Logo of the 9th Infantry Regiment

The 9th Regiment As I Knew It
(During World War 2)

by
Bill Hancock

  This is a war story with details of violence. It is not suitable for young children.

Note: This is one of the best war stories that I have read- it is personal, graffic, interesting, brutal yet tender at times. There were a number of folks involved in bringing this excellent work to us: I have listed here their names:
Chip Hancock
Bill & Nancy Carlson

This story shared with you by
Kraig J. Rice
www.breadonthewaters.com

"This is Bill Hancock, the old ‘war horse’ of the 9th Infantry Regiment. I’m going to talk about the 9th Infantry Regiment as I knew it.

I was born and raised in South Carolina. I attended Clemson College where I was in the ROTC Program. When I graduated from Clemson in 1938, I received a Reserve Officer Commission in the United States Army. In 1940, I was called to active duty as a 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry, U.S. Army.

In July 1940, I attended the Basic Officer’s Course at the Infantry School located at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was there that I first I heard about the 9th Infantry Regiment.

Colonel Nackman, who was our boss at the Infantry School, told me about the 9th Infantry. I was in a class of officers taking an Infantry Refresher Course and Colonel Nackman ordered me to report to his office. I didn’t know why, but I reported as ordered. Colonel Nackman had just received my orders assigning me to the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division located at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Colonel Nackman was more excited than I was because he had been an officer in the 9th Infantry Regiment. I believe that he had commanded the Regiment at one time during his career. Anyhow he knew all about the 9th Infantry Regiment and he gave me its history.

He told me that the Regiment had been sent to China to quell the Boxer Rebellion and he described the great punch bowl that the Regiment brought back from China after quelling the Rebellion. He said that the punch bowl was made of solid silver with big dragons all around the top of the bowl. The bowl would hold about fifteen gallons of punch and there was a cup for every officer who was assigned to the Regiment at that time.

Colonel Nackman told me that I was a lucky son-of-a-gun because I was going to join the best Regiment in the United States Army. He kept me in his office for an hour, briefing me on the 9th Infantry. He said that the 9th Infantry Regiment was one of the most celebrated Regiments in the Army and that the esprit de corps in the 9th Infantry Regiment is something else. Of course that gave me a big thrill. The Colonel also said that I would find the 9th Infantry filled with old sergeants who knew the Army inside and out.

The Colonel then told me that I had been assigned to a Heavy Weapons Company, Company H, in the 9th Infantry Regiment. He said that I would find sergeants in H Company who were 35 to 40 years old and who knew that Company better than any of the officers. He also told me that I would probably find the Company Commander to be a Captain who had been in the Army for 15 years.

The Colonel finally dismissed me with the words KEEP UP THE FIRE and I went back to my quarters feeling like I was already a Buckhead.

In 1940, after six weeks of training at Fort Benning, I reported to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Third Army Headquarters, for re-assignment. I believe that I was the only officer from my class at Fort Benning to be assigned to the 9th Infantry Regiment. I don’t recall any other officer. Both the Third Army Headquarters and the 2nd Infantry Division were located at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 9th Infantry, the 23rd Infantry and the 38th Infantry were Regiments of the 2nd Infantry Division. As Colonel Nackman had told me, I was assigned to Company H, 9th Infantry Regiment. When I reported to Company H, I was assigned as the Platoon Leader, Machine Gun Platoon. Later I became the Mortar Platoon Leader and after that assignment, I became the Company Executive Officer, also in 1940.

My life at Fort Sam Houston was great and I enjoyed it very much. I was billeted in a group of permanent-type barracks just across the polo field. This was during the days when polo was one of the main sports. We would watch the polo games every Saturday. In those days the Army played polo quite often and we could watch the polo games from the Regimental barracks.

Just across the polo field was the Officer’s Club, our main Headquarters after 5:00 p.m. every Saturday. It was at the Club that we met the other officers from both the Regiment and the Division and we developed bonds of friendship that never died.

My Company Commander was Captain J. B. Lovelace. It was he who assigned me to the Mortar Platoon. Captain Lovelace was from one of the middle Northern states—Nebraska, I think. He was quite a character and he liked to talk about the past. He had been a captain for twelve years and at that time he had been in command of H Company for about three years. He was one of the older Company Commanders with a lot of service who had been retained by the 9th Infantry Regiment. The Regiment was not going to let him go and I’m sure the Division felt the same way about him. I was lucky to be under Captain Lovelace.

I had a sergeant in the Mortar Platoon that was out of this world. He knew that mortar up and down and inside out. He knew exactly what it could do. He had been Platoon Sergeant for a couple of years, I believe. Later he left the Mortar Platoon and the Division and went to OCS. I never heard from him again, but he was a great man.

I was in charge of the Mortar Platoon for about six months. I knew everything about it that I could learn. We had tests, we set the mortars up, put the sites on, aimed it on the target and leveled it to the right angle to hit a target at a certain distance. We practiced this day in and day out—day in and day out.

Then I was assigned to the Machine Gun Platoon in order to learn all about the machine guns and that was a new experience for me. I liked machine guns. I knew that I liked their capability to become great defensive weapons. I stayed in the Machine Gun Platoon for about six months and then I was assigned as Company Executive Officer in addition to having a Machine Gun Platoon. I also kept the Company funds as extra duty for almost a year after I was assigned to the 9th Infantry Regiment.

Our training at Fort Sam Houston during the early 1940’s was routine. Everyday we would move out to the training area for machine gun training and mortar training. We were trained to break the machine gun down blindfolded and put it back together. In the Mortar Platoon we didn’t do too much firing because we didn’t have much ammunition and we couldn’t fire unless we went to Camp Bullis.

I was promoted from 2nd lieutenant to first lieutenant in 1941 after only a year in grade. One reason I was promoted was because when I graduated from college and received my lieutenant’s commission, I immediately started taking courses through the mail. I’d get a map exercise or courses of that nature. When I finished one course, I would receive another one. I had finished almost all the courses I could possibly take through the mail when I came into the Army.

Bill Robertson, then Colonel Robertson, had been in command of the 9th Infantry Regiment for several months. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, Colonel Robertson was moved up to Division and was promoted to Brigadier General. Shortly thereafter he was promoted to Major General and he took command of the 2nd Infantry Division.

When General Robertson left the 9th Infantry Regiment, Colonel C. J. Hirschfelder took command of the Regiment. I don’t know where he came from but he had commanded D Company of the 9th Infantry Regiment during WW I. It was called the Machine Gun Company then. I don’t believe they had the mortar platoons in WW I. He really liked his old Company. He had worked his way back to his old Regiment.

For some reason I struck it off with Colonel Hirschfelder and the first thing I knew I was assigned by the Regiment to take over as Commander of D Company. That surprised me a little bit, but I got the Company. I liked that outfit because I was interested in machine guns. I had taken quite a bit of math in college and I liked the overhead fire business and figuring out the formulas for overhead fire. I was Commander of D Company when Bill McKinley moved up to Regiment.

Not long after I became Company Commander of D Company, we went on maneuvers. Colonel Hirschfelder was the Regimental Commander at that time. As I mentioned earlier, he had commanded D Company during WWI and he made D Company his home. Every morning around ten o’clock he would come by D Company to have coffee and pie. Sometimes the pie wasn’t as good as he thought that it should be and he threatened to send me to Cook’s and Baker’s School if I didn’t tell my cooks to bake better pies. However, he never did send me and he always ate his piece of pie. That was a regular performance of his and he would come in every day.

In late 1941 we took some airborne training. We had a mock-up plane and we practiced, a Company at a time, getting into the plane with our equipment. We also practiced preparing to fly in and land in an area that had previously been secured by the paratroopers. We were to land and push out in order to secure the airport and reinforce the paratroopers. We practiced this for a month or so and then we had some real airplanes for a training mission. We loaded into the planes and flew down to Fort Huachuca near the Mexican border. We were to simulate reinforcing the airborne troops in the area and we practiced this several times. However, the plane that I was in caught on fire and we had to land in a hay field that had just been mowed by machinery. We went the rest of the way by bus, I believe---Army vehicles, anyhow. We finished the operation, which was kind of exciting. I assumed that we were doing this training so we would know how to land in a captured airport and be able to reinforce that Airborne Division in the capture of an airfield. In addition, we would also know how to operate and fight from inside an airport in case an Airborne Division had captured an airport. This training did not last very long, but it was exciting.

We went on a maneuver in West Texas the early part of---well I’m not sure of the date---but we moved by truck. I recall that during this maneuver we had one day of hunting rattlesnakes. It was very hot down there and there were a lot of cactus trees. It seemed as though every cactus tree you looked under had a rattlesnake. One guy had a rattlesnake come crawling into his sleeping bag one night but he jumped out before the rattlesnake could coil and strike him. The next day we got the order to go on a rattlesnake hunt. I remember that my Company, Company D, killed over thirty-five rattlesnakes that day. That wasn’t too much fun.

Shortly before or after the attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941, Lt. Colonel McKinley (he was a captain at the time) was assigned to the Regiment. Captain McKinley came from Hawaii and he brought a dog with him. The dog was white and he was called ‘haole.’ That dog stayed around for a long time and he became one of the members of the Regiment. Captain McKinley commanded D Company for about two or three months before I took over the command.

In 1941, almost every morning when we got up we would move out to our training areas. Sometimes we would take a lunch and sometimes a hot lunch would be brought to us from the Company. From time to time we took a platoon or company out to a training area near a gasoline refinery. The smell was horrible out there, but we finally got over it. We tried to get on the windward side, the side with the wind blowing towards the refinery, so it would blow the odor away from us.

Our training continued during the summertime and it got kind of monotonous. We also went on maneuvers to Camp Bullis, about twenty miles away. We would go out there in trucks and camp out over night. We’d find a campsite, pitch tents and practice machine gun fire and mortar firings. We went through this training program several times during the next couple of years at Bullis. We were trained right down to the point where we knew we were looking forward to getting into combat. As a matter of fact, we kind of predicted the war because of the way the Japanese were acting. I remember writing a letter home to my Mother and I said, “Mom, I think we’ll be at war by next month.” That happened to be in November 1941.

On December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, I was out washing my car near the barracks. I lived in the BOQ (Bachelor’s Officer Quarters). I had the radio on and I heard the news. I couldn’t believe it at first, but then after a second announcement, I knew that it had to be true. They started describing the battleships that had been hit and were sinking. That’s the way that I heard about the beginning of World War II---on the radio.

After Pearl Harbor we went on alert. We had our machine guns mounted on the anti-aircraft pedestals and surrounding the Post in case low-flying Japanese planes decided to fly from their carriers and bomb our Post. This was good training and we would be ready for them. The men took the training very seriously and the platoon leaders who had a platoon of machine guns out would have to inspect the machine guns once a night. Our training was very rigorous from then on. We were training to go to war, and we all knew it.

I had been in Company D for some time when I started getting new officers and one of the officers was Bill McKinley’s brother Jim. I made him platoon leader in my Company. Later he took over B Company and he was very good. He was very precise and well-trained. He had just graduated from West Point when he came in and everything looked fine. We continued our maneuvers and training at Camp Bullis and the gasoline refinery area.

General Wainwright was there. I don’t know what his assignment was. But you could see General Wainwright almost any place every day. You would see a soldier standing somewhere---standing up against a building watching and seeing what was going on. He liked to see the training that was going on but he didn’t want to bother people, so he would just kind of disguise himself. Sometimes I don’t think he even wore his insignia. I remember one time a sergeant came by and asked the General what he was doing there. Then he really looked at the General, recognized him and began to apologize. General Wainwright just laughed about it.

The 3rd Army Commander after Wainwright was General Kruger who was a tough old guy. He gave us bayonet training. He was a believer in the bayonet and the close-order drill, so we had a lot of bayonet training. At that time it was difficult to understand why so much close-order drill although it gave us good exercise and it also improved our discipline. I’m sure of that.

After I took command of D Company, I kept pretty busy. We went on maneuvers out to Camp Bullis and then in the summertime we would go to Louisiana on maneuvers. Sometimes we would stay down there for a month. During one of our maneuvers in Louisiana, things hadn’t gone as well as Colonel Hirschfelder thought they should have gone and he started relieving his company commanders. He relieved every line company commander in his Regiment except me and I don’t know why---well, I do know why and I’ll report this later. The next day he re-assigned those line company commanders. One day after I saw him relieve two or three company commanders, I noticed he had his hands in his pockets rammed right down to his knees. I learned that when he was angry he would ram his hands down in his pockets and that was when he relieved those company commanders right off. He went over to another area and relieved three or four. Within one hour’s time he had relieved all the company commanders in his Regiment except D Company Commander and that was me.

The next day we had a meeting and we all got there early before the Colonel. An officer said to me, “What the hell are you doing here, Hancock? Why didn’t you get relieved?” I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. I have noticed that when Colonel Hirschfelder rams his hands in his pockets down to his knees, get lost or get behind a tree if you’re that close, but get out of his sight.” Then they all died laughing. So that was the secret and that was the truth.

We returned to Ft. Sam Houston from Louisiana and before long we received orders to move to Detroit, Michigan. Detroit was having trouble with race riots and our Regiment received orders to move to Detroit and quell those race riots. So, we moved to Michigan taking our jeeps with their 50-calibre machine guns mounted on them. We were billeted in the middle of River Rouge Park and from there we operated throughout the city in our jeeps with those 50-calibre machine guns mounted on them. We patrolled the city street by street in the riot area. Once in a while we would fire the guns in the air to let the people know that those guns were real. Our duty while we were in Detroit was to patrol all the streets. Areas in different sections of the city were blocked off, particularly the areas where the trouble was the most noticeable. A few days after we got there we got things quieted down. It was kind of a dirty mess there for awhile and a lot of people had been killed. I don’t know how the trouble started. Supposedly it was between the blacks and whites.

We had a pretty good time in Detroit- it was different. When we had some time off, we got to see the city. I saw plenty of the city because the Battalion Commander and I would ride around with the Mayor and the Chief of Police quite often and I enjoyed that. The rioters settled down after we had been in Detroit for a couple of weeks. I guess we were there about a month altogether when we returned to Fort Sam Houston.

In 1942, close to the fall of that year, we received orders to move from Fort Sam Houston to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. So we left our home at Fort Sam after having been there for such a long time and we were re-assigned to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

I was promoted to captain and so were almost all of the officers who had arrived at the same time as I did. Usually we were all promoted within a few days of each other, but sometimes promotions were weeks apart. This happened to Bill Kernan who was a good friend of mine. Somehow his orders were mixed up and he wasn’t promoted until a month later. He already had been in the Regiment for a year when I arrived and now I ranked him by about several months. But we were good friends and he took it very well. He knew the mix-ups that could happen in the Army.

I still had command of Company D when those transfer orders came through. We transferred to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin where we were to have winter training with snowshoes, skis, toboggans, etc. The rifle companies trained and moved on skis, but the Heavy Weapons Company traveled on snowshoes because they had a lot of gear to drag along with the heavy weapons. In addition, they carried their machine guns on their backs so they were unable to ski.

The weather was very cold during our winter training at Camp McCoy. Whenever we moved cross-country on our skis, toboggans and snowshoes, we were assigned partners. This meant that two people were assigned to watch each other make sure our noses hadn’t frozen or turned white. One man lost his nose, or a good portion of it, because all feeling had gone and he didn’t realize it was frostbitten. We had the same problem with frozen ears, frozen fingers and frozen feet, but not to any great extent. We watched each other as a protection from frostbite. The weather was 45 degrees below zero and that’s when the wind wasn’t blowing. The wind-chill factor would probably add nine or ten degrees to it at times.

The rumor was that we were going to jump out of airplanes into Norway. That was the way the Germans had invaded that country. Their airplanes would slow down by almost throttling down to a stall and the men jumped or tumbled out into the snow. We were told that’s probably what we would be doing.

So we learned to ski and we trained as ski troops. But the training was rigorous and it was very cold. We went to Iron Mountain on maneuvers---in the snow. We had jeeps and weasles. Weasles are vehicles that travel over the snow real fast. The Company Commander and some of the officers had skis to travel on. We would travel cross-country, then stop at night and cut down some trees in order to build a lean-to. We would put the boughs of the trees over the lean-to and then build a fire to keep warm. At night we would dig a hole in the snow down to the ground and throw boughs on it.

We had rucksacks on our backs. One time when we stopped for a break while moving cross-country, I noticed that one of my runners was always up running around all the time. He would never sit down to rest and he never bothered to take his pack off his back. Of course that gave him away and I suspected what he had done. He had blown up his sleeping bag so that it looked like he had all of his equipment in it when he really had nothing in it. It was just his sleeping bag blown up. I had a knife with a long blade so I punctured his sleeping bag. That was the talk of the Company for awhile. We caught him, but since he was a pretty good kid we passed it off as a joke.

We had a billeting area that we would move out from on our maneuvers during the day, but we would return to at night—usually because of the weather. Sometimes the weather was 45 degrees below zero. We had built snow houses and this one guy who was a deputy sheriff before he came in the Army, made his house from blocks of snow that he had wet and he packed it together just like brick. He was quite artistic and he had done a beautiful job on his house. I asked him what he was doing and he told me that he was making his house good enough for a ‘Frigidair General’. Of course that went all over the Company and they all died laughing. One morning just before our people got up for breakfast, somebody spooked a big white-tailed deer and he came right down through our camping area. Every once in awhile he would jump up and sometimes his heels would hit a tent and rip it apart. We lost six or eight tents when that deer came down through the area. If we had had some ammunition, I'm sure someone would have shot him. Anyway, he hopped on and got out of our sight.

After our training was over at Camp McCoy, we got orders to our Port of Embarkation and prepared to move overseas. In the fall of 1943, the 2nd Infantry Division sailed to its Port of Debarkation in Northern Ireland. We were in Northern Ireland for almost a year, training every day and preparing for the Invasion of Normandy. Our training in Northern Ireland was very intense. We had training areas out in the boondocks where nobody lived. We had an area where we could maneuver and fire mortars and an area where we could fire machine guns into a hill. Sometimes we would fire out over the ocean. We kept up the training until we were ordered to go into Normandy on D+1.

The 1st Battalion of the 9th Infantry was stationed at Armagh Barracks. I believe that the 2nd Battalion was stationed in an old castle where they were also billeted. The 3rd Battalion, I believe, was also stationed in an old castle. We were billeted in the British Army Barracks in Armagh. There was a major who was in charge of our billets and he put us in quarters.

We drilled and we trained. You know, sometimes you train until you reach a point where you don’t know if more training helps you or not. It might do more harm than good. You reach a point of diminishing returns. Anyway, we were ready and finally in May 1944, some of the officers of the Battalion—the S-3 and the Battalion Commander—were briefed. I believe the term that was used was “They were biggoted”. Anyhow, they were told the date that the Invasion was to take place. They were also told that they couldn’t tell anyone else. After that, all the training and preparation leaned towards that date. We were all wondering when the Invasion would be.

Then one day we got orders to move from Northern Ireland into England. Before we moved from Northern Ireland to England, General Patton came over and gave us a talk. The entire Division was out in formation for his talk. We were on a mall and around the mall were the homes of very influential people. Most of the wives had their windows up, listening to General Patton. He was very blunt about what we were to do to the Germans and he used some pretty strong words. He told us if the Germans came toward us, we were “to ram them in the belly with a bayonet” and if they ran, we were to “shoot them in the ass as they leave”. Suddenly, almost in unison, the windows were closed. General Patton gave us a good pep talk.

We transferred from Northern Ireland to England. We were stationed at a little Welsh town named Lleckney (pronounced Cleckney). A little town near Lleckney had been hit by buzz bombs and was completely destroyed. Of course we took turns going over to the little town that had been destroyed and looked through the place to see exactly what the Germans were doing to England. That town was completely blown away. I don’t think there was a building left.

Around the first of June 1944, we finally got our orders to go to our Port of Embarkation. General Eisenhower spoke to us there and then we went aboard ship. We remained in the port for awhile and then moved out to sea.

On D-Day, 6 June 1944, we were anchored about ten miles from land, off of Omaha Beach, but we could see the shore. The Invasion of Normandy began and we watched it all take place. We could see the bombers from England as they flew over the landing sites of the Invasion beaches.

Apparently the flight pattern for the bombing missions into Germany had been changed and plane after plane, about ten or fifteen planes in a group, would fly over us. Then another group would come. I’m sure that they were all flying over the D-Day landings in order to boost the morale. The soldiers on the Invasion beaches knew they had good buddies upstairs tying up the movement of German units in order to prevent them from reinforcing and attacking the beachheads.

While we were watching from aboard ship, the planes carrying the paratroopers from the Airborne Divisions flew over. We saw the paratroopers jump out of the planes and parachute down to their landing zones further inland. This was all visible to us that first day—D-Day.

We didn’t go ashore until the initial landing forces on D-Day had completed their missions, which was to push in about 1000 yards at least.

The next day was D+1 (7 June 1944). The 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Colonel Wesson, was the first Battalion of the 9th ordered to go ashore at Omaha Beach. We were landing in LCI’s (Landing Craft Infantry). I have forgotten how many soldiers they would carry, but they could carry quite a few. Anyhow, our Battalion was divided into two groups. The Battalion Commander took the first group in the LCI’s and headed for shore. The Navy seaman who was in charge of the LCI’s that carried the Battalion’s first group ashore was hit during the landing and killed.

Someone in another landing craft showed up to take us ashore, but he didn’t know where he was supposed to go. He looked at me after we had loaded in the LCI and said, “Where do you want to go?” I said, “don’t you know?” He said, “No, the last guy who took that other group ashore got killed.” He didn’t know where to take us, but from our briefings I knew precisely where he was to take us. There was a large high ridge over to the right of Omaha Beach that the Regiment had talked about a lot. That’s the ridge that was scaled by the earlier troops.(Point du Hoc?) Many of those troops were killed scaling and capturing this ridge. In the draw to the left of this ridge were German troops and the Navy was bombarding this draw. I asked the Navy seaman if he saw that ridge over there and he said “Yes.” Then I asked him if he saw where those Naval shells were hitting and he said “Yes.” I said, “Take us in and put us off about a thousand yards to the left of where those shells are hitting.” Fortunately that was precisely the place where we were supposed to land. We landed close to the shore and jumped out in water where there were still some iron things (the ‘Belgian Gates’?) in the water that prevented the LCI’s from going all the way up to the sand. Most of our troops had to jump out into water up to their shoulders, but we got out with our equipment---with our machine guns. One guy jumped into water that was over his head, holding his machine gun, but he scrambled out. We finally fished the machine gun out, gave it to him and he headed toward the shore.

We got out of the water and onto the shore. We weren’t receiving any fire then. There was no artillery fire or rifle fire. Then we had to walk across the dead American bodies which were still lying on the sand. The bodies of the men that had gone before us on D-Day were still on the sand. You could barely walk across that beach without stepping on a body. That was very bad and it was very discouraging, but we had been trained very well and we knew what to expect. We moved in about 1,000 yards without any serious damage and we didn’t have any casualties during the landing. I think the first casualty that we had in the Battalion was a lieutenant who stepped on one of those Bouncing Betty’s, which was a type of mine. He tripped the wire and when someone trips the wire the mine jumps up right in front of you, about three feet in the air. Three feet would be just about the right height to explode and tear you apart. The tendency then is to grab yourself around the stomach and that’s what happened to the lieutenant. He was killed instantly. He was one of our better lieutenants, too. His name was Lieutenant Graham and I’ll never forget him.

We moved in behind the 29th Infantry Division. I believe it was the 29th that had gone in before us on D-Day and pushed in about a thousand or fifteen hundred yards in some places. The beachhead was shaped like a rainbow. The British and the Canadians were landing to our left on other beaches. (Juno, Gold and Sword?) They seemed to have more success than we did because they didn’t meet as much resistance on their beaches. We met quite a bit of resistance because there was a German Armored Division maneuvering not very far from where we landed. But our dive bombers and so forth kept the enemy pretty well bottled up.

As I said, we moved inland and all we got was sniper fire. We also had to be very careful of mines because the entire area had been mined and not all of the mines had been cleared away.

We kept getting sniper fire from a three-story house to our right, so I got one the toughest sergeants that I had---I was the Commander of D Company at that time---and I sent him over to investigate and find out who was doing the shooting. He and another sergeant went over to the house and went inside. They went up and down all of the stairs and through every floor. When they finally got to the top floor, they found a French girl who was about twenty years old. She said she didn’t speak any English. We later found out that she had taken up with a German soldier who was on duty in this area and they were living together in this house. The German soldier had withdrawn and left her alone with a rifle. She didn’t like us very much. The sergeant asked her if she had a rifle. She understood what he had said and her reply was “No”. The sergeant couldn’t find the rifle for awhile, but when he went into the bedroom, he looked over at the bed which was not made properly. He raised the mattress and pulled out a rifle that had been placed under it. The barrel was still hot from firing but the girl wouldn’t admit to anything. He said that he took care of the girl and that she wouldn’t bother us anymore. I don’t know what he did to her, but I’m pretty sure that he must have shot her because all the evidence was right there. The sergeant told me that we would not be receiving any more sniper fire from that position. I don’t know what happened to her and to tell you the truth I didn’t ask him.

We moved approximately five to seven miles inland from the beachhead and pushed forward with very little resistance. We finally got to a place where we took up a position of a front line about a thousand yards away from the enemy. The enemy had moved back, waiting for reinforcements. We were ordered to stop moving forward and to hold our position until our ammunition caught up to us. We had to stop because we didn’t have the ammunition to go any further. The beach area where they were supposed to land our supplies was hit by a storm or gale. It was impossible to land on the beach any of the small boats carrying supplies, so a couple of ships had to be sunk out there to make a harbor.

At that time we were about seven to ten miles in from the beach and we were facing Germans who were about a thousand yards in front of us. I would be looking at the Germans through my field glasses. We were not about to provoke them into attacking us until we got our ammunition. Finally, after about ten days, the storm let up a little bit and we were able to get some ammunition. At one time during this period we didn’t have enough ammunition to sustain battle for more than an hour’s time. If the Germans had known this, they could have pushed us right back into the ocean.

There was another incident I want to mention here. We were in Normandy, in the hedgerow country and we moved into a kind of bivouac area for the night. The enemy had withdrawn in front of us. Colonel Wesson had told me that we may be vulnerable to an air attack and he had instructed me to be sure that I put all the machine guns up on pedestal mounts as soon as we got into the area. So I had all the machine guns placed on pedestal mounts and warned the gunmen of possible air attack. We had seen some German aircraft while we were moving up and sure enough, just before sundown, six German planes swarmed over our bivouac area, with four of the German planes flying really low. Some American fighter planes went after the six enemy planes and the American fighters were getting the best of them. The American planes would hover higher up and attack the enemy planes when they came up again. Then the four German planes came down again over our bivouac area, flying just above the treetops. As we had all the machine guns in the Battalion on pedestal mounts as ordered, we shot down three of the German planes. That was something very unusual. We could hardly miss them because we put our tracer bullets in front of the German aircraft as they were flying in over our area. You could see the tracers go through the enemy planes from front to back as they flew through the machine gun fire. I think that in most cases the pilots were hit because their planes immediately went astray. The other two German planes left and the American fighter planes got them. We had three German planes down in our immediate bivouac area and another enemy plane left, smoking. I think that our American fighter planes got it as it left our area but I never found out because the American Fighter Group never contacted us. I think that the American fighter planes stood off because they saw what was happening to the German planes down below and they didn’t want to get involved in the anti-aircraft fire. Anyhow they held back and three of the German planes fell in our Battalion area. I’m positive that our pedestal-mounted machine guns shot them down. It was like shooting fish in a rain barrel. We went around the area and looked at the downed enemy planes. The German pilots who had been killed were young men. The sight of one dead pilot turned my stomach because he had been cut in half around his belt line. One part of his body was up in a tree and the other part was on the ground. It was sickening to see. Even though we are in combat we do have respect for human life.

"As I said before, we were in Normandy, about ten miles inland, waiting for our ammunition to catch up to us. We were held up there for about ten to fifteen days. My Supply Sergeant in D Company was Sergeant Faye who was from the Detroit area. I think that he was French or French-Canadian because he spoke French. I also had another man whose name was Thompson. Thompson was a corporal who had been busted about ten times. When we were on garrison duty, Thompson would always go out on the town, get drunk and show up late for duty the next morning. He was a very smart man, but he loved his booze. Sergeant Faye and Corporal Thompson had decided that they were buddies because they both liked their booze. One day they saw a farm house about half-way between our line and the German lines. We were about a thousand yards apart. Those two men decided that since we were out in this area and we weren’t doing anything, they would go out to this farm house in no-man’s land. (I guess they started drinking early). They crawled out through our lines without letting anybody knowing they were going to do this. Before they left us, they fastened so many canteens around their ammunition belts that they sounded like a herd of cows with bells on. When we noticed them it was too late to stop them because they were already so far out in front of our line. They got to the farmhouse and went inside, looking for Calvados. (I think that is what we call ‘white lightning’ in this country). Calvados is apple cider distilled down to almost 180 proof. It was so strong that it was sometimes used in our jeeps to cut the gasoline. We would locate a place where a hundred gallons or so were stored in the basement. If you were crazy enough you could drink it, but you had to cut it pretty much with water in order to take it. After our two men got into the farmhouse, they went down to the basement and found a big barrel of Calvados down there. They filled about fifteen canteens with applejack and I imagine that they also had a few drinks. After they had filled their canteens, they were ready to leave the farmhouse and return to our lines. At that moment, they realized that they had not taken their helmets with them. They thought that they could leave our lines more quietly without them. When they came out of the farmhouse to return to our lines, the Germans started shooting at them. The Germans hadn’t seen them go in, but they saw them come out and began shooting at them. They went back to the farmhouse because every time they came out, the Germans started shooting at them. They looked around the house and found a couple of French WWI helmets in one of the rooms. They put the helmets on and started to crawl back towards our lines. Then our troops saw them crawling back, thought that they were Germans and began shooting at them. They maneuvered around for about thirty minutes and got out of sight of the Germans. But our troops were still shooting at them and I think that they finally figured out that those helmets were the reason that our troops were firing on them. They took the helmets off and threw them away. Finally they got close enough to our lines that Sergeant Faye stood up and hollered, “Don’t shoot me! I’ve got your applejack!” They did get back to our lines unharmed. I think that they didn’t get hit because the Germans were just having fun with them. I think that the Germans knew why our two men had gone into the farmhouse because they had probably done the same thing themselves.

Colonel Wesson was the Battalion Commander at that time and he was very much perturbed about this little incident. He called me in and told me to prepare court-martial papers for these two men. I was a little reluctant, but I didn’t show it. I didn’t think that they should be court-martialed for this. After all, they were good soldiers and we weren’t doing much.

We were getting pretty stale in our position because we weren’t firing, we weren’t attacking and except for a few occasions we weren’t sending any patrols. My First Sergeant and Company Clerk prepared the court-martial charges and sent them up to Regiment where Colonel Hirschfelder got the charges. It was spelled out explicitly what they had done, what they ran into and how many canteens of Calvados they brought back. I had prepared and signed the court-martial papers. It was under duress to tell you the truth. I didn’t want to court-martial them but Colonel Wesson insisted on it. The papers were sent up to Regiment and Colonel Hirschfelder looked them over and called me up to Regimental Headquarters. He told me that “the Regimental Commander has one power that I like”. He said, “I can tear these court- martial charges in two right down the middle.” Then Colonel Hirschfelder ripped the court-martial papers in two and called Colonel Wesson. Then he said to me, “what in hell are you doing preparing charges against these two men knowing that this was all that they did. There is nothing here serious enough to court martial them for”. I said, “Colonel I had no other choice”. That was SOP and I knew what he would do with them when he got them. He said, “Go back and tell your Battalion Commander what I did. No, I‘ll tell him what I did because I don’t believe these men deserve a court-martial. After all they have been fighting here for weeks and some of them probably needed a good drink.” It was passed on that way. I didn’t like to get mixed up in something like this but I was ordered to prepare the charges and I did what I was ordered to do. He over-ruled it right quick like.

At that time it was figured that we had enough ammunition to last no more than an hour to an hour and a half in a pitched battle. We were thankful the Germans didn’t start one. If they had, they would have pushed us right back into the ocean. Probably that was the most precarious position we had been in at anytime other than the Battle of the Bulge.

Anyway, we finally got our ammunition and moved out. We moved forward and passed through St. Lo, France. St. Lo had been captured by the D-Day troops. We passed the aid stations where the wounded had been brought. At one place there was no doctor there and the aid men were doing the best they could to stop the bleeding of the men and save their lives. We took a break there and our aid men helped out as long as they could.

Then we moved on until we came up against the enemy again and we had to fight. I guess we moved in several miles where the resistance was getting a little stronger. The further we went in the stronger the resistance got. We were pushing back the enemy outposts and getting into the main line of resistance (MLR) the Germans had set up. This is one place where we were supposed to attack and one morning we attacked.

One of our battalions- I’m not sure if it was the 2nd or 3rd Battalion- was a little slow about getting off. They were about four or five hundred yards from the enemy. Every time they would poke their heads over the hedgerow, a bullet would either hit them or come awfully close. So, they were a little hesitant about attacking. Colonel Hirschfelder happened to come up to that area and he saw what was happening. He was a wise old man and not caring too much about his safety, he jumped up on top of the hedgerow with his back to the enemy and says, “Look! There is nothing out there. Let’s go!” When our troops saw this, they went over that hedgerow with bayonets fixed and took that German position.

I would like to describe a little bit about the countryside in Normandy. The farmers there had built hedges around each field. These hedges were called hedgerows. Sometimes the fields would be two to three acres in size and at other times only one acre. At times the fields were shaped into a rectangle, a square or a triangle. In other words, the way the farmer’s land was divided, there would be hedgerows around each field. The hedgerows were built up as a mound of dirt about four feet high and two to four feet across. On the hedgerows were bushy growths of little trees that would get about as big as your arm and were about an inch to two inches in diameter.

Now we were fighting through these hedgerows. The Germans would be on one side of the field and our forces would be on the other side of the field. Generally, the Germans were retreating but they were retreating very slowly. It took a pretty good fight to get ‘em to move back to another hedgerow. I’m sure their mission was to delay us until they could get some armor there to stop us. Anyway, we kept fighting in these hedgerows and they were very deadly for both sides.

Sometimes a patrol would be moving straight along a hedgerow line when a German machine gun would pop up right in front of them at the end of this hedgerow where it joined another one at an angle. You would see five or six people lying on top of each other where they had been mowed down by the machine gun. You had to be very careful. We learned that very early and the Germans did too. The hedgerow fighting was very deadly and slow.

Roads going through the area had been lined with trip mines by the Germans. We had to be send patrols out to clear the roads of these mines. The engineers did most of that.

The Germans also tied piano wire across the roads. The piano wire was tied at exactly the right height so that it would catch the driver of a jeep who was driving with his windshield down right in the throat and cut his head off. That happened once or twice, but then we took care of it. We sent all of our jeeps back to the rear echelon and they welded a piece of angle iron up from the bumper that would cut the piano wires as a jeep came down the road.

The Battalion Commander, Lt. Colonel Wesson, received orders to attack the German position and we moved out. We were trying to close the Falaise Gap and capture all those German troops, enabling General Patton to break out with his Armored Divisions and move toward Paris. We received orders one morning that we were to attack a German position the next day in the hedgerow country, which was kind of hilly. We were moving away from the very flat terrain. We had Intelligence information that a fresh German Regiment had moved in front of us. We put a lot of stock in that information from Intelligence, because we too had heard the Germans moving into position. Our Battalion was supposed to attack this German Regiment the next morning.

We had a Company Commanders’ meeting that evening and during the discussion of how we were going to attack, Lt. Colonel Wesson came up with an idea. We had one tank and one tank was all we had! Lt. Col. Wesson said, “We are going to run this tank all night long. It is going in and out of our position, down the front and all around. That motor is going to be running all night long and those Germans are going to think we have a tank battalion behind us.”

And sure enough, we jumped off in the attack the next day and the entire German Regiment surrendered to us en masse. They lined up and marched to the rear. The Interrogation Officer asked one of them why they surrendered when they had just been put into position and only a few shots were fired. The Germans’ response was, “We can take your infantry and we can take the artillery, but when you attack with your infantry, your artillery and your tanks, we don’t have a chance. That is why we surrendered.” We had pulled a big sham and the Germans fell for it.

After that there was nothing in front of us, so we started moving pretty fast. We were trying to get to a certain point so that General Patton would have enough area to deploy his tank divisions and break out of the beachhead.

The British were on our left and to our immediate left was the U.S. 23rd Infantry Regiment. The British were to the left of the 23rd Infantry. Now the British had a custom. At four o’clock every afternoon---I don’t care what was happening---the British would stop for tea. If they were on your flank, you had to watch your flank very carefully while you were moving and be sure to cover any gap being formed. We would move our Reserve Company to cover the gap created. The British would finish their tea and then they would try to catch up with us.

As I said, the 23rd Infantry Regiment was deployed on our left. We moved along and one night, after having moved about fifteen miles that day, we came across a big hedgerow that must have been a mile long. Our Battalion was in column formation---not deployed and platoons in line---when we came to this big hedgerow that was about head-high. We started receiving fire and we could hear tank motors on the other side of the hedgerow. We discovered there was a company of tanks across the hedgerow from us and we were up against the hedgerow. Then the tanks began to be aware that we were there and began firing their machine guns across the top of the hedgerow, hitting the ground. They were firing as low as they could, but there was a dead zone between where the bullets were hitting the ground and the hedgerow where we were taking cover. They were using tracer ammunition that lit up the area pretty good.

From the sound of the machine guns I knew dang well they were American tanks and American machine guns. Lt. Colonel Wesson came over to me and said, “Bill, what do you think of this situation?” And I said, “Well, I’m pretty sure they are American tanks.” He said, “I have tried to contact the 23rd but I can’t get them on the radio and I can’t get them on the phone. They are just out of contact." I think he was fishing to see if I would volunteer to go and try to contact those tanks. He said, “Do you think it’s possible to get out through this firing and contact them?” (firing was continuous) The tank machine guns were firing, strafing up and down and then another one would fire. I said, “Yes, if I can find a position to get out. If you look down to the left, you will notice there is a dead space in their firing about fifty or a hundred feet wide.” I have noticed it and there is no machine gun fire there at all. There must be some reason the tanks can’t cover that area.” Colonel Wesson looked over and said, “You’re right. Well, do you want to volunteer to go over there and contact the 23rd Infantry?” I hesitated for a minute and then said, “Hell yes! I’ll go!” My runner, who was a brave soldier, popped up and said, “Captain, I ‘ll go with you!” I asked him if he was volunteering and he answered “Yes.” So we crept out to that area where the dead space was. It was just as dark as it could be—no moon. We moved out about two or three hundred yards and made a right turn. We finally made our way over and across in the direction where the 23rd Infantry was supposed to be. We traveled about two thousand yards through the area that was forested with lots of trees. We finally met one of their outposts on their right flank and he challenged us. Fortunately we knew the password because they were about ready to shoot us. I spoke to him and said that I would like to find the Regimental Command Post because their tanks were attacking us over there. I told him that their azimuth was wrong and they were attacking in the wrong direction. He directed me towards the Regimental Command Post where I talked to the S-3. The S-3 called the tanks on the radio, he told them what they were doing and the firing stopped. I beat my way back to a grateful Battalion Commander who thanked me. He later recommended my runner and me for the Silver Star, which we both received.

After that we moved out pretty fast. We moved for about six or eight hours and we finally we got pinched out. The 9th Infantry Regiment was completely pinched out. The British on our left moved in and cut out the 9th Infantry and almost all of the 23rd Infantry. We had friendly forces in front of us after that.

The higher command then decided that it would send us down to the Brittany Peninsula to capture the port city of Brest. This port is where German submarines came in for repair and replacement of ammunition, etc. It was very important that the city be decommissioned. Anyhow, the 2nd Division got orders to move down to the Brittany Peninsula which was probably twenty or thirty miles from our location. It took us two or three hours to get there. We were driving at night without lights and it was very slow movement. We had a man sitting on the hood of each vehicle guiding the driver, so we moved very slowly. We were actually moving parallel to the enemy front lines and we had to be very careful. At least I thought so.

The Battalion Commander, Lt. Colonel Wesson, took half of the Battalion and lined them up in a march unit. He had the Battalion Headquarters, Company A and Company B. I was still in command of Company D and I had the second march unit, following with Company C and Company D. Colonel Wesson and his march unit moved out, crossing the IP (initial point) and moved to the Brittany Peninsula through a road marked on the map. Thirty minutes after the rear of his unit passed the IP, our march unit moved out.

We moved along at a slow pace- at five or six miles per hour- sometimes at seven or ten miles per hour where the road was straight. We had to use light very sparingly for safety reasons. We would take our shelter half and get under it, turn on our flashlights and look at the map. We finally reached our assembly area on the outskirts of Brest. After we occupied our assembly area, I reported to Colonel Hirschfelder. He asked me if the other march unit was behind me. I told him that they should be here as they left thirty minutes before I did. And boy, that threw him into what I call a fit. He jumped up and down and said, “What in the world could have happened?” He was afraid they had wandered off into enemy territory and were captured en masse.

About forty-five minutes to an hour after my march unit arrived, Colonel Wesson and his march unit arrived. But I hadn’t passed him on the road and the Colonel was trying to find out who went astray. I think that was pretty obvious. I had taken a short cut across enemy territory and got there quicker for some reason. I don’t know for sure what happened. I don’t know if he took longer breaks or moved slower than I did. Anyway, I beat him there by about an hour. Of course the only logical thought you could have since he left half an hour before I did was that he went astray some place. But Colonel Wesson said no, that he kept moving. We never did figure out what happened. Anyway, we had the whole Battalion together again.

There were a lot of wheat fields in our zone. The wheat was about three to four feet high and just getting ripe. The first day we were in the assembly area and I noticed that someone was crawling through the wheat field—coming in a line. So we knew that it was probably somebody trying to escape from the city and surrender, or else a German patrol was trying to get out and see what was happening on the other side.

Sergeant Babin was 1st Sergeant of D Company and he had wanted to get in some firing. He said, “I just want to shoot my weapon one time.” So I pointed out this movement through the wheat field to both the 1st Sergeant and the Lieutenant. Then the Lieutenant pointed out this same movement to the 1st Sergeant and said, “Sergeant, do you see that wheat moving out there? That’s a German patrol approaching and here is a carbine. Take this carbine and when they come out of the wheat field, you say, ‘Handes hoch!’ They will probably surrender to you, but keep your finger on that trigger.” The weapon was a semi-automatic carbine with a long clip. I think the magazine carried about thirty rounds of ammunition. Sergeant Babin had his finger on what he thought was the safety, but it was the clip release. The Germans came out of the wheat field and stood up with their weapons. We had Sergeant Babin covered because we didn’t know what he might do. When Sergeant Babin started to press the safety off his rifle he hit the wrong thing and dropped the magazine to the ground. When that happened, he could only fire about one round. However, when the Germans came out, they surrendered and nothing happened. Sergeant Babin got away with it but he was happy and he said, “Well, I know what it is like up there, but I still want to be First Sergeant and stay back at the Command Post.”

Our Mess Sergeant, who was a good man and the best Mess Sergeant in the world, decided that he would rather be a platoon sergeant. We happened to have a vacancy because one of the platoon sergeants had been hit. We got him transferred and he took over one of the platoon sergeant positions. After a couple of days in the assembly area, we moved out in an attack against the city of Brest. We attacked one morning about eight o’clock with heavy casualties on our side. As we moved out in our attack, we met a ferocious enemy. They were hard to dislodge. I saw our former Mess Sergeant lying on the ground. He and three or four soldiers with him had been shot by a machine gun and killed. He had moved out, going forward along a hedgerow, when an enemy machine gun at the other end of the hedgerow popped up, mowing him and his entire group down.

We also had a terrific amount of German artillery falling on us. As Brest was a port city, the enemy had lots of big guns. However, our mortar platoon was doing pretty well. I had noticed that while moving up in Normandy, some of the fields would not have any artillery bursts in them. The ground was clear, no holes from artillery shells and I figured that for some reason that was a dead space in the artillery fire. It wasn’t covered by their overlays, therefore they weren’t shooting in those spaces. So I advised my mortar platoon to always put its mortars up in a field that didn’t have any shell holes in it. Since we followed that practice throughout the war from then on, we had very few casualties in our mortar platoon during the entire war. It paid off. In addition, I don’t think we had over two or three casualties in the mortar platoon during our entire attack through Normandy until the capture of Brest. So that was one thing that turned out to be right.

The fields that didn’t have any shell craters were the fields that for some reason the artillery could not cover, or for some reason was not covering. It might been the overlays they were shooting on, or between the overlays---I don’t know, but that practice worked fine.

We moved on up to the hedgerows towards Brest and on 28 August 1944 we were pretty stabilized. We were moving very slowly, making sure we took care of enemy machine guns on the opposite side of the next hedgerow before we moved our troops out.

When we were attacking through Brest, Colonel Hirschfelder assigned me as Battalion Executive Officer. I was up on one hedgerow when the Battalion Commander asked me to go and see what was happening on the left side of the Battalion, so I went over there. A German machine gun was shooting at anyone that stuck his head up. I asked my runner how many hand grenades he had and he told me that he had two or three. He gave me one of them. I spotted the machine gun nest on the next hedgerow, probably about thirty-five or forty yards away. Anyway, he was blasting away and anybody who stuck his head up was getting shot. D Company’s Mortar Platoon forward observers were along the same hedgerow. They were trying to hit the machine gun with mortars, but they hadn’t had any success as they were shooting around it and the German was still shooting. Now I grew up in South Carolina and when I was young, I liked to throw rocks. I was pretty good at throwing those rocks, so naturally I liked to throw grenades. I was pretty good at throwing them, too. So, I pulled the pin on the hand grenade and I threw it just like a little football, putting a little spin on it. I threw a ‘Hail Mary’ and that thing sailed through the air. That grenade headed for the enemy machine gun nest, landed in it and exploded. I was with the men from a squad of Company B at that time and they and the mortar forward observer told me that I got that machine gun and blew it out of existence!

However, as I raised my head up and started to come down after I had thrown the hand grenade at the machine gun, that machine gunner took a burst at me. The bullets cut my throat and I fell back on the ground. The doctors said three bullets hit me but it didn’t hurt---there was no pain. It just felt as though someone stuck a pin in me. I guess the nerves were cut off and it quit hurting. I was lying on my back on the ground and I reached up with my hand to feel the damage. I could touch the back of my throat with my fingers. I realized that the blood was choking me to death and I turned over on my stomach so the blood would run out instead of running down my throat. The aid men came running over. They turned me over on my back to put sulpher powder and a pad on the wound and to tape me up. But every time they would turn me over on my back, I would start choking. They didn’t realize what the problem was. This happened three times and the third time I just kicked the living hell out of them. They thought I had gone crazy I guess. By this time the Battalion Commander had come over to where I was and saw what was happening. He realized that I needed to be on my stomach. Then a team arrived to take me back to the aid station. They turned me face down on the litter so the blood could run out. Although no arteries in my throat had been cut, there were a lot of veins in there that had been severed and I was bleeding like a stuck pig. I got to the Battalion Aid Station where there was a Jewish doctor who was very funny. He was always making you laugh. As a matter of fact, he reminded me of a character in the movie of Treasure Island, Benn Gun. He was a lovable character and one couldn’t help but like him. He is no longer living.

The doctor looked at me and he saw that most of the bleeding had stopped. He put on a rubber glove, reached into my throat and got his finger around my jugular vein. He handed me a mirror and said to me, “Look, do you see that? That is how close he came to you.” Of course that made me feel good to know that he missed me. Anyway, they took me back to the field hospital and dressed me up the best they could. Then I was transferred to a hospital in England where I was a patient for about three months. The Germans had a lot of big guns and a lot of machine guns at Brest, so we lost a lot of troops there. Finally, Bill Kernan, who I think commanded the battalion on our right, thought that his battalion might be able to get into Brest by going through a sewer line that ran out of the city. So he sent a patrol to see if it could get through the sewer line and it did. It came out right in the middle of a German camp. The patrol returned to our lines and reported that it had gotten through, so Kernan moved his battalion through the sewer into Brest. They got through by about eight or nine o’clock. The German High Command was sitting around the breakfast table having breakfast when the battalion surrounded them. The Germans all surrendered and that was the end of Brest. Since I was wounded at Brest, I never got into that city.

When I first got to the hospital, I was in a bed next to one of the glider pilots who had crashed. The Germans had put up steel posts all over the airfields the day before the glider pilots flew in. The Germans were ready for them and most of the gliders crashed on landing. I was told that this glider pilot had about one hundred or two hundred bones broken in his body. However, he was still alive and able to smile. But the odor coming from his wounds was so bad that I just could not take that smell. I began to vomit, so I called the nurse over and said, “Look, I don’t want to appear out of line here, but if you don’t move me from this odor we have right here, it’s going to kill me.” She got the drift and she moved me. Sterile maggots had been put into the sores of the glider pilot and they were eating away the dead flesh. I assumed that he was being given a lot of penicilin and other antibiotics. The pilot survived. I don’t think he was ever a fighter after that but he survived. I checked up on that.

After three months in the hospital, any patient whom the doctors thought was ready and wanted to return to his unit was allowed to return. I volunteered because I wanted to get back to my unit. If I waited too long, I might not get back to the same dear old Regiment that I loved.

I believe that Captain Baird and I were in the same hospital. He was wounded in his appendix by a German pistol that he was examining that he didn’t know had a bullet in it. He had been sent to the hospital for an operation. He and another officer came back with me. I can’t remember who he was, but he was from the 23rd Infantry. Tom Burch, who commanded H Company, was also in the same hospital unit. After the capture of Brest and while I was in the hospital, the Regiment moved by trucks from that area to the border area between Belgium and Germany. General Patton had broken through the front line which ran along the border of Belgium and curved back into France and on down South.

When I got back to the Regiment, I learned that I had been promoted to major about two months before my return. I also learned that I had been decorated with the Silver Star. I didn’t know that either. As soon as I got to the Regiment, General Robertson approached me and pinned the Silver Star on me. I thought that was kind of him because I think that the last time I saw him was when we got aboard ship. Anyway, we had a nice Command Post there. It was a big dug-out with logs over the top, then dirt over the logs and pine boughs over that, so we were pretty safe. The Battalion had about two or three thousand yards to cover and the Regiment covered several miles of front. The terrain was so rugged that no one expected a German attack to come through that sector. All we could do was to send out patrols and post our outposts to cover the distance we had to protect. That’s what the Battalion was doing.

When I reported to Colonel Hirschfelder after I returned from the hospital, he told me that he had about four or five days or work for me to do before he sent me back to my Battalion. He still hadn’t told me that I had been promoted. He said, “I have three or four half-tracks out here with multiple machine guns (quad 50s) on them. I want you to set these machine guns up and figure out the data needed to interdict those roads by overhead fire. There are a lot of crossroads and road nets that cross over this forest about a mile away that have a lot of German traffic.” So, I figured this out and finally got a spotter plane to tell me that I was on target. I was in charge of those machine guns and they put out a terrific volume of fire. Every few minutes I would change the target. I would change it every five minutes, every twenty minutes, every fifteen minutes, then back to every ten minutes in order to catch as many German vehicles as I could that were using that road. I fired on them at irregular intervals of time. If I had fired every twenty minutes, the Germans would have caught on to that and moved out during the lull. The volume of fire was terrific. I had eight machine guns that were all firing at the same point. There was dispersion because 50-calibre machine guns have quite a bit of dispersion when you fire them at great distances such as a mile away. But I found out that I was hitting the roads and the crossroads, so I kept firing.

The Germans were sending out V-1’s- buzz bombs I believe they called them. They were drones with guidance systems that carried them to London. The drone would fly about a hundred to two hundred feet in the air---no more---just high enough to clear the treetops and the hilltops from where they were launched. It must have had a mechanism or guidance system on it that kept it a certain distance from the ground. We were ordered not to shoot those V-1’s down because they might fall on our own troops, explode and kill a lot of our own men. One of those drones flew right through my cone of fire when I was firing and there was nothing that I could about it. I saw the tracer bullets going right through the drone. It nose-dived, started towards the ground and exploded. Fortunately it exploded before it hit the ground. I went out to see what had happened and I found some pieces of the drone with my machine gun bullet holes in it. So I couldn’t deny that I had shot it down. I took that piece in to Colonel Hirschfelder and told him what had happened. I told him that I had shot down a German V-1 and he asked me why I shot it down. I told him that I couldn’t help it because it flew right through my cone of fire. He said, “OK, Bill, you liar. I would have done the same thing.” I don’t know if he believed me or not, or if he was just kidding. He said, “Now you can go up to your Battalion and take over the job there as Battalion Executive officer.”

I went over to the Battalion where I was told to report to Lt. Colonel McKinley as his Battalion Executive Officer. To my surprise, Lt. Colonel McKinley was the Battalion Commander, replacing Lt. Colonel Wesson who had been killed while I was in the hospital. Colonel Wesson had stepped on a mine. He was a soldier tried and true who wanted a Regular Army Commission and a career in the Army in the worst way. Had he lived, I believe that he would have received both. This was sad news and I was very sorry to hear this.

Captain P. J. Limm, who had been acting as Battalion Executive Officer, returned to his original job as Assistant S-3 Operations Officer at Regimental Headquarters. When Captain Limm, Olaf Carlson and a couple of other officers were reconnoitering for a new Regimental CP location, they became involved in a firefight with the Germans. This is true. I heard about that.

I was happy to have Lt. Colonel McKinley as my Battalion Commander because I knew him very well. I don’t know if he requested me or not because he never did tell me. Anyway, Colonel Hirschfelder assigned me to Lt. Colonel McKinley, so I reported to him. I had been there for three or four days, rested up good and the Battalion was also pretty well rested when the order to attack the Roer Dams came through.

First Army was going to attack and capture the Roer Dams before they could be blown and inundate the flat, low countries with water. Inundating those flat, low countries would have been a great asset to the Germans. They wouldn’t have to defend the inundated area because it would be impossible to move through it without boats.

As I said, our mission was to capture the Roer Dams and I assume that was also the Regiment’s mission because the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry, commanded by Lt. Colonel Higgins was to be on our right during the attack. The 1st Battalion was to be on the left, but we had no one on our left flank. We were assigned intermediate objectives of German pillboxes that were located on the old Siegfried Line (Wahlerscheid). The pillboxes there were probably built during WWI. They were made of cement with walls at least a yard thick and re-inforced with steel rods. It was impossible to blast them with any weapon that the Regiment or the Division had. We got some three-inch rifles up, but I don’t know where they came from.

Anyway, they blasted away. When the three-inch rifles would fire, you would hear a boom, boom. When you fired on the pillboxes, you could hear the shells hitting them. The rounds would chip away at the pillboxes and they broke one of them apart. We moved out through a heavy forest of tall pine or fir trees. The trees were about a hundred feet tall and heavily limbed at the top, so I assume that they were fir trees. We crossed our line of departure for the attack and the Germans began shelling us. All of the artillery shells were hitting in the tops of the trees and exploding, so we were not receiving much effect from the shelling. The shell fragments would drop down on top of our helmets, but since the shell fragments were spent they weren’t causing any casualties.

It was snowing at that time and the snow was knee deep. We trudged along toward our jump-off point and from there we moved out in attack formation. We moved for a mile or two and then we hit a barbed-wire entanglement that was in front of some German pillboxes. Those pillboxes were our intermediate objectives. This barbed-wire entanglement was ten feet wide and head high. It proved very difficult to get through. After we captured the pillboxes, we were to move on and capture the Roer River Dams.

But we were held up at the barbed-wire entanglement. We suffered the most casualties from the weather during that movement. We moved slowly through snow that was about knee-deep and we had quite a few frozen feet. In fact, I saved my feet by taking off my boots two or three times a day when I had a chance. I then rubbed my feet to warm them and to get the circulation going good. Colonel McKinley did the same thing so we fared pretty well as far as our feet were concerned. At times you would get so cold that you would shiver automatically. I learned from the doctors that this was an automatic reflex that warmed you again and sometimes saved your life. There were times you would shake so long that you were embarrassed because you looked like you were scared to death. If two people could get together---particularly at night if they slept in foxholes---they could put their feet together to keep warm. This method worked fine and was practiced by some of the troops. But it was hard to get much sleep though. IT WAS SO COLD! One time my boot strings came untied and were frozen when I tried to re-tie them. They snapped like a twig from a dead tree. After that I learned to rub my shoe strings with my hands to warm them up a little and then re-tie them. We lost a lot of people who went back to the rear because of cold-weather injuries. We started out with a full-strength battalion, but during that attack against the pillboxes, I think that we must have lost twenty percent of our command from the cold alone. Finally we got up to the barbed-wire entanglement that was out in front of the pillboxes, but we couldn’t get through it. But Lt. Colonel Higgins, Commander of the 2nd Battalion, was on our right and one of his patrols found an opening in the barbed wire. The patrol came back and reported it. I don’t know what made the opening unless one of those rifle shells hit it and blew it apart. Colonel Higgins immediately exploited that gap in the wire that his patrol found by having that patrol go through the opening, which it did. It got very close to the pillboxes without being detected. He moved his entire battalion through this gap where they surrounded and captured the pillboxes in his sector and the Germans surrendered.

Those pillboxes had apertures on at least two or three sides to fire machine guns through. If you could crawl up to them without being seen, you were in pretty good shape because the Germans couldn’t shoot you. They were also set up to protect each other. They would fire grazing fire across in front of each other. When the two pillboxes surrendered, our pillbox was not covered by grazing fire from the ones that had been captured. But our pillbox hadn’t surrendered yet. Finally we got a patrol up to our pillbox. The pillbox in our sector closed up its apertures, enabling us to get through and surround it without many casualties. We figured that there must be some ventilation system coming from the top of the pillboxes, and there was.

We formed a squad to go in and climb up on top of the pillbox. Since the other pillboxes in the area had surrendered, it was safe to get up on top of this one because no one was shooting at you. The squad took explosive charges, wired them together and rammed them down a hose. I don’t know where they got the hose---I think that they must have gotten it from the Engineers. Our pioneer and ammunition officer fixed up a charge and a way to set off the explosion. (we called it a ‘Bangalore Torpedo’) The squad took the hose that was packed full of high explosives but still flexible, up to the pillbox. They found the ventilation system to the inside of the pillbox and ignited the charge. The explosion rattled the Germans inside, but it didn‘t blow the pillbox away. However, it did cause a heck of a commotion down inside the pillbox. The Germans came out through the smoke coughing and holding a white flag and surrendered. We had captured our pillbox about three or four o’clock in the afternoon.

We let the pillbox air out a little bit after the Germans surrendered because it smelled of burnt powder. Then we moved in, put our CP (Command Post) in the pillbox and the Germans immediately withdrew. But understanding German tactics and methods of operation, we knew that they would gather their forces and counter-attack the next morning at daylight in order to re-capture the pillboxes.

Colonel McKinley turned to me and said, “Bill, you and Harvey get out there and set up the defenses around these pillboxes because the Germans will counter-attack in the morning. I know they will.” We set up the defenses and put the machine guns in for the entire battalion front. I put each machine gun in position along the front, protecting our area with grazing fire out to 200 yards and interlocking crossfire all the way down the line. We set the machine gun erase boards so the machine guns could shift their fire back and forth when the attack started. We had mortar fire planned for areas not covered by machine gun fire, including the likely avenues of any German attack when the attack came. Artillery concentrations were also planned, plotted in and registered out in front of our position.

The Germans attacked the next day at daylight. That was the morning of the 16th of December (1944). They sent wave after wave of infantrymen against our positions and each time they would be repulsed. They would withdraw those that could walk and the rest of them would be piled up dead in front of our positions. They came in five waves and they finally got tired of this. By that time they figured that it was futile to continue the attack. Then they raised the white flag to come in and pick up their dead. They brought their dead and wounded out and moved to the rear area somewhere. That was the last that we heard of them. We didn’t stay there very long because we sure the Germans would have attacked again as soon as they were able. As I said, their dead were piled on top of each other in front of the machine guns. The Germans seemed to have no respect for human life when it came to fighting---none whatsoever. After the second wave, they should have known that they would have to use a different method to get into position, but they continued to send wave after wave. We were losing no one and we had very few casualties.

There is something that I should mention. During that attack, there was a German bazooka team that got through the lines and was coming towards our CP (Command Post). The lead man of that team had a bazooka with a head on it that looked like a big hornet’s nest---the ones that hang on the limb of a tree. I would say that the head was seven or eight inches in diameter and it was long---about ten or twelve inches long. It would be fired against whatever the target might be. I pointed out the lead man of this team to Lieutenant Roy Allen who was over there with a carbine that had thirty rounds in it. He had one of those crooked magazines (a banana clip) on his carbine. He saw this German coming, so he started shooting him. He shot the German seven times but he was still up and walking. With the next shot, though, he fell to the ground, but he wasn’t dead. He tried to get up but was unable to do so. However, he kept crawling, still carrying his bazooka. Finally, he conked over and was pretty much out, so we went out and took his bazooka. The other two men who were with him surrendered and we sent the wounded man back to our aid station. He was one of the bravest fellows that I have ever seen. He just wouldn’t stop. He must have been six-foot four and weighed about 250 or 275 pounds. I called him ‘Goliath’. He certainly exhibited all the guts and courage of any man I have ever seen.

We took him to our aid station because I thought that he deserved a chance to live even though he was the enemy. I imagine that this bazooka team leader had volunteered to get out there and do what damage that he could. Anyhow, he sure was determined. That was the end of our fighting there. After that, it was quiet all day and we rested a little. We also got some warm food to eat but we kept our defenses up."

"This was the night of the 16th of December1944. It was almost dark and all was quiet with no firing. About six o’clock that night as it was getting dark, I walked out of the CP and looked to the south. I like to look at the sky at night if it isn’t cloudy or foggy. I looked way south and there was a big cloudbank. It looked like a blue cloudbank for miles and miles and miles. Against that cloudbank there were flashes of light. At first I thought it was lightning. I come from South Carolina where we had a lot of clouds in the late evening with a lot of lightning and rainstorms- once or twice a week. I could hear the roar to the south and I noticed that the roar continued all the time. It was just like artillery fire and I thought that it must be flashes from artillery fire. Then I decided that it was probably an attack kicking off to our south and that’s what it really was.

I went back to the CP so that I could tell Colonel McKinley what I saw, but he was taking a nap that was long overdue. He hadn’t had much sleep during the attack. Neither had I, but I had taken my nap earlier. About that time the phone rang. It was Colonel Steele from Regiment. He told me that he would like to speak to Colonel McKinley and I told him that Colonel McKinley was taking his nap. I said that I hated to wake him unless it was very important that he speak to him. I then asked if I could take the message and Colonel Steele said, “Sure.” He gave me the message and the message was that there had been a serious enemy counter-attack to the south. The counter-attack was successful and American troops were withdrawing. They were being over-run by enemy tanks and were moving to the rear. I think those American troops were probably the 23rd Infantry Regiment.

