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US Army

Introduction to a Tiger Tank

Introduction to a Tiger Tank

Once the advance of the Germans was stalled at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium in January of 1945 our responsibility was to clear any enemy pockets still existing as we traveled east on our final target which was Berlin.
(On January 14, 1945)  It was cold and miserable with plenty of snow as we trudged along the road clearing each little hamlet or town of any enemy resistance.  For the most part, the enemy had departed and was trying to re-group to protect their rear flank as they retreated from the assault of the American and British troops.
Our platoon had slowly cleared this one particular group of buildings possibly a family farm at one time, and was moving on to clear a building 50 to 60 yards up the road when we encountered enemy rifle fire.  The final building turned out to be their last defense and they had some of their riflemen, with snow uniforms, laying out in the fields behind cows that had been shot but were still breathing, so you couldn’t pick up the breathing of the German riflemen.  This made it almost impossible to realize they were there.
Once we left the protection of the buildings of this little hamlet and advanced to the open roadway heading toward this remaining building—the enemy opened fired on the targets we provided.  Our advance scout, Hubert “Hubie”  Ford, from Chicago, was shot in the head and laid out there on the road crying for help while the rest of the platoon went for cover.  It was only then that we realized where the rifle fire was coming from and we were unable to go to the aid of our lead scout.  We did return heavy fire at the enemy and they finally retreated to the protection of their stronghold.

Ndlr: The monument of Logbiermé (Belgium) presents a star with 5 crosses for the 5 men KIA on January 14, 1945; Hubert Ford, Albert Caraciolo, Bruno Baraglia, William Spears and Walter Jacobsen have a cross with their name on it before the stone. Walter Jacobsen was wounded on January 14 but dead of wounded on January 16, 1945

(photo Serge Vandenbroeck, Stavelot)


In the meantime we finally reached “Hubie” but it was too late.  I might just mention at this point that “Hubie” and I were quite close—because while in training back in Georgia we both enjoyed the big band sound and it’s vocalists—so when the Hit Parade came on with Frank Sinatra—we were the only two who would stay in the barracks to listen, in spite of the squealing of the teenagers.  The rest of the platoon would vacate the barracks.

At this point, with resistance still forthcoming from the building up the road, we withdrew to the hamlet that we had just cleared and settled in for the night.  We were assigned to different stations and told to keep on the alert for any further attack by the enemy.  A big barn presented shelter for many of us, some in the hayloft, other on the main floor.  I ended up alone in the harness room on the second floor with a view of one flank that I was to pay heed to for further enemy action.  Night came on and many of us fell asleep—and then it happened.  What looked like a giant tank—which it was.  A Tiger Tank—top of the line in the way of German armor.  It quietly rolled it way over a hill to our front and opened fire on the barn.  Talk about an alarm waking one from his beauty sleep.  It blew about half of the barn away and sent most of us scampering for a way out.  All this brought most of us to the center courtyard of this little hamlet and our first reaction was to take off as fast as we could run, away from the shelter we have been in.  It just so happened that the two officers with us had already retreated to safety to some rear position and we never saw them again.
We have on non-com, a mortar sergeant (Pete Lockhart by name), who stopped us all and say, “I’ll shot the first *$%# who leaves the shelter of these buildings—our safety is here, hiding in the building and attacking the tank if it dares to come into our midst.Once, we leave the protection we have and enter the open fields, we’re like shooting ducks!”  We did stay and by doing so we discouraged the tank commander from entering what would have been our trap.  The tank withdrew and we were safe.
Sergeant Lockhart, once the story was told, was given a battle field commission and became our platoon commander.  Further up the road we were quartered in another barn and I was sent back for more ammunition with another man.

As we approached the side entrance to this barn a sniper opened fire on us.  My buddy was closest to the door and should have been the poorest target while I was more exposed but fate would have it—he was shot in the stomach as he turned to enter the barn.  At first it didn’t appear to be fatal but on turning him over we saw the gaping hole in his back and he was gone within minutes.  That was the closest I came to leaving this earth and it made me realize how lucky a person could be.

Source: Bulge Bugle August 2004

596th Combat Engineer Company

517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team


Battle of the Bulge,