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History

  

 


Omaha Beach, Normandy, France - June 6, 1944  (Robert Capa photo - Time Life)

1st Division "The Big Red 1" - 16th Infantry Regiment - First Wave 

 

 

Welcome to the History section of WW2 German Helmets dot com.   Most if not all collectors of World War II militaria are history buffs.   The Wehrmacht was one of the most advance fighting forces in the 20th Century, and our American GI's had their hands full fighting the Germans, especially the Elite SS Troops.   World War II German helmets are a great way to own a piece of history.  Original German helmets have that 'been there, done that' quality to them.    I thought that this site really needed a perspective from some of our American soldiers that bravely squared up against the Germans, and came out victorious, with help from our Allies as well.  

The Remembrances below are personal accounts from American Soldiers that were there.  One remembrance below is from a friend's father, Ken Chittick.   Mr. Chittick passed away this past year as did thousands of World War II veterans.   Mr. Chittick lived a great life and his family and friends will not forget his life.  The remembrance in the text from him really brings home what our boys went through in the fighting in Europe.   I have also added an obituary from a member of the US Army Air Corp, Joe B. Maloy.   I didn't know Mr. Maloy but I was touched by his story and felt it was worth passing along.   Plus, I didn't want to leave out the fellows that flew missions over the dangerous flak filled German skies.  

One last remembrance is from an Uncle of mine, Bill Buchanan.   Bill is a survivor of the fierce fighting in and around St. Lo in July of 1944.   I will be adding more to the History section, so please check back.   Enjoy these remembrances and let us not forget the sacrifice from "America's Greatest Generation".

 


 

REMEMBRANCES

Andy Robble

Commanding Officer

K Co 3rd Bn 290th Regiment

75th Infantry Division

24 25 DEC 44

WWII Battle of the Bulge Eastern Belgium

 

The following is a summary of the events involving Co K on 24 and 25 December 1944. We started off early on 24 December with the whole Company riding in trucks. We were so crowded that the men had to stand up in the trucks which did not have any tarpaulins. The weather was very cold with intermittent rain. Fortunately, there was no snow.

As Company Commander I expected to have information as to our destination but I had none. We arrived at our final assembly point (we now know was near the small town of Wy) late in the afternoon, assembled the Company and thought we would be given our first hot meal of the day.  The kitchen trucks were just beginning to set up a serving line when the Assistant Division Commander Brig. Gen. Mickle arrived and entered into a conversation with LTC Gleszer, 3rd Bn Commander. Both Gleszer and Mickle were West Point men. I thought that now we would get our hot meal and be told what we were to do. It did not come about this way.

I was standing about ten feet away and heard Gen. Mickle tell LTC Gleszer that, "You are to attack".  LTC Gleszer protested and said, "General, these men have not had anything but K rations all day".  General Mickle then said, "Colonel, your are a West Pointer, cannot you obey an order?". So what else could LTC Gleszer do? He ordered Co. L on the left, Co. K on the right and we left the assembly area without any food. Since the ammunition trucks had not arrived, we had very little rifle ammunition and only a handful of grenades. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in an Infantry attack calls for an artillery barrage on the enemy to "soften up" resistance. Weather permitting, there might be aerial bombardment of the objective. In our case, we got neither.

Usually the commander of the attacking troops are given a considerable amount of information as to the mission, maps of the area, location of the command post (CP), Bn. Aid Station, ammunition supply, etc. We had none of these. As it was nearly dark we did not have time to really reconnoiter the area, all we got was a quick look at the hill (La Roumiere) in the fast fading light. When we got to the Line of Departure (LOD), which we now know as the Soy-Hotton road, the officer of Co. K met briefly with Captain Claggett Commanding Officer of Co. L.

As LTC Gleszer had ordered, I had Co. K on the right with Co. L on our left as we faced the hill.  I put two of my rifle platoons forward with Lt. Heavener and his 3rd platoon on the left to keep contact with Co. L. My 1st platoon, with Lt. Meier, was on the right. I sent the 2nd platoon with Lt. Ellis out to the right to make a sweeping flanking movement hoping to surprise the enemy on the hill with enfilading fire. Co. L had two rifle platoons forward and a third rifle platoon in reserve.  My weapons platoon with Lt. Hammarlund took up position near the LOD to fire overhead fire in the initial stages of the attack and then to come up to the top of the hill when we obtained the objective to give additional firepower in the event of a counterattack.

It should be noted that the Germans had been in position on the top of La Roumiere for some time.  They were well dug in and had sited their machine guns and mortars in so that they could direct accurate fire in complete darkness if necessary. Note: Paul Ellis visited this area in 1991 and 1993 and the German foxholes and gun emplacements are still visible.

In all of our training we had been instructed in the use of cover and concealment in an attack such as was planned here. Brig. Gen. Mickle was as stickler in emphasizing this. Do you know how much cover and concealment we had? We had absolutely NONE! This attack was to be made on an upgrade hill in an open field, a cow pasture with hardly a bush, let alone any trees or other cover.  In my opinion this was a suicide mission.

Since we had no reconnaissance report we did not know what the Germans had at the top of the hill.  There was a vague reference to a "reinforced German rifle platoon". As was often the case, this intelligence was faulty. The Germans had artillery and heavy mortars also sited in on the approaches to the hill.

As we started up the hill the Germans opened fire. We really did not have a fighting chance. First of all, the men did not have enough rifle ammunition, at most five or six clips - less than half a combat lead. As I, Co. Commander, had one clip (20 rounds) Ldid not order the platoons to attack, I led them. As we proceeded up the hill the enemy opened up with rifle and machine gun fire and all hell broke loose. I got about halfway up the hill and, as I hit the dirt, I got hit across both shoulders shearing off part of my left shoulder blade. The bullet also hit a part of my vertebrae and practically paralyzed me. I could not move. The only thing I could do when I saw what the situation was, was to send my runner over to get Lt. Ellis on my right flank and tell him to move on up through the wooded area and see what was ahead and also to protect Co. K's exposed right flank.

Co. K had crossed the LOD and started the attack about 2130 hours 24 December. I was hit about daybreak on December 25. As Co. K and Co. L approached the top of the hill a lot of our men were wounded. I kept hearing, over and over, repeated cries for "Medic! Medic!". I also heard German soldiers come out and say "Doctor, eh!", followed by a burst of "burp gun" fire and then nothing but silence.

Some of the men -had run out of ammunition and it was getting light so there was nothing to do but withdraw. Co. K pulled back. Later in the afternoon there was a successful counterattack by the remnants of Co. I, K and L with an assist by Co. F of the 2nd Bn. Our artillery laid down a barrage for this attack on the top of the hill. During this shelling I was hit in the left leg by a piece of "our shrapnel".

There have been some written accounts of this Christmas Day attack that claim that the First Bn. of the 517th Parachute Regiment was ordered in to take over this attack and "rescue" a badly disorganized 75th Division. However, all of the officers and men of the 3rd Bn. 75th Division that survived the attack on Christmas Day deny, to a man, that any of the 517th personnel were present.  This has been verified by statements to this effect from Col. Carlton Nelson, then CO Co. M, Arthur Hawkins, then Lt. Co. I, Roy Hammarlund, then Lt. Co. & Harry Dornan and Charles Woodruff both of the Weapons Platoon Co. K and many others. I believe you have a list of all their names.

It was almost dark on 25 December. I had been lying on the hill since early morning unable to move. It was freezing cold. My Tech Sgt., Waldroop found me. He got a couple of men to help carry me to the Aid Station. The asked, "What can we do for you?" I told them, "Jeez, I am so cold, I am freezing". One of them took off his overcoat and put it over me. They took two rifles and made a litter and carried me to the Aid Station. I was given an anesthetic and they started to work on me.  I remember seeing our Chaplain but that was about all. When you are hurting like I was anesthetics are great stuff.

Al, I was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in March 1943. The 75th Infantry Division was activated there in April 1943, so I was with the Division from the very beginning. I was first assigned to Co. I and later commanded that Co. Still later I was sent to Co. K and remained with that Co. until I was wounded on Christmas Day 1944. 1 want you to know that I had four of the best lieutenants I think could be picked. I had "Dutch" Meier, Paul Ellis, Stan Heavener and Roy Hammarlund. These guys were terrific. They followed orders to a "T". I give them much credit as they led their platoons into combat, they did not just order the men up knowing they would go out there without a leader. On that Christmas Day Stan Heavener was killed, Dutch Meier, Paul Ellis and I were wounded. Roy Hammarlund, at the base of the hill with his Weapons Platoon, was the only one not wounded, so he became Company Commander. Roy was later severely wounded and has a stiff leg to this day.

I am in close contact with most of the men from Co. K that have survived. Many of them have visited in my home and I have been to theirs. There are about 30 veterans of Co. K still around and we always get together at the Annual Division Reunions. We also have a round of telephone conversations every Christmas Day in memory of the many men of Co. K that died that day in 1944.

Al, I hope this information will be helpful. This is not something that someone told me but is from my own experience. Speaking for all the surviving veterans of Co. K - we appreciate what you are doing to see that a truthful account of the action that Co. K was involved in on 24 and 25 December 1944 is made available for future generations. All the men who died on those two terrible days deserve at least this.

Andy Robbie

Endwell, New York

February 1994


REMEMBRANCES

Thomas W. Young

24 25 26 Dec 44

K Co 3d Bn

290th Regt. 75th

Infantry Division

Either the night of the 22 23 or 23 24 December, we were placed on a steep hillside overlooking a bridge over what I believe was the L' Ourthe River. The hillside was so steep you would slip down and every so often you would have to move back up the hill. They told us the engineers had mined the bridge and they would set off the charges if anyone got onto the other side of the bridge, be it American or someone in enemy uniform. We were to shoot at anyone approaching it. December 24th we were on trucks for some time. After leaving the trucks, we got in company formation to move out-- I think eastward--about 3 to 5 miles before someone caught up to us from the rear of the column and talked to the C.O. After that, the company did a reversal with the leader of the company passing us to the rear of the column and reversing our steps. The rumor that went around through the company at that time was that we were going the wrong way and had already gotten into German lines. I don't know if this is true or not. We returned and then went south up a winding road.

We must have stopped to eat on the 24th a few minutes before 23:30. 1 cannot remember if the chow was waiting for us on this hillside or if they caught up to us from the rear. They started setting up a chow line and before they got too many served, if any, they were urged to put the chow back on the trucks because we didn't have time to eat. We had to go into an attack. I pleaded with the cook I knew to give me anything I could take with me to eat. He said he couldn't do that. He had a cardboard box of preserved butter in his hands and I told him just keep his hands on the carton.  I grabbed a pound of the butter, squeezed about a fourth of it off and passed the rest to the next man. I never knew how far it went, but I don't think any of it was wasted.

We went up the hill and at the crossing of the Soy-Hotton road there was a full colonel from the Airborne standing with an officer of the 75th Division. It may have been Lt. Col. Gleszer, CO 3d Bn. As we approached, the colonel from the paratroopers was either crouched down or on his knees beating the ground with his fist, lamenting that it was -- his exact words I do not remember, but the impression was that it was suicide to send green troops against the S.S. troops on that hill and something about the fact that the paratroopers had already had trouble with them. This made a very lasting impression on me since he was an officer in the paratroopers and I knew they had been in combat. I felt we were a dumb bunch of sheep going up to slaughter. Probably within two hours of our 23:30 jump-off time, 1st Sgt. Ehni (I think it was) sent me to the rear to get all the ammo I could carry and bring it back to them. I was at that time a company runner. I remember going back down the hill and moving through some woods on the left. When I got through these woods, I stopped.  Looking out from these woods, I could see across the meadow before me to the other side where woods began again going up the hill to the Soy-Hotton road. There were woods circling off to my left that I was standing in to where the meadow stopped about 50 yards away. I was sure that I would be shot at crossing that meadow, but it would take me longer to go around through the woods. I can remember it being a mental tug of war, but after thinking about it for a few seconds, I ran as fast as I could to the woods on the other side of the meadow and didn't get shot at. I don't believe I was told or I knew myself where I might pick up more ammo. I think now, that when I got to the rear area, I kept yelling out asking where I could obtain ammo until I found someone who gave me the directions I needed. I cannot remember anything about the ammo site other than someone helping me sling the bandoliers around my neck and this person telling me he thought I was trying to carry to many of them. They weighed heavily and made running and even walking hard, as they would swing and disturb your balance. I picked up ten bandoliers of M1 clips and headed back to the front. These ten bandoliers weighed approximately 100 lbs and with the gear I was carrying, I was probably carrying as much as I weighed, which was about 140 at that time. On the way back, I seem to remember passing QJ. Brown, our other company runner, going after ammo. There was no snow on the ground that I can remember. In the woods I had no thoughts of the moon shining, but looking across the open meadow and seeing my shadow on the ground as I ran, there must have been some light from the moon that night. I do remember there being some heavy frost many of the nights before the snows came.

I agree with the letter Lt. Denis to Lt. Ellis dated 7/11/93, the entire paragraph. The paragraph starts, "during the ten days or so," and finishes," sector during this period". The best recollection about Company K being driven off the hill on 25 Dec was after K Company had pushed the Germans off, they counter attacked and after all the ammo was expended that they had, they had two choices: stay and be killed or captured, or move to the rear until they could get more ammo and fight again.  They sure weren't going to be able to do much with rocks, and on top of that there weren't many of those. I also have to agree with the others who state they saw no others on the hill besides the men on the 290th. Other than this airborne colonel I saw before we got on the hill, I didn't either. I saw no one on that hill other than 290th men that I can recollect.

I spent most of my time those days close to the C.O. of Company K or at the forward battalion C.P. or in between those two places as a runner. From Dec 25 on we were short of officers. I did see some different officers at the battalion C.P. and remember Col. Gleazer snapping to attention when they came to see him, so I suppose they were higher rank than he. But I do not think this was during the time of our stay on the hill. As far as I knew, until I read the papers you sent me, I didn't know this hill had a name.

As to the snow, our division book pictorial history of the 75th division (the big blue one) on the third from the last page of the book, there is a picture of a German tank which is almost completely upside down. I heard the circumstances of this tank and have never seen or heard any more about it. I heard it was coming down the hill that the 3rd Battalion was trying to take. It got out by itself too far from its infantry. A trooper from either K or L Company told the rest to fire at the tank and keep it buttoned up. He then went off onto the right and flanked the tank. He had the bayonet out on his rifle and jumped up on the tank and jabbed out the driver's periscope mirror and each time he heard the click-click from the driver clearing the broken one and re-inserting the new one, he would jab it with his bayonet and break it again. He saw the tank was going into the sunken road bed and jumped off before he got there. This tank turned over as it fell into the road bed and the enemy came out wearing American uniforms. They didn't even try to surrender since they had on our uniforms, and they were all shot. This picture was taken either Dec 26 or later. I know it wasn't taken the 25th. Battalion called the Company and said to send runners back to pick up replacements that were being sent up to battalion at that time. You can see the replacements coming up the road with their full gear and rifles at their ready. They were turning to their left, which was the lane that led down to the farm house that housed the 3rd battalion forward C.P. At the base of the power pole on your right you can see one of the German's bodies is laying there at the base of that pole.  I believe the soldier on the very right of the picture is QJ. Brown, K Company runner and I suppose I might be in the picture or just out of it, but I do not recall seeing a camera in this instance.

I am sure we carried both written and oral messages both from the company commanders to the rear and from the forward Bn. command post to the company commander. I have to chuckle, now that I think of this, for when we were in Camp Breckenridge going to company runner school, we were give banana paper. They told us that the messages we would carry would be on this banana paper and if we were caught we were to eat this message so the enemy wouldn't get it and thing back, I don't remember seeing this paper being used in combat.

As to the route, I can picture the route we used from the 26th Dec. until we moved off the hill. K Company was dug in on the north side of the hill in the edge of the woods, overlooking a huge field that sloped down a slope in the fashion of a bowl and the Germans were mostly in the woods that were possible 800-1000 yards to our front with some fox holes dug in the field nearer us by 200-300 yards. From this position we would come back through the woods, going up slightly over the top of the high portion of the wooded hilltop and down a path and exit the woods on the back side several hundred yards later. From here it was about a hundred yards to the lane that turned to the right that led to the farm house where the 3rd Bn. forward command post was set up. We made this many times and one time one of the Bn. officers, maybe Capt. Coonfield (sp.?) had asked me if I had brought the morning report back. I hadn't received it from 1st Sgt. Ehni. He told me to go back and bring it to him or tell the 1st Sgt. he would come, up to the line and get it, from him. I remember this being the count of the men still in the company and their condition and what had transpired in the past 24 hours even as to the weather. I had some trouble just getting to the 1st Sgt. as they were getting a lot of incoming mortar and artillery fire on their positions. I waited for the report to be made out and heard the Sgt. orally wondering if the report was more important that our lives or if we were really to believe the captain would venture though the barrage of fire that we were getting to obtain the report himself. I didn't let the Captain know the 1st Sgt.'s thoughts at that time but I did agree with the Sgt.

We picked up our assigned replacements, and on the way back asked them if their rifles were loaded.  They told us yes and wanted to know why. We told them they were only a couple hundred yards from the front and since they had them loaded, they might as well take off that little muzzle cover that they had on the rifles to keep them from getting dirt in the rifle barrel. It must have been several days after Christmas because these were the only replacements that I know of that we got until after the first of the year. I recall on the way to our lines we were finding out as much about them as we could. Some of the men said they had spent Christmas day at their homes and had been flown over as replacements and later after some were killed I remember thinking how unbelievable it must have been for the parents to have spent Christmas dinner with them and it was possible for them to have gotten word of their death by telegram by New Year's day. This picture also shows no snow on the ground or on the hill in the background, which was the hill or ridge that had the Soy-Hotton road on its top. I didn't hear the name of the soldier responsible for this tank's end, but I hope he got a medal.

I went back to battalion on the 26th or a few days later. I passed an anti-tank gun that was set up and dug in behind our K Company, pointing down a lane that was to the west behind my company.  On the way back our regimental Colonel Duffner came by this gun position and moved on down the lane the gun was covering. He'd gone a short way when he saw a tank coming toward him. He had the driver turn around and go back to the gun position. He stopped just long enough there to give the gunners orders to shoot that German tank coming toward them and then had the driver get the jeep out of there. When he had left, the sergeant in charge said he couldn't open fire on that tank yet. It might be that there were Germans in the tank, but that sure wasn't a German tank, it was a Sherman. I waited until they halted it and found out it was manned by G.Vs.  I was am glad to read in the papers you sent me about the comments by Lt. Hawkins. He was given command of K Company every time we lost our C.O., which was so often that he mustve thought he was a ping pong ball. I've thought of him often and thought of him as a very good officer, but had forgotten his name.

I don't think I know where the 3rd Bn's aid station location was on the 24th or 25th but I believe it was near the F.B.C.P. (forward Bn. C.P.) after this time and it might have been the other 2 days, also. I think we had I or 2 medic's in our company and they were kept real busy and everyone thought they did a good job, as far as I knew. Once when one of the men was having trouble breathing (I cannot remember exactly where he had been hit) the medic took a fountain pen and using the barrel of the pen, cut into the wounded men's esophagus and taped the barrel in place so the man could breath. There was one period on the hill that both sides called a truce for some time so as to treat the wounded out in 'no man's land', German and American Medics were both out at the same time and there was no firing from either side while they were out. The Germans later failed to treat our Medics as non-combatants and started using the large white circle with the red cross on it for target practice and then, if I remember, they had then paint them out and at that time, I think they started carrying side arms for their own protection. I remember lying in my fox hold on the 'hill' one night listening to the men that were wounded out in from of us, both in German and English crying out for 'medoc' and 'medic' and we couldn't go to them for the Germans were good at calling to us to get us where they could surprise us. Some of them were able to speak better english than I.

I wonder if anybody remembers one night we were on the hill and I was called back to battalion C.P. and told to take a woman in civilian clothes up to the line to our company C.O., which to the best of my knowledge probably was Lt. Hawkins. I was told not to question or talk to her. I know that the line troops were told that someone would be leaving our line and moving away from it and we were not to shoot this person. That's the last I heard of this. 

I remember while on this hill we had an Indian in our company that used to go out at night into the enemy lines by himself, and it seems as though he would usually come back with blood on his knife.  Then one night he went out and we waited and waited, but he never did return.

As for these 200 enemy troops being driven off by an officer with a jamming carbine who was close enough to be in voice contact with them, -- or for that matter a carbine jamming repeatedly -- he seemed to have driven them off without any help until they started retreating. Then he says they all opened fire. I was wondering if, under these circumstances, this officer later tried these men for not obeying a direct order. It doesn't seem to hold much water.

The story above doesn't say since the 200 enemy were so close to him that after the enemy ran and all the men then fired if they actually killed any of them or if they found out if they truly were Germans.

Al, I hope this ... to the best of my recollection this is what happened that I can remember from a few days before Christmas until a few days before New Year's. I know you've done a lot of investigating and I hope this helps you in some way. I also would like for you to either send me Lt. Hawkins (I suppose you have his address), either send his address to me, or if you would rather send him my address and have him get in touch with me, I'd like to correspond with him a little bit. I can remember some things. I believe I was on a patrol out of Burtonville with him one night and I'd like to go over that with him. Thanks, Al. I hope this helps you.

Thomas W. Young

Sedalia, Missouri

December 1993


REMEMBRANCES

Kenneth E. Chittick

1st Scout 2d Squad 1st Platoon

3rd Bn 290th

Inf Regt., 75th Inf. Div.

24 25 26 Dec 44

Now to Christmas Day, and La Roumiere. Harold Simon was and is a good friend of mine, and I said in our telephone conversation his diary of the events has helped me to relive those last days before the attack. I only wish that I had written out such an account myself when I spent some three months in a head injury hospital in Salisbury, England. I was the first scout in the second squad of the First Platoon, and Harold was the assistant BAR man in the third squad.

Certain things in the general account puzzle me. Paul Ellis speaks of moving out for the attack at 11:30 P.M. on Christmas Eve. If he means by this that we moved out from the Hotton-Soy Road, and made our way slowly through the woods to the Soy Werpin Road at the foot of La Roumiere, okay. Harold in his account speaks of going up and down slippery hills, and fording a stream.

I do not think we began the actual attack up that open pasture until five or even six o'clock in the morning. What time would dawn have come on Christmas Day in that latitude? I suspect around seven o'clock. It is my understanding that this open pasture land is about 900 yards to the woods on the summit. Even taking into consideration that fence wire had to be cut, running and hitting the ground should not have taken more than an hour to reach the top of the hill.

Captain Claggett on page 16 of his report speaks of a coordinated attack by L and K Companies at 6:30 A.M. Paul Ellis says that Florent Lambert (our Belgium friend) who is writing a history of what happened in that area also speaks of a 6:00 A.M. attack. These sources seem to agree with what I remember.

On a more personal note I will continue. The First Platoon was on the left of the Third Platoon as we began our charge up that hill. I think now that in my ascent I drifted to the left. About half way up that hill, or more, my squad sergeant, Frank Gillespie, who was right in front of me, was shot in the stomach. When I reached him I asked him what I could do, he said that he was finished and that I should continue the charge up the hill. I obeyed his order and reached the woods. At that point the few of us who were there were pinned down by enemy fire. Bill Risley, a good friend of mine on my right, was hit. Shortly after that I was hit. A bullet pierced my helmet, and came to rest above my right ear. I has hit in the temple area, denting my skull, but it did not enter the brain. In a matter of seconds I passed out from the concussion. Probably it was the angle of the bullet which saved me.

Now things get hazy. When I awoke everything seemed quiet on that hill, and I was not aware of any other bodies around me. I sat up, took out my sulfa pills and took them with some water from my canteen. I then simply got up, leaving my rifle behind me, and walking to the left as you face the hill, crossed a road to the woods on the other side where I stumbled into a squad (I believe they were from L Co.) who were keeping watch on the Germans on the hill. And later on Christmas Day the Germans were driven off that hill in another attack. The told me to stay in the woods, not to go near a stone building which I would see on my left across a field, and I would come to some medics and an aid station in a ravine. When I got to that spot the medics put me on a stretcher, carried me to an aid station in the basement of a stone building where I received plasma, and then was carried off again. At this point I lost consciousness again. My next recollection is being in a large room in Liege with row upon row of injured soldiers. I was flown from there to that hospital outside of Salisbury, England.

From a personal angle, there are some loose ends which will never be resolved. Harold Simon in this account, says that Gillespie, my squad sergeant, did make it to the top of the hill where he died.  They saw him there. Harold also talks about mortar shelling which caused his injuries, and after which a few of them made if off the hill, making their way down that road which I crossed. Where was I when this was going on? How long was I unconscious? Was I far enough to the left on that hill that this mortar fire missed me?

My wife, Verdella, and I went on a trip with Battlefield Tours last February [1993]. Florent Lambert and his cousin Gilbert Sion met us and tramped around La Roumiere with us. It was an emotional experience after forty-none years.

I do not think that there is anything else that I can, add.  I certainly hope that some good can come out of your endeavor to set the record straight.

Ken Chittick

Fogelsville, Pennsylvania

January 1994

MILITARY HISTORY

Chittick, Kenneth E. born 28 December 1923. Enlisted in the Army Specialized Training Program Reserve at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 10 November 1942.  We were called to Active Duty 22 May 1943, and were processed through Fort Indiantown Gap, PA.

After seventeen weeks of Infantry Basic Training at Camp Wheeler, GA, our group was sent to the Clarkson School of Technology in Pottstown, NY. The intention was that after graduation we would be commissioned in the Army Corp of Engineers.

In January, 1944, after one semester, the program was terminated. After three days on a train we arrived at Camp Polk, LA and by that night we were out in the field with the 75th Division. I was assigned to the 1st Platoon, K Co, 3rd Bn, 190th Infantry Regiment.

After maneuvers in Louisiana the 75th Division moved to Camp Breckinridge, KY for further training. We were ordered to Camp Shanks, NY on 15 October 1944 and sailed on 22 October 1944 for Swansea, South Wales on the S.S. Brazil. We arrived on 22 October 1944.

After a brief stay in Porthcawl my unit was moved into quonset huts on the grounds of William Randolph Hearst's castle near the village of Lampwickmajor. There we continued hedgerow warfare training.

Early in December, 1944 we crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France. We moved up to the front by rail (40 x 8's) trucks and on foot. Before dawn on Christmas Day, 1944 we began a direct assault across a cow pasture toward the woods on the crest of the hill La Roumiere.  Some of us made it to the top where I was wounded. I was evacuated by plane from Liege, Belgium to a head injury ward in a hospital near Salisbury, England. I received the Purple Heart medal on 2 January 1945.

In March 1945 1 was released and sent to a Headquarter Unit in Paris. Our job was to get soldiers back to their units. Some had become separated in the rapid advance into Germany, others were being released from hospitals after recovery from injuries.

In the Fall of 1945 we were relocated to the town of Maison LaFitte, a horse racing town about eighteen miles outside of Paris.

On 13 March 1946 1 was discharged from Fort Dix, NJ after sailing home on the S.S. Wheaton, a Liberty ship.

I was awarded the American Service Medal, Purple Heart, European Theater Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. My enlistment lasted three years, four months and four days.

 


REMEMBRANCES

Joe B. Maloy

392nd Bomber Group

577th Squardron

B-24 Liberator


He was born Nov. 8, 1923, in Montgomery, Ala., the son of the late Joe B. Maloy Sr. and Lucretia Boothe Maloy. After graduating from Sidney Lanier High School in 1942, he was drafted into the Army and volunteered for the Army Air Corps. He was originally assigned to pilot training. However, he was afraid World War II would end before he finished that lengthy training and asked to transfer to gunnery school. He became a ball turret gunner on a B-24 "Liberator" Bomber with the 392nd Bomb Group, 577th Squadron, stationed at Wendling, England. His plane was shot down by German fighters on his third mission, April 29, 1944, after a 1,000 plane raid on Berlin, Germany.

He and five other survivors of the 10-man crew were taken as POWs. He was sent to Stalag XVII-B, Stalag 17, in Krems, Austria, where he stayed until April 8, 1945. At that time, the 4,500 American airmen in the camp were marched 180 miles in 14 days and herded into a forest without food. As they neared the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, the Nazis forced the Jewish victims out to make room for the Allied POWs, who were to be killed to prevent them from rejoining the Allied Forces. Years after the war, when he learned that some authors were denying the existence of the Holocaust, he became enraged and dedicated himself to writing a personal history as an eyewitness of Nazi atrocities against the Jews. He and his fellow POWs were liberated May 3, 1945. Included among his military decorations are the Victory in Europe Medal, the POW Medal, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.

Joe B. Maloy Jr., 82, of Peachtree City, Ga., died Monday, Jan. 30, 2006.


REMEMBRANCES

Bill Davis Buchanan

30th Infantry Division

US Army

This is a personal account from a relative of mine, Bill Davis Buchanan.   Bill is from Jackson County, North Carolina, and other than his service experience has spent his entire life in Jackson County. Bill is getting ready to turn 94 years old and still has a very sharp memory and can carry on a conversation like most people thirty years his junior.  He has never talked much about his experience during the War. I met with him and we did have a casual conversation about his experience.

I have to say, I admire Billís courage and perseverance. He has been disabled since the War due to his injuries. It is a miracle he survived. He worked hard his whole life and raised a family of four children. Bill also married his sweetheart, Margie Dietz when he returned from the war. She actually took a train in early 1945 to marry him in the Military hospital in Pennsylvania. He overcame his injuries and to this day, carries on with a grit and determination that is so characteristic of the guys of his generation. I have known Bill all my life, and Iím a better person for it.

Here is a synopsis of our conversation.

I trained in Florida before being sent to England. We knew that something big was in the works.  I went in on Omaha Beach on D +3.   Perhaps only the beach head was secured. My platoon was engaged in combat with the Germans from the very beginning.  During July we had advanced toward the Town of St. Lo. St. Lo was a pretty good sized town and was important as it was a crossroads.  It was really the turning point in our offensive.

Allied bombers and artillery shelled and bombed the area very hard before we attempted to take the town. The British were in the middle. The 30th was to the left flank and we , the 29th were on the right flank.

We were told that by our officers that the town was going to be hit so hard that not even a dirty rat could survive. Well, after all of the bombing and shelling, we advanced on St. Lo and well, out of holes and rubble, Germans (1)  were popping up from everywhere. They were very dirty, dirty rats I suppose, and they were ready to fight. 

In a period of 5 days, the town changed hands 9 times. After very intense fighting, we finally were able to hold the town. The only thing that remained in St. Lo, was half a Church Cathedral and a theater, everything else was rubble. The civilians had long since left the area and civilian casualties appeared to be minimal.

Finally St. Lo was held.   A day or so later, we were still in the St. Lo area in a low lying area.  I am not sure even where we were in relation to St. Lo at that point.   We came upon a what we thought was some sort of structure, all of a sudden, the wall dropped. There were three Panzers waiting for us. We were only 40-50 yards from the tanks.

A guy handed me a Bazooka, in which I proceeded to fire at the tank on the far left. It appeared to be a direct hit as there was a ton of smoke. One of the other tanks fired at us, instantly killing the fellow that was my loader. The Bazooka was also knocked from my hands, and my loader was knocked back about 40 ft or so.   There was so much commotion, and I am not sure if one of the tanks hit us with a shell or machine gun fire.

I feel pretty sure that I can be credited to destroying the Panzer.  The other two tanks took off, and we didnít pursue them as we were only on foot.  Several hours later, we had dug in foxholes for the night.  The Germans must have known our position.  They shelled our position with about everything they had, all sizes and type of shells were exploding around us. I am not sure what type of shell exploded close to me, but I am guessing it was an 88.  The concussion from the shell was incredible and I was unconscious for a long time.

I didnít come to until I was in a hospital in England.  My platoon had 52 soldiers.  Myself and only two more survived the fighting in St. Lo.  I spent three months in the hospital in England recovering from the wounds. I then went to Pennsylvania, Northern area to a Military hospital and had to learn how to read lips.  I had lost my hearing from the concussion of the blast. During my time in June and July, I saw many fellow soldiers killed.  At night when we were dug in, the Germans would spray machine gun fire at random, one morning, we found both of the guys up beyond us a little, both dead from that random gunfire.

I was in combat from the very beginning and we really didnít get a break in the combat. I often wonder how I actually made it as far as I did, considering how intense the fighting was from my first day in Normandy on June 11th, until I was injured in July.  I am not sure even the day in July in which the war ended for me. We didnít really think about the day of the week or month while in combat.

Bill Davis Buchanan

Sylva, North Carolina

July 1st, 2006

(1) Through my further research, I have determined that Bill and the boys in the 30th were engaged in heavy combat against the Waffen SS, 1st SS 'Adolph Hitler' Division.  This explains the tenacity of the Troops that the 30th was up against.  The 30th Division ripped the 1st SS Division to shreds, opening up this important cross roads for Patton's Third Army.   The 30th would be engaged against the 1st SS Division again roughly 5 months later in the Ardennes Offensive, better known as the Battle of the Bulge.   

Update - September 18th, 2010 - Our old warrior and my hero, Bill Davis Buchanan passed away on September 17th, 2010.   I will miss him and he will always be a person that I will have the utmost admiration.   His heart finally gave out after 96 years.   Bill always lived his life to the fullest extent and I really feel like he knew that he was on borrowed time after surviving the heavy fighting that he experienced at St. Lo.   He was a simple man that loved God, Family, and Country.   I just hope that I can strive to live by his example and be even half the man that Bill was.   Rest in peace Uncle Bill.  We will truly miss you!

 

 


REMEMBRANCES

Captain (Dr) Howard Aleff

619th Quartermasters

29th Infantry Division

US Army

 

Dr. Howard Aleff was in the very first wave on Omaha Beach on D-Day.   Not only was he in the first wave, but according to Dr. Aleff, he was in one of the first LCV's to hit the beach.   He was a member of the 619th Quartermaster Corps and was a dentist by profession.   His assignment was to care for soldiers in both medical and dental needs.   He hit the beach completely unarmed.  Dr. Aleff actually took this helmet from a German POW in the very first few days of fighting in Normandy.   He specifically remembers telling the German soldier, "I'll take that, as it doesn't look like you will be needing this any longer."   If you look at the photos below, Dr. Aleff is the tall fellow on the left in the photograph wearing the two carry bags with a special marked helmet.   This is an iconic photograph and has shown up in a number of books.   Turns out he had other items that he brought back and I was lucky enough to pick these items up.   They were fairly salty items but full of history.   There was a Bayonet, Black Wound Badge, Police insignia, Heer Belt Buckle with Tab, K98 Bayonet, and a Hitler Youth knife.   

Update:  September 28, 2009

Capt. (Dr) Howard Aleff & Dave Shirlin - September 28, 2009

Here's a brief recap of my visit with Capt. Dr. Howard Aleff.  I flew down to Orlando, FL during the fall of 2009and spent a couple of hours on a Friday morning with Capt. Aleff.  He was 94 years old but was quite with it for his advanced age. I recorded the conversation so I wouldn't miss any important facts.

It turns out that the 619th Quartermasters were attached to the 29th Infantry Division and he did indeed land on Omaha Beach in the first wave and his was one of the first boats to hit the beach. I asked him to share some of his thoughts while his LCV was heading to France across the Channel.  He said one thing that really stands out was this thought, "Jesus Christ, did they have to put me in with the assault troops".  He had volunteered and didn't quite expect to be in the initial assault on Normandy.

He remembered when the ramp dropped rushing to get off the boat, then suddenly being in chest deep water. He is 6'2" and was even taller back in those days. I joked with him, "A short guy like me would have drown".  He thought for a moment, and said, "No you wouldn't have"....then he paused again, "we would have helped you"....another pause and was choking back the tears, "we helped each other...that's how we got through it".

He was pinned down in the water for quite some time, moving from beach obstacle to beach obstacle for cover.  He said that the Germans were really dug in on the bluffs and mortar, machine gun, and small arms fire was very heavy.  He remembered bullets whizzing over head and around him constantly.  He said he was surprised that he did not get hit.  He further said, "You just didn't know what hell was going on".   

I asked him if he was administering any first aid during the first couple of hours. He stated, "The main thing was trying to survive yourself....I am not kidding anybody about that....we were concerned about our own health....my main goal at in the first hour was trying to get the hell off that beach as it was a hot spot". He further elaborated, "when we were in the water, bodies were floating everywhere and most that were hit died immediately or drowned".

I asked him if he can recall when he got the German helmet.  He couldn't remember if it was the first day but he knew that it was within the first day or two.  The helmet was taken from a German POW.  He also confirmed for me that he picked up the various items, K98 Bayonet, Hitler Youth Knife, Wound Badge, Belt Buckle early in the fighting in Normandy. I asked him if he mailed the items home or if he carried them with him.  He actually carried the helmet and items with him in a satchel through the rest of the War. Can you imagine that?  Capt. Aleff  totted this helmet with him hundreds of miles, for over a year.

Something interesting is that he was also present at the fighting at St. Lo in which one of my Uncles in the 30th ID was in. As most of you know, the 29th continued on into France and the fighting at St. Lo was fierce. I wasn't able to get much information on his experience later in the War as we spent a great deal of time discussing the Omaha Beach experience.

It was really a great to hear a first hand account from an Omaha Beach survivor. He lived what was depicted in Saving Private Ryan.  I encourage you fellows to get out there and talk with these Vets while we still have them as their days are few and many are already gone.

*****UPDATE***** November 20, 2010

I just received word this morning that Dr. (Capt) Howard Aleff passed away on Thursday, 11/18/2010.   I was saddened to hear of the loss of this great man.   Time is slipping away to meet these Veterans and hear their stories.   Embrace our remaining WWII Vets as we are down to only 10% are still living.  My condolences go out to the Aleff family and I know that Howard is now with his fallen comrades that didn't make it home from Normandy.  

 

         

      

      

 


Found this photo at ww2incolor.com.   I just loved it.  This   Cutie was a member of the WASP.   She was a pilot and ferried aircraft from factory to various bases.   Goes to show you, not everything in WWII was ugly.   This young lady, Elizabeth Gardner was from Illinois.  I felt it would be a good addition to the History section.  After all, we cannot forget the woman that sacrificed during WWII as well. 

 

 

 

 


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