We received a warning order that the 1st Battalion would probably withdraw to the south the next morning at daylight and take positions around Rocherath and Krinkelt. Those positions would be taken in order to block the road-net coming from the heavily-forested area that lead down to the twin villages of Rocherath and Krinkelt and then into a network of roads leading right to the ocean. The message was: “Your unit may move out into defensive positions down there. We don’t know what we are up against yet. If you are ordered to move, a messenger will be on the road to meet you with the latest information and tell you where to go into position.”

That warning order sounded absolutely horrible. After capturing the pillboxes at Wahlerscheid, the Battalion was going to withdraw and give them up. Colonel Steele said that he would get us more information as soon as it came in to Regiment. We were to warn our companies to be prepared to withdraw the next morning, but we were not to withdraw until ordered to do so by Regiment. About that time Colonel McKinley woke up and heard me talking to Colonel Steele. He got up and we made plans to withdraw the next morning.

The next morning about six o’clock, Colonel McKinley was ordered down to the Regimental CP and receive an order. The order was to move and go into positions around Rocherath and Krinkelt. We were to defend the network of roads at all costs for at least eighteen hours, or until relieved. “Hold until relieved.”

The plan was that the Division and Corps would form a defensive line behind us on the ridge (Elsenborn Ridge). They figured that within eighteen hours they could be in a position to defend and stop this attack. By that time the 1st and the 9th Infantry Divisions were moving in. These three Divisions---the 1st, the 2nd and the 9th Infantry Divisions constituted the V Corps.

Colonel McKinley called me from the Regimental CP to tell me that the order had been issued and to have the withdrawal plans drawn up. He said that when he got back he would put them into effect. He also called the Company Commanders in when he got back and he gave them the orders. Colonel McKinley was very explicit in the orders. He said that we would leave three men per squad---it was already in the plan and that was what we did. That was the same thing that we had planned because it was more or less SOP in our Battalion to leave three men per squad while the rest of the Battalion withdraws to an assembly area. Those three men would be a rifleman, a BAR man and his ammunition carrier. The heavy machine guns and the heavy mortars would stay in position as long as they could. The heavy machine guns and the rifle troops, other than the three men per squad, would withdraw to the rear to an assembly area designated to the Company Commanders. After they withdrew, the skeleton force that was left on the front lines was to keep up the fire and convince the enemy that there was nothing unusual occurring, just normal operations. The skeleton force moved up and down the line firing from many different positions along the front. The BAR men would fire bursts of fire from positions where the machine guns had been set up to fire. Then at a given time, the firing ceased and the skeleton force moved out to the assembly area. Then when the main body had assembled in the assembly area, Colonel McKinley would start and lead the march toward Rocherath and Krinkelt.

It was about ten miles to Rocherath/Krinkelt and it was somewhere along this road that Colonel McKinley was supposed to meet a messenger who had further instructions for our Battalion. Colonel McKinley moved along and things went along normal. He told me I was in command of the rear guard. I was to bring the skeleton forces left at the front to the assembly area 20 minutes after he had crossed the IP (initial point) with the main body. We kept the firing in effect along the front. The riflemen would fire, then move up and down the line and fire from the positions where the squad had previously been. The firing would be from different positions. The BAR men would fire from the machine gun positions and we moved the BAR’s around so that they were pretty well covered. The idea was to keep the enemy from knowing that anything unusual was happening. We got away with it and when the front-line skeleton force received orders to withdraw, they did it slowly and methodically.

We had a heavy barrage of mortar fire from our mortars and the artillery fired out in front of our position. When the mortar fire was finished, our mortars picked up and took off down the road behind the Battalion. The covering force then moved into the assembly area without a hitch. No one was wounded and there were no casualties.

I had to burn a jeep that had broken down and was out of commission. We put all the extra weapons from the soldiers wounded in that earlier German attack into the jeep. Then I took a thermite grenade, set it on fire and burned it all up. I don’t believe the Germans even knew that we had moved back. They probably didn’t know it until they started probing the position again. I don’t know what happened there (at the pillboxes at Wahlerscheid) after that, but the enemy took it over.

The covering force left the assembly area about twenty to thirty minutes behind Colonel McKinley and the main body. We would go at a normal rate of march for ten minutes and then we would double time for awhile. After about forty minutes, Colonel McKinley stopped for a roadside rest. At that point we caught up with the rest of the Battalion and I reported to Colonel McKinley. He told me that he was waiting for the messenger, but if he didn’t show up soon he was going to start marching again.

About that time we saw a jeep coming down the road and could you believe it- it was General Robertson, the Division Commander. He had never left that front. He was there all the time. His actions that day should have earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was up in the front lines but he didn’t mind it. It was obvious that he was a very important person to anyone who was watching. I don’t know if he got a decoration for that or not. He did not seem to care as much about decorations as some divisions did.

General Robertson had a signed order and the information on the enemy. He said that there was a Panzer Army headed through that forest area on a single road in front of Rocherath/Krinkelt. They were, at the most, three or four hours away from reaching the edge of the wooded area which was the bottom of the opening in front of the twin villages of Rocherath/Krinkelt. As I said before, our Battalion was to go into position out in front of the twin villages at the crossroads and “hold at all costs for eighteen hours or until relieved or ordered to withdraw.” The General said that the rest of the Division and the Corps would form a defensive line behind us on Elsenborn Ridge (the Northern Shoulder) while we were holding at the crossroads.

As General Robertson started to leave, Colonel McKinley said, “General, when you write home, give my best regards to Mrs. Robertson.” Now Colonel McKinley’s comment to the General was simply the same, courteous statement that he would have made under normal circumstances. However, General Robertson understood the Colonel’s comment to mean that Colonel McKinley thought the orders that he had just received from the General meant a sure death sentence. But General Robertson said to Colonel McKinley, "Bill, it isn't going to be that bad. You'll make it.” Then the two of them laughed about it and General Robertson said that he would come back with some 2 ˝ ton trucks to pick up our Battalion. And, the General did send four 2 ˝ ton trucks back.

We were able to move about half the Battalion and the other half was left with me to bring in on foot. The General also said that if he could find any more 2 ˝ ton trucks in the area he would send them back to pick up my group. And sure enough, in about thirty minutes, three 2 ˝ ton trucks came to pick us up. We piled our equipment and the men into the trucks and moved down to the assembly area just outside of Rocherath.

When we got there, Captain Felton, the Commander of Headquarters Company, had selected a CP (Command Post). This new CP had been an old artillery dug-out where the gun had been dug in to support our initial attack towards the Roer River Dams. It was nice and it had a little table with a phone on it. Communications back to Regiment were being put in, so he had radio contact with Regiment. We were all set.

Colonel McKinley was called up to Regiment to receive the final order. As he left, he told Captain Harvey and me to set up the defenses. So, we went out and designated the Company areas. A Company was on the right and to the right of A Company was K Company, the Company that General Robertson had put into position earlier. He had jerked K Company from the tail of a column moving and put it into position out in front of Krinkelt. We were supposed to tie in with Company K, so we set the defenses up as usual. We put the machine guns in where they could get the best fields of fire, with grazing fire to the front and interlocking cross-fire and the dead spaces covered by our mortars and artillery concentrations. Then the rifle companies came in and built their defenses around the machine guns. A Company was on the right. It was responsible for the road leading from the heavy forest out in front of us. This was where our over-run troops were withdrawing to the rear. They kept withdrawing to the rear through our positions for sometime. By 1800 hours we had the defenses set up. A Company tied in with K Company. A Company extended across to the left about 200 yards that included the main road leading into the position. Then B Company, on line with orders to keep in touch with A Company on the right. C Company was placed in reserve to the left flank of B Company to refuse our flank because we thought the Germans would be coming down the road that we had just traversed.

We had prepared an overlay that we were going to send to Regiment showing artillery and mortar concentrations to be fired on call. We had that ready to go back to Regiment when Colonel McKinley arrived back in our area. He looked at the plan and then he looked at it on the map. He inspected it on the ground, reviewed the overlay and approved the plan.

I had all the Company Commanders waiting at our CP for Colonel McKinley to return from Regimental Headquarters. After approving the plan and sending it to Regiment, Colonel McKinley came in and told us, “Gentlemen, this is it. We have a Panzer Army coming toward us down the road that you see in front of us. They have been seen by our scout airplanes and they should be here within the next hour. Our mission is to defend the crossroads at all costs. I know that you are in position now. When you return to your Companies, make sure that everyone in your command understands exactly what ‘at all costs’ means.” He looked at the overlays and the defensive positions on the map and said that he approved it.

Then he turned to Captain Harvey, the S-3, and said, “Harvey, form twenty-two bazooka teams. We are going to be on the defensive, but we are also going to be attacking.” He turned to the S-4 and told him that if he needed extra bazookas to get them and get the ammunition for them. He pointed out where the ammunition dump would be and that the aid station would be just to the rear of our Battalion CP.

Then he turned to the Company Commanders and told them that he wanted each Company Commander to form three mine-laying teams. He also told them that they were to prepare those mines and to wire them eight or ten of them together like a necklace or a daisy chain. Then the mines were to be put into the ditch on one side of the road in front their positions. A man would be across the road on their side to pull the chain of mines across the road at the right time. They were to be sure that they let the enemy mine- sweepers pass by first and move on down the road before the chain of mines was moved across the road. The chain of mines was to be pulled across just in front of the lead tank. They were well-briefed on that and exactly how to do it. As a matter of fact, we had practiced all of this before when we were in training back at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Everyone seemed to know exactly what he was supposed to do concerning the mines.

About six-thirty or seven o’clock, Lieutenant Norman, who had been at an outpost that was way out in front of our position, reported in. He said that his outpost had knocked out an American light tank that was commanded by a German in an American uniform and that his German crew were also wearing American uniforms. The Germans surrendered to him when he knocked out their tank and one or two of the Germans were killed. The German spilled his guts right there. He had attended school somewhere in Pennsylvania and he spoke perfect English. He said that their job was to move to our rear and then change the road signs. Then when we withdrew, we would withdraw in the wrong direction and not impede the German advance. So, we broke that up.

In about thirty minutes, Company A reported that an enemy tank had approached its position, hit the mines as planned and the right track was blown off. When its right track was blown off, the enemy tank made an abrupt turn sideways in the road and stopped. Another tank tried to go around it and the same thing happened to it. That pretty well blocked the road and stopped the German column but the crew in the first tank was still firing into Company A’s positions. Sergeant Roberts and Corporal Bone thought that it would be a good idea to place a gallon of gasoline over the enemy tank motor and then put a thermite grenade on top of it. This was accomplished and the enemy tank caught fire and burned. The German crews were shot by our infantry as they came out of the burning tank. Once the lead enemy tanks were knocked out and the other tanks stopped, our bazooka teams went into action. They moved out along the flanks of the stopped column of tanks and knocked out many of them. I don’t know how many, but they started reporting them and by ten o’clock that night we reported that more than twenty enemy tanks had been knocked out by the mines and the bazooka teams. That was a severe blow to the lead tank column, but we did not know how many enemy tanks had been disabled by our artillery.

The artillery continued to fire along the front lines out in front of Companies A and B, but the German tanks had closed up pretty close. One tank had moved out around and had come into A Company’s position. Then there were two enemy tanks in A Company’s position. The infantrymen from A Company were killing off the German infantry that came with the tanks. These two tanks were finally knocked out with bazookas but there were more coming. The tanks were beginning to move out when suddenly, around ten o’clock, the attack stopped. Our artillery was falling in on top of the enemy tank column. The tanks stopped and the motors were cut---apparently they had stopped for the night and they were going to get some rest. In the meantime, Lieutenant John Melesnick, B Company Commander, had called the CP. Colonel McKinley was away from the CP and Lieutenant Melesnick reported to me that there was a column of tanks headed towards his position. One tank had broken through his line and his men were withdrawing to the rear. About that time Colonel McKinley returned to the CP and I gave him the information. He said that he was going out there and straighten out the line where this squad withdrew. The tank had gone through into Rocherath and was shooting up he town a little bit. Colonel McKinley crawled out to this squad. He walked and crawled until he got close enough to move in and he found the squad leader. He put the squad leader back in position and reminded him of his mission. Colonel McKinley stayed with the squad for about twenty minutes. In the meantime, back at the CP, Lieutenant Hinski, who was our Anti-Tank Platoon Leader had run into a lieutenant (2nd Lt. Gaetano Barcellona-Co.A, 741st Tank Battalion?) from a tank battalion that had been supporting the 23rd Infantry and was now available to fight. The lieutenant said that he had four tanks left. Lieutenant Hinski asked him, “Do you want to fight?” The lieutenant said, “Hell yes! That’s what I’m here for!” Lieutenant Hinski pointed out the two enemy tanks that were about a hundred yards from the Battalion CP. We moved our four tanks into position where they could fire on the enemy tanks and hit them in the flank. The lieutenant reported his position and came back to Lieutenant Hinski. We were talking there and I said, “Let’s go back and tell Colonel McKinley what we have here.” So we went down and told Colonel McKinley about our four tanks. His opinion was that we should let sleeping dogs lie and not attack them that night. He decided that we should wait until just before daylight the next morning to attack the two enemy tanks. So we placed our four tanks in position, ready to fire on the two enemy tanks at first light the next day. We had been strenuously engaged that evening and there had been many firefights with many enemy tanks knocked out. A lot of our men had been wounded and would be brought back to the Aid Station, then evacuated. We had been engaged in some close fighting – including some bayonet fighting. When the enemy troops jumped out of their tanks that had been knocked out, they attacked our positions. However, we had held our position and at night everything got much quieter. One could not hear a sound for quite a while. The enemy was sleeping and we were glad they were. This enabled our men to take turns and also get some sleep After all, we were accomplishing our mission. The longer that we held up the enemy tank column, we were accomplishing our mission without fighting or losing any men.

So, we waited out the night and played ‘possum’ until daylight the next morning. We knew that the Germans would attack then. At daylight the next morning, Lieutenant Hinski and his team blasted and knocked out those two enemy tanks that were almost in front of our Battalion CP. The shells went right through their sides and exploded inside, sending fragments around inside the tank. The fragments cut up the German crew and killed them. One German got out of his tank and he was shot. We never checked to see what happened to the rest of them.

This was the morning of the 18th of December and sometime during the day we were supposed to be able to withdraw, probably around six o’clock that evening. The enemy attack was furious on the day of the 18th. Several enemy tanks got through our lines and into A Company’s position. As soon as those two tanks were destroyed, the entire enemy column came alive, started up their engines, moved out and began their attack. They peeled off their column and attacked the front point positions of A Company. There was a lot of hand to hand fighting that went on there. There was such close contact that no one could do much about it at the time. A Company Commander reported that his men were so closely engaged that if one of his men got out of his foxhole, a German would jump into it. He also said that they were still holding their position and that he thought they could hold for a while.

The enemy tank column on the road continued to move up and they closed up just like box cars on a railroad track, practically bumper to bumper. Beside each one of the German tanks you would have a squad of infantry divided on either side of the tank. That is the way they were moving. They were to protect the tank from close-in bazooka fire.

That tank column extended from our front-line position to the woods and you could hear the tank engines roaring off into the distance. It sounded like a hurricane coming. The tanks would come out of the forest, move on down and close up, until finally the line of tanks were closed up from our lines all the way to the forest. Our artillery forward observer was having problems with his radio. He tried to get his radio fixed and he moved up and around. The Germans were in on our radio frequency, so the forward observer would have to sneak his fire commands in when his radio was operating correctly. He wasn’t satisfied with that at all. He changed the frequency on the radio so he wouldn’t be bothered by the Germans. Anyway, we didn’t have any artillery fire down on them right then.

Colonel McKinley had gone down to A Company CP, I believe, and a phone call came in from our Division Artillery Headquarters. It was Major Maples who was the S-3 (Operations Officer) of the 12th Artillery Battalion. I had known him at Fort Sam Houston. We would see each other at the “Princess” every Saturday night. That is where we went for our recreation. He said, “Bill, what is the situation up there?” I gave him the coordinates of our front line and I also told him that there was a column of enemy tanks from our front line all the way to the forest. He looked at his map, told me that he saw it and that it looked like a thousand yards. I told him that it was about fifteen hundred to two thousand yards and I gave him the coordinates of the woods. I also gave him two different coordinates along the road the enemy tanks were coming down.

Those tanks didn’t come straight down, but were curved around like a rainbow. I told him that the target was there. He said, “That’s all I need to know.” He told me that he had all the artillery in the Corps at his command, over a hundred artillery pieces. He told me I had given him all the information he needed to know and he would take care of those tanks. About five minutes later by my watch (but it seemed like an hour) that road just erupted in one big explosion. I think he fired a TOT (Time on Target). You could hear the shells coming in and hit out in front of our position, about two hundred yards all the way to the woods. You could see the rounds bursting and you could see the flames. You could see the enemy tanks catching on fire and burning, then blaze up and explode in a flash of light. The artillery fire continued see-sawing back and forth and you could hear the Germans yelling and screaming bloody murder, as the tanks would catch fire and burn. This went on for about thirty minutes. The artillery would fire a volly and then cease fire for a few minutes until the Germans would come out from under their tanks of wherever they were. Then the artillery would fire again. This was very effective. The artillery fire was perfect and it probably saved the day. I don’t doubt it a bit. From there, those tanks that could move, moved off the road and out into the field which slowed them down considerably."

"It was close to ten o’clock. Colonel McKinley was down in A Company’s area where the fighting was man to man---bayonet fighting---and A Company was in such close contact with the enemy that it had become impossible for them to break contact and withdraw. Colonel McKinley returned to the CP.

Before long he received orders from Regiment to break contact and prepare to withdraw at a certain time---I believe that it was 1100 hours. We started preparations to withdraw and the Company Commanders were contacted and given a warning order that time.

Colonel McKinley and Captain Harvey made plans to use the four tanks that we had to make a brief limited counter-attack at eleven o’clock. At that time the Company would break contact and withdraw. This withdrawal was not a formal withdrawal because that was just impossible. Company A Commander reported that it would be impossible for his Company to break contact and with draw “because the enemy was all around us and even occupying some of our foxholes. We get out of one and they jump into it. We are fighting with bayonets and we just can’t withdraw---it’s impossible. We will break contact with what men we can and send them to the rear. The rest of us are either going to be killed or captured by ‘Gerry’.”

“When the time to withdraw comes, put down a barrage of artillery right on top of me, the Company’s position all up and down the line. We have foxholes and we can get into those and sit out the barrage. The Germans are mostly on the flat ground and they will be slaughtered.” Colonel McKinley approved this plan and when the time came to withdraw, that is what we did, we called in the artillery barrage. When the barrage was laid down on top of Company A, it wasn’t as effective as we had hoped for at first. The tanks had scattered out over the landscape out in front. Our four tanks weren’t in position to do any machine gun firing but they could fire their main guns. The withdrawal order was issued over the telephone lines to the Companies and they were supposed to move to the rear as orderly as they could. They synchronized their watches and at eleven o’clock they started withdrawing.

Colonel McKinley sent me out about half way between the front lines and the assembly area that we had selected. He told me to keep count of the men as they fell back to the assembly area so that we would know when everyone has cleared. With the artillery barrage and our four tanks counter-attacking, Company B cleared pretty well. As I remember, Company B came out with less than twenty men, perhaps nineteen. Company A got five men out. I don’t know how they got out. I think that one of them was a corporal or a sergeant who was wandering around over the back area reconnoitering for a route to get out. He and three or four others got out---a total of five men. Company C came out with the majority of its Company that had been whittled down to probably fifty men. D Company was intact except for the machine guns. They left some men, but most of them were either wounded or dead. We withdrew and I directed the men to the assembly area as they came out.

Behind our assembly area was a Battalion of the 38th Infantry that had formed a defensive line that we were supposed to withdraw through. As I said, it was not a formal withdrawal---it was almost like every man for himself. That’s the only way it could have been done. The enemy was so close when we got the orders to withdraw. After a while, it was obvious that our limited tank attack had stopped the Germans during our withdrawal. They continued to fire into the Germans as they came out and occupied our positions.

Colonel McKinley, Captain Harvey, the S-3 and the Heavy Weapons Company Commander, Captain Ernst, were the last ones to leave the CP.

The Operations Sergeant was with me and we counted heads as the men came out. When we started the operation, the Battalion had over 600 men plus the men in K Company that was attached to the Battalion. We came out with a total of less than one hundred and fifty men. The rest were left in position either killed or captured. They could not break contact. We went to our assembly area and then moved out to a barn about three or four miles to the rear. We moved through a battalion of the 38th Infantry that had gone into position. We spent the night in a barn loft and the next day we moved into a wooded area behind the Corps. The Corps was by then in position and it was prepared to hold up the German attack after it moved through our position that we had vacated.

The Germans decided to change their direction of attack by moving to the left. They didn’t attack or interfere too much with the battalion of the 38th Infantry that was behind our former position. We were to move back as orderly as we could. We moved into this heavily-wooded area about a mile behind the front lines. Corps troops, the 1st, the 2nd, and the 9th Infantry Divisions went into position on Elsenborn Ridge, a long ridge running parallel to the front. This ridge was an excellent defensive position because it favored the defense.

The Germans decided to change their course, I guess. Their spearhead moved around, flanked a Division and kept going forward. They didn’t stop until they hit Patton. Someone asked Patton how long it would take him to get there and he gave some unreasonable hour that everyone thought was ridiculous. But Patton was there when he said he would be. He made it in time. He cut into the penetration and he cut it off behind the Corps, I believe. By that time we were back in the rear in Corps reserves.

I would like to say a little something about Colonel McKinley during the Bulge. His esprit-de-corps was the highest of any man that I have ever seen. He believed in his Command, he believed in his Regiment and he believed in his Division with all of his heart. He would not let any of them down to save anybody. His esprit-de-corps was felt throughout his Battalion - from the enlisted men, particularly the ‘old sergeants’, to the officers. That is one of the main reasons I can think of why his Battalion was able to hold out as it did in this defense. The men just weren’t going to give up and they didn’t. They held out to the last man - literally, in some cases. Company A in particular. I don’t know what happened to Lieutenant Truppner who was the Commander of Company A. I never did find out what happened to him and I would like very much to know. I don’t know if he was captured or killed. I assume that a good portion of A Company was captured. The only thing that Lt. Truppner could do after we withdrew was to surrender because Company A was right in the middle of a German Panzer Army.

Our Battalion, or what was left of it, was placed in the Corps reserve until we could fill up with men again. Our Battalion had gone in with six hundred men and we got out with less than 150 men.

We went into a heavily-forested area covered with big trees, about a mile just back of Elsenborn Ridge. During the night, the forest where we were located was shelled by enemy 360-millimeter mortar. The mortar was on a railroad track. It would come out and fire and then it would go back into a tunnel that went through a mountain. There wasn’t much we could do about it. The rounds would hit the treetops, explode and knock off some branches, but the fragments or shrapnel was spent by the time it reached the soldiers on the ground.

Captain Harvey and I had found a little stucco-type building in this wooded area that was dug in and had logs on top and straw on the floor. We could sleep on the straw on the floor. Our little building was located about one hundred yards away from the CP. During the night Colonel McKinley called Harvey and me and asked us to come up to the C.P. He had a bottle of Scotch and wanted us to help him kill it. We went up there and between the five of us, we killed that bottle of Scotch. I didn’t like Scotch much myself, but I did have a couple of drinks.

Colonel McKinley told Harvey and me that there was room in the C.P. so there was no point in going back to our place to sleep. He said that we could stay there where we were and sleep on the straw on floor as it was safer there. Harvey and I both had sleeping bags that came in on the mail run. I had a brand new one that my sister sent to me and Harvey also had one. We had the air mattresses blown up and the sleeping bags laid out. During the night we had some incoming rounds and the next morning when we went to roll up our sleeping bags, we found that a shell had exploded over the building. I had seventeen shell fragments in my air mattress and Harvey’s was just as bad. If we had been in there we would have been chopped up. We were sure glad that we stayed in the C.P. that night.

As I said before, our Battalion had only a hundred and fifty men when we came out of the fight at Rotherath-Krinkelt. We got replacements in and that brought us generally up to TO&E; strength. We were somewhat short, but not very much. We stayed in the Corps reserve for awhile and then after our re-supply of men and ammunition, we were ready to go on the attack again. Finally, we moved out cross–country in the attack. By that time, General Patton had come up from the south and cut off the penetration. The Germans were chopped up fairly well and many of them had surrendered. Patton finally came through and went around our positions. His troops didn’t go through Elsenborn Ridge - they went around it and that was the end of the Bulge. Many enemy troops were captured here.

The attack went pretty fast after this Bulge had been taken care of. A short time after this battle Colonel P. D. Ginder took over as commander of the 9th Infantry Regiment. He was in command of the Regiment until the war was over. Colonel Hirschfelder returned to the United States for reassignment. He was a great tactician. As for myself, I thought that he was one of the best and so did all the other officers. At the time of this change, Lieutenant Colonel McKinley was reassigned to higher headquarters and Lieutenant Colonel Ptak took command of the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry.

After the Bulge, the Germans withdrew across the Rhine River as fast as they could go. We were ordered to move out and we had intermediate objectives. We could capture a town, although most of the time the towns were clear of the enemy. Sometimes we would get a few snipers from some of the buildings, but usually without much damage or casualties.

The 9th Infantry Division had moved on through and had gotten close to the Rhine River. One battalion of the 9th Infantry Division was able to move across the Ludendorf Bridge before it was blown. They kept the Germans from blowing the bridge from across the river. The explosive charge wires had fizzled a little bit so the bridge was not knocked completely out. The Germans who were supposed to blow it and also set off the other charges were killed before they could do it.

Chippy Manous from the 9th Infantry Division moved a battalion across the bridge and was in position on the other side. Our Battalion had moved out by then and we were in the front lines. We moved out to the riverbank and we crossed. We had one pontoon bridge and another spot where we were being taken across by boats to the other side. Our vehicles moved across the pontoon bridge and the troops moved across the river by boats. We crossed the Rhine with no problems and we had no casualties.

We assembled on the other side and immediately moved out and away. We divided the Battalion into two groups. The Battalion Commander took one group and I took the other group. We had trucks or tanks with us at that time. I think we had four or five tanks with my group. Our soldiers were riding on the tanks, fifteen or so on a tank. That’s the way we moved across Germany and into Czechoslovakia. Part of the time we moved by trucks. Our Battalion was moved twenty or thirty miles by trucks. We would catch up with the German rear guard and get out and fight them. We would pass by all the buildings that the Germans had left. Somebody had painted signs on the buildings, “Alles ist kaput!” I understood those words to mean that ‘all is lost’ or ‘the war is over’ or words to that effect. We read those signs with much delight. We thought that the morale of the Germans was weakening.

We had one real stiff battle after we had crossed the river. Company D Commander, Captain Ernst, I believe--was hit by a grenade and seriously wounded around the head and shoulders. At that time Olaf (Captain Carlson), one of the most experienced commanders, was assigned to D Company as the Company Commander.

There was something that I remembered before I went to sleep last night. When we were fighting in the flat country around Leipzig and we were about four or five miles outside of the city, the Germans were putting up pretty stiff resistance in the form of roadblocks. We moved pretty fast across Germany. Once in a while we would hit a unit, and the Germans would fire a lot of artillery at us before they withdrew. They seemed to be going back towards Berlin and the Czechoslovakian border. We kept moving. We were unable to dislodge one of the roadblocks during the day and that night the Battalion Commander, Colonel Ptak, then decided that he would utilize our black platoon that had been assigned to our Battalion as an experimental unit. I don’t know why they called it experimental because they were good fighters. The majority of them had at least one year of college. I think that they came from Howard University, or some college around Washington, D.C. They were all good soldiers and their Platoon Leader was Lieutenant Sorrel, who was white- very white. He had blond hair that was almost white and his face was much whiter than anyone else’s. I would say that he was almost an Albino, but not quite---because he didn’t have pink eyes. We sent the black platoon out to the road-block and they attacked it that night. Lieutenant Sorrel was a fast-moving little rascal, about twenty-one or twenty-two years old. He really knew how to get around. He was up and down the line during the attack. All the other soldiers were black---I mean that they were jet black and Lieutenant Sorrel was so white that he stood out in the slight moonlight. He showed up so much as he was moving all around. While he was moving up and down the line, the black soldiers, whom the Germans couldn’t see in the dark nearly as well, were firing their rifles, which were BAR’s (Browning Automatic Rifles), and also a couple of machine guns up there. Lt. Sorrel was going up and down the line from one end to the other, encouraging his men.

All of a sudden the entire roadblock surrendered. Lieutenant Sorrel marched the Germans back to the Battalion Commander. We had a couple of soldiers in the Company that could speak German. They asked the Germans why they had surrendered because they had fought so hard the day before. Why did they surrender that night: The Germans said that they were spooked, or words to that effect. They couldn’t understand how one person could move up and down the line firing as much as he did. Lieutenant Sorrel was the only one that they were seeing and they thought that he was a ghost or something. They were a little bit superstitious I guess, so they surrendered. They thought that Divine Power was coming in or something of that nature because Sorrel was the only one that they saw, and they were being fired at from about forty positions along the line at one time. Sorrel was running up and down the line, and the Germans were wondering how one person could do all that firing. It sounds awful fishy but that’s the honest truth.

Near the end there was little enemy fire as the enemy had either moved beyond Pilsen or surrendered. Before we got to Pilsen, the Battalion Commander then was Lieutenant Colonel Ptak. He divided the Battalion into two Commands about the last thirty miles before we captured Pilsen. I took one command and he took the other. We had enough tanks with us so that our troops could ride on the back of the tanks. Our heavy weapons were moved on jeeps following the tanks. We moved the next twenty to thirty miles and came to Pilsen. We didn’t have too much fighting there.

I came in contact with a White Russian Regiment. The White Russians were fighting with the Germans. They hated the Russians worse than they did the Germans so they joined forces with the Germans as a unit. One White Russian Regiment was formed. The White Russians raised white flags and we came toward them. I went up and talked to the commander who spoke perfect English. He wished to surrender and said that he would not surrender to anyone below his rank. He knew that my rank was major and he was a colonel. He said that I would have to get a colonel up here for him to surrender to. Well, I was not going back to get a colonel---Colonel Ginder---to come up and receive his surrender. So one of my sergeants, who was a quick thinker, got into his jeep, drove back to the rear and found somebody who had some general officer stars. He brought me a couple of stars and I pinned them on my uniform. Then the Russian colonel surrendered his Regiment to me. The White Russians came by a certain point and dropped all their weapons. We had a pile half as high as a house. There were rifles, machine guns, bazookas, mortars, and a large number of pistols. I picked up a P-38 and a German Luger. I ran in to Captain Olaf Carlson, Commander of D Company (D Company was up there then). The former D Company Commander had been hit and wounded pretty badly back in one of our earlier battles. Olaf had his camera and was taking pictures. He saw my P-38 and said, “I wish that I had one of those.” I said, “Here you can have this one in exchange for your camera because I don’t have a camera.” So we swapped with one another. I gave Olaf the pistol and he gave me the camera, and we laughed about it.

To my surprise I saw Olaf again just after we got to Pilsen---just outside of Pilsen. I was glad to see him because I hadn’t seen him in quite a while. Olaf had another camera and was taking pictures.

We then moved into Pilsen and there was no German resistance. We were billeted in an old champagne factory where we found a warehouse full of champagne. So each of us had two or three cases of champagne underneath our beds. I don’t know where the beds came from. The Battalion Headquarters Company Commander was pretty productive and knew how to find things, so he brought in beds for all of the Battalion and Company Staffs.

Within a day after our arrival, the Russian forces met us at the crossroads. The Russian forces had met the Division on our left earlier, about four or five hours earlier, so for all practical purposes the German Army was destroyed. The Russians moved in around Prague, the capitol of Czechoslovakia. We heard over the radio that as soon as the Czech Underground had directions that the Russians were entering the city, they came out of hiding too early. The Russians, of course, in one of their low schemes, surrounded the city and did not move in to take it. They let the German elite forces that were in the city destroy the patriots and the Underground who had come out of hiding and thought that they could take back their city. Most of the patriots and the Underground were killed. It appeared that had been the Russian plan from the beginning. We heard the radio calls, the screaming for help, and yet, by earlier orders, we could not go beyond Pilsen and help these Underground fighters even though we wanted to. The Russians stood off around Pilsen until they were satisfied that all of the Intelligentsia in the city had been destroyed by the Germans, and then they moved in and took it over. That’s what happened. I think that the Intelligence afterwards will tell you the same thing.

The Russians came down to our area and ran through our front lines with their Armor---two or three armored vehicles. They came in to look for girls in the city of Pilsen and we ordered them out. They finally left, but they came back the next day with three or four tanks. We had three or four tank destroyers so we moved them up and pointed our guns right at them and told them that if they did not get out of here we would blast them out right then. They left and they didn’t come back. We put our tanks on the road that that the Russians had come in on, and made a road block, so they didn’t bother us anymore.

We were there for about a month waiting for orders. We finally received orders to return to the United States for re-embarkation to Japan and participate in the invasion of the Japanese islands, whenever it took place. I was sent back with the billeting detail for the Regiment and I arrived into Norfolk, Virginia the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. Of course that changed all the plans. My team and I went ahead to Texas to the place where we were supposed to be billeted. We set up the billeting area where the units would be going at Camp Swift, south of Austin, Texas. We were there for a month or so. Then we were transported by train to Fort Lewis, Washington.

I was in charge of the train that took the Regiment to Fort Lewis. When I arrived, Colonel Ginder met me. He said, “Bill, you’re the old warhorse of the Regiment, aren’t you?” I told him that I didn’t know what that meant and he told me that I would find out. Anyway, we went into our area where we had a barracks, a nice Post (Ft. Lewis), and a nice hospital.

We began training again because we didn’t know what was really happening in Japan. We thought that with the surrender we may have to go into some of the islands and force the Japanese into surrender. We intensified our training. We practiced landing operations. We traveled as far as southern California and had a big maneuver. We had landing operations and moved inland and captured objectives. During that operation---right in the middle of it---I came down with an acute attack of appendicitis. That was about the last day of the maneuvers. I was taken aboard ship and we moved out in the waters and headed back to Fort Lewis. The doctor decided that he would have to operate on me right there aboard ship. So they stopped the ship and anchored the best they could. The doctor operated on me and took out my appendix. Well, the sutures were old and rotten. When the incision was made and they tried to tie the small veins to prevent me from being a bloody mess, the sutures would break. They finally had to forget it, and by that time my spinal had worn off. I could hear them talking and I could hear what they were saying. To me it was very obvious what was happening. I heard one of the doctors say that they could not give me anymore anesthetics, because that would be dangerous at that time. They had checked my heartbeat and did not think that I could take anymore anesthetic. So they tied me to the bed, and strapped me down on the operating table, so that I couldn’t move. They went ahead with the operation and man, did it hurt! By the time they got in there, my appendix had burst. The infection was all over the inside of my stomach. They cleaned it out the best they could, and they thought that they had got it all. They sewed my up and we moved back to Fort Lewis, Washington. I went into the hospital there. I had been in the hospital for about a day or a day and a half, and my temperature jumped from normal to about 106 degrees. Of course the nurses detected that and my Battalion Commander came on out.

My Battalion Commander was Lt. Colonel Custer then. He came in to see me, and when he looked at me he thought that I was dead. He alerted the staff and they opened me up again and cleaned the infection out of my stomach. They left it open to drain, and in about two weeks I was improved enough to be out on the drill field. I was trying to think who our Division Commander was at that time and I think that he was called ‘Bull’ Kendal. He was a rough and tough old buddy. Whenever we drilled, we were always instructed that when we saw the Division Commander come on the field we would double-time gait and go up to report to him. I had just been released from the hospital after my appendicitis operation and I was damned if I felt like doing a double-time gait to report to the Division Commander. I walked up to the General and I apologized and told him what had happened to me. It was perfectly all right with him. He didn’t give a hoot if I ran or walked.

We stayed at Fort Lewis, and in about a month, I took over the command of a battalion. I commanded the battalion for several months. We would go on maneuvers and capture hills and so forth. We were still training.

After I had commanded the battalion for three or four months, I left the Regiment and was ordered to Fort Holabird, Maryland (in Baltimore).

EPILOGUE
I would like to make a few statements about something that I was personally able to look at. After we had crossed the line and slowed down, we moved down into Third Army---General Patton’s Army. Of course we had to wear neckties there. If General Patton was anywhere close everyone would put on his necktie. One time I lost my necktie and General Patton was in the area. So I took a black sock, made it into a black bow tie, and I hid it as well as I could with my field jacket.

I wanted to mention that I went back to Paris for a week. When I left Paris, I was driving a jeep, and I drove through the area where we had made our defense at the twin villages. The tanks we had knocked out were still on the field. The field out in front of us---almost out to the forest area and across to the right---was littered with tanks, still there. I counted about twenty six or twenty-seven tanks still on the field. I assume that most of them had been knocked out by bazookas because the tracks had been knocked off and their sides had been blown off. A goodly number of them had their turrets knocked off. This was on the road leading out of the forest where the artillery had hit them. When an artillery shell hits the tanks in the seam where turret joins the body of the tank, the turret would probably be blown off. I saw one Tiger Tank that had its turret blown off. That tank was a monster. The turret was lying on the ground with the gun still attached, and the gun was pointing straight up in the air. The evidence of the effectiveness of the artillery was very prominent. I suspect that many tanks that could have been repaired were moved out by the tank retrievers. It was very satisfying to see what had happened to a lot of their tanks. I don’t know about the men inside the tanks."

Bill Hancock, died on Saturday 1 October 2005, in Fresno, CA. LTC. Hancock was a Captain, Company Commander of D Company, 9th Infantry Regiment, when the Regiment went ashore at Omaha Beach on D + 1. Bill was wounded 4 times in combat and received the Silver Star for gallantry, spent time in the hospital in England, returned to the Regiment and was the Executive Officer of the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, when the war ended. He joined the Regiment in 1940 at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. After the war he re-deployed to the States with the Regiment."

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