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US Army

Close Calls

Close Calls
 

I was an armored infantryman in the 10th Armored Division, and a member of the 3rd Platoon, Company "B", 54th Armored Infantry Battalion.

 
On December 22 our tankers and armored infantry engaged the German forces, mostly their tanks.  This occurred in some open fields that were surrounded by rows of medium-sized spruce trees.  A few men from my squad and I jumped into a gully below these trees just as German guns opened up.  The enemy machine guns began chopping off the tops of these trees.  The tops, as well as the lower branches, began bouncing off our helmets making all sorts of noises.  These machine-gun bursts came real close to us.  A close call. While jumping into this gully I turned my ankle and also injured my leg.  When this vicious tank battle subsided I was sent back to Bastogne along with our other wounded buddies.  Why I was spared being hit is a miracle....
 

We were brought into a dwelling that had been converted into an aid station, and we stayed here the rest of the day.  On Christmas Eve about 20 of us were resting in another dwelling close by.  We were sprawled out on the kitchen floor throwing "the bull" and roasting some potatoes on the stove.  Suddenly, around 1:30 a.m., during a rather quiet evening, all Hell broke loose.  Some of us thought it was German artillery, but we were greatly mistaken.  It turned out to be German Stuka dive bombers not artillery.  Boy, what a pounding they unleased on this section of Bastogne.  It seemed that the Germans knew the 10th Armored tanks were parked in this vicinity, even though the vehicles were covered with white sheets and cloth.  One of the bombs landed very close by, and the house we were staying in began to collapse.  Fortunately, we got out of this dwelling without further injuries to any of the guys.  Another close call.

 

When we emerged out on the street after this aerial onslaught, the area looked like Broadway and 42nd Street.  The only difference being that these were burning buildings and fires, not electric lights.  We struggled and crawled down the cobble-stoned streets in search of a safer place.  We entered another dwelling and headed straight for the cellar.  While resting here I surprisingly ran into a friend of mine from my home town - Scranton, Pennsylvania.  He happened to arrive in this cellar just an hour or so before me.  What a coincidence.  He was a tanker from the 9th Armored Division and he became separated from his tank when hit by a shell.  His name was Lou (Murphy) Raukaukas - quite a prize fighter back in northeastern Pennsylvania.  The first thing he said to me, "Phil, thank God, all I got is a piece of shrapnel in my foot."  For a second, he thought I was my brother Pat, who he also knew back home.

 

Lou and I then went to a girls' school being used as a hospital.  It was called Notre Dame.  From here an ambulance convoy was scheduled to head south out of Bastogne.  By a strange coincidence a fellow 10th Armored Division Infantryman, Elturino "Lucky" Loiacono, was one of the wounded in this convoy.  I found this out in 1985 when I became a member of the 10th Vets organization.  He recognized my name and contacted me.  We wrote to each other recalling these experiences.  Real goose bump stuff... by the way these ambulances were ambushed by the Germans who had just closed the only road out of Bastogne.  Sadly, the first two ambulances were shot up, luckily, the rest of the convoy vehicles returned safely to Bastogne.  Another close call...  So this was how I spent my Christmas in the dreary days of this December of 1944.  However, I do vividly recall a thrilling sight, when on Christmas day hundreds of C-47's and gliders flew over and dropped tons of supplies, rations and ammunitions on the outskirts of Bastogne.  A couple of us boarded a jeep, thanks to a friendly medic, and set out to retrieve some supplies.  We even took a red parachute back with us.  I still possess a piece of that chute.  Fortunately, the six day fog had lifted that allowed these planes to fly in.

 

MPs

 

On the afternoon of December 17 at about 3:30 P.M., orders came down to the 10th Headquarters to get ready to move out.  This was just a day after coming off the front lines.  Our Company B was soon alerted.  What a shock this was!!  In fact, we just had marched in a small parade in Thionville.  I believe the parade was to celebrate Bastille Day.  We hardly had time to incorporate our replacements.  It didn't take Combat Command B long to get ready.  Less than three hours later, leading tanks and half-tracks clattered down the road -- not toward the bridgeheads to the east, but north toward Luxembourg and Belgium!!!  Why in the world were we going up into the 1st Army sector?  The next day we surely found out.  We had passed through Luxembourg and entered in Belgium and the town of Bastogne.  This soon was to become the beginning of a historic battle.  So precipitous was the change of orders that few men in the division realized the importance of the new mission.

 

In looking back, I will never forget being an infantryman under the command of Company B's Lieutenant Devereaux and Lieutenant Colonel James O'Hara.  The days spent with my buddies December 17 through December 28 will be etched in my mind, especially the close calls and harrowing experiences.  On the 19th of December, our Combat Command B along with others in the 10th became attached to the 101st Paratroopers Division, the Screaming Eagles, led by General Anthony McAuliffe.  He was the feisty commander who replied "NUTS" to a message of surrender from the German generals.  I was really proud to have participated in these conflicts with the Tigers of the 10th Armored and Screaming Eagles of the 101st Paratroopers.  What transpired in Bastogne and the many towns, villages and hamlets will go down in history as one of the greatest battles in modern warfare.  The conflict soon became known as the "Battle Of The Bulge."  I will never forget the enormity of it all...

 
Source: Battle of the Bulge 1995

Philip J. GENOVA

"B" Company

54th Armored Infantry

Battalion

10th Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium