Sunday, December 14, 2014
70 YEARS AGO
Most of you were not even a “contemplation” 70 years ago Sunday Dec.14. As a member of the now forgotten generation it was another memorable day. That was the day the Germans made their last ditch attempt to win the war in the west; Russia was already lost.
They began the Battle of the Bulge going through the unlikely Ardennes routing the 106th and 78th Divisions. Two Airborne Divisions were in Europe, the 82nd immediately went north and became part of Montgomery’s forces. The 101st had to take a “piss break” in a crossroad town Bastogne and got surrounded there.
A third Airborne Division, mine, the 17th was still in England having not been committed in the fiasco that ended at Nijmegen and Arnhem but was training for an operation “that would end the war”. For the first time in history on the day before Christmas, Dec.24, an entire combat Division was airlifted, with the exception of heavy vehicles, to a combat zone...
Our Regiment 194th was station in the same camp as the 18th Airborne Corps. Shortly before hand a plane load of Portuguese brandy had found its way into the camp and each of the officers were allotted a bottle. For various reasons I had acquired two more bottles.
Our 1st Battalion Aid Station had two jeeps and two trailers which carries all of our equipment t and supplies. Our litter bearers and aid men went in one plane. But those vehicles were an adventure.
One medical jeep and trailer were to be loaded into each C.47. I and three enlisted men would fly in one plane. There was a ramp placed up to the side cargo door of the plane. The driver had to manipulate the jeep and loaded trailer up the ramp, maneuver a 90degree left turn, and ending with the jeep just behind the pilot’s seats. There was no room on either side to stand and the end of the trailer was just in front of the door. I, the driver, and two aid men were to ride sitting in the jeep.
After we got the vehicles loaded the tail wheel was touching the fuselage. The pilot said we had to lighten the load. I had three bottles of Portuguese cognac in my bed roll which I had no intentions of losing. We threw out several cases of C rations and finally had enough clearance that the wheel was not touching the plane.
The pilot and co-pilot said they would take off if we would, on his command, manually trim the plane. As we start down the runway we stood right behind them in the cockpit. As soon as the plane lifted off we scrambled over the jeep and trailer to the rear of the cargo compartment. The plane just managed by inches to clear the top of the trees at the end of the runway and I can write about it.
The flight to France was uneventful. After unloading under pressure from nervous flight crews to hurry up, we moved, loaded in big open trailer (cattle) trucks, to a position near Sedan along the Meuse River.
Twenty four hours after leaving England, we were in combat. The division and its regiments were in army reserve, guarding the river crossings. A Company was sent several miles up the river to another town to protect a bridge. I also moved up there with a few aid men for a small aid station. We chose a house in the village in the middle of a group of houses, side walls almost touching. Although "Bed Check Charlie" flew over every night we felt secure when we were in this town. I celebrated New Year's Eve with some of the company’s officers by opening one of my bottles of brandy
I have written about the Bulge several times but if my pen is twisted; I will again post parts about that bitterly cold sometimes funny but dangerous month.