September 5, 1944
During the last two or three days, it looked as though you
might be minus a son. We have just been through one of the darndest
battles we have had so far. It was thrilling while it lasted,
but after it was over it was more chilling than thrilling to
think about. It could have come out a lot differently if the
Germans had known how little the force was that opposed them.
Our division had been battling to the east towards Metz, France,
one afternoon last week when suddenly a Cub plane started circling
our column. It landed, and an officer from Corps came hurrying
into the General's car. The sealed orders he carried proved to
be an order to break with the enemy ahead and to turn ninety
degrees to the north and head for Mons, Belgium. The command
radios started cracking and within an hour the stupendous task
of wheeling the entire division had been completed, and it was
streaking north for its new objective.
This change of direction resulted in one of the most confused,
but important, battles so far in this war. The German 7th Army
had withdrawn from the Paris area and was heading north for Belgium,
where they were to turn east to the German border and the Siegfried
Line. We had no inkling of this and they were under the impression
that the closest Americans were battling towards Metz.
In a lightning thrust the Combat Commands of our division
had driven north and had taken Mons without too much resistance.
They were camped in and around the city, and our headquarters
was a few miles to the south where we pulled into a large chateau
for the night. The First Infantry Division had been out-distanced
in the mad dash north and was still about twenty-five miles south
of us yet when darkness closed in.
About the first hint we received of the impending clash of
the two forces was a captured map that showed routes of advance
of the German army that led straight thru our Command Post. You
can imagine the uproar it threw the camp into. The chateau was
located in a patch of trees with open fields on all sides. We
knew that our regular security guards couldn't hope to cope with
what was to come, so we radioed to the commands to send additional
forces. The reply was that they were already fighting like hell
and couldn't get thru to us. We knew that the infantry was too
far away to be of help, so it was up to us to stick it out. Every
man that could be spared from his regular duties oiled up his
guns and drew additional ammunition. I volunteered to help and
was given a job as Sgt. in command of an out-post.
I was given two men and shown the area we were to cover with
our guns. A small creek ran along the edge of the woods. From
the creek to a wooded area about seven hundred yards away was
an open wheat stubble field. Along the main highway that crossed
the creek was a high hedge for about a hundred yards. From there
on it was open to our fire. We grabbed shovels and shelved off
the creek bank on the far side from the camp. Working like mad,
we dug deep and wide. We set up a 50 caliber machine gun and
one of 30 caliber, made three handy stacks of our hand grenades
and placed our small arms handy. We had an M-l, two carbines
and a pistol. We tested the field of fire and then sat down to
wait out the enemy.
An hour passed and nothing happened. Two hours passed and
still nothing unusual. We passed the time enlarging our fort
so that it would accommodate our bed-rolls. It was just like
kid games where we had built forts to repel the kids from across
the tracks, and when we had finished I sat behind the parapet
and let my thoughts wander back to those days. We had drawn straws
for shifts on watch and the others were in their sacks. We had
had a hard day and even the promised excitement couldn't keep
their eyes open. The night was pitchy dark, for the moon had
not yet risen.
My thoughts were suddenly jerked back to the present by a
burst of heavy firing down the highway behind me. I crouched
behind the smaller machine gun and waited, hardly breathing.
Then thru the hedge I saw a flaming vehicle come careening up
the road. I yelled to the men in the next post and asked if it
was German. "Yeh, Jerry half-track!" came back the
answer! About thirty yards beyond the hedge the flaming hulk
came to an abrupt stop, and I could see men jumping from all
sides of it. They were silhouetted in the flames and were a perfect
target. One figure started directly towards me but turned and
dashed away up the ditch. Swinging the "thirty" around,
I sent a burst of tracer winging towards him. They were low,
so I pulled down and sent the pink streaks swinging up and through
him. He faltered in his stride and crashed forward. Swinging
the gun to the left, swept the glowing hail to bear on the second
runner. He too went down in a heap and lay still. Then the "track"
blew up in a huge mushroom of flame and smoke. It burned for
twenty minutes, and it must have been loaded with signal flares
and ammunition for periodically it spouted colored lights like
roman-candles and sky-rockets.
The flames died out and again all was quiet. The boys curled
up in their sacks again and were soon snoring in unison. I was
left with my thoughts and they weren't very pleasant. I had just
killed my first humans. Then I thought of all the things I had
seen in England and France that these people had done, and I
almost reveled in the fact that I had helped avenge those things.
Never again would I worry myself over killing a German.
About two hundred yards in front of our post a dirt road cut
thru the wheat field parallel. The moon had risen and this road
and the bank on the far side of it made a black streak across
the light colored field. I don't know what brought me to attention
but I noticed a dark, moving blotch coming towards me from the
dark streak of the road. Then I made out several other dark objects
behind the one I had first noticed. Crawling over to the boys,
I shook them awake. Quietly we prepared our guns and trained
them towards the advancing splotches. When we were ready, one
of the fellows challenged. The moving figures stopped and then
started forward. Taking up my carbine I gun-pointed at the forward
figure. At the crack he half rose, in a regular movie style,
and pitched forward. The boys opened up on the others with both
machine guns. The Krauts yelled bloody murder so we let up and
yelled for them to come in. Instead of doing so they started
back the way they had come. All except the one I had nailed with
the carbine. So we opened up again and this time when we stopped
they came in on the run with hands over their heads. There were
fourteen of them. The devils must have been attacking from all
sides for every other gun in the CP was soon chattering and the
dull "brump" of hand grenades could be heard here and
It was still going on as I dozed off to sleep. It must have
been about three in the morning when Horsey Morris woke me. He
had a finger to his lips and he motioned to the dark strip out
in the field. Again there were figures out there, so we opened
up with everything we had. The figures crouched and ran towards
the road where they seemed to disappear into the open field.
Things were quiet again when my turn came to stand guard.
I kept watching the spot where the runners had disappeared,
for it still puzzled me. Suddenly I noticed what appeared to
be the head and shoulders of a man at the very spot where they
had vanished and I knew the answer. All along the roads at about
hundred yard intervals, all the way from the beach at Isigny
were zigzag fox-holes used by the natives when planes came over
to strafe. The Jerrys had holed up in one. I took a pot-shot
at the head and it ducked out of sight. Not a minute later though
a slug zinged into the dirt in front of me. It was followed by
the spiteful crack of a rifle and I saw the guy duck down again.
When one or two of them would raise up, I would give them a couple
rounds and vice-versa. The slugs they sent were mostly high and
I could hear them whanging into the bank or the trees behind
me. On the bank behind our dugout were several of the fellows
sleeping. The slugs were ripping right in amongst them. I yelled
several times for them to get the hell out of there. They just
mumbled and went back to sleep. Finally I gave up trying to move
them, for every time I yelled it was a signal for more shots
from the Krauts. When morning came there wasn't one of them that
had been hit, but you should have seen their faces when they
saw all the holes in the tree's around them.
About dawn Heaton spotted two Germans crawling out to the
man I had dropped during the night. He yelled for them to come
in but they continued to drag the man out. They had no medical
insignia on them so Horsey took his M-l and put a slug thru the
helmet of one of them. A beautiful shot it was, for it was about
two hundred yards and it was still too dark for sighting. We
opened up with both machine guns and sent a hail of lead over
the head of the remaining man. Then we yelled for him to come
in. We were surprised to see several others rise up from the
dark, strip, and come in with him. They said the guy was wounded
that they had been trying to drag back so we sent them out after
him. I didn't realize what a carbine slug could do until I saw
this fellow. The slug had hit the hip and opened his leg up all
the way to the knee. We wrapped him up and sent him back to the
medics. He was weak from exposure and loss of blood but the meds
said he would live.
When daylight came the guys who had been dueling with me raised
a white flag and came in. There were ten of them.
All day and all the next night the fight went on and more
and more prisoners piled into our cage. Our tanks shelled the
woods beyond the camp and more hundreds came out. Some tried
to take off across a field. They were out of small arms range
so thought they were safe. They went in twos and threes so that
the artillery wouldn't shoot at them. About the fourth group
started out when an artillery man decided to put a stop to it.
He bore-sighted on a spot just ahead of the three men and when
they reached that spot he pulled the lanyard. There was a crash
of flame where the men had been. When the smoke and dust cleared
the field was empty. Three more Krauts had died for Hitler. That
put a stop to the crossing the field.
We witnessed one act that showed the sportsmanship of the
Yank and the courage of a German soldier. A wounded German, well
within small arms range, was trying to crawl away. From over
the far hill came another German wheeling a bicycle. The boys
opened up on him from the next outpost and slugs were kicking
up dust all around him. He came right on, never faltering. When
he neared the wounded man, the fellows stopped firing. He picked
up the man and placed him across the cycle. Then he took off
the way he had come and there wasn't a shot fired. I heard one
of the fellows say, "That guy's a man even if he is a Jerry.
You can't shoot a bird that will do that."
On the morning of the third day the infantry came up, and
we were ordered on towards the Siegfried Line. Our headquarters
consists of about three hundred men, yet we had killed more that
two hundred of the enemy and had captured more than two thousand
of them. Knocked out a hell of a lot of their vehicles too.
The job ahead should be a lot easier now. This army that had
tried to pass thru us was intended to man the concrete pill-boxes
of the West Wall. Five of their generals and forty thousand men
will never fight there, for they ran into the first team of the
First Army: the First Infantry and the Third Armored Divisions.
Well, Mom, it's time to move on, so will end this. Can't send
it now, but it will come later.
Goodbye and all my love,