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US Army

A Cold Night in WWII

A Cold Night in WWII 

 
 
This is a true story of a night in early January 1945 near the town of Elsenborn, Belgium.  The temperature was about 10 to 15 degrees F.  There was fresh snow from a storm that ended yesterday. 
 
I, with my squad, was sleeping in a bombed out house, the doors and windows were gone, the back of the house had been destroyed by shellfire and there was a large hole in the roof that had let a pile of snow fall into the next room but it was enough to allow us to get out of the wind. 
 
One man was posted outside on guard duty.  He was replaced each hour so by another soldier.  I was asleep in my sleeping bag, fully clothed, when about 2 AM our Lieutenant appeared and shook me awake.  “Get two men and meet me outside” he said “we have a job to do”.  I woke Big John Pacarsky and ken Smith, told them to get dressed and to meet me outside.  The Lieutenant then told me, “There is a listening post that can’t be contacted and we are to find out why”. 
 
A listening post usually consisted of two men, in a hidden position, where they could observe any enemy movement which they would report back to their headquarters using a sound powered telephone. 
 
We got all of our gear, our rifles, grenades and ammo, put on our overcoats and helmets and were ready to go.  Stepping outside we found a clear, crisp night with a moon not quite full, but still more light then we wanted.  We followed the Lieutenant until we came to a ragged line of foxholes, this was the Main line of resistance or MLR.  We made sure that we were all clear on the nights password before proceeding. 
 
Going on we soon came upon the Outpost line of resistance or OLR.  This consisted of a few men in widely spaced foxholes, these would be the first to be attacked and to give the alarm.  Again we made sure we all understood the day’s password before going on.  Now we were in enemy territory or No man’s land, as they called it in the first war. 
 
This area was a dense forest with fire lanes that crossed every quarter miles or so.  The trees were quite pretty with the recent snowfall on them.  Walking in single file with the lieutenant first then John, Ken and me bringing up the rear.  We had two serious problems, the clear sky and a not quite full moon, whish casted much more light than we would like.  Next, the top of the snow was frozen and we made loud crunching sounds as we went forward, each man trying to step in the first man’s step in the snow to minimize noise.  We hugged the left side of the fire break where there was a few inches of shadow.  Looking into the forest as we went along, we came upon the first cross fire break.  Here the lieutenant used his field glass to study the other side.  He didn’t expect to see any enemy but was looking for any movement in the forest.  The problem being, if a listening post such as we were approaching had been discovered by the enemy they would hide in the forest waiting for a investigating patrol, such as we were.  Not seeing anything suspicious he said, “Send one man over”.  I told ken go. 
 
Sgt Charles L. Harrington.  Elsenborn, January 1945
 
Crouching as low as he could go he ran making a terrible noise in the crusted snow.  Soon he was over the first break and signaled all was OK.  The rest of us then crossed trying to step in Ken’s footsteps in the snow.   We moved on until we came to the second firebreak, crossing that the same way we did the first with no mishap.  Now we wanted to cross the firebreak we were on as the place we were looking for should be near that corner.  Sending Big John over first he soon singled all was OK?
 
The rest of us crossed and looked around the area finding only the broken telephone wire and many tracks in the snow going down the fire lane we just crossed.  We decided our outlooks had been captured, even taking the telephone with them.
 
We went back, following our old tracks, gave the proper passwords and then back to our house while the Lieutenant, I can’t remember his name, reported to headquarters.
 
Thus ended once more scary night on the front line. 
 
Source: With authorization of Garry D. Harrington, son of Charles L. Harrington.  February 12, 2020

By Sgt Charles L. HARRINGTON

 

"AT" Company,

395th Infantry Regiment

99th Infantry Division

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium