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October 2020
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US Army

"Mess " on the Front

 

"Mess " on the Front 

 

I was the mess Sergeant of "C" Battery, 482nd Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion SP attached to CCR of the 9th Armored Division and our mess truck was never miles to the rear.

 
I'm writing this in honor of my five cooks, two of them were wounded in Bastogne.  They came back to the outfit as the war ended, we were in Leipzig – one was minus his trigger finger on his right hand.
 
In our basic training when we were going to cooks and mess sergeants school, we were told we were soldiers first, then cooks, and that was proven at Longvilly, Belgium.
 
"C" Battery and CCR (Combat Command Reserve), along with many others, were trapped on Longvilly road, it was the first time my cooks had fired their carbines at a German soldier and the first time I ever fired my fifty caliber ring mount in combat.  So we weren't miles to the rear.
 
We shot our way out and made it to Bastogne, with our kitchen truck, our "C" Battery guys that were trapped at Longvilly began to trickle in, they escaped the trap by one's or two's.  My Captain and his jeep driver made it in, but "C" Battery was pretty decimated.  This was before the 101st Paratroopers arrived and my Captain wanted eight men for a patrol, one of my cooks and myself stepped forward, there wasn't any one else.
 
No one knew how close the Krauts were, none of us were trained for this but our Captain would lead us, and that was good enough for me.  We went out a couple of miles and ran into the Krauts, after a brief fire fight, we withdrew without a scratch, but coming back my Captain was hit quite badly by shrapnel.  He didn't make it back till the war's end, our executive officer took over.
 
Our Kitchen truck was parked in the town square of Bastogne.  We cooked until we used all our rations.  We fed any GI from any outfit that came by.  Our executive officer found 15 smoked hams in a store, so we fed everyone ham.
 
The 101st Airborne Division got into Bastogne, we were happy to see those guys.  I want to say, those paratroopers were the bravest men I've ever seen around.  Being around the 101st helped me make it.  I never thought of running, but they helped to settle me down.
 
My biggest fear wasn't of the German soldiers.  I was afraid of getting killed and so far from home.  They were a cool bunch of guys.  I asked one guy when he jumped off the truck was he was going to do without a rifle.  He said he would take one off a dead Kraut.  I thought that was pretty cool.
 
The paratroopers give us a crash course in infantry.  To this day I hold the highest respect for these me, nothing ever scared them, they were tough but still nice guys.  I know the feeling when your heart stops beating as I aimed my carbine at a German soldier, squeezes the trigger and saw him go down.
 
Being in a barn to warm up, when three Kraut tanks opened up with machine guns, and orange tracers are flying until the paratroopers knocked out all three with bazookas.  I know the feeling of emptying a full clip in my carbine at a German plane strafing my foxhole.  None of this would have happened to me and my cooks if our kitchen truck was miles to the rear.
 
I think the infantry and the tankers had it the roughest, but they needed the artillery, as well as the quartermaster, the Red Ball Express and the kitchen trucks.
 
After the war ended, before we went to Munich, we were camped on the Blue Danube River bank near Eining, Germany.
 
On Memorial Day, 1945, the battalion was together for the first time since Utah Beach.  We paid tribute to our buddies we had lost in action and had a full dress parade in their honor.  All the cooks, myself included, marched with the battery.  We used to have excuses for things when we were stateside, but we all knew that this was an honor that comes only once in a life time.  All the cooks kept in step while marching.
 
I know the 106th Infantry Division lost a lot of men (two regiments), but it wasn't because of the kitchen trucks being miles to the rear.
 
After we crossed the Rhine, one day my kitchen truck was ahead of the infantry, we were behind a Sherman tank.  We came upon a POW camp and the guards had fled.  The tank rammed the gate, the men were skinny as heck, but all they wanted was cigarettes.
 
Source: Battle of the Bulge August 2001

Sgt Charles A. SKLENAR

"C" Battery

482nd AAA Aw Battalion

 

attached to

9th Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium