would immediately go up front. However we spent the night sleeping in the railroad station. From the time we went up on line till we crossed the Roer River our Division was the farthest north of any American Division. We were the left boundary of the whole American Army. On our left were the British and on the right was the 84th and 29th divisions.
Monday, October 25.
Took off in morning for forward positions. We arrived there and were now 10 miles from the front lines. We could hear artillery occasionally. Did not feel too brave now. The captain brought us together and told us that we were [152-09] actually in Germany and the only Army that was. We were to work together with the 2nd Arm'd division. While he was talking a German plane buzzed nearby and dropped a bomb five miles away. A moment later I found myself at the bottom of a foxhole with the captain and the rest of the company on top of me. With the scare over we dug foxholes, pitched tents, and surprisingly fell asleep while artillery positions near us banged away.
Tuesday, October 26.
Spent the day getting ready to move up to the lines that night. Were told to take essentials and leave everything else in duffle bags. Did this and carried only a full field pack with ammunition and grenades. This was the last I was to see of my belongings as the duffle bags were taken to a cave back in Holland and were looted of all valuables. When darkness fell we prepared to move. Were scared out of our wits by some American artillery units that opened up a few hundred yards from us. This was our first encounter of war noises and most of us did not take to it naturally. We waited hour after hour and finally about 2300 hours the trucks arrived. We started moving up.
Wednesday, October 27.
The trucks moved slowly without lights in the inky darkness. We detrucked as it started to rain. We noticed we were in a little town. We moved over to the side of the buildings and waited for three hours. Occasionally some of our shells would pass over our heads on their way to the Heinies. The name of the town was Frelenberg. We were told to drop our packs and personal articles in the middle of the street in the rain and make up a combat pack. We did this and moved off picking up a shovel on the way. The captain took us up front and showed us just where we should dig our foxhole. They were to be our main foxholes and we spent most of the night digging them. Each hole was about 30 yards from each other. A captured German pillbox was bout 80 yards behind us. We made many mistakes and wasted time that we could have used for rest but it was only through experience that we learned to correct these mistakes.
Thursday, October 28.
When morning came I was able to see what was what. I had just finished spending my first night in the lives and had jumped for my rifle at every sound I heard. Grenades were always handy for instant use. I could see the pillbox behind me and was told it was to be the C.P. for our platoon. Three machine gun positions had been set up near us, taken from the 4th platoon. We did not set foot outside the foxhole during the day and just peeked out most of the time. In front we could see nothing and put more of our head up. Suddenly we heard something coming and ducked. It was German mortar shells coming in and some of them exploded near the pillbox. We kept our head down for awhile. An [153-10] F.O. was put in the observation post of the pillbox. We ate "K" rations and used the wax boxes for urinating, etc. We were to do this many times before the war was over. Slept a little during the day. Went on guard during the night.
Friday, October 29.
About 5 A.M. -- food and water would be brought us out to our holes. During the night in order to keep warm and being bored we improved our holes. Still it was funny compared to the super foxholes I would dig in the future. This hole was 5 feet deep, and 3 feet by 2 feet in width. We had learned this in basic but we learned they were no good in which to stay a few days. During the day we started crawling from one hole to another as we were lonely. We found that no one shot at us and we could see nothing so we started walking around with no one shooting at us. However when we heard a mortar shell coming in or going out we would dive for the hole. It took awhile for us to determine which were our shells going out and which were coming in. It would get dark about 5 P.M. when we started guard and did not get light till 7 A.M. We did not stand guard during the day but the long hours were killing us.
Saturday, October 30.
Something had to be done about these long hours with no sleep in the day and it was done. During the night two squads stood guard and one slept in the pillbox. In the daytime this squad would stand guard while one squad would go to the pillbox to rest and the other squad back to Freylenberg for a good meal and a chance to wash up. This was rotated each day for a different squad. During the night a Yank tank hit a mine near us and started to burn and the shells inside started exploding. It burned all night. The crew was unharmed but the tank was rendered useless.
Sunday, October 31.
This morning was a bright day and wasn't raining for a change. The artillery liason planes were flying overhead when suddenly one dived for the ground followed by a German plane. Ack-ack came up and hit Jerry who went into flames and crashed. The liason plane was safe. At night we could hear fleets of Allied planes flying for hours over us on their way to Germany. Sometimes we could see bomb bursts on Cologne - 30 miles away. Once we saw a bomber burst into flames at night and crash. During the day C-47's and Mustangs flew around looking for Jerry in the air and on land.
Monday, November 1.
When our squad went to Freylenberg it was really a holiday. We were tired of "C" and "K" rations and a hot meal was worth the while. We left for Freylenberg before daylight and did not go back till dark as sometimes we were shelled. The town was small and there wasn't a building intact. The [154-11] co. kitchen, supply room, etc. were in basements. We ran around to the different houses picking up souvenirs and jars of preserved fruits in the basement. Naturally we always had our rifle, belt and gas mask even though there were no Germans in the town. We were always sorry to leave the ruins of Freylenburg.
Tuesday, November 2.
This German pillbox we were in part of the time was the first I had ever seen. It was of the large variety. Most of it was under the ground with the entrance in the rear. It had a turret on top for a machine gun and there were portholes in every direction. The inside was composed of two large compartments. There were about 22 bunks hanging from the sides of the wall. When the Germans ran the pillboxes they had electric lights, stoves and air conditioning for gas attack. The way the Germans planned it there were trenches and foxholes around the pillbox where the German Infantry would stay but if things were too hot they would retreat to the safety of the pillbox.
Wednesday, November 10.
We moved up to Breyan Woods. This was a sector where there had been some fighting going on of late. We were relieving "E" Co. which had a few casualties. "E" Co. had smartened up and had built 2 man foxholes that we moved into. These holes that we were to always use in the future were about 5 feet deep, 8 feet long and 3-1/2 feet wide. A couple of doors are put over the hole and dirt on top. A narrow opening is left to stand guard. The doors and dirt was for protection against "time fire" and the weather. The hole was long enough to lie down on and two men allowed one to sleep while the other stood guard. Ammunition, grenades and rifle were on ledges near the opening ready for immediate use.
Thursday, November 11
Up here things were indeed hotter. The weapons platoon with its mortars were just behind us and the German artillery was always trying to get them and we naturally kept low in our holes. Our platoon was in reserve up here and we were a little behind the 1st and 3rd platoons. We were already catching on to the "tricks of the trade". We were learning better ways to eat, sleep, rest and stand guard. We were seeing things that were hardening us for the future. Here and there were some bodies of German or American soldiers that have been dead for some time. A short distance from us was the body of a Jerry that had been run over by a tank - not a pleasant sight.
Friday, November 12.
During the day we wandered around. Since we were in reserve and a patch of trees separated us from the sight of the enemy we did not have to worry much about direct rifle fire [155-12] although German artillery continued to harass us. We were eating 10-in-i rations and although they were better than "C", "K", and "D" rations they were still not particularly wonderful. Doherty and Galloway (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.) therefore increased the menu for the squad by shooting one of the many cows that are roaming around. With the gas stove we were able to fry our steaks and we ate steaks for a few days. The steaks weren't particularly tender but it was something to eat and we liked it well enough. The 3rd squad was sent up front and attacked to the 1st platoon.
Saturday, November 13.
We had a little excitement early this morning. At 1 A.M. I was awakened by shooting. Hill was on guard at the time. It seemed two Germans had come in to surrender and had somehow passed thru the 1st and 3rd platoon lines. They came up to us yelling surrender. Molieu became excited and pumped a tracer between the legs of one of them who turned and ran the other remaining. The one running ran the length of the holes being shot at but not being hit. Lind however threw a grenade that brought him down. He was dead when they examined him. The other prisoner was brought to the rear for questioning. This incident caused us to be a little more alert for the rest of the night. It seems the longer the man stands guard the less alert he is. A man in combat a year is more careless on guard than one who has seen two months of combat.
Sunday, November 14.
Was lucky enough to win a pass. As we looked back at it, it was more a laugh than a pass as we were gone from dawn to darkness. It consisted of leaving about 5A.M. and walking back three miles where trucks picked up the four men from each co. We arrived in time for a hot breakfast the first we had eaten in a long time. We naturally always carried our rifle, belt and gas mask no matter where we went. At this rest center in Pallenberg we were able to wash and cleanup and also get fresh clothing. We were able to write letters here and get some books to read and take back with us. We saw a movie in the afternoon and although it broke down a dozen times or more it was entertaining. After supper we took trucks back and walked the three miles to our holes and arrived just in time to stand our turn at guard.
Monday, November 15.
Came back to find a few things had occurred in my absence. Hill had been transferred to the 4th platoon and since I was on pass our hole had been unoccupied. In our absence a shell had landed right on the roof of it and that was that. I buddied up with Galloway (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.) and Brophy. Even though we did not have direct rifle fire occasionally at night stray bullets would come singing their merry way. Its not a pleasant sound to hear a bullet zing past although when you hear that sound you know that the bullet has missed you. It [156-13] was one of these stray bullets that scratched Tideback just above the eye. It was a slight scratch and he didn't require any treatment but it was close. Some of the men seemed to be getting sick and about 4 or 5 were back in the hospital.
Tuesday, November 16.
1st squad moved up front to relieve the 3rd squad. The holes were pretty poor from heavy rains and were either caving in or very muddy. Taverez and I were the point -- that is our hole was about 40 yards out further than the rest. We were in an apple orchard while the land in front of us was bare. About 50 yards behind us was a dead German, he being black from being there so long a time. About 200 yards to our left was a building in the cellar of which there was the 1st plt. C.P. Outside were two more dead Jerries - also black. Burke and D. Giovanny joined our squad being on line for the first time. We were 3 week veterans but talked like 3 year vets. DiGiovanni came into my hole and Taverez's.
Wednesday, November 17.
About midnight things started to happen. It has been a pitch black night and DiGiovanni was a bit nervous - so was I. Mice were jumping practically over our heads scaring us to death. Phil when on guard would call me every few minutes that he heard something. And it was only mice. Suddenly we heard firing on our left -- a great deal of it. The three of us got ready and stood with grenades in hand but couldn't see each other it was so dark. In a while the firing ceased and we found out what occurred. 40 Germans attacked our flank and succeeded in knocking out our machine gun position and wounding three men. However we killed 5 Germans and took 10 prisoners. Learned later that 40 more Jerry's were to attack on our side but must have got lost. We did not do much sleeping the rest of the night and the grenades did not leave our hands when we stood guard.
Thursday, November 18.
After a quiet day night approached and more trouble. A mouse touched off a booby trap and a grenade was thrown in the same direction and exploded just behind us. Artificial moonlight lit up the whole area. Then the artillery barrages started. First German shells started falling all around. They got tired of this and then the Yank artillery started falling - on us. The German and Yank artillery took turns trying to hit us and how they missed is beyond us. We did not get any sleep that night. We did not even stand guard cause we figured any Jerry wandering around in that barrage would not wander too far.
In the morning the 84th Div. attached thru us. That explained the heavy barrage. The 84th was a new Div. and showed a great deal of confusion and at first when they came thru us they thought we were Jerry but we quickly convinced [157-14] them who we were. They went forward and although casualties were coming back they seemed to be gaining their objective. Prisoners were being brought back and we lined them up, searched them and sent them back to the rear. I picked up a pair of field glasses that I later sent home. Doherty was going out to search some prisoners when he stepped on a booby trap breaking his ankle -- lucky guy. The 84th and the British were both attacking Geilenkirken. We had marked our lines and P-47's and 51's were giving them support. We were able to sleep halfway decently that night as we know the 84th was in front of us. We had been given sleeping bags but they were no good cause it took too long to get out of.
Friday, November 19.
It was an easy day as we did not have to stand guard since we were way behind the lines since the British and the 84th had taken Geilenkirken cleaning up the town except some snipers. We had a chance to wash up and write some letters. Clean clothing was brought up. Was told we were moving in an hour. We gathered our equipment and ammunition and moved back to Frelenburg. We moved into a house but planned to sleep in the cellar as it was safer. We received a great deal of mail here and it was here I received by first package. It contained a salami and it sure tasted good. We were told to be ready to move in the morning.
Saturday, November 20.
We left in a drizzling rain for Geilenkirken. We walked along the railroad most of the way as it lead right into the city. A section of the Zigfried Line was built along the tracks. On one side of the tracks were lines of "dragon's teeth" that were tank obstacles. On the other side were some high cliffs that had pillboxes tucked in deep. As we were walking along the Engineers started blowing the pillboxes and bits of concrete and rocks started to fall among us. We dove into the ditches along the road and cursed the Engineers for about five minutes. We walked into Geilenkirken with rifles ready for action as snipers were still reported around. We selected a house and spent the night there.
Sunday, November 21.
We didn't do much here except loot what we could. There weren't any German civilians left and the streets were deserted and the houses smashed. Brophy found a large safe that was locked and with the help of a little TNT the lock was blown off. About 10 dozen fresh eggs were found inside. We ate eggs till they came out of our ears. In the afternoon we heard some firing. It seemed a sniper was in a church steeple. A tank came up and took care of that rat. A couple more rats were captured. I personally do not think snipers should be taken prisoner. We moved about 4 P.M. We walked bout 5 miles to Prummein. We were quartered in something worse than a barn and we were told to get some sleep as we would see action next A.M. They weren't [158-15] kidding.
Monday, November 22.
Early in the morning we awoke, ate a K ration and were given a couple bandoleirs of ammo and a couple grenades. We were told our objective was to take Beeck -- a reg't objective. Co. F was to be in Battalion reserve. 1st Battalion on left, 3rd on right. It was raining as usual when we left Prummein. We walked up the road and then left it and were in wide open country. We were deployed in formation -- spread out as much as possible. We could see tanks out in front blasting away. We kept on walking in rain and finally we were in enemy artillery range. Lindsey was hit by shrapnel in face and had most of his teeth knocked out. Bleeding as he was he walked around shaking our hands before going back to the rear for help. We jumped into foxholes as the tanks had been stopped.
The tanks were having a rough time and a few had been knocked out - we could see the British tank crews running back to safety. We kept moving up with out tanks and passed a knocked out Jerry tank burnt bodies in and around the tank. Heard E and G companies were having a rough time because of many pillboxes. We were committed went around on the right flank. It was getting dark and 1st and 3rd platoons moved ahead -- suffered casualties and dug in for night - we did same. Am at no time giving Co. casualties, just platoon. Hoover was hit in leg. Still raining. Machine guns kept chattering all night and raining all night. While on guard in dark I saw a tank coming straight for the hole Coudra and I were in. I went out of hole and yelled for it to turn as I noticed it was a British tank -- It did. K rations were brought up at 4 A.M. -- after a sleepless night. It was still raining. Incident in afternoon. A few prisoners were captured and were walking back -- one wounded and complained he couldn't walk further. Parise went to look at him and a grenade fell off from his belt. The Jerry reached for it - Treifer, Clements and I shot him before he could pull pin.
Tuesday, November 23.
At 10 A.M. the 1st and 3rd platoon moved up and we did the same to take over their holes. Coudira, I and Molina moved up first. I saw bullets knocking up dirt at my feet and advised Coudira to hurry. I heard a yell behind me -- Milina had been killed instantly by a bullet thru his heart by sniper. Sniper kept shooting at us but we could not locate him. It was pouring rain. Our Thanksgiving dinner consisted of K ration. Told we would change when tanks came up to support us. We put up smoke screen and Jerrys knew something was going to happen so he threw everything he had at us. Hell itself couldn't have been any worse. Our rifles were in sad shape -- so were we. Because of mud not one rifle in squad would fire. Tanks never showed up so we did not advance. Wrong order was given to 1st and 3rd plt. [159-16] who advanced and had large casualties and had to retreat. We retreated also back to our holes of the morning -- still being shot at by sniper we couldn't locate. All afternoon we had heard the yells of a boy wounded about 100 yards in front of us. It was impossible to get to him. It was still raining. Stivali was hit coming back but it was only a scratch and he was OK. Ate K rations in holes and wondered what was going to happen now. Heard the C.O. was hit -- not bad. When it became dark we built new foxholes as the old ones were kneedeep in water and mud. Thought we would get a bit of rest but didn't. The wounded had to be found and carried in. Carrying a wounded man is the hardest thing to do even for four men -- it wears you our in a few minutes and we weren't in tip top shape in first place. A few fellows actually cried they were so -- tired. When we were finished with this and the hole we stood guard. It was still raining. It was this kind of living, especially standing in foxholes filled with water that gave some of us some new trouble. This trouble was trenchfoot. The first feeling of it is the feet getting cold and numb. A number of men were lucky to get it and go back to the hospital for a couple of months. Most of us thought we had it but our feet were just numb from the cold and if we did have it, it was just a slight case. Each of us three months later could pinch a toe and not have any feeling noticed.
Wednesday, November 24.
What was left of the Co. was relieved at 4 A.M. and we started back to Prummen. We were cold, tired, and hungry and it was raining and it was rough going in the mud and tank tracks. We passed stalled British tanks -- that is why they never came up to attack - the mud stopped them -- we also passed dead bodies. When we arrived we were given a slab of turkey and bread and a glass of rum. 50 of us slept in one cellar as shells were coming into the town. Our platoon had been lucky in casualties. The 1st and 3rd had suffered 12 dead and about 40 wounded. Lt. Huff had a tree fall on his back. E Co. had 56 men left and G Co. was no better off. Both Co.'s had most of their officers either killed or wounded. We went to sleep, cramped as we were and dead tired. The 3rd. plt. medic had been badly hit.
Thursday, November 25.
Beeck became the objective of the 84th Division -- a whole division -- not a Reg't. With the support of planes and artillery which we did not have, the 84th had little trouble taking the place. A captured German commander reportedly said this about the 405th reg't, "They were very green troops and were advancing on a stone wall. They were brave but foolish. Our men could see their rifles weren't working as they pushed down on the bolt handle with their heels." We spent the day sleeping, cleaning our rifle and getting new equipment to replace that we had lost or thrown away [160-17] during the fighting. We ate 10-in-i rations and received mail that we hadn't had for a long time. Its times as these that a letter from home comes in handy. Two men in the Co. were sent back because of combat fatigue. After what we've been thru, I can't blame them.
Friday, November 26.
After this so -- called rest we took off in the dead of night to relieve the 335th reg't of the 84th Div. It was an 8 mile walk and we went from Prummein thru Puffendorf and Geronsweiler. The 335th was just outside Geronsweiler in a regular trench. We disliked the setup at once. The trench was perpendicular to the enemy. The mud was ankle deep in the trench. Ledges were dug along the trench so we could lie down and be out of the mud. My position with two other men was very poor. We were the flank men in the trench extending out to the enemy. Part of the squad were out in foxholes parallel to the trench. The trench extended 25 yards beyond our post but we did not use it as it was too shallow. While I was exploring it I found a dead Yank's body. It was removed the following night. We put a booby trap in the narrow part of the trench in case a Jerry sneaked in he would not catch us by suprise. Did not sleep any that night as it started to rain again.
Saturday, November 27.
During the day we could sometimes see a Jerry walking around a pillbox but was too far away for accurate shooting. It was at night when most of the excitement took place. It was always pitch black and sometimes we imagined we saw Jerry and sometimes it really was Jerry. We fired one time 1/2 hour at a stick we thought was a Jerry. Better to be sure than sorry. Once we thought we heard some Germans out front. Bilyk fired a phosphorous grenade and in the exploding glare could see 6 Krauts. One seemed to be hit but the others got away. Next morning we saw a Red Cross Flag approaching with five men and a stretcher. They picked up the man that we hit last night with the phosphorous grenade. For those few moments the war stopped and I imagine everyone on both sides were watching. After the Red Cross disappeared firing started once more. We spent the day shooting at an occasional deer that passed.
Sunday, November 28.
An almost tragic incident happened during the night. The men out in the foxholes parallel to the trench waited for night and then one at a time would make a dash for the trench in order to get food and water. Sometimes they were pinned down by rifle fire when halfway to the trench. I was on guard when Brophy came in for food and went out again. About 10 minutes later I saw someone walking about 150 yards out. I held my fire as it looked very familiar. I called two other guards and we watched the fellow walk out toward the Jerry pillbox, get down and look for something. It was [161-18] too dark to make out for certain whether it be friend or foe. The figure walked 150 yards to the right and then walked straight for us. When he was 50 yards away Smith took aim when the figure called softly "Moonshine". Smith just about pulled the trigger but I managed to push Smith's rifle and the shot went wild. It was Brophy out there lost and when he said "Moonshine" he was calling Overman who was his foxhole partner. We called him and guided him in. He was about to jump in the shallow part of the trench where the booby trap was but we warned him about it. Since Brophy can't see too well with or without glasses he just walked past his foxholes and started going out toward the enemy lines. He started out for his foxhole again and we kept an eye on him now.
The previous morning I had myself in a near tragedy. It was about 7 in the morning and Munger and Clements had just relieved me. I was wrapped on by ledge fast asleep. Since it was just about daylight they decided to back for some coffee in the pillbox where the C.P. was. At that time 5 Germans jumped into the shallow part of the trench and started moving down the trench. They threw a grenade and it landed on a ledge of the trench just above me and exploded. This woke me up and the first thing I heard was someone talking in German. I couldn't move or see anything as I had wrapped myself tightly in blankets. I felt someone brush against me -- it was the Jerry who had slipped. He started firing his sub -- machine gun right over my head as he was standing only a few feet away from me. The Jerry was probably just as scared as me and probably thought I was a blanket roll. The other fellows were awake by this time and making it hot for Jerry who decided to run for it. However one was killed. I was OK but scared beyond words. All the other fellows thought I was dead because they told me Jerry was standing just where I lay. Later in the day a 2-1/2 inch piece of shrapnel bounced off my leg and didn't even scratch me.
Gene's World War II Diary, Pt. 2:
Monday, November 29.
In the morning the 3rd battalion attacked thru us. It was a terrific fight and the 3rd battalion took some heavy casualties together with the supporting tanks. We had a perfect view of the battle even though the shells were falling right in among us. I learned a number of lessons by watching this. One very important lesson was not to stand near a tank when advancing. A tank draws "88" fire and I saw three bodies fly about 10 feet in the air when and "88" shell fell next to a tank around which a number of Yanks were walking for protection. A smokescreen was layed which helped the Yanks advance and this with heavy artillery support accounted for a 500 yard advance. Gonzales did some swell work dashing out and treating the wounded. Later that night we could see 9 Yank tanks burning brightly -- a tribute to the effectiveness of the "88". We were called out as stretcher bearers for the removing of the many wounded. [162-19]
Tuesday, November 30.
We were told we would leave the trench and walk for a mile and than attack. We started leaving about 6:30 A.M. and just before our platoon and the M.G. section Germans started firing at us. It seems a platoon of Germans infiltrated during the night and they were in GERCEVICH the brush. A machine gunner was killed getting out. We left the trench firing at the Germans as a Co. of tanks came up to rescue us. They went right thru us to where the Germans were and cut them to ribbons. Our platoon had two casualties -- Wright -- hit in arm and Patrick in leg. Parada and Taverez became sick and went to hospital. We went over to our place of attack, rested half an hour and then attacked some German pillboxes. We couldn't get them and suffered casualties. 1st platoon suffered most casualties again -- 3 killed and 10 wounded. We were lucky - only one casualty - Blyskeel hit in arm by shrapnel. We dug in.
Wednesday, December 1.
We didn't do much today except duck 88's which were coming in quite frequently. Galloway (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.) and I were in the same hole. We found a whole case of K rations which we broke open and took out all the candy. We had nothing to do so we tried burning D bars.
Thursday, December 2.
DiGiovanni, Burke and I were told that we would have to carry 120 lb. of explosives during the attack on the pillboxes that night. Our job would be to dash up to the pillboxes and put the explosives by the door, set the charges and have 25 seconds to get the hell away -- all of this at night. The three of us were given the explosives and shown how to use it. The 1st plt. was to come with us and button up the pillbox so we wouldn't be shot at. We didn't relish the whole idea. In the evening the plan was changed. The whole battalion would attack but our job was the same. About midnight we advanced but didn't get any enemy fire. We reached the pillbox where our job was to begin. We had already set the charge by mistake in the afternoon and we were literally carrying our life in our hands. We found to our delight the door of the pillbox opened and the insides splattered with dead Germans. It seemed a lucky shot from a tank destroyer had gone thru the door killing everyone. It seemed that the rest of the Germans had retreated. We continued to advance and met no opposition. We advanced about 500 yards and started to dig in. Suddenly we heard something in front of us. It was a German walking straight to us and probably thinking we were Germans. We called him to surrender but he was probably frightened and turned to run -- we cut him to ribbons. We continued digging in and when we settled down for a rest it began to rain. We were then told to move about 50 yards and dig in again. This made us very happy and we dug a hole just big enough to get our bodies in and tried to get some [163-20] rest covering up with a German blanket to protect us from the rain.
Friday, December 3.
We started to advance again in a drizzling rain. DiGiovanni, Burke and I had thrown the explosives away because we did not see any use for them and besides were too heavy. We advanced about 1-1/2 miles meeting no opposition and dug in. We ate a K. Advanced again with B Co. on our left. Came right up to a hill overlooking Linnich, a few hundred yards away having received no enemy fire except some artillery shells. We were just about to congratulate ourselves when machine gun bullets started giving us a close haircut. We discovered two Tiger tanks in front of us and we without a bazooka. We were in a bad spot as our tanks couldn't get up. I had no shovel and started digging with my helmet. Someone discovered an abandoned Jerry ack-ack position and Gally (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.) and I ran for it, bullets splattering around us. Stivali who was nearby had a bullet pass thru his raincoat which he as carrying on his belt. German and Yank artillery plus Tiger tank machine gunfire made it very uncomfortable for us. I heard a whistling noise and noticed a five inch piece of shrapnel buried a few feet from by head. Yank artillery started laying white phosphorous around us which was wicked. A heavy rain was making everyone cheerful. Suddenly both tanks left and the artillery stopped. We prepared for a tough night throwing a Jerry blanket overhead to protect us from the rain. We were relieved at 1 A.M. Walked about 5 miles back to Geronsweiler and then took trucks to Pallenberg. Arrived at 5 A. M. This was our first relief from the front lines in 38 days. The Zigfried line was pierced.
Saturday, December 4.
We arrived at 5 A.M. in Pallenberg and the whole Co. was packed into a single house. We were tired and dirty and just wanted to sleep. I slept on the stairs and at 8 A.M. was awakened by someone asking what two men wanted to go on pass. I woke Gally (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.) and we said we would go. Tired as we were we packed our stuff, had some show, collected our mail and took off in a truck. It was freezing when we passed thru Acken. This was my first view of a German city and it wasn't a pretty sight. We passed out of Germany and into Holland where we noticed a change. The cities and towns weren't destroyed and there were people -- Dutch people. We arrived in the town of Vaals and it seemed as it the whole town were out to meet us. It seemed that we were the first group to come here for pass. The people crowded around us wanting to by chocolate or anything else we had. I could imagine how we looked to these people -- filthy clothing and dirty and about a five -- day beard.
Sunday, December 5.
The division rest center was located in a large hotel that [164-21] had been taken over by the division. First we all had a hot bath in a real bathtub. We had previously been given a complete set of clean clothing and after a haircut and shave we looked considerably different. We slept in a real bed for the first time since being overseas. The meals were delicious and we could eat all we want and don't think we didn't take advantage of this. There was a P.X. and we were able to get some things that we needed. We also had movies in the afternoon and a dance with Dutch girls in the evening. I think the girls came mainly for the cookies and hot chocolate that was served.
Monday, December 6.
At noon we boarded our trucks and left the grandest place we had known at the time in Europe. In about two hours we were back in Pallenberg where we learned that a few changes had taken place in our absence. First, instead of the whole company being in one house, each platoon was given a house of its own -- in fairly good condition -- that is half the house was standing. We also learned that passes to Paris had started and that two men from the company would go. It would be a long time before I would get more than a three day pass - in fact it wasn't till the war was over did I win a pass to the Riviera..
Tuesday, December 7.
Other changes had also taken place during my two day pass to Vaals. Captain Peterson, our C.O. had been transferred to battalion to S-2 and Lt. Evenson became C.O., later to become Cap't. Our Lt. Fletcher became 1st "louie". Lt. Rabbinowitz (Rabbi) came from battalion to become our executive officer. Our first sergeant was busted to a private and Matsofsky became 1st seargeant. This was the beginning of a "reign of terror" that was not to end till Matisefsky himself was busted later in Kiefeld. Lira, our platoon seargeant had dropped a water can on his foot and had gone to the hospital. He as not to rejoin us for a month. In the meantime Sgt. Bilyk our platoon guide took over. Changes had been made that most of us didn't like.
Wednesday, December 8.
The top floor that our platoon lived in was in poor condition so we all lived on the bottom floor. The room that our squad lived in was a large one and was halfway comfortable. We found a few beds and some mattresses which we slept on. We used our sleeping bags as the weather was quite cold. There was a big German mine nearby and we connected lines to the mine and so had electricity as candles, our chief source of light was disappearing. We found a stove in an abandoned house and brought it over to our place and fixed it up. The coal supply was ample and we were able to keep warm. Its surprising how many things one learns such as learning how to use the stove and build a fire. [165-22] Thursday, December 9.
After a day's rest in Pallenberg we were bored and decided to take off on our own hook. DiGiovanni, Burke, Galloway (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.), and I decided to go to Liege. We had no money so we armed ourselves with coffee, cigarettes, etc. We had no money. We thumbed rides on trucks, jeeps, etc. and finally arrived in Tongeren. Here we bartered and had ourselves a steak dinner which was delicious. We jumped on a trolley car and went all the way to Liege that way. We nearly caused a riot of the trolley as it was crowded and we took out some soap. The driver started to argue with DiGiovanni about cigarettes and nearly wanted to fight him and me. It ended up with me driving the trolley and not knowing how to stop it with all the people screaming and yelling. We arrived in Liege but couldn't ask a place to sleep as we had no passes. We ate another steak dinner. We went in for ice cream sundaes and it was pretty good. During the 16 hours in Liege we had 10 ice cream sundaes apiece. We went to the movies and then sold all the material we had so that we would have some cash in our pockets. We then went to a night club that had a huge swimming pool in it. It was very nice but very expensive. DiGiovanni unsuccessfully tried to pick pocket the waiters huge roll of money. He was peeved cause he couldn't do it as so many people were looking. DiGiovanni is from Chicago and this was one of his talents. We found a small hotel and for 50 cents we each received a room. It was very clean and it was the first time since being overseas that we had slept in a bed in between clean white sheets.
Friday, December 10.
Woke up and went to Red Cross for coffee and donuts. Were still hungry and ate another steak dinner. Wandered around the town and at noon took off back to Pallenberg. By trolley to Tongeren where we had another steak dinner and then on a British truck halfway back where the truck broke down. We told the driver "cheerio" and jumped on another jeep to Maastrich and then on a truck back to Pallenberg. We thought we would get a bawling out but nobody said anything and so we decided that we would make a few more trips in the near future. The first two fellows who went to Paris had returned three days late as someone had stolen the truck in Paris and they had to wait till a new one came to take them back. We had also started to receive a number of reinforcements to fill up our casualties that we has suffered up to now.
Saturday, December 11.
Back in Pallenberg things were still pretty quiet. We heard that one Battalion of the Reg't was back learning how to cross rivers in assault boats probably for the crossing of the Roer. We however did not worry about it. We concentrated on having a good time. We usually had a movie in an oversized living room where they packed in as many men [166-23] as possible sitting on the floor and hanging from the chandelier or rafters. However we were not always certain of seeing a picture as sometimes the reels did not arrive, the jeep broke down, the movie projector broke down, etc. Sometimes we would see a U.S.O. show that always consisted of a blond, a brunette, an accordian player, and a character who thought he was a comedian.
Sunday, December 12.
The food situation was very good. We were getting all the food we could eat and it was good food. In the evening they would send down to the platoons extra loaves of bread, cans of coffee, and butter. We would toast the bread, heat the coffee and have a grand time. The Christmas packages were really coming through now and we were always eating. The Red Cross was sending books to read and this together with writing letters and sleeping occupied all our time. The weather was usually raining and the cold kept us indoors most of the time. We cleaned our equipment getting everything ready as we knew we weren't going to be here all the time. I picked myself up a new rifle as my old one was burned out.
Monday, December 13.
Keeping clean always was a problem. Running water was silly to think of and all the water we wanted had to be carried over in 5 gallon cans. If we wanted to shave or wash we would first have to heat some water. About every three days a truck would take us back to a coal mine where we would get a good hot shower. The showers weren't actually in the coal mine but were in a large building where hundreds of men could take a shower at the same time. Since the mines were closed these showers were used exclusively by the various divisions that were near enough to use them -- and they were well worth it.
Tuesday, December 14.
We felt kind of restless again today so we took off again -- this time for Herleen. This was an easy enough task as all we had to do is bum a ride. In 45 minutes we were in this nice Dutch city. We wandered around the city looking into shop windows and all in all having a nice time. We went into the bakeries where we bought pies which did not have sugar. We had come prepared with small boxes of sugar from K rations which we sprinkled over the pies. We were getting king of hungry and we went over to the Herleen rest center for our division. We sneaked in and received a wonderful meal. In the afternoon, we saw a good movie and after that we went back to the outfit.
Wednesday, December 15.
Things were happening back here that weren't going to do us any good. The C. O. was angry because too many men were taking off to Herleen, Maastrich, and Liege without a pass. [167-24] It seems that in an emergency it would be impossible to find more than half the company. A roll call was taken and a number of men were not present. When they returned they were put on K. P till we left this town. We were warned not to take off any more. Lt. Lira was carrying a water can and accidentally dropped it on his toe breaking it. He went back to the hospital where he stayed for about six weeks. Bilyk temporarily took over the platoon.
Thursday, December 16.
In spite of the warnings about taking off without a pass no roll call was made and fellows continued to leave and we planned on going in a couple of days. The latest rumors were that we would soon be moving up in preparation of crossing the Roer River. We didn't do anything daring the day except read, write and eat. At night we went to an early movie and then came back to await the mail that arrived about this time. Usually we just talked about girls and home. Its surprising how one learns how people from other parts of the country live -- rich, poor, farmers, city people, crooks, etc.
Friday December 17.
Today we decided to take a chance of going on a little trip, so Clements and I took off. We went to Maastrich, the first town of Holland to be liberated by the Allies. We hitched a ride there naturally and promptly on arriving there went over to the Red Cross for some hot coffee and donuts. The weather at this time was quite cold and some coffee made all the difference in the world. We went into a barber shop and took a haircut and a shave. It was pretty good to sit back and let some civilians work over you. We never had any money but since cigarettes were plentiful we could always get two dollars from the Dutch for a pack. After a good time we did.
Saturday, December 18.
It seems that while we were gone a roll call was taken and among others Clements and Greeenberg were not present. This caused me no end of embarrassment but the 1st Sgt. was not embarrassed to say his little piece -- which was not little. We would have started immediately on K. P. but there was a waiting line for this menial chore as others had done the same as us, before us. The 1st Sgt. made it plain that he would not forget us in the future if there were an opening. We felt sorry for his predicament and went back to the boys telling how we had pulled a fast one on the Sgt. However Bilyk and Lt. Fletcher gave us a sermon that was far from inspiring.
Sunday, December 19.
Our outfit was suddenly alerted. A crossing of the Roer River had been cancelled by the Jerry blowing up the dams sending the river on a rampage but the Battle of the Bulge [168-25] was no help in walking. From Prummein we walked to Belik where we relieved another outfit and went into foxhole positions in front of the town. It was about 4 A.M. when we were finally settled into position and we awaited dawn to see just where we were. We all hated to go into position in the early part of the evening rather than the later period because with morning approaching we were able to see where we were instead of imagining all night as to where we were. We spent a quiet day.
Friday, December 24.
During the night we were placed in battalion reserve and moved back to Woim. It was going back only a few hundred yards but to us it meant rear echelon. We knew in the town there would be a dry cellar for us (there were no buildings standing above the cellars anymore) and we wouldn't have to stand guard and we would get some warm food. During the day we would go outside and sit down on a chair with a table and write letters. If while we were writing a chicken or rabbit passed we would pick up our rifle, take a shot and resume our writing. In the evening we were moved back further to a pillbox on the other of Woim. Just our platoon occupied two boxes and we had to spend a great deal of time on guard here, which we didn't like.
Saturday, December 25.
We had spent Xmas Eve on guard but we had a little party when we came into the pillbox after being relieved. The lt. had opened two bottles of whiskey that was part of his liquor ration and we all had a slug. During Xmas Day we received quite an artillery barrage but most of them were duds and were filled with propaganda leaflets. Our kitchen was in Pollck and by squads we went back there to eat our turkey Xmas dinner. This meal was different from most meals in that we ate till we were ready to bust and then we were given turkey and bread to take back to the pillboxes so that we could eat later if we wished. Later in the day we saw an American artillery cub shot down by a Jerry fighter plane.
Sunday, December 26.
A this time the Germans were pushing ahead in the Bulge and the whole 9th Army except the 102nd and 29th div. and some tank destroyer units were sent down to protect our southern flank. Naturally when there are only two divisions left to take care of the whole 9th army sector we were spread quite thin. During the day there was a great deal of activity. We kept digging line after line of foxholes. The engineers kept putting up barbed wire and mine fields in front of these holes. The heavy weapons and the anti-tank guns dug positions too. When we finished our line of defense, we would move back a short distance and dig another line of fortifications. If the Germans chose to attack they would not find us too stong. At night the tank destroyers would roll up and down the roads at night just to give the Germans [169-26] the impression that we had a great deal of armor and that we were getting prepared for an offensive. What we didn't know at the time was that the Germans has sent all their available reserves down to the Bulge and that they were doing the same as us -- digging fortifications in view of a possible attack by us.
Monday, December 27.
Another platoon relieved us at the pillboxes and we moved back to a couple of cellars in Beeck. We were pretty crowded here and when we slept it looked like a morgue, the way the bodies were piled up. For lights we would use bottles filled with gasoline and a wick. If we were lucky we had candles. At this time we heard that German soldiers were dropping by parachute behind American lines. We therefore had two men on guard during the night stopping all vehicles and G.I.'s and asking for the password. Burke happened to be on guard this night with Taverez while the rest of us were down in the cellar. Suddenly we heard a burst from a B.A.R. and we grabbed our weapons and ran upstairs. It seems a jeep had come down the road and had not seen or heard Burke's command to halt, and so Burke shot a burst over the driver's head which stopped him. We recognized the driver and let him pass. DiGiovanni and I were on guard about 2 A.M. It consisted of walking up and down in front of the two cellars. The night was freezing and there was a brilliant moon. As we were talking we heard the roar of a plane and out of the darkness a German bomber flew directly over us at an altitude of about 30 feet. The suddenness scared the hell out of us and we ducked after the plane has already passed us. About a half hour later a hail of machine gun bullets started hitting the building where we were standing. We went down flat this time, investigated and came to the conclusion that it was a Jerry long range maching gun firing a mile and one half away in the hope of hitting someone just by chance.
Tuesday, December 28.
We spent the day in the cellars coming up only to eat. We had finished digging fortifications so all we had to do was rest. Suddenly someone came down and told us a patrol would have to go that evening into enemy lines. We drew lots for this and I was lucky not to be chosen. For this patrol they dressed in white, carried no equipment except a rifle and bandolier. It was a recon patrol but still was plenty dangerous although more of us discussed it. When they left none of us went to sleep, in fact we all remained awake till 2 A.M. when they returned. We were happy to hear there weren't any casualties. We were also glad to hear that Sgt. Rice had returned from the hospital.
Wednesday, December 29.
This morning some of us decided to view the battlefield at Beeck where our reg't had been cut to pieces and where we [170-27] had sustained extremely heavy casualties. It made us feel funny to see equipment bearing the names of fellows who had been killed or wounded. We also had an opportunity to stand in the German's position and see how we must have looked when attacking and we came to the conclusion that we were pretty lucky to be alive. When we came back we were told another patrol was to go out on "recon". All those who hasn't gone the previous evening drew straws. Again I wasn't picked. We were all extremely happy when they returned safe in the morning.
Thursday, December 30.
During the day we made "accordians" which were set up in fortified positions as the threat of German attack was still possible. We still were receiving Xmas packages that helped pass the time. The kitchen again had a pretty good meal and we ate well. Early in the evening we were told our battalion had been put in regimental reserve an so we packed all our belongings, put them on our back and about midnight took off on the road to Prummein. The roads were icy and we were always slipping and then cursed. We finally arrived at our new home -- a cellar and here we spread our blankets on the floor and slept.
Friday, January 1.
In the morning we were able to see what we were living in. It turned out to be a cellar that literally had no house above it since it had been blown away by a shell. There were three rooms in the cellar and two of the squads had a room apiece and the C. P. had the third room. The third squad found another room in a nearby house and lived there. Outside there was a burned out German Tiger tank. For a toilet we dug a latrine practically on the sidewalk where anyone passing could marvel nature. Naturally there were no German civilians here but there were goats and dogs roaming around.
Saturday, January 2.
As soon as the squad gets its room it breaks up into groups who going hunting for accessories in the ruins of other buildings. Before the day is over a stove will have been found and a chimney will have been rigged up. A number of mattresses will have been found an put into place, as well as a table for writing. Another fellow would rig up a gasoline lamp and a couple others would have found coal, wood, pots, and pan, etc. By the time the day was over we were as comfortable as we would ever be in our little mansion -- the cellar.
Sunday, January 3.
It was an easy life we were living here doing nothing all day but read and write letters and try to keep warm. The food was pretty good and in the evening we would get some extra food for the squad which came in handy when getting [171-28] off guard. We each stood guard for an hour outside the cellar which wasn't too bad as there were enough men to make it possible that we go on every other night. When we came off a cold shift we heated up some coffee together with some toast and cheese. Galloway (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.) had a buddy in Reg't who had a radio and we would go over to him sometimes and listen. We had since being overseas heard a radio only once or twice up till then.
Monday, January 4.
The whole company was going back to Holland to take a shower. This was quite a job. First we would be given some clean clothing and a towel which we wouldn't put on till we returned from the shower. Then when ready to go we would assemble outside with rifle, belt and toilet articles. We would then start walking about three miles back to where we got the trucks. The trucks couldn't advance any nearer as they were afraid to attract artillery. It was pretty cold and when we finally arrived at the coal mine in Holland we were frozen. We had a hot shower, shaved and then went back to Prummein in the same manner that we left.
Tuesday, January 12.
We were suddenly alerted and we packed all our belongings, put them on our back and took off. We must have walked about six miles and were pretty tired when we finally arrived at our destination. We had to take over three pillboxes for the platoon. We were relieving a "recon" outfit who were needed elsewhere. We set up a couple of B.A.R. positions and stood guard -- three men at a time. For company there were a couple of German bodies laying around, more or less frozen - they didn't stink, that no one had had a chance to bury. At about 3 A.M. the moonlight shining on the face of a dead person does nothing to lift one's morale.
Wednesday, January 13.
We were relieved by some Engineer unit in the morning and moved back to Prummein. The oddity of having "recon" and Engineering units up on the front lines showed the lack of combat troops here as they had been sent south to the Bulge. At Prummein we were told not to unpack as we were going to relieve "L" company later that night at LeFarth. As a morale booster they told us that we were going to extremely dangerous positions - that 14 men of "L" company had been killed, 5 by being shot in the head by snipers. Naturally we all looked forward to this and about 10 P.M. in the evening we started to move. It was quite a long hike and took us about three hours.
Thursday, January 14.
From Prummein to get to our destination we had to walk to Beeck, Wurn, and then LeFarth. It was naturally very cold and the carrying of a great deal of equipment didn't help any. Because of the great danger only two men were lead up [172-29] to their holes at a time to relieve the old men. The men who were being relieved would give us and idea of what was around, what to expect and then would take off. It took about an hour to get the platoon into its positions. I went outside of the foxhole and stood in the trench on guard. Connecting trenches had been dug between the foxholes because of the extreme danger. It was pitch black but I had the feeling of not being alone. I suddenly noticed someone standing near me leaning on the trench. I whispered to him but did not receive an answer. I went over to see if something was wrong with him. I looked at his face and couldn't help but bust out laughing. It was a dummy rigged up to look like a soldier.
Friday, January 15.
When morning came we were able to see why L company had suffered so many casualties. The hole that Taverez and I were in has a close field of fire for about 30 yards after which there was a high bluff where Jerry snipers were supposed to come and annoy us. Therefore we kept down low most of the day. Taverez was a Spanish boy who did little talking, in fact no talking at all so i was like being in a hole alone. One thing we did have in our hole and that was a stove which had a chimney leading out the roof. It snowed most every night -- a light snow but enough to make life uncomfortable. At night one of us would stand guard while the other went for coal in the own behind us.
Saturday, January 16.
During the day little happened mainly because we didn't like these positions and knew them to be dangerous. Walsh stuck part of his body out of his hole one day and a bullet made a neat hole in the collar of his shirt. Walsh never left his hole for a week after that. Most of the action came at night. When we first came up on line we would never fire at night for fear of revealing our position to Jerry. However we learned slowly that this wasn't a good policy and this night we proved it. I was on guard at about 2 A.M. when from the top of the bluff a German tommy gun started firing. Instead of keeping quiet what every man did who was on guard at the time was to fire with all he had. I was firing a B.A.R. which sprays quite a bit of lead. Other fellows started using rifle grenades and flares and others used their rifles and carbines. All in all we made it pretty hot for the Jerry who was firing cause he stopped. Something else has happened back in the town at the Co. C. P. One of the cooks was on guard and he notices someone coming towards him. He called 'Halt' but the figure didn't stop. The cook fired his rifle and the man dropped. They then discovered that the man who was shot was a friend of the cook. He probably hadn't heard the cook yell halt. He had been instantly killed and was the father of twins. [173-30]
Sunday, January 17.
We all felt pretty bad about the cook's friend being killed. He was perhaps the best liked fellow in the company and besides being the father of twins the real tragedy was that he had never seen them. The cook was broken up about it and to make things easier all around he was transferred to another outfit. Accidents like this happen all the time. Juster who was poking around one of the demolished buildings tripped over a booby trap which exploded and hurt his leg. He wasn't badly hurt and was removed. We heard later that he had been sent back to the States. We envied such fellows and all of us would gladly trip over a booby trap if we knew we wouldn't be badly hurt and would return to the States.
Monday, January 18.
During the day we spent most of the time sleeping. The mail was delivered to us at night and so we had to wait till morning before we could read it. Since it was our only pleasure the letters practically burned a hole in our pockets. This evening was quiet except for our boys occasionally taking a shot just for the hell of it. Suddenly we heard a shot and a yell. It was Parise and he had been hit in the foot. He wasn't too badly hit but he was removed. It was my guess that Parise had been shot by someone in the 3rd platoon who were a little behind and above us. The shot that I had heard was an M-1 and not a Jerry rifle. Besides I had not seen a flash in front of us to indicate a Jerry gun.
Tuesday, January 19.
Notice that these casualties were only of my platoon and not the Co. I do not even mention Co. casualties but if you multiply our casualties threefold you would have an estimate of the accidents and casualties that the who Co. suffered. At night we continued to have fire power. We fired flares continuously and everything turned to day. For no reason at all we fired rifle and phosphorous grenades which caused quite a bang. The mortars behind us gave us close support because of the terrain and they threw shells that landed about 30 yards in front of us. We appreciated this as any Heine sneaking up on us would be in a hell of a mess. However it was a funny thing to hear shrapnel flying overhead and so close.
Wednesday, January 20.
To break the monotony we would sometimes change foxholes so Taverez and I trade with' Burke and Brophy. Since these were dangerous positions "G" Co. would send us a couple men at night to help out. This evening we had one of them and Taverez went to sleep for an hour while I told the newcomer to stand guard while I went for food and water. He nearly busted out crying saying he was afraid to be alone. I woke up Taverez who remained on guard till I returned. It had been snowing the past few days but now it had become warm [174-31] and started to rain. I went to sleep while Taverez and the "G" Co. boy stood guard. I was suddenly awakened and woke up to see a box floating past me. For a moment I thought I had gone crazy but finally found out what had happened. The rain had melted all the snow on the hill and the water had entered the gully that led into our hole. The place where we slept was elevated so I didn't notice what had happened till awakening. Taverez didn't care and the other boy was too scared. They were both' standing in water past their ankles. I told them to get what equipment they could and get into another hole. We did this and when a few hours later I had come back with the lieutenant the top of the foxhole had collapsed and three feet of water was present. This was an important position in the defense and the louie said that we would have to get the water out. About six of us with shovels tried for about two hours trying to divert the stream from the hole but it was useless. We even used T.N.T. but this didn't go any good. By morning the hole was------
Thursday, January 21.
The day passed quietly and in the early evening we were relieved by an Engineer outfit. They were the sloppiest looking soldiers we had seen and we felt sorry for them. Some of us piled our equipment on sleds while marching back to Beeck. We had all acquired the habit of carrying everything that we thought we would need for the next two years. So the sleds were piled high with Jerry blankets, mattresses, etc. On arriving in Beeck we notices that a shell had landed in the cellar where we had been living three weeks ago causing the roof to cave in. We found another cellar.
Friday, January 22.
By afternoon we had fixed up our cellar with all the comforts of home. We had gone to eat lunch and then things happened. As we were eating we suddenly saw smoke coming out of the cellar where we were staying. We rushed over to find that the stove had turned over putting some straw on fire and everything also. Since all our equipment was down there we put on gas masks and went down. We took one look and came out and one too soon as the ammunition, grenades, and rifle grenades started to go off. It sounded just like the 4th of July and the Germans must have thought an ammo dump and blow up.
Saturday, January 23.
Although we were in battalion reserve our company had some pillboxes to guard even though they were behind our own lines. We also had a couple of roadblocks. So our squad with' new equipment was sent out to guard these mainly because of the fire. It was cold but not too bad as the foxholes were large and had stoves in them. When guarding a pillbox a few men would stay on guard outside for a couple hours and then be relieved and go into the pillbox to get [175-32] warm and get some food and sleep. We passed an uneventful night. I was told that I had won a two day pass to Herleen, next day.
Sunday, January 24.
Early the next morning before daylight I got some of my things together, jumped on a jeep and was taken back to Prummein where there was a truck to take us to Palenberg. At Palenberg we waited a couple hours to get another truck to take us to Herleen. It was freezing weather and we built a number of fires. Finally the truck arrived and we arrived in Herleen about noon. We were given a short speech, assigned to a room with 15 other fellows, given a cot, had lunch, given clean clothing, went to the P.X. and got some rations, went to the movies, ate supper, saw a show and thought we were in heaven.
Monday, January- 25.
Woke up comparatively late, had a good breakfast. Then we went out to look the town over. Herleen is a fair sized town and hadn't been damaged much by bombing. Went in had a haircut and shave. Then took a hot shower and felt much better. After lunch I had my face drawn by an artist. Just as it was finished Katherine Cornell and Briane Aheure entered the Day Room and they talked and gave autographs. had a fellow from "E" Co. take a picture of Katz and I and he promised to send them to me. However I never saw him again - probably he was killed or wounded. We heard on the radio that the 102nd div. had attacked and was advancing. Wrote letters and went to bed.
Tuesday, January 26.
We had a good breakfast and an early lunch as our pass was over at noon We left promptly as noon and by the same method returned as we had come. We learned that the 102nd div. had advanced to the Roer taking 94 pillboxes and suffering only 8 casualties, all from mines. The pillboxes had been empty as Jerry had retreated across the river. I found them in a couple of Jerry pillboxes firing Jerry machine guns just for the hell of it, throwing grenades and anything else that made it seem like a 4th of July.
Wednesday, January 27.
We didn't have to stay here too long as in the morning we were relieved by another reg't. We packed our belongings and went along with our sleds crammed full of junk. It was a funny sight to see all these men. They didn't look like soldiers bust like junk peddlers and they probably felt they were. We walked to Beeck where there were trucks waiting to pick us up. We rode for about on hour and one half because the trucks were lost but finally arrived in Barsweiler where we were given buildings to live in -- our first experience living above the ground in a long time.
Thursday, January 28.
[176-33] Our reg't was in division reserve so there was the chance that we would be here for some time. The battalion was living in a long line of houses which for some strange reason were in not too bad a condition. In fact most of the town hadn't been badly hit. This had been our first German town that hadn't been leveled to the ground. It also presented our first contact with German civilians, a number of which were in the town. The fellows at this time didn't fraternize as the hate for Germans was high at the time. We were told the whole battalion was going on a two day pass tomorrow.
Friday, January 29.
In the morning we packed what we thought we would need for two days and then the whole battalion took off in a convoy. Some soldiers from the other two battalions were brought over to our place to guard equipment. We found out that we were going to Roldec College which was in Holland. It had been at one time a Jesuit College and was quite large. It had been the 30th div. rest center but loaned to us while the 30th was still down south at the Bulge. When we arrived we were all assigned to a bed that was enclosed on three sides by partitions. It is called a "cell" and its supposed to provide privacy. At the end of the dormitory were about 50 sinks and mirrors. Showers were also provided. We looked around the place and noticed there was a large theater where movies were shown twice a day. We also had a chance to meet some of the other fellows that we knew in the other companies. I met Aaron and some other fellows. We were also in Holland and were able to talk to civilians for a change.
Saturday, January 30.
We were having a pretty good time here just resting and eating. A large number of packages plus mail arrived so we were far from unhappy. We wrote letters in the day room and listened to the radio. The food wasn't too good but we weren't complaining. We took a shower about twice a day just because we felt so good. Besides we had noticed on the way here, and I had noticed on my pass to Herleen that for miles the sides of the roads were lined with every kind of ammunition available plus great quantities of food. We weren't too sure when we would get our next shower.
Sunday, January 31.
In the morning we packed our stuff together and soon the trucks arrived to take us back to Barsweiler. Naturally we hated to go but there was no thing to do. It was raining as it had been for the past 3 days and the roads muddy and the moving slow. When we arrived in Baisweiler we noted that the mud in the streets and around the houses were about ankle deep so it was impossible for us during the remainder of our stay in this town to walk around without our overshoes. [177-34]
Monday, February 1.
We spent most of the day playing house. We were able to supply every man with a bed or mattress by searching for them in empty houses. We hooked up the building for lights with electricity supplied by a portable German dynamo that our company found. We blacked out the windows so that it couldn't be seen from the outside. We dug slit trenches, cleaned up the vicinity of the building and drained the deep pools that formed all around the building because of the heavy rains.
Tuesday, February 2.
Today we were told why we were brought back for a rest -- and we learned it was not going to be a very good rest. The 102nd div. had been chosen to lead the 9th Army across the Roer River and our reg't had been chosen to lead the division. Each platoon was brought down to regimental HQ where there was a sand table showing just where the Co. was going to cross, what grounds and towns it was to take. We were shown where minefields were supposed to be. We were shown airial photographs of the terrain and we were assured that it wasn't going to be an easy job.
Wednesday, February 3.
In the morning we would go out for an hour physical training and spend the rest of the morning listening and watching demonstrations on explosives, etc. In the afternoon we could go for a hot shower as there was a large coal mine situated in the town. In the evening we tried to get in to see a movie that was being shown in a large room of a house. More often than not the machine broke down or else it was an old picture that we had seen in the States. So off we went to bed.
Thursday, February 4.
We were told that tomorrow we would go back to Holland and practice on a small river how to cross in assault boats. We spent the rest of the morning listening to lectures and further information regarding arial photographs that had been taken recently of the Roer River. Its surprising how much one can actually see in these photographs. One thing was conspicuously absent - pillboxes. When we had reached the Roer River we had broken thru the Zigfried line in it entirety. On the other side of he Roer was the Cologne plain to the Rhine. We were issued life preservers.
Friday, February 5.
We awoke at 4 A.M. and by 6 A.M. were on trucks. We carried our packs and life preservers to simulate conditions we would find when crossing the Roer. We were taken just inside the Dutch border where there was very small river -- so narrow that two boats tied together spanned the river. The assault boats we were to use carried ten men plus three engineers who were to be in charge of steering and actual [178-35] crossing of the stream. We were assigned to boats an practiced carrying them from about 50 yards behind the river. These boats did not have any motors, so we had to use oars all the time. We spent the entire morning doing this - stopped an hour for lunch and then continued practicing again till it started getting dark. Then we helped put the assault boats on the engineering trucks, put ourselves on our own trucks and returned to Baisweiler quite tired.
Saturday, February 6.
We learned the plan of attack for the crossing of the Roer. The 405th and the 407th were to cross abreast. The 407th was on our right and the British on their right. The 405th was to cross by Roerdorf and the 29th div. was on our left. The 406th was in reserve. Of the 405th reg't the 1st battalion would cross first, we of the 2nd battalion would follow and then the 3rd battalion. The 1st battalion would cross first, gain some high ground and we would go thru them capturing the town of Tetz. In the second battalion the order of crossing would be "E", "F", "G", and "H". "F" co. was to keep contact with the 29th div. and flank Tetz while "E" entered the town. We could expect no armor for two days to support us and were to go as far forward as possible.
Sunday, February 7.
The company received a number of replacements and our squad received three of them. Ybarra was a Mexican kid from Arizona who had been a cook until transferred to the Infantry. Nolan had been transferred from a clerk's job in division up to us. He was married and had two kids. Ravera came from the Lower East Side, had just arrived from the States. He was only 18 years old and a good looking fellow. None of the three had seen combat. All three were to drown when attempting to cross the Roer River. We felt sorry for them when we received them in our squad cause they were stepping into the thick of it without any previous experience.
Monday, February 8.
It was during the night that we heard something flying with a loud noise outside. First we thought it was a Jerry plane but when looking outside we saw a fire in the sky that passed overhead with the speed of a plan. It had the most weird and powerful noise. We knew that it was a V-1 and as long as we heard the noise we were safe. We were to become used to this noise and during the day we could see the V-1's fly over in twos and threes in formation. We could see during the day time that the V-1s looked like airplanes with sort wings. We heard they usually dropped in Antwerp or London.
Wednesday, February 10.
We were told we would be moving up to another town close to [179-36] the Roer and that we wouldn't stay there long. The move would be tonight under cover of darkness. We put all the things that we wanted to keep but couldn't carry in a squad box and gave it in to the supply sgt. who would hold it for us. We left Bassweiler about 10 P.M. that night and walked in the moonlight toward our destination. We didn't talk much as we were carrying quite a load and we were tired and thinking of the future. We arrived at Freilendhoven at about 2 A.M., were given a few empty rooms and went instantly to sleep on the floor.
Thursday, February 11.
We were told the next morning that we had been alerted and that we might cross the Roer any evening. The "Stars and Stripes" quoted the Germans as saying they expected the attack just where we were, so we knew that we couldn't surprise them. During the day we had nothing to do, so we would steal the 10-in-1s off the armored cars in the vicinity and put the empty 10-in-1 box back. We could imagine the tankers and the armored outfit men cursing us when they looked for something to eat. We did this for three days and for three days we weren't hungry. Naturally this was plus our usual meals.
Friday, February 12.
We were still on the alert but didn't have much to do. Jerry knew that something was going to pop soon and he would generally send over a few planes during the day. The appearance of a Jerry plan would cause a great deal of ack-ack to appear but some of the Jerry planes were jet jobs and they would be out of range before the ack-ack gunners could get near them. We were told to stay under cover as shrapnel was always coming down from the ack-ack. A fellow in E co. had a piece of shrapnel hit him in the rear end. Most of the fellows ran outside to see the show or else help the tankers fire their machine guns. However we got the biggest kick out of seeing Taverez, our B.A.R. man fire at the planes. He used tracers and it seemed at times as if he hit the planes -- at least became closer than the ack-ack gunners.
Gene's World War II Diary, Pt. 3:
Saturday, February 13.
We were given some news that made us happy. The Germans had blown up the dams above the Roer River and now this stream was a raging torrent impossible to cross. We were to return to Baisweiler that night. We knew that we would have to cross the river at a later date but we felt that there was a chance that orders might be changed and we would not have to cross the river. We were in good spirits while packing our belongings. However our high spirits were slightly dampened on the return trip to Baisweiler and because all our feet were killing us due to the new overshoes we had been given.
Sunday, February 14.
[180-37] We were back in the same house but were told we would be crossing the River soon. We got rid of the Artic packs shoes that we had been issued a couple of days before. These Artic shoes were designed to keep the feet warm. They were waterproof, came up to the knees and covered two pair of thick wool socks. They were good to keep warm with but were torture on the feet on long hikes such as coming back from Baisweiler. Every man in the company demanded the return of his combat boots and his overshoes which though not too warm were comfortable and easier to walk with.
Monday, February 15.
Although we were alerted and not supposed to go anyplace, Burke, DiGiovanni and I took off for Herleen. Our philosophy was, have some fun while possible. We had a purpose, to sell cigarettes to the Dutch and then send home flowers for Mother's Day. We were to send it for everyman in the squad. Little did we know that for most of the men in the squad when their mother's and wives received the flowers, they had already received notices that their sons and husbands had been wounded or were missing in action. Anyway the three of us took off and by changing from trucks to jeeps we were able to get to Herleen. One thing we noticed on the way to Herleen were the immense piles of ammunition and equipment that lined the roads and sideroads. For miles and miles this was all we could see. We went to a dance in the 84th div. rest center after removing our 102nd patches. To eat we sneaked into the 102nd rest center and for entertainment we went to the movies. We had sold our cigarettes and had sent orders for flowers home for the squad. About 5 P.M. we decided to go back and were able to get a ride part of the way. Then suddenly we were unable to catch a rise. No trucks or jeeps appeared. After an hour we thought we would never get back to the outfit. Suddenly we saw a column of Tank Destroyers and since we were desperate we thumbed hoping to get a ride. To our surprise the first tank stopped and the three of us climbed on. We strapped our rifles around our backs and held on to any part of the destroyer. I held on to the 90 mm gun. When a tank makes a turn, it makes a sudden turn and we have to hold on for dear life. It was quite a sight for the Dutch people and the G.I.s to see tank destroyers roaring down the road at full speed with 3 G.I.s holding on with their legs flying in the air every time the tank turned. We arrived back in the evening, got a bawling out from the louie, but it was well worth the trip.
Tuesday, February 16.
Outside our window was an airport for artillery planes and beyond that was a battery of 8 inch naval guns. We went over to inspect the planes and then the big guns. The guns were immense and well camoflaged. The Sgt. explained to us how they worked and said the range of the guns were at least 26 miles and that the shells were falling on the outskirts [181-38] of Cologne. The day passed quickly and we were writing letters that evening when suddenly we heard ack-ack overhead. It was German bombers who were looking for the airport or the large guns. We ran outside and saw that everything was a light as day due to the German's dropping flares. Most of the fellows ran into the cellar. Burke and I felt brave and ran upstairs to watch the show. A bomb fell about 1,000 yards away. In a split second Burke and I were down in the cellar. We decided that we weren't so brave in quite a hurry. A few more bombs fell nearby and then the raid was over. We did not write anymore letters that night because we were afraid to put on lights even though the windows were blacked out. The bombs had fallen on the outskirts of the town and we were able to see the large craters in the morning. The airport and the big guns were undamaged.
Thursday, February 18.
We left in the morning to train again for river crossings. This time we were taken to the Maas River near Liege. This river is not small by any means - about 400 yards wide and there was a swift current. We had our packs on our back and life preservers around us. Our squad took off in the boat and by the time we crossed we had been pushed downstream about 300 yards and were quite tired. We pulled the boat upstream and crossed again. That was all we had to do for the day and it was quite enough. It was already starting to get dark when we boarded the trucks and we arrived back in Baisweiler about 9 P.M.
Friday, February 19.
Today we rested and didn't do much. The Red Cross mobile came around and we lined up for donuts and a chance to look at an American girl. Even though there were plenty of WACs and nurses in Europe, I doubt if we saw any till the close of the war because it was seldom that they came close to the front lines. A V-1 bomb passed a couple of times overhead during the day and we were always happy to hear the motors going. We heard that a V-1bomb had fallen near Herleen. We were again shown the sand table and again explained how the crossing of the River was going to take place.
Saturday, February 20.
Were told that we were to return this evening to Freilendhoven and to be on the alert for possible crossing of the river at any time. Reports in the papers said that the Roer River was still high and that the current was still swift. We took off again in the evening in a light drizzle and in due time were again in Freilenhoven in the same building as before. When I say building, I mean remains of a building. On this side of the Roer it was very hard to find buildings standing. We had a hot supper waiting when we arrived and then made ourselves comfortable as possible on the floor and went to sleep. [182-39]
Sunday, February 21.
We did nothing today except play cards, read letters and write some. E Co. happened to be near us so I went around to see Aaron. He was OK and like the rest of us wasn't too happy about the coming crossing of the Roer. We knew that it would come any day now because the paper said the water from the dams above the Roer had subsided a bit. During the day one or two German planes would appear to reconoiter and would be chased away. American formations very often passed on their way to bombing and strafing misions. We went to sleep early.
Monday, February 22.
Finally it had come. We were told that we were going to take off at 2 A.M the next morning and to get all our equipment ready. For the rest of the day fellows were cleaning rifles, writing letters, packing equipment or just laying around trying to sleep. The new fellows were nervous but I imagine the old fellows felt no better. I know I didn't. A big mail call helped build up our morale. We went to sleep at 6 P. M. cause we would be getting up around midnight. We took turns staying awake so that we would not oversleep.
Tuesday, February 23.
We awoke at midnight, had a hot meal, put on our equipment, shook hands with one another, wishing luck, etc. and went outside awaiting orders to move. At 2 A.M. we started down the road with very little talking among the men. We walked about a mile before reaching Edern. It was a clear night without a moon and wasn't a bad night for a crossing. As we left Edern and approached Welz the artillery started. This was really something. It seemed as if every large gun in the American Army was firing. The 155s and the 105s were booming behind us. We had passed them and seen and heard the firing orders. In front of us 75s, tanks, antitank guns, all types of mortars, cannons, and machine guns were firing. The noise was terrific and we could see the explosions of phosphorous shells on the other side of the river and tracer bullets from machine guns flying in an arc toward the other side of the stream. In Welz we were given more bandoleers and grenades we were soon near Roerdorf. Tanks and bulldozers moved up on the roads. Just outside of Roerdorf we halted and heard the Engineers had tried putting up a foot bridge but suffered too many casualties. There was some confusion as to what units were going first but that was straightened out and we moved thru the town to the river. We approached the river and were on a small hill overlooking it. A winding road for about 100 yards led down to the boats. We stopped on the top of this road when all hell broke loose. The Jerrys had the place zeroed in and big artillery shells started dropping around us. A big one fell about 50 yards in front of me and I could hear screaming and moaning of the wounded. Another fell much [183-40] closer and it seemed everyone was hit. All around us medics, engineers, and infantrymen lay dead or wounded. Galloway (Weldon C. Gallaway, Staff Sgt, Squad Leader 2nd Platoon Co. F.) was beside me when he was hit in the hip and the foot. I brought him back to the medics and returned. Lt. Fletcher had been hit in the head but not badly. Overman had been hit in the arm and was evacuated. A bulldozer was repairing the road and bodies were pushed aside by the dozer. There was still a great deal of wounded, bleeding, dead and confused men around. E Co. just in front of us had a whole platoon wiped out. Remember all the time it was dark. What was left of us moved down to the boats and our platoon was to cross in three boats. Our squad jumped in a boat when there were three engineers and took off. The current was swift, the engineers excited, too few people paddling and perhaps too many men in the boat, but we were out of control and the boat was bing swept down the river without being able to do anything about it. The boat hit all kinds of objects and we approached a dam with a large hole in it -- out boat passed thru the dam and kept going. Suddenly the boat hit a submerged log and split the boat in two. We jumped out into the cold water. This was about 5 A.M. It was dark but my preserver helped little and I felt a branch in my hand and held on. I moved up on the branch till I came to a strong part and just held on exhausted. I was in water up to my neck and held on for dear life. I could hear other fellows calling for help and could see empty battered boats passing. Artillery shells were falling in the river and machine gun bullets passed overhead. I was forced or get under the water at times because of this. Everything seemed so unreal. I started taking off my equipment. My rifle and helmet was gone and I removed by overshoes, pack. belt, rations, ammo bag with grenades, 3 bandoleers, raincoat and kept the life preserver. My legs were numb and I worked myself up to where he water was up to my chest. As dawn came I was conscious of someone else holding on the tree at the opposite end. I called out and found out it was Bilyk. I crawled up to where Bilyk was, as it was higher out of the water. Bilyk told me he was in the boat with the 3rd squad and there boat had turned over just like our boat did. It started to get light but there was a thick fog descending which prevented visibility for more than 20 ft. The fog aided us from enemy fire but prevented us from being rescued. We were freezing and as I looked at Bilyk I thought there were two of him he was shaking so. I brought out a small bottle of whiskey that my parents had sent in a package and which I and the squad had agreed to save till we crossed the river as we thought we would be cold. Well we hadn't crossed the river but we were cold, so we finished it. Bilyk had thought I had gone nuts when I told him I had whiskey. We finished it We kept holding on and freezing. There was no more firing so we figured our boys had pushed on - we hoped. It would be bad for us if the Germans were still on the other side of the river when the fog lifted. After 3-1/2 hours we heard someone talking [184-41] on our side of the river. We both called and the voice answered saying he was going for help. The fog was too thick to wee him. After 20 minutes a boat suddenly appeared out of the mist -- no one in it, but a rope was attached to it. Our rescuers were trying to get the boat to us and then tow us in -- the current was too rapid for them to paddle out. After one half hour trying we were finally rescued. We were taken to a First Aid station where we were warmed by a fire and given dry clothing. We ate a K ration and after being out of the river five hours we were on our way back to rejoin our co. We walked down the same winding road where the shells had first dropped and in the light of day could see what had happened. The road was literally red and equipment was scattered all about. A footbridge had been erected and a pontoon bridge was being built. American wounded were being carried back by Jerry prisoners and Yank dead lined the road - some not in one piece. On all sides of the road were mine fields. When I reached the Co. I found that Tetz, our first objective, had been taken. I also learned the casualties - from my boat only I and Brophy, who had drifted to safety were safe. Taverez, Ybarra, Burke, Nolan, Ravera, White, Coudia and two engineers were missing in action. Later after the war was over we learned that Burke and White had been taken prisoner. In Bilyk's boat Tom White, Veit, Stivali, Wingate, Sloan, and Dryer were missing. Weit also turned up as a prisoner of war. We were all tired and feeling terrible over the losses we had suffered. We were quartered in a house and thought we would be able to sleep that night -- the 406th had gone through us so there was no danger of a frontal attack. Bilyk and I had been given up as dead, so the fellows were glad to see us.
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.
Wednesday, February 24.
During the night we were suddenly alerted. It seemed 40 Nazi tanks were counterattacking us a Boslai and no American armor had as yet crossed the Roer. Thompson, Tideback, and I and a bazooka were up in a barn overlooking a road. It was a cold night and we took turns sleeping. Suddenly Tideback woke us both up saying that he heard a tank's motor. It didn't seem to be approaching but we heard it quite clearly. We weren't too anxious to fight a tank with a bazooka but we sneaked over to take a look. As we got closer we became more scared. Suddenly we saw it and to our amazement and relief we saw it was not a German tank. It was a tank dozer repairing the road. We went back to the barn and stood guard the rest of the night.
Thursday, February 25.
We spent the day resting and reorganizing. There weren't many of us left so two squads were formed out of what was formerly three and this included the four new replacements that arrived in the morning. E company was nearby and I was happy to learn that Aaron was fine. We heard that the 405th [185-42] and the 406th reg't had taken their objectives and that we were soon to move up again. We also learned that the American armored forces were about to cross the river to give us some support which we didn't mind at all.
Friday, February 26.
In the morning we moved forward. We walked about 4 miles to Boslai where we were told we would spend the day. Five minutes later we were told we would move to Hottorf which was in the process of being taken. As we approached the town we could count 15 American tanks knocked out, plus many of the tankmen dead. This town wasn't a pushover. We relieved the outfit that had taken the town and remained in the trenches. When night approached we dug new foxholes and when we were finished we fired tracers into the many haystacks that were in front of us, putting them on fire. This would disclose any Jerry's hiding in them and it kept the area in front of us lit all night. The company suffered a few casualties during the night.
Saturday, February 27.
During the day we did nothing except remain in our foxholes while German mortar barrages poured down on us. Lt. Fletcher returned to us but he still seemed affected by the head injury and seemed a little frightened and nervous. During the night we took off again and walked about 8 miles. Dead Yanks and Germans were on the sides of the road. They looked weird in the moonlight. We came into our town and took over a couple houses and went to sleep. We were awakened and told that a guard had seen a company of Germans coming down the railroad track which we were 50 yards from. The whole battalion had been alerted but it turned out to be a false alarm. We went back to sleep.
Sunday, February 28.
In the morning we awoke to look out of the window and see masses of tanks of the 5th armored in battle formation attacking a town directly in front of us. It was a thrilling sight. We attacked up the railroad track. I was now first scout and always out front as we advanced by marching fire. We cleaned out a few chateaus and captured a number of Germans. Nazi 88's started to drop near us. We started advancing in spite of the 88's and soon were near the town. Bustes had his head blown off very neatly by an 88 which landed just in front of his feet. We took the town, rested a few hours and then went forward to take another town. With tanks and casualties we took the town and a great many prisoners. Before the other end of the town had been cleared of Jerry, we were riding bikes and motorcycles as we were in Cental Park. A major came over and bawled us out for what we were doing reminding us that there was a war going on. We in turn wondered what he was doing so far up front. We went in the houses to do some looting, found milk, butter, etc. and ate for the first time [187-44] in days. We still found civilians, kicked them out, and sent them to the rear where they were safe from the fighting. When it was dark we went on guard in some muddy trenches. We were relieved at midnight.
Monday, March 1.
At midnight we were relieved and walked back to a town 3 miles away for a rest. I started carrying a portable typewriter, passed it on to the other fellows, got tired of carrying it and threw it away. Brophy was here to join us. He had lost his glasses in the Roer River and went back for new ones. We ate at 2 A.M., slept till 4 A.M. when we were awakened and told we were to attack again. We walked about 2 hours and then attacked. We didn't have much trouble till we were near the town we were to take. Suddenly a German -- Tiger Tank started firing from beside a house directly in front of us. We were on flat ground with not protection. Munger was killed instantly on the first burst. I saw a 1 ft. trench and made a dash for it. Some of the other fellows did the same. We were still in a dangerous position as the tank could rake the trench. Luckily Yank artillery came to our aid and the Tiger tank took off. We entered the town, rested for an hour, and reformed to attack again. We attacked, took the Munchen-Gladback airport and dug in. We saw two Jerry tanks moving in front of us but we couldn't do anything with rifles. During these attacks we had only little support from our armor because they were stopped by anti -- tank ditches surrounding all these towns. We were relieved and returned to the town we had captured in the morning.
In the morning, I was in the latrine in a compromising position when suddenly looked upto see an air battle over my head. I hurriedly finished what I was doing and went to the safety of the house as shrapnel of ack-ack was falling. However the sky was filled with American and German planes. It was a complete victory for the Americans. Five Jerry planes were shot down by our P-47s -- three in flames. We did not lose any. We then marched four miles and attacked another town. However we took it without firing a shot. The 5th Armored to our amazement had already taken it. We had some excitement when a fellow found three Jerry's in a cellar. From the way they were dressed we thought they were the German Generalstaff. They turned out to be the Chief of Police, Fire, and Sanitation, but from our Colonel down we thought we had Hitlers advisors.
Wednesday, March 3.
In the morning we walked seven miles to attack Krefeld, detouring at one point to capture another town without trouble. As the whole division, plus the 84th division and the 5th armored maneuvored to take Krefeld which is a large city, F company was in battalion reserve but still up in the attack. As we approached German firing became terrific. [188-45] Suddenly out of nowhere came a blinding snowstorm which blotted out everything in front of us. I and two other fellow were told to take back about 100 Jerry prisoners that the company in front of us captured. We took them to an anti -- tank ditch a little behind and searched them. We then took them back to the M.P.s and since it was dark and we didn't know where the company was, we spent the night with the M.P.s.
Thursday, March 4.
In the morning we went into Krefeld to rejoin the company. Jerry had retreated during the night leaving us the whole place. We learned that the 102nd division had been placed in the 9th army reserve, so that meant we were going to get a good rest. On rejoining the company we learned that we were going to another part of the town to get quarters to live in. When we got there we found that it was a pretty good deal. Each platoon had a small apartment building to himself. There were plenty of beds, place to wash and take a bath which was a treat for us.
Friday, March 5.
We started to get settled in our new quarters and we also started to explore the town. Krefeld is a large city and this was the first experience we had had with great number of civilians. We walked around always with our rifles and the people were actually afraid of us. They had been fed the type of propaganda that made them imagine we would kill all of them first chance we had. Krefeld had been bombed only twice by our bombers but large areas of the city was in ruins showing that the bombings were not light. We also learned that the 84th division was also quarted in this town.
Saturday, March 6.
To make up for the sleepless and eatless days we spent going from the Roer to the Rhine, we spent the major part of the day resting and the remainder eating. The food we were getting was good and in large amounts. However this did not stop us from getting chickens and frying them. We also received mail and packages and spent some time each day answering them. We were told that since we were in army reserve we could expect to rest for at least two weeks or more. This was OK with us as we figured we had earned a rest. We were told we would get a few more new men tomorrow.
Sunday, March 7.
Our platoon had lost fifteen men in killed, wounded, and missing in the last 10 days coming from the Roer to the Rhine so we figured we were due for some new men. Two days after crossing the Roer we received a few replacements but they weren't enough. Today we received about 12 men that made our platoon once more look like a platoon. These men were fresh from the States and had a great deal to learn. However it doesn't take a man long to learn in the Infantry as if he doesn't learn fast he will have a very small chance of lasting.
Monday, March 8.
Because of the new men the platoon was reorganized and I was made first scout in the 2nd squad. I went down to find out why I hadn't been made a sgt. as I felt I deserved it. The platoon sgt. said he and all the other non-corns wanted me made sgt. but Lt. Fletcher was against it. This was because at one time Fletcher had come up behind Brophy and I and heard us talking about him. We were discussing what we thought of him as a leader and what we thought of him in general. We turned around and saw him but he didn't have the backbone to ball us out. However Lira said he would see to it that I would get the next opening.
Tuesday, March 9.
It seemed the brass decided that we were getting too much rest and were getting soft. Therefore they decided that we should get a little training. We started getting physical training every day, going on hikes every day from one end of the city to the other, going to a rifle range to test out our weapons. In spite of this program we did not work too hard and it probably did us some good. We also had parades and it was funny to see the Germans remove their hats when they saw the company flag with an "F" on it.
Wednesday, March 10.
The entertainment in Krefeld wasn't too bad. There were a couple of movies besides shows. I was lucky to win in a raffle a pass to see a very good show. It consisted of Lily Pons, Andre Kostalonitz and his band. It was a good show and I enjoyed it very much.
The German planes were giving us some trouble and especially their jet planes. These jet planes would come flying above us in the day on reconnaissance. They would fly so fast that they were out of sight before the ack-ack guns of ours could start firing. We were glad that the German Air Force was weak.
Thursday, March 11.
We did a little more exploring of Krefeld and examined some of the buildings and air raid shelters. Some of the factories were interesting we found a great many souvenirs which we started sending home. I used a box the size of an egg create to send home some silk materials, etc. Some fellows were sending home radios, sewing machine, motorcycles, etc. With this going on something was bound to happen and it did. An order came down that all these souvenirs will be returned to us and we would not be allowed to send them home. This stopped the mass looting that was taking place here. It was quite literal when I say that we were sending home everything that came in sight. [189-46]
Friday, March 12.
We also explored the air raid shelters. There were two varieties. One type was like an apartment building, about six stories high and without windows. It had very thick walls and could accommodate quite a number of people inside in bombing raids. Except when struck by a direct hit by a very large bomb I doubt if anyone could be hurt by falling bombs if inside the structure. Those shelters were very common in all the German cities. The other type of shelter were the underground type that seemed quite good.
We learned that one officer of our company had to be transferred to another company. We were glad to hear that Lt. Fletcher would go. He wasn't liked by anyone in the platoon or by his fellow officers. He left and no one seemed to care.
Saturday, March 13.
This evening we had quite a show. We were in the house and about 10 P.M. we heard some heavy gunfire. We ran outside and looking toward the river we could see bright flashes where Allied bomber were dropping their loads on a German city on the other side of the Rhine. It was a very heavy raid and their was plenty of enemy ack-ack fire. Occasionally in the distance we could see a plane burst into flame and plunge to the ground. On one occasion some German night fighters hit a four-engined bomber which burst into flames right above us. We saw some parachutes open in the dim light and the big bomber crashed quite near us. The whine of a crashing plane is the most eerie sound I think there is.
We were all called together in the morning by the C.O. and told we were going on a secret mission the next day. He said he couldn't give us any information except that it wasn't going to be a dangerous mission and we might actually enjoy it. He told us it was so secret that the brass higher up in the reg't and division did not know about it. We were told to pack our belongings and to remove the 102nd div. shoulder patch. All the trucks removed their unit numbers. We were also told that the whole battalion would be going on the mission with us. The men speculated and were a bit excited -- their speculation ranged from guarding a peace conference to going somewhere to Russia.
Monday, March 15.
In the morning we loaded up on trucks and took off. We figured we wouldn't be gone too long as we left behind a few men to guard the house. After traveling about 20 miles we were surprised to learn we had reached our destination. The C.O. called us together and then we learned what our job was going to be. We were going to be Co. F of the 314th reg't of the 79th div. We were to sew the 79th div. patch on our shoulder and the trucks were to put 79th div. unit numbers on. It seemed that the real Co. F. of the 79th had shipped [191-42] off during the night to the Rhine River in preparation to crossing the river. It seemed the Germans were sending radio messages across the river saying what units were where and what they were doing. The deception was to make the Germans think that the 79th div. was still back and not getting ready to cross the river. To enlighten the deception all the companies guarded about 10 miles of woods in which there was every kind of equipment available including planes, trucks, tanks, and guns. The funny part of it was that all this equipment were dummies -- rubber balloons filled up. We had guards posted all over keeping German civilians out and thus giving the Germans the idea that there was something pretty important in those woods. It must have worked because at night German planes would come over the woods dropping flares to see what they could see. During the day we would ride around in trucks all over the countryside to let the people see to what outfit we belonged. The Germans never did catch on to what happened even when the 79th made a successful crossing of the river. The secret was well kept till the end of the war.
Wednesday, March 17.
We were living in a large farmhouse and it wasn't too bad a deal as there was plenty of room and plenty to eat. There were plenty of cows and the farmers among us milked them. There were plenty of chickens and we all fried them. We didn't do much during the day except take a trip on the truck around the country. Lt. Hanson was our new platoon leader. He had come overseas as a sgt. and had earned a battlefield commission. He was a swell fellow and liked by all. By the time he went home he had been awarded a Bronze star, Silver star, D.S.C., and a Russian award.
Thursday, March 18.
There were some horses in the stables and the cowboys from Texas and Brooklyn saddled them and rode all over the place. We also found a stage coach and put some. horses in front and it was quite a sight to see the coach some tearing up the road with about 50 G.I.s hanging on in every conceivable place. When we were on guard we brought a big easy chair and made ourselves comfortable. We would set in the chair and fire our pistols on tin cans that we set up some distance away. It was a very easy life and we waited to hear the news that the Allies had started crossing the Rhine River.
Friday, March 19.
From where we sat on guard we could see the road that led up to the Rhine. All day long the roads were clogged with supplies being brought up in anticipation of the Rhine crossing. Tanks, boats of the U.S. Navy, large guns, etc. It looked like this crossing was to be the final blow on he Germans. During the day large fleets of American bombers flew overhead. It was a beautiful sight for us, but I [191-48] imagine not for others. We could see clouds of finfoil being dropped from the planes. The reason for this was to jam German radar from picking up the American planes.
Sunday, March 21.
Just a few words about combat marches. Whenever the company moved whether it was day or night there was a certain way of doing it. We walked on both sides of the road and no man was closer than 15 - 20 feet in front of or behind another man. This was to prevent heavy casualties in case artillery fell among us. At night it was the same thing only the distance wasn't as great between the men. In fact at times it was so dark that we had to tie white rags to the back of our helmets so_ that the man behind would not get lost.
Tuesday, March 23.
Now that the Allies had crossed the Rhine River there was no reason for us to stay here so we were not surprised when we were told to get our stuff together and be ready to move the next day.
One thing it was necessary for us to know was the password. This was the password that was the same all over the front and it was changed every 24 hours starting at noon. It was necessary for us to remember it cause it was most embarrassing to be halted in the dark by a Yank soldier and be asked the password and not know it as a bullet might follow. Of course this worked both ways, cause if we heard someone approaching without the password we used our rifles.
Wednesday, March 24.
In the morning trucks arrived and brought us back to Krefeld where we put on our own division patches and our trucks put on their own unit designations. We were told that there wasn't anything for us to do now but that we might have to take off at a moments notice.
Thursday, April 1.
The C.O. called us together and told us we could expect to be moving pretty soon. We were now part of the 16th Corps and were no longer in the Army Reserve. We were to be part of a mobile combat team. We were to always ride in trucks and this was something new for us Infantrymen. We were to have tanks, tank destroyers, and artillery attached to us. The big plan was to break up and destroy the German Armies and meet the Russians if possible.
Sunday, April 4.
We were told we would be moving the next day and that we would be mobile -- always riding in trucks except when there would be fighting at which time we would dismount. We were to follow the 2nd and 5th armored divisions which were shooting through Germany not bothering to capture or fight German units which they left in the rear for us to clean up. [192-49] We got our things together and turned in all stuff we did not wish to carry. We wrote some letters and wondered what was going to happen the next few days. We were sorry to leave Krefeld and we had been leading an easy life.
Monday, April 5.
Early in the morning big trucks came around and we loaded up on them and took off. In a short time we entered Rhinehausen which was on the bank of the Rhine and just across the river from Duisburg. We were quartered in various buildings and told not to walk in the streets too much as Jerry was still in Duisburg and occasionally dropped some shells in Rhinehausen. We could see the bridge that spanned the river was destroyed and the city of Duisburg looked deserted and battered. During the night we had two men on patrol at a time walking thru the city on patrol. Other men were situated on the river edge as a lookout in case Jerry tried to cross in the evening. We were told that the 79th was attacking Duisburg from the south and well we knew it when Yank artillery started falling in on our town. Later we received a moderate shelling from Jerry but no one was hurt. The closest thing to casualties was when a shell went through the roof of the company C.P. without exploding. We spent a restless night not knowing whether to go down in the safety of the cellar or remain in the softness of the beds upstairs - the beds won.
Tuesday, April 6.
We moved again -- this time to West Rhinehausen where we spent the time marking time before we really took off. West Rhinehausen was a little behind the river so there was little chance of the enemy dropping artillery at us. We did nothing except rest during the day as we were told we would cross the Rhine the following day. During the night Tideback became very sick with tonsilitis and had to be evacuated to the hospital. He did not return to us until June when he was discharged from the hospital. We went to sleep early as we were to leave about 1 A.M. in morning.
Wednesday, April 7.
At about 1 A.M. we boarded very large trucks and trailers. As we went north and approached the Wessel bridghead all the trucks started putting on their headlights. This was quite a surprise to us as this was the first time we had ever seen Yank trucks up near the front with their headlights on. The traffic was quite heavy as we came closer and we hoped that no Jerry plane was nearby. When we came near the bridge head we saw a sight we hardly expected. There were two pontoon bridges crossing the river - traffic going only one way - toward the Germans. Although it was night the whole area was lit up as if it were daylight. Anti-aircraft were all over the place on the alert. In the sky we could dimly see barrage balloons which were for the purpose of preventing Jerry dive bombers from destroying the bridges. [193-50]
As we crossed the bridge we kept looking up at the sky but no planes appeared. Wessel was on the other side of the river and was completely flat. It looked like it was a nice city at one time. We advanced about 30 miles and spent the night in a chateau. In the morning we advanced to a city 50 miles away. We were the first troops to enter it since tanks passed thru a couple of days before. We combed the area and found five Jerry prisoners.
Thursday, April 8.
The next morning we took off in trucks to another town in which we arrived after traveling 50 miles. It was east of the city of Munster. We took over some houses in which to sleep in and found plenty to eat. Constantly overhead large formations of bombers came passing over on their way to bomb retreating German columns. The battalion was suddenly alerted and told they would have to search the surrounding hills for German soldiers. The hills were high and steep and I was glad to be selected to guard the houses and equipment while the rest of the co. went on the mission. They returned just before dark and were very tired and hungry. They had to practically climb cliffs half the time but did manage to take 55 prisoners with no casualties.
Friday, April 9.
In the morning we climbed in our trucks and advanced about another 40 miles. It seemed that German opposition was melting away. We spent part of the day cleaning up the town but after that was finished we did other things. We collected chickens and pigs and prepared them so we could eat. Coolidge came around in a Weasel and I jumped in it with him and went off into the country and collected about four dozen eggs for the fellows. Some, or rather most of the fellows went around looking for something to drink and they were quite successful most of the time. In a short period of time most of the fellows were drunk or sick and having one hell of a time. However no one was hungry because of the chickens, pigs, eggs, potatoes, and cognac.
Saturday, April 10.
This morning we did not mount trucks but this time our company was selected to ride atop tanks. I was on the first tank with about seven other men. The idea was that in case of trouble we would jump off the tanks and support one another. These tanks were new ones having 90 mm guns which were supposed to be better guns than the Tiger tanks of the Germans that had 89 mm. We went along the roads prepared for any eventuality followed by the Infantry. We went from one town to another not meeting any resistance. The German people remained in their houses but the freed slave laborers came out yelling to tell us the direction the Germans went. We picked up bread, wine, and cognac and ate while riding on top of the tanks. We met no opposition except that we had a grandstand view of another battle. It seemed our column had [194-51] converged with another Yank column that we being heldup by some Nazis in the woods. We stood by while American tanks and infantry made a coordinated attack and cleaned up the woods. This action was just about completed when we were told that there were German tanks and Infantry in the next town and we would have to clean them up. We took off and the tanks really went fast as we had to spend most of our time just holding on. As we approached the town we started to be fired at but after a few shots the firing ceased. It seems there were Americans already in the town and they thought we were Germans. It turned out OK as there were no casualties on either side. We entered the town and picked out some houses to sleep in. It was a difficult task to do this as the town was packed with troops. We finally found a shack, ate something, and went off to sleep and we had had a busy day.
Sunday, April 11.
In the morning we were told it was our turn to walk while another company rode the tanks. Walking wouldn't be bad if we walked on the roads, but to support the tanks it was necessary to walk in he fields on either side of the road in order to prevent flank attack. This was rough as we had to walk on soft ground that had just been tilled, climb over fences and barbed wire, keep up with the tanks and trucks on the road and keep an eye out for Jerry. We used to pass the bazooka around as it was quite heavy. After awhile we took a Jerry prisoner and took him with us to carry the bazooka and the ammo until an officer said it would be better if we turned the prisoner in. We spent the morning going along in this manner until we suddenly ran into some stiff opposition. It seemed that S.S. troops in front of us were holding a town and were determined to fight to the end. Our battalion formed for the attack together with the tanks. The country was hilly and our co. was trying to flank the town. We suddenly came upon slave laborers in striped suits who went down on their knees begging us for food. They hadn't eaten in five days.
Monday, April 12.
We found out in the morning why we hadn't chased Jerry late last night. A surrender had been arranged for this morning at Gardelegen, a town about 30 miles away. A Jerry regiment was to formally surrender to our regiment. We boarded our trucks and took off to Gardelegen being on the alert and taking every precaution against a German trick. When we arrived the German regt. was lined up and proceded to pile up their weapons and ammo. After this was done we found some pretty good quarters and made ourselves comfortable as we expected to stay here awhile. We were only a few miles from the Elbe and it seemed the war was bout over for us.
Tuesday, April 13.
It was while taking a walk with Racine and DiGiovanni that I [195-52] came across the most horrible sight I had ever seen. We stopped to talk to a Polish woman for a minute and she pointed out a very large shed and told us to look in it. We went toward this building and on going into it we saw a sight that we would never forget. Inside the building were hundreds of bodies that were smoking. Later we learned the whole story. It seemed the night before we entered Gaidelegen SS troops took 1200 prisoners and put them inside this shed. The shed was filled with straw and all entrances were guarded with machine guns and bazookas. The Germans then proceeded to machine gun the men in cold blood. In the confusion that followed two prisoners escaped and that's how the story finally came out. When the Germans thought they killed everyone they poured gasoline on the bodies and lit it. While looking on this scene we heard a moan and found one man still alive. We called the medics and he was taken to the hospital but died the next morning. Within the next week all the Germans in the town were forced to pick up the bodies and dig graves for them. It wasn't pleasant work but Jerry was still getting off too easy. Gardelegen proved to any skeptic in the division that German atrocities were true.
Wednesday, April 14.
As far as we were concerned our fighting days were over even though the war wasn't. We were on the banks of the Elbe River waiting for the Russians to reach us which they did. However before they did the 2nd armored division tried crossing the river and were thrown back. The 406th regt. sent a co. across the river and they were all captured but were liberated two weeks later. A few more things happened to us before and after the end of the war and are listed below.
April 19 --
Left Gardelegen and arrived in Stendal. Guarded a Polish labor camp -- all girls.
May 4 --
Left Stendal for a small town called Hindenburg on the Elbe River where we celebrated V.E. day.
May 5 --
Collected prisoners by the thousands who came across the Elbe River.
May 6-7 --
The German 9th and 12th Panzer armies surrendered to the l02nd div. on the Elbe River.
May 16 --
Moved to Gros Moringen where we guarded V-1 and V-2 rocket bombs.
May 29 --
Moved 200 miles south to a town called Marlishousen. Near Erfurt.
June 1 --
On detail for one week guarding American soldiers who had been sentenced to death for rape and espionage. Others for life for every crime possible. Rough characters.
June 16 --
Moved from Marleshousen to Molsdorf.
July 2 --
Left Molsdorf on trucks.
July 3 --
July 4 --
Pitched tents near Bayrenth.
July 5 --
Arrived in Aigen on Czech-Austrian border.
July 28 --
Left on furlough to Nice [196-53]
July 30 --
Arrived in Luxembourg for 5 days while en route to the Riveria.
Aug 5 --
Arrived in Nice.
Aug 12 --
Took plane back to outfit.
Aug 28 --
Moved from Aigen to Bishopgrun.
Sept 28 --
Went to school at Oberammergan for a week.
Oct 16 --
Went to Biarritz Army University for 12 weeks.
Jan 3 --
Returned to co.in a town called Neunburg.
Feb 4 --
Transferred to 406th rgt.in a town called Selb in order to go home.
Feb 18 --
Left for LeHavre on train.
Feb 21 --
Arrived in LeHavre.
March 7 --
Leave Camp Phillip Morris on "General Anderson".
March 16 --
Arrive in New York.
March 18 --
Arrive in Ft. Dix.
March 21 --
Mr. Eugene M. Greenburg
17 October 2007
Entered Service: New York
405th Infantry Regiment, 102nd Infantry Division
World War II Veteran
United States Army
You can now read the A River Crossing by Gene Greenburg. This story describes the personal experiences of one soldier who made the trecherous Roer River Crossing and is found in the section of this web site dedicated to the men of the 405th Regiment where you will find many additional stories of the men in the 102d Infantry Division.
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 subject, as well as author of this essay is Mr. Gene Greenburg of New York, New York.
Original Story submitted on 7 September 2002.
Story added to website on 14 September 2002.
Photo added to website on 2 April 2005
September 5, 2002.
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