Heroes: the Army
"...Even with bullets coming so close to our head that they hurt our eardrums, we did not fully grasp the fact that these bullets would mean certain death if they had been an inch or two closer, it seemed as long as we moved forward, we did not realize we were in mortal danger..."
Paul M. Wible
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. L., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Bloomington, IN
The Open Field Attack
by Paul Wible - 407-L
"Bob Lally wanted me to write up a description of how it felt to attack across an open field with machine guns firing at us. I did the best I could as f remember it. When I sent it to him he thought I should send it to the Notes. Use your judgment " We did. Thanks.
How does it feel when advancing across an open field with machine guns firing from the other side? This happened to us only one time. There were other times when we advanced, we were expecting to be fire at but It did not materialize. If it had, I probably would not have survived because the laws of probability would not allow one to live through more than one experience such as this.
On November 30, 1944 outside the town of Welz in the Rhineland, we made such an attack and German machine gunners were waiting for us at a distance of approximately one mile from our starting point. In our first attack there was a somewhat aura of unreality that surrounded us. Even with bullets coming so close to our head that they hurt our eardrums, we did not fully grasp the fact that these bullets would mean certain death if they had been an inch or two closer, it seemed as long as we moved forward, we did not realize we were in mortal danger. As proof of this, when a rabbit jumped up and started running to our right, Jim Zanes swung his rifle around and fired at the rabbit instead of continuing to fire in the direction of the German machine guns. The rabbit didn't get hit but it was luckier than over 50% of those in our platoon. Many of our buddies on our right, on our left, and to the rear were either killed or seriously wounded.
Only about four of us reached a small thicket and became pinned down so completely, that to have raised our head one inch would have meant certain death, did the realization come over me that I was in great danger. When this hit me, it was the greatest mental torture I have ever experienced. It was so great that I wanted to shoot myself to escape.
In later attacks, when we knew we would have to cross open fields and were aware of what machine guns would do to us, we still climbed out of our fox holes and advanced toward the enemy. When we knew the odds, how did we feel as the time approached? Thankfully, we were somewhat numbed by fatigue and lack of sleep, but still capable of experiencing feeling of fear and extreme anxiety. In later years I would feel a slight resemblance to this feeling when getting ready to speak before a large group. It was the feeling that I was going to fail miserably but also aware that I was going to do it no matter what the consequences.
When the call came, we simply got up and advanced. After all of the years that have passed since these events, I frequently dream I am back in the war getting ready to make an attack and these anxieties return. In retrospect, had I not gotten out of my fox hole and moved forward when the command was given, I would not want to talk about my war experiences to anyone. I would try to forget and wipe out all memories of army life. I would under no conditions want to go to our 102nd Division reunions and face my buddies.
----- Paul Wible
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "The Open Field Attack", by Paul Wible, Co. L., 407th, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 53, No. 3, April/June, 2001, pp. 16.
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 25 March 2005.
Story added to website on 25 March 2005.
September 5, 2002.
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