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US Army

The War as I Remember It

 

The War as I Remember It 
 
A fast resume of how I happened to be in the Battle of the Bulge and also the Varsity Jump over the Rhine River, earning three Combat Battle Stars, a Bronze arrowhead for a combat Airborne jump, Combat Infantry Badge and Bronze Star Medal for valor.
 
It all started August 1943 when the United States draft board invited me to come aboard and lend my efforts to put an end to the Axis warring party.  During my sixteen weeks of infantry basic training at CampCroft, Spartanburg, South Carolina, I decided to volunteer for the paratroops.  I was 19 years old and in great shape.
 
I completed my paratroop training and five qualifying jumps in June 1944, right after the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions make their famous jumps in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.  After a short furlough home, I was sent to Camp Shanks Deportation Center in New Jersey to board the Ile de France, a big ocean liner to go Europe as replacements for the boys lost on the Normandy jump.
 
Bing Crosby, the Hollywood star was also on this ship, going over to entertain our troops.  Bing sat in on some of our card games and also brought out a bottle of Black and White scotch for us to share.
 
We landed in Glasgow, Scotland, five days after leaving New York Harbor.  Put on a train to somewhere in England to be assigned to either 101st or 82nd Airborne.  After a week we were told the 17th Airborne Division were on the way over on the Wakefield from BostonHarbor and we were being assigned to the 17th Airborne Division.  When we joined the 17th at Tidwell Barracks, Windmill Hill, I was picked by Lieutenant Mo Leland to become a member of his machine gun platoon.  The Headquarters Company was under Captain Albert Wing, 3rd Battalion under Lieutenant E. F. Kent, 513th Infantry Regiment, under Colonel Coutts.
 
While in intensive training, I joined the boxing team and was on our battalion football team.  This allowed me to stay in camp and train while the rest of the boys were taking three-day field training trips.  During Market Garden, Holland jump, we were on standby and never used.
 
In December 1944, because of the German breakthrough at the Bulge, we were air lifted to Reims, France.  Our 3rd Battalion was sent to positions in Verdun, France.  After a few days there, we were then put in big open-air trucks and driven by night to the front lines at the Bulge.  The 101st Airborne was still surrounded at Bastogne.  My first experience in combat was fast and furious.  I was an ammo carrier for the .30 caliber machine gun crew and also acted as a rifleman with an M-1 Rifle.  After helping relieve the situation at Bastogne, We advanced up Dead Man's Ridge to Flamierge, Belgium.  The Germans with good tank support held Flamierge.  Getting into Flamierge was a hard fight and my crew didn't get in but a lot of our company did.  We had come under heavy mortar and artillery shelling on the Ridge.
 
In one of the lulls, I helped a wounded comrade back to a make shift aid station.  As I was returning to my forward position, a fellow trooper that I boxed with on the boxing team, called out to me and I went over to talk to him and his other two buddies.  Just then the Germans launched another wave of mortar and screaming memies.  A mortar shell landed between the two troopers furthest away from us and killed them out-right.  My friend suffered a deep nexk wound and back injuries and I was blown into the air by the concussion.  I was stunned and unable to move for quite awhile because everyone in that vicinity was under fire.  Aid did not come for quite awhile, by then I had regained my senses and was able to help the others.
 
After things got a little quieter, the next day I helped pick up my comrades that were dead and frozen off the field.  We loaded them like cord wood in a weapons carrier.  We finally took Flamierge for the last time and moved through the forest toward Houffalize encountering heavy resistance from Panzer Grenadiers and Royal Tiger Tanks along the way.
 
Some of us were given anti-tanks bazookas but for the bazooka to do any good, you had to be close to the tank.  I teamed up with Don Duncan, a fellow machine gunner.  I was the back end loader and he was the aimer and trigger puller.  We teamed up to turn around a couple of smaller tanks but the Royal Tiger didn't even notice our hits.  Most of the time our shell just bounced off.
 
During the advance from small town to small town, we were fortunate to join up with the all black tank battalion… the 761st.  We were lucky to be with them.  They did not back down from any thing and I know they were glad to have us in infantry support.
 
Looking back on our six weeks on the front lines I remember the freezing weather, the snow, the frozen ground to dig in, the frozen toes, frostbite and most of all diarrheas.  But most of all I remember our young comrades that never made it.
 
In our machine gun platoon alone, fifty of us started out on the first day of The Bulge and only fourteen of us came out on the last day.  We then were transported to Chalons in France for much needed rest and relaxation.  Hot showers and new clothing were first orders of the day.  While in a tent city outside Chalons sur Marne, we picked up our training getting ready for the Varsity Jump, spearheading the British 2nd Army under General Montgomery on the German invasion at Wesel on the RhineRiver.
 

Discharged, February 1946

I GUESS I WENT ALL THE WAY!

 
Source: Joseph H. Quade, Letter to the webmaster April 28, 2010

By  Cpl William H. HIGHFILL

HQ, 3rd Battalion

513th Parachute Regiment

17th Airborne Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium