But our depleted company had had enough "rest" and on Dec. 12 we moved out, marching north. We were wearing the winter-type mud packs, a shoe and boot combination that I soon found wasn't meant for marching with pack and a BAR -- at the end of our first day's hike the bottoms of both my feet were raw with blisters. The next morning we dropped our packs but the harm had been done. Wet, swollen and cold, my feet hurt so badly I could hardly bear my weight -- and this was only the beginning!
Things went along fine for a while. We would dash into towns only to find the Germans had pulled back a few hours before. Usually we dragged a few deserters out of basements or houses. The civilians met us on the streets, shouting "Nichts boche!" and carrying baskets of apples and pears. We ran around flushing houses, an apple in one hand and a rifle in the other. Then we'd move on, hoping to spend the night unmolested in the next town, only two or three kilometers away.
Our artillery was moving up with us and if the setup looked bad they would pour a barrage into each town before we went in. Time and again the Jerries pulled out as we came near and often tossed 88's and mortars back into town after we had gone in. Baker and Charley companies had stopped in one of these small towns to reorganize before taking off again because it was suspected the Germans were waiting for us in the woods just outside. As luck would have it, Allen was told to take a patrol of three men to see if we could draw fire from the edge of the woods.
Craft, Carnes and I were selected to go with Allen and off we went. To say the least my heart was in my mouth when we went over the crest of the hill and started walking across an open field toward the woods. I know the others felt the same way, even Allen, who had seen action before. We moved nearer and nearer the woods, expecting to hear a shot any minute, but nothing happened. We turned around and casting fearful glances over our shoulders, went back into town. It's a strange feeling to think someone is lining you up in his sights and maybe squeezing the trigger . . . .
(Handwritten note from Joe Milhoan, platoon leader, Company B, to members of his platoon, Christmas, 1994. ajc):
"Fifty years ago I joined Company B 409th Infantry which had twelve men and no officers after the Selestat affair. We rapidly built the company to combat strength and set out to destroy Hitler's dream.
"I was as green as grass but with a group of men such as you and the leadership of Sergeant Wards, we gave the krauts more than they handed out. We were in the Siegfried line at this time of December, 1944, and struggling to hold the line and stay alive.
"You will never know how much I appreciated your support, the fact that I never had a man who refused to follow me or my instructions and the willingness to go the extra mile to accomplish our mission.
"We lost some fine men in combat and some since but they are not forgotten. Hope we can all be at Williamsburg and rehash some more fantastic stories.
"Thanks for letting me be your Lieutenant and I wish you health and happiness for the holiday season.
( signed ) Joe"
"Remember Christmas in St. Jean Rohrbach?"
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