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Mullaerts shares memories

Mullaert shares memories

     My name is Archie A. Mullaert. I was a member of the 99th Division since its start-up at Camp Van Dorn. I was a T/5 in Service Company 394th. I started out as a mechanic, then later became a truck driver.

     When we went overseas we were stationed in England then went to LeHavre. While in Belgium we didn't do much in the Ardennes Forest. The weather was bad.

     I got assigned to Cannon Company 394th as their kitchen truck driver. On the night of Dec. 15 I pulled guard duty and heard artillery going overhead. On the 16th I had to report back to Service Company to haul supplies from the depot. I traveled these roads all alone. Upon arriving at Service Company, fellow soldier Deskins informed me they took heavy artillery the night of the 15th and 16th and had to evacuate.

     I went back to Cannon Company and got in touch with Capt. Arnold to tell him what was going on. He went to check, came back, and had us pull out. We ended up in an abandoned artillery position at Krinkelt.

     The kitchen people and myself took refuge in an old artillery dug-out. That night we were under heavy artillery fire. We all huddled together in this dug-out. I remember there was a stove in there and one of the cooks made a fire. That night we were attacked by SS troops and separated from the rest of the men.

     While in the dug-out I remember a lieutenant apologizing to me when the shells were coming in because he was laying on top of me.

     I was told the cannons were firing point blank at the Germans. On the night of the 16th one of the cooks came upon our dug-out. Someone called for him to be recognized. He was silent and the cook in the dug-out shot him. After that he shouted his name and we got him in the dug-out and aided him.

     The dug-out had a tarp over it and I took my bayonet and cut part of it away.

     On the 17th we found an escape route. We manned the trucks and proceeded on this escape route only to come under heavy machine gun fire. The lieutenant decided it was time to surrender. He waved the white flag.

     We laid in the forest with the SS troops under heavy artillery fire. The jerries hadn't eaten for days. The sergeant told me to take them to my trailer and show them what food there was.

     Luckily, I had a chance to get my mackinaw and extra pair of socks. I tried to hide a loaf of bread under my arm but the young SS trooper gave me a friendly tap on my face and said, "Nix."

     I also got a picture of my wife from my dashboard. It was encased in a metal holder I had made. I had foreign money behind her picture and it stayed with me the whole time I was a prisoner.

     I tried my best to persuade the mess sergeant to hide out with me in a hillside dug-out and not surrender. He said he spent three years with his guys and was going to go with them.

     The first look I got of the superior German Army while being marched out was that they were in trouble. I saw one tank and a jerry was running alongside it pounding track pins back in place while it was rolling.

     These proud German officers with their little sports convertibles were being tied together three at a time to be towed to the combat area.

     The first five days we were in a barnyard. Our first food was some watery soup. We had to share it out of a steel helmet.

     We were marched to a POW camp in Dresden. I witnessed one of our planes shooting down a German plane.

     The rest of my POW life was spent on a death march. Some made it. Some didn't. Our only shelter was in barns. We slept on the cold ground and huddled together to keep warm. We wore the same clothes until we were liberated.

     I'm now 82 years old and in poor health. The captivity ruined me physically. I have a bad heart, cancer, bad hearing from artillery, and bad eyes.

Archie Mullaert

14 Sewickley St.

Herminie PA 15637