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US Army

"A" Company at Amonines, During the Bulge

"A" Company at Amonines

during the Bulge

 
After the terrible three days the Company had spent in the battle for Echtz and Hoven, it moved back to Mausbach, Germany, to lick its wounds.  Johnny Frantz returned from the hospital and a dozen men including Ed Beers, Bill Houtchens, Clarence Hockensmith, and Clyde Grubb among others were transferred in from “G” Company. 
 
On December 18, 1944 the news spreading through the Company was that the Germans had launched a major attack some fifty miles to the south of us early on the morning of December 16.  The rumors were that the Krauts were making such fast progress that the brass was deeply concerned. 
 
Strange aircraft were flying over Mausbach and the Company’s .50 caliber machine guns joined the chorus of ack-ack and poured hundreds of rounds into the air.  Then we got word that these were British planes and to cease firing at the strangers overhead. 
 
On the morning of December 19, Lieutenant Berlin received orders to be ready to move on an hours’ notice.  After chow that evening we loaded up our halftracks and other vehicles and headed towards a place we had never heard of - - Ardennes.  It was dark when we left Mausbach.  This time of year the sun rose at 07h58 and set at 16h03. 
 
The Company moved out in a single column through Stolberg, Verviers, Aywaille, Barvaux and finally Hotton.  It was a most difficult time for the drivers who hadn’t slept since the previous night.  They were peering through the narrow slits in the armored windshield, trying to maintain the proper distance from the vehicle in front of them.  The dim cat’s eyes of the next vehicle were their only point of reference.  Just keeping the vehicles on the narrow, winding road was a victory. 
 
When the Company finally assembled in a field on the outskirts of Hotton, it was discovered that the halftrack A-24, that of the mortar squad of the second platoon was missing.  No one could recall seeing it and it would remain a mystery for ten days. 
 
The Company was then ordered to Erezee, Headquarters of CCR, commanded by Colonel Robert L. Howze to await further orders.  After dark on the 20th, the Company advanced on foot to the southern outskirts of the village of Soy.  Here it established a line of defense with the second platoon straddling the narrow paved road up which the German troops were advancing.  The first and third platoons were echelon to the left and right, respectively.  We were unable to dig slit tranches in the frozen ground and had to rely on buildings, earthen mounds, depressions and ditches for protection. 
 
After several hours we received orders to move to another location.  Under pitch black conditions the three platoons, grumbling that the brass didn’t know what they were doing, joined Task Force Orr (Lt Col William Orr, commander of the first battalion of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment) and rode in the halftracks to the outskirts of Samree, some six miles to the south. 
 
Shortly after arriving in Samree the Company was ordered to retrace its steps and outpost the village of Amonines.  By the time we reached Amonines gray streaks of light were appearing in the eastern sky.  December 21 is the shortest day of the year with only eight hours of daylight at this latitude. 
 
 The above map shows the movement of Company “A” on the day of December 20, 1944 from Bob Pacios story.Point A is Hotton, Belgium.  The next move they made was 6.35 miles to Point B which was Erezee.The Company then moved again to Point C which was Soy which about 3 miles.  From Soy they loaded into the halftracks and rode 10 plus miles to Samree which is Point D.  Finally they retraced their steps back into Point E Amonines, Belgium which was a little over 6 miles.
 
Amonines, a town of less than one thousand people, is located on the west bank of the Aisne River.  While called a river, at Amonines the Aisne was just a small stream about twenty feed wide at the bottom of the Aisne valley.  While to the east was a wooded ridge line, the town sprawled out on a hill to the west of the river.   To the south and southwest of the town was a band of small, open fields.  The several streets of Amonines winded their way over the Hillside.  The town was connected to the outside world by a road that led to the hamlets of Magoster, Melines and Beffe to the southwest.  Amonines was astride the paved road between Dochamps and Erezee. 
 
The road south to Dochamps was boarded by woods on both sides for 2,500 yards where it then turned seventy degrees to the south.  About 1,500 yards from that point the road made a sharp hair-pin turn to the right and then turned back to the left at a spot where the hill dropped off steeply to the left.  The village of Dochamps lay another 1,000 yards south of this hair-pin turn.
 
The company’s halftracks were left in Erpigny, a tiny village one mile north of Amonines.  The headquarters squad was located in a small house that was still occupied by a Belgian family.  What remained of the squad (some of its members were in Amonines with Lieutenant Berlin) took up occupancy in the kitchen where they spread out the bedrolls on the floor come night.  The family consisted of the mother and her three teen-age daughters.  When the Germans occupied Belgium, the father had been taken away to Germany as slave laborer.  The rest of the men, cooks, supply, clerks and drivers were scattered in other houses throughout the village.
 
The way the kitchen was laid out reminded Pfc Johnny Frantz of his uncle’s farm back in Ohio.  The farm routine was familiar to him, what with the cows and chickens to be fed and tendered to.  The squad prepared its own meals from 10 in 1 rations (contained in two large boxes which held rations for 10 men for 1 day, hence 10 in 1) and shared them with the mother and her daughters.  This delighted the young girls who not only never seen an American before, but also had never seen meals come out of a box.
 
In Amonines part of the day of December 21 was spent in improving the Company’s defensive line.  The second platoon under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh “Pete” Colbert was situated astride the paved road that led south to Dochamps.  The platoon’s left flank was on the west bank of the Aisne which, at this point was located only a dozen yards from the road.  The line then stretched to the right of the road about two hundred yards along a small country land that was sunk two feet below the surrounding terrain.
 
The brick farmhouse at the junction of the Dochamps road and the dirt lane served as platoon headquarters and offered shelter and warmth to the men not on guard duty.  Directly across from the house, on the other side of the dirt line, stood a small pig pen and a ram-shackle building that housed half dozen pigs.  The third platoon, on the right flank of the second continued the defensive line as it stretched northwest along the edge of the built-up section of the town. 
 
An open field, facing towards the southwest, stretched along the front of the two platoons, widening from fifty yards wide on the left flank to three hundred yards on the right.  The forest lined the further side of this field.  The first platoon, held in reserve inside the town proper, out-posted the northern side of Amonines and conducted patrols. 
 
One of the Company’s command radio halftracks in Erpigny was ordered to drive two-thirds of the way down the narrow lane which led to Amonines.  This lane was lined with pine trees along most of its length.   The halftrack was placed about 400 yards from the left flank of the second platoon from where it had a clear view to the south and to the east.  If the men in the radio halftrack detected any enemy movement they were to immediately radio the information to the Company command post in Amonines.  Because of their isolated position the men in the radio halftrack felt uneasy. 
 
The skies were leaden gray with a high overcast.  The weather was turning colder and colder.  A thin layer of an inch or two of snow covered the ground.  The day dragged on and as the men alternately pulled guard duty and thawed out in the shelter of the near-by buildings.  After suffering heavy casualties only ten days before we were uneasy in our current position. 
 
We had been ordered out of our comfort billets in Mausbach and ordered to move fifty miles south to the wild, wintry, cold and isolated Ardennes forest.  So far we had not heard a shot fired in anger, only the distant rumbling of artillery, whose we had no way of knowing.   We had not seen a German soldier since Hoven, over a week ago. 
 
There were rumors of Germans being everywhere in American uniforms, speaking perfect English, SS Panzer troops over-running the Belgian countryside, prisoners being massacred.  We had moved from one location several nights again the pitch blackness of the night, then to another and then to a third.  Did the High Command really know what was going on?  Were things really as bad as the spreading latrine rumors that were floating about said they were?  It seemed to us that this vaunted counter-offensive by the Wehrmacht was not of not too much concern, but was rather an un-needed intrusion on our rest area in Mausbach. 
 
Unbeknownst to us a cauldron of fire was swirling around our position in Amonines.  Only a few hundred yards from Erpigny, the village of Sadzot would soon be the setting for a bloody battle when elements of the 2nd SS Panzer division attempted to push through and gain a direct road to Liege.  Just a few miles to the southwest of Amonines Task Force Hogan was surrounded by the Germans.  Hotton, just a few miles west of our position was a battlefield as crack 116th Panzer Division was seeking to break through the American lines and reach the Meuse River where it would have a clear path to Antwerp, Hitler’s objective in this final offensive we had dubbed as “Wacht on the Rhine”.  The Soy-Hotton road, in our area had been cut by the 116th Panzer Division. 
 
The 560th Volksgrenadier Division, attacking between the 2nd SS and 116th Panzer Divisions, were headed directly for Amonines. 
 
On December 22 the Company is in Amonines with the Nazi Army all around us. 
 
As the morning dawned with a brighter sky, the Company was ordered by Colonel Orr to go to the aid of a detachment from the 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion which was attempting to get back into Dochamps.  The Company, led by Lieutenant Pereiskorn’s third platoon, moved out to the south in double file along the shoulders of the paved road. 
 
As a sharp right hand bend in the road was reached, Captain Berlin ordered Lieutenant Colbert to place a two man flank out-post on the road heading to the left (east) and which dipped down into the valley and crossed the Aisne River over a small wooden bridge.  Following Colbert’s orders, I placed two men near the bridge, told them to stay concealed, and fire if they saw any Germans so as to alert us to the danger of the Company being cut-off.  I then returned to the platoon which had, by this time moved well down the road to Dochamps. 
 
A mile or so from the Company came across a light tank and a couple of armored cars of the 83rd which had at the hairpin curve, run into a column of Germans attacking from the south.  (Although we did not know it at the time, this was a Kampfgruppe of the 560th Volksgrenadier Division whose mission was to capture Amonines, reach the Erezee-Hotton road and deny lateral movement to the US forces in the area.)  If the plan of the LLII Panzer Korps, which was comprised of both the 560th Volksgrenadier and 116th Panzer Divisions, were attained, this road would have cut at Marche, Hotton, Soy and at Quatre-Bras, an important crossroad between Hotton and Soy. 
 
When the Captain Berlin reached the armored vehicles of the 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion he learned that they had been advancing towards Dochamps when they ran head-long into an aggressive German task force that was estimated to be of battalion strength accompanied by several Mark IV tanks.  The Mark IV’s had knocked out several of the 83rd’s vehicles including the light M-5 tank and an armored car.  Company “A” moved up to advance around the curve in the road but a fierce outburst of rifle and burp gun fire caused its lead elements to dive for cover. 
 
The men of the Company responded with heavy fire from their M-1’s, BAR’s and carbines.  After a few minutes both sides ceased firing, except for a sporadic shot, when it became apparent that no one, German or American, had a target at which to aim.  This lull continued for an hour when Pfc Ralph McFall, a company “original” attempted to cross the field on the left hand side of the road and get behind the German position.  Unfortunately a Nazi sniper spotted him and sent a round into McFall’s side killing him.
 
Captain Berlin decided to outflank the Germans by sending two platoons through the woods to the right and circle behind the enemy’s position.  Lieutenant Hoenke’s first platoon stayed on the road to back up the troopers of the 83rd while the second and third platoons started through the woods on the right to complete the encircling maneuver.  However the Krauts had the same idea:  move through the woods, outflank our position and take us by surprise from the rear.
 
The dough’s of Company “A” moved off the right side of the road, down into a ditch and started the climb into the forest.  The men had penetrated no more than 100 feet into the trees and underbrush when they caught sight of the grenadiers of the 560th Division advancing through the woods.  Immediately, both sides opened fire, almost simultaneously.
 
Only 30 feet in front of me a German rushed out towards us from behind a large tree.  Before realizing that his hands were raised and he had shouted “Kamerad!” the dozen men who had spotted him opened fire, killing him.  In the ensuing firefight, Edward Beers, one of the men who had transferred from “G” Company only a week ago, was killed instantly when he was struck in the head by a German rifle bullet.
 
Both sides hit the ground and exchanged fire furiously.  The Jerries’, on the higher ground, lobbed a few potato grenades at us.  One of these detonated near Sgt Tony Suarez, and assistant squad leader in the second platoon.  Tony, from Pueblo Colorado, felt a blow to his buttocks.  We GI’s were not able to hurl grenades since we were downhill from the Germans and we were afraid that any grenade which bounced off a tree would roll back at us.
 
We could hear the Germans shouting and, as the sound of their voices faded, it soon became obvious to us that the Germans had enough and were retreating. 
 
We moved back onto the road maintaining a wary eye on the woods on our right flank.  We discovered that a splinter from the grenade that had detonated near him had lodged in Tony Suarez’ rear end.  That he was kidded unmercifully goes almost without saying. 
 
About 1430 hours the Company officers received orders from Lieutenant Colonel Orr to pull back and reoccupy our previous position.  The armored cars and jeeps of the 83rd Reconnaissance pulled back and withdrew north along the road to Amonines.  Captain Berlin then ordered a withdrawal, a rearguard covering with small arms fire. 
 
I discovered a 60mm mortar abandoned on the shoulder of the road along with 10 or 15 rounds of ammunition.  Not wanting to leave the weapon and ammo for the Germans I decided to put them to good use.  Knowing that the krauts were less than 100 yards from us and that, using the mortar bipod I could not fire a round less than 100 yards, I detached the bipod from the mortar tube. 
 
Enlisting someone to remove the mortar rounds from their protective castings and to remove all of the powder increments from each shell, I set up to fire the mortar.  Sitting on the ground I placed the mortar base plate and the tube between my drawn-up legs.  Wrapping a blanket around the tube (It was going to get hot after a few rounds) I grasped the tube as tightly as I could.   Holding the tube so that it was at something slightly less than vertical I dropped in a round from which I had not pulled the safety pin.  The purpose of not removing the safety pin was two-fold:  1) to make sure that there was clearance through the trees and that I did not cause a tree burst and 2) to assure that if they did not go far enough it would not explode in our midst. 
 
Satisfied that I had the right distance, I had all the safety pins removed and dropped the rounds one by one into the mortar.  I slowly changed the direction of the barrel after each round so that the bursts were walking from right to left on the ground where I hoped the Germans were located.  By this time there were only a few of “A” Company’s men still there.  We pulled up stakes, leaving the mortar where it lay and hustled back towards Amonines, covered by an armored car that still was at hairpin curve.
 
When we arrived at the road junction where I had placed the two flank guards they were no-where to be found.  I spent several minutes longer than prudent in trying to locate them.  By this time there was no one else in sight – I was alone.  I had just stepped back onto the pavement when the last armored car pulled up.  I clambered aboard and immediately after taking off the crew said they had spotted Germans running through the woods on our left and sprayed the forest with 50 caliber machine gun rounds with members of the crew joining in with their carbines.  “How ridiculous can you get?”, I thought.  The Germans would have had to been world class runners to catch up to us.
 
The armored car dropped me off at the southern end of Amonines where I rejoined the members of second platoon.  Lieutenant Colbert was especially happy to see me since he thought I had been captured or killed.  By this time it was about 1530 hours and the arrival of night was a short period of time away.  In taking stock, in addition to McFall and Beers who were killed, the Company also lost as wounded, S/Sgt Kenneth Becker, the first platoon mortar sergeant, Pfc’s Herman Gallegos, Leroy Sexton, Malcolm Bradley, Junius Calvert, George Eyster and Pvt Thomas Beamon. 
 
The Company had left Mausbach two days ago short about twenty men.  In addition to the nine casualties suffered at the hairpin curve we were missing the seven men from the second platoon mortar squad, S/Sgt Mike Lucas, T/5 Jim Blaker, Pfc Charlie Edwards, Pfc Glencoe White, Pfc Joe “Connie” Conover, Pfc John Srochansky and Pfc Charles Postlethwaite.  Now “A” Company was short 37 men.  It just seemed that we would never be at full strength for more than a few days. 
 
Thus when the Company resumed their old positions at Amonines we were quite thinly spread out.  In order to protect ourselves from surprise we stretched trip wires across the road leading south to Dochamps as well as in the ditches on each side of the road.  These trip wires were attached to several aerial flares which, when tripped would rise several hundred feet into the air and illuminate the surrounding area for a minute or so.  In addition we had several flares that were launched from a 60mm mortar and which we fired intermittently into the intense blackness of the night. 
 
Since there was no sign of the Germans during the night, not even the usual patrolling, it was obvious that we had hurt the 560th Volksgrenadier Division badly. 
 
Everyone who was with the company on the night of December 21, 1944 will remember how cold and dark it was.  Every moment that passed since we arrived in the Belgian Ardennes on the morning of the 20th seemed to get colder than the previous moment.  In any case, though we had not yet seen the worst of the weather and of the German attacks for that matter. 
 
 
 Road leading to Dochamps.  The little building on right was CP for 2nd Platoon that Bob tells about his story.  The little path to the right is the one that is now paved.
 
 
 Road that Bob left two men from company “A” to guard as they headed down the road to Dochamps.  You can see a little bridge on the right.  As you can see we are now able to find locations that Company "A" was at "Forge A La Plez"
 
Company “A” repelling the attack of the 560th Volksgrenadier Division at a hairpin curve on the road between Amonines and Dochamps, was able to stop the northward advance of the Germans towards Liege and Antwerp.  The men of the Company had been preparing defensive positions in an arc around Amonines in anticipation of additional attempts by the Wehrmacht to pierce our lines and break out of the rugged Ardennes terrain into the open Belgian countryside. 
 
During the night of December 22-23, in addition to the frightening cold it snowed an inch or two, and we awoke to a winter wonderland during the night.  The ground was completely white now and the fir trees that abounded in the Ardennes forest were covered with a dusting of white.  Everything was quite with no sign of the German troops who were, we knew, out in front of us.  Gradually the day brightened, the clouds faded away and the cold sun shone down upon us.  However, as it usually does back home in New England, the clearing signaled a cold front and the thermometer kept dropping. 
 
An abandoned M-8 (a light tank that mounted a short-barreled 75mm howitzer and which belonged to the cannon section of Headquarters Company of the first battalion) sat alongside the house occupied by the second platoon.  There was a lot of discussion as to how we could use it.  The M-8 had not suffered any visible damage but we were unable to start it.  No one knew how to fire the small howitzer or how to set the range.  This, including the fact that it had practically no armor, resulted in us deciding to leave it where it sat and not try to use it in our defense of Amonines. 
 
Late in the morning the drone of a large number of aircraft grew louder and louder.  A huge fleet of C-47’s flew over our heads and disappeared to the south.  A few minutes later we heard the distant thump-thump-thump of heavy antiaircraft fire. 
 
Early in the afternoon Captain Berlin came to the second platoon to organize a reconnaissance patrol to seek out the location of the enemy positions in front of us.  Since Lieutenant Pete Colbert asked for volunteers I felt that as platoon sergeant it was incumbent on me to step forward and lead the patrol and was immediately joined by S/Sgt Artur Leos, machine gun squad leader.  Leos was a swarthy man of Mexican background who resided in San Antonio, Texas.  The other three men who volunteered for the patrol (for the life of me I can’t remember their names).  We were instructed to avoid a fight – our job was to locate the Kraut positions.  This was an order we all heartily agreed with. 
 
The five of us removed our helmets and wore a wool knit cap.  Each man carried a carbine with a full clip and two spare clips in a web ammo pouch attached to the stock.  Thus we each had 45 rounds of carbine ammunition.  Leaving our M-1 rifles in Amonines we moved out in a diamond formation, across the open field and into the woods.  The patrol moved parallel to the Amonines-Dochamps road and we tried to stay about a hundred yards from it. 
 
At first the woods were fairly thick with a small amount of underbrush, but soon the trees thinned out and the underbrush disappeared.  The trek led us to a small, rapidly running but shallow brook at the bottom of a slight hill. 
 
We started up another low hill, still in a diamond formation with me in the center of the four men who were spread out to the front, left, right and rear.  The trees were getting farther apart and we could see fifty yards in front of us.
 
Moving as silently as possible we soon caught the noise of the Germans talking, digging and the clanking of their equipment.  Sgt Leos, at the point, halted and waved for me to go up to him.  I could see why he stopped.  We were just at the top of another low hill and by peering over the crest we could see that the trees were really thin.  If we choose to move forward there was little concealment to mask our movements.  We listened carefully to the sounds of the German troops and estimated that they were about one hundred yards in front of us. 
 
I asked Leos, “What do you think Artur?”  “I think we’ve gone far enough”  “You are right.” I agreed.  “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”  Before we departed, with the aid of a compass and a map, we determined that the German position was at the 70 degree bend in the road where I had placed two flank guards the day before. 
 
Carefully retracing our steps and counting paces we returned by the same route we had taken by following our tracks in the snow.  Our pacing confirmed our original assessment that the Kraut positions were centered around the bend, a little less than one mile north of the hairpin curve.  When we returned back to the safety of our lines Captain Berlin took me directly to Lieutenant Colonel Orr’s headquarters that was located in the farthest corner of the town.  After listening to my report Orr thanked me and told me to congratulate the other four members of the patrol for a job well done.  He said that an artillery concentration would be placed on the bend in the road where we had placed the enemy. 
 
Sure enough, about an hour later we heard the swish of several volleys of 105 rounds as they passed over our heads and then the muffled explosions when the shells landed.  “On the way” several of the GI’s shouted as the shells passed overhead.
 
The Company was retrenching at Amonines after repelling the 560th Volksgrenadier Division of the German VIII Panzer Korps.  It is now the morning of December 23, 1944.
 
The weather turned colder and the clouds cleared away leaving a bright, sunny, blue sky.  Off in the distance we caught the drone of a large number of aircraft.  The drone became louder and louder until it turned into a roar.  Then a great number of C-47’s came into our view, flying slowly, no more than two or three thousand feet over our heads.  Then, as they passed completely by, we heard the crump, crump of German antiaircraft fire.
 
Although we did not know it at the time, this armada of planes dropping medical supplies, food and ammunition to the troops in Bastogne surrounded by the Nazi onslaught.  The troops surrounded included the 101st Airborne Division, CCA of the 10th Armored Division and assorted troops from various units which had become cut-off and who gained the defense perimeter at Bastogne.
 
The rest of the morning passed quietly.  Early in the afternoon we heard the sound of German troops approaching through the woods toward the second platoon’s positions astride the road leading to Dochamps.  Hurriedly an artillery forward observer came up to our position.  Since the Germans were very close to us he did not have time to walk the artillery down the road to the Jerries.  Instead he radioed back the coordinates and had them fire three rounds per gun for effect.
 
We could hear the round on the way and we knew from the sound that they were going to land mighty close to us.  In the twelve rounds came, all around us! 
 
We heard no one shout for a medic so it seemed that no one had been hit.  The forward observer increased the range one hundred yards and hit pay-dirt.  The shells rained down into the woods and we could hear Germans shouting out in pain as the artillery sent several more volleys into their ranks.   Although we could not see them because of the trees in the forest we knew that they were retreating as their noise grew fainter and fainter. 
 
In a few minutes we took stock of our position.  Sure enough there were shell-holes all around our area and one of the rounds had hit the small building housing the pigs who were running around, squealing to high heaven.  It was such a funny scene that many of the men burst out laughing.  Fortunately no one had been hit by the 105 rounds that had burst on our position – we were lucky.  In scrambling through the wreckage of the pig pen we discovered that not a single pig had been hurt despite the direct hit!
 
That was the last attempt by the 560th Volksgrenadier Division to break through Company A’s defense line at Amonines.
 
The remainder of the day the men of the Company spent trying to keep warm.
 
 
 Picture from the collection of Clarence Smoyer.
 
The day passed into night.  A full moon rose and it was almost as bright as day.  As we moved about in the moonlight we cast vivid shadows on the snow-covered ground.  The buildings cast their dark shadows onto the light snow.  It was a weird, surrealistic picture.  The moon was so bright that it blocked out most of the stars and only those low on the horizon were visible. 
 
The next morning December 24, we awoke to good new that we were to be relieved.  The 75th Infantry Division, newly arrived on the European continent, was to take over our positions that night. 
 
In the third platoon area Jim Driscoll, the radio operator for the third platoon, was on top of a hill with another GI.  Their job was to act as an outpost and warn the men in the town if they spotted any Germans who were, at the time, just on the other side of the hill. 
 
The artillery was firing overhead, Jim who was down in a hole received a transmission from an artilleryman who knew Driscoll’s location: “We’re sending some artillery rounds over and want you to watch and tell us where they land.  It’s a wooded area.  Look up and let us know where.  You’ll hear them go over”.  Soon Driscoll heard that swoosh, swoosh, swoosh and heard them explode. 
 
“Where did that round land in relation to you?”  Jim replied.  “It looks to me as if you’ve got to go two hundred yards to the left”.  Then they another over but that one went too far.  Finally they got it to hit where they wanted.  The answer came back, “OK, keep your heads down we’re going to send over a volley”.  Here it was, the day before Christmas and in the cold Driscoll thought about the men that might be hit because of his directions back to the artillery. 
 
They came on Christmas Eve.  Maybe we were going off the line and could partake of the delicious turkey dinner we knew our fine cooks would be preparing for us.  No such luck – we had to remain in Amonines playing in effect, nursemaid to the very green troops of the 75th Infantry Division. 
 
The members of that unit were a sight for sore eyes.  They were wearing spanking, brand new uniforms.  Some of them even sported heavens to Bessie, neckties! 
 
At 10 PM that night Dan Woods and I walked up the road into the center of town where the Company Headquarters was located.  Because of the bright moon casting shadows we elected to walk in the middle of the road where we could be easily seen and not be mistaken for krauts.  As we neared the headquarters building, a GI from the 75th stepped out of the shadow of a building and into the road.  Holding his M-1 rifle at port arms he challenged us in the proper army way: “Who goes there?”  Not wishing to be the man’s first shooting victim we cried out in unison: “Friend!” 
 
“Advance, friend, to be recognized” was his reply.  After ascertaining that we were indeed friends he told us to pass.  However, before we did we gave him some advice: stay in the shadows, don’t expose yourself, keep your rifle pointed at the person you’re challenging and ask only for the password.  Thus done we went about our business and hoped that we might have saved a life of a GI. 
 
The next day there in Amonines we had our Christmas dinner – K rations.  The noon meal was the worst of the three different K rations.  It consisted of the usual four cigarettes and iron biscuits.  In addition there was a small can of cheese, lemonade powder and charms candy.  The lemonade powder took the cake.  Here we were, freezing our butts off in the coldest European winter in years and we had lemonade which some dietitian had decided would give us enough energy to go bravely into battle.  Boy would I love to get my hands on that dietitian! 
 
However some of the more persuasive men in “A” Company were able to convince some of the new men of the 290th Infantry Regiment of the 75th Division that “K” rations were much better than “C” rations and were able to swap for cans of beef stew, spaghetti and meatballs or franks and beans, along with powdered coffee.  I wondered if these men of the 75th would two weeks from now, make the same swap.
 
When Dan Woods and I returned to the platoon some of the men were saying that the new troops of the 75th looked better here in the front lines than we had on the parade grounds.
 
Meanwhile Jim Driscoll and his companion were outside their holes when snow began trickling down on them and they couldn’t figure it out since it wasn’t snowing.  The finally got the message – there were bullets going through the trees knocking the snow down onto them.
 
The two men moved back a bit and sad alongside of a road.  Sitting there they looked up in amazement; coming down the road in tight formation was what looked like a whole company of soldiers.  Their uniforms were neatly pressed and the insignia of the officer in charge shown like a beacon.  Listen as Jim Driscoll relates what happened: “They came up to us and they said: Are we glad to see you.  We told them not to be too glad because the Germans were just over in those woods.  They had just got into Europe.  They started down into that valley and then we heard shots.  The first thing you knew they came back.”
 
“One of them had got hit and we helped him.  The all gathered around him.  Curious you know, as if to said, “What happened to Joe?”  There was an officer there, a first lieutenant, I think.  He didn’t know who I was from my uniform – I had no markings of any kind.”
 
“I said to him, Can I give you a bit of advice?  Tell you men to disperse.  For cripes sakes you’re going to get some artillery in here any minute.  Look at them.  Another thing, tell them not to go to a German.”
 
