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October 2019
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US Army

One of My Battles

One of My Battles
 
We had just finished fighting the Krauts (Germans) in northern Germany and expected a rest period. Our hopes were shattered when an officers meeting was called and we were informed that our outfit had a secret mission to perform. All they could tell us was to expect a long journey.
 
Everyone was tired and cold but we managed to crawl into our half-tracks and try to get some sleep. It was so cold outside and the inside of the steel half track felt like a refrigerator car. The men huddled together in order to keep warm. No one got much sleep due to the cramped space.
 
We traveled all that night and the next day without any rest period. The following night we arrived at a small town in Belgium, which they called St Vith. It didn’t hold much interest to us at that time. Another officers meeting was called and we were told of the German’s expected drive. We were also informed that our mission was to hold the high ground east of St Vith at all costs and to prevent the Krauts from taking the town.
 
It was approximately eleven o’clock in the evening when the men finally assembled and ready to move on foot. It was bitted cold and the men stomped their feet and rubbed their hands in an attempt to warm them. A reconnaissance patrol returned and guided our company up one of the main roads leading into St Vith.
 
We walked approximately one and one-half miles to a road junction. This was to be the company’s left boundary. My platoon was assigned the mission of holding the road junction. The rest of the company deployed to our right along the road running perpendicular to the road we advanced on. There were dense woods on both sides of the road, which restricted our visibility to the width of the road, which was approximately ten feet. If the Krauts attacked, they would come within ten feet of our position before we would see them.
 
The men were instructed to dig two men foxholes so that one could sleep while the other stood guard. The ground was frozen which caused some difficulty in breaking the top layer. The difficulty increased when the men encountered tree roots and large rocks. The tired men finally gave up in disgust. This proved fatal later on. The hard ground, cold weather and the nature of the situation prevented the men from getting much sleep.
 
The next morning things were quiet so I ordered the men to dig their foxholes deeper and to place some logs overhead to protect them from artillery fire. Whenever artillery rounds fall in woods, they hit the top of trees and explode causing the shrapnel to fly down into the foxholes with deadly effect. Four medium tanks were assigned to support the defense of the road junction.
 
About three o’clock in the afternoon, the Germans launched a small attack to feel out our positions. We drove them off but they succeeded in discovering that some of the foxholes were not dug deep enough to form a strong defense.
 
The following morning the Krauts heavily shelled our area and the men with shallow foxholes and no overhead cover paid dearly for their lack of preparation. About two o’clock in the afternoon, the Krauts attacked the center of our company with two tanks and a company of infantry. There was plenty of shooting but we couldn’t see the Germans because of the dense wooded area. Finally the tension was broken when the Germans appeared firing direct fire into our troops. The noise was terrific and the explosions deadly. One of our tank destroyers, which maneuvered into position, knocked out one of the German tanks. The German infantry then appeared out of the woods ten feet from us. The dopes walked straight up and started to cross the road. We destroyed them all. After the attack, we checked the bodies and determined them to be paratroopers. Their canteens were empty but emitted a strange odor. They may have been drugged or intoxicated which explained their foolish action.
 
During the following two days, the Krauts shelled our position with harassing fire. Several cases of trench foot and frost bites developed, which seriously reduced our number. Our defense line was now thinly held. During the hours of darkness, German vehicles could be heard assembling for a possible attack. Often German voices could be heard in the woods to our front but appeared to be a safe distance away.
 
During the fifth day, the Krauts threw an unusual amount of artillery on our position and on the town of St Vith. Our ammunition and ration dumps were destroyed. We did not receive any food or ammunition that day. Just at darkness, the Germans began their mighty offensive, which was opposed by a group of hungry, tired and cold men who determined to hold their ground.
 
It seemed like all hell broke loose. Our nerves were shattered by this time. We fired wildly into the darkness toward the road. The Krauts were yelling in German, which sounded like a million men. They were firing all types of weapons in our direction. The familiar sound of burp guns, machine pistols, 42 machine guns and carbines were heard.
 
My runner, sent to contact the unit on our left flank, returned with the information that they had pulled out. About this time the Krauts broke through the center of our defense and were behind my platoon. It was dark and no one knew who the other person was. From that point on it was every man for himself. The troops ran in all direction under the cover of darkness. The mental strain the troops were subjected to and the fear of death had shown its effect. Some of the men escaped while others were captured. At this time the German tanks could be heard slowly moving down the road toward St Vith. It was pitch black. Our gallant tankers sent to defend the road junction, fired toward the noise of the German tanks. They missed and as a result gave away their positions.
 
The Krauts immediately fired flares, which lit up the entire countryside. Our tanks stood out in the light and became easy targets for the German tanks. In less than two minutes, our tanks were in flames. As the tank crews emerged through the hatches, they were met with machine gun fire from the Germans. They fell back into their tanks and were cremated. A few of us ran into an abandoned house behind our lines. Our house stay was cut short when a German tank fired two rounds of high explosives into the house. Only three plastered covered men emerged from the ruins and went streaking cross-country out of St Vith.
 
Three days later, we heard a German news flash stating that our outfit had been completely destroyed. Little did the German know that we were back licking our wounds and regaining our strength. In less than a month, we were back into action and succeeding in driving the Krauts out of St Vith and regain our former positions.
 
Source: The Bulge Bugle May 2012
By Lt Morphis A JAMIEL

"B" Company

 

38th Armored Infantry Bn

 

7th Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge, Belgium