04 January, 2012

04 January 1945

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
4 January, 1945       1600

Dearest Wilma –

I had a swell dream last night – namely that I was home again; not only I, but my whole outfit. Not bad, eh? Do you believe in dreams, darling?

Just got back from Charlie Battery where I spent part of the day. Was supposed to be there the last three days but just couldn’t make it. The days are pretty short and there’s lots to get done. When I finish writing this I’ve got to dash over to Group Hq. and visit a sick Colonel there.

By the way, dear – I sent two packages out today. One is a gift I received from the Salem Hosp. The other is a large album of photographs of a journey once made by one of the Rothschilds. I don’t know if the latter will get through.

It snowed all day today – and although the hills here and the woods are beautiful – the effect on the war effort is more important. Nothing to do about it.


All else well, Sweetheart and I hope you’re keeping in good time. Remember I love you – and you only and that’s my constant thought. S’long for now –

Always yours
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about the Counter-Offensive Begins

Beginning on 23 December 1944, for five days the weather had favored the Americans, in the air and on the ground. Superior numerically in tanks, the Americans benefited more than the Germans from the sure footing the big freeze provided for armor. Then, on 28 December, came clouds and overcast followed, a day later, by arctic air from Scandinavia, heavy snows, blizzards, and greatly reduced visibility at ground level. Vehicular movement was slow, the riflemen exhausted themselves wading through the drifts, and the wounded-those in a state of shock - died if left in the snow for more than half an hour or more. This was the state of the weather when, on 3 January, the Allies began their final counterattack.

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]
Greg's location at Aisne, Belgium is marked by Red Dot within the red ellipse
This map was found on the Emerson Kent History for the Relaxed Historian site

Aisne, Belgium, where Greg was set-up, was within the zone of the 84th Infantry Division, as can be seen on the above map. A few veterans remember the 84th action and tell of wounded being taken back to the Battalion Aid Station. Perhaps Greg was treating some like these.

Wounded near Aisne

Sgt Theodore DRAPER of the 84th remembered this:
The terrain in the Ardennes is like a jigsaw puzzle. Somehow all of it fits together but somehow all of it can be taken apart and the pieces fall into the oddest shapes. Each hill and wood is like a separate compartment and tactically each one becomes a distinct problem. In this rolling country, there is commanding high ground in almost every mile so that an overnight withdrawal from one hill of defense to the next is relatively easy. The villages and fragments of villages - the toughest "village" to take in our offensive had a single house - are invariably astride the roads and inevitably become enemy strong points.

The German Bulge was hit from three sides. The third Army came up from the south, from Bastogne. The First Army came down from the north, from both sides of Manhay. A British Corps attacked from the west, from Marche. To get the whole story, then, at least three large phases have to be covered. The main effort, however, was made by the First Army, from the north.

But the main effort was assigned to the 2nd Armored and 84th Infantry Divisions - both La Roche and Houffalize were in their zone of advance. We - the 2nd Armored Division and the 84th Infantry Division - were attacking on a front about nine miles wide. Although originally planned as armored offensive, with the infantry in support, the battle of the Ardennes Bulge quickly became an infantry attack primarily, with the armor used only as the ground permitted.

D-day was 3 January 1945. H-hour was 0830. From early morning the roads were icy. The temperature shot down till the ground was like steel. Tank treads slipped and slid as if the tanks were drunk. Every time a tank skidded, a column was held up. Sometimes the tanks skidded just far enough to block the road.

3rd Armor, 7 January 1945
Waiting while tank that had slid across the road is cleared

The main objective that day was Devantave, beyond a cluster of woods and a hill. The tanks could not get through the woods and our infantry had to push ahead.

290th Regiment in Woods, January 1945

We got through the woods safely and one company stepped out to cross the hill. Eighty-eights were waiting for them. Eighty-eights and rockets and mortars swept the hill and crashed into the woods. We had to pull back. Light tanks were used to evacuate the wounded; nothing else was possible in the snow.

At 1500, we again tried to take Devantave but again we could not get over the hill. We withdrew for the night.


S/Sgt Willard H. (Bud) FLUCK of the 84th Infantry Division, HQ Company, 333rd Infantry Regiment remembered this:
It took a few days to get re-organized, but on January 3, 1945, the 84th was paired with the 2nd Armored while the 83rd was paired with the 3rd Armored for the start of our-counter-offensive to choke off the tip of the German penetration. Our pincer move was to start at Manhay and end at Houffalize where we were to meet the Third Army coming from the south, only about half our distance. The following days are confused in my mind, for we seemed always on the move from one short stay here or there to another place with a name.

The next day it snowed and kept on snowing. Roads became almost invisible, and vehicles slid into ditches. Tanks made the hard surfaces slick as ice. In a blinding snowstorm our E and F Companies launched an attack to take and secure the La Roche Road. No tank support. The snow was too deep and the terrain too difficult for them. An F Company patrol secured the vital crossroads where the La Roche Road and the Houffalize Road met. This feat had deprived the enemy of the only two first-rate roads to the east, and has been considered the turning point of the Ardennes operations. The enemy had been taken completely by surprise.

It was near here that a patrol of eight of us were sent to bring in a group of about 35 or 40 German prisoners being held by two GIs. I was the third man, sent along as interpreter. We waded through waist deep snow for some distance and then onto bare ground which had been blown clear. The Lieutenant, in the lead, saw the Germans just inside a grove of pine trees and started into the grassy area.. There was an explosion and I felt a puff-of air on my face. The sergeant two steps ahead of me had stepped on a German Shu mine and lost his foot. I backed out; the lieutenant re-traced his steps and got out. What to do? He ordered two of the biggest men to get the sergeant out. There was another explosion and another foot gone, while the third man had shrapnel up and down his right side. The second man was laughing. He was going back to a nice warm hospital bed. The lieutenant called for a jeep and they were all taken back to the Battalion Aid Station.

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