One night we were suddenly given orders to pack up and be ready to move out on a minute's notice. It was a long minute.....we left about five hours later, walking over the icy roads and carrying all our battle equipment, personal belongings and bed rolls, a load which in civilian life I would not have attempted to carry over a block. We walked and walked and I coughed and coughed, getting hotter by the minute. I couldn't get my breath and none of us could keep his footing in the snow and ice. Men were sprawling all over the road, cursing, and going on -- no one seemed to know where. Each town we came to we hoped we were going to stop, but we always passed on through.
I was ready to drop and did fall behind several times, only to catch up while the company was taking a break. Crabtree was not faring much better and finally I suggested we slip out of the column in the next town we came to, spend the night, and go on in the morning. I guess I spoke too loudly, because not only did Ray immediately fall in with my plan but so did two other guys! So we just fell behind, "fixing our packs," and when the others had gone, went into a barn, climbed into the loft and fell asleep. During the night another company of our men did stop in the town and most of them slept in the barn with us. They left before we did.
We felt very cheerful when we crawled out of our bed rolls in the morning and started up the road -- Crabtree, Bowles, Compton and I. We saw no GIs along the way and for several hours went through one town after another before we met some tankers setting fire to their crippled tanks.... retreat!!! The Germans were coming through, were probably in the town we had just left, and we soon found tanks and trucks, stuck in the ditches, burning for a fare-thee-well. We wasted no time then in pushing ahead, fearing any moment the Jerries would overtake us. It was after noon when a truck was sent back to pick up stragglers and we got a ride. A few hours later we were in Buswiller where our company had been set up -- and very happy to be there.
By this time I was so hoarse I could only talk in whispers and cough by the hours. I still couldn't get anything out of the medics but my platoon sergeant was nice enough to let me stay behind when the others went out to dig more positions in case the Germans penetrated that far. It was here I made my first Alsatian friends.... middle aged man, his wife, and her older sister. They treated me like a son, the wife even fixing up an awful tasting mixture of sugar and creosote (or something) for me to take for my cough. Our whole platoon slept in their barn and practically overran their home but they didn't seem to mind.
We stayed here for maybe two weeks when we again moved out, marching several miles to a little town called Schakeldorf. From here we took turns as platoons in holding positions in our "main line of resistance" several more miles to the northeast. These days were miserable with long marches and hours in cramped, water-filled fox holes, but nothing of particular interest happened. It was several days later that brought about a series of incidents which I'll remember always.
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