07 January, 2012

07 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
7 January, 1945        1300

Wilma, darling –

Well – last night was Saturday and so this must be Sunday afternoon but somehow it doesn’t seem quite like it. I don’t know exactly why. It has been persistently cloudy, foggy and raw outside and that hasn’t helped us one bit, as you can easily imagine. Everything seems stagnant – just as if it were the middle of the winter, and my gosh! – it really is, isn’t it? There are now flurries again today – and I suppose we just can’t expect any decent weather until the Spring.

Last night was extremely dull and all of us just sat around and talked. I played three or four games of cribbage with one of the boys – and that was about all. The night, as well, was quiet. This morning the sick-call was quiet, too, but I expect some patients in – a little later this afternoon.

Say, before I forget it, will you do me a favor darling? Eleanor’s Birthday is February 14th and I can’t get her anything from here, of course. If you could send her some chocolates in my name and also get her some gift of some sort, I’d appreciate it a whole lot. I had a blank check made out, signed – and then I tore it up because it’s just not a good idea to send checks like that in a letter. I’d rather wait until you tell me what you spent and then mail you a check for the correct amount. Get her anything you think she wants and have it signed ‘Happy Birthday, Harold’; ditto for the chocolates. I’ll thank you now, dear, for the trouble.


And that reminds me – how did we make out on a gift for Stan and Betty? Did you finally get one and if you did I want to know my share. Include the amount on what you spent on Eleanor’s gift and I’ll send you a check for the total.

I was so glad to read you had received the perfume – and so close to the correct time. It was pure hypothesis as regards time – when I had it mailed – and I hoped you liked it. When we came thru France we traveled too swiftly to buy anything, and the day I got to Paris – buying anything was out of the question. But I did manage to get to Chalerois – in Belgium and get just about the last bottle in a parfumerie. It seems that every G-I over here had about the same idea. I have since looked several times – but what they have now has been diluted with water and the popular brands just don’t exist anymore. You might write me the names of a few of the desirable ones, though – and I can keep my eyes open.

The paperweight and calendar – were just free riders, dear. I had them – the calendar since way back in France – and I just thought I’d send them along. The eagle I found on the desk of a luxurious office in a town when we first hit Germany. It was the office of the Nazi Party in town and the paperweight was evidently some trophy or prize given to one of the occupants of the office. I liked it – so took it. Anyway – I’m glad you liked the perfume and that it wasn’t broken. You know – you must have quite a collection of junk that I’ve sent you ever since I hit England. What are you doing with it all, dear? And by the way, how’s the clock running – if at all? I’ve got another trophy to send you – a dagger, no less – but darling it’s significance is only as a souvenir. I’ve had it for some time but I didn’t know whether or not I could mail it. I think it is allowed now. It’s beautifully steeled, has a scabbard, is engraved with “Alles für Deutschland” – on the blade and of course has the Nazi seal on the handle. I’ll have it packed in the next few days and send it out. After the war, sweetheart, we’ll have to have one room for trophies – or junk – as you may see fit to call it.

Well, that’s the story for now, dear. I’m going over to see if there was any mail today. It’s been 4 days now, I believe, and I could do with a couple of nice letters from you, believe me. Hope you’re having a nice day now back home and I sure would give a lot to be sitting in your living room now, with you by my side – just as we used to do. But surer than shooting – I’ll be doing that again and we’ll be happy. Love to the folks, sweetheart. So long for awhile and

All my deepest love,
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about Two Battalions Heading for Houffalize

Here is a continuation of Sgt Theodore DRAPER's story of the 84th, with photos from various places on the internet:
2nd Battalion, 333rd Infantry

The turning point of the entire action probably came on 7 January 1945, not where we had to fight the hardest but where progress was still relatively easy. That day, the 2nd Battalion, 333rd Infantry, was sent out to capture the vital crossroads where the La Roche Road and the Houffalize Road meet. The weather was miserable. A snowstorm whipped up during the attack. Nevertheless, by 0930, the crossroads were ours. Prisoners, frozen, hungry, and disorganized, were picked up in small, wandering groups. They said they were surprised again. An attack in such harsh weather was completely unexpected. Our interrogators heard that story almost every day. As soon as we captured the crossroads, the enemy was deprived of the only two first-rate roads to the east, the La Roche Road and the Houffalize Road.

Partly because German resistance above the La Roche Road on our right flank was so much stronger than on our left, we were able to cut the road first on the extreme left of our zone at the crossroads. As we gained full control of the road, we continued to move from left to right. Next, one of our task forces came down from Amonines to Dochamps and from Dochamps we launched the attack on one of the enemy's positions, Samree. The trip from Amonines to Dochamps was the same, old story. The road, though the best in the sector, was so icy and narrow that the tanks were held up repeatedly.

US Tanks near Amonines, Belgium - January 1945

Road blocks, which took about two hours each to reduce on the average, some small-arms fire but this time very little artillery, represented the enemy's main effort to hold us up. Mine fields and trees felled across the road by detonating TNT charges, antitank guns and tanks, were effective sources of enemy resistance. On 7 January, we were able to move into Dochamps.

2nd Armored Division entering Dochamps, Belgium - January, 1945

Dochamps, Belgium, Today

One incident was symbolic. After we had spread out in the village, a German tank with 60-80 infantrymen suddenly pulled out from behind the church and made for Samree. Our tank destroyers could not fire a shot because their turrets were frozen, striking example of weather conditions which lessened the effectiveness of our mechanized equipment and threw the main burden of attack and defense on our infantry. Samree was seemingly impregnable. It was perched on an 1,800-foot hill.

Amonines to Dochamps in Valleys
(A) Samree on a hill

First we had to take two other hills, northeast and northwest of it. Our troops had to move through 1,500 yards of rolling ground in knee-deep snow. The enemy had perfect observation every inch of the way. To tell the truth, it was hard to see how we could make it.

1st Battalion, 334th Infantry

The battle of La Roche is a good example of the battle of supply and the battle of stamina which every Battle in the Bulge was. The roads to La Roche were particulary bad, the hills particulary high and the woods particulary dense. A few tanks and trucks turned the snow on the roads into ice and the trouble started. The Doughboys depended more than ever on the Engineer and Artillerymen. The main attack was launched from Devantave by the 1st Battalion, 334th Infantry. The first objective was Marcouray. Over a hundred guns softened up the village for five minutes.

Marcouray, Belgium Today

Then, at 1500, 7 January 1945, the infantry jumped off. The ground was rocky and steep. It was snowing again. Thirty minutes later, all German resistance in Marcouray was overrun. We found that the enemy positions were carefully prepared. Snow was a natural camouflage. Fortunately, we were achieving tactical surprises and much of the preparation was wasted. As prisoner after prisoner told us, the weather and terrain were so bad that our infantry was simply not expected. That is one compensation for "impossible" conditions - they are apt to lead the enemy to drop his guard. The enemy's surprise at Marcouray was shown by the equipment he was forced to leave behind. We picked up 36 vehicles: eight half-track, two command cars, six U.S. jeeps, six civilian type cars, five six-wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, five U.S. tanks, two German 1½-ton trucks.

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