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May 2018
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US Army

From Liege (Belgium) to Vielsalm(Belgium)

 From Liege (Belgium) to Vielsalm(Belgium)
 
We went on to Liege, Belgium, where we got replacements of men and equipment and started back to the south around Andler.  It is hard to put a time and location frame to this.  While I was there, I received my Battlefield Commission for action in Luxembourg.  I had not had time to pick it up previously because I had been moving too fast for it to catch up with me.  On the pull back, we crossed the Salm River into Vielsalm, and I thought, for a short time, that the Bulge was over for me. 
 
 

Frank Fancher receiving his Battlefield

Commission for heroic action
 
Vielsalm was in our hands and there were still nurses and Red Cross girls in town.  They helped cook, etc…, so I thought we were safe.  It was not long before I found out how very, very wrong I was.  Several German tank divisions had crossed the Salm River several miles both above and below Vielsalm and were attempting to encircle the town.  Once again, we were caught between a rock and a hard place.  I still had my seven men and the same replacement first Lieutenant and also my halftrack.
 
The job of the Americans in the town and surrounding area was to prevent the Germans from completing the circle.  For the present, my group had not received any assignment.  It just so happened, that sitting outside a nearby house, was a tank that no one seemed interested in.  I said to my men, “Guys, I’m sick and tired of fighting tanks with carbines.  I’m going to borrow that tank.”  And with that, I told my driver to check it out.  He wasted no time informing me that he didn’t know how to drive a tank.  Sergeant Pat O’Brian (from Springfield) was still with me, so I said, “Pat, you are the tank commander.  Get a crew and I will drive.”
 
I jumped in and told to my driver to follow us in the halftrack.  I took off down the street, and not being reed to the tank.  I took off the steps of the houses on both sides of the street for a couple of blocks.  I turned on the radio and received a call from an infantry unit that needed tank support, so off we went.  I said, “Pat, have you got plenty of ammunition ready?”  About this time, we came up to the rear of the American unit.  They had some light German armor that was giving them problems, as they only had light weapons.
 
Immediately following my orders to Pat to fire when ready, I heard the angry response from Pat, “This damn@#*@ gun won’t traverse.  It will only go up and down!”  I told him to put me gun on target and that I would move the tank to the right or left.  On my execution of this maneuver, Pat said, “That’s it.  Hold It.  Hot damn, that’s right on.  Now pull right.  I will make a sweep with my machine gun.  Again came the exclamation, “Right on,” and “Mad Dog, we had better get the hell out of here before we run into some heavy German armor.”
 
We now knew why the tank had been sitting there and not being used.  During this small battle, my halftrack had cut loose with their 50 caliber gun and completely destroyed the whole enemy unit, so we came out smelling like a rose.  We took the tank back and parked it where we found it.  I will bet the people living along that street still wonder what happened to their steps.
 
While we were playing with our tank, headquarters had started to evacuate all the non-military people like the Red Cross girls and nurses, along with non-combat troops.  In the meantime, I managed to find an ammunition dump and replenished our ammo for our carbines and 5° caliber machine guns and also picked up a few grenades and 30 caliber light machine guns with ammunition.  We also filled our canteens and were issued one “K” ration per man.
 
Now we were attached to a tank unit as a security for their tanks.  Again, as we pulled out, we ended up as rear guard to keep the enemy from hitting us in the rear.  As far as could tell, we got everyone out and were now headed for Liege, Belgium, where we hoped we would be able to get more replacements of men and equipment.  I think Liege was about forty miles away, so were talking about possibly two travel days because of the fighting we would encounter along the way.  One thing that did disturb me was that our back door would be left open because Montgomery had pulled the 82nd Airborne back on a line to Vaux-Chavanne.  I said it before and I will say it again, in my opinion, if they had sent the British Army home, the war would have ended six months sooner.
 
As we moved from Vielsalm on toward Liege, we moved through the 82nd Airborne’s main line of defense and we were now pretty much on our own.  As it was getting on toward evening, we began to look for a good place to spent die night.  We pulled off into woods and found that it was already occupied with one of our tank outfits that had set up a defensive position.  I asked their commanding officer if we could spend the night and he said OK, but he could sure use some ground security as his tanks were in the woods and just across an open field.
 
Source: The Bulge Bugle August 2012
By Lt Frank R FRANCHER

 

Troop "A"

 

32nd Cavalry Reconnaissance

 

Squadron

 

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium