• Publication has ceased; more than a decade of living history could be lost

    99TH INFANTRY DIVISION ASSOCIATION no longer exists, and this website no longer is being updated. If donations to help maintain or archive material from this site are not forthcoming, more than a decade of living history from the Checkerboard could be lost forever. Hoch Publishing Co. Inc., owned by the family of the late Bill Meyer, is donating continued hosting of more than 10 years of issues of the Checkerboard on this site in hope that additional donors can be found to help pay for transferring that material to a separate partial archive of issues from 1943 through 1999.


  • FINAL ISSUE: Association ceases publication

    This is the final edition of the Checkerboard, official publication of the 99th Infantry Division Association. The board of directors, at the final convention in 2011, voted to discontinue the annual conventions and continue publication of the Checkerboard for a few more months.

  • Rader inducted into Veterans Hall of Honor

    Don Rader, 88, K/393, was inducted Aug. 18 into the Panhandle Veterans Hall of Honor, Pampas TX. He was one of five chosen from the 26-county Panhandle area. Rader was a student at Oklahoma A&M College when he enlisted in the Army. He was in the ASTP, then served in K/393.

  • Medals finally catch up with Mentzer

    When Charles Mentzer moved his family from the Kenton OH area to Xenia OH, the Army lost track of him, so he never received the awards he was due. How they located him again in 1999 remains a mystery, so he was surprised one day when a package arrived in the mail containing his medals for service in World War II. The local recruiters and a reporter from the Xenia Daily Gazette came to his home on Veterans Day 1999, and formally presented him with the Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII Veterans Medal, Infantryman’s Badge, and the European-American-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three stars to show he had been in three major engagements, along with several qualifying badges and lapel buttons.

  • Humphrey's book still available

    Copies of Robert E. Humphrey’s book, “Once Upon a Time in War: The 99th Division in WWII,” are available from Humphrey at a special price of $22. To order, send a check directly to him: Robert E. Humphrey, 2244 Swarthmore Dr., Sacramento CA 95825. Phone 916-920-8878. E-mail:

  • Memorable Bulge incidents remembered

    Of all my World War II memories those of the first few days of the Battle of the Bulge remain the most vivid. On Dec. 16 our positions, which were in a densely wooded area, abutted the International Highway at the Belgium-Germany frontier. Immediately in front was a ditch paralleling the two-lane macadam highway, and beyond there was a cultivated field which offered a field of fire of 100-500 yards. The terrain then dropped off, and the edge of the field was our horizon. By walking about 100 yards to our right, however, we could see the dragon-teeth tank traps and beyond the pillboxes of the Siegfried Line.


  • Joe D. Foster

    Joe D. Foster, 88, I/395, Dallas TX, died Sept. 3, 2012. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. After earning a degree from Texas A&M University, his career with Transamerica Insurance spanned more than 41 years. Survivors include his wife, Georgia; two sons; and three grandchildren.

  • Charles C. Mentzer

    Charles C. Mentzer, 91, H/395, of Xenia OH, died in October 2012. He took part in three major battles during the Bulge and crossed the Remagen Bridge under fire. He earned a Bronze Star. Survivors include his wife; two children; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

  • William D. Fox

    William D. Fox, L/395, Mayfield KY, died Nov. 5, 2011. L Company was part of the 3rd Battalion, which held the line at Hofen, Germany, in the initial attack at the Battle of the Bulge. He had been wounded a month before in Hofen, and that incident was documented in George Neill’s book, “Infantry Soldier – Holding the Line at the Battle of the Bulge.” He was retired from the Merit Clothing Company.

  • Alvin Townsend

    Alvin Townsend, 94, S/394, Chattanooga TN, died Nov. 8, 2012. After the war, he retired from the Nashua Corporation. Survivors include his wife, Alice; two children; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

  • R. Daulton Swanner

    R. Daulton Swanner, 88, A/393, Scroggins TX, died June 8, 2011. He served as a staff sergeant in the Army during World War II, where he saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes Forest, Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns. After the war, he completed his college degree at Texas A&M University in Commerce TX. He went on to become co-owner of Community Grocery, operator for Getty Oil Company, and was the U.S. Postmaster in Scroggins when he retired in 1984. Survivors include three sons and their wives; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

  • Louis F. Gainey

    Louis F. Gainey, 89, K/393, Lantana FL, died April 3, 2012. He was in the ASTP at Louisiana State University, before serving in the 99th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. He graduated from LSU with a master’s degree in wildlife biology, and was employed by the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission for 32 years as a wildlife biologist and regional director until 1981, when he retired. He was the South Florida regional director for Ducks Unlimited, retiring in 1987. Survivors include his wife, Katharine; four children; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

  • Gerhard H. Schulze

    Gerhard H. Schulze, 88, 372nd FA Bn., Independence MO, died June 1, 2012. Upon discharge from the Army, he worked at Missouri Gas Energy for 40 years, retiring as a working foreman in 1985. Survivors include five children; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

  • George W. Snell

    George W. Snell, 89, F/393, Wadsworth IL, died July 13, 2012. He received an MBA from DePaul University and worked for several major corporations until his retirement in 1985, when he entered into a joint venture with the Illinois Trade Association for another 22 years. Survivors include his wife, Nancy; two children; and two grandchildren.

  • Billy E. Muntz

    Billy E. Muntz, Can/395, Bradenton FL, died March 3, 2012. Survivors include his wife, Norma Jean; two daughters; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

  • Francis E. Albers

    Francis E. Albers, 92, M/394, Golden IL, died May 26, 2012. He joined the 99th as a replacement at the end of the Battle of the Bulge. After VE Day, he served as a guard for the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg during the War Crimes trials. Except for his military service, he farmed his entire life near Golden. Survivors include his wife, Virginia; four children; and four grandchildren.

  • Louis Blackmon

    Louis Blackmon, 98, L/395, Rock Island IL, died March 6, 2012. He joined the Army in June 1941, and served until October 1945. He was awarded three Bronze Stars. After returning home, he worked at ALCOA as a millwright, retiring in 1976. Survivors include his wife, Anna; one son and one granddaughter.

  • Howard Stein

    Howard Stein, 90, C/394, Stamford CT, died Oct. 14, 2012. He was a noted scholar and professor of theater studies at leading universities including Yale and Columbia. Survivors include his wife, Marianne; three children; and five grandchildren.

  • Milo V. Price

    Milo V. Price, 88, H/393, Scottsdale AZ, died Sept. 8, 2012. He was born in the former Yugoslavia. As a young boy in 1936, he traveled alone with a destination tag pinned to his coat reading: “Jarbridge, Nevada. Uncle: John Price.” His parents were unable to support him and they wanted him to pursue academic endeavors and to live the American dream. He graduated from high school at the top of his class, then was drafted into the U.S. Army. He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Following the war, he graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in economics and political science, followed by his Juris Doctorate at George Washington University. He worked for the Department of Justice for seven years, then worked for the National Labor Relations Board where he started as a trial attorney, Chief Counsel and ultimately served as regional director for the Southwest before he retired. Survivors include his wife, Dusanka; two children; and two granddaughters.

  • Harry Geller

    Harry Geller, 88, C/324, Overland Park KS, died Nov. 9, 2012. He was selected for ASTP and sent to Baylor University, Waco TX. He served in the 99th and was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and a Bronze Star. He and his brother were owners of Geller Furniture Rentals for more than 40 years. He attended many reunions, including the last one in Overland Park, where he shared a toast with the “Last Man” bottle of cognac prior to the evening’s banquet. Survivors include two sons and seven grandchildren.

  • D. Scott Bowman

    D. Scott Bowman, 91, B/394, Dunellon FL, died Sept. 10, 2012. He was from Philadelphia and Niagara Falls and an ASTP recruit who became a BAR man for his outfit. Captured on the first day of the battle at Losheimergraben, he spent the balance of the war in Stalag XIII-D near Nuremburg and a German farm until liberated. He went to college on the GI Bill, and his career after the war was in electronic sales and marketing. Survivors include three children.

  • James L. Rogers

    James L. Rogers, K/393, 90, Paducah KY, died Dec. 30, 2012. He was a platoon master sergeant during the war. He was a prisoner of war for five months until liberated by American forces. He was a retired route salesman for Mid-West Dairy. Survivors include his wife, Minnie; three sons; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

  • James Larkey

    James Larkey, I/394, 87, Longwood FL, died Nov. 14, 2012. He attended the University of Pennsylvania for two semesters until he was old enough to enter the U.S. Army in 1943, where he served with distinction during World War II and fought in Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge. Upon returning from the war, he finished his college studies and graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in business. He spent most of his professional career working in the family-owned chain of menswear stores, The Larkey Company. He attended many 99th reunions, spending cherished time with his platoon friends and meeting and sharing stories with other veterans. Survivors include three children; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

  • Donald Parta

    Donald Parta, 89, L/393, Bradenton FL, died Dec. 30, 2012. A member of the “lucky” 3rd Platoon, L/393, Don watched German artillery land squarely atop their previous day’s positions on the morning of Dec. 16, 1944, as the Battle of the Bulge began. After the 393rd crossed the Remagen Bridge and Germany surrendered, he transferred to a unit preparing to invade Japan and was discharged in December 1945. He graduated from the University of Detroit as an engineer and worked more than 20 years for General Motors in product engineering. Survivors include three children; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.


  • Captain Bauer remembered

    I was saddened to see in Taps the death of Captain Eugene Bauer. He was my commanding officer in the 99th Infantry Division. Capt. Bauer trained us at Camp Maxey in first aid and field injury procedures. It was then that Capt. Bauer assigned me to Company D as an aid man. After landing in France, my division worked its way to the front lines in Belgium. We were at the Siegfried Line on the border of Germany. Whenever I returned to the aid station to get more aid supplies for my unit, it was Capt. Bauer and our chaplain who would offer me a cup of what they referred to as “Purple Heart medicine.” It was whiskey and although I did not drink, that cup sure made me feel good after being in combat.

  • Letter home is shared

    For many years, the Checkerboard has been of special interest to me and the sons of Thomas Cooper Evans, K/393. Like many veterans, my husband did not talk about his war experiences or comment much about recollections. The stories from members of the 99th seem to describe times and ventures that might have been his. Known as “Cooper” before his Army years, he did take the opportunity to write letters, and one that was saved by a farmer friend in Iowa was discovered recently by his grandson-in-law. This family kept the original and has given us copies. Cooper and Junior shared a skill in shooting, which is the subject of this detailed letter, which I think may be something your readers would appreciate.

  • Daughter needs information

    I am currently researching my father’s time spent in World War II. His name was Perry W. Bradley and he was from Walker County GA. I believe he must have been part of the 99th, according to the information I have found on his discharge papers. His organization is listed as “Co A 395th Inf.” I do know that he participated in the Battle of the Bulge, and the only infantry division that I have located thus far which fits these criteria is the 99th Division. His deployment date also matches up with testimonies of other veterans from the 395th. My father died in 2002, and told me very little about his experiences. I am on a quest to find out as much as possible about his time spent in the war, as well as the time he spent in training, but I don’t have a lot to go on. I contacted the National Archives and they tell me his service records were burned in the 1973 fire. I am trying to figure out where to go from here.

  • Facts requested about Charles Van Sant

    I was at a local flea market in Salisbury MD, and came across a tattered book with the Army insignia on the front and “buddies” embossed on it. I purchased it from the seller and took it home to read as I am a huge history buff (majored in American Military History at Salisbury University). Long story short, it is a book with all of the owner’s buddies’ names, addresses and comments. It really is interesting and there are even a dozen or so photos in the back. The man it belonged to was Pvt. Charles R. Van Sant of the 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Division. I was wondering if this man fought at the Battle of the Bulge or served anywhere else in Europe. The dates in the book are all around August 1943, as they were leaving Camp Van Dorn MS. I would love to hear from anyone who can provide information. Andy Blagus

  • Foxhole buddies

    Two GIs in a foxhole, that was the norm for the BAR man and his assistant, the ammunition bearer. And that is the way we were, knowing that the German Infantry’s 12th Volksgrenadier Division scouts and riflemen would soon be advancing toward our rifle squad of 10 men. We were in a waiting game that started at daybreak Dec. 16, 1944. We were in our sleeping bags when we were awakened by artillery shells opening holes of the dawn in our squad’s tent. We were awarded the luxury of a tent even though we were front line troops because we were the one squad that was in reserve for all our other squads on the front.

  • Beans! Beans!

    Dec. 24, 1944 — The Battle of the Bulge was drawing to a close. Members of the 370th Field Artillery Battalion, along with other troops, had been engaged in this battle since dawn on Dec. 16. There was heavy snow and bitterly cold temperatures. An American foxhole somewhere in a wooded area of Elsenborn was refuge for forward observer Sgt. Charles Calhoun and his jeep driver Cpl. Arnold Sizemore. The foxhole was equipped with a small stove vented by a pipe that extended through the pine branch ceiling of the shelter. The exposed end of the pipe was covered with wire to prevent the deposit of German grenades.

  • Lambert was proud of service, interviews with Humphrey

    The purpose of this letter is a sand one, as it is to request removal of a name from your Checkerboard mailing list. My father, Stan Lambert, 1/394, died Nov. 26, 2011.


  • James Larkey, I/394, remembered

    James Larkey, age 87, has died from lung cancer. I came to know Jim while writing “Once Upon A Time In War: The 99th Division in WWII.” We became long-distance friends through countless phone calls and e-mails. Jim was remarkably candid, open-minded and delightful — a real loss for his two daughters and son. He knew he was dying but expressed no anger, bitterness, or regrets saying, “death is the natural order of our fate.” His remarkable upbeat attitude and cheerfulness inspired all those who were lucky enough to know him. Jim was born Jan. 31, 1925, in Red Bank NJ, one of three boys born to Ben and Irma Larkey, whose Jewish ancestors had emigrated from Russia. Jim’s grandfather was a tailor, and eventually the family established a successful men’s clothing business, where Jim worked weekends. Jim loved football and took great pride in having played center on the Columbia High School team. On one occasion on defense he knocked down a forward pass he should have intercepted and returned for a touchdown — seven decades later that missed opportunity still haunted him.

  • John Wearly shares his story

    The 99th Infantry Division arrived in France around Nov. 6, 1944, at LeHavre, France. We proceeded by convoy to Aubel, Belgium, about 285 miles away. We were to relieve units of the 9th Division, the 102nd Cavalry Group, Combat Command B of the 5th Armored Division, and the 85th Reconnaissance Squadron in the V Corps Sector. The area covered started at Hofen, Germany, and ran south to the middle of the Losheim Gap, a distance of about 22 miles. My regiment, the 394th, covered the end of our front. My battalion, the 3rd, was located north and a little south in front of the border station of Losheimergraben. The MLR was west of here. We relieved the 9th Division Combat team on Nov. 14, 1944. The time was spent in improving our foxholes and machine gun positions. We stayed in these positions until about Dec. 12, 1944, when our battalion switched places with the 1st Battalion, which had been in Division reserve about a quarter mile behind the front lines.

  • Robert A. Abernathy, Jr., Easy Company/393rd

    Robert was born Sept. 1, 1924, in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of a namesake naval commander and Catherine Byrne Gibson, the daughter of a prominent New York physician. Consequently he enjoyed something of a privileged upbringing, spending several years traveling with his mother through France, Spain, Italy and Austria. The family eventually settled in Lynchburg VA, where he completed high school, graduating in June 1941. Robert wanted to attend the Naval Academy but his severe myopia prevented acceptance. So he enrolled in Hamilton College, a liberal arts school in upstate New York, where he also joined Enlisted Reserve Corps and its unfulfilled promise of time to complete the degree. When examined by an officer and asked if he really wanted to join given his limited vision without glasses, he assured the office, “Yes, I want to help the war effort.” In March 1943 the army called Robert up for active duty, so he chose the Air Corps. After a few weeks of basic training he was sent to Tinker Field in Oklahoma City where he became a shipping clerk. Still hoping to complete college, he secured a place at Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College in Stillwater in ASTP. Near the end of the first semester a second lieutenant in charge of the post office advised him to flunk out as ASTP was going to be shut down. Had he done so, he would have been sent back to the Air Corps and avoided the infantry. Thinking he wanted to earn college credits, he ignored this sage advice; but the lieutenant proved right, the program came to an end, and Robert departed for the 99th Infantry Division at Camp Maxey in Paris TX.

  • Odyssey: A personal view of World War II

    Prologue In 1942, when I was a junior in Greenwood High School, word was sent around to all male students who expected to be drafted in the near future that a group from the federal government would be giving some tests to those interested in a college program. I was one of about eight or nine who took the test. Later, I received a card stating that I had met the initial qualification for the program. Much later I learned that the test given us was the AGCT (Army General Classification Test). To be considered for the college program it was necessary to score a minimum of 115 points. To qualify for OCS (Officers Candidate School) it only required 110 points. I was instructed to present the card when I reached the Reception Center at Camp Shelby MS.

  • Joseph Kagan, Company Commander Fox/393

    Joe Kagan, affectionately called “Little Joe” by his men, was born on July 21, 1922, in Hartford CT, to Russian-Jewish immigrants. Joe’s father, Meyer, had arrived before WWI, but unfortunately had to leave his wife, Sophie, and two children behind until the conclusion of the war. Meyer went into the dairy business, which prompted Joe to major in dairy farming at Connecticut Agricultural College in 1940. As a land grant college, male students had to serve two years in ROTC. Joe enrolled and then continued with the ROTC program as an upperclassman, which meant (unbeknownst to him) he had enlisted in the army. He was called up in 1943 and after infantry basic training, completed Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning GA, and became a brand new second lieutenant. Joe arrived at Camp Maxey TX, in the hot, humid summer of 1944 and initially became leader of the 2nd Platoon, Fox Company (later company commander). Luckily the company had an outstanding, giant-sized first sergeant, David Spencer, whom Joe relied on for his expertise. David Spencer commented years later, “Joe Kagan was the bravest soldier I ever encountered.” At Maxey Joe learned an important lesson in managing men, namely, delegate authority and responsibility to others, a management style that he utilized later when he built up and then served as president of Dannon Milk Products from 1967 to 1980.

  • Harry Arnold's 'Easy Memories' continued

    Though we were not aware of it at the time, our errant march of the afternoon and through most of the night was a result of what has been referred to later as a “false withdrawal.” It is alleged that 395 Regt. Hq. received a radio communication ordering the withdrawal of the regiment to the new positions being built on Elsenborn and the Elsenborn Ridge complex. It is not clear whether 2nd Bn. Remained under the command of the regiment at this time, or whether it had, in fact, reverted to 393 Infantry, the command from which it had been detached earlier. Be that as it may, the battalion was part of the false withdrawal. The word “alleged” is used because of controversy which developed almost immediately. 99th Division Headquarters disclaimed issuance of the order and communication, and ordered the immediate reoccupation of the positions. It has since been generally accepted that the message was perpetrated by German operatives seeking to disorganize the defense of the area. Curious, however, is the fact that the Germans were slow in taking advantage of a situation favorable to them which they had supposedly themselves created. Some 14 hours had transpired between the withdrawal and reoccupation of the positions, completed before dawn of Dec. 19. Some Germans were in the position on our return, but not in force, and were easily routed. This happy circumstance could have been otherwise – an alert enemy should have exploited the opening to our disadvantage. As it turned out, little harm or damage was done – the actual withdrawal to the Elsenborn line was accomplished the night of Dec. 19-20 as scheduled. It should be emphasized that we were not driven from the Krinkelt area – the Germans did not take the area – it was abandoned in favor of a better defense line, and resulted from a tactical decision. Little advantage accrued to the Germans in their occupation of the abandoned areas. Those who occupied the released ground would, over the coming days and weeks, pay a grim and terrible rent on the property. American artillery would collect the bill.


John Wearly shares his story

2601 Covington Commons Dr., Apt. 51,
Fort Wayne IN 46804

The 99th Infantry Division arrived in France around Nov. 6, 1944, at LeHavre, France. We proceeded by convoy to Aubel, Belgium, about 285 miles away. We were to relieve units of the 9th Division, the 102nd Cavalry Group, Combat Command B of the 5th Armored Division, and the 85th Reconnaissance Squadron in the V Corps Sector.

The area covered started at Hofen, Germany, and ran south to the middle of the Losheim Gap, a distance of about 22 miles. My regiment, the 394th, covered the end of our front. My battalion, the 3rd, was located north and a little south in front of the border station of Losheimergraben. The MLR was west of here. We relieved the 9th Division Combat team on Nov. 14, 1944. The time was spent in improving our foxholes and machine gun positions. We stayed in these positions until about Dec. 12, 1944, when our battalion switched places with the 1st Battalion, which had been in Division reserve about a quarter mile behind the front lines.

The 2nd Division was going to attack the Germans through our lines. IT was going to be just north and east of the villages of Krinkelt and Rocherath. Company I, 3rd Bn., and I Platoon MG from Company M were attached to 2nd Bn. 393rd Reg. during the attack. The rest of the 3rd Bn. was around Buchholz Station on the south of the 99th front. Our reconnaissance platoon was at the west edge of Lanzerath. Company M Headquarters and 1st MG Platoon were on the dirt road that ran north from Buchholz Station to Route N34. Company Headquarters was in a cabin that the 1st Bn. had started to build and which we finished. It held about 18 men.

We took turns standing guard and reported that we could hear vehicles moving behind German lines. I had the 2-4 hour guard shift and was just beginning to sleep soundly when I was awakened by a rumbling sound that sounded like artillery. We thought it sounded like tanks, but weren’t sure. This happened about 5:30 a.m. the morning of Dec. 16, 1944.

It wasn’t long until we were alerted and went to prepare gun positions near our cabins and waited there, keeping a lookout for anything coming through the woods. I got the SCR 300 radio to receive and send messages. I slept in a dugout with the first sergeant and we took turns that night listening to the radio for any news. We began getting a better picture of what was happening.

The next morning I was standing outside the dugout with the radio on the ground and had the earphones on with speaker in my hand listening to reports on the radio. I turned part way around to look at the road when I saw an orange light and the next thing I knew I was inside the dugout flat on my face with my pipe shoved partway down my mouth. I don’t know how long I lay on my face. My back felt like someone had used a sledge hammer on it. The earphones were still on and connected. The first sergeant hollered and asked if I was OK. A big shell landed about 80 feet behind me. There was a jeep and trailer between me and the explosion. The jeep and trailer were riddled with shrapnel, tires flat and about 10 trees blown down.

I received a call from our mortar observer requesting mortar fire on certain objectives. He could not contact the mortar squads so I relayed his instructions. The mortar platoon was in its original position near the front line. We had to bring the mortars down near us and they set up in the ditch by the road and began to fire. They must have done some pretty good work for it was not long until we received a shelling. I thought I was fast, but Capt. Shank beat me to a foxhole near the road.

Soon after this, the mortar observer called me and said he was destroying his radio set as the Germans were about to capture him as he was surrounded. That was the last I heard from Sgt. Skerley. The Germans were in the battalion headquarters building and the GIs were retreating down the road past us. We were ordered to load up our equipment and set up near the highway where our road intersected it.

All this time, German planes were overhead bombing and strafing the Losheimer crossroads about a half mile away. We immediately began to dig in and prepare for the worst. About the time we got the foxhole dug the captain came on the run and ordered us to pack up and pull out, as the Germans were closing in on us and we were being surrounded. Everyone put their equipment on the jeep trailers and took off following each other. I put the radio in a jeep trailer and after it was loaded they took off down the road to meet on the hill where the first side road was. This was to be the MLR.

All the jeeps were gone except the one I chose to ride on. The driver got it stuck on a stump and we were trying to rock it off. Bullets started flying around us and getting too close. Lt. Graf ordered us to abandoned the jeep and trailer and follow him. We were told to run from the woods that were parallel to the road and keep parallel to the road until we came to American troops and wait with them. Pat Accaredo, the first gunner, wanted to open fie as the MG was still in its holder on the jeep. He tried to get the gun out of the holder but it wouldn’t budge. He next tried to get open the hand grenade container that was taped to the steering column, but with no success. He then fired several shots from his .45 pistol into the bolt and bolt housing. The rest of the men had taken off through the woods down a path into an open field.

All this time I was lying behind the trailer covering Pat with my carbine. The bullets were whistling closer all the time and began to hit the jeep. We took off back through the woods with the bullets coming closer. The path sloped down and we came to the edge of the woods and started running parallel to the road. Every time we came to a firebreak there was a burp gunner at the other end firing at us. They came close, but no hits. It was hard running as the snow was fairly deep and the pine trees close together. It wasn’t long before we were breathing like draft horses. At last we saw open ground ahead of us and then our troubles began. As I came out of the woods I got stuck in a snow-covered mud puddle and it took me a little while before I was able to pull myself loose. There were three hills in front of us and we wanted to get behind the biggest one as soon as we could.

Going across the open ground made us hurry for we were afraid the Germans would come and there we would be, out in the open. I was so tired. When we came to a fence I cut the strands with my wire cutters. At last we finally made it over the big hill and there the guys who left first were talking to some men from the 2nd Division. After much discussion, we stayed with the 2nd Division men. They were dug-in along a ridge. They had us dig in along a hedge that was in front of their positions. We paired up and selected the area to dig our foxholes. I was paired off with two other men. They dug a slit trench and I went out and took fence posts out of the ground for an overhead cover. The slit trench held two men sleeping back to back on the bottom and the third man sleeping on top of them covered by the fenceposts. It got dark and since I had the wire cutters, it was my job to get the fence posts. The Germans started shooting off flares and every time I had to freeze in position with my head down until the flare went out. We only had two blankets between us.

Sometime around 2 a.m. we were told to get up and move out. We fell in on the tail end of the 2nd Division single file line as they pulled out to go to Krinkelt. It was beginning to rain and I had to take off my glasses and put them in my jacket pocket and follow the man in front of me. It seemed like ages had passed since we started walking. As we were walking along some of the 2nd Division men started to throw some of their equipment away. I found a blanket bed roll fastened with a tent rope so I picked it up and carried it with me. We finally came to a village and walked through it as the buildings were on fire. We came to a fork in the road and no one knew which way to go. Resting here, we could see several villages around us up in flames. It gave you a funny feeling which made your skin crawl. Just as we started leaving, a heavy barrage came in and it did not take long to leave the town. The Germans were shelling it and we got out to avoid capture. They had us surrounded on three sides. The 13 of us had only the clothes we wore and picked up packs that others had dropped.

The hike was a long one and if you fell out they passed by you and kept on going as it was every man for himself. Once we were all walking at the edge of an anti-tank minefield and one of the men near me started to get out of line. It didn’t take me long to pull him back into line as he came close to stepping on a mine. He could have blown us all up sky-high.

After cutting across country for some time we finally came to a road and to our surprise, found the remains of several German tanks and half-tracks, which had been knocked out of commission.

It was just getting daylight as we came to the village from which we had left about a month before going to the front lines. Here at Wirtzfeld we joined the rest of the 1st Platoon, Headquarters Company. As stragglers came in they were directed to their units. We had a joyous reunion for a little while. If you ever saw a ragged looking bunch, it was us as we were all dirty and unshaven and had not eaten in several days.

It wasn’t long until we started toward Elsenborn and there we were to set up a defensive line. I had gotten ahold of a K ration and it was the most delicious food I had ever tasted, I thought at the time. We were all so tired that it was hard to pick up your feet and all you did was to drag them on the ground. My pants were torn in several places and my pant legs were out of the boots and the boots felt like they weighed a ton.

Approaching Elsenborn we passed an artillery outfit as they were eating and firing their last shells. Then they pulled out to the rear, wherever that was. At last we were in town and were waiting by the side of the road. There were men from an anti-aircraft outfit waiting there and taking shots at German planes as they came over.

Every time a big gun fired I jumped a mile. The cooks had garbage cans with burners under them boiling water and inside them were C ration meat cans. I could hardly eat any of it as I think my stomach had shrunk. As soon as we had eaten, they started setting a defense around Elsenborn. That night the town was shelled and the shrapnel sounded like hail on a tin roof, but the roof was made of clay tile. Everyone made a dash for the basement, but it wasn’t big enough for all of us so we slept on the floor of the ground floor.

The next morning Lt. Graf, myself, Bob Little, platoon runner, and other lieutenants from our company and the other company officer went with the regimental Co. to higher ground to our front to establish our main line of resistance to hold off the Germans. I found out later that this was an artillery range for the Belgium Army. There were no trees, only bushes. Lt. Graf placed the three machine guns we had among the rifle companies. We were to dig in on the forward slope of the hill. By the time the rest of the men and equipment came up it was getting dark and we started digging in right away as there was no time to spare.

Bob Little and I were to dig a slit trench for the three of us. He had a trench shovel and I had lost my pick. He broke the ground into pieces and I used my steel helmet to scoop it out. Downhill in front of us the riflemen were digging in. As I bent over to scoop more dirt out of our slit trench a shot rang out and one of the three riflemen directly in front of me was shot by a sniper. The bullet went right over my back and I fell to the ground. Immediately, our other riflemen fired in the direction of the sniper.

We continued digging and Lt. Graf had Little start a foxhole some distance away. That evening we thought it was our artillery zeroed in on the MLR and they were about 100 yards short. The barrage lasted about four or five minutes as they must have fired all the guns they had as the explosions were terrific. One shell landed about 15 feet behind the hole we were in. We were covered with dirt, rocks and sod and shaken up considerably. Our hole was only six feet square and about two and a half feet deep. Lt. Graf, Little and I were lying on the bottom of it. I had my shoes and socks off when the barrage started and when it ended they were still off. The platoon leader of the rifle company that we were attached to called out for us to phone back and tell them to lift the barrage 1,000 yards, which we did as we had the only phone in our area. After the barrage ceased, everyone got out of his hole and took stock of everything and checked to make sure everyone was all right. Some of the men were burnt by the phosphorous and were sent back to the medics. Mud packs were made and used to cover the burns. It kept the air off so it stopped burning.

On Dec. 28, 1944, the Germans were told they could walk right into Elsenborn, but we let them walk in until they were past our barbed wire and then opened fire. This happened early in the morning. The Germans withdrew and took their dead and wounded with them. Later the next morning, we woke up to find a German tank with its gun barrel sticking over a ridge in the forward slope of the hill, firing point blank at our foxholes. Lt. Graf was standing on the firing step describing the firing to the company CP while some of the shells hit near us. Four shells hit in front of one man’s hole, covering him with dirt, but he was not hurt. His canteen cup was riddled and he wanted to tackle the tank with his carbine he was so mad. The anti-tank crew near us tried to aim at the tank but they could not so they tried to aim through the bore of the gun. This did not work as the tank showed only the turret so they got back in their holes and stayed until the tank withdrew. It was my job to keep my telephone lines repaired and above the snow, which was not an easy job. I did most of this after dark.

At this time I had on two suits of long johns, wool shirt, wool pants, waterproof pants, mackinaw, knit gloves covered by waterproof gloves which had only a thumb and trigger finger sticking out, a knit cap with helmet liner and helmet. I had combat shoes and socks. I did not have galoshes because I wore a size 12 boot. I kept four pair of socks pinned on the inside back of my mackinaw to keep them dry. I changed socks every night and massaged my feet.

One evening after dark I was going back to the company CP for rations for the next day. I got caught in an artillery barrage and had to hit the ground. Proceeding back to our foxhole carrying the rations, I heard more shells coming and dropped the rations and jumped into a trench near the company CP and sweated it out until all was clear. There wasn’t too much snow on the ground at this time and the going was not too hard. After I passed K Company CP, which was a concrete room underground, I felt the urge to relieve myself and set the rations down and proceeded to do my business. I suddenly heard what sounded like a million shells whistling through the air. Not taking any time to button my fly, I hit the ground. The shells were hitting all around me and I wished I was small enough to crawl under my steel helmet.

As I lay there, I could hear the high whine of the small pieces of shrapnel whistling around and the swish of the large pieces of shrapnel flying around. When the barrage let up for a little bit, I ran down the step into K Company’s CP. The guard there did not know what happened. I waited until the barrage was over before venturing out. What had saved me was that I had been lying in a small depression in the ground. I finally got back to my foxhole to find out that the phone line was out. After some time, I found the break and started repairing it when the Germans started shelling me with small mortars. I slid into one of our gun positions and caught my breath. I could hear the sound of the mortars being fired and I would dash for cover. After the shell landed I was out working again.

Another night, Lt. Graf asked for a little more slack in the phone line so he could listen to the phone lying down. I gave the phone a little yank to take up the slack, which broke the line near the clips on the phone. So there I was, with the phone out, so I repaired it in the dark. Then I covered myself with a blanket to see by flashlight if the connection was all right. To my surprise I found out the connection was a piece of string and not to the wire. Lt. Graf really got a good laugh out of it. I sure was disgusted.

One night we got some replacements and it was snowing and blowing so hard that the guide got lost and it took him about an hour to find our CP. One of the men stayed in our foxhole for several days as it was too hard to find an empty foxhole for him. One day I met a fellow enlarging an abandoned foxhole and he said hello, using my nickname, which was Father John. Try as I could, I did not remember seeing him before and I had to ask his name. He was the fellow who had been sleeping with me for several days. I did not recognize him in the light. Since we use gasoline soaked dirt in C ration cans, we had become sooty.

At this time, we had only three officers in our company in this area. The second MG platoon had been with the 393rd Regiment and we did not know where they were. The mortar platoon was somewhere to our rear.

Lt. Graff was in charge of both MG platoons of .30-caliber MGs and two .50-cal. MGs. He decided that he wanted his CP located between the two so he could control them better. I took four men and went to the place on the backward slope of the hill that he had chosen to locate his CP. The CP was a large hole seven feet square and five feet deep, which we covered with planks, pieces of mortar cases, sacks of dirt and then more dirt with snow to camouflage it. The entrance came straight out for about four feet and then made a right angle turn toward the bottom of the slope for about five feet with steps down at the end. This entrance was covered except for about a three-foot space which had a shelter half over it to keep the snow out. Whenever it snowed hard it drifted all around our CP and it was a job to uncover it of a morning and many a times it was all I could do to get my head out of the snow and shovel the snow away to get out of the CP.

Just before we moved into our new CP I was returning about dusk to our CP on the forward slope of the hill and I made a big mistake. I crested the hill and made a perfect silhouette when I heard a loud crack by my right ear that I was unable to hear out of for several seconds. I knew right away what it was and hit the ground like I was hit. The snow was still deep. A German sniper had taken a shot at me and he came so close that another inch or so and I would have been shot on the right side of my face. Jim Whitaker was sitting in his hole a few feet away and hollered to see if I was hit. I told him no, so he covered me while I made a dash to my foxhole. Sliding into the back side of the hole I knocked over a small can we were using to heat rations over and spilt gasoline all over the bottom of the hole. We quickly put out the fire, but what a mess!

The sniper in front of us at the bottom of the hill was protected by the edge of the woods and try as we may we could not locate him. In a period of two months, he killed two men and wounded eight others. My fraternity brother, Bob Kuntz was hit in the ankle. The Germans would set up their 60mm mortars and we could hear the shells as they left the tube and waited until they exploded. The shells hit either in front of us or in back of us and once in a great while hit our gun position. Since the gun positions were so well covered, they did not do any harm. You could smell the odor of burnt gun powder. They harassed us more than anything and once hit an abandoned foxhole which was used for trash and a latrine.

On Jan. 31, 1945, our regiment launched its first offensive to drive the enemy out of the woods in front of Elsenborn Ridge. So ended my time during the Battle of the Bulge.

Email: | An archived publication of the 99th Infantry Division Association (now disbanded) | © Hosted by Hoch Publishing