Of course he knew all that, after all he was a first lieutenant.  So then my buddy and I got back into our holes.  Then Captain Maurice Goldner called me on the radio.  Goldner asked, those 75th troops that came up this morning, where are they now?”
 
“I answered, they are right here now.  They came up here and got fired on and are still here.  They are all around us.  I guess that an officer came up to where the halftrack was and gave them hell.  They were dumb.  They were supposed to keep going.  After they came up we were pulled back with the radio, back in town because American troops were here now and we weren’t needed up there anymore.”  Driscoll concluded.
 
The following day was a happy day for us since we were to be relieved by the 75th.  On the morning of December 26th we were replaced on the line by the men of the 290th Infantry  Regiment in their clean, well-pressed uniforms, shiny helmets and all.  We pulled back into the houses in the center of Amonines late in the afternoon.
 
Packy Rowley and I found a house that had a bedroom on the second floor with a deep feather mattress and a feather comforter.  We thought a moment or two about our exposure to artillery, being on the second floor of the building.  However, we said the hell with it.  We’ve been cold and uncomfortable to long.
 
Bundled up in the feather bed we slept peacefully and awoke the next morning well refreshed.  That night had been quite although the new men of the 75th spent an anxious night – their first alone on the front line.
 
Sure enough, as promised, after our “K” rations breakfast we walked out of the village of Amonines and back to the halftracks for our ride to a rest area.  The ride back was uneventful and we arrived at a Belgian village (Oppagne) just before lunch.  It was a typical Belgian town.  It consisted of a single street lined on each side with stone houses, each of which had a large barn in the rear.
 
Some of the houses were quite large.  The second platoon was assigned to three houses which accommodated us comfortably even though still occupied by their civilian owners.  The cooks had a hot meal prepared for us and it tasted mighty good!  More good news: we would have our Christmas dinner, tomorrow noon, December 28.  We were promised turkey with all the fixings; cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and even pie. 
 
Another great happy event.  The mortar squad of the second platoon, A-24, joined up with us again.  After we thought that they had been killed, captured or wounded, it seems that, during the trip from Mausbach to Hotton, the axle on the squad’s halftrack had been broken.  Unable to get any assistance they waited by the roadside and were finally hauled to a maintenance depot where the axle was repaired after a day or two. 
 
For a week they had been roaming the Belgian countryside looking for us.  Because of the scare over Germans dressed as Americans they had been challenged several times.  They had actually been put under arrest by the MP’s. 
 
After eating and lounging around with our bellies full we discussed what had happen to Mike Lucas’ missing second platoon mortar squad. 
 
“Where the hell have you guys been while we were all freezing off our aching backs?” someone asked.  Lucas answered, “There we were in the pitch black night in the middle of nowhere when the steering let go and Jim Blaker, our driver, couldn’t steer the halftrack.  We were told to stay there and the maintenance battalion people would soon be by to fix us up.  But it wasn’t until well after daylight before a tow truck came by and towed us into a maintenance depot in Liege.” 
 
“We had to stay there the two or three days it took them to fix the steering and we had to scrounge around for a place to sleep and to get some chow.  After that we were on our way but we couldn’t even locate the Third Armored let alone Company A.” 
 
“We kept getting different directions and I think that some of the GI’s we asked were Germans in Americans uniforms.  It was tough driving all over the countryside, not knowing where we were, where we were going and having to beg for gas and food.  And some of the people, especially MP’s, were suspicious of us – they thought we might be Germans.” 
 
“Hell that was a picnic compared to what we were doing,” one of the listeners snorted.  “Who was with you?”  “We are all Pfc’s”, replied Mike.  “There’s Jim Blaker, Glencoe White, Connie Conover, Charlie Edwards, John Strochansky and me.  One night General Boudinot came into the same house we were slipping in.  He and his aide were lost so they slept that night with us.  And did we have it great one night.  We slept in a real fine hotel with nice warm, soft beds.” 
 
 I jumped in then, “Just the guys we need on KP.  Captain Berlin needs some goof-offs for KP and you six have just volunteered.”
 NOTE: Mike Lucas was my best friend in the Company – still is, I think.I was teed off that his squad, 24, had it so easy while we in Amonines, freezing and fighting off the Germans.
 
In addition to being on KP they were quartered in the hayloft of a barn instead of a warm house like the rest of us. 
 
That done we set about doing the things we hadn’t been able to do for a while: writing letters to the folks at home: sleeping, cleaning our weapons, reading and just shooting the breeze – the things that soldiers do when they have time on their hands and nothing to do. 
 
