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A Flashback on the Bulge

A Flashback on the Bulge
The Ardennes Forest 
Thirty foot evergreens, heavily mantled in fresh white snow lined the path through the forest.  To call the 5 foot passageway a road would be a stretch of the imagination.  Bumping along at about 10mph in complete darkness (not even blackout lights allowed).  Edmund managed to remain on the path by peering into the sky, using as a guide, the dim starlight that showed through the open space of trees above.  Looking directly ahead was of no use given the darkness surrounding us.
Edmund Trahee was the jeep driver and I rode “shotgun” actually “M-1 carbine” to be specific one round in the chamber, safety off a gloved index finger in the trigger guard.  I was ready for anything although uncertain as to how effective my light piece would be when the S—t hit the fan.  I would have preferred a Thompson but the T.O. called for a carbine.
Slowly we made our way from the small battered village that was the command post of the 289th Infantry Regiment (75th Infantry Division) through the forest about 7 to 8 miles (it seemed like 20!) to the 2nd Battalion Headquarters located in the small forest clearing.  Perimeter guards lowered their M-1’s when we called out the password.
Battalion Headquarters was a 10-man canvas tent erected over a 10’X10’X3’ excavation dug by the A&P Platoon to house several officers, the battalion aid station and a small field telephone switchboard set up in a corner manned by Cpl Love, a Texas original who as part of the wire team kept in touch with the battalion’s three rifle companies and a heavy weapons company strung out through the dense woods in front of us.  The telephone lines were in constant need of repair or replacement keeping Sergeant Daniel’s communication squad on the go.
Our jeep cargo that night, a few gallon water cans, 4 cases of “C” rations, several batteries for the radio (jeep mounted) and 3 boxes of 30 cal ammo were quickly stored in the tent leaving Edmund and myself a few minutes to relax after our tiring nighttime passage through the woods.  However, rest was not to be as less than five minutes later over the same “road” we had just struggled with, came the unmistakable sound of a firefight the heavy thump of the 30 cal M-1’s countered by the rapid chatter of two German “burp” guns.  The flash and boom of 3 or 4 grenades came through the dense woods muffled by the heavy snow.
It was over in a few minutes and shortly followed by the arrival of 5 or 6 riflemen from “F” Company who were on a night patrol when they stumbled upon a squad of Wehrmacht troopers clad in white camouflage who had likely infiltrated between the borders of our own and the 3rd Battalion.  The Germans had straddled the road hidden in the trees; the road that only moment before, Edmund and I traveled with such difficulty.  Fortunately no one was injured but the patrol had made hasty retreat, and breathing heavily, they were happy to have gotten safely through the brief encounter.
As the Germans, even in limited strength, now commanded the only route back to regimental headquarters, it was possible that the 2nd Battalion was cut off.  Two telephone calls from “G” Company and one from the heavy mortar squad of “H” Company soon confirmed that other German infiltrators had been spotted in the forest nearby.  We were warned to be on the alert.Captain Breen, HQ Company Commander, doubled the perimeter guard and called for a tank from regiment to break through the road and re-open communications.  Three or 4 wounded men from “E” Company were in need of evacuation, but unless the road was cleared it would be impossible to get them to a field hospital.
The rest of the night passed by without event and at 7/00 a.m. the battalion was ordered to advance 2 or 3 miles toward the small village of Bech (Salmchateau), carrying our wounded with us.
Rifle companies from the 1st Battalion, held in reserve, come in behind us closing the gaps in the lines.  After a series of tank-assisted assaults the German infiltrators were either killed or captured.
Making our way into the village of Bech we met no resistance aside from a few scattered 88mm rounds, and no injuries were reported.
Our communications wire squad got busy stringing new phone lines and it was well after dark before we ended the day.  A small barn was converted to Battalion HQ and for the first time in two weeks we slept inside a building instead of a cold slit trench in the snow.
As I started to doze, relatively comfortable in my sleeping bag, it suddenly dawned on me that Edmund and I had been through a potentially hazardous experience.  The road we struggled through had undoubtedly been under the direct observation of the Wehrmacht intruders.  The fire fight started just moments after we passed through the same area and arrived at 2nd Battalion HQ.  Upon reflection, it seemed obvious that two lone GIs were an insufficient target for the German squad.  They were probably looking for the Battalion HQ group.  To shoot us up as easy targets would have alerted our local units to take up the chase thus foiling their plans and risking capture or worse.
That dark night in the Ardennes, although we had passed through a potential ambush unscathed, the menacing muzzles of several machine pistols likely followed us down the road, restrained from releasing their deadly hail of lead only by white-gloved hand help up by an unknown German trooper.  I would like to know who he was and if he survived the war.
Source:Bulge Bugle, February 2003
By Pfc Sheldon F. TAUBEN

HQ 2nd Battalion

289th Infantry Regiment

75th Infantry Division


Battle of the Bulge,