Udenbreth Bunker: Probable order of events
This was written by Bob Stella, platoon leader, and sent to all participating several years ago. I cannot locate Stella and his name no longer appears on the association roster but I thought it would be of general interest. If any other participants are still alive and their memory differs, then I welcome them to contact me.
The (Italic insert remarks are mine), Sam F. Loeb, G/393. This actual account differs from the account in Gen. Lauer's book but I was there and he was many, many, miles away.
1.) In darkness before dawn Goodnow (Ned) downs German occupying trench with a BAR burst. German was loaded with potato masher grenades. He likely intended to join his comrades observing our departure from Bunker #2. (Goodnow was in front in the trench with a BAR, I was in the middle with the satchel charge and Pete Sanchez was last with a bag of grenades. I followed Goodnow crawling over the dead German and as I looked behind me Sanchez had stopped to take the dead Germans' watch while we were taking grenade fire without any way to counter. I cursed Sanchez and he finally crawled aver the dead German having removed his watch to get the grenades to Goodnow and myself.)
2.) Germans fire automatic weapons through hedgerow wounding Bailey and Franklin.
3.) Platoon moves to second trench behind Bunker #1. Pete Sanchez remains in first trench covering platoon members filing, crawling, into second trench. The Germans had already moved back along first trench to positions behind Bunker #2. Both first and second trenches are below line of sight of steel bell turret with machine gun with field of fire in opposite direction.
4.) Exchange of grenades between trenches continues for about two hours — Loeb and Goodnow are wounded by grenades as are a number of Germans (saw blood on the snow) including machine gun crew position. (Goodnow and I were on each side of the trench leading to the bunker, our wounds from grenade fragments were slight but one potato masher landed between us just inches from both our heads; we waited for the end but it was a dud which saved our lives. Years later Goodnow came to see me and said it he believed it was a dud because some slave laborer had sabotaged the grenade. The Germans in the bunker would open the door and fling a grenade toward us. We were about 40 feet from the bunker door; I was supposed to run down the hill to the bunker door, place the charge and then try to make it back up the hill but the machine gun was firing directly across my path. Goodnow and I tried to take out the machine gun and/or force surrender with hand grenades for about two hours and many grenades were thrown by us and at us.
4). Goodnow and Loeb return to Bunker #2 (actually a covered area under the cattle stall part of a farm building) ordering all grenades be passed forward. (I was screaming to pass more grenades, the Germans in the pill box were becoming more aggressive, opening the door and flinging potato mashers at us, only the snow and providence saved us when we ran out of grenades to keep them bottled up in the pill box.)
5.) Grenade and small arms exchange continues about two more hours before the platoon is ordered to return to Bunker #2 while artillery fire is placed on Bunker #2 while artillery fire is placed on Bunker #1. During this time German machine gun crew with support infantry and wounded pull out down hill along second trench to the point where Goodnow was hit. The German machine gun crew was originally positioned against the rear of the bunker to the right of the gun port which covered the rear door which also contained a gun port. It was set up to fire down the first trench. It was our good fortune that Goodnow chose to go forward along the second trench.
6.) The 3rd platoon is again ordered to advance to the rear of the bunker. When Stella reaches Goodnow's original position the machine gun crew and infantry were gone and about the time he reached the bunker rear wall next to the gun port the Germans burst out of the bunker's door with their hands up and coughing violently. Although General Lauer in his book "The Battle Babies" does not mention it, a Tank Destroyer firing from Udenbreth must have put a three inch projectile through the gunner's slot in the bell tower. Lauer states "two officers and thirty-three men surrendered-our casualties were minor." The first G.I to come down from the top of the bunker as a tall curly red headed kid from the 1st or 2nd platoon. The Germans we fought outside the bunker were not among those that surrendered.
Goodnow and I were taken back to the bunker where Captain Smith had established his C.P. To my knowledge he had never left the warm safety of his bunker even to observe the battle. He did give us a shot of bourbon from his rations and took back his carbine he had loaned me so I could carry the satchel charge. It turned out the carbine had frozen up and would not fire.
I was not asked to write an after action report but if I had the opportunity it would have been as follows. No planning, no scouting beforehand, no artillery or mortar support, all together a damn fool effort and only because of several miracles did Goodnow and I survive. A medic patched us up, no Purple Heart was ever mentioned nor asked/or but the five points one would have brought after the war could have sent us home a month earlier.
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Shreveport LA 71163