Jim Minn

Jim Minn’s World War II Memories



This is Jim in Hattiesburg, MS. It’s May 31st 1999. The purpose of this tape is to tell about my World War II experiences. I was overseas about, well almost a year and of that time, 5 months was actual combat in France and Germany with the 14th armored division. I have another tape, which deals with my training in the U.S., before I went overseas. Just to summarize that briefly, I had been working in the steel foundry at the Mesta Machine Company near Pittsburgh, PA, when I was drafted early in 1943, shortly before turning 21. My training in the army consisted of 3 months in the Mojave Desert for basic training, then 3 months at Fort Louis Washington with a tank destroyer outfit. I was then in the army specialized training program, where I was at Indiana University for 3 months, then 3 months at the University of Cincinnati, studying basic engineering. It was during that time, when I was almost 22, that I married Ilene Kissock, on December 5th 1943 in Pittsburgh, PA. Well, the college experience was interesting and very good, but at that point things were not going well overseas and they needed reinforcements. I was sent to the 14th armored division at Camp Campbell, KY. I trained for about a year at Camp Campbell, KY before going overseas. I shipped out from Camp Shanks, NY on October 13, 1944. Now, when we were getting ready to go overseas, some people were not permitted to go. One soldier had been caught stealing and another one, Dino, had been deemed not sharp enough to go with us. Dino always had this little simple smile on his face because he never seemed to know what was going on. At the time, I felt sorry for those who stayed behind, but after we had been in combat for awhile, I often raised the question, in my mind, as to whom the smart ones and the dumb ones really were.

So, we shipped out of Camp Shanks, NY on October 13, 1944, on the army transport James Parker. I was part of the first platoon, Dog Troop 94th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 14th armored division. As a private, I worked on K.P. every other day. It was crowded; we slept in hammock-like canvas cots that pulled d00own from the wall. There were 5, each one above the other. If you raised your knees, you would hit the back of the solider above you. The life jackets had an odd odor, something like styrene, which didn’t help those of us that got seasick. I was part of a large group who got sick. Steel helmets served as a convenient basis when you couldn’t make it to the head. We ate standing up at tall tables and it was not unusual to see someone slide under the table to vomit. Saw the Rock of Gibraltar, the Coast of Spain and Africa, and we debarked on October 29th, at Marseilles, France with full field equipment. Marched 8 1/2 miles to the Delta base. In the distance, a Piper Cub plane crashed in the on a hill. It was raining, I was very tired and put up a 0pup tent with Bill Louis from Iowa. Didn’t sleep much, cramps in legs all night long. Then we prepared vehicles and equipment for combat. Cold and windy and had a huge appetite. Officers would give lectures and say cheerful things like, “ The honeymoon is over, look around and realize that some of you will not be coming back”. I remember some pleasant times when I sang around a huge log campfire at night. I probably never sang better as I rendered a number of solos, such as “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “If I loved you.”

Then the ironies of war started before we ever got into combat. One of the officers that I admired was Lieutenant Hawtree, perhaps because he was not very GI in his demeanor, and he seemed very intelligent. Many of his lectures focused on im0provising if you didn’t have what you needed. On October 30th, while Hawtree was demonstrating to a few soldiers how to fashion a homemade hand grenade, the fuse was apparently too short, and Hawtree was killed and one of the soldiers had his arm blown off.

We had a few portable showers before we left Delta base, November 22, to arrive north of Valencia. I was in a mortar Peep; (Recon always-called Jeeps Peeps) but they were Jeeps. Bill Lewis was driving; Bob Tauber was the gunner, during the cold and rainy 137-mile trip. The next day we went 200 miles to Dijon slept in the Peep, wet, cold and uncomfortable. Then October 24th, went 130 miles to Hadigny, mud, rainy and cold. Pulled guard in a machine gun peep, don’t think that the Germans were within miles.

The next few day00s our platoon was at Zincourt, where we were issued sleeping bags, which zipped up and looked warm and cozy. Another 100 miles and we were at Vendenheim, where we heard artillery for the first time. We were told that it was our artillery. As we were traveling through the mountains, Vosges Mountains, I think, Tauber rounded a curve too fast and our Peep turned over and skidded on the passenger side where I was. The water can took a beating and I had only a skinned leg. All through France, saw destroyed vehicles and equipment and occasional German or GI grave. I had the fe0eling that we were getting close to actual combat. Six miles later and we were in Weyersheim and the Germans were in the next town, Gambsheim, and we received light mortar fire.

The next day, December 2nd, more mortar fire and the 3rd platoon picked up a deserter from the German army. That night we were called out to see about a possible enemy patrol at the end of town. Vernon Brown and I were assigned to a machine gun, Tauber fired his 45 sub-machine gun at some moving objects. We later decided it was sheep in the field, but everyone was getting edgy. Brown accidentally put his rifle muzzle in my eye, no serious damage, just slightly inflamed. Our platoon remained in Weyersheim, while the 3rd platoon sent patrol towards Gambsheim. After small arms and m0ortar fire, Ed Lyon was hospitalized with shoulder and stomach wounds on December 3rd. We were in combat and the enemy was in the next town. Gambsheim and Weyersheim were two names that always stuck with me, and I thought that if I ever survived the war, I would probably have 2 pets and call them Gambsheim and Weyersheim. My ingrown toenails were giving me fits and I went to the tent where the medics were, but they were trying to treat a young German soldier, who had a bullet in his stomach, so I just went back to my platoon.

On December 4th, 1944, one day before my first wedding anniversary, three German planes, recon-type flew over the town and one was shot down. We were getting occasional mortar and small arms fire from Gambsheim. Sgt. Mctee led a 0small patrol through the rain and cold along a canal, to a road crossing, where we withdrew after some small arms fire. I guess this was my first patrol experience in combat. The next day, private Natale, whom I remember as an outstanding short stop on the softball team for D- troop, back in the states, reached for his 45 sub-machine gun, which was kept on top of the Peep hood, along with a variety of other equipment. As he pulled the barrel of the weapon towards him, the trigger caught on something and Natale took several 45-mm slugs through the stomach. It didn’t kill him, but he was hospitalized and we never saw him again. Later that evening, I went on patrol with the first platoon through the swamps and woods between Weyersheim and Gambsheim. Lieutenant Grandin was in the lead as we carried mortars, radios, machine guns and bazooka through cold water and swamps. Intermittent sniper fire. Water varied from ankle to waist deep. When Lt. Grandin noticed a light, he wheeled around to make sure that the light would be put out, and discovered that the source of the light was a flashlight in his hip pocket, which had accidentally switched on. Mission was cancelled, and the patrol returned with everyone cold, wet, exhausted and miserable. It was my first anniversary, I wrote a letter to Ilene.

On the following day, one mile west of Gambsheim, small shell fragments wounded Duggan, Berwalt and Panzarella. In a Peep accident while returning from patrol near Gambsheim, Sawyer, Schuler, Strack, McKinney, Williamson, Butkovich, and Sunberg were injured. Our platoon moved to a position one mile north of Gambsheim, where were received small arms and mortar fire. My feet were cold and wet. Our platoon had a firefight that lasted 45 minutes. The mortar ammunition in a bag over my shoulder was getting heavy. This was the first time I heard bullets whiz by very close. Couldn’t get as close to the ground as I wanted because of the mortar ammo. Intermittent mortar fire as we returned to Weyersheim, wading in cold canal water, sometimes ups to my neck. I wondered how shorter fellows, like Tom Hogan was doing. Thanks to the 19th armored infantry battalion, we were able to go into Gambsheim. We received small arms and mortar fire. While Grandin, Taibit, and Asher were looking for outpost positions, a mortar shell landed close to Asher, wounding him severely. I was0 cold and miserable, found walking hard. Rheumatism in hips. Stayed up most of the night outposting the town. It was December 9th and we were in Gambsheim. Germans shelled us with artillery and mortars. The next day, our 2nd platoon patrolled near Offendorf and remained overnight. Taibit’s section relieved Sgt. Steele’s section. Bill Lewis wore a raincoat to try0 to keep dry and then jumped into a foxhole filled with water when 88 started to bombard. German soldier was captured north of Offendorf. Lieutenant Kweller’s armored car hit a land mine and a wheel was blown off, but no one was injured. The 117th Calvary relieved us and we left for Hohfrankenheim and we received heavy mortar fire. Loma was wounded seriously by fragments and as we were getting settled, 18 miles away in Hohfrankenheim, Watts was wounded. In Hohfrankenheim, there was one old Nazi who really irritated Lieutenant Grandin. Grandin was so angry, he talked about shooting the old man, but of course we didn’t.

On December 13th we left Hofrankenheim and moved from the woods north of Hagenau, engaging the enemy one-mile west of Hatten. Our first platoon had00 a mounted patrol. Nine POW’s were taken. McKinney fired machine guns from the front of the Peep, burning Pemberton’s shoepacs, which had been hanging on the front of the Peep. The 125th engineers were repairing a bridge. We left Hatten and moved north to Siegen, where McTee took a section for a screening action outside of Trimbach. Heavy mud and every vehicle were mired down. Spent the night in the field.

The next day went to Salmbach. Heavy artillery and mortar fire and small arms. Shell fragments seriously wounded Felker and G. Lyons wounded by sniper fire. Hamm and Nichols were slightly wounded. Several enemy killed and 4 captured. The first platoon led the 47th tankers into Schleithal. Rode over the Abottee, went through the town, was very long. Outposted it. While we were in Schleithal, Mackey captured one German soldier in civilian clothes. Corporal Bill Pemberton, while on Peep patrol, picked up a wounded Jerry prisoner in the woods. He was what it known as a “sad sack” and our soldiers started to get the idea that the German soldiers were not invincible, in spite of their wanted reputation. Private McKinney, who tended to overreact, wanted to shoot the prisoner, but of course that was not done. We were in Schlethal, Salmbach, from December 16th to the 21st. Mortar fire was light, but it was never completely absent. We would see an occasional German plane, but it was usually a recon plane. There was always something going on.

On December 18th, Jim Taibi’s armored car hit a land mine, southeast of Wissembourg and a wheel was blown off, but no one was wounded. The 3rd platoon was attached to a task force that moved toward Steinfeld, were they met enemy resistance and captured 5 enemy soldiers. Then, on December 19th, something happened that brought the war to a more personal level. The 3rd platoon reported heavy machine gun fire to the right front of Steinfeld and the 2nd platoon patrolled roads to Hagenau, while the 1st platoon had patrols working toward Wissembourg. These were Peep patrols and I remember Alvin Koester mentioning how they always drove near this dead German soldier in the field. Now Koester was always good with a rifle and at rifle ranges, he always got more that his share of bulls eyes. He mentioned how the German soldier had a rifle with a scope mounted on it, and the he would really like to have. It was well known that dead soldiers were often booby trapped, and Alvin knew this too. But on this day, the patrol decided to stop and investigate this dead soldier and his rifle with the telescopic lens. They found that the soldier was obviously booby trapped, and Koester, Bill McCormick and Corporal Russel Mackey set about carefully dislodging the wire. What they didn’t realize was that a land mine, anti personnel type was also planted there. When Koester stepped on the mine, it exploded, killing him and wounding McCormick and Mackey seriously. Koester wore a bible with a metal covering in his shirt pocket, which would presumably protect the heart, but it didn’t help him. Bill Pemberton told us that a piece of steel went right through the metal cover and into Koester’s body. I remember how stunned we all were when Pemberton broke the news to us. We were sitting in the room of a house in Salmbach, awaiting our next patrol assignment. Pemberton’s face was white and tense as he told us of the event. We all knew Koester and liked him, but he was especially close to Pemberton. I remember how back in the states Koester enjoyed throwing football passes and also that his skill as a sharp shooter was well recognized. It seems strange to me that by some odd circumstances, that Koester from the state of Washington, McCormick from Lincoln, Nebraska, and Mackey from McKeesport, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, converged beside the dead German soldier in a field just north of Strasbourg, at the border of France and Germany, and then this crazy event occurred. I can still picture Koester’s face and the narrowing of his eyes as he smiled. Bill McCormick and I of course bonded after the war for awhile. He had recovered almost completely from his wounds, except for a weak wrist. In typical fashion, McCormick said that the doctor told him that he would never be able to lift anything with that wrist and then he added, “but who wants to lift anything”.

For the next few days, there was patrolling near the Lauter River with sniper fire north of Wissembourg. It was nearing Christmas and we went to Ashbach and then Gunderhoffen on December 22nd. The next day we went 14 miles to relieve the 106th Calvary about 1 to 2 miles north of Mouterhouse, France. Our platoon bivouaced in dug outs and we dug in to form and outpost line. We were glad that we had dug in as very accurate mortar and 88 fire was received. I was in Sgt. McTee’s section. I stayed in a dug out with a machine gun. Willard Cage of Texas was my fox hole buddy. The foxholes were rather shallow, but they provided room for sleeping bags and gave us protection from the shelling. It was cold and there was snow on the ground. We ate C rations out of a can. They weren’t too bad, especially if you could heat the can. When K rations appeared, in cardboard cartons, with a better quality of food, it was a real treat.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and German patrols were stirring through the forest, especially at night. We tried to improve our positions and we set up booby traps by stringing wire from tree to tree in such a manner, that if someone pushed against the wire, a pin would be pulled from the grenade, which would explode in 5 seconds. The problem was that deer running through the woods would also set off the booby traps. Tried to write home, but sometimes the ink would be frozen in the pen barrel. Always there was intermittent mortar fire and it was cold.

Christmas day meant more snow and cold, enemy activity at night. Mortar fire during the day. C rations for Christmas dinner. We heard that Sgt. Elliot, the mess Sgt., was going to bring the chow truck to our positions, so that we could get our Christmas turkey dinner. To his credit, on December 26th, Elliot did bring the chow truck to our forward positions and served a fairly good turkey dinner, even though it was not warm. With a total disregard for good taste, Elliot set up his chow truck practically on top of 2 dead, decaying German soldiers and a knocked out German armored car.

On December 27th Lieutenant Sid Kweller’s patrol met the enemy at Stockbronn, and there were no American casualties, even after a 30-minute firefight, of small arms and mortars. There are enemy patrols at night. Lieutenant Grandin and his impulsive odd-ball manner, awakens to reports of enemy patrols, lifted a 30 caliber machine gun from its tripod, fired a belt of ammunition while holding it in his arms. He then put the machine gun down and went back to sleep. More enemy activity and intermittent fire during the night. One of the pleasant experiences during this time was mail and boxes of goodies. Ilene was very faithful in writing and sending cookies. My sisters, especially Ag and Marg sent boxes of tollhouse cookies, which were most welcome. On one occasion Ag tried to broaden my taste, and included some crackers and anchovy paste. I remember my reaction at the time. I said, “Anchovy paste! What in the world is she doing?” but many of my buddies appreciated it. Vernon Brown of New York seemed to get unusual things in his boxes from home. Many of us developed a taste for dried sliced bananas, which Brown usually had in his box. My youngest sister, Sarah, when I was in the army, decided that she would join the wax. So, she was a member of the wax in the states during this time.

December 28th and we were still in the foxholes. Enemy activity seemed to be increasing and everyone was getting a little edgy. I remember that Willard Cage, while on the machine gun, in the middle of the night, was and foggy. On the 16th of January, all towns were receiving heavy mortar fire. Captain Keiser was slightly wounded, but his driver, PFC Klinkman was killed by either a bomb or and artillery shell. The troops were still holding at Hatten. The 3rd platoons armored cars stopped south of Hatten and were fired on. No casualties, but their armored car had three flat tires. The enemy again, was repulsed at Hatten. It was a terrific battle there. We were traveling all around on the outskirts of Hatten at that time. The weather was cold and snow all the time.

On the 21st of January, we went to Lockwiller. We remained in villa, checking our vehicles and equipment. No troops had been in that town since 1939. We left Lockwiller on the 23rd of January and we arrived in Schnersheim and Lieutenant Bennett was assigned to the troop. The first platoon ran liason for the French first army. The troop moved on the 24th of January and ran to Truchersheim and the platoons ran patrols. We kept contact with the French. Captain Kaiser, at this time, was transferred to squadron headquarters. Lieutenant Nanna was in command. Lieutenant Kweller transferred to A troop on January 23rd, and we all hated to see him go.

On February 1st, we moved to Bischwiller, France, and as usual we received heavy artillery and mortar fire. That became expected. We outpost the town. Joe Simler, who had been a Sgt., made a battlefield commission. He was another person who commanded a lot of respect. Not because he asked for it, but because of his thought and actions. Similar to Kweller, he had a calm and easy way about him. It wasn’t many years after the war that I read with sadness of Simler’s death in the 14th armored divisions’ Liberator newsletter. Next day it was cold and rainy. We dug in to form a screen east of Oberhoffen. Platoons divided into smaller sections for patrolling. The mission was usually to contact the enemy or to go until fired upon. We did contact the enemy and received heavy artillery, mortar, and rocket fire. While the 2nd and 3rd platoons patrolled east and north of Oberhoffen, the 1st platoon and we crossed a bridge under heavy artillery. T5 Karowski was wounded slightly.

February 5th, moved out and in about one hour, we arrived at Weyersheim. The 2nd platoon was with troop B of 117th calvary at Gambsheim. Mission was to enter Offendorf. By now, Weyersheim was getting to be like a second home. On February 6th, the 1st and 3rd platoons patrolled to the Rhine River. Found that the enemy had left recently and in a hurry. The bridge was set for demolition. Explosives were tied under it but they didn’t have time to blow it up. Moved on to Kurtzenhausen about 19:30. Left on the 7th of February to go to Brumath, where the 1st and 3rd platoons patrolled roads to the north, while the 2nd platoon remained with CCB. It was good to see the other platoons and meet our friends there. That was especially true of the 3rd platoon, where my good friend, Clyde Colson was. It was cold and rainy as we left Brumath and went to Winterhouse. We outpost the town. Guard duty was always a nuisance, but was a snap compared to patrol work. Lieutenant Lawson was now in charge of the 3rd platoon. Captain Francis Hendron now in command of D Troop. In one of the many ironies, Hendron made it through the war, and then after the war, when we were staying at Soyunsee, in Germany, he drowned in the lake. Jim Taibi and others were with him and threw him a life preserver and dove for him after he disappeared, but he drowned. A few weeks later, when his body was found, we had a ceremony in a Catholic Church in the village and he was buried in that village.

On February 9th, we left Winterhouse and set up in Reutenbourg, France and outpost the town. Most times these movements took and hour or two. As usual, there was outputting and patrol duty. 1st platoon, with Taibi in charge, patrolled north of Pfaffenhoffen. We saw vehicle movement in Kindwiller. Sawyer was made 1st Lieutenant. He was a tall, blonde, intense person who on one occasion settled a dispute with another officer by inviting him into the woods. The other officer appeared later with a big black eye and it was obvious who won the dispute. For the next few days, we patrolled north east of Pfaffenhoffen, occasionally observing enemy activity. These patrols were sometimes at night and sometimes during the day. I never knew which I preferred because in daylight it was easier to see, but it was also easier to be seen. Lieutenant Sturgis was now in charge of the 1st platoon and he observed enemy activity while we patrolled through an orchard. Often the activity was in terms of vehicle movement, sometimes-individual German soldiers were observed.

On February 23rd, the 2nd platoon, while on patrol to Bitchoffen, captured 3 enemy. The 1st platoon, with Bill Pemberton in charge, patrolled through an orchard and set up an observation post at the top of a hill. Then on February 24th, with our patrols near Pfaffenhoffen and Niedermodern, Taibi led a five-man patrol, into the woods. We were a little surprised when he suggested that we split into two groups, where he would take one man and I would take the other two. We would go into the woods in two different directions, and capture the German soldiers who were busy chopping trees. Before we had our chance to act on that crazy scheme, I hear German mortars plopping off. I had been able to tell the difference between the sound of American and German mortars, as the shell left the mortar barrel. Since the mortar shell is lopped in an arch, there’s a time lapse of about 10 seconds between the departure from the barrel and the shell exploding. During that time I tried to convince Taibi that we had been spotted and that the German mortars were being fired. He tried to assure that the mortars were American, but I knew otherwise. While we were arguing, a mortar shell fell not too far from us with a deafening blast and shell of mortar fragments. I remember that I said to Taibi, “Do you believe me now?’ He answered with an obscenity and then said, “Let’s get the hell out of here”. Then he said, “Men, you cover us while we start to go back”. What neither of us realized was that in all the confusion of trying to seek cover from other mortar shells exploding, I had become entangled in some barbed wire. While I had very little trouble in extracting myself, I couldn’t seem to free the webbing of my carbine sling. Taibi saw my predicament, but couldn’t do anything to help. Then another mortar shell exploded even closer that the last. We all took off across the field, running rapidly, throwing ourselves on the ground rapidly to escape being hit by the mortar shells. They followed us all across the field as we kept changing directions, trying to out guess the ones that were trying to zero in on us. When the mortars exploded, we’d get up, make another dash, assuming that it would take them a little while to get the next setting to zero in on us. All of us were hit many times by mortar fragments, but they were spent. Miraculously, we arrived back to our starting place without any injuries. Our friends watching from the top of the hill said that we put on quite a show for them. When we arrived breathless, back at our lines, I remember saying, in a show of bravado, “Those kids were really on the ball today”. The truth was that I was really scared and I felt lucky to be back, and my carbine was still tangled up on the barbed wire, and would probably provide a souvenir for one of the German soldiers.

On February 25th, our 2nd platoon spotted enemy activity northeast of Pfaffenhoffen. That meant spotting German soldiers or vehicles often meant being fired upon. The 3rd platoon went east of Niedermodern, and the 1st platoon took a five-man patrol towards Bitchoffen, but no enemy found. Next day, 2nd and 3rd platoons encountered small arms fire on day patrols. That night, I was asked to take a five-man night patrol out to an orchard. I was a buck corporal at this time and was expected to lead that patrol. They had good maps that we could follow. I made up for my poor sense of direction with a combination of good maps and good memory. I remember in the briefing before the patrol, as we were studying the map, there was a periodic rattling noise. The noise occurred each time Winfred McKinney would playfully spin his helmet in his hands. When he stopped and looked at his helmet, it became obvious what was causing the rattling noise. A couple days ago when we were being blasted by mortars while returning from the day patrol, a piece of shrapnel had pierced McKinney’s steel helmet and was trapped between the steel and the plastic liner. No one had realized until now how close McKinney had come to getting a piece of shrapnel through the head. Needless to say, Mac was very skittish on the night patrol. He would come up to me and say; “Don’t you think we’ve gone far enough?” I led the patrol up through the orchard and set up listening posts for awhile before returning. We did receive a lot of artillery fire on patrol but no one was hit. Maybe McKinney saved our lives, because a few nights later, Lieutenant Steel had been given a battlefield commission from the Sgt. Rating. He took a five-man patrol though that same orchard and they had run into some enemy fire, but they continued on. They were ambushed by the Germans and two were killed, including Steel. One or two were injured, and one made it back to tell the story. That was so typical the way small differences in timing, or slight changes in direction, or behavior, could lead to completely different results.

In Lockwiller, we cleaned vehicles and equipment and moved on to Lixheim on February 28th. Then into field training for about 10 days. Bill Pemberton was hospitalized March 7th with tuberculosis. He was a dedicated, sensitive, and intelligent person who was serving as Sgt. on March 9th Joe Siriani was accidentally shot, but it wasn’t that serious. He was getting down from the back of an army truck. Rice was also getting down and Rice’s finger accidentally hit the trigger of his loaded rifle, which was pointed in the direction of Siriani. Luckily, Joe had his mouth open and the bullet went into his open mouth and out through his cheek. The result was a superficial wound, rather than a serious or fatal wound.

On March 10th, we went to Fhalsbourg, and patrolled for a few days until we moved to Lixheim, on March 13th. Then we patrolled around Bassendorf, Lixhausen, and Hohwiller, with some patrols reaching the Lauter River. It was good to see Pemberton return from the hospital on March 18th. We went on to Niederlauterbach and Schleithal, with some patrol activity, sometimes on foot and sometimes with Peeps and armored cars. About eight Germans were taken prisoner. A 1st platoon armored car, with Paul Strack in charge, contacted the 142nd infantry of the 44th division of Steinfield. As usual, intermittent artillery.

On March 20th, we moved to Les Picards, Germany, where we dug in. The 3rd platoon gave flank protection, 2nd platoon repaired a bridge, and the 1st platoon went to Bienewaldmuhle, and outposted the town. The 1st platoon had a very crazy mission here. Although the usual mission proceeding until fired upon is not too sane. The 1st platoon was asked to go to Schaidt, where they met the French 1st armored division and 3rd infantry. There was fighting at the crossroads, which was covered by eighty-eight’s and machine gun fire. The mission was to see if there was a pile of dirt by the roadblock, for whether the engineers would have to bring their own dirt for some repair work. Jim Taibi was in charge of that mission.

We were at Neupfotz on March 23rd and we moved to Kapsweyer. The 2nd platoon held pillboxes in the Siegfreid line. I remember going into the pillboxes and being impressed with their construction and supplies. A jar of marmalade from one was very tasty. There were several levels inside these bunkers and they were also interconnected by phone. One of our soldiers got inside one of these bunkers and by phone contacted German soldiers in an adjacent bunker, and convinced them that they should surrender. By this time, many of them could see that it was a hopeless cause to continue, but that was not true of the SS troops. You could always tell when you ran into a pocket of them. I also remember going to the odd shaped cement obstacles, a few feet high (called dragon teeth) and seeing a dead GI with his steel helmet mounted on top of his rifle. He would be there until the burying detail came along and I’m not sure how far behind us they were. The 1st platoon moved through the Siegfreid line and led the division east through seven towns. Our Peep was in the lead, with Jim Taibi, Bill Lewis, and myself. At 22:45 we arrived at Neupfotz, having captured 129 prisoners that day. As we would enter a town, we would see white flags attached to a stick start to appear at the windows. It was a day of great tension, and yet of great elation, because it seemed that the struggle was going in our favor. Yet, you never knew when there would be resistance. We heard of another column parallel to ours that moved through many towns that day and as they entered their final town, the Germans ambushed the two Peeps at the head of their column and in machine gun crossfire, killed the GI’s in both Peeps. We left Neupfotz at 18:30 and arrived at Barbelroth at 20:30. The 1st and 3rd platoons patrolled the road to Worms. There is a historical significance of the towns, but it never had that much impact. They were just other towns occupied by the German soldiers. I just meant more patrols, more weapons being fired at us, and more chance of us not surviving the war. We became attached to the 1st armored and patrolled roads in the rear area until March 31st.

We entered Worms on March 31st and we were attached to the 15th corps. I never had any feel for the larger organization of the different army units. I knew that I was in the 1st platoon of dog troop of the 94th Calvary reconnaissance squadron of the 14th armored division. Sometimes we were in General Patton’s 3rd army and most times we were in General Patch’s 7th army. On April 1st, we crossed the Rhine River at Worms on a treadway bridge. We moved northeast to Rossdorf at 04:25. Leaving Rossdorf, we went Northeast, contacted the enemy at Partanstein, Germany, and then returned to Chromenthal. As usual, we set up patrol and stayed in Krommenthaliger until April 4th, at which time we went to Wernarz, Germany. We outpost the town and guarded some prisoners. It was on this day we were traveling in our Peeps and armored cars and we were stretched out along a sloping hillside, when the Germans opened up on us with anti-tank guns that were exploding all along the hillside. There was no easy way to seek cover. Each vehicle took off on its own. There was a brick house some distance away and Bill Lewis drove our Peep, cross-country, like a broken field runner, while I was trying not to fall out. Bill didn’t bother to go through the open gate of the picket fence around the house. He drove right through the fence and came to a halt as the Peep met the house. We jumped out and ran into the house. We felt a lot safer in a brick house, even though there was still a good bit of shelling going on outside. The house seemed to have the normal type of furnishings, with tables, chairs, and a mantle with photos. One of the photos was of a German soldier in uniform. There were a couple of older Germans upstairs and as the shelling got closer to the house, they headed down the steps to the basement area. Bill and I were close behind. To our surprise, there were other family members already in the basement. One of them was a young man in civilian clothes, but he looked very much like the photo of the soldier upstairs on the mantle. The Germans were great for identification papers, and when I asked the young man for his papers in my best high school German, it was obvious he didn’t have any. His sister, a young lady of 25 to 30 years of age burst into tears. I felt that he was probably a German soldier who had either deserted and found his way home, or possibly he had been home on leave. In any event, I felt that it was my duty to take him prisoner and to turn him over to our army. To this day, I can picture the young lady crying, trying to convince me not to take her brother. He was rather stoic and resigned to being taken prisoner. It’s one of those situations where I would have done things differently if I had to do it over again. There was no telling how long he was separated from his family, even though it was near the end of the war.

On April 5th, we left Wernarz, moved east to Breitenbach, then to Schuldelk and Geroda. Some buildings were burning in the town. The 1st platoon went out patrolling and received sniper fire at Breitenbach. We then moved to Mitcenfeld where eighty-eight fires hit one armored car and one Peep. The personnel had left the vehicles in search of cover, so there were no casualties. Our group took 29 prisoners. At this point, many Germans could see the handwriting on the wall and gave up. Of course if you were trained as an SS trooper, you didn’t give up. Even though we were moving ahead and taking many prisoners, I never had the feeling that the war was nearly over. Each time a sniper’s bullet whined close to me, or a mortar or artillery shell exploded nearby, I had the feeling that this war was going to go on and on.

This next incident is a good example of how things can get turned topsy- turvy in a hurry. We had been moving along well, taking prisoners. On April 6th, we left the road and moved east to Platz, Burkardruth, Stangenroth, Steinberg, and Premich. We contacted the enemy and took 15 prisoners. 1st and 3rd platoons moved out towards Steinach. We ran into some German tanks and the 3rd platoon lost two armored cars and two Peeps. We withdrew to Premich. It soon became clear that the Germans had let us move ahead rapidly and then cut us off in the town of Premich. I remember the desperation on part of the officers, as they tried to fortify the two ends of the town. At the other end of town, I think we had one light tank to provide protection. At my end of the town, we had one M-10 tank destroyer. I had trained with the tank destroyers in the Mojave Desert during basic training. I remember the M-10 and its 3-inch gun, which was considered very good. The M-10 pulled right next to a barn at the end of town tried to stay hidden, and yet have its gun ready to cover the road leading into town. A number of us stayed close to the tank destroyer, and yet not too close because we realized that it would be the target of enemy fire. I remember how we gathered in small groups and planned various courses of action. We could try to hold off the Germans until our own troops in the rear, who knew we had been cut off, could break through and rescue us. Or, if looked like we would be overwhelmed, we could surrender and taken prisoner. Or, we could try to slip out of the sides of the town, into the woods and hope to make it back to our own lines without meeting the Germans. We didn’t have to wait too long for the German assault. The road at my end of town winded through the terrain about 300 or 400 yards, and then it disappeared around the side of a hill. Our eyes were glued on that obvious spot for the German approach. Then it happened. A large German tiger tank came into view around the side of the hill. Some German infantry were riding on top of the tank and some fanned out on the ground, on the side of the tank. The gunner in the tank destroyer was moving his gun to line up on the German tank. I think that the first shot by our gunner came close to the German tank. The infantry jumped off the tank. Then the tank fired a shot at our end of town but it wasn’t that close. We were cheering madly for our gunner, just like kids at a high school football game. Our gunner aimed and got off a second shot. This shot actually hit the German tank and you could see the way the tank was jolted, but it bounced of the sloping sides of the tank without doing any real harm. At this point, we had a sinking feeling, and to make matters worse, the tiger tank got off another shot and took the roof of the barn off that was right beside the tank destroyer. They were zeroing in on where they felt the tank destroyer was located. Again we were cheering our man in the tank destroyer and he fired another shot at the German tank. This was a lucky shot, in that it hit the bottom of the tank, and very quickly we could see smoke coming from the tank. The German infantry were not interested in attacking the town without the support of the tank and they withdrew. In my notes, it says that 4 tanks were approaching town, but the one I remember was knocked out by our tank destroyer. Later, our troops broke through the German line from the other end of town, and so we were rescued. Some of those troops were black troops and they helped us out a lot. There was heavy artillery fire at Premich and we withdrew to Stangenroth.

On April 7th, we left Stangenroth and went to Sandberg, where our platoons patrolled to the east. By evening, moved to Zollback, where we were billeted for the night. In the morning, we left for Badkissingen, and then drove to Stangenroth. Five German soldiers were captured at Ashbach. T5 Heim was accidentally shot. On April 9th, we left Stangenroth and marched by convoy to Rentwertshsusen, where T5 Ed Lyon returned to duty. The next day we went to Gleichamberg, out posted the town and the 1st platoon went on patrol. Enemy planes strafed us, which was a rare occurrence at this stage of the war. Then we went southeast to Gellershausen and Heldberg. Next day, we went southeast to Aicha, Trapistat, Alslaben, Gompertshausen, Reithelligen, and Heldberg. The 3rd platoon went to Korberg. On April 12th, we left Heldberg at 6 am, leading CCR and met the enemy at Lichtenfels. All bridges across the Rhine river were blown. Moved west to Schonsreuth, and secured the bridge at Reundorf, where we crossed the main river. Jim Taibi took a patrol into Reundorf and no enemy was reported. Next day, we moved southeast to Lichtenfels, Isling, Armsturn, Kasendorf, and Busback. As usual, we out posted the town. That single day, we captured 256 German soldiers. Even though we couldn’t see the end of the war, many of the Germans could see that it was a hopeless cause and it made sense to surrender. On April 14th, we left Busback, went southeast to Mistelan and Creussen, where we engaged the enemy. That usually meant that we were fired upon. That day, we captured 598 German soldiers at Schnabelwaid and Buchenbach. On this day, we found out about President Roosevelt’s death. I remember what a blow that was to me. Even though he had been in poor health, he was such a strong leader and his death was devastating. On April 15th we were in Creussen, Germany, and the enemy counter attacked from three sides. The counted attack was repulsed and we out posted the town that night. I remember being in a foxhole the whole night and some older men, who were Czechs, were helping us defend the town. We were told that the very determined older man with a gray handlebar mustache was a professor of mathematics. It was rather a wild night. I remember that we tried to string wires along the ground between foxholes, so that we could have better communication. It was a dark night, and when the Czechs soldiers were out at night wandering around, we were never quite sure who they were and I’m surprised that they weren’t shot by our GI’s.

On the 16th of April we stayed in Creussen, along with tanks, tank destroyers, and infantry. Enemy patrols were active southeast of town. Next day, we left Creussen, moved south along the Autoban. 1st platoon moved to Ranna and encountered the enemy at about 16:00. Four enemies were killed and 62 captured. We were then counter attacked by tanks and we withdrew to Velden. Left Velden April 18th and moved southeast to Hersbruck. The 2nd platoon moved to south to Pilsach after encountering the enemy. They withdrew to Berg. 1st platoon patrolled east to Trautsmennhoffen and encountered enemy. One armored car and one Peep knocked out. It was Lieutenant Sturgis’ armored car and my Peep, but there were no casualties. Armored car crew, Lieutenant Sturgis, Rice, Morrison, and Karwoski. Peep crew was Bill Lewis, Joe Sirianni, and myself. We ended up in Unterwalt, Germany. Next day, we left Unterwalt and moved east to Loderback, where the 3rd platoon out posted the town, and the 1st and 2nd platoons patrolled east of Pilsach. Five German soldiers were captured. I remember we were moving on patrol in the daytime. All three platoons were involved and were all in vehicles. Three soldiers ran out of the woods towards us. They were so happy so see us because they had been prisoners of war in a German camp for a long time. They were very thin and obviously undernourished. We asked if they had been mistreated and they said that the Germans were short on food themselves. That was the reason they were so thin. They weren’t being purposely starved. The wondered whether they should try to make it back to the American lines. Since we were in enemy territory and quite a distance from our lines, it was decided that if they tried to make it back to our lines, there was a good chance that the Germans would recapture them. The best course of action seemed to be for the three of them to stay with us while we finished our patrol and then we would have our protection when we returned. I remember how deliriously happy the 3 American soldiers were when they got back to the American lines, they would automatically be sent back to the US. We hadn’t moved out very far when American planes came by. They saw us in enemy territory, assumed that we were Germans, so they strafed us. Everyone scattered looking for cover and we were given a pretty good strafing. When the planes left, we regrouped and found that three of our group was wounded. Corporal Cunningham, Pfc. Bolyard, and T5 Gravelle. One Peep was demolished. Considering that the planes were firing 50-caliber machine guns, it’s a wonder that the wounds were not more severe. Even Gravelle, who was shot high in the thigh and had one testicle bleeding, was not in critical condition. Then, we looked around for the 3 American soldiers who had been prisoners of war. They were no where to be found. Some of us remember them running off in one direction and I was asked, along with two others, to go check up on them. When we found them, it was a very gory sight. They obviously had all run together and were fairly close to one another when we found them. The 50-caliber machine gun bullets had ripped them to pieces. There was no doubt that they were all dead. This event, in my mind, represented one of the outstanding ironies of the war, which in it was full of the unexpected and made less sense every day. Since that time, I have often thought of that day and the strange turn of events. Here were three young American soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the Germans. They lived through a long period of imprisonment. Even though they had insufficient food, they survived, and even managed to escape. They thought that things were really turning in their favor when they ran into us. American soldiers who were moving into enemy territory, in strength, with about 3 platoons in armored cars and Peeps. Then our own planes come and strafe us. Three in our group wounded and all of the Americans that had escaped from the German camp, that were headed for freedom were killed. Crazy. We were attached to the combat command A and that night we received light artillery fire. Not many days when we weren’t fired at by rifle, machine gun, mortar, or eighty-eight mm artillery. Often times there was no rhyme or reason to either of the events that took place, or to the results. It was pretty easy to become completely fatalistic and to feel that you really had little, if any control, of the outcome.

On April 20th, we left Loderbach and moved southwest. We encountered the enemy about a half a mile east of Posthauser. The second platoon had one armored car knocked out. There were no casualties. We remained dug in for the night. Next day we moved to Hang with platoons patrolling towards Polidsbach and Berngow. The 1st and 2nd platoons were located at Kosbach, where we received artillery and other fire. Then on April 22nd, the 3rd platoon patroled the road a Kenlaugh. T5 Willie Snyder was killed in action by enemy machine gun fire. 1st platoon outposted Kosbach and we received heavy artillery fire. Stop here and take a closer look at Willie Snyder’s death and another great irony involved. Willie Snyder had always a pretty soft job with our headquarters platoon. He took care of the mail and I’m sure he tended other jobs. Like the other soldiers in headquarters, he never had to go on patrol. Those of us who did go on patrol just accepted the fact that some people have better jobs than others and the Germans made this plain to us when they dropped leaflets quoting Time magazine saying “A small fractions soldiers in the army were actually involved in the fighting”. Willie was a very likable guy, ready smile, and nice sense of humor. However, Willie made the mistake of having a run in with our 1st seargeant, John Wallace. John was an old army man, career soldier, whose main job seemed to be to get us young soldiers to shape up and pay close attention to all the army rules and regulations. He was not very friendly and I never remember him smiling much. One evening, there was a little drinking, Willie and John had a little altercation, and I heard that there was a fist fight. In any event, Willie Snyder lost his favorite position, and was assigned to the line platoon, the 3rd platoon. I heard the story from Clyde Colson, who was also in the 3rd platoon. Willie Snyder, Clyde Colson, and a few others were going over some maps at the edge of a little clump of woods. As they were preparing to go across an open space, and enter another clump of woods not far away, they suspected that the Germans may be in a nearby clump of woods. It was in the daytime. This would have been Willie’s first combat patrol. As it turned out, the Germans were in the nearby woods. They apparently spotted the 3rd platoon patrol, getting prepared to take off. They fired a machine gun, which hit Willie in the head and no one else was hit. Willie died almost immediately. There is no reason to think that Willie was hit because he was inexperienced in patrol, or in his work and therefore more vunerable. To me it was another example of the irionies of war. I often wonder what went through John Wallace’s head as he thought about Willie’s death and the role that he played in it. I don’t know that you can assign causes and responsibilities in cases of this type.

April 23rd we moved from Hang overhill, east of Posthauser. The road was very muddy. Arrived at Ecthersmoulin at 21:15. Usual outposted town. Next, we got very little sleep. Went to Hipplestein. Went to Hernstaten, and 1st platoon patrolled west and encountered enemy 3/4 mile from town. The Germans fired bazookas and small arms came very close to us, but no one was hit. When bullets come close, they have a very special whine. I guess as long as you can hear them, you’re lucky. Rudy, Aeon, Carol, and Sturgis were in the lead Peep. Private Lou Wald returned to duty. We were in Hernstaten, outposting the town. The 3rd platoon moved south to Walting to secure the bridge site for a crossing. PFC G. Lyons returned for duty.

April 26th, we left Hernstaten at 9:30, moved south to Ossbule River. Then, moved east to Grosmarin. Early that evening, the 1st platoon captured 40 German soldiers. Even though from our vantage point we couldn’t see any end to the war, we were where we were taking more prisioners. It was interesting to look back at the activites during those last weeks of combat and to see how many close calls there were. Makes you wonder how long you could have gone on before your luck ran out.

April 27th, we outposted the town of Grosmaring and the 2nd platoon patrolled the roads to the bridge site over the Dannau. That is the Danube River. Next day, we moved to Englestacht. Crossed the Danube River. As I looked at the water, which was quite brown and muddy, I thought about the Blue Danube Waltz. Things didn’t make sense again. We moved southeast and encountered the enemy a Meimenhoffen. 1st platoon was attached to the 47th tankers, and we led the way to Mauern. Liberating thousands of prisioners along the way. We stopped at Mauern because of darkness. Sargeant Pemberton was asked to lead a patrol to Reckenoider, a certain crossroad. At this point, Permberton, Harris, and myself, haulted by German guards. They shot at us, we withdrew, and there were no casualties. There was a lot more to it than that, though. In the first place, the crossroad was on the other side of a little village which might have been occupied by the Germans. Six of us started out in two Peeps at night and when we came to the village, we didn’t meet any opposition. Pemberton decided to leave the Peeps in the village, along with three other of our platoon. I think Agitto was one of them, but I’m not sure of the other two. Then, Bill Pemberton, John Harris, and I went on a foot patrol toward the next little village where the crossroads supposedly was. As we crept down the road, we could see that in the fields to our left, some movement of what appeared to be people crawling in the field. It was pretty dark and couldn’t be certain what or who was out there. We seemed to be in a pretty vulnerable position, with our vehicles in the village behind us. Probably a few people crawling in the field and the unknown in the village in front of us. Pemberton was in charge of the patrol and he wanted to continue. In our best patrol fashion, the three of us crept pretty close to the edge of the village. Maybe 25 yards. Then the German guard at the edge of the village called out in a clear loud voice, “Heilt!” As soon as we heard that, we moved to the sides of the road, where there was a drainage ditch. We tried to get as close to the ground as possible. My legs had turned to rubber because in an article from a recent stars and stripes paper flashed in front of me. The article had said that a German guard was trained to call “Heilt”, then wait for the password, then call “Heilt” a second time. If he was still not given the password, he would then begin to shoot. That German guard must have read the same article, because he called “Heilt” again. When no one gave him the password, he started to shoot at us with his rifle. We were lucky that he didn’t have a machine gun. We crawled as rapidly as we could, staying close to the ground, and the whine of his bullets were much too close for comfort. Then we heard a motor start up and I thought that they were trying to run us down. But, the vehicle headed in the other direction, probably to report at headquarters what had happened. When we arrived at the first village, our friends were glad to see us, and we headed back to our lines very quickly in the two Peeps. Of course, when we were stopped by American guards, we knew the password and had no trouble getting back. The above write up is a good example of why I want to get this down, not only in writing, but also on tape, while I still remember details.

On April 29th, we left Milenhoffen and moved Southeast towards Gamelsdorff. 2nd platoon was outposting. 3rd platoon was leading the 68th armored infantry batallion. 1st platoon was leading the 47th tankers. Bill Lewis and I were in the lead Peep and as we headed towards the little village where we had parked our Peeps the night before, we could see German soldiers at the edge of the village. I jumped out of the Peep to use my binoculars and a German motorcycle with sidecar headed down the road towards us. Bill Lewis manned the machine gun that was mounted on the hood of the Peep and knocked the German soldier off the motorcycle. Our armored car opened fire on the German soldiers at the edge of town. There always seemed to be a barn at the edge of the villages. Tracer bullets from the machine guns set fire to the hay in the barn to add to the confusion. After an exchange of gunfire, we withdrew. It was a strange feeling to realize that we had had a fire fight with German soldiers in a village, where we had parked our Peeps the night before. We had almost made it into the next village before we were haulted and shot at by a German guard. Whether the Germans had been in the village the night before, or whether they had moved into that village early in the morning, we never knew. Sgt. Jim Taibi’s section led the 47th tankers into Musberg. Taibi was standing up and looking out the turb of his armored car with Stanley Schneider, the driver, and John Harris, the radio operator, being inside the armored car. They had driven near a fox hole which was offering protection to a German soldier. After the armored car went by and Taibi was looking ahead, the German popped up from the fox hole with his rifle and shot Jim Taibi. The bullet went through the back and out the uppper arm of Taibi. Harris later told me that Jim thought that he was done for and asked him to tell his wife that he loved her. There was a small arms fight at the bridge going into Musberg, but it didn’t last long. Turned out that Musberg contained a huge allied prison camp. Hard to vision, the 14th armored division released 110,000 allied prisoners from Musberg that day and we became known as the liberator division. Some of the prisoners had been captured quite some time before. I remember talking with a Scott who had been a prisoner for 5 years. During that time, he had learned to speak German, but he had lost much of any of his Scottish burr. He said, “What took you blokes so long?’. Years later, when I was living in Delaware and attending the Brookside methodist church, a friend of mine in the church, Bob Weiser told me that he was one of the prisoners who had been released by us that day. He had been in the air force and when his plane was hit over France, he had parachuted out. He was captured by the Germans and eventually released at Musberg. During the fighting to enter Musberg, a number of German soldiers were killed and the 2nd platoon took 40 prisoners. We had heard that Taibi had been taken to a hospital and we thought that we had seen the last of him, even though it was felt that his wounds were not fatal. Now Taibi was really strong. He had been a division heavyweight boxing champ and he sensed that the war was winding down, only he still hadn’t been awarded a battlefield commission, which was his dream. So, he stayed in the hospital for a few days, then he walked out of the hospital, and rejoined us. I remember the awful looking wounds in his back and upper arm, but he was determined to make a last try for his battlefield commission. As it turned out, the war ran out before he could get it, which was unfortunate, because I don’t know of anyone who deserved it more. It’s interesting to note that after the war, Jim Taibi returned to his home of Niagra Falls, used his drive and basic intelligence to become very successful. He and a brother first went into the fuel oil heating business, then they got into the cement business, and he had a whole fleet of cement trucks. We visited him on at least two different occasions and met his lovely wife Lou, and their daughter, Linda, who is Maureen’s age. It was sometime later that we heard that Jim Taibi did develop a brain tumor, which eventually killed him.

We left Musberg on April 30th and crossed the Izar River. The 1st platoon was with the 47th tank batallion. The roads were bad and muddy and vehicles were bogged down north of Barierberg, Germany. On May 2nd, we left Barierberg. 1st platoon was leading the 47th tank batallion and at Morgdorff we had encountered the enemy. Lieutenant Schuller’s armored car reached the bridge at the Inn River, just as the Germans blew it up with their own men on it. Lieutenant Schuller was hit in the right shoulder. It was less than a week from the end of the war, yet the chances of getting wounded or killed were still very high.

On the 3rd of May, we were at Mettenheim, Germany, and the first platoon outposted Mudorff. We left Mettenheim and moved north to Wartenberg, on May 5th. We ran some patrols, cleaned equipment, vehicles, and guns. Remained in Wartenberg until May 10th, and the war was over, actually on May 8th. I’m sorry that I can’t remember the details of how the news was given, how I reacted, and so forth. On the 10th of May we moved west to Freizing. We had patrol duty there and remained until May 18th.

And so, we had started out at Marseilles,France and fought our way up through Alsies and into Germany. At the end of the war we were very close to Munich. Mudorff is probably about 40 miles from Munich. On the other side of Munich, about 10 miles is Dackow.