We were tired and dirty.  Most of us still wore the same old clothing, including underwear that we had on when we left Mausbach eleven days before.  Very few had time to wash and hardly anyone had the opportunity to shave.  We were a scrounge looking bunch.  What a company of Snafu’s we must have looked like to the well-dressed, well-pressed, gleaming, clean troops of the 75th Division! 
 
Some set out to explore the village. (For the life of me I cannot recall his name)  But there wasn’t much to see, twenty-five or thirty houses surrounded by rolling open fields bordered by the ubiquitous evergreen forests.  The houses were constructed of stone and were sturdily built.  Most had courtyards surrounded by stone wall similar to that of the kitchen area.  There was just a single street that was lined by the houses.  The interiors were well finished, comfortable and warm.  There was no electricity but there was an ample supply of hurricane lamps.  The house that the second platoon headquarters occupied even had a radio with batteries and with which we could pick up music and news.
(Editor’s note: The town that Bob Pacios could not remember in his story is OPPAGNE, Belgium)  
 
I set out that night to write to my wife (I tried to write her every day if I could, but missed a lot of days because the circumstances would not permit letter writing.) 
 
The light was dim in the lamp lighted room as I sat down to write a letter to Sylvia.  She was pregnant at the time and our first child was expected around Christmas time.  Lieutenant Pete Colbert, who had to censor every letter written by members of the second platoon, was in the room with me and told me, and I inserted the letter into the envelope passed as censored under the signature of “R.F. Colbert, Jr 2nd Lt., Inf.” 
 
The next morning we enjoyed the luxury of not having to get up before dawn to prepare for a potential German attack. 
 
We relished the idea of our first hot breakfast in quite some time.  Even the powered eggs tasted great.  With nothing to do until our Christmas turkey to be served at noon we did the usual letter writing.  But most of the men caught up on their sa   ck time. 
 
About 11:45 we started to line up for our turkey with the line stretching in the street along the high wall around the courtyard.  Suddenly we heard the sound of a buzz-bomb.  The noise grew louder and louder and I caught a glimpse of it between the houses.  The engine cut out – this meant one thing: it was coming down, we all hit the dirt.  A few second later we heard a tremendous explosion.  The buzz-bomb had hit in a field, a couple of hundred yards away from the village.
 
Before reforming the chow line we looked about the damage.  Every window in the village facing the explosion had been blown out.  Not in, but out!
 
Our Christmas dinner, complete with apple pie was a treat.  It was three days late in coming but we all appreciated it.  The thoughts of many of us flowed back into the memories of happier Christmases when we were surrounded by our families with the opening of presents and the shrieks of laughter of happy children as they opened their presents.
 
A while later members of the Company wandered out into the snow-covered field where the robot plane had fallen to the earth.  The site was marked by a hole about fifty feet in diameter and five feet deep in the frozen ground.  Dirt was strewn over the snow in all directions.  Except for the small blunt wings of the device which were intact at either edge of the crater, there was no sign of the machine itself.  Our minds were somber as we thought of the hundreds of similar devices falling on London and Antwerp every day.
 

Photo showing troops riding tanks in the snow covered Bulge.

This photo is from our tanker friend’s collection – Clarence Smoyer.
 
The next few days went quietly with no more excitement.  On New Year’s Eve many of us stayed up to greet 1945 at midnight.  The radio was on and we were able to tune in a German station that was broadcasting a New Year’s speech by Adolph Hitler.   At least that’s what someone who could understand German said.  We listened to Hitler and to us it sounded like the ravings of a mad man and we ridiculed him with our shouts of, “Seig Heil”, “Achtung”, and “F--- you, Adolph”.  However we soon grew tired of the sport, turned off the radio and discussed how much longer this war would go and when would the Krauts have enough.
 
The week’s rest and done wonders for us.  We were rested, cleaned up and in pretty good shape.  For the period from December 19, the evening we left Mausbach, until the afternoon of December 27 when relieved by the 290th Infantry Regiment of the 75th Division our casualties had been relatively light.
 
Despite the 19, at times heavy fighting, we lost only two men killed, Ralph L McFall an “original” and Edward Beers who was one of the men who was transferred to “A” Company from “G” Company.
 
Our wounded numbered eleven: Lt Art Prieskorn, Frank “Tigger” Hume, George Eyster, Kenneth Becker, Thomas Beamon, Leroy Sexton, Herman Gallegos, Malcolm Bradley, James Driscoll, Pablo Hernandez and Calvin Haggard.  In addition for a short period of time the six men from halftrack 24 were carried as “Missing in action.”
 
We had gone into the Bulge under strength, but now Company “A”, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment was an additional eleven men short for the forthcoming offensive. 
 
Source: The Spearhead Doughboy: April, July, October 2012 and Jaanuary 2013
By Sgt Robert K PACIOS

 

 

"A" Company

 

36th Armored Infantry Regiment

 

3rd Armored Division

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium