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October 2020
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US Army

…But it Could Have Been Worse

…But it Could Have Been Worse

 
After being relieved in the Hurtgen Forest our division was to enter Luxembourg, as our rest area….so our 3rd Platoon with Lieutenant Pearlstein went to sleep in this large two story house the night of December 15-16, outside Berdorf, Luxembourg.
 
The Village of Berdorf, Luxembourg (Photo US Army)
 
At about 6 a.m; myself, the orderly on guard duty and Lieutenant Pearlstein observed heavy mortar shells dropping around the house.  As the shells became heavier and closer, I told the orderly to go upstairs and awaken Lieutenant Pearlstein.  When he came down and saw the shelling hitting, he awakened everyone and told me to get my squad and protect the left side of the house which I did.
 
Shortly afterwards we could see the Germans coming out of the woods about a hundred or so yards directly in front of the house.  At this time everyone started firing our M1 and carbines at the advancing Germans.  A few moments later a recon jeep appeared and the officer in charge told us to retreat and he would cover us with his mounted 50 caliber machine gun.  We now retreated south to the town of Berg, Luxembourg, where we tried to regroup, as none of us knew of his German offensive.  It had taken us completely by surprise.
 
On the night of the 18th December, again I was assigned guard duty and my buddy, T/Sgt John Carnival and I decided to do two hours together as no one knew just how close the Germans were.  The next morning Lieutenant Pearlstein asked Sgt Eli Kvocka, and his two man wire crew to form a recon patrol.  Since I was very friendly with Sgt Kvocka, I volunteered…  we set out, two men on each side of the road.  We encountered a small farm house on the left of the road, with the Hebron Woods to the opposite side of the house and to our right.  I proceeded to the left of the house and Met Sgt Kvocka in front of the house.  Everything was quiet.  We both entered a long hallway leaving Pvt Durbin and Pvt Busak guarding the front.  At the end of this hallway was a wooden stairway to the top, where you could see the adjoining barn.  When we got to the top we could see this barn loaded with the enemy – all hell broke loose – firing grenades falling.
 
We both ran down the steps.  Sgt Kvocka took a position with his M1 Garand just to the left of the hallway and I took a position about eight feet from him, protecting us from anyone trying to come down the staircase and also the rear windows.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t escape since these windows were barred.
 
At this point all I could hear was screaming from some of the Germans who tried to enter the hallway and were hit by Sgt Kvocka.  Now, our own Cannon Company, who were now aware of our situation, started to fire not only their M1 Garand but the 50 caliber machine guns and 105 cannons direct fire, since they were only a half mile away.
 
Our luck was not to hold on – four or five Germans, with their machine pistols, hit Sgt Kvocka through his right chest and shoulder.  Before I could come to his aid, I was surrounded and forced to surrender.  I motioned the one German non-coms if I could administer first aid to my Sgt.  He nodded affirmatively, and I immediately poured all our sulpha on the wound, and tried to bandage it as best I could.  Sometimes trying to stall for time, hoping that someone from our company could rescue us.  But this was not to be.  We exited the house and I was told to call Pvt Durbin and Pvt Busak, who were close by, to surrender also.
 
We were taken across the dirt road and about 15 yards into the Hebron woods, where I observed a large company of Germans.  They had quietly let us come down the road and to capture not only the patrol, but possibly encircle our entire platoon which was billeted in the house nearby.  We were kept in these woods until night fall trying to keep Sgt Kvocka warm, and trying to keep his spirits up as we knew he was hurting real bad.  I was told by German-speaking non-com that we had to leave him with the rest of the German wounded and they would take him to their hospital.
 
Later after being repatriated by the Russians, I found out that Sgt Kvocka’s wounds were taken care of by a French Prisoner of War with a razor blade.
 
On several occasions I tried to recall this story of Sgt Eli Kvocka’s bravery to no avail.  To my knowledge after all these years, not one of our company officers ever contacted any one of this recon patrol regarding this incident, that may well have saved them from being encircled.
 
Source:Bulge Bugle, November 1995
Sgt Urban T. MASUCCI

Cannon Company

12th Infantry Regiment

4th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium