Chapter 5

 

Chapter 5

 

The Army went by alphibetical order as I said before, The top of the alphabet was beginning to disappear and soon my friend Richard Burns and I were separated. One night he was called out and loaded into a 6×6 with some other fellows and I didn’t hear from him for a long time.(more on Richard later) One night our Sargeant came in and said anyone that wanted to go out for a good French prepared dinner could put a price in the kitty and we would have a good meal. I paid him and in the evening about eight of us guys went to the restaurant and we had a great dinner.All french cuesine. We had wine and beer and also very good bread and the fixins. I probably didn’t appreciate it fully as I was used to soup beans and cornbread. But I thought this may be one of the last good meals I may have in a long time so I didn’t turn it down.

Replacements were usually picked up at night and we could hear big guns firing off in the distance so we knew we were not too far from the front. One night our turn came. Our names were called. Moberly, Nester, Pedersen, Pfeiffer and some other guys that I didn’t know. We were getting our duffle bag and going to board the truck. Some one said to leave the duffle bag and it would be sent later to the outfit. That day never came. They said it had gotten lost and we could get new gear at our new outfit. Those crooks stole our bags as we were new recruits from the States and they knew we had a lot of goodies in our duffle bags. I had 10 cartons of Chesterfield cigarettes along with a lot of other personal things, They had a field day.The truck was loaded and made a few stops before we came to the end and of the line and there was us four guys left. By then it was getting late and they took us in and showed us where to sleep. We could really hear the guns and small arms fire now. We went to bed and slept until morning and then we were checked into the outfit.

Our Division was the 79th Infantry Division. We had been assigned to Headquarters Company, 313th Infantry Regement 79th Infantry Division. We were located at Rittershoffen Germany. That was near the French and German border. That just happened to be my birthday January 17 1945. We were on the front line.

We were using slit trenches out a way from the blown out house we were billeted in and I had to go, So I went out and straddled the trench and was getting into my duty when all Hell broke loose. Some German foreward observer had seen me and they lobbed about four or five rounds of artillery at me and believe me I got out of there in a hurry. That was my first baptism of enemy fire.

I had gotten a cold and didn’t feel good all across France and I went to the Medics for some medicine and when he took my temperature he sent me back to a field Hospital for a few days. I had a very high temperature and was really sick. I stayed in the hospital for about a week and had no appetite. they would bring me food at my bedside and I wouldn’t eat it. I was getting medicine on a schedule but only got up to go to the latrine. Finally one day I thought if I don’t eat something I will never get well. I ate a portion of my next meal that they brought me and I began to feel a bit better. In a few days I had regained my strength and was ready to go back to my outfit. I rode back with a message center jeep driver and rejoined my outfit. They had been pushed back by the Germans to the small town of Hageuau, France. We were billeted in a large building that was arranged in a square and had a very large courtyard in the center. The courtyard was about 500 feet long and about 200 feet wide. There was a battery of field Artillery dug in in the courtyard and also a mortor Brigade. They were firing at targets provided by the foreward observer and I felt at home with this group of artillerymen. The mortormen were firing the 81 mm mortors at targets that were closer in. This was a great vantage point in that the Germans couldn’t see their muzzle blasts. I would stand behind the 105 Howitzers and watch the shell go up into the sky and begin to arc off to its destination. Sometimes you could hear it explode and other times you could not. But you could hear the mortor shells explode and you knew the enemy wasn’t too far away. My job was to repair telephone lines, install telephones and  switchboards.  There were three Regiments in a Division. In the 79th Infantry Division there was the 313th, 314th and 315th Infantry regiments. Each Regiment had three Battilions, 1st, 2nd and 3rd and each Battilion had four Companys ABCD–EFGH–IKLM respectively. Each Battilion had a Headquarters company and that was the Company that I was in. Headquarters Co. 3rd Battilion 313th Inf. Reg. Our four line Companies were ABCD.

My job along with others was to keep communications between Regiment and  Battilion Headquarters and also our line Companies ABCD. (I insert this to give the reader an idea of the area we had to cover.) The communications center was at Headquarters Co. and all communications from our network would channeled through a switchboard at Headquarters Co. The switchboard would be manned 24 hours a day. Usually three to four hours at a time by a Soldier. Usually there was a switchboard pool and those fellows did all of the switchboard duty as they had the lingo and equitte for that purpose.

I had the task of repairing the lines and installing new ones when we moved and bringing them into the switchboard. Sometimes at night the Sargeant would tap me on the foot when I was sleeping and say the line to Co. A is out, You and Pedersen go fix it. We had probably laid the line and knew where it was so we would get in a jeep and start on our way. We would carry a telephone and tap on the line to see if we could raise anyone and if so we would know which way to work. Usally a Sherman tank or a German tank  roving in the night had broken the line and  rolled up 500 feet around its track and that was a very difficult task to find the correct ends as there were several lines going through the area. We would crawl on the ground trying to find the correct ends and you would never know what you would run into in the dark. We usally called each other by a nic name and I was Moe and he was Pete. We were good friends and worked to gether a lot. After locating a line we would splice on a length of wire that we carried for that purpose We would tap our telephone on the line and turn the crank  and hope an operator on each end  would answer. If they did we were finished and would make our way to the jeep and drive back to our billets and hit the sack.

We were located in the SE of France near the German border and the Allies had pushed the Germans back toward Germany after the Battle Of The Bulge.

Looking back I consider myself a very lucky fellow. Even though I had been transferred into the Infantry at Ft. Sill I had to take 6 more weeks of Infantry Basic and that bought me some time in the States.I had escaped the Battle Of The Bulge and I contribute that to my extra six weeks of basic or I would surely have been in the middle of that conflict. My friend Ova Case who I grew up with was taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle Of The Bulge and was liberated by the Allies when they pushed toward Germany.

Once when we were in a resting position the platoon sargeant came around and said there would be a U.S.O. show back behind the lines and we could go if we wanted to. Several of the guys were going and we climbed into a truck and were on our way. We were going to see Mickey Rooney and some Ladies that I don’t remember. We were seated and the 79th Division Band was playing some pop music and soon there was a fan fare and out on the stage came Mickey Rooney. His entrance was raising his leg up and with his mouth he made a familiar noise. Of course all of we GIs were laughing it up. He really put on a great show and all of the pretty Ladies were dancing on stage with the GIs. Time to get back to our duties and we left with fond memories.

The 79th Division  was reactivated for duty in this War on June 15, 1942 At Camp Pickett, Va.

The 79th Division hit the Beaches of Normandy  D-plus 8, on June 14 1944. to participate in the VII Corps drive up the Peninsula to Cherobourg. More than 6,000 Germans were taken prisoner during the fighting and a final cleanup of the city.  Prior to coming  overseas in 1944, the 79th had been toughning up on manuevers in Tennessee, the California and Arizonia area and a winter of field training at Camp Phillips, Kansas and was used as an attack Division. Already in this War the Germans have come to know and respect the 79th as a hard fighting Division. One Enemy Division reported, The 79th division is said to have fought partically well in Normandy. And it is considered to be one of the best attack Divisions in the United States Army. The 79th  swung south on a combat iternary that included La Haye De Puits and many other cities  which included Lunneville and other way stations. We would move into an area and make our attack with other units and and when we had reached our objective the 79th would pull back for a rest and we would take off on another objective as before. We were on the move a lot and spent a lot of time moving around the Eastern France and Western Germany area.

One time we moved back after an attack and we were moved into tents out in the field. This was a terrible place. There was so much mud in the field we were up to our boot tops. I could only remember one place worse and that was in Southampton, England new years eve 1945. The weather wasn’t too cold but the mud was terrible as it had been raining a lot in the spring. We would have to eat our chow in the rain or find a place to eat out of the rain. My potatoes was so thin from the falling rain that they were like potato soup. The 9th Air Force was stationed nearby and they had a PX tent set up for their personell. They had Coca Colas there in the bottles and we tried to get a bottle and they looked on us as being second class citizens and wouldn’t give us any.  I felt like shooting the Bastards, After all we were Americans too. But this was life I guess.

We were being kept abreast of what the Allies were doing and we got a copy of the  The Stars and Stripes published by Bill Mauldin. This was always a morale builder as we couldn’t wait to see his cartoon of Willie and Joe. I was getting regular mail from home and was writing as much as I could. Our mail was always cencored and we was careful as to what we wrote home. I remember getting a letter from Bobby Kelley and he was in the Air Force in the Matagorda Peninsula in Texas. He said he wanted to get into the War as he was an engine mechanic in the Air Force. On an old piece of stained piece of paper from a foxhole in Germany,I wrote and told him if he wanted to live and do well he should stay where he was.  I suppose you would tone the letter from your own situation. We were under  a constant threat. Except when we were in a rest area situation. once in France we relieved the 101st Airborne Division that had the Hell kicked out of them in Haguenau. Also the 45th Rainbow Division That had been all but innilated. We were getting into the thick of it. One time I remember we pulled back from the front into a small city in Czechoslovaka. In English it was called Grazlitz.

The first thing we had to do was learn to spell the country. Our Company Commander Captain Sam Westerfelt said,How would we know what country we were in if we didn’t know how to spell it. He was a Great Commander. We stayed in Grazlitz for a few weeks until we were called on again.

VD was rampant in Europe and  when we would move into a new city we were told that the city was 99.44/100 percent VD. We were careful to take all precautions not to contact VD and if you did you may get court marshalled And all of those shots were very painful. So we were very careful on that subject. I had remembered one of my last coversations with Dad before I left for the service. We had never talked about the subject of sex, We were brought up with the thought that we would learn about it in time. But his last caution was, There a lot of diseases in the world and that I should be very careful. That was all I needed to know. I probably knew more about VD than he did as all of the fellows I grew up with was always talking about those diseases and we learned that from the older fellows that we hung around with. So we were pretty well informed.

The Medics.in Grazlitz had set up a lounge and had contacted some women  and it was like a Tavern and lounge. We would go there and have a few beers  and loaf and visit with the women once in a while. Some of the Ladies were young in their twentys and  very nice looking.They were homeless and no way to eat. Some of them were  displaced persons and their families had been killed  in the war and it was a matter of survival for them. If you are all alone in the world and no means of support you will  do what you have to do to survive. They  were very nice Ladies and I would talk to them and find out about their lives. Some were from Poland and the Germans had  killed their families and destroyed their homes and they had come to Czechlosvakia to escape the wrath of the war. I asked one very nice Lady, And I do mean Lady What she would do after we left, And she said she would have to move on and look for something to keep her going. There was no work and a lot of the women were working as prostitutes to keep alive.

Its amazing how there is such a demand for that profession even in time of war. She spoke fluent English and would have no problem finding her way at least with the American army. The last night we were in Grazlitz and we were to ship out the next morning I spent some time with this lady after the lounge had been closed that day. I had met her early when it opened and now we were at the last night. We had had a few beers together sitting with my comrades and I kinda liked her. No doubt she had a hard life for such a young Lady and I liked to talk to her. She was a very interesting person and a dish water blond and had beautiful features about her face and a great build. Probably from the lack of sufficent food. She was very pleasant to talk to but not the type of girl I would take home. Only because of her profession and in those days you didn’t do that sort of thing. But I suppose I was lonely and needed someone to talk to besides my GI buddies. So after an evening we said goodbye and I never saw her again. We were issued invasion money when we arrived in Europe and was paid in Invasion Money. The currency was  in marks but American issued and it didn’t resemble the German Marks that was the currency of that country. Our currency was of a green color and the Countrys currency was of a brown color and not worth very much at that time. I think the American Army neutralized the German Mark to keep down the Black Market that was running rampant in Germany during and shortly after. the war.

Anyway, The invasion  Mark was worth $.10 cents. A ten mark note was worth a dollar and there was a note of twenty marks worth two dollars. Well, We could visit a Lady for ten Marks. The Beer was cheap and we had a place to go and let off a little steam. We could not fraternize with the civilian population and there was a penalty if you were caught. But we could go to the tavern with no penalty as the US Army had established that as a safe zone. That soon got old as it had become old hat and we were after something more exciting. We would walk in the local park and spot a couple of girls and they would head for home after a few signals were exchanged. They would duck in the door of their home and leave the door open as we would be walking behind them so as not to create any suspicion and when we got to the door we would duck in and after the door had been closed who was the wiser. This became common practice until the fraternization rule was lifted after the war was over. After fratnization was legal it just didn’t seem the same as before the rule was lifted. I guess we felt like we were stealing it.

One morning  we fell out in Grazlitz and our Company Commander Captain Westerfelt told us about a very large bomb that had been developed and it could destroy a whole city. This was hard to believe after the artillery had blasted some of the Cities for hours before we would move in and capture it.

This was great news, We had to keep communications going in Grazlitz and the Damn Russian Soldiers were cutting our telephone lines and we would have to go very close to their border to repair them. We were told not to go in their zone under any circumstances and if we did and they took us prisoner there was nothing the American Army could do to get us back. Those Damn Russian soldiers would cut our lines and watch us repair them from behind a tree. The border was defined by a barbed wire fence and we dared not to cross it. When we repaired the line, One fellow would do the repair and the other would stand guard in case they started something. Fighting Germans and Russians. The Russians  were a  scuzzy bunch. They looked like they hadn’t had a shower or a change of clothes in months. I was glad we were getting out of there. I had  a letter from home and the folks said Park my cousin was in Pilsen, Czechlosvacia and that was only about 100 miles away, But when I asked for a jeep to go see him they told me it was too dangerous as the Russians were stopping American vehicles and I didn’t want to get caught up in that. Those Russians were bastards as history bore out and we were just getting a small taste of that in Czechoslavika.

In Grazlitz we were not getting very much food and the guys were hungry. They were bitching about the food and as we would go through the chow line they would call all of the cooks names that I won’t repeat here. Stew that had nothing but grease in it and the bread was baked local so it was fresh and good. But a soldier has to have something in his stomach if he is to do his duties. This bitching went on for a couple of weeks and soon the Company commander heard about it and this prompted an investigation. It was found out that the mess sargeant was selling our food and supporting his local girlfriend. Guess what, He was busted and sent to a line company. They made a guy who was a PFC transferred in from the Air Force the mess sargeant and immediately we were getting good food again. This PFC has never gotten so much praise as we gave him for doing such a good job.

After Grazlitz and a few weeks of rest we were called to move into the Rhur Valley for another attack. We were supporting another Division and this was the first time I had seen any English soldiers in the field. We moved to the front and one morning I found myself standing beside our Battilion commander up on the third floor of a building. I had a field telephone on my shoulder and he would use it as necessary. He was directing an attack on a city and I could see all of the small arms fire from both sides. Our guys were advancing through an open field and the bullets were flying off of the slate tile on the roofs and I was sure glad I wasn’t in that group. By now we had been issued a jeep with a track on it and it was called the weasel. It could go where the jeeps couldn’t and they were out in front of us with .50 calibre machine guns mounted on them. They crossed a small creek and went straight for the buildings where the small arms fire was coming from. Dust was flying from the buildings and I suppose the Germans were surprised with all of that fire power from such small vehicles and they took off and we moved in and secured the city. Their morale was beginning to show, Some of the cities were being taken with less force than before. Even though some of the die hards held out with some strong force. Those 88mm Howitzers were wicked and would go right through a tank and our best tank destroyer. I’ve seen lots of poor guys caught in a tank after it was hit by an 88 as we  called it with their upper torso hanging out of the tank. They didn’t make it. Soon you began to accept that as part of the days work. Dead GI’s laying around and also civilians caught in a barrage of artillery. dead animals all over the place death everywhere.I would hope my number would not come up, And I thought of Cpl. Grounds and Gosney back at Fort Sill and hope they had done a good job of training us. Funny how you think about those things when the going gets rough. We were moving so fast against the German Army that they didn’t have time to take their weapons and probably didn’t have vehicles to pull the big guns, So they would blow up the large artillery guns. The 88’s were blown up so we couldn’t use them against the retreating Army and once in a while we would capture one with no shells by it. we knew that we had them on the run and we were pushing at a very fast rate. We were ground troops walking and running to our objective. Now all of that marching and calestanics was coming into play. We were tough Soldiers and the fact that we had them on the run gave us more determination. They would fire those 88’s at us and we would take cover and proceed even more determined than ever.

We had a tank Battilion attached to our regiment and they went barreling toward the enemy and soon we had them routed. It all really seemed so silly but we were trained to kill.

After we had secured this objective we were moved to a town in the Netherlands. We were billeted with families in the city. Under the articles of war, No Army can commandeer any civilian facility without having the owners permission and Holland was an Ally. I suppose that doesn’t count if you are the enemy. At least we were staying in vacated homes in Germany to escape the elements. In 1944 the winter in Europe was one of the worst in many years and we were right in the middle of it. But now we were in the Netherlands to train and rest for our last big push of the war. The Weather was beginning to break and the month was early March.

    • Bret Nemeth
    • July 25th, 2012

    My Dad was in the 79th also he was listed as a Switchboard operator. His name was Joseph Nemeth. Wonder if you know anything about him? He was in the 79th from the start of the war to the end. I have no idea what he did in the war.

    Bret Nemeth

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