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US Army

My Battle of the Bulge Experience

My Battle of the Bulge Experience

 

(The following article appeared in the December, 2001, issue of The Golden Acorn the newsletter of the 87th Infantry Division.)

 

As we battled, there was almost always some of us who were wounded.  I always wondered how the wounded were treated.  That was especially true of the more seriously wounded men.Katana's account (among others) describes the events immediately after he was wounded and then later until he was shipped back across the channel to a hospital.  Thank God the success rate of caring for the wounded was the highest ever recorded.

 

As I recall it was either the first or second of January 1945 in the Battle of the Bulge and the Company "C" was on the attack at the first thing in the morning.  As we crossed the open fields toward the woods, our scout spotted German tank tracks.  Company "C" split into three groups.  I was on the left with Bill Petrosky, Crooks, Gilbert, Laird and a Medic.  Lieutenant Lister was in the center with Sergeant Kelly and his bazooka team.  Sergeant Arnold Van Querlberg, Garrison, and his team were on the right.  The machine gun squad was in the center.  We sure thought we had us a German tank.  We were sure of a kill.

 

We entered the woods into a clearing; the farm house was in front of us.  We saw the tank tracks going to the right of the farm house.  The bazooka team fired a round at the farm house.  It missed the house and landed in back of the house.  Then German tanks came around both sides of the farm house.  They were firing into the trees above us.  We fired at the tanks with rifle fire.  That's when Sergeant Kelly, standing behind a tree, was hit with a shell fragment.  He was hit in the face around the eyes.  He hollered that he couldn't see.  He started moving toward the tanks.  The German tanks fired their machine guns and cut him down.  Laird and Hopkins were also down.  The medic tried to get to Kelly but the German tank fire was too great.

 

We were told to pull back.  Our guys kept up the rifle fire.  We saw the German tanks pull back.  My guys headed back the same way we came in, on the left side.  As we came out of the woods, I was surprises to see one of our tanks moving along the outside of the woods.  We could see the roof of the farm house, picked up the phone and tapped the tank.  The tanker opened up.I asked him to fire a few rounds at the farm house or in that area.  He said he was too low on gas.  He was heading back.

 

I saw Lieutenant Lister.  I asked him to ask the tanker to fire.  Lieutenant Lister said we should head back and regroup.  The tank was in front of us.  Then two more tanks arrived.Major Cornel and his jeep driver arrived.  He asked Captain Wilkens about the delay.  Just then we received German mortar fire.  We all headed for our holes.  I landed on top of Arnold Van Querlberg and Elmer Zeichner.  They were glad I was on top.  When the mortar fire was over, the major's jeep driver was killed.  He never got out of the jeep.  He was hit in the neck.

 

Captain Wilkens called me over and asked me to take the patrol back.  We were to scout the area for wounded soldiers.  As I recall Garrison, Crooks, a Medic and I headed back on the left side again.  When we entered the woods we found that Sergeant Kelly Hopkins and Laird were dead.  We left the area.

 

I reported the dead to Captain Wilkens.  The Major said we should attack again.  This time we should follow behind the two tanks.  Some of our guys should mount the tanks and fire the 50 caliber machine guns.  I remember Gene Garrison was on one of the tanks behind the 50 caliber machine gun.  I said to the Captain that I wasn't too happy going up the middle.  We started to move behind the tanks.  They sure did draw fire.The German tanks started to fire.  Mortar rounds landed all around us.  Our tanks turned right.  There was in an open field.  The first burst hit me in the arm and chest.  I went down.  I was bleeding at the mouth.

 

I saw Arnold Van Querlberg get hit and go down.  I fired a few rounds.  I really wanted to get the hell out of there.  I stood up and headed back.  About halfway back the second burst landed.  I went flying in the air.  I landed on my back.  My left leg was lying across my cheek.  I was looking at my left boot.  I thought my left leg was blown off.  I picked up my left leg and laid it straight.  Then I took all the pills they gave me.  Thank God it was cold.  It stopped the flow of blood in both my leg and chest.

 

A friend of mine from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Claire Beeghly from Company "B", 347th Regiment, came by.  He said he would send for help and a medic.  Pat Gilbert came by to check my wounds.  He went back to get some help to carry me.  First they tried to carry me with an Army top coat and two rifles.  I said that it hurt too much.  They found a stretcher from either a Blanchard or Panther Jeep.  They laid me over the hood of the Jeep.  One soldier saw my new boots.  He asked if he could exchange boots.  I said "sure."  We exchanged boots and then he wrapped my feet in his blanket.  The Jeep started back to the aid station.  It was getting dark and I remembered that the Germans had planted mines in the area.  I was still laying on the hood of the jeep.  Thank God nothing happened.

 

We made it to the aid station.  There I was re-bandaged by Surgeon Moles.  I met Elmer Zeichner.  They told me he had lost a foot helping a wounded soldier back with a medic.  A shell landed near them.  He was the one that got hit.  I never saw Elmer again until the 87th reunion.

 

They sent me to the general hospital in Reims, France.A catholic priest gave me his blessing of oils, the last rites of the church.German prisoners carried me to the operating home.They set my leg and removed the German steel from my neck.They put me in a body cast.I was in a cast from my neck to my left toe.There was an opening of course in my private parts.I had a nurse who wrote a letter for me.I'm sorry that I did not get her name.I laid here for two weeks.

 

They were going to send me to an English hospital.  It was the 94th General Hospital.  I was red tagged to keep me from being flown to England.  But by an army error I was sent out to an airport.  I had to go to England by ship.  The U.S. Air Force base 47 carded the wounded to England.  While laying on a cot I had to go real badly.  All around me were French speaking people.  I tried to tell the nurse I had to go.  She said "OK."  She brought a shaving mug and a straight razor.  She soaped my face.  I was trying to tell her I needed a bed pan.  She said "OK."  She started to shave me.  Boy I did not move with that young girl holding a razor to my throat.  Finally, a ward medic came over and told the girl what I needed.She laughed.  Thank heavens for bed pans.

 

Since I had a red tag warning not to fly, they shipped me by ambulance to the coast, where I boarded a hospital ship for England.  While on the hospital ship the wounded were placed in nice bunks.  I remember, however, a guy came and stole my knitted hat.  I saw him looking for other stuff to steal.  I didn't think a guy could stoop so low as to steal from the wounded who couldn't move.  We called for help but nothing was done.  I arrived at the 94th Hospital in England but that is another story!

 
Source: Bulge Bugle August 2004
Thomas A. KATANA

Company "C"

347th Infantry Regiment

87th InfantryDivision

Campaign

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium