Heroes: the Army
"...I remember hearing a loud crack above my head and only remember spinning around, the momentum tearing my rifle from my hands as I dropped to the ground. I am not sure how long I lay on the cold, wet street..."
Robert W. Enoch
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. B., 407th Regiment, 102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942-1944
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC,
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Baytown, TX
Dark Clouds and Bronze Stars
by Robert W. Enoch, 407-B
In all the years that have passed since I went on attack with company B of the 407th I cannot help but look back on the happenings of that dreary, cold day. I never set down to a Thanksgiving dinner that I fail to remember the chow wagon coming up to feed us a hot meal that Thanksgiving day in 1944. It was one of the few combat hot meals that we enjoyed and it was a great change from the rations we had been having so regularly.
On the 30th of November we knew that we were alerted to go on attack, but somehow in the passing down of orders we did not get off at the exact time that had been set upon earlier. Of course this was nothing new to the lowly Gl in the trenches and foxholes. At 1030 on Nov. 30 the 1 st battalion moved into the town of Welz from the northeast. Welz was a well fortified town and the
Germans were determined to hold this area and it caused a lot of hard fighting on the part of our company B troops. Many casualties were inflicted and as we moved slowly into town I became one of those who was to receive a head wound from a German sniper.
We had moved into the outskirts of town and moved from building to building seeking out the enemy. As I moved across from one corner of the street from behind a stone building I remember hearing a loud crack above my head and only remember spinning around, the momentum tearing my rifle from my hands as I dropped to the ground. I am not sure how long I lay on the cold, wet street but I do remember regaining consciousness as a medic knelt by me to give me a shot to relieve the pain.
My next recollection was that of Pfc Lester Faigley lifting me onto his back and carrying me to a barn that was being used as an evacuation center for the wounded. (I later learned that Lester stepped on a land mine and was killed.) He placed me against a wall in a room with several severely wounded buddies. My head had been bandaged in the field and the sulfa powder had been poured profusely into the missing top of my head. The sniper's bullet had penetrated my helmet and line and lodged in the opposite side of the helmet. I was worried that I had also received a wound to my spine since I was paralyzed in both legs.
As we lay in the barn it was well after noon when an 88mm shell landed in the center of the room and as it penetrated the wall it caused more injuries to the medics who were taking care of our needs. I was in and out of consciousness and only vaguely remember being transported in the dark on the night on a stretcher laid across the back of a jeep. At the evac hospital I remember a red tag being tied to the button on my shirt and the doctor stating that it was my one way ticket home.
From the evacuation hospital we were transported by ambulance to a church or monastery in Liege, Belgium. It was at this hospital that I remember being awake enough to feel the pull of a razor as they shaved my head, all in preparation to see how ell they could clean up my nasty head wound. During this time there was little solid food in my stomach, but it is amazing how one can survive on liquids when the situation necessitates. My head wound was cleaned in Liege, but the doctors said that the skull fragments imbedded in the brain were what was causing the paralysis and I again was sent by ambulance to Maastrich, Holland where surgeons made great headway getting surgical procedures underway to begin the many operations that were to follow. After the first surgery to repair nerve and brain tissue damage I was finally placed on a solid food diet and it didn't seem such an ordeal with a good meal to enjoy.
From Maastrich we were flown by transport to the hospital in Weymouth, England and at this point the doctors became serious in the treatment that I was to receive. There were three operations to remove the fragments that were causing so many problems and the doctors advised that a metal plate would be needed to cover the gaping hole in the top of my head. I was advised that this would be a later procedure that would take place when I had been returned to stateside. It was now approaching Christmas and wounded GIs were getting the spirit. I remember how nice the English people were who brought us Christmas cheer and goodies. Although they were being rationed heavily they sacrificed sugar and eggs.
By February I had recovered enough to be put on board a hospital ship to be sent to Halloren General Hospital in New York for transfer to a hospital as close to my home in Texas as possible. This final assignment was to McClosky General Hospital in Temple, Texas. It was here that in March I was to have surgery to put a steel plate in my head. During all of this period of time I was going through extensive therapy for the paralysis and there was also an added lameness to my left leg where muscle had been taken out in earlier surgery to cover and protect my brain.
In March of 1945 the final day came for the task of putting a new top on my head and I came through with flying colors. I just knew at this time that I would soon have my discharge, but the medical team had the months of April, May and June before they felt that I had recovered sufficiently to be officially mustered out. It was great day in the last of June when I was called in for a final interview and the DISCHARGE PAPERS that I had longed for so long were finally signed. I was now a free man to return to my hometown and see if I could fit into the life of a civilian.
It was an experience I would not trade, but one I doubt if I would be able to repeat just now. As I look back, I thank God for all those who had any part in my medical treatment and I am also thankful for the many friends that I made in the service. My faithful wife and my children and grandchildren are just compensation for any hardships that I may have had to endure. I am still proud that I was able to serve my country in time of need and know in my heart that America is still the best place to live in the world.
----- Hobart W. Enoch
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "Dark Clouds and Bronze Stars", by Hobart W. Enoch, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 57, No. 3, April/June 2005, pp. 17-18.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 27 June 2005.
Story added to website on 28 June 2005.
September 5, 2002.
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