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US Army

I Remember Vividly the 1944 December Period in Belgium

 

I Remember Vividly the 1944 December's Period in Belgium 
 
The German Army under van Manteuffel, Sepp Dietrich, Peiper was determined to destroy the American Army, once and for all, but that didn't happen.
 
The 3rd Battalion, my Company "I", was in the Amonines, Erezee, Grandmenil, Baraque de Fraiture area from 20 to 25 December 1944.  We suffered quite a few casualties, but sustained more during 3 January 1945 – 15 January 1945 period.
 
I would like to relate a memorable event which I experienced on the night of 24 December 1944.
 
It was about 16.00 hours, when Company "I", 36th Armored Infantry Regiment as part of Task Force Richardson pulled into Erezee.  Company "I" was minus one platoon which was on road block at Baraque de Fraiture.  Ours half tracks assembled in the yard of a nice building (a spa) next to a small creek.  When the vehicles entered the yard two women and a man came out of the spa all dressed in heavy coats and said to me: "Boches, Boches partie!!"
 
They had a green 1939-1940 Pontiac 4 doors sedan and had the motor running.  My father had a 1941 Pontiac, same kind of auto.  I talked to the tall woman "non comprouz", "non comprouz".  She waved his arms beckoning the other woman and man to get into the auto  .For a moment I forgot myself when I said: "Kanst du Deutsch Verstehen?"  Her eyes opened wide hearing the German words, but finally said: "Ja Ich Kanne Deutsch Verstehen und sprechen."  I said to her: " Die Deutsch truppen Kommen Nicht hier, and du kannst hier bleihen."  Naturally she was quite apprehensive about believing me, if I and we were German or American soldiers.  I said "Could ours troops use the spa for billets?"  She finally consented.
 
At that time Captain Jack Libby, Company "I" Commander, told me to take one platoon and also the other Lieutenant platoon leader and establish roadblocks on the road heading to Amonines and another roadblock on road leading to Grandmenil.  I'm certain of the road to Amonines, but not certain of road to Grandmenil. 
 
I was able to get our roadblock position established and I sent a 3 man patrol to Amonines, as we knew elements of Task Force Orr held it.  The patrol made contact and gave them our position of roadblock.  We only had machine guns both 30-50 caliber, rocket launchers, and some spider mines tied together which we could drag across the road. 
 
We also laid a wire line (telephone) to Task Force Orr and our own Company "I" Headquarters at the spa.  At the spa only our half tracks and the drivers occupied the building.  Prior to leaving with my platoon, some of drivers asked that I ask the woman who owned the place if she had any liquor to drink.  I did ask her in German and she stated that she had only 1 bottle of Anisette. 
 
Since I had concerns and a mission with the platoon I didn't think much about the spa or liquor. 
 
As darkness fell and during the early night hours, we were under constant Nebelwerfer shelling.  Because we were dug in well we didn't suffer any casualties that night. 
 
On the not serious side, about 02:00 hours, my platoon telephone (we used captured German phones as they were better than ours) informed me that Captain Libby wanted me to call him.  I called and he stated that the drivers had broken down an outside door leading to the basement of the spa and found a goodly supply of liquor and that they had consumed several or more bottles.  The tall woman (owner) told the Captain that she wanted payment of money for the liquor.  He said I wanted to give her some of our American printed German marks as this was the only money which our troops had.However, she wouldn't accept the marks.  I told the Captain that 1 Belgian franc was worth 2.2 cents of American money.  She would pacify her somehow and that I would talk to her later in the morning when it was light.  I didn't want to leave my platoon to return to the Company CP (Command Post) 600 meters distant to try and settle a dispute. 
 
At about 6:00 hours all hell broke loose.  To the best of my memory a regiment of the 75th Infantry Division had taken up positions around Grandmenil.  A German armored patrol broke through two infantry Battalions causing the Americans shooting up one another.  Company "I" was pulled out of Erezee area and moved to Grandmenil to reinforce the battalions of the 75th Division.  Company "I" remained in that area for next several days. 
 
That was not the end of it.  The 3rd Armored Division commanding General Maurice Rose and his staff occupied the spa which Company "I" vacated on the morning of the 25th December.  I was told, the place was in shambles, all rooms messy, and trash left about.  The owner (tall woman) told the General's staff that Company "I" was there and her supply of liquor was consumed and no payment of money. 
 
Lo and behold, about end of February 1945, just as we were near Cologne, Germany, a message came to Company "I" sent through the Regiment from General Rose' HQ, that Company "I" owed $160.00 for liquor consumed at the spa in Erezee.  Imagine, our surprise and feelings of disgust.  I told Captain Libby, didn't know how we could come up with $160.00, especially since many of the soldiers who consumed the liquor were no longer with Company because of wounded out or some KIA.  I told Captain, I personally never got a drink and now that I was a commissioned officer was expected to pay.  Captain said he would put up $100.00 and I should try and raise rest from men in the Company.  I was able to do that putting in $40.00 myself.  I turned money over the Regimental Sergeant Major (Sgt John Conyne) as he was a close friend of mine.  Conyne said we shouldn't pay for it, but I quickly reminded him that the message from General Rose was signed by him and we were in no position to ignore or argue with a Major General. 
 
Despite the serious situations in combat, foolish and funny events occur.  This is one, such an event which I clearly remember. 
 
Source: letter to the Webmaster dated February 15, 1994

 

1st Lt Imbert ESLINGER

"I" Company

3rd Battalion

36th Armored

Infantry Regiment

3rd Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium