I thought for awhile today that I wouldn’t have a chance to write, but as things turned out – I’ve just taken a break and here I am. And I don’t want this letter to get any older before I tell you that I love you stronger than anything else in this world.
That wasn’t a very well-connected paragraph, dear, but you know what I mean. We’re still settled in the same spot and things are going along very nicely. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be very busy right now – but as usual – I seem to have something to do all the time – and this time, darling, it’s a corker. Next to the place where our C.P. is a woman, her married daughter, son, younger daughter – and a grandson live – all in about a room and a half. I took care of the old lady for a heart attack – the last time I was here. The p.m. we arrived this time – I was called to see her for another attack and this time she was quite ill; not only that – but hysterical. She raved about the M.P.’s (several live upstairs in the same house) advances to her daughter etc. etc. And it seemed that because of one reason or another – the M.P.s found a loaded German gun in the next store to where these people live. The next store belongs to the woman but was unoccupied – until we moved in.
Well – the whole thing smelled pretty strange to me. We had been here for about a month before, and the people seemed O.K. If anything – the married daughter was too attractive. At any rate – they charged the daughter with having the gun in her house and arrested her. She was confined to a dingy jail. What interested me was the fact the mother – who owns the store – was not confined and the daughter was. The mother insisted they knew nothing of the gun and said it was just done out of spite.
I didn’t want to get mixed up in treating a case – when things were hot like that – so, dear, yesterday I went to the Military Gov’t and told them I was treating someone etc. etc. I asked what would happen and I was told that if connected – death was the penalty. Well – that’s a pretty stiff penalty it seemed to me – especially if these people were innocent, as I believe them to be. I asked one of the officers what sort of defense they’d have and he said they’d pick some officer, any officer – and out of a clear sky he asked why I didn’t defend her especially since I spoke German and needed no interpreter. I went back to see Col. Lane and he said “by all means” – and there you have it, sweetheart. I’ve been appointed by the Mil. Gov’t of this City to defend a German woman who is on trial for her life. And I a doctor!
You know, dear – law takes a lot of running around and that’s what I’ve been doing for a day and a half. This is Wednesday evening and the trial is Friday a.m. at 0900. I guess most of our officers will be there to listen in. It’s held in the City Hall. If I didn’t think these people were guiltless I wouldn’t have touched the case. As it is – the burden of proof rests on me – because the fact is the M.P.s did find a gun on their property. All day today I ran around getting witnesses lined up and it took all the German I knew to convince all of them that I was on the level and was going to defend a German against some American soldiers. It ought to make an interesting case.
Gosh, darling I had no idea I had rambled on for 4 pages already but I wanted you to know most of the details so that if I referred to the case again you’d know what I was talking about, dear.
Other than that, sweetheart, everything is normal. We got no mail the past 2 days but that always happens under these circumstances. When I get thru writing this I’m going to try and take it easy for the rest of the evening and then retire early – but I suppose something will turn up.
So for awhile, sweetheart, so long and remember that no matter what I’m doing you are still the first one in my mind and heart and always will it be so. My love to the folks and
|Authorization given to the jailor for Greg to visit the defendant|
on 06 February 1945
DETACHMENT H2 H2, COMPANY H
2D. E.C.A. REGIMENT
6 Feb 45
TO : Jailor
This is your authorization to permit Capt. H.G.A. to visit Marianne Atzenhofer for the purpose of discussing her case.
Deputy Mil Gov Officer
When the Germans had been pushed back from the Bulge, it was time for our 78th Division to attack again. Our goal was still to seize the Schammenauel Dam and prevent the Germans from blowing it to flood valleys downstream, blocking further advance of Allied forces in the north. The 310th and 311th would start the attack to clear our south flank while the 309th would hold in the north, prepared to repel counterattacks. Our combat engineers would open routes through our minefields and breach through the German mine fields. The snow was still on the ground, about a foot deep, so we issued white snow-capes to our men and built sleds to move heavy loads over the snow...
... On 7 February, our regiment's northward drive into the toughly defended stronghold of Schmidt would have made a good movie setting. Having rebuffed a couple of previous American attacks, Schmidt looked like a tank and vehicle graveyard. The bodies of dead Krauts lay all around, some missing ring fingers that scavengers had already reached. Tanks hung over edges of cliffs. Other paraphernalia of broken weapons, occasional overcoats, and cartridge belts remained where their owners had dropped them. Minefields were also there--one large one covered the northwest approach to town. Elements of four German divisions were defending Schmidt--the 85th Infantry, 9th Panzer, 3rd Parachute and 3rd Panzergrenadier. As mortar and artillery fire fell on the town, the 311th doughboys dashed forward, hitting the ground, jumping up for another dash, hitting the ground again, firing as they advanced. Krauts on the far side of Schmidt scurried out of town so fast their overcoats were flying over their heads. Godfrey Stallings in K Company of the 311th Infantry described his company's attack as follows:My company was to make the main direct assault on this village... Our approach was to be across a wide-open space from the edge of a forest where we were to rendezvous with tanks. Tanks always make a lot of noise when they move with their motors roaring, treads clanking and squeaking...The enemy found out we were in the woods behind the tanks... and began a heavy barrage of artillery shells into the woods where we were waiting... Boy! Those artillery shells were knocking down trees, plowing up the ground, and shrapnel from the exploding shells was flying everywhere, causing casualties...I fell down beside a large tree seeking as much protection as possible. A shell cut the top out of that tree... the top slid down the tree trunk and almost pinned me to the ground. Our captain, realizing we would be cut to pieces if we stayed there, jumped up and started ordering us to move forward out of the woods. We started the attack across the open area on foot ... Everybody seemed to be firing everything they had and I do mean everybody was shooting... We didn't have much protection in the open area. Just blades of grass, weeds, and depressions in the ground left by tank tracks. Our best bet was to keep moving forward. One group would shoot while another group moved forward. They would hit the ground and shoot while another group moved up. It was sort of a leap frog action. When you ran forward, it was a zigzag pattern and when you hit the ground you rolled to spoil the aim of any enemy shooting at you.
When the leading tank got almost to the edge of the village, it was hit by antitank shells and set on fire. Seeing this, the other two tanks wheeled around and started back toward the woods. Seeing the attack faltering, Captain Ferry (my company commander) ordered everybody to start moving toward the village again and kept the attack going. We finally made it to the edge of the village and the house-to-house fighting began... Two of our guys started running toward a house when a hidden machine gun opened up on them. One guy fell to the ground and the other guy dived through an open space that had once been a window or door. Spotting smoke from the machine gun firing at them, he lobbed a hand grenade that took care of the situation. I thought the guy that fell to the ground had been hit, but he had stumbled over a piece of wire that probably saved his life... Whew! What a way to earn $64.80 a month as a private first class plus $10 a month for my Combat Infantry Badge!
Finally our 310th and 311th Infantry regiments gained possession of Schmidt, which had stayed the military might of our allied forces for several months. Some military writers have estimated this town was worth at least five divisions to the enemy.
While the 310th went through Schmidt and on to capture Harscheidt, the 311th moved toward the dam, following the curving north shoreline of the reservoir.
Just after we captured Schmidt, I was ordered to lead a daylight patrol to look for a good site from which to launch assault boats to ferry infantry across the lake behind Schwammenauel Dam on the Roer River. The far side had steep hills occupied by enemy soldiers with good observation on us. A 311th Infantry company took up positions on high ground overlooking my patrol route along the lake south of Schmidt while I took a squad of infantry along for security. We soon found an empty German dugout with a field telephone that had obviously served as a German forward observation post. Ever fearful of running into Krauts, we followed the telephone line to where it went into the lake. We encountered no enemy, but they were obviously over there on the far shore, prevented from shooting us by our overwatching infantry. We came back to report that we could emplace assault boats under cover of night or heavy smoke, and ferry infantry across, but the hills on the far shore would be terribly challenging.
In our drive for the dam, Dad's division artillery was given enormous artillery support from Corps and Army artillery. At one point, he was coordinating the fires of 26 artillery battalions, including 155-mm guns, 8" howitzers, huge 240mm howitzers, and even a British rocket battalion. This concentration of firepower of nearly 300 artillery pieces was one of strongest artillery concentrations in First Army history.