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US Army

Letter from the Front

Letter from the Front
 

…Our last day aboard ship was spent navigating up the Seine River, and it was here we saw the first great destruction wrought by war on the continent.  The battered buildings in Wales and England were mute evidence of the bombings there.  We rammed our bow onto a sandy beach at Rouen, France, late on the afternoon of December 16, at the same time Von Rundstedt was trying his all-out bid for a German victory.  After disembarking at Rouen, we traveled by our trucks, to our bivouac area, a rain-soaked field near Freville, France.

 

On the morning of 17th, we started on a motor march that was scheduled to take us to Vise, Belgium, to relieve British troops.  We traveled as far as Soissons, the weather was miserable.  It was cold, rained all day long, and we were soaked.  We pitched our tents and spent the night.

 

We stayed over the next day in order that we might draw a full quota of ammunition before continuing on.  We again were on the move the following morning, but were halted the next evening before we had reached our destination because of the advance of the Germans in the Ardennes sector and, the fact that German paratroopers in American uniforms had been dropped in that area.  This night we saw our first buzz bombs and having seen and heard one of these, it is not quickly forgotten.  We bivouacked along the road that night and the following day found billets in a little town called Schalkhoven near Tongres in Belgium.

 

We remained here until the 22nd and then received orders to move south as a reserve, to stop the German breakthrough.On this day, I saw the situation map at corps headquarters in Tongres and saw the full extent of the breakthrough and the number of identified Nazi units against us in that sector.We moved to Borlon, Belgium.

 

On the 24th of December we moved to Gros-Chene (Méan), Belgium, and remained there until the 27th.  On Christmas Day we were bombed and strafed by an unidentified P-38 but suffered no casualties.  Again, we had turkey for Christmas as the President had promised.

 

On the 27th, we moved to Ferrières, Belgium, and from there to Grande-Hoursine, Belgium, to our first combat position on the afternoon of the 28th.

 

The following day, December 29th at 1251 hours, we fired our first round of ammunition at the enemy, a base point registration, in order that we would be able to support the relief of the 424th Infantry by the 291st Infantry, which was completed that night and our doughboys took up a defensive line at Vaux-Chavanne, Grandmenil and Manhay.

 

These positions were held with light casualties until the 5th, when the 3rd Armored Division attacked through us and we supported the attack with artillery fire.  On the 6th, we moved to Vert-Buisson into the 1st Army Reserve.  It was on the 4th of January that our battalion suffered it first casualties with the death of Lieutenant Schaffner, who was killed by artillery fire.

 

On the 9th, we made a blackout night march in bitter cold and deep snow to St Jacques and Bergeval, Belgium.  We occupied positions and the following day our infantry relieved elements of the 82nd Airborne, which had established a bridgehead across the Salm River.  On the 13th, we moved to Petit-Halleux and on the 15th, were in position to support the first large scale attack of our infantry.  We fired a 20-minute preparation, but Jerry was dug in and waiting for us and our doughboys had 1,500 yards of open ground to cross up-hill in order to reach the woods and ultimately the battalion objective.  Our doughboys suffered heavy casualties here and the ground was literally covered with American dead and dying.  At the end of the day, we had only gained a few hundred yards.

 

During the night, this battalion was relieved and another battalion jumped off the next morning, again suffering heavy casualties, but reaching the woods and the objective that night.  The weather during this attack was freezing cold and snow was more than knee-deep in many places.  If a man was wounded, the blood would freeze in a matter of a few seconds.  Many men suffered from frozen feet, hands, etc., as well as the battle casualties.

 

We continued this attack until we had reached our objective and then we supported a battalion of the 290th Regiment in an attack.  While in these positions, we drew enemy counter-battery fire as the enemy had excellent observation on our positions.  I nearly lost two members of my survey crew at this time when a shell knocked the top off of a foxhole they had dove into while taping across the open field.  They were covered with dirt and badly shaken up for awhile, but were soon okay.  I have submitted them both for a Bronze Star.  We were also strafed by Jerry planes while in these positions.

 

We next displaced to Beaufays, Belgium, where we supported the attack of our doughboys while they captured the towns of Commanster, Maldringen and Aldringen.  This attack was to cut the St Vith - Laroche road, which it did.  Again, this was accomplished in bitter cold and deep snow, which makes any job much more difficult.  We remained in these positions until the 26th, when we were transferred to the 7th Army in southern France and moved to join them.

 

We had finished up our job of wiping out the Bulge in Belgium and thought we were going to get a much-needed rest in a small village near Liege….

 

This is in no way an account of the battles as far as the individual is concerned, as each of the battles would warrant the amount of space I have devoted to this entire period.  Each battle, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem as a whole, is very important to each and every individual concerned.

 
Source: Bulge Bugle May 2002
By Wendell C OBERMEIER

HQ 899th Field Artillery Bn

75th Infantry Division

Campaign

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium