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US Army

A Corporal Story

A Corporal Story

 
(The following article appeared in the VBOB Central Indiana Chapter Newsletter, dated September 1, 2002)
 
On a sultry day in July 1944 a young Army corporal began his long journey from New York City to England aboard the Queen Elizabeth.
 
First Combat
 
The Battle of the Bulge was in progress and the corporal was now a member of Company “A”, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division of Patton’s Third Army.
 
His first experience in combat came on Christmas Eve, 1944.  His squad dug foxholes in a somewhat open area and assumed a defensive posture for the evening.  Enemy artillery rounds battered the squad positions and tracer rounds crisscrossed overhead.  The corporal shivered in his foxhole that night.
 
On Christmas Day the enemy army was retreating and the mess vehicle brought a hot turkey dinner to the troops.  Not much time was spent in celebrating the holidays.  The 11th Regiment pressed forward, crossing stream after stream; encountering mine fields and digging foxholes.  It was not uncommon to dig through four feet of snow before they reached the frozen ground.
 
One evening the corporal was selected as a scout in a reconnaissance patrol.  The patrol crossed a small stream and encounter friendly artillery rounds falling near their position.  A few rounds were white phosphorous.
 
Days passed quickly, and rumors of a Rhine River crossing began to spread through the ranks.  The 11th Infantry began to prepare for a small-boat river crossing.  The young corporal moved with his squad into an enemy-occupied town — one like many they had already taken from the enemy.  A barrage of 88’s fell as they assaulted.  While jumping into a small river, the corporal felt a sharp sting below his right knee cap.  He realized that a piece of enemy shell had found its mark.  He was evacuated to the hospital and he knew he would miss the river crossing.  He was acutely aware of the seriously wounded around him.
 
His unit had crossed the Rhine while he recuperated.  The corporal had mixed emotions as he pondered the heroic crossing his buddies had made.  He feared he would never see many of them again.  Then he received the good news that he would rejoin his old unit.  He also learned that two or three of his closest friends had been killed in the crossing.  He knew he could have been one of those casualties.  This may have been the first time the corporal realized that God might have a plan for his life.
 
His unit was on the move again.  They stopped at a large textile factory, where the corporal was told he had been selected for officer candidate school.  He began to fill out the myriad of paperwork.  The unit was on the move again.
 
Source: Bulge Bugle, August 2003
Cpl Carroll D. WILLEY

11th Infantry Regiment

5th Infantry Division

Campaign

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium