We were finally pulled out of LaWalck when we got so jumpy we'd get prickly scalps if a cat looked at us, and walked back to another town by the name of Bouxweiler (not Busweiler) and again began to have life easy, the easiest, I think, until after the war was over. Our squad lived in one room of the postoffice away from all the others. We had to stand guard about one night in five and during the day trained, listened to lectures, drilled and occasionally went to shows. We "goofed-off" as much as possible on all the training and the officers were just as bad. We did no more than that until the morning of March 12, I think it was.
Captain Walton called the entire company into the mess hall and told us: "You have just heard our artillery pounding away for the past hour. A few minutes ago 410 and 411 (our other two regiments) jumped off on the attack which is expected to take us to the Rhine river. We are at the present in reserve. Be ready to move out in an hour." This was it again and we were on our way, wondering how long we would stay in reserve.
It didn't take us long to realize it wouldn't be long. We were following in the wake of a fierce battle. The Germans for two months had been building up their defenses, a solid wall of mines and booby traps in fields and towns. We stayed most of the first afternoon in a little town, still in our original holdings, but the battle was going on just a few miles ahead. We sat by the road and watched Jeeps, trucks and ambulances coming back with American wounded -- one Jeep with only three men...the driver, a medic, and propped up between them a soldier with apparently half of his throat blown out. The aid man was holding the boy's head steady and trying to stop the flow of blood with his hand. On another Jeep a man lay stretched out on the hood, his right leg blown off. Mines were taking their toll.
We moved on and came to small villages leveled to the ground by our air corps and artillery. The debris was burning furiously and the smell was awful. Everywhere one looked were dead stock blown to bits, cows, calves, horses, lambs. The civilians had evacuated the town but the stock had been left behind. Now we were moving far ahead of our burial details and bodies were becoming more frequent. I remember so well one boy who had never been in combat before but who told some frightening tales from his own imagination. It was early in the morning, a heavy fog clung to the ground -- a typical movie war scene, torn ground and trees...and mud -- and there, lying in the mud at the side of the road, a dead man. His pants had been entirely blown off and his bare rump was pointing skyward, the rest of him hidden in mud and water.
The boy stared and stared at the sight...his first dead soldier. He turned to me, "Is that a real man?" he breathed. "What do you think it is, a wax dummy? Of course, it's real," I growled. I had no reason to talk like that, except I didn't feel too well myself.
A few minutes later we had another eye opener as we passed through one of the burning villages. On both sides of the road, only a few feet apart, were about ten dead Germans, evidentally killed in one blast from a bomb or shell as they made a break across the road. It never phased me to see dead Germans but a dead GI hit home with all the force imaginable. It made me realize that Americans were being killed, too, and the next one might be me. As we went down the road on the heels of the battle ahead, we saw innumerable GIs lying dead in holes or along the ditches. In one flat field on the outskirts of a town were four Yanks lying prone, their rifles still pointing toward the town..killed by machine gun. Under a lone tree was a man propped up on a pack, his canteen in his hand. Wounded, and maybe another bullet got him or he just died waiting. It was in this town that we dropped our bed rolls and everything else we could get rid of -- taking over!
"Our squad lived in one room of the postoffice''... .. As nightfall came we had to black-out the windows so we could have some light, not much but some, in our cramped quarters. So, we were hanging blankets over the windows. There was this bang! bang! as someone hung up the blankets.....and we discovered Billy Bowles hammering in nails with.....a live hand grenade! Okay, so the pin was in place, all secured, no problem but however and maybe-not, Billy's well-meaning effort was halted immediately, if not before!
From Ed DeFoe, October 30, 1991:
Ref: Page 35
Oh, yes, I remember Black, Fry, Compton, Craft, Damanti, Crabtree, McGonagle, Carnes and Captain Walton..... he was the only Captain we ever had after he was wounded. . . . and of course, Billy Bowles. We had a short visit with Billy in March 1989 ..... when we left we had a hug and with tear-filled eyes he said, "This is the first time I ever hugged a guy"! I said, "Me, too"....-and we drove off into the sunset.
From Ed Fry, December 1985:
Ref: Page 35
I joined the squad at Bouxweiler and was billeted in the postoffice. The older guy was named Caves (who had gone AWOL from the regular Army, came back and was immediately punished by being assigned to the Infantry! ajc) who had been a professional hobo. I remember him heating water on the stove for a shave...in a coffee can on that little coal stove. I had just finished shaving and wanted to dry my helmet so I just sat it on the stove over his can of water for a moment. He came in and saw the helmet but no can and jerked it off the stove. Of course, the can of water went with it and all over the place! Caves and I remained friendly in spite of this incident.
From Ed DeFoe, December 18, 1991:
Ref: Page 35 MUD AND GUTS
I remember Bouxwieller because we were all called out and a French Officer began thanking us for the support and generally praising us for...whatever...and a runner came and handed me a telegram - - I had fathered a baby girl on the 27th of February (1945)... Kathleen Marie, who I nicknamed "Pug". She lives now with her family just six blocks from our home and is a great help to me with Aggie's (Ed's wife) problem (Alzheimer's disease).
Page 35 MUD AND GUTS (ajc)
At the 103rd Division reunion in Dallas last September, 1991, Joe Milhoan gave me an original copy of a Divisional NEWS SUMMARY dated March 5, 1945 in which was included this amusing story of Lieutenant Milhoan and our late, good friend, Amos Craft, with the request that I send a copy to Amos' wife, Cecile, which I did. But the story also belongs as an insert in my book. Here 'tis:
WHAT'LL THEY BLAME C-RATIONS FOR NEXT?
Lt. Joseph Milhoan, a 409th Infantry platoon leader had gone to his company CP to report his platoon quartered for the
night. It was midnight and quiet in that sector except for an occasional round of artillery.
Suddenly Pfc. Amos Craft, platoon runner, burst into the CP and announced "Sir, you'd better come right away. The heinies dropped a shell right down the chimney of the platoon CP!"
"Anyone hurt?" the officer inquired.
"They got Sgt. Simpson, Sir. Right between the eyes and it came out over his ears. You can see his brains sticking out. I made him lay down".
Lt. Milhoan and his runner hurried off into the darkness. Ten minutes later the Lieutenant was back, still laughing so hard it was difficult to relate this tale:
One of Sgt. Harold Simpson's fellow non-coms had decided to warm himself a can of "C" rations that night. He placed the
can in the oven. But in a few minutes he had forgotten the can and was fast asleep.
When the sealed can exploded, Simpson was in direct line of fire. Two blobs of meat and beans caught him -- one between the eyes and one over the ear.
Joe Milhoan swears this is a true story....well, on second thought, I don't think he actually swore it was the truth!! But a good story nonetheless. -AJC
From Ed DeFoe, December 18, 1991:
Something just occurred to me, Art -- back on your page 36....I suddenly remembered Billy Bowles must have returned about that time. We were marching...after the "stinky" episode where between burning bodies and powder smell, some GIs had built a prisoner stockade. We spent a little time there and when we pulled out there were a lot of horses, etc., wandering around along the road. Billy said, "Hey, DeFoe! can you ride a horse?" "Yeh, I did once," I said. Well, I climbed on an abandoned truck and Billy hopped on a horse (with the greatest of ease, I might add) and brought a horse for me ...so I could climb on. I had tried a few times and, man, that horse was high off the ground. Anyway, we were on our way. My horse and Billy's must have been real-life buddies 'cause when his picked up speed, mine did, too. Of course, we had lost the company by that time. When his horse was out of sight of mine...he must have panicked and mine started trotting. That is when my butt met the horse on a very uneven keel...until I could no longer hang on ---- so....I fell off. I landed on my back, busted the stock of my rifle, lost my helmet and was quite angry about the whole thing. By that time, my Texas-born buddy had come back and, Art, he was laughing so hard he even had a hard time hanging on....but at least we were safe because I'm sure if there had been any krauts around they would have shot us, for sure! We managed, however, to continue on and met up with a Red Cross truck which was lost. Well, we kind of had an idea where you guys were and, sure enough, we were able to join the company again....a little late but we left our horses on the edge of town so we wouldn't catch hell.
AJC: Lieutenant Milhoan, did you have any idea this kind of (um...) horse-play was going on?
Title Page Previous Page Next Page
This page maintained by Bruce Clayton.
Copyright © 2008 by Bruce D. Clayton, All rights reserved.