Kalterherberg : The telephone rings in the CP . Lt Worley agrees to do it. That is not all. So do communications Sgt William Fulton , radio maintenance Sgt James A Sublett , section Sgt Jerry Eickmeier and the top-kick 1st Sgt William Bryant . They start off down the road to the Third Platoon area which was under fire and slight enemy pressure. Maybe they rememberd that a short while earlier the First Platoon had pulled out, after their flare set up in conjunction with a booby trap and a bridge and a tripping device had warned them. Or maybe they were thinking of how two enemy had come out in front of Lt Roser's well defended Headquarters Provisional Combat Platoon with a mine detector then gone back into the woods again. Then one by one in that same zone had filed 24 members of the Wehrmacht unknowingly into the sudden death of T/5 Jack Wendel's patiently held and well timed machine gun fire. Maybe they thought of this, maybe they did not. Maybe they did not even know about it. They had set out on a mission to return six captured members of Lt Col Van der Heide's paratroopers from the Third Platoon to the Troop Command Post . When the story behind the paratroopers capture by Felbert Neal and John McCoy while enroute to make contact with the Platoon CP from Cpl Brunner's observation post accomplished by them without firing a shot may not have been known to them either. They may not have even cared. They just formed and moved out.
Across an open field, they moved up to the location of the guarded prisoners. They started back.
Sgt Jerry Eickmeier suddenly saw on the road in front of them five enemy soldiers get up and run. The entire patrol fired at them. Then with lightning rapidity two of the men: 1st Sgt Bryant and Communications Sgt William Fulton took charge of the prisoners of war. Sgt Bill Fulton motioned them to lie down. Radio repairman Sgt Sublett went back to the Third Platoon area for reinforcements while Lt Worley and Sgt Eickmeier , the scout, proceeded on, shooting all the while. Two enemy were already dead in front of them. Just as Lt Worley approached them to check, Sgt Eickmeier , who had seen the danger first, brought him to the alert. A machine gun had opened up on them. Lt Worley and Eickmeier stopped and shot again and again. By this time shooting had been heard on the left flank. Sgt Sublett had performed his mission! Yes, not long after, 7 prisoners of war were walking back to the Troop CP . Behind them were two knocked out machine gun positions and five enemy dead and one wounded PW left behind.
Also behind them to their flank were burp guns and enemy small arms fire. It was decided to let
Sgt Fulton and Eickmeier and Lt Worley precede the patrol back to the CP . The Third Platoon's reserves who had arrived in the nick of time were none other than the original captors, Felbert Neal and John McCoy . They now commenced a rear guard action with 1st Sgt Bryant and Sgt Sublett while the patrol proceeded on. This time the patrol leader Lt Wm Worley and Sgt Bill Fulton were guarding the prisoners. But it was not all over yet, not quite. They still had to move back along a sunken road to safety.
Had the enemy known what the cooks in
Headquarters Provisional Combat Command had already done they might have known the answer. On the 20th of December two days earlier, two cooks, Pfc George W Akins and "Shorty" Savage along with another soldier of the troop, Truman Lyons , had been passed up at their FOP by an infantry patrol. Following heavy artillery and a fire fight the patrol members returned, but minus their patrol leader, an officer. He had been badly wounded before the withdrawal of the patrol had been necessary. The three men in the forward observation post volunteered assistance and alone they formed a second patrol. Whether this obliged the enemy to suspect that they were under attack from two different units in strength or whatever put their eye off their target, these men managed to crawl to the wounded man through the field of fire. They carried him back through the snow over a hastily made bridge across the creek (which Pfc Lyons had in the meantime constructed) and turned him over to the medics. Earlier in this present action another cook, Allie Smith , in the headquarters position, had opened up with everything he had and given Jerry a fire fight that was strictly hot off the griddle. And not to Jerry's liking a bit. He never came back out of the woods, from which he had attacked to within 30 yards of cook Smith earlier.
So if the cooks in the troop could do it, certainly this volunteer patrol of technicians and leaders was going to make it. If
McCoy and Neal had anything to say about it their bag of paratroopers was not going to get lost. Staying back with the other rear guards they kept the enemy pinned down and reduced his fire by cleverly concentrated shooting at his positions. Crawling, running, ducking, creeping, the patrol got to the CP - mission accomplished. They had quite a score - seven prisoners of war, five enemy dead, one wounded, two machine gun positions and vital information on enemy strength and the gravity of the Third Platoon's plight. And then their rear guard arrived intact.
What they learned about the plight of the
Third Platoon was being learned at closer hand by the Third Platoon members themselves. First to get hit was a radio operator. Without hesitation T/4 Nick L Yankovic , the attached medic, went to work on him in the midst of the very same artillery fire that had just caused the casualty. As the day progressed the platoon position kept catching hell from the enemy horse-drawn artillery in the wooded plateau to their front. Then another man was hit. Pfc Bernard Alexander infiltrated outside the CP area to bring assistance to the man. (It was he who had brought the first casualty to the medic earlier). With the same spirit of disregard of his own person he got to within 10 or 15 yards of the wounded man and spoke to him before he could go no further. Then without hesitation T/4 Nick L Yankovic travelled the 30 or so yards into the danger zone. To prove the critical character of the situation it is well to stop here awhile and take a cognizance. By this time the 1st , 2nd and Hq Platoons had all successfully withdrawn to the main line of resistance at Kalterherberg .
Lt Staley the platoon leader had left his telephone and was manning a machine gun to his front. Not only was the platoon surrounded and alone but the perimeter of the CP was encircled. Barbed wire had been placed in front of the shack that the medics had intended to use some 40 yards from the dug-in CP . Here it was that the enemy fire had already wounded two men.
In a bold attempt
Yankovic pulled one of these men into the very same first-aid shack that had been abandoned earlier because of enemy fire in the vicinity. Working on the wounded man with blood plasma, Yankovic had the plasma bottle twice knocked down by enemy fire to his front. He was pinned down and "pinned in". By climbing out a window to the rear of the door to the enemy flank he made a desperate move for escape that brought him back in the CP area in time to work on two more men and act as messenger for the withdrawal of the platoon that commenced at darkness. Here after assuring the removal of the wounded by the other aid man "Pat"
Pattee , who had recently infiltrated through to the CP in preperation for the move back to the main line of resistance under the long awaited cover of darkness, T/4 Nick L Yankovic then left his work and started infiltrating, crawling, creeping, ducking, dodging through the snow along with Cpl Barry and Pfc Santy , about three to five minutes ahead of the last group out. Like a commander of a sinking ship Lt Staley saw Grier, Ritter, Pattee, Perkins and Hewitt , the last of his men, and the wounded out of the embattled area. But they were not out yet, not quite. Yankovic who was a few minutes ahead had been tired out while working on the wounded earlier in the day. True, no one knew it, but he, too, had felt the strain. Also one of the casualties was out there trying to make it on his own power by his own request. Two more men were hit by shrapnel burst. But unlike the commander of a sinking ship, Lt Staley saw his ship submerge and show up at the CP complete again. Yes, there were purple hearts that day but there was also that satisfaction of a job well done, of an escape, well supervised and coolly engineered.
Behind all this action lay a story of a little preliminary secret training under fire. Papers at home had played these other deeds up as a "baptism of fire" for the "battle babies". But on Dec 20th some of the babies had had an advance party.
T/4 Whitaker , Troop Clerk, was "filling in" by manning a switchboard for the CP . A shell dropped in for tea in the same room, but T/4 Whitaker stayed on at his post while the Artillary continued knocking at the door. T/5 Randall J Fleig and T/3 Olsen were well baptized November 20 on route to Malmedy when held up by a V-1 bomb explosion in a barracks at Butgenbach within seconds of their arrival. T/3 Olsen without hesitation went to work to alleviate the terrible suffering while T/5 Fleig drove down the road post haste for more medical assistance.
Thus another
Recon medic had set a precedent in initiative, leadership, and "on the spot" service. Later and in the Bulge, December 18th, it was Sgt William N Fulton and Sgt Irvin Wurzel who had kept badly ruptured communications operating by monitoring and relaying messages for the Division - 3rd Battalion , 395th Infantry Regiment radio net after their wire communications had been knocked out. It was this set of Recon that made Col Butler , Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battallion, 395th Infantry , later exclaim "that's the set that saved my neck at Hofen " and it had done this even more during the German armored thrust of the 18th, for his Battallion had held fast and long enough to merit a Presidential Citation two months later. It was the same Sgt Fulton who with the same Sgt Sublett of the PW patrol just discussed, had as an extra-curricular activity established and maintained wire communications for the troop, although the T/O and T/E did not specify them, during the entire Ardennes offensive and even under heavy enemy fire that had ruptured even infantry wire communications.
One could not leave the hectic hell of
Kalterherberg without some mention of those elements that had pulled out per order earlier in the day due to the critical condition of their entire forwars outpost line. Captain Lueders and Lt Worley had divided seven M-8's between them earlier and counter-attacked to the 3rd Platoon position, but unsuccessfully. Later that day the 2nd Battallion, 47th Infantry Regiment , had counter-attacked also, but with even less success. That same day a wounded doughboy was lying up ahead in the same area where the Troop had just evacuated and on a parallel to the Third Platoon area, but to the flank. At the request of a medical officer, Pfc Vance P Murphy, Cpl Frank H Miller and Pfc Warren R Souder took a half-track back into the zone they had just retreated from and evacuated the man. All this was through intense enemy artillery fire that now raked the entire area as far as the CP and also without the protection of any Geneva Cross on the vehicle. Earlier that morning Lt Von Burg and S/Sgt John Shoemaker had withdrawn their Platoon after the Headquarters element, in as orderly and casualty free a manner as Headquarters had, although they had to maintain a partial rear guard action, staying until the area was clear. That night T/4 Grover E Sirmons of the same platoon, while standing guard, was momentarily knocked out of the radio net when artillery hit his M-8 and wrecked his SCR-506 radio. He came back in on an alternate radio set and continued at his radio post his entire cold bleak guard that night of the 22nd. Thus Recon had disengaged itself from the enemy and later displaced from Kalterherberg in as lucky a manner as military events could hope for. For they had had a dress rehearsal to their "baptism of fire" prior to their appearance in the ring as mere "battle babies" and they knew what they were doing. Secondly in the words of the great Roman orator, Cicero, concerning Sully, the famous Roman general: 'he had above and beyond the qualities of fortitude, initiative, leadership; the virtue of good luck, without which the above qualities mean nothing and in turn the above qualities without it are equally valueless'. They had all that and more because they were more than individuals, they were a troop-team.
Then came patrols at
Hofen , the chief of which occurred on January 3rd when the same embattled, infiltrating Third Platoon tried to reconnoitre their evacuated troop area with a patrol of the 47th Infantry . As they approached the area, heavy enemy fire pinned them down, knocking down trees in the area and wounding several men. Since the doughboy's aid man was elsehwere, T/4 Nick Yankovic again was called upon to go into the very midst of the sector of fire to treat a thrice wounded infantryman. This he did expertly and coolly while the patrol moved on leaving him behind. He then made his way with the casualty and obtained transportation to the rear for hospitalization. He returned to the patrol, which the Third Platoon had now left, and after a short time came back to Kalterherberg with the infantry. During this period of patrols and heavy enemy shelling and airplane activity against even the Troop CP , the motor officer was injured. To T/Sgt Milton R Knowles That all the vehicles were kept running and roadable during the entire period even after the motor maintenance section had to move to 20 kilometers to the rear out of Germany to Fouir, Belgium for expediency is an achievement that ranks well on a par with the ever alert communications system that never broke down for Recon during the same period. If one item can win wars, it is, according to Bonaparte's dictum: "an army moves on it's belly", good food. This the Recon Troop had all during the bitterest cold and worst exigencies. But even in some ways more vital was the mail that never failed. Today an army moves on paper. A modern great, Field Marshall Montgomery once said: "the war will end when there's no more paper". Equally so did the administrative work of Recon bear up under the impact of the trying battle conditions and so its daily fare of chow, news and administration never let Recon down.
Task Force Lueders , much mentioned, never to be forgotten, brought out two things: the leadership ability of Captain Lueders and the truth of the saying "strike while the iron is hot". Recon had just come out of a rest area at Aubel, Belgium and they were "hot" - hot for action. The strike made on March 4th took three towns, 15 square miles of vital Rhineland territory, 140 prisoners, enemy vehicles, weapons, ammunition and supply points, and the spearhead it made virtually to the banks of the Rhine was the pay-off. On a snowy slippery morning, Captain Lueders , between 0600 and 0800 seemingly did the impossible: F Co of the 393rd Infantry had had trouble getting to the assembly point, between fatigue, weather, and the poor condition of the roads. At 0600 March 4th they were far enough from the Initial Point that steady hiking would not have gotten them there before noon, by when the task force had actually finished its mission. Captain Lueders sent his tanks and tank destroyers through the snowy dawn to rush them to the assembly point. These tanks were D Co, 786th Tank Battalion in command of Captain Weber and a platoon of Tank Destroyers carrying 76mm guns from Co A, 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion .
At 0800 per schedule, with the platoon of Tank Destroyers and the company of light tanks and then
Sgt Billy Godwin and the 99th Recon's Third Platoon leading the way, the Task Force shoved off. Keeping perfect communications, the Task Force was supplemented by a field artillery liaison forward observation officer. Coming into Norf the enemy tried sniping. Here Captain Lueders kept his convoy rolling and concentrated machine gun and 37mm fire from the rear elements of the convoy into the accompanying fields. Once the light tanks were clear of Norf with the field artillery liaison jeep in attachment to them and the tank destroyers in place to their rear for a counter-attack from the enemy, he smashed his small cavalry troop into the approaches of the town through the scattered opposition which soon gave up in groups of varying sizes. Once Norf was secured ( Hoisten having been cleared enroute) the enemy attacked the town from three sources: an enemy tank destroyer to the flank of the task force , mortars to its rear on the other flank, and from big artillery from across the Rhine . The POW's were herded into a church. The doughboys who had ridden Pick-a-back on the light tanks went to work on Derikum and the tank destroyers to the flank. The mortar fire from the enemy was soon disposed of but not so the heavy artillery to the east. It kept coming in in increasing strength. Captain Lueders maintained perfect liaison due to men like S/Sgt Noval Casteel , Communications Sgt, who remained in the commanding half-track with no protection over his head while shrapnel beat like rain against the sides until nightfall when reinforcements finally arrived with men like T/5 Alexander Kopan , who divided his time between operating his radio and getting medical aid to an infantryman who was wounded by shrapnel near Kopan's vehicle. The artillery jeep and radio were knocked out, as were a couple of light tanks, but the drive never faltered and the entire Task Force hung on until the infantry had brought up it's battalions of reinforcements to secure the area and drive a contact point into a foothold on the banks of the Rhine .
Then next came
Linz - the Ludendorff Bridge and the Rhine Bridgehead . Here in this beleagured town at the eastern terminus of the doomed Ludendorff Bridge the Troop went through everything the bridge took before it fell - bombing, strafing, heavy artillery, threats of well trained saboteurs and paratroopers. There, as later in Ihmert was the case, the non-combat section of the Troop really proved its sterling character, if it ever had needed to be proven. Food, mail and administration went on as ever though this meant contacting the rear sometimes 50 miles away and across the tottering Ludendorff Bridge and through the approaches to the bridgehead which were even more subject to enemy surveillance and attack. Again to Lawrence, Golla, Osterkamp it was hats off!
When the
Troop moved out of Linz after 10 days of continual tension and aerial attack it was as fit for action as when it had left Aubel, Belgium March 5th for the plains of Cologne . The secret was that its services of supply had proven both ways that the pen is mightier than the sword - both as representatives of it and by letting the pen continue its organizing of the troop and inspiring the men.
Then next on the agenda of action came
Wetzlar near Giessen where the Third and First Army's armor had made a junction and pocketed some more Germans. In Wetzlar, Sgt Shoemaker became reminiscent of Sgt Suggs on manuevers. He steered the section of the 2nd Platoon he was in command of without casualty into Wetzlar . In the southern end of town he captured thirty prisoners in a factory by the swiftness and efficiency of his tactics. While he was quickly rounding up his section of town, Lt Staley's men were having a fire fight on the same flank but further west on the approaches to town. On the main highway Captain Lueders had assembled his forces, extricated a staff officer from three hours of being pinned down by snipers, broken up the same snipers along the Lahns River and was getting ready to circumvent a road block and enter the town. He did this and was forced to withdraw after his lead tank was knocked out, blocking the approach into the city proper and his open jeeps were imperiled by sniper fire from the town itself. The success of his tactics was proven in the results of his immediate withdrawal without casualty and the subsequent occupation of the partisan zone without further skirmishing. If the 2nd Platoon of Lt Von Burg had missed action that day, just before the "cease" fire order came through in May, Lt Von Burg climaxed the troops ETO activity by charging into a pocket of Germans concealed in a woods. After a minimum of shelling he persuaded two General Officers and two Colonels of the Hungarian Army with 75 Nazi officers and 152 soldiers as well as one Hitlerized version of a WAC into surrender. The cost of them for seeing the light was one of their number killed, May 2nd.
Nor did
Lt Von Burg fire all the guns that day himself. Nor did he have to urge his men to attack. If anything, restraint and direction were more paramount to him. Nor did his mere presence terrify the enemy. Nor did the generals see "Von's Vultures" emblazoned on the lieutenant's own lead vehicle and command their troops to surrender. No, the satellite generals and their own planetary soldiers noticed the way the Second Platoon element peeled off from the main attacking body of armor in an efficient and confident mannor. They noted probably the exuberant way those fingers of armor had come through the countryside as though with a real mission. They had seen their own Nazi people grow terror-stricken and weak, in dorf after dorf, town after town and city after city as the Americans rode through and ever onward. They looked behind them to a sea of white flags - the product of what happens when people with military objectives meet people in open combat with a real mission of the higher order of liberty, peace, justice. They looked down and saw a long line of Americans from Brooklyn to Santa Barbara, from newsboys to generals, from pawnbrokers to admirals, from labor leaders to privates; all welded together in the hope that their mission will be accomplished and all glad that they had played the part they did until the "curtain calls" begin. back