On December 20th, 1944, our Reconnaissance Office (half-track),
of which I was chief of section of Battery "A", 391st
Armored Field Artillery Battalion, passed through Spa, Belgium,
and then through a large gasoline storage area in a wooded area
between Spa and La Gleize. We set up a communication relay station
because radio reception and visibility were very poor.
On December 21st we got orders to report to a task force in
Stoumont, but could not get by a column of tanks, and got stuck
in a stream when we tried to bypass them on a trail. We then
got a call to report to Colonel Lovelady's headquarters as Stoumont
was not in our hands. A Captain Peters told us to report to Lieutenant
Edmark of "D" Company, 33rd Armored, a task force of
CCB, 3rd Armored Division, in the village of Parfondruy, to give
artillery support. We were escorted part way and were told to
move fast as the Germans had observation on the road. We did
move fast. When we rounded a corner and stopped beside the first
house on our right, there was a building on fire and lighting
up the sky as it became dark. Lieutenant Plummer, our new Forward
Observer, said he would go ahead on foot and make contact with
"D" Company and make sure it was in our hands so all
of us wouldn't get captured. Meanwhile some of the people came
out of the house and asked for help as there were several wounded
inside. William Whitten, Roland Mniece, and Howard Jenkins went
in and began to administer first aid, while the rest of our section
stayed on the guns. We had three .30 cal. and one .50 cal. machine
We soon got a signal from Plummer to come on in, as he was about
1/4 mile away. The guys were reluctant to leave when I came in
to get them loaded up. They were bandaging a woman's left arm
which had a bullet wound. They left most of our first-aid supplies
and climbed over the side of the half-track, as we were only
about 15 feet from the door to the side of the road. We passed
the burning building on our right and met Plummer at the first
corner intersection, and then to Lieutenant Edmark's C.P., who
had made room for us in a room there. There were about six inches
of snow, and it was very cold.
We covered the windows and built a fire. I got out my favorite
stove, a non-issue blow torch, and heated up some 10 in 1 rations.
Lieutenant Edmark came in while we were eating and gave us the
lowdown, or the big picture as they used to say. We had nine
tanks, a platoon of infantry, and mortars, a few engineers and
medics, and we had to hold our position. Lieutenant Edmark had
led "D" Company from Petit-Coo to take possession of
Stavelot, but was stopped at the edge of Parfondruy on the Coo
road by large numbers of infantry and tanks in the afternoon.
They had killed lots of Germans and knocked out several tanks
and had a few prisoners. The fighting was ending as we arrived.
In the night, instead of sending Bed Check Charlie, the Germans
sent a couple of buzz bombs that shook us. The next morning while
scouting our position I entered a house and saw a dead elderly
couple, bullet holes in their head, their throats cut, lying
in their blood. Another house had two women and a baby dead in
a crib. One of the women was nude with a bullet hole in her head
and part of her left arm hacked off. I was at a comer standing
in a yard when two children appeared like out of the fog, and
said: "Vive L'Amerique". One of our soldiers stopped
them and told them not to enter the house as the people were
dead. They said they were looking for their parents and relatives
and went in. I went back to our C.P. in a daze. William Whitten
and I had just pushed the 20-year age mark less than two weeks
ago. It was hard to get our minds back on the war.
All afternoon we could see the German troops across the railroad
marching on the Stavelot road toward Trois-Ponts but could not
see our artillery shells because of haze and fog. I went upstairs
in a house on a hill behind us to observe better. There under
our nose was a large German tank in some trees. After telling
Lieutenant Plummer and Lieutenant Edmark, we got artillery on
it and flushed it out where one of "D" Company tanks
had a clear shot at it. And shoot it he did, but three balls
of fire bounced off, and it backed away, never moving its turret.
It had to be a Mark VI Tiger. It made us all wonder, and I know
the tank gunner was shaking his head, feeling helpless, as it
backed up the railroad on our left flank. I had seen our 75's
bounce off Mark V and VI tanks before, the last time near Roetgen,
where they wiped out several of our tanks.
This tank fire started a lot of fire on us, as the Germans answered
back, and some 155's of our own came in on us. It took us a while
to get this stopped. A message came in on our radio for Lieutenant
Edmark from Colonel Lovelady, as we had the only radio to reach
outside. The Coo road had been taken by the Germans and our infantry
was ordered out. We were isolated and feared the Germans would
try to come through us to get our gasoline supply. We mounted
our three .30 cal. machine guns in the windows upstairs and down,
and sat up all night waiting. No one slept, but the attack never
On December 23rd, we saw a concentration of enemy infantry and
tanks building up as if about to attack. Lieutenant Edmark and
Lieutenant Plummer decided to pull Edmark's tank "Dixie"
beside our C.P. and use it for indirect fire on the Germans,
as it had a 76 gun. I went upstairs to my Observation Post of
the day before to observe with Plummer standing on the tank.
The tank fired three times, and I could see the Germans head
for cover of the woods. They were between two to three thousand
yards away. After the third shot, a German tank, probably the
one I had observed the day before, fired back either at the tank,
or at Plummer or me.
If it was on me, his aim was good but not perfect, as the shell
came through the wall of the room just to my right, knocking
me down, breaking both hands and sending three pieces of shrapnel
into the head. I couldn't get the door open with my hands, thinking
another shell was coming, but I got help with a prayer to open
it. The medics found me in the snow and helped me to the C.P.,
patched me up, and said they would try to get me out, as they
had another wounded man.
I told the guys in my section that I had two bottles of Cognac
in my duffel bag for Christmas. Edmark came in and said good
luck, and I said the same to him. They put my P-38 [can opener]
on the stretcher. As the medic half-track went across the ridge,
the Germans shot at us, with the shells landing close, but they
didn't stop until we got to a roadblock of our own empty vehicles.
When the door opened I expected to see Germans, but it was our
medics checking on us.
We arrived at a large Chateau used as an aid station on the lower
left, with the upper right used as a headquarters and having
a terrace. I recognized my battery commander, Capt. Paul Nelms.
1 was given a shot. The Chaplain came and said let's pray, and
I said 1 had already done that, and I went to sleep.
Christmas day I was on a train near Paris to another hospital,
and someone fed me Christmas dinner - peanut butter and jelly
sandwich. I had no regrets, except I left my P-38 in the ambulance,
and I didn't get any Christmas Cognac, but the memory of the
massacre of Parfondruy I still have.
[NOTE by the author: The book "Battle History of 'A'
Battery", by H. Glen Jenkins, puts the civilian dead in
Parfondruy at 78. The book "La Bataille des Ardennes"
by Roger Crouquet had a count of 24. I was in only three houses
and I saw 11 or 12.]