Heroes: the Army
"...The engineers managed to get a few light foot bridges across the Roer, but at a great sacrifice to men and equipment. Some of us were loaded on rubber boats for the crossing while others of us used the costly foot bridges. Not all of up made it across..."
Salvatore J. Conigliaro, Jr.
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. G., 406th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: S/Sgt., Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1923
- Entered Service: Piermont, NY
Col. B. F. Hurless presenting the BRONZE STAR to S/Sgt. Salvatore J. Conigliaro, Jr.
A War Story:
AACHEN * IMMENDORF * APWEILER * GEREONSWEILER * LINNICH *
by S/Sgt. "Lucky" Sal Conigliaro, 406-G.
After a long ride in freight cars, we arrived at Aachen, Germany. Dirty and tired of the cramped quarters, we were permitted to use the miners' showers to clean up. This was obviously a mining community: coal, I believe. We then went to an assembly area where my regiment, the 406th, was prepared to replace elements of the 30th Infantry Division near Immendorf. My Platoon was in a support position and we advanced past our own dead and watched our wounded being evacuated.
My squad was finally committed at the weakest point of our line where we were to cross an open field and work our way to the edge of town. Our route was well planned. Having checked with our terrain maps and aerial photos we knew pretty much where we were headed. I had no casualties in our initial assault except the fear we all felt at the horror of war. In October 1944, the Germans surrendered Aachen.
Our progress was slow but well thought out on the intelligence reports we received. Extremely welcome were the fighter-bombers Artillery barrages that almost always preceded our jumping off to attack. The Germans were a formidable enemy and gave up ground grudgingly. Immendorf was taken over a 7 day period, and our next objective was a little town called Apweiler.
Apweiler was well defended and three days of hard fighting took place. My squad somehow got too far ahead of the units on our flanks, and we were pinned down in a sugar beet field. We were forced to wait until darkness fell before we could join our Company. It was a little scary because it was dark, we didn't have the password for that night, we weren't certain that the rest of the Company knew we were alive, and we didn't want to be mistaken for a German Patrol. Fortunately, the first position we came to was someone who knew me, so when he said, "Who goes there?" I quickly responded, "Sergeant Lucky and his Squad. Hold your F---ing fire!" The response was "Cool it, Sergeant Lucky. We knew you were out there. You were too friggin' fast for us to keep up." Thank God we were reunited without incident.
Apweiler was a tough nut to crack. It took three days of hard fighting and a lot of good men were lost. There was no surprise when the snow fell softly on the battlefield. Even without the snow it seems like all my recollections are pictured in black and white; the snow just enhancing the contrast, presenting a more foreboding picture. We were issued white, one piece jump suits with a hood that fit over our helmet. We blended beautifully into the white landscape.
Gereonsweiler was our next objective which involved some serious tank activity; attacks and counterattacks with large losses on both sides. However, we did prevail as a result of the skill of our leaders, and the blood and guts courage of our men on the firing line.
There was very little time to rest. Every time we were pulled off the line to get some rest, it seemed that the Germans would counter attack. For a 'green' Outfit, we moved like seasoned veterans, and the 102nd did itself proud.
We finally took Gereonsweiler, reorganized, and had replacements brought in. The Germans kept us under constant shelling, and the sound of the 88mm shells screaming toward us was frightening. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar!
On December 1st, at approximately 1400 hours, we headed out toward our next target which was Linnich located on the Roer River. The 7th Armoured Division was to be our support in this attack on Linnich. But based on the terrain and its ditches and hills, they'd be able to go just so far. Only a Platoon of tanks could be used instead of a Company which would make for easy targets due to the limited mobility in that terrain. Our Air Artillery support was superb. Smoke shells were fired to show the aircraft where to bomb and strafe. Our artillery also provided us with a rolling barrage some 50 yards ahead of us as we advance. The Germans were returning fire, but they did not have a clear field of fire. Several of our courageous tanks were knocked out in this engagement.
By the evening of December 1st, our Battalion occupied the first row of houses in Linnich and we held up there because the night was upon us. Our Tank support retired to a place of safety; the night of horror began.
Initially, we did not realize that the 102nd occupied one side of the street, and the Germans the other side. This was to be a very costly mistake in judgment. Apparently, several of the Platoons were not made aware of the fact that the Germans occupied the opposite side of the street. Sgt. Satterfield, the Platoon Sergeant of the 3rd Platoon, was heading for Company Headquarters with two of his men. He decided to take the route of least effort and began walking north on the street separating us from the Germans. I was made to understand that some of our troops thought that it was a German Patrol and fired upon them; three of our own lost their lives. It was a great loss for us.
The balance of the night was relatively quiet, though some rifle fire was exchanged resulting in one of our Company's men being wounded. Here again was another tragic error of war. In his compassion to make the wounded comfortable, the Medic would administer Morphine. In this instance, although the wound was not life threatening, he died due to an overdose of Morphine. We were told never to use any more than two shots in any situation. Unfortunately, in this instance, more than two were given.
The next day we mopped up Linnich with moderate resistance. The Germans, for the most part, retreated back across the Roer River and just a token force was left behind to delay our occupation and to provide ample time for them to retreat at a minimum of risk. House to house is very slow, and it took the better part of the day to get through to the outer perimeter of Linnich.
My squad was assigned a machinegun section to protect on some high ground in the northeast section of Linnich. We deployed and were beginning to dig in when we were showered with German Mortars. The Germans obviously made visual contact of our movement and began the attack. The Germans zeroed us in real good and I immediately ordered my men, and the machinegun section, to pull back to cover. They withdrew, but not without losses. I was the last to leave the position, and as I got up and turned to head toward shelter, I saw a mortar lobbing toward me and witnessed it land in the crotch of a small tree and explode. I scooted back to safety. Upon arriving someone said, "Hey, Sgt. Lucky, your cheek is bleeding." I didn't feel anything until he mentioned it, and I reached up and felt my face wet with blood. It was superficial and the Medic treated it and put a bandage on it. I guess the adrenalin rush of the mortar explosion and trying to get to safety made me numb to any injury. In the meantime, Sgt. Klausemeyer, my Platoon Sergeant, called in some artillery to hit the area we suspected the mortars were coming from. Shortly thereafter, we took up our position again without incident.
There was a house about 300 yards to the east of Linnich, close to the Roer River that was suspected to be a listening post for the Germans. I was asked to report to Battalion Headquarters and Major Gatlin, our Battalion Commander. My orders were to investigate the house in question in a daylight patrol with four of my men and an engineer. We were to determine if it was, in fact, a listening post, and if so, the engineer was to determine what it would take to blow the building to smithereens! Jokingly, I turned to the Major and said, Major, don't forget to notify the Line Companies that will be out there." He gave me a condescending smile and we left.
Our next job was to pick out our route to the house, thereby minimizing our exposure to enemy eyes. This patrol would totally secure our position in Linnich and eliminate the last few, if any, Germans west of the Roer. We started down the road moving from house to house, being very careful to keep ourselves out of enemy sight. It was mostly downhill, and within fifteen minutes we arrived at our target, the house, without incident.
The engineer proceeded to evaluate our target. It was determined that one or more people were coming and going as there were empty ration tins, cigarette butts, and signs where someone had urinated and defecated in one of the back rooms. There was no doubt some activity had been there within the past 12 hours or so. It was suspected that the Germans had a tunnel under the Roer, but we did not find it. What we did find was a heavy door that we were not able to open on the east side of the basement. Anything, or anyone, could have been on the other side.
Our time at the house was relatively brief. In approximately 30 to 40 minutes we had acquired all the information that was needed to minimize our exposure to the German line of sight, and were ready to start back on our predetermined route. We had no sooner left the safety of the house, it turned out that our engineer was hit in the left shoulder. Out of breath, surprised, and wondering what to do next, we cleaned and dressed his wound and now had to make plans on how to get back safely, not knowing where the shot had come from. It suddenly dawned on us that the wound could not have been inflicted by the Germans. He should have been hit in the right shoulder if he were shot by the Germans! We all agreed that the shots came from our line.
In about one hour it would be dark, so I decided that I would attempt to get back by myself, and in a half an hour my men were to start back when they saw a flare over their position. I flung my M-1 over my shoulder and literally paraded out of the house for about ten steps. When everything was quiet and I then broke into a run all the way back to Battalion Headquarters. Upon arriving, I busted into Major Gatlin's office and proceeded to "chew his ass;" Major or not, for not notifying one or more of the Line Companies that we were going to be out there. I had just finished my tirade when in came Jim Chance from my Squad who was on the patrol. He also laced into the Major with some well-chosen expletives. The Major explained that somewhere along the line, his communication stopped, and it should not have stopped, and that he would look into the matter.
Anyway, we all returned safely and it was not necessary to fire a flare because when the rest of the Patrol did not hear any firing, they took off like big-ass birds and headed back. The engineer was evacuated to care for his wound and the rest of us tried to get some sleep. Apparently the engineer related the necessary information to his C.O., and the next night we saw the fruit of our labor literally go up in smoke! The engineers did their job and set the charges in that house, and blew that sucker into pieces. When the dust cleared and daylight was upon us, the only thing remaining was a crater in the ground.
That pretty much ended our Linnich experience. We spent a few days in preparation for the move across the Roer River.
Third Squad Leader of the Second Platoon of G Company, 406th Regiment (2nd Battalion) 102nd OZARK DIVISION.
----- Sal Conigliaro
Additional stories of Mr. Conigliaro's experiences with Second Platoon of G Company, 406th Regiment (2nd Battalion) 102nd Ozark Division can be viewed by clicking on the links below...
A Personal War Story
My War Story
My War Story of Sgt. "Lucky" Sal Conigliaro (cont'd)
A War Story: Aachen * Immendorf * Apweiller * Gereonsweiler * Linnich
A War Story: Hannover * Stendal * Gardelegen * Sandau * Havelberg
My Initiation Into the Military
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "A WAR STORY: AACHEN * IMMENDORF * APWEILER * GEREONSWEILER * LINNICH *", by "Lucky" Sal Conigliaro, 406th, Co. G., was forwarded to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Nanette Fenton, daughter of the late "Lucky" Sal Conigliaro.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of Ms. Fenton. 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 7 November 2009.
Story added to website on 8 November 2009.
September 5, 2002.
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