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US Army

My Battle of the Bulge – Before and Beyond

 
My Battle of the Bulge – Before and Beyond
 
After two months training near Birmingham, England we were sent to Newport, Wales where we boarded the troopship “Enoch train.”  We were sent around the cape several miles into the English Channel to rendezvous.  At 16:00 hours officers gave us our briefing.  As expected, it sent a spark of terror in most of the men.  I can say I held my composure fairly well.  This was all happening on June 6, 1944, D-Day.  Ike called for us follow the 4th Infantry Division as we landed on Utah Beach.  I mean truly, I’ve never seen so many landing craft and very large battleships blasting German forces above us.  It was a very successful venture when the 90th met the 4th Infantry and 82nd Airborne.  As we drove into Normandy we were very successful. I was wounded during the fight for St. Lo when a German Messerschmitt dove on us while we were at the base of a cliff.  He missed us but hit the rocks above us and I was hit by a falling rock. 
 
I returned to action quickly in time to be part of the trap of the Germans at Falaise.  We were very successful when we met the Polish and Canadians to capture the German 7th Panzer Army.  After we gave them two opportunities to surrender they refused.  The sight and smell was terrible as we completely slaughtered them.
 
The 90th Infantry Division was put on 24 hour watch of ninety miles of front and we enjoyed an early full Christmas dinner in 1944.  The very next day General Patton called us up on the line and said he needed one of his favorite divisions to follow his 4th Armored Division to Bastogne and free General McAuliffe who was surrounded there.  At that time he told the Jerrys “Nuts” to their demand to surrender all our forces to them.  It took Patton two days to rout the Jerrys with all of our fire power and help from other full divisions.  It had been a surprise attack by the Germans and they caused a lot of damage to men and equipment.  We went in and stopped them cold and reversed their onslaught.  So it was overpowered on our part.
 
On one occasion as we approached Bastogne my artillery gun was chosen for “high angle” readiness.  After we fired one round an word came back from our forward observer that we had a hole in one - a round right down the turret of the large tank.  We had a field day demolishing that German column.
 
I must tell this true story of Malmedy.  Captain Johnson called me in for a confab.  He directed me to pick three other volunteers.  He said we have a weapons carrier ready to take you and the other men to witness the murders of 86 prisoners of war the bastards had of ours.  The Jerry commander had our guys line up and he told them he was going to release them because the war was almost won by the U.S.A. Instead, he backed two trucks full of machine guns.  He ordered them to fire in-to them and grenade them, our defenseless men.  Then they went among the terrible slaughter to shoot anyone that moved.  When we got there the bodies were frozen and snow was being uncovered from over them.
 
I found out later that two men escaped - one had his eyes open and didn’t breathe. They shot the man next to him, just to show his importance even though the man was already dead. I traced that man that escaped - he lives in Beaver, Pennsylvania, just a few miles from where I live.  One of my men couldn’t take it and backed away crying and vomiting at the same time. I cried for two days after this terrible experience.  I can say at that time I wound up with a terrible urge to kill every Jerry I would run across.  We had a temporary order not to take any prisoners.  That order was lifted after about a week.  I did not obey that order.
 
We were part of a contingent that captured Hitler’s salt mine loaded with all his loot of paintings, gold bars, and money stolen from the countries he captured.  We did not encounter any watchdogs or guards patrolling the main entrance or any of the other two small hidden entrances. I believe it was called the Merker Saltmine.  I was a good spectator.
 
General’s Eisenhower, Patton, Collins, Lear, and others eventually came to inspect, padlock and secure the mine.  My buddy, Corporal Thompson, and I had the best hillside position overlooking the main entrance about a hundred yards away.  My buddy decided to leave and join the rest of our artillery battery.  I stayed and witnessed history as it was happening.  The Generals stopped as they left the mine entrance and had a pretty long sustained talk about their plans, paying no attention to what was going on around them.  I noticed a German fighter in the far distance and it seemed that it was turning toward us.
 
He turned once and went around to line us up for a run. I had suspected one box car sitting on the rail siding about 25 yards away was full of explosives so I took it on my intuition to warn off the generals and shouted for them to get down.  General Collins ran over to me to question what I was doing there.  At first he wanted to arrest me and put me in the brig.  After reasoning with him and looking at the German plane closing on us, General Collins decided it was best that the others take cover but he took my name, rank, and serial number and told me that he would have me court marshaled if I was wrong.  He then told me to get the hell out of there toots sweet.  I just started to highball it over the hill when I heard the big roar of the jet plane go right over me.  It was Germany’s new jet and he had angled into the boxcar with two large rockets. I was in the clear and saw the pilot and I thought I was a goner. 
 
As I suspected, the box car was full of explosives.  The whole area shook and the ground trembled.  Smoke was so thick that it took about 20 or 30 minutes to clear.  The pilot must have chosen to spare me.  I heard some of our anti-aircraft in the distance and thought they had shot down the plane.  The plane was beautiful and red in color.  None of our men at the mine entrance were injured. 
 
We, the 90th, cut Germany in two and met the Russians in Czechoslovakia where the 11th German Panzer with all its equipment would only surrender to the 90th Division. 
 
Source: The Bulge Bugle February 2014

By Pfc Chester POKUSA

 

"B" Battery,

344th Field Artillery Battalion

90th Infantry Division

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium