PART SIX: REFLECTIONS
25. Addendum No. 1: Concerning the activities of the 191 FaBn during the war, the records indicate that we fired over 3100 separate missions. In one of those missions alone, in preparation for the operation on November 8, our battalion fired over 600 rounds of 155 shells. Each one of those was a projectile over a foot and a half in length and over five inches in diameter, and weighing some 60 pounds. These were rather expensive, I'm sure, for the taxpayers of America, and we spent our share. I don't have the exact figures of how many rounds we fired on that Thanksgiving day in the rain that I spoke of, where we fired for 24 hours without letup, but it may have surpassed the other one that I just mentioned.
26. Addendum No. 2: Some additional facts about the 191 with regard to casualties. We probably would be considered rather fortunate among the combat units in that in the total battalion of almost 600 men, there were 6 fatalities and 42 wounded. Among those fatalities were two officers, and then among the enlisted men in that group was a Tec 5, Henry Basso, who was one of the medics among the 13 medics that came with our battalion and went into combat. He was killed during one of the shellings, at the same location where one of the officers was also killed.
Among the 42 wounded that I mentioned there were ten who were really not combat casualties, in a sense. I think I mentioned one time that we could start fires and keep them going, even though we had wet wood, by tossing on small amounts of powder charge that were left over from our missions. On one occasion, in one of the firing batteries, A Battery, in fact, a group of men had found a small shed of some kind near their location. They rigged up a stove, as I mentioned that we often did over there. They were made out of empty ammunition cans. They had made this stove inside the building so that when they got it heated up, a lot of people could crowd into the building and get warm. The fire wasn't going very well, so someone threw on some of the additional powder that we had. It actually wasn't in the form of powder. It was made up of tiny little pellets that looked like plastic, although we didn't have plastic in those days. These tiny pellets could be thrown just two or three at a time, but someone must have thrown in too many, because the stove exploded, the building caught on fire, and these that I mentioned were ll wounded. They had to be taken back to aid stations, and in some cases were not able to come back into combat.
27. Addendum No. 3: At some time during the operations when I was out as a forward observer, either with the 5th or the 35th Infantry Division, (I don't remember which, and therefore I don't remember exactly where this took place) I was reporting to the lead company. My method of doing that was to come in through the back of the troops in that company and keep asking, as I went forward, where the company commander was, because I was supposed to report to him.
As I kept going forward, I got closer and closer to the front of the company which was leading the attack in its regiment, and I still hadn't found the company commander. I knew that when I got far enough forward there would be, out in front, a lead scout, an enlisted man who walked with a compass in his hand. Once the direction that they were to go was given, he would keep the company on a straight line. This was absolutely necessary, because when walking in a group, especially through wooded areas, the entire group would veer to one side without some compass direction that's being followed very explicitly. There have been times when they've almost circled halfway around before they found their mistake. So every company would have a lead scout whose job it was to give them direction.
I got all the way to the front of this company until there was no one left but the lead scout. I thought that since he would have received directions from the company commander, he would probably be able to tell me where I might find him. I walked out behind that lead scout and the company that he was leading into action. As I approached him from the rear I said, "Excuse me. Do you know where the company commander is?" And when he turned around, I saw one star on his helmet. The lead scout in this particular instance was a brigadier general! I have no idea why he was there, except that perhaps he just wanted a little action. I am certain that his superiors would not have approved of such a high ranking officer putting himself at the very point of a lead company in an attack, but there he was, nevertheless. He was able to help me and locate the company commander, and I found where I was supposed to be.
In the book "Citizen Soldiers," reference is made to a situation that arose during the Battle of the Bulge. The German Bulge, or their offensive, had divided the allied forces and it left the British and some of the Americans on the north side of that salient. The rest of the Americans were on the south. It was only feasible, therefore, to turn these American troops over to the command of the British generals that were on the northern side of this offensive. In this book the author points out that the general who took over the American troops at that time was appalled that the middle grade officers, the majors and the lieutenant colonels who commanded battalions and regiments in the American Army, did not pursue their activities in the same way that the British did. It seems that the British insisted that their officers be out toward the lead in order to give direction to their troops. The American majors and lieutenant colonels, however, tended to remain back at their battalion and regiment headquarters and send their directions from there.
The first order of business for this British general was to order these American commanders to get up and see what their troops were going through. I don't know whether that had anything to do with the presence of this general up in front, because we were not, so far as I knew at that time, under any leadership of the British. At any rate, he was certainly out of place.
28. Addendum No. 4: While I'm speaking of anecdotes during combat activities, I want to tell you about an advance that I made with an infantry company and battalion across a very small river, not much more than a very large stream, and into a German town which we were to attack and take.
As we approached the river, the company commander was advising me that he was sending out patrols along the river to find out where the best place would be to ford it, because the maps indicated no bridges of any kind, so it meant that we were going to have to walk across this river, actually ford the river.
At that time I had some misgivings because I hadn't seen the river, and since I could not swim I wasn't looking forward to attempting to get through a raging stream. At any rate, a runner came back from one of the patrols and announced excitedly that they had found a footbridge across this stream right into the heart of the village. It was decided that the first advance would be made across that footbridge into the village. Since I was there to provide fire power, I proceeded to lay down rounds on the village in advance of our movement, and then we went across this footbridge into the village.
Of course, some of the infantry troops had arrived ahead of me, and they were already going through buildings and rounding up prisoners, so that shortly after I arrived some prisoners were brought to one of the infantry officers. I was there, and there were just a few prisoners, maybe four or five. He had them back up to the side of a building and proceeded to try to question them, but we couldn't speak German, and we had no interpreter present. The more the infantry lieutenant tried to talk to them, the more frustrated he became. By hand motions mostly, and grunts and groans, they would indicate that they had no way of understanding what he was saying. He kept asking them various things, but becoming frustrated, he would turn to me, and to the other American soldiers who were standing around, and voice his displeasure and wonderment at how he was going to go about getting any information from them about where other troops were in the village.
While he was going through this, I happened to have my eyes on one of them, and I noted that he didn't participate in the activity of showing that he didn't speak English, but rather he kept his eyes intently upon the lips of this American officer as he was speaking to us in English, and it occurred to me that the only reason for him to be looking so intently at him at that time was that he must understand what the infantry officer was saying. I lifted my burp gun, which was in front of me, and I pointed to this one prisoner with it. I said to the infantry officer, "You know, he knows what you're saying." He turned and looked at this German. I said, "I've been watching him. He knows what you're saying." The American officer then said to this German, "Do you understand?" He started to laugh and he said, "Yes, I do." He spoke reasonably good English.
After we got him started, and we got the questions answered that we wanted, he seemed to want to talk. That seemed to be true with several of them that I ran into. He wanted to talk because he wanted to tell us that he had participated in the 1936 Olympics, that were held in Berlin, as a sprinter, and that he had run against Jesse Owens. Jesse Owens, of course, was the African-American sprinter who had won five gold medals at those Olympics, and over which Hitler had stormed out of the stadium in anger because he didn't want to be there when a black man was given his medals. This German seemed to be rather proud of the fact that he had participated and had actually run against Jesse Owens. We learned his name at the time, but I couldn't remember it after the war, so I was never able to look back in the records of the 1936 Olympics and see anything about his participation.
29. Addendum No. 5: This anecdote probably belongs back in the discussion of our entering into Worms, Germany, but I forgot it at that time and remembered it later, so I'll just put it in as an addendum.
After we had had the experience at the hospital in rounding up our prisoners, early the next morning I went back and I was still trying to find some high position from which I could look out across the Rhine. That was before I found the schoolhouse that I mentioned. So into the heart of the city we drove. There was great destruction from our bombs, but I found the Worms Cathedral. I was to find later on, when I studied for the ministry, that this was a very famous point in reformation history, because it was at that cathedral where Martin Luther was tried by the Catholic Church, in what was called the Diet, the legislative or judicial body of the Roman Catholic Church. It was called the Worms Diet and that was where it was held.
At that time I didn't know anything of that history, but I saw that of the two towers, one still seemed to be in perfect condition, the other one was slightly damaged. The building stood with very little damage to it, but I went into it anyway. I believe that both Liljeberg and I went into it, and we found a priest, who begged us not to use the cathedral for any war effort. We decided we would not, but nevertheless we wanted the opportunity to see from the height of the tower, so we asked him to take us up to that point, and all the while he was protesting, but he did take us up. He pointed out, I thought with some pride, that God had spared this cathedral in the midst of all the destruction in the heart of the city. He seemed especially proud of the fact that not far from there, there was a large Protestant church, I'm not sure which of the German denominations it was, but it was leveled, and he was proud of the fact that God had spared the Catholic cathedral.
30. Addendum No. 6: There really is no one place that this anecdote or discussion fits, because it is about the matter of sleeping methods. I did tell about sleeping in foxholes, and I mentioned sleeping one night in a driving rain in my Jeep, but we slept wherever we could. I have thought many times since the war that God had really been able to help all of us who had to sleep out in the rain. Often times we just slept on top of the ground with the rain coming down on us, and sometimes we slept on top of snow. Hopefully we were down in the snow, because we actually could dig in and be warmer than if we were on top of it. We had all of these very difficult sleeping conditions. Of course, when you're tired and truly exhausted, on many occasions you can sleep any place. So, we had been able to do that. Any thought of sleeping in a bed, of course, would have to wait until we got back to the States. We accepted this fact, and we just slept where we could. It got so that if there were small rocks on the ground, they didn't bother us a great deal, we'd just lie down on them anyway. No matter how hard the ground was, or if it was muddy, or, as I said, if it was snow-covered, we would sleep wherever we had an opportunity.
At one point when I was with Pumphrey in the Flying Cub, the air section had found a place where there was a field where they could take off and land, and there was a farmhouse which they commandeered. It had no furniture in it, it was just an empty building, but, nevertheless, we went into it, and for the first time in almost a year and a half I was able to put my sleeping bag down on a reasonably dry floor.
Many of the other buildings we went into had been demolished. Usually they had been rained on, and they were not very pleasant. But this one was really pleasant. I carry that memory with me to this day of how truly wonderful it was to lie down on something that wasn't uneven and didn't have rocks, mud, or snow, but was dry. And I really enjoyed sleeping on a hard floor on that occasion. I don't think I would rejoice at that anymore, but I certainly did then.
31. Addendum No. 7: This is really just kind of an epilogue, a thought that came to me about the war. Our nation went into full activity of producing war goods to promote the ongoing of the war overseas. Most of our civilian goods "went to war;" that is, they no longer produced many of the civilian conveniences that they had before. We had no chromium, for example, so the last automobiles produced just as we were going into the war had no chromium on them, and they just used black rubber in many places and they weren't very pretty.
We didn't produce many of the convenience goods, like appliances, and things of that sort. Everything went into the war effort. So, imagine my surprise, as we were stationed in Germany after the war, to find in some of these homes that we commandeered to use there in Ruhla, where I spoke of five residences along one street, to find that they had late model refrigerators and stoves. In that city, which was a little manufacturing city, there was a factory still producing civilian watches, and another factory producing cigarette cases and lighters that were coated with chromium. As a matter of fact, I brought home one of those chromium cigarette cases and lighter and have it to this day.
They hadn't gone to a hundred percent production of war goods. Maybe that's why they didn't succeed in winning the war. Actually, they were a much more formidable force at the beginning of the war than the allies were, but it was our production, really, that made the difference.