Heroes: the Army
"...My position in line was number 4. I was vaguely aware that a handful of men had been sent forward to locate the foxholes in question. The rest of us waited patiently, squatting at the edge of the field while reconnoitering continued..."
Barber L. Waters
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. A., 406th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC, Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Watertown, NY
by Barber Waters, 406-A
Is there a G.I. who doesn't remember Windy Corner? I can't accurately define its location, but Windy Corner was somewhere in the vicinity of Linnich, and served as a major intersection before one reached the wide open fields sloping down to the Roer. Where the name came from, I can only surmise, but it was a place to be feared. Dirt roads cut deep in the earth converged at the point of crossing. A lonely sojourner, especially at night, could experience a dreadful sense of entrapment. Small wonder, then, the enemy positioned his 88s to zero in on Windy Corner, hoping perchance, to intercept a weary patrol blundering into this potential caldron of fire.
Whenever we found it necessary to negotiate Windy Corner, by day or by night, we would pause for a few minutes on its perimeter, catch a second wind, then sprint breakneck speed to the other side.
Such was the setting sometime in early December 1944 when "A" Company received orders to replace a cavalry unit holding the line in foxholes adjacent to the river. Only a couple of weeks before our unit had sustained a stunning counterattack which had decimated its forces. Apparently it was thought the 17 remaining G.I.s plus a handful of replacements, could adequately manage what seemed a minimal holding action. And so, on the appointed night, the company proceeded toward Windy Corner and points beyond. The night was black and threatening. To keep pace, it was necessary at intervals to lean forward to catch sight of a silhouetted rifle barrel against the night sky.
Windy Corner lay ahead. We approached cautiously, dreading the horrible possibility of being caught in its bowels just as another barrage was set off by the enemy. No loitering here. A moment of hesitation, then a dash across the abyss to the refuge of a dark and obscured field.
My position in line was number 4. I was vaguely aware that a handful of men had been sent forward to locate the foxholes in question. The rest of us waited patiently, squatting at the edge of the field while reconnoitering continued. Time passed slowly. Minutes became hours. As the night wore on, I dozed at times. What was happening? It soon became apparent that the cavalry outfit had long since vacated the foxholes and we had been left to ferret them out on our own.
The G.I. in front of me suddenly startled my reverie with a tense "Let's go." Had I been selected to help probe for those abandoned foxholes? Unknowing, I followed, careful to keep in my sights the dark figure immediately ahead. A few steps, a pause, kneeling in the darkness, listening, waiting. Finally, there we were, wherever it was. I discerned the lieutenant crouching on the rim of a hole, whispering, inquiring about the men - obviously wondering where they were - wanting them to occupy the nearby foxholes. But there was no response. The company sat stymied at the edge of the field, still waiting for an order to move up.
Suddenly the picture became clear. I had committed an irreparable blunder. I had failed to pass along to the G.I. immediately behind me the word we were moving forward.
There in then darkness, the lieutenant invoked my name. "Where is he? I want to kick his ass.
With dawn rapidly approaching, there was no going back. We were on our knees. Two of us scrambled to the nearest hole. No time to look further. I didn't know my comrade-in-arms. He may have been new to the company. But there we were, "buddied" together for whatever lay ahead. The hole was rectangular in shape. We faced each other, knees almost touching as we tried to hunker down. With the approaching dawn, sounds of activity across the Roer echoed through the valley, reminding us of our predicament. The cough of a mortar was easily discernible. At the count of 12, the shell exploded somewhere in our vicinity. Obviously the enemy was peppering the area with shell fire. We were able to determine almost to the second when each missile would explode. The terrain on the opposite shore crested upward. We were certain that any movement on our side of the river would initiate an immediate response.
In addition to sharing the discomfort of a small foxhole, I soon discovered the inconvenience of suffering through a rare case of diarrhea. Modesty be damned. A K ration box served as my receptacle and I used it frequently. The foxhole shrank even smaller. A cough, a 12 second interval, an explosion hard by our refuge. I feared the late afternoon might bring an attack, as it often had. Hours dragged. The seriousness of our situation struck home forcefully. Here we were - four lone defenders holding this segment of the western front against an enemy of undetermined strength - ready, perhaps, to launch an attack. What if he had guessed? Could we muster even a semblance of resistance?
At last the daylight faded. November darkness set in. The lieutenant summoned us and we set out back across the open field toward Windy Corner and our home base. Somewhere along the way we encountered a single file of G.I.s heading in the direction from which we had come. Co. A, perhaps, or some other unit of the 406th. I yearned for the semi-security of an appropriated cellar.
No chastisement was ever publicly expressed for the breach of communications. The officer, I later heard, was reprimanded. As for myself, I received notice a few days later that I had been granted a 3-day pass to Paris. It was like a reprieve. Paris!! What delight awaited me there?
To be totally honest, it was hardly what I had imagined. My hotel room was simple and spotless; the mystery of the bidet finally solved; and the mattress, oh, so inviting. I posed in front of the Arch of Triumph. Back at the hotel, however, a message was waiting. "The enemy has launched a major attack somewhere in the region of Bastogne. All leaves are canceled."
But that is another story.
----- Barber L. Waters
(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, "Windy Corner", by Barber Waters, 406th, A. Co., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 54, No. 2, Jan/March 2002, pp. 6 - 7.
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 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 11 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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