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US Army

Suddenly, ...I was no Spectator

Suddenly, ...I was no Spectator

About 10:00 p.m., Christmas Eve, we were marching across a long gentle, treeless hill in front of Grandmenil.  I will call it a slope.  I was the 60mm mortar assistant gunner in the 4th Platoon.  I think it was the entire "F" Company -- marching single file on a narrow road.  We knew we were getting close to combat as during the day we had met jeeps with wounded and had passed an area where another 289th Company had met a column of German tanks.  By the looks of things many must have been killed or wounded.  There were jeeps on the road that had been crushed to a flat metal scrap pile from being run over by the tanks, there were burning trucks in a clump of trees along side the road, and much equipment laying around such as helmets, rifles, canteens, and what not.
Until now we had not been fired upon -- I didn't think we would be this time.  The night was beautiful.  A bright moon glistened off the white clean snow.  I was very tired so just kind of shuffled along behind the guy ahead of me.  Surprisingly, I wasn't frightened by what I saw.  There were many burning buildings in the small village of Grandmenil about ½ mile ahead and down the slope.  What's more there was fighting going on down there!I heard the rapid fire of German machine guns in the village.  Their tracer streaks went out toward an area on our side of the village but further down the slope.  Slower firing American machine guns were firing back.  Their tracer streaks went into the village.  The whole thing fascinated me.  I seemed to be a ringside spectator.  I learned later the Americans were "K" Company, 289th, who had taken the village and then were driven out by a German counter attack.
Suddenly, my unrealistic thinking that I was a spectator was shattered.  A machine gun of a German tank fired at us!  I hard the sharp crack of the gun being fired directly at me and saw tracers streak cross the road just ahead of me.  Instantly I awoke from my dull dream, world and looked for cover.  There was no ditch or protection by the road.  I spotted a slight terrace like surface to my right and up the slope -- slightly ahead of me.  There was a fence next to the road but I went through it as though it didn't exist.  I hit the ground on top of the terrace just as the German fired again.  They swept the area from right to left with a long burst.  They seemed to know approximately where we were but I do not think could make out individuals.  I was very much afraid.  I had never been so frightened before or have never been since.  I was sure they could see me -- dressed in dark clothes laying on the gleaming white snow.  The German bullets plowed into the ground ahead of me spattering pieces of frozen dirt on me.  Some were very close.  I found a bullet hole in my shovel carrier flap the next day!  One of the burst hit the 60mm mortar base plate in front of Ralph Logan's head (the mortar gunner).  When they hit the base plate the bullets made a ringing sound, made orange and red sparks, whistled and made tracer streaks as they flew over him.  Someone squirmed and moaned to my left indicating he had been hit.  I froze in fright--didn't move a muscle.  I decided to move though.  I was laying on top of my ammunition pack which positioned me above ground surface.  If I had my say I would be laying under the ground!  We laid there some time.  I began feeling cold as the snow under me began to melt and come through.
Finally, our platoon sergeant, Laverne Ives, said, "Men, we can't lay here all night and wait to get hit.  Immediately after a burst sweeps by you, start crawling up the slope toward that clump of trees."  Boy!  That was comforting to receive some directions.  Up to now, I just laid there not knowing what to do.  I waited for that next machine gun sweep.  They hadn't fired for a while.  I heard the tank engine start, run a little and then stop.  Someone yelled something in German and laughed.  I don't understand German.  I hoped they wouldn't decide to drive up the slope and crush us.  I decided to start crawling up the slope.  I was afraid to make a broad side target as I turned around to crawl up so crawled backward.  It was pretty difficult.  My belt and equipment would cash on the ground under me.  My coat wanted to slide over my head.  When far enough up the slope I turned around and crawled faster head first.  Farther up the slope I got up and ran the rest of the way.  When near the trees I was stopped by one of us.  He asked for the pass word.  I was so frightened I couldn't remember it at first but finally did about when I heard him cock his rifle.
He told me the guys were in the woods.  I was surprised to see so many.  I thought I was the only one out.  Only two men in our platoon had been hit.  Many of us were to be hit later.
I think of that night during every Christmas Eve since.

Source:Bulge Bugle, November 1993


"F" Company

289th Infantry Regiment

75th Infantry Division


Battle of the Bulge,