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US Army

Cleaning Up

Cleaning Up
 
On January 23, 1945, I was a platoon leader in Company "A", 1st Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, and we were on the front line near a small town in Germany named Konzen.  This town is near the border of Belgium and Germany, and is about 20 miles south of Aachen and about five miles north of Monschau.  The Battle of the Bulge was drawing to a close and the Germans had retreated from the Monschau area.  Patrols were being sent out to locate the German forces, and it became my platoon's turn to send a combat patrol to Konzen.
 

I was to lead a combat patrol of six men with the objective of capturing a German soldier in Konzen and bringing him back to be interrogated.  The patrol included the platoon sergeant, a radioman, a man equipped with a Browning automatic rifle and three other infantry men.  The plan was to enter Konzen around midnight with the objective of capturing a German soldier.  We would have available by radio artillery support and tank cannon support.

 

"A" Company was dug in along a tree line facing open fields in front of Konzen.  The snow was several feet deep in the open field in front of Konzen, and we wore white camouflage suits.  There was a full moon but there were also clouds, and we moved when the moon was covered by a cloud.We left after dark and worked our way across the open fields to Konzen, and arrived at the edge of the town about midnight.  We entered Konzen along a street lined with houses and began to search each house as we came to it.  After we had searched about twelve houses, we approached a large building which appeared be either a church or a school.  A German guard at that building spotted us and began shooting.  He raised the alarm and other German soldiers soon appeared and the fire fight began.  We retreated to one of the houses we had searched and the fighting continued from house to house.  After a while the Germans occupied the house on each side of our house and the house across the street from our house.  The fighting continued all night.

 

By dawn it was obvious that either we would try to escape or we would surrender, and we decided to try to escape.  The house we were in had a back yard that sloped down to a ditch possibly 50 yards from the house, and that appeared to be the only escape route.  In order to keep the Germans at bay we used our radio to call for artillery support and tank cannot support on the houses around us.  This involved some risk that our own house would be hit by artillery so we retreated to the cellar.  The artillery and tank fire continued for a while and we then decided to make our break.By radio we requested a heavy concentration of phosphorous shells to create a smoke screen.  Our plan was to make a dash out of the cellar down the back yard to the ditch during the interlude between the high explosive shells and the phosphorus shells.  After making that plan by radio, we prepared to make the break out from the cellar down to the ditch.  The high explosive shell exploded, we destroyed the radio, pulled the pins on our grenades, dashed out of the cellar and threw hand grenades as we left the cellar.  We ran down the back yard to the ditch and by the time we had reached the ditch the phosphorous shells began to explode creating the smoke screen.  As we ran down the back yard toward the ditch, I was shot high in my right thigh but fortunately no bone was broken.

 

The Germans were firing machine guns and small mortars at us in the ditch and we had to decide whether to move out across the open fields back to our own lines.  There was a fence line running from the ditch up a gradual slope toward the forest where the American front line was located.  I moved out of the ditch and began to crawl along the fence line in hopes that the smoke created by the phosphorous shells would conceal my movement.However, it did not and machine guns began firing at me as I moved up the fence line.  When the rest of the patrol saw that firing, they remained in the ditch.  Fortunately, I was not hit while crawling up on the fence line and ultimately got out of sight of the German machine guns and mortars.

 

It was difficult to walk on my right leg, and so I crawled through the snow going in the general direction of the tree line across the open fields.  The snow was deep and my progress was slow.  At one point I was approaching what appeared to be an abandoned farm house, but I heard noises inside the farm house.  The farm house was between me and the tree line in the distance, and so I approached the farm house with my pistol drawn.  When I was able to look in the window in the farm house I was relieved to see a cow moving about and that was the noise I had heard.  I continued crawling and partly walking toward the three line for several more hours, and ultimately got within 50 yards of the tree line when I stopped.  I thought that there would be boobie traps set out in front of the tree line because I had set some boobie traps myself.  I called out to the tree line saying I was from the patrol and asking for help.The American units along the tree line had been warned to look out for the returning patrol, and the captain of the company which I was approaching came out to his boobie traps and led me back to his unit.  I described to him the situation and told him that if he followed my tracks back to the ditch he would find the rest of the patrol.

 

I was then taken to the battalion aid station on a stretcher on the front of a jeep.  I was examined at the battalion aid station and a bandage was put on my leg.  My company commander came by to see me and I gave him a report on what we had experienced in Konzen including a description of the German weapons that were fired at us and an estimate of the number of German troops in Konzen.  After that I was placed in an army ambulance and taken to an army hospital in Liege, Belgium.  At the hospital my leg wound was treated and a week or so later I was sent to a field hospital for recuperation.  After several weeks in the field hospital, I was sent to a hospital in Paris and ultimately returned to combat duty in March.  When I returned to combat, I did not go back to "A" Company but instead I was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 60th Infantry Regiment as an S-2 officer.  I believe that all of the men in the patrol were brought back but I have never seen any of them since that night.

 

Source:Bulge Bugle, February 2002

By Lt Edward M. SELFE

Dead November 30, 2010

Company "A"

60th Infantry Regiment

9th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium