DONATIONS NEEDED

  • 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.

NEWS

  • 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: humphreyre@csus.edu.

  • 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.

TAPS

  • 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.

LETTERS

  • 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
    Andy11678@gmail.com

  • 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.

FEATURES

  • 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.

MORE…

Memorable Bulge incidents remembered

Reprinted from The Bulge Bugle, November 1990

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.

I was on sentry duty from 4 to 6 on the morning of Dec. 16. Toward the end of my watch, I saw that the horizon was brightly lit, as if by searchlights. On other occasions, there had been some illumination of the sky at night in the direction of the enemy, but it had never been as bright as on this night. I became concerned and considered calling Staff Sergeant Enloe, our platoon sergeant, whose sleeping hole was the first squad’s area. I hesitated, however, since Sgt. Enloe was a very deep sleeper, and when I had called him on another occasion, I had found it difficult to wake him up. In the meantime, I heard conversation about 100-150 feet to my right; perhaps with a better view the sentries there were able to discern the reason for the light. On my left, however, all was quiet. Finally, I decided to waken my relief a little early, and for a few minutes we wondered about the light on the horizon. I then entered my sleeping hole, but I recall sensing that this morning there was something wrong. In addition to the light, perhaps subconsciously, the warnings which we had been given recently were contributing to my uneasy feeling. About a week earlier we had been visited by an officer who urged us to so improve our fighting holes that we “would be able to live and fight in them for days, if necessary.” Then came the engineers who installed trip wires and flares in front of our guns. Finally, there were the words of the mortar forward observer who told us of seeing a large number of wagons ostensibly filled with hay or straw (which, as he said, undoubtedly concealed supplies). However, I was cold and sleepy and wanted to rest; I am sure I did not think of these things at the time.

I had just taken off my boots when the first shell struck. We had had some minor harassing fire before, so I was not concerned, but the volume of fire increased rapidly. There were tree bursts, and shrapnel was entering the small opening of my sleeping hole. I put on my boots and was outside seconds after the shelling stopped. My fighting hole was on the other side of the first-squad machine gun, so I dropped into the nearest foxhole, which turned out to be Sgt. Enloe’s (he occupied mine during the ensuing fight).

By the time I reached the hole the first-squad gun had started to fire and the second-squad gun began shortly thereafter. The bright light, which would have silhouetted the attacking Germans coming over the rise, was gone, and I had difficulty picking out targets. Tracers and one or two flares revealed bodies crawling toward us. I was firing my carbine more rapidly than I had ever done before; I noticed that the first-squad gun on my right was firing effectively; the second-squad gun on my left was firing a little high.

Suddenly I heard a shout in German a few yards in front of me. I recognized only the last word – “Hitler!” Then there were two sharp explosions one or two yards to my right – hand grenades – followed by a burst of burp-gun fire. The bullets dislodged dirt and stones in front of my hole, and they struck me painfully in the face. It occurred to me that I might be exposing myself too much. The fighting hole was well built, narrow, relatively deep and with a firing step. However, Enloe was significantly shorter than I, so I had to crouch in a narrow space in order to place my weapon at the level of the top of the hole.

Gradually the firing decreased in volume. The attack had failed. With the increasing light I could see at least a dozen bodies lying in front of us. To my right, just at the edge of the highway, a German lay with his body pointed directly at our gun. He was so close that I was concerned that the gun could not be depressed far enough to stop him, so I fired two rounds into his body. He was already dead.

Directly in front of me, about 15 yards away, a German soldier raised his head and threw away his rifle. I called out instinctively, “Kamerad, kommen sie hier!” Sgt. Enloe ordered everyone to hold his fire, and the soldier rose and walked toward me, crossed the highway, and stumbled through the ditch. He was a handsome young man, not more than 18, wearing a snow cape, and with a faint smile of relief on his face. His eyes never left my face or the carbine I had trained on him. One of the B Company sergeants had him stand with legs apart against a tree and relieved him of his grenades. The soldier, fearing that he would be shot, began to cry. He would probably have been the first German I would have had to face in hand-to-hand combat if the enemy had crossed the highway. A rifleman was assigned to bring him to B Company headquarters. There may have been German penetration some distance to our left, along the path to headquarters, and I was told later that both men were killed on the way back. I tend to believe this not to be true, since I know that one of our walking wounded did make it.

Shortly after this, the burp gunner, probably the officer who earlier had tried to exhort his men, tossed away his weapon, tentatively raised his head, and slowly began to get up. Several rifle shots were fired, and he dropped to the ground and did not move again.

From the edge of the field a German with a light machine gun on a sled stood up, shouted something, and pointed to the blood at his abdomen. He continued to call to us, either begging us to help him or to finish him off, I could not determine which. After about 15 minutes, he fell to the ground and was still.

All was quiet the rest of the day. At about four in the afternoon, we received word from the right that a German attack might be developing. I recall Sgt. Enloe’s words to me as we prepared to fight again – “good hunting,” he said, as calmly as if we were starting out on a pheasant hunt in Pennsylvania. But there was steel in his eyes. The attack never materialized. (Sgt. Enloe received a battlefield commission, was transferred to a rifle company, and was killed in action some weeks later while leading an attack on German positions. He was a cool, intelligent, and very courageous soldier.)

The night seemed endless. All of us were on high alert. German patrols were operating in our rear. An occasional burst of automatic-weapon fire to the ground, designed, I suppose, to draw our fire, revealed in the flashes Germans as close as 50 yards behind us. From continually staring to our front I began thinking that I saw in the misty darkness some of the bodies move. Our squad sergeant said I was seeing ghosts. However, as dawn came one could see that at least three bodies had vanished, including that burp gunner who had tried to surrender. Perhaps both of us were right about what I had seen.

We were immensely relieved to have passed through the pre-dawn and dawn without another attack, but at about eight o’clock, we were told that our position was untenable. We fell straight back, reached a dirt road just in time to see a group of mortar men pulling out with a jeep and trailer loaded with ammunition, and continued further on to what appeared to be a headquarters area. There was something of a clearing and a dirt road. Many of the trees had been cut down and the troops had actually built tiny log cabins for themselves.

Quite surprisingly all was calm and quiet the rest of the day and that night (although again we did not sleep_. I had the impression that perhaps we were being shielded by some unit, conceivably one that had been in reserve. I don’t recall our even setting up a defense line or perimeter.

Next morning we were told that the Germans were deploying large patrols, up to 100 men, and that they were attacking scattered units such as ours. We started to leave the clearing for the woods. The machine gun was moved to the edge of the clearing and was trained on the road, when my squad sergeant sent me back for more ammunition. Just as I picked up two boxes, I saw and heard coming down the road a large group of smiling Germans, herding and prodding in front of them some of our soldiers. The GIs were being forced to shout, “Surrender, Americans.” I recognized some of the members of one of our mortar platoons. Still carrying the ammunition, I ran back to the gun just as some of the men were moving into the woods.

Then began a very strange 15 hours. We moved along a barely discernible path in the forest, led by an officer whom I did not recognize. He was understandably thoughtful and somber and looked at a map frequently. At one place we left the forest and crossed an open field in groups of two or three, running as fast as we could, and reentered the forest. Occasionally we would stop, and immediately we would begin digging in. We had no shovels, and because of the tree roots we made little progress. At one point, we were told that we would make a stand where we were; however, we remained there for only about one hour. The situation was eerie – there was no sound of fighting anywhere nearby, the forest was enveloped in mist, and we had no idea where we were or to where we were going.

The day wore on and with the mist it was becoming dark early. We emerged from the forest and entered a very large cleared area sloping upward. We came to a dirt road, passed a burned-out jeep, and then saw far ahead up the hill the barely discernible outlines of a building. The second gunner and I began to argue about the name of the town we were approaching. We were stopped by a burst of automatic weapon fire – the tracers passed far over our heads. Although the ground was saturated from the run-off of the melting snow, we began digging in. Our squad sergeant called us and said we were turning back. We had been at the head of the column; when I turned around I was surprised at the number of men behind us – perhaps as many as 75. In their midst there was a tall, strongly built German prisoner. He was turning his head, glancing quickly and anxiously, obviously looking for a chance to escape. The rest of the column moved into a draw or ravine which ran at roughly right angles to the direction in which we had been moving. The approaching darkness, the gloomy aspect of the draw, and the stress of the past three days suddenly began to affect me. I began to feel that this would be my last day alive, that I would not see another dawn.

Although we were moving through the draw in increasing darkness, the cloudy sky was reflecting fires that were burning not far off. To this illumination was added the occasional glow of rockets passing overhead. We were obviously near areas of combat.

At one spot there was some small-arms fire. I looked across the draw and saw, in the dim light, paper or wooden targets in human form – this had been a practice range, but now the shooting was apparently being directed from the target area to the other side. The draw narrowed somewhat and we came under artillery fire. There was at least one air burst; later I speculated that perhaps we had been shelled by our own artillery. In dropping to the ground, I knocked off my helmet, and the machine gun I was carrying at the time hit me on the back of the head. I am sure I would have felt more pain if my adrenalin level had not been so high. We rushed through the narrows, heading none of us knew where. A soldier approached me begging for help. He had been struck in the throat by shrapnel, could scarcely speak, and smelled of blood. I could only offer encouragement, urging him to keep moving. He turned to someone else. I learned later that he did not make it.

The group began to move more slowly. We were emerging from the draw, the light from the bright orange sky revealed that an orderly column was being formed. I recognized the voice of a sergeant from one of the rifle companies, encouraging us and urging us to keep moving. We had reached American lines. We had survived to fight another day.

Lionel P. Adda, D/393

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