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US Army

A Secret Trek to the Bulge Change of M.O.S.

A Secret Trek to the Bulge Change of M.O.S.
 
On December 16, 1944, the Battle of the Bulge began.  Along a thinly defended front, casualties mounted rapidly, hence replacements were needed.  Genera! Patton’s order came down to all units to select troops for transfer to infantry regiments.  At this time, I was in Bouzonvilie, France, with the 1103rd Engineers, Third Army sector in communications, which was being shelled by a long range German railroad gun.  The 1103rd sent the first six men.  A few days later, I was among the next six to go.
 
This body of six engineers travelled to Metz, France, where it joined about 2,000 other men in a big compound. Here, loads of used M -l’s were dumped on the floor and we made our own choice.  I noticed that some of the rifles carried personal markings like notches or pictures of girls affixed to the stocks.  For two days, we held bayonet practice, which served the purpose of keeping warm through exercise. Later on, a general, standing on a podium, delivered a speech and thanked us for volunteering. Volunteering??  Thereafter, we knew that tomorrow we were going to be assigned to our new outfits.  That night a few older, maybe wiser, men woke us up looking for cash to help them flee the scene.  The younger among us, who were in our late teens or early twenties, tried to dissuade them but it was no use. We gave them money and wished them luck At roll call we understood that they had run away. Nobody said a word. 
 
In the morning, my name came up. I was assigned to Company “F”, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division, Third Army. In the Saar River section near Dillingen, Germany, this unit was in light contact with the enemy.  We were quartered in houses and I thought:  This is the infantry?  When are we going to see some action?  Within a few days my questions were answered.  Orders were received; "Be prepared for movement."  into trucks we piled like cattle headed for the deep freeze slaughter-house that was The Bulge (January 5, 1945). 
 
Lest the Germans identify the division as the 90th, it left Dillingen, Germany, undercover and arrived at an assembly area in Luxembourg.  Here, we discarded our overcoats, but stayed with our field jackets and doubled the under garments.  Unhappily, there was no footwear suitable for protection against the severe cold.  We were supplied with triggerfinger mittens and grenades.  We filled our pistol belts and hung two bandoleers of ammunition on our shoulders. 
 
It was now January 9, 1945, close to 1400 hours.  Heading for the front, we hiked in columns.  While halted for a break, one GI begged me to shoot him in the leg.  I took aim, because he didn’t want me to hit a bone.  At first, I thought he was joking, but he was serious. I said, "Come on! It can’t be that bad. Take your chances." 
 
Coming down past us were men of the 26th Division making comments about now great targets we were in the snow.  Three men in front of the column broke a path so that each man could step in the footprints of the man in front.  It was slow going and I thought how snowshoes would have been an appropriate accessory.  Passing an area where many GI’s and Germans were laying, I knew that we were getting close to the enemy. 
 
We proceeded across a small clearing within the woods, then suddenly an intensity of noise.   The Germans had opened with burp guns and machine guns.  Part of our column was in the woods past the clearing.  The man in front of me fell with a wound in the neck.  We hit the ground.  Two correspondents behind me withdrew. I kept trying to join the others in the woods who had been cut off from us.  The Germans opened fire every time I moved.  Bullets cracked through the bushes.  About half of the men who had been separated rejoined us.  The others were either killed or captured. We learned that we were engaged with SS Panzer units that proved to be stubborn and well dug in. Taking shelter behind trees and shrubbery, we fired whenever an enemy soldier became visible.
 
Next came the shell fire, both our own and the German rounds.  We dug in quickly. The air was brutally cold with temperatures running at zero and below.  Men were lost, some killed, others either wounded or captured, and still others owing to the development of trenchfoot.  It seemed that we were taking a beating with little gain.  For communication pertinent to the accuracy of our artillery shooting, a phone line lead from my foxhole to the batteries.  There were no bells.  The observer had to blow into the mouthpiece to alert the operator at the other end of the line.  Late that night the shelling stopped.
 
From headquarters came a command: “Get out of your holes!”  We are moving up to reach our objective! This time, we had a tank destroyer with us.  Past two unmanned 88’s we headed down the road.  The Germans were asleep in houses.  We met resistance.  A German was firing tracers over our heads.  Just as we had done at earlier encounters, we hit the ground.  The shooter was aiming low in order to keep us down The tank destroyer rolled up and finished him off.
 
After reaching our objective, we closed the salient and dug new foxholes.  Upon arrival at our new positions the enemy laid down a heavy barrage.  All we could do was to sit tight and pray.  One foxhole sustained a direct strike with one soldier killed and one badly wounded.  Four of us jumped out of our holes and carried him in a shelter half to a medic who was treading the wounded behind a tank.  The medic cut open the victim’s shirt. He had a large hole in his back and was unconscious.  Under the circumstances of extreme cold and wound severity, this Gl died.  Dodging shells, we returned to our foxholes.  A counterattack was expected.  Following the placement of our machine gun, we fired a few test rounds and waited. The attack never came owing to black artillery support.
 
Foxholes, which we roofed with logs, were prepared for two riflemen in each hole. Blankets and dry socks were brought up to us.  All night it was one hour of sleep, then one hour of watch with your buddy.  At that point, I sensed that I would be living henceforth with dirt, death, and diarrhea.
 
Up and down those snowy hills, which we called "bald ass," we flushed out the Germans under fire and gathered prisoners.  I learned to speak in German: Come out with your hands high! I felt like a policeman.  Reaching the Our River at a narrow point, we crossed it on a plank and thence into the Rhineland.  Gone was the Bulge. Now we faced the dragon’s teeth and the pillboxes.  My thinking ran that I must be performing my new job well: I was given the CIB (Blue Badge) together with a $10.00 a month raise in pay. 
 
Source: The Bulge Bugle May 2000
By John MELI

 

"F" Company

 

359th Infantry Regiment

 

90th Infantry Division

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium