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The road back to Elsenborn

The road back to Elsenborn

The road back to Elsenborn

By HAROLD HELFRICH C/395

     Beuchler of the second machine gun squad and I of the first machine gun squad went down the hill. Captain Budinski ordered the two squads to draw rear guard and flanking actions whenever we stopped. We would put a belt in the machine gun and wait for Germans to approach us. None came.

     It was very cold the first night - I guess about 20 degrees below zero. We would stop at night and there would be no talking. Beuchler and I would always put a belt in our machine guns and sleep with our .45s at half-cock in our belts. We didn't want to be surprised by any German patrols.

     After the first night we moved on and Captain Budinski made an announcement that two machine gun squads would go on a suicide mission. We would go back about 500 yards and draw rear guard action. Two men from each squad and a gunner and assistant with two belts would go back and guard the company in pulling out.

     Sgt. Morris went with us to our location, a small wooded knoll overlooking a huge meadow and surrounded by a forest. Sgt. Morris left us and we dug in at the edge of the knoll. We had an excellent field of fire. I was on the left and Beuchler was on the right. We had a good 1,000 yards of open meadow before the trees began. We were out there about five hours and no Germans came out of the woods. Suddenly a runner approached us and announced we were moving out.

     We gave a sigh of relief and were glad to get out of there. We walked down a paved road and stopped. Beuchler and I went into a ditch and loaded our machine guns. Beuchler yelled to me, "Look Helfrich." Sure enough, a Sherman tank was coming up the road. At about 30 yards from us it made a sudden right turn and went into a field. Its machine gun was blazing away and we heard returning burp-gun fire. Then we heard a huge explosion - a German Panzerfaust hit the tank and it was ablaze. The tankers bailed out and came back to our lines. Beuchler said "Helfrich did you see that?" I said yes and waited for Germans to come pouring out of the woods - none came out. We then pulled out and went down the road.

     That evening we went by a small town and it was all afire - mortars, .88s, and screaming-meemies were coming in. You could read a newspaper by the light. We kept moving and trudged through the mud and snow. We'd go forward then back to where we had come. We then wondered who was calling the shots. We later found out the Germans had intercepted our radios and were giving us false orders.

     We came across a large garbage pit in the afternoon and I searched for food. I found a few potatoes and some grapefruit juice in cans. I asked some of the men if they wanted some. Most of them declined the offer so I ate the potatoes and drank the grapefruit juice. It tasted good after three days without food or water. Snow was our water and food.

     Later that night we approached a machine gun nest and were challenged. We went through and kept walking. We approached a small house and a chicken colonel came out and yelled, "Halt! I said halt!" I called back and yelled some obscenities. His response was "Who said that?" No one said anything. We kept trudging through the mud and snow. We were wet, cold, hungry, and tired. We hadn't eaten for four days and just wanted to rest.

     We came upon a small barn and the fourth platoon was ordered into the loft. We crawled upstairs and the roof was full of holes. In fact, there was hardly any roof, but we didn't care. We spread the straw around and I put the machine gun down and tried to sleep. Shells were coming in all night and exploding near us.

     In the morning we pulled out into the town. Finally I asked what is the name of this town and someone said "Elsenborn." The nearby towns of Krinkelt and Rocherath were about a mile away and were held by the Germans. The Americans were pushed out after a valiant fight and went to Elsenborn to again fight. Casualties were very high in these three towns and we suffered tremendous losses.

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