23 January, 2012

23 January 1945

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

My dearest sweetheart –

There’s still been no mail from you although I did get one from Mrs. Kerr in Salem – yesterday. One of these days it ought to start coming through in droves. Yesterday was a quiet day in the a.m., a fairly busy one in the p.m. (I went back to our rear area) and a very noisy one in the evening; but the reference to noisiness, darling, for a change had nothing at all to do with guns. One of our officers has a Birthday today, my Birthday is next week, another fellow’s is later this week, in a few days I will have been a captain for two years – and all in all, dear – we were looking for excuses to run through what was left of our liquor rations. And we did! It totaled 9 bottles of Champagne, two bottles of cognac and 2 bottles of Benedictine. Before we were through – we were mixing all 3 types of drinks into one glass – and you know, dear – it wasn’t bad at all. We didn’t become exactly paralyzed, but one fellow narrowly escaped shock. I was all right but fell asleep with my radio on – and there went my battery. Fortunately I’m using G-I batteries and I’ve got 2 or 3 spares. And one way or another – I managed to save 1 bottle of cognac for my Birthday in fact.

This morning I got a new dentist but at present anyway, he is only a D.S. We’ll probably lose him if our other one comes back. His name is Vesely, a Captain and he seems like a pretty good Joe. The interesting thing is that he comes from Nebraska, went to the same school as Pete and knows him well. I’ve contacted Pete but today is a bit of a mixed up day and we won’t be able to get together. In the next day or so I think we’ll be together – I mean the battalion – and then we’ll all have a little rest, probably.

I was just re-reading your letter of 23 December, darling, and I love to read that you need affection and attention because that, sweetheart, is what I’m going to specialize in once I get back and it will all be directed towards you. If you don’t call for a truce, dear, it will be because you can’t catch your breath - because I’ll be giving you so much loving that oh – what’s the use talking about it; just wait and see!!

Right now, darling, I’m going over to the Field Hospital where the new dentist comes from. It happens to be near here and he’d like to pick up a few things he left behind. I’d like to look it over anyway. Tomorrow I may not be able to write because of an obvious reason but I should be able to get started again the next day.

Until then, dear, you have my constant thought, attention, affection – and everything that concerns you and me. My love to the folks – and

All my everlasting love


about A January Day

The following information is excerpted from a page posted by the Belgium-based "Center of Research and Information about the Battle of the Ardennes (C.R.I.B.A.)" called "My Untold Story, January 1945," by Private Jospeh A. Campagna.
It was a cold miserable January day in Belgium.  The fog was thick and the snow flakes large. We were in single file heading for some woods in the Ardennes when we started hearing our artillery coming over. I didn’t take us long to distinguish our artillery from theirs.

We were to attack the enemy which consisted of panzer grenadiers and armor at 0815 hours. Our objective was to drive the Germans out of the woods. Between the fog and the snow it was difficult to see some of our troops, which in turn gave the feeling of being alone.

We set up our water-cooled machine guns in text book fashion, that it to place them so we would have interlocking bands of grazing fire. Even though our guns fired only 500 rounds per minute, we were soon low on ammunition. My squad leader, Sergeant Fisher, asked me to find our ammunition supply dump and bring back as much as I could carry. When I walked out of the woods into the open field, all Hell broke loose. The Germans opened up on us with small arms, machine guns, 88 mm paks, and those ever frightening Nebelwerfer, six tube rockets, better known to us as “Screaming Meemies”. When I finally got back to my squad, almost everyone was hit from tree burst, including my squad leader Fisher. He was hurt pretty bad and my friend Pete Covick was trying to give him a shot of morphine but was afraid he could hurt him. I heard Fisher yelling at Covick to stick the damned needle in his arm. He was in a lot of pain by this time. Pete was trying to give Fisher the morphine because our medic was down with part of his head blown away.

I can still see Jim Kelley sitting in the snow looking at his jump boots and cursing the Germans for knocking the heel off his boot. He said, “Don’t they know boots are rationed and hard to get?”

We finally got word to withdraw but unfortunately as a machine gunner, we have to stay back and cover the withdrawal. When I felt that I gave our troops ample time, I dismantled my gun and threw parts in all directions so that the Germans couldn’t use it against us. As soon as I started across the field to join my company, the Germans started in with the artillery again. I could hear the six tube rockets coming in so I hit the snow. That’s when my helmet pushed back off my forehead and shrapnel hit me cross the top of my head and went out the back of my helmet. A medic was trying to reach me but we were fired at and he finally had to give it up. I didn’t blame him at the time since there was nothing he could do.

I lay in that freezing cold for about two hours with nothing but a field jackets as our overcoats were taken away for some reason. Army logic I’m sure. My jump boots were little protection for my feet. I can remember calling for my mother as I thought I was going to the “happy hunting ground”. I felt my eyes close as I was beginning to feel comfortable and sleepy.

Soon, I felt myself being cradled in very strong arms and knew that I was on my way to that happy place. I soon realized that it was a human voice I was hearing reassuring me that I would be alright. I didn’t realize that it was a German medic until he started to bandage my head. He threw an overcoat over me and my teeth finally stopped chattering.

I was lying next to another airborne trooper when our artillery started pounding the Germans. The trooper said, “Let’s get the Hell out of here. I don’t want to be killed by our own shells.” He helped me up and we headed back to our lines.

I had no idea where our lines were, so I followed him and he led us right to our battalion aid station. By the time we made it back, my feet were frozen so bad that I couldn’t stand anymore. I looked up from my prone position and saw Frank Greco from my home town of Omaha. He asked me to contact his mother and tell her that he was alright. He did make it home later.

The medics tagged me and a few days later I was in a hospital in France and then on to England. A colonel was checking my feet and I heard him telling his assistant that he wasn’t sure about saving some of the feet he had seen. When I heard that, I said, “Please, Colonel, don’t cut my feet off, I’m short enough.” He smiled down at me and reassured me that he would do his best for me. Thank God, I’m still 5’9” tall.

... I have regretted the fact that I didn’t ask the German medic for his name and address. He was such a great human being, and so gentle and caring with me. Hopefully, he was reunited with his mother and family.

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