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US Army

German Railroad Gun at Elsenborn

 

German Railroad Gun at Elsenborn
 
ELSENBORN BELGIUM 
We dug in, on the fields in front of the town, with “F” & “G” companies in front of us. My company was in reserve as we only had 18 men left.  There was lots of our artillery setting up around Elsenborn and behind it.  Came a time when the Germans down in the heavy woods began to fire a large railroad gun at prime targets and our artillery.  Word was put out for everyone to search for the railroad gun.  Artillery planes were out looking, and we infantry were sent out on special patrols, looking for railroad tracks, but still the railroad gun would set up and fire one or two shells, then disappear again. 
 
One day, I was given a patrol setting up on radio silence, and an artillery officer named RED was to stay on my radio circuit all the time we were out.  My company officer gave me certain orders as to where we were to search in the enemy lines and no man’s land. The snow was quite deep and I took only 7 men and no B.A.R.s so we could move fast if necessary.  We searched the first area, but no tracks or signs of that gun, as artillery oftentimes flew over looking too.  There were no roads, nothing but very hilly country and heavy woods.  I ordered the scouts into another section and our planes left to look elsewhere.  As we moved in a line through the forest, I saw a German combat patrol coming down well behind us and I told the men to start moving fast, as I pointed to the scouts where to go. 
 
I noted that there was an officer and his radio man among the enemy patrol and knew that we were in trouble.  He would try to push us into a second patrol waiting in ambush.  We zigzagged as much as possible and they chased us through the snow, but they were slower, as there were too many men to handle.  Thus we stayed well ahead.  They chased us up over a hill into the open and we stopped briefly to get our breath while I searched around us with my binoculars.  Then I scanned down below us in a sharp valley opening, facing Elsenborn. 
 
Suddenly there was the railroad gun.  They were slowly moving it into position, using many slaves to clear a dirt road ahead of evergreens, while others were picking up a set of track behind it and coming around the gun to place the tracks in front of the gun, like you could do with toy trains.  It was one very big gun.  There were piles of fresh-cut pine boughs that others had in the rear been removing from on top of the gun.  I broke radio silence and called “RED”.  I found the railroad gun and he came to life.  I quickly gave the co-ordinance and could hear one gun of the artillery back in Elsenborn.  I t landed pretty close.  I corrected quickly and could hear lots of artillery coming in and we took off like a striped-assed bird for home. 
 
As we began running, I took a last look down there and all the slaves and German soldiers were beginning to run, but they didn’t have a chance.  There was no place to go, as the ground around them was very steep.  I do not know how much damage was done to the railroad gun or the slaves & Jerrys, because we were headed down for home as fast as we could run.  But I do know that we never had any more trouble from it and that enemy combat patrol was trying to head us off.  We reached our lines before they did.  Red sure threw a lot of artillery down in there and I assume that our artillery planes checked it out later. 
 
After the war—perhaps 45 years or so—the Belgian historians sent me a photo of that railroad gun.  It had been brought in from around Bastogne.  I’ve often wondered about the German cleverness with that railroad gun and moving it about that way. Then one day in 2002, I was reading an archaeology magazine and came upon a very interesting article.  It told about, in the 1880’s, the American and Europeans liberated the obelisks from Egypt and North African countries: how they brought a 220-ton obelisk to NYC and engineered how to move it down through NY city streets of 5th Avenue and 82nd Street by taking a set of tracks from behind the obelisk and, placing it carefully in front, moved it slowly forward, a track at a time, to Graywacke Knoll and erected it in place.  My mystery was solved, though it was too late to tell most of the veterans who were at Elsenborn in those days.  But there are still a few of us around. 
 
Source: Th Bulge Bugle  2014

By S/Sgt Curtis WHITEWAY

 

"E" Company,

394th Infantry Regiment

99th Infantry Division

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium