World War II: The 14th Infantry in Training and Combat
History of the 14th Infantry Regiment
with the 71st Infantry Division
in World war II
"Blue Mike, The Story of Company M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment"
by Capt. Pete Sims
as published in several
editions of the 71st Division Association Newsletter,
including Volumes 24 No. 2, July, 2010, and 25, No 1, January, 2011
This excerpt tells the story of the 14th Infantry Regiment as it traveled by ship from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, on January 25, 1945, to Le Harve, France and from there to Camp Old Gold for final training before preparing to transfer across France into combat, on March 9, 1945.
PART ONE : Convoy to Le Havre
January 25, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. During the early morning Co. M assembled with full pack and equipment in snow above the ankles. Shortly, we boarded a train for the short trip from Camp Kilmer to the harbor where our troop ship was waiting. At the dock we were met by the Red Cross ladies, who passed out hot coffee, doughnuts, chewing gum and candy. The air was cold, so that hot coffee really hit the spot.
At the designated time we started up the gangplank single file. Each man was issued a meal ticket, told not to lose it, and was directed down into the hold to the compartment designated for Co. M. Everyone familiarized themselves with their quarters, bunks were made and packs stowed. We had gotten settled by 1200. We had our first chow aboard ship. We had the afternoon and evening to get acquainted with our new surroundings.
Co M was one of the first units to board the ship. The reason for this was that we had been designated one of the ship's Police and Sanitation Companies. Our specific assignments were by platoons. The 1st MG Platoon was responsible for cleaning three "heads" in the fore part of the ship, while the 2nd MG Platoon had the same assignment for the aft portion. The mortar platoon had the assignment of sweeping and swabbing decks for a designated portion of the ship. There were other P&S companies aboard, so the responsibility for keeping the ship clean was not ours alone.
January 26, 1945 – Aboard ship
At 0400 we became aware that our ship was moving. Many men went up on deck to get a last look at the good ol' USA. Just as dawn was breaking our ship glided out of New York harbor and past the Statue of Liberty. We soon learned that we were on a US Navy transport ship, the "General J. R. Brooke." This was good news to us because we had heard the Army transport ships had round bottoms and were not so well-stabilized as Navy transports.
After we were settled aboard, each man was issued several paper "puke" bags and a Red Cross ditty bag containing a sewing kit, cards, dice, cigarettes, paperback books and a number of other goodies. Life aboard ship was a new experience for most of us and the Navy language over the ship's PA system was a whole new world. It did not take us long to learn the instructions and some will always stick in our memory. Some of those worthy to mention were, "The smoking lamp is lit," "The smoking lamp is out," "Sweepers man your brooms, clean sweep down fore and aft," and "Report to the fan-tail for mail call." The most popular for some was, "Mess call for Section Easy One at 1815 hours."
Entertainment consisted of a daily mimeographed newspaper giving the progress of the war, musical entertainment every night and two picture shows during the trip. Most men spent their free time in their bunks writing letters, reading or just being seasick.
January 27, 1945 - Aboard ship
After the first full night at sea, those subject to seasickness were getting really sick. Those unfortunate ones just seemed to get sicker as the trip progressed. I was woozy from the start and seemed to never get any relief from the swaying motion. Mess call was an ordeal if you had only the slightest "mal de mer." You were required to wear your life jacket, be in the correct mess line at the correct time and to have your meal ticket available to be punched. Just after you have had a refreshing breath of fresh sea air, you enter the mess area where the pervading smell of the infernal coffee urns hits you in the face. If you weren't seasick when you went in, the coffee urn smell made you sick. The coffee urns were huge, each with a coffee sack of a gallon or two of coffee. I don't believe those urns had been fully cleaned since the ship was commissioned. After that, I didn't believe I could ever again drink coffee made in an urn and enjoy it.
We almost capsized tonight. At about 2200, General Quarters was sounded throughout the ship. Everyone thought it was a drill until we saw the concern on the faces of the Navy men. Everyone went to their quarters. Lt. Stewart and Lt. Thode were sitting on their bunks discussing the possible reason for the call for General Quarters when suddenly the ship made a wild lurch. Lt. Thode had his steel hat hanging on a peg above his bunk. With the lurch, his helmet flew across the room and landed on Lt. Stewart's bunk. The first reaction was, "Boy, that was a big one." Thereafter, things settled down.
The next morning, Lt. Stewart spoke with one of the ship's officers about the big lurch the night before. He was told that our ship was next to last in the right-hand file of ships. There was a tanker immediately behind us as the last vessel. The General Quarters call was for a submarine alert. Our ship was ordered to circle and change places with the tanker since the tanker had no fire power. The sub was presumed to be somewhere near, behind the tanker. At the time of General Quarters, we had a relatively inexperienced man at the helm of our ship. He made the circling turn in the wrong direction and too sharply. While turning out of the wind, the ship was hit broadside by a very large wave. Our ship listed to an angle of 45°. The Navy officer said that if our list had exceeded 47°, we would have turned turtle and capsized.
I'm still not so seasick that I have to drop out of the poker games. To date, I'm $82 ahead.
January 28, 1945 - Aboard ship
Lt. Thode is blessed with a cast iron gut. No matter how rough the seas, it doesn't bother him in the least. He's always telling us how great the chow is and that there isn't enough to do on board to keep busy. Today he had to tell us that the chow was the best he had eaten since being in the Army and even told us they had tablecloths and napkins at evening mess. We, who were the sickest, could easily have choked him.
This evening he wrote a letter holding on to the pad and table as the ship swayed from side to side. Appropriately, one statement in that letter said, "Lt. Sims has been sick from the first day out and is easily one of the most miserable creatures I've seen in a long time." For a boy from the flat lands of Montana who hadn't been on more water than a full bathtub, Lt. Thode was very lucky. It was not surprising that Lt. Thode was the first in line when the ship's library opened this morning. He checked out a copy of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and by evening was more than half way through it. He also noted that the PX aboard ship had almost anything he could get at a post PX.
Cpl. Martin D. Ritz soon got acquainted with the Navy expressions over the PA system and never missed a meal. He was one of the lucky ones who was not subject to seasickness. He often checked with others who were sick, and asked to use their meal tickets. Hence he was able to eat twice for certain meals when he was especially hungry.
The light down in the hold of the ship is not too bright and makes writing letters difficult. There is also difficulty in sleeping in bunk beds. It seems you are awakened every time the guy above or below you moves.
It's a fairly good day today. The wind is not too strong and the sun tried to break through the clouds occasionally in the morning.
January 29, 1945 - Aboard ship
The mortar platoon was given the duty of sweeping and swabbing down all decks and ladders (stair steps, to the civilian) fore and aft, twice a day for a specified section of the ship. They never had to worry about the time of day because the Navy PA system would come on at the correct time with the familiar, "Sweepers man your brooms, clean sweep down fore and aft."
Pfc. George H. Padginton occupied the lowermost bunk of a six tier bunk set-up. Pfc. Robert F. Wright had the next bunk up. As soon as our ship reached the open sea, Pfc. Padginton began to get seasick, a condition that was to prevail for the remainder of the trip. Pfc. Wright, thinking Pfc. Padginton would surely die before landing, took it upon himself to help his friend in any way possible. He would make him get up and go to the "head" when things got too bad, even to lending him a hand there and back. He would bring him food from the chow line but Pfc. Padginton just couldn't eat anything. By the time we finally landed, Pfc. Padginton was nearly totally dehydrated, as were many others.
I was not that sick but I, too, did have a sense of nausea for the entire trip. For a farm boy who had never been to sea, the constant feeling of wanting to "flip my cookies" was most uncomfortable. In my first letter home to my wife, I wrote, "If you ever wish to see me again, they will have to build a bridge or you will have to come over here; I won't come home by ship." Pfc. Ovie S. Bea was one of those who was seasick. He thought the boat would never get to France.
I'm getting more seasick all the time but I still manage to stay in the poker games. I'm $162 ahead.
January 30, 1945 - Aboard ship
The convoy was composed of several troop transport ships, cargo ships, fuel ships and escorting destroyers. We stayed in a predictable pattern throughout the voyage with the exception of the destroyers. They cruised at will. They were interesting to watch as they often fired depth charges when a submarine was nearby.
This evening, after dark, I was topside and got into a conversation with a young naval officer from the ship. The destroyers were cruising and dropping depth charges. I asked the officer "What is all the hubbub?" He told me that as best they could figure, there was an enemy submarine somewhere between us and the troop transport that we could see outlined on the horizon. I began to realize the seriousness of getting a convoy safely across the Atlantic. This explained why the convoy zigzagged and took eleven days to get to England, while coming home after the war with lights on, the trip would only take five days.
January 31, 1945 – Aboard Ship
The weather has improved during the past two days and the ship doesn't roll so very much. We do get some news of the outside world each day. We form quite a cheering section for the Russians and are anxious to see them get in high gear again. We know they have had tremendous losses in battle on the eastern front but to most of us it seems they have been dragging their feet for too long. President Roosevelt got a commitment from Premier Stalin that Russia would immediately begin a two-front offensive on the German heartland. Thus far they have dawdled on the commitment.
I write on only one side of the paper in my letters home. These letters must pass through a base censor. Any objectionable word or statement regarding military information will be cut out by the base censor. If so, the other side of the page would then be spoiled. The letters we receive are subject to the same treatment.
I'm having more seasickness. The poker games are still going strong. I have just completed the book "Studs Lonigan," but it's hard to concentrate when I am feeling so rotten.
February 1, 1945 – Aboard Ship
Each morning all men stood bunk inspection followed by calisthenics topside to keep in good condition. Additionally we held practice alerts and all units would fall out topside to an assigned area. Then we would watch the Navy crew go through their alert assignments.
Tonight we saw two movies, "The Road to Singapore" and "Johnny Eager," both old films but a very welcome diversion.
February 2, 1945 – Aboard Ship
Yesterday and today have been beautiful sunlit days; not the cold, damp, overcast days we have been experiencing.
The 2nd MG Platoon is busy about an hour each day cleaning their assigned "heads" as they are called by the Navy, "latrines" as referred to by the Army or "toilets" as known to the civilian. Lt. Thode had to stick around after the job was done, for inspections by Majors, Lt. Colonels and Colonels. He always referred to these inspections with tongue-in-cheek as "terrific responsibility."
February 3, 1945 - Aboard Ship
We have been socked in solid fog for most of the day. When the sun doesn't come out the morale goes down accordingly. Lt. William A. Davis of Co. I, Lt. Stewart, and Capt. Edwards have started to grow mustaches. The rest of the officers are still neutral. I am suffering almost continual seasickness. I spend most of each day in my bunk. I'll be awfully glad to see dry land once again.
February 4, 1945 - Aboard Ship
To occupy time aboard ship, we kept poker games going nearly constantly. When one man dropped out someone would step in to take his place. Just about the only reasons to drop out were going broke or seasickness. This is another day of nearly solid fog. We must be getting close to England and the fogs of London we have heard so much about.
February 5, 1945 - Aboard Ship
After dark the "General Brooke" pulled into and anchored in the harbor at Southampton, England. This was an unscheduled stop because the English Channel was socked solid with fog and considered unsafe. Many of us went topside to see the harbor lights which were few. For many of us it was our only look at England during the war and afterwards.
February 6, 1945 - Aboard Ship
This morning the "General Brooke" weighed anchor and proceeded across the channel to Le Havre, France. While in the channel our ship laid-to while a dispatch boat pulled along side for transfer of selected personnel. Lt. John Eisenhower was a member of the 14th Infantry. He was the son of the ETO Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower. Lt. Eisenhower and two or three other personnel were taken by the dispatch boat back to England. The "General Brooke" then proceeded on to Le Havre.
After docking we got our first look at the port city of Le Havre. It was a shattered mess. Nearly everything had been heavily damaged by shellfire. Although the city had received some damage from bombing during the period when it was occupied by the Germans, the real damage came from the US fleet. After the D-Day landing west of Le Havre, the German command elected to retreat from the city. The US fleet with its big guns was lying offshore. Bombardment had begun prior to the German evacuation and continued for one full day afterwards. The Germans did not bother to designate it as an "open" city and the French FFI had no way to contact the US Fleet. Hence, the French people of Le Havre never did feel too friendly toward the American GI.
A portion of the 71st Division disembarked at 2100 hours. The 14th Infantry, including Co. M and other units will be sleeping aboard the "General Brooke" and will not touch French soil until tomorrow.
February 7, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
At 0700 hours, Co. M went single file down the gangplank of the "General Brooke," carrying everything we had brought aboard to 2 1/2 ton trucks and started to drive to a destination unknown other than that which we had been told, "a training center." Le Havre was in shambles with hardly an untouched building to be seen. Even the streets were badly damaged in places. Cpl. Martin D. Ritz was one who was amazed at the devastation of Le Havre. He couldn't believe that any one town could be so badly damaged by bombing and shellfire.
Soon we were beyond the outskirts traveling east through the Normandy countryside. Our first impression was that of neatly manicured farm plots all bounded by the proverbial French hedgerows.
Thirty kilometers later we arrived at "Camp Old Gold." There were three of these camps scattered at various points in Normandy; all named for a brand of cigarette. The other two were "Lucky Strike" and "Philip Morris." The Germans had been pushed out of western and southern France some five months before, so that the life of the French civilian had returned to some semblance of normalcy with American occupation.
Camp Old Gold was a disappointment to say the least. We had hoped for better but hadn't really expected it. Camp Old Gold was a sea of tents and mud, located about one kilometer from the town of Doudeville, France. We were unloaded and assigned a camp area. The first order of business was erecting pyramidal tents which slept six to eight men. We carved out our own tent locations and a company street.
The Germans had been pushed out of western and southern France some five months before, so that the life of the French civilian had returned to some semblance of normalcy with American occupation.
February 8, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
Our purpose at Camp Old Gold, as designated by regiment, was to continue training exercises and to plan and organize for movement of the regiment to a combat area.
We were provided gravel for tent floors. Later, we had gravel for the company street. Even so, the mud up to the ankles seemed to be ever present. Each man had a cot, his pack, and shared a tent to call home for the time being. Camp Old Gold was located in an operational agricultural field area. The soil was tilled, fertilized, harvested; this process having been repeated for several centuries. A soil so well-tilled needed only water to become mud. It rained nearly every day for the month we were at Camp Old Gold. With such good ingredients, we had a bountiful supply of mud.
One of the less desirable details a man could be assigned was shoveling mud from the roadway ditches, the company street and the drip line around each tent. Nearly everyone received this assignment sooner or later. We had our own company slit trench latrine which had to be replaced occasionally as it filled up with water. Hence, the latrines were located on the highest ground.
Censorship of letters continued and would continue until May 18, 1945, ten days after VE Day, at which time the commanding general issued an open letter to all troops listing our itinerary across Europe. Limited censorship on events was continued and required a delay of six months after the occurrence of the event.
France is an amazing place. The people are very hospitable. We go into Doudeville to try to find some wine, cognac or calvados, but very little is available for sale. We have had more luck being given drinks by the French families we have met. The language is a formidable barrier. I have learned a few sentences in French. By the use of my hands and arms, I am able to make myself partially understood. I grin like a monkey and answer "Oui" to everything.
Today I sent home a money order for $150, unwilling compliments of the poker players coming overseas. We've been too busy since arriving here to get a poker game started.
February 9, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
Our men were required to do two hours of guard duty in the rain and cold. We often wondered what we were guarding since there were 30,000 GIs within a four mile radius, but that was the Army way. Every man pulled his share of KP which was not bad duty. Everyone had a newfound appetite at Camp Old Gold and KP was an extra way to load up on chow.
Even though we were living in a sea of mud, we held daily bunk and equipment inspections, much to the displeasure of the men who reasoned correctly that we were in a combat zone, not doing garrison duty. Once again, such is the way of the Army.
Lt. Robinson and I went into Doudeville for our second look at the village. Through an interpreter, we met the owner of one of the stores. In the course of our short conversation, we mentioned our desire to hear more of the war news. The Frenchman said he had a radio and invited us to visit his home in the evening. We arrived at 2000 and met his wife. The French couple could speak practically no English and we spoke less French. The BBC news broadcast from London didn't come on until 2100, so the four so us were just sitting there smiling at each other. The Frenchman left the room and returned immediately with a pad and a set of dominoes. We soon had a heated game of dominoes underway and were surprised to find the French keep score with Xs exactly the same as we in the States. Just before 2100 the man served us with a tot of calvados. We listened to the news broadcast, finished the calvados, left them small gifts of cigarettes and soap and hung a "Merci beau coup" on our hosts and departed. This was such an enjoyable evening for all, that we repeated it at least one or two times per week throughout our stay at Camp Old Gold. Through an interpreter, we learned that the Frenchman and his wife both served in the FFI (Les Forces Francaises Interieures), literally meaning, "The French Internal Force," or more commonly called "Free France," during the German occupation and were on the verge of discovery on several occasions. Their real name was Corot but they used the name of Durant during their service with the FFl. They were indeed a brave, patriotic and thoroughly enjoyable couple.
Shoveling mud at Camp Old Gold: L-R
PFC Frank Pecoraro, PFC Charles Hermesdorf, CPL Lester Keyser, PFC Winston Garrette, S/Sgt Harry Burgener
CPL Raymond F. Mitchell
February 10, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
Lt. Prekker, Lt. Davis, Lt. Hayes and Lt. Thode are bunked in one pyramidal tent and Capt. Edwards, Lt. Robinson, Lt. Stewart and I share another one. It's muddy as hell here but if we stay awhile we can eventually fix the place up a little. It's windy and cold today; outside of that and the mud, we could live a fairly good life. The country around here is all green and is perhaps the most beautiful countryside most of us have ever seen. Since the Germans left only a few months ago, the French civilians don't have much to eat and little clothing. They seem glad to see us and are quite friendly.
Lt. Thode and a couple of friends went into Doudeville to try the French liquor. There was very little not taken by the Germans, and what was left was of very poor quality. The beer is very flat and has no "tang," the wine is extremely weak and doesn't taste too good and the calvados, hastily made, goes down like liquid fire. We are paid in US printed French occupational francs. The exchange rate for each franc is approximately two cents, USA. This always required carrying a bundle of francs to have any money to spend. While in France all of our pay was in occupation francs. When we get to Germany, we will be paid in occupation German marks.
February 11, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
We got our company street and sidewalks graveled today. It was a big improvement. Still, everyone continues to wear overshoes. We sleep very well with a sleeping bag and blanket. In every tent the men take turns getting up in the morning to start the fire in the tent stove. Today is Sunday but it seems no different from any other day. We had Spam for dinner and afterward the Red Cross mobile stopped by the company and added doughnuts, coffee, a couple of cigarettes, a stick of gum and matches for every man. It is not much but is it most appreciated.
We wash and shave about every two or three days depending on the availability of water. We have a very limited supply of water for necessities but none for bathing. Most of us are getting pretty raunchy smelling. All of these things will undoubtedly improve in time. Our situation could be much worse. At least our duffel bags arrived on time and were not lost in transfer from the ship as many of us had feared.
The men soon learned to bargain with the civilians for French bread, calvados and eggs in exchange for cigarettes. This barter augmented the GIs' otherwise bland and predictable diet.
Pfc. Robert F. Wright, after slogging through the rain and mud, is always hungry. The food, though plentiful, is not satisfying because of so little variety. In his mind he is always thinking about a Texas barbecued beef on bun with a beer. The Army has ordered us not to buy food in Doudeville. The purpose is to conserve food for the French who hardly have enough for their own needs. Nevertheless, the GIs buy much food from the French who are willing to sell it.
February 12, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
This afternoon, Lt. Hayes, Lt. Thode and Pfc. Marder went into Doudeville in search of a shave and a shampoo. We have so little water that there's only enough for drinking and an occasional shave. None of the three had had a shave in three days. When they got into town they found that on Mondays, all shops are closed and that it was clean-up day for all businesses. Pfc. Marder located the local barbershop and in his fluent French convinced the owner to take in three GIs for shaves and shampoos. It was total luxury to be really clean from the neck up. The cost of the shave and shampoo for each man was 14 francs or about 28 cents. They each overcompensated by giving the barber 30 francs and a few cigarettes.
February 16, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
We had another sunshiny day today. We wonder how long the good weather will continue but we are hoping for weeks. Lt. Thode is the DO for tonight. He went into Doudeville this morning with Capt. Edwards. There's little to do there, but it's just the idea of going somewhere. Doudeville isn't much to see but it's the best we've got. The names of Lt. Stewart, Lt. Thode and Lt. Prekker were submitted for promotion to the rank of 1st Lt. A recent directive allows for promotion regardless of whether there is a TO&E opening or not, providing they have 18 months service in grade.
February 17, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
This morning, Capt. Edwards came into our tent and announced that he has been appointed to the position of Regimental S-2 and is leaving us to our happy selves. For a second time, I was designated as company commander of Co. M, having served for several weeks at Ft. Benning before Capt. Edwards was sent to the company. I have the company once again and will keep it unless they shove in another Capt. from somewhere. If I get my promotion, I'm sure to keep the company.
Our PX ration came in today. Some of the non-smokers were looking forward to the four candy bars and the package of gum. The six packages of cigarettes will extract a price from smokers.
In general, censorship is working very well. Very few families back home have said that anything had been cut out of our letters by the base censor. That's the reason we write on only one side of the page because when the censor cuts something out, he removes both sides of the page.
I am extremely happy and pleased that I have command of the company once again. I'm getting every encouragement from Col. Guthrie which pleases everything. I'll keep my fingers crossed that a Capt. is not pushed in on us any time in the near future.
February 18, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
Today is Sunday and we carry on the same schedule for the rest of the week, which isn't too strenuous. We had mail call today and several of the men were greatly disappointed. Somehow this consignment of mail had been thoroughly soaked. Most of the letters were so washed out they were difficult to read. A few of the very unlucky ended up with blank pages. Everyone wrote home to ask the family to quit using washable ink and to go back to permanent ink. A letter was too valuable to be lost because of the ink.
It's great to be commanding the company again. Capt. Edwards didn't want to be a company commander. He wanted to be a major. That fact alone adds to my confidence.
February 19, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
We are now operating on a training schedule and will be a little busier than usual. Maybe the big brass thought we were getting too settled. Our weather continues to be very good. It hasn't rained for several days and our tents are fairly dry. Capt. Edwards has left the company and we're now one Officer short of TO&E. We had fried chicken for evening mess but it was terribly tough. There were several remarks about the chickens having walked from California. Even though tough, it was an excellent change of pace and much appreciated. Our chow has been excellent considering everything. We had the opportunity today to send out some of our ODs. Many of us have been wearing the same shirt for three weeks and they were getting excessively ripe.
February 20, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
The company took a long hike of about 12 miles this morning and several of the men have developed sore feet. News of what is happening is pretty scarce and we keep doing the same old training exercises.
Monotony is supposed to be one of the worst evils for troops overseas and now we can see why. No one is especially eager to go into combat, yet the troops get very tired just sitting around. Many of us consider combat preferable to the monotony. After the noon mess we were able to get a new issue of "Stars and Stripes." The war news looks much better. We get the "Stars and Stripes" daily. We don't get so much news from the United States but we do get all the big war events in concentrated form. There are some engineering units here at Camp Old Gold that have between two and a half and three years overseas service. They are waiting for rotation back to the States although very little rotation is actually taking place. There is a special Officers' Candidate School now operating in Paris. This school takes officers from other branches of the service and converts them to infantry officers. There must be a lot of unhappy souls in the infantry by now. Most of us expect and hope the war in Europe will end within a month. Only an extremely die-hard effort by the Krauts could extend it much longer.
February 21, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
We held field exercises all day today, and tonight we participated in an infiltration maneuver. It was a very long and very tiring day.
February 22, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
This has been an easier day than yesterday. We got our same old PX package today and the trading between the smokers and the non-smokers is going full blast. The improvised lanterns are being used more and more and candles are being saved for emergencies. The last of the flashlight batteries are just about dead. The most disturbing news is that our coal ration has been cut of as of today. We are all hoping the weather will suddenly warm up. The rain has not started again and we will keep fairly warm as long as we get some sunshine every day. There is a rumor that an outside movie will be shown tonight. It will be our first movie since our eleven day journey onboard ship.
The Division received a surprise visit from General Eisenhower. Luckily, one of the stops with his entourage was the 3rd Battalion, 14th Infantry, which, of course, included Co. M. We had no briefing on the General's schedule and did not know if or when he might visit the Co. M area. To cover all bases, I stationed myself at the head of the company street and had Lt. Robinson positioned up at the end of the street near the latrine just in case the general's group should come in by the back entrance. At the last minute, I received word to report to Battalion Hq. on the double. The company commanders were lined up, Hq. Co. through M. The general came to the battalion command area where all company commanders had been assembled. The division photographer was there for a picture. The picture he took is shown in the bound volume, "The History of the 71st Division." Shown in the picture are General Eisenhower, our Division Commander General Wyman and the backs of Lt. Col. Paul Guthrie, 3rd Battalion Commander, and Major Samuel Campanella, Executive Officer, 3rd Battalion. I was standing immediately to the left of the photographer and behind Lt. Col. Guthrie, so I got an excellent look at General Eisenhower but did not get the opportunity to speak to him. The questions to Lt. Col Guthrie were predictable, "Are your men battle ready?" "Is morale high?" "Are you full strength?" All of which received a snappy, "Yes, Sir." In less time than it takes to tell it, General Eisenhower was on his way elsewhere.
General Dwight Eisnehower and 71st Division Commander General Wyman, backs to camera are 3/14th Commander Lt. Col. Paul Guthrie and 3/14th Executive Officer Maj. Samuel Campanella
I had to work until very late last night. Today has been constant training exercises. Because of the heavy work schedule, I eat like a horse. Lt. Stewart is actually gaining weight, which is hard to believe. I've gained a little. The food is very good but I do wish we would get less Spam, mutton and goat meat. All the mess needs to pep up the food is a big supply of Tabasco sauce.
February 23, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
Everyone was colder than the devil today. Not all of the tents could afford a fire and those who did had only a very small one. We are about out of fuel and we don't know when we will get more. There was no outdoor movie last night but maybe it will be rescheduled for tonight. Our troops all stayed in the company area today. It's not like the big brass to let us loaf around for too long.
Our pyramidal tent stoves burned charcoal and wood when available and when not, we scrounged for wood. This evening our group went out into the nearby line of woods and cut down a tree. While we were finishing up the job, the French landowner showed up in a total rage. He was furious. What we had not realized was that nearly every tree in Europe had been
hand planted for the past 500 years. This became more evident when we got further into Germany. Whole forests were seen where the tree trunks lined up in all directions. We did not attempt to pacify the Frenchman and I'm sure he took up his claim with the Reparations Commission later on.
February 24, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
Yesterday was too good to be true. Today we took a 20-mile hike and everyone is pretty well pooped out. We will all hit the sack early tonight and will not worry about lights or a fire in the stove.
Our life at Old Gold has degenerated into a series of blistered feet. We're getting a lot of practice with "shanks mare."
When we first got to Camp Old Gold the chow wasn't the greatest, so Cpl. Martin D. Ritz and others were always hungry. When the men were hungry all they could talk about was food. When the mess improved and they, finished the meal with a full belly, the conversation always changed to girls. A good mess always had a direct bearing on the after dinner conversation.
February 25, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
We had another lazy day today. It's been cold and windy all day; the kind of wind that seems to cut right through you when you are outside the tent. While we were on the march yesterday, regimental supply came by and left the company an allotment of wood for our tent stoves. The trouble is that all of it is green, recently cut wood. We have been having a lot of trouble getting it started and burned, but we did manage to have fires in our stoves which took care of the biting cold outside. Our long hike and maneuver yesterday and last night wasn't too bad as we got back to camp fairly early. However, it was a lot tougher than anything we had to do at Benning.
February 28, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
For some of our men the big event of the day was seeing a movie. We used the theater or auditorium in Doudeville. It's an old wreck of a building as compared to our standards for a movie theater. A movie here, if it were being shown in the States, couldn't require a ticket price of over a nickel or a dime at most. The picture was "Bermuda Mystery" with Ann Rutherford. It was old and corny but anything in the line of entertainment goes over big with us. Lt. Thode spent over two hours today trying to build the ultimate kerosene lantern. He used a tomato juice can, various and sundry pieces of tin and a piece of web belting for a wick. After her all his hard work, the thing smoked like a locomotive going up a steep hill. Too much smoke didn't add to our cleanliness, such as it was.
The news is getting much better. It looks like the Allied drive toward the Rhine river, with the exception of the Cologne area, should be over in about another week. Lt. Thode is flatly predicting that Germany will capitulate when we advance 35 miles beyond the Rhine river. He says that if the Russians begin their push westward again at the same time, that should end the formal fighting.
March 4, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
After a morning of camp duty, the clouds began to roll in and bunch up. By the late afternoon, the rain started and it is still raining at bed time.
It's Sunday again. I'm still commanding the company. I feel very good over the fact that the men's morale has improved appreciably. Things are starting to function once again. There's only a few more odds and ends to be cleared up before we will be a first class combat unit. As for my working and worrying, it's still the same as it was at Benning. There's continually a thousand things on my mind, but I like it that way.
March 5, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
It rained all night and we are having a little rain this morning. It has gotten much colder today. Earlier this afternoon, with the extra coal ration, everyone had their tent stoves red hot. We had creamed chicken for the evening chow tonight. It tasted pretty good. We are certainly getting plenty to eat but it's beginning to taste the same each meal. Everyone is depressed as there has not been mail call in three days.
The toughest part of getting to bed is to get warm, and comfortable in an army sleeping bag. It takes about fifteen minutes to get everything in place. First, the ODs go underneath because they need a good pressing anyway. Next the blanket goes inside, spaced where it will do the most good. Next the overcoat goes on top. And finally you have to slide inside without messing up the blanket and not knocking off the overcoat. Then you have been asleep for awhile and it has gotten good and warm, someone wakes you to tell you it's time for your two hour guard duty. When you get back from your guard post, frozen stiff, you have to go through the same procedure getting into your sleeping bag. Someday someone will invent a better sleeping bag.
The first week at Camp Old Gold, Co. M spent most of its time in getting organized in new surroundings. Weeks two and three were spent in intensive training exercises, and the fourth and last week was spent on weapon and equipment upkeep and replacement.
March 6, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
We had mail call this morning and all the backlogged mail arrived. We were able to compare and it was easy to see that V-mail took nineteen days to arrive whereas airmail only took ten to twelve days at the most. In spite of all the publicity given to V-mail by the APO, the fact remains it is slower than airmail, at least in France. It makes us all quite angry when we read the malarkey about V-mail that they put in the papers. Nearly everyone has written home to stop using V-mail.
The highlight of today was the arrival of our PX packages. In addition to the usual items there was a small pouch of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco and two razor blades.
Today was a pretty busy day, with training exercises and tomorrow promises to be even more so. The weather was fairly nice today but still uncomfortably cold, dark and gray but no rain. The wind would occasionally howl and we were outdoors all day. Even with strenuous exercise we were cold to the bone most of the day. For some reason, the damp air that accompanies the wind off the North Sea makes us feel much colder than we would at the same temperature back in the States.
This has been one hell of a day. We were up and started our field training exercise at 0300 this morning. We returned to camp at 0800. After noon chow, we were back in the field and did not return until 1800.
March 7, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
We now have our vehicles. I took a ride to several of the neighboring villages today and found them to be very similar to Doudeville. They all have been stripped of worthwhile articles to buy. It will be many months before the economy of France returns to normal.
Several of us have been able to obtain flashlight batteries through the PX, which are most welcome.
The temperature and. food remain about the same, nothing to write home about.
My work day began at 0330 this morning in preparation for the issuance of our vehicles. It was a very busy day. I was amazed at the efficiency in which the transfer of vehicles could be accomplished, even though we had planned thoroughly for this day.
March 8, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France
Our training had been completed, all equipment had been checked and rechecked and the company had the feeling that we were ready to do the job that we had been sent to Europe to do. We did not know it at the time, but a division order dated March 3 had been issued for the "planned movement from present area."
On March 5, the regiment received this order for implementation on March 9. The time had come to move out.
March 9, 1945 - En Transit -
Co. M began the day at 0500. The business at hand was the closing of tent city preparatory to moving out. The company was divided into groups. The first group, under the command of 1st Lt Chester Robinson, consisted of drivers and their vehicles, and the second group, under my command, consisted of the remainder of the company who were to make the movement by train. At 0900 the second group loaded onto trucks and made the short trip . . . to the railhead at Yerville, France. The first group followed and rendezvoused with the remainder of the motor movement group in Yerville. Upon arrival in Yerville, the second group was assigned to the well-known 40 and 8 boxcars of World War I fame. The trains were loaded. There were five trains pulling the maximum number of cars to accommodate the division and supporting troops. The motor movement for the 14th Infantry Regiment alone consisted of 332 vehicles carrying 1,210 personnel.
At 1400 the motor movement and the train movement departed Yerville with our destination being Nebing, France, east of the World War I bastion city of Nancy. The motor movement requirements were a rate of march of 25 mph, 75 yards between vehicles with halts of 10 minutes every two hours. The line of march was the more southerly one through the cities of Rouen, Beauvais, Beaumont, skirting around the north side of Paris, Sezanne, Vitry-le-Francois, St. Dizier, Toul and on to Nancy, a distance of 281 miles. Thereafter, the motor movement would proceed an additional 60 miles through Luneville, Lemming and on to Altweiler before breaking into individual groups for assignment back to their organization.
The rail movement of the fifth train carrying the 14th Infantry would take the more northerly route through the cities of Amiens, La Fere, Laon, Reims, Charleville, Sedan near the Belgium border, Conflans, Nancy and on to Luneville, a distance of 331 miles. Since the 14th Infantry Regiment had a strength of 3,133 men, this left 1,923 men to ride on the 40 and 8 boxcars. Hence, 77 boxcars were required for the 14th Infantry alone.
March 10, 1945 - En Transit
There's very little one can do to make a 40 and 8 comfortable, but an effort was made. The floor was covered with six inches of clean straw. Each car carried a three-day supply of C rations and several jerry cans of water. The train continued on from Amiens and passed through Reims about 1400. By driving straight through, the motor convoy arrived in the Dieuze area in about 36 hours, while the train took three days. Hence, the motor troops arrived in Assenoncourt about one and a half days before the rest of the company.
March 11, 1945 - En Transit
Today we seemed to be traveling in essentially a southerly direction. Also, we were having fewer long, drawn out delays. At 1800 we entered into the outskirts of Nancy. We lost at least three hours switching back and forth just getting through Nancy. Everyone had bedded down for what they thought was another night of sleep in a 40 and 8.
March 12, 1945 - Assenoncourt and Guermange, France
At 0100 our train came to a stop in Luneville. The word was passed that this was the last stop and to fallout. We had traveled 331 miles in 59 hours, or an average speed of five mph. So much for the French rail system in wartime.
At 0730 division sent QM trucks. At 0800 we went by truck a distance of 59 kilometers or 37 miles to our assembly area in the town of Assenoncourt, France, arriving at 1300. We prepared billets in Assenoncourt for the night. The 3d Mortar Platoon was billeted in the village of Guermange nearby.
Pfc William T. Johnson, Jr., the assistant gunner in the 4th Mortar Squad was from Washington, Georgia. He was raised as a farm boy but he was not prepared for what he found in Guermange, France. The rural French built their homes and their barns as one unit. In fact, the animals had stalls connected to the French living quarters. Hence, Pfc Johnson spent the night in a room with a cow in the adjoining room. It was a new experience for him.
[William T. Johnson - "This was the place, the 'jumping-off place,' the place where I went from 'Non-Combat' to 'Combat' and was paid $10.00 extra each month, the place where the countdown ends, and the last place to make adjustments between my duffel bag and my field pack. I wouldn't see the duffel bag again until the war was over. I would wear one combat uniform that would get dirtier and dirtier until a shower unit showed up with piles of clean uniforms to rummage through. I calculate that I've traveled 4,000 miles by car, train, ship, and truck to reach this place, with almost no walking. Just think of the poor Greek and Roman soldiers who would travel similar distances on foot.]
March 13, 1945 - Night March, Weisslingen to Meisenthal, France
At 0800 we turned in all extra clothing and duffel bags for storage to be returned to us at some later date. During the day, equipment was checked and live ammunition was issued for all weapons. All platoon jeeps were loaded with heavy weapons and ammunition preparatory for a move into combat, which seemed imminent. The less we had to carry, the better. From that time on, it was your pack and your rifle.
At 1830 our unmotorized troops loaded onto trucks in Assenoncourt and with company vehicles began a move of 32 miles to the forward area near Weisslingen, France, arriving at 2130. We were on our way to relieve elements of the 100th Division, which had this area pretty well secure before our arrival.
Leaving our vehicles behind, we departed on foot at 2200 on what all were later to call the 'death march,' traveling up the valley to the northeast for a distance of seven miles. This night march seems to have been more of a training exercise than it was a combat necessity. Our top brass was giving us our first taste of a forced march at night under combat conditions.
I was in a group at the tail of the movement that got separated from the rest and spent several hours in a barn with hay in it. The next morning with good daylight we were able to find our way into Meisenthal, where I remember being invited in for coffee by a French family.
Our motor vehicles had been held in Weisslingen and were not brought forward until the next day. The regiment had completed a move of 39 miles under cover of darkness. I remember hearing and seeing flashes of artillery firing during this move.
March 14, 1945 - Meisenthal, France
In the early morning Co. M occupied hasty positions northeast of Meisenthal, France. When our jeeps arrived with our mortars and ammunition at 1100, we emplaced the mortars immediately northeast of Meisenthal with observers on the high ground in each rifle company area. I remember watching US planes attacking Bitche, some six miles to the northeast.
March 15, 1945 - Meisenthal, France
We continued to occupy and fortify our position in what seemed to be a vineyard northeast of Meisenthal, expecting a German counterattack. I remember being on guard duty a few hours at night and hearing a nearby stream that sounded like German soldiers on patrol. The counterattack never materialized. Our mortars were all properly targeted, but we never received the order to fire. The weather continued good.
March 16, 1945 - Bitche, France
At 1130 the company received a warning order to be prepared to move on one hour's notice to Bitche. At 1200 hours the company was pulled back into Meisenthal for a fine steak dinner. I considered it, at the time, possibly our last one. The 3d Platoon and I moved out at 1400. I was riding in our jeep, for a change. We moved into a 'rat race' sweeping operation in the woods south of Bitche on foot, where we spent the night in bivouac, a most unpleasant night. At 0300 we decamped and moved in our jeeps into Bitche, which had been taken the day before by the 100th Division.
March 17, 1945 - Camp de Bitche, France
We moved on through Bitche to Camp de Bitche and dug in our mortars between brick barracks buildings that were part of a French army training camp. I was feeling ill and did not enjoy the good food served in the mess that night. As I recall we slept in the buildings near our mortars three nights.
March 18, 1945 - Camp de Bitche, France
The day dawned cool, clear and bright. The enemy was observed around a pillbox two miles east of Camp de Bitche.
March 19, 1945 - Camp de Bitche, France
The company continues its defensive mission. Improvement of positions continues. At 1310 the mortar platoon was alerted to fire on selected targets if called, but the order was not sent down. The 3d Battalion is in reserve. It surely was cold last night.
March 20, 1945 - Night March, Camp de Bitche to Liederschiedt, France
The weather was cool, slightly overcast and with scattered showers. Visibility was good.
At 1015 our new regimental commanding officer, Col. Carl E. Lundquist reported in, replacing Col. Donald T. Beeler, who had to retire because of medical reasons.
At 1530 the regiment received telephone orders from division to relieve elements of the 5th Infantry along the line of Ropperviller to Walschbronn.
At 1630 the company withdrew from defensive positions and assembled in Camp de Bitche. We closed in to the assembly area at 1930 and awaited instructions. The 42d Division was on our right.
At 2350 the company began a night march of seven miles to relieve 3d Battalion, 5th Infantry.
Pfc William T. Johnson referred to this move on foot as the 'second death march.' He and others shivered for a few hours before loading up with mortars and ammunition and started the foot movement up a long hill and across a wide open space to a ruined town where they relieved elements of the 5th Infantry.
March 21, 1945 - Liederschiedt, France
After midnight, the march continued until the relief of the 3d Battalion in Liederschiedt, France, about one mile from Schweix, was completed at 0450. Pfc Johnson moved through fog until reaching town of Liederschiedt at 0400.
Pfc Johnson noticed that every time a flock of sheep appeared over a hill 1500 yards behind us, we got enemy fire on our position almost invariably. Later, after the shepherd had been picked up by American troops, we learned that he was actually an artillery observer. A flock of white sheep can be seen for miles and serves as a good signal for the enemy to start firing.
At 2220 we received word that the 71st Division was attached to the XXI Corps with VI Corps on our right. Once again, the 14th Infantry Regiment was on the 'Right of the Line' for the division.
March 22, 1945 - Venningen, Germany
At 1200 the attack on a division front was begun. We were on the right flank of the 71st Division which was on the right of the XXI Corps drive to Pirmasens. There was very little resistance as most German troops had escaped to defensive positions east of the Rhine.
Division intelligence reported mine fields between the towns of Schweix and Venningen out in front of the Siegfried Line. Co. M began the advance at 1200. About one-half mile out of Liederschiedt, we crossed the border between France and Germany. Our first German village was Schweix. We moved by platoon strength. I was with the company Hq staff group and between Schweix and Venningen, we ran into a mine field. It was an old field, as erosion had uncovered eight or ten of the mines. I marked a way through until I felt we were beyond the mines. The rest of the group used my footprints and all got through the field safely. We continued on to Venningen, arriving there at 1630. We had marched a distance of slightly over four miles.
Our motorized group was delayed by numerous road blocks. When they got into Venningen, they saw the gun which presumably was doing the shelling.
March 23, 1945 - Bivouac near Klein-Fischlingen, Germany
We are now in Germany. We occupied Vinningen yesterday, slept here last night and are waiting on transportation for another move. At 1945 we loaded on trucks and half-tracks and began the motor movement, passing through the 'dragon's teeth' and abandoned pill-boxes of the Siegfried Line, to the assembly area in the vicinity of Klein-Fischlingen. Pfc Johnson and others in the mortar platoon rode on the half-tracks. This was his first experience of riding on a half-track. We closed into the assembly area at 2350, after covering a distance of 49 miles, and bivouaced for the night.
March 24, 1945 - Otterstadt, Germany
The day was fair and warm with good visibility. We spent the morning sitting around and waiting on transportation.
At 1600 the company moved by motor to the town of Otterstadt within one and a half miles of the west bank of the Rhine river. We had closed into Otterstadt and had established outpost positions on the west bank of the Rhine by 2200. We were billeted in houses, except for outpost personnel.
March 25, 1945 - Otterstadt, Germany
Our low temperature last night was 37 degrees F. The Germans limited their activities to lobbing 88-mm artillery and mortar shells into Otterstadt at random intervals.
The mortar platoon was zeroed in on an assembly area, assumed to be a mess area, 800 yards deep on the east side. Lt. Stewart had observed with his binoculars that Germans would sneak down to a sunken barge on the east side of the Rhine and return with buckets of water. He arranged with Lt. Prekker to zero one of his mortars on that barge. From then on, every time a Kraut would approach that barge, we would drop an 81 mm mortar round on him.
At 0900 regimental intelligence reported a German mess line was shelled. The mortar platoon outpost kept a continuous daylight binocular surveillance of the east side of the Rhine. All of the six mortars were zeroed in on various targets of opportunity on that side. This morning we noticed a gathering of Germans in a targeted area. It was obvious this was a mess line. The mortar platoon outpost on the west bank of the Rhine could hear the mess kits rattling as well as watching them with their binoculars, and when the German mess line was full, they gave the order to fire. Within a matter of minutes, the mortar platoon dropped 15 to 20 rounds on the mess line. No doubt some were killed or wounded.
March 27, 1945 - Otterstadt, Germany
This was a day of very little activity for Co. M except for manning river bank outposts. The sky was overcast with rain in the morning. We continued to receive occasional 88 mm fire in and around Otterstadt.
March 28, 1945 - Otterstadt, Germany
The enemy resistance on the east bank of the river appeared to be weakening. Very little artillery was received in Otterstadt. The weather was overcast and rainy.
At 1315 orders were received from division for a contemplated move later in the night of March 28. We were to be relieved by the 411th Infantry Regiment of the 103rd Division under cover of darkness. At 2200 the relief had been completed.
By 2300 Co. M had assembled in Speyer preparatory for further movement by motors. Later after we had cleared Otterstadt, we learned that the Krauts had made a crossing in force across the Rhine and the 411th Infantry lost quite a few men.
March 29, 1945 - Bivouac near Alsenz, Germany
At 0100 we loaded on QM trucks and began a move of 42 miles to an assembly area in Alsenz. Our route of march was Speyer, Dudenhofen, Geinsheim, Lachen, Neustadt, Lambrecht, Weidenthal, Frankenstein, Fischbach, Enkenbach, Winnweiler, Imsweiler, Rockenhausen and on to Alsenz. This move was a roundabout way to get to Frankfurt by going back a considerable distance to the west and north, but it did place us in a favorable reserve position for transfer from the Seventh Army to Patton's Third Army. After many long and irritating delays parked on the side of the road, we closed into Alsenz at 2230. We had covered 42 miles in 20-1/2 hours or an average pace of less than two MPH. We could have walked it in less time if we had the energy.
Before settling into bivouac we were alerted for a further move tomorrow. We were now assigned to XII Corps, Third Army.
March 30, 1945 - Weiskirchen, Germany
At 1000 Co. M moved on foot to an assembly area in the vicinity of Alsenz. The weather was cloudy with a light rain. At 1100 we loaded on trucks and moved approximately 50 miles via Darmstadt to assembly in the vicinity of Frankfurt. We crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim on the treadway bridge in a smokescreen so there was very little to see except the water, the pontoons and the two tracks the vehicles had to stay on. After General Patton got on the east side he reportedly radioed back to Gen. Bradley, 'We have crossed the Rhine.' Gen. Bradley was totally amazed because logistically he had believed it was impossible for Gen. Patton to advance so rapidly. The entire 14th Infantry made the crossing of the Rhine river and moved into assembly areas in the vicinity of Frankfurt.
We closed into billets in the town of Weiskirchen by 1600. After we had gotten settled in our billets and our kitchen truck arrived, we broke out the deer meat. One of our men had found a big supply of potatoes and onions in the basement of one of our billets and we had some of the best tasting venison stew you ever tasted.
March 31, 1945 - Weiskirchen, Germany
Co. M remained in billets in the town of Weiskirchen, south of Hanau, throughout the day.
April 1, 1945 - Bivouac near Glauberg, Germany
Today is Easter Sunday morning, and the rest of the Army rolls on while we continue to take it easy. If the present pace continues perhaps the war will be over in two weeks. At 1700 the 3d Battalion departed by truck and occupied the town of Altenstadt by 2100. Co. M and elements of the 3d Battalion went into the advance march for about seven km after detrucking and occupied a bivouac area near Glauberg after midnight.
April 2, 1945 - Wolf, Germany
The regimental attack order on the 6th SS Nord Division was issued at 0500. At 0720 the 3d Battalion reported enemy fire being received from the woods south of Altenstadt. The attack was scheduled at 0900 but by 0800 the attack was postponed until 1000. Co. M was in position at 0915. Lt. Prekker's 3d Mortar Platoon was set and zeroed in on Hill No. 267. At 1000 the artillery and mortar preparation began. As promised in the regimental attack order, the artillery delivered 400 rounds of high explosives and our mortar platoon fired about 90 rounds on the hill. The artillery lifted at 1020 and there was no response from Hill No.267. Immediately we moved into the attack march on the hill. We received no fire while closing on the hill. We occupied the hill and found it had been occupied by a German horse-drawn artillery battery. What we found was not pretty. Five or six enemy killed along with four or five Percheron-type horses destroyed. When the 3d Mortar Platoon occupied Hill No. 267, they found a money wagon full of German marks. Most of the mortar platoon were a little depressed about our attack on Hill No. 267. They did their job by delivering fire on the hill as ordered. They were depressed because so many horses were killed.
Following the occupation of Hill No. 267, Co. M continued in the attack march in an easterly direction for about four miles until nightfall where we bivouacked in and around the village of Wolf.
April 3, 1945 - Bivouac near Dudenrod, Germany
The weather was clear and cool. The situation has become very fluid. At daybreak we received a report from division intelligence that we should be alert for fleeing 6th SS Nord troops. Co. M was ordered to hold positions and to send out foot patrols. The 3d Battalion assignment was the clean-out of woods and towns and to patrol the road networks. Co. M conducted a thorough search of the town of Wolf. Co. M departed Wolf at 1200 on foot and arrived in the town of Dudenrod at 1400, a distance of only two miles. .Co. M was bivouacked about one half kilometer southeast of Dudenrod.
April 4, 1945 - Bivouac near Breitenbach, Germany
At 0800 Co. M loaded on the first shuttle of QM trucks in Dudenrod for displacement of 16 miles to the 3d Battalion assembly area in Kressenbach, arriving at 1530. The weather was rainy and miserable. Co. M bivouacked one-half kilometer southeast from Breitenbach and two miles east of Kressenbach. The day was cloudy with a slow rain most of the afternoon. We moved into our bivouac area outside the village of Breitenbach about 1700. Our orders were to guard our perimeter and dig in for the night. Foxholes and slit trenches were not the most comfortable places to spend the night in the rain. My order was for everyone to keep his head down until daylight unless we were attacked. Fortunately, I was able to bring our company mess truck into our company area for the night, which provided a hot meal before darkness. All of our men were dog-tired after two days of the advance march. To compensate, I placed the company cooks on guard duty for the night. We armed them with all the BARs we could locate.
April 5, 1945 - Bivouac near Breitenbach, Germany
A close screening action was initiated following a report that survivors of the 6th SS Nord Division had been ordered to change into civilian clothes for the purpose of making their escape into Bavaria. All small towns in the regimental area were screened by a house-to-house search, the woods were mopped up and a close control of civilians was established. Co. M, less the 1st MG Platoon, had been ordered to sweep and clear two small villages northwest of Breitenbach at 0800. We completed this assignment by 1000. A system of motor patrols, outposts and listening posts was established for the night as the units buttoned up. Co. M participated in outpost duty up to two km to our front and in motor patrols. At 2030 we were alerted to be prepared to move to the vicinity of Fulda tomorrow morning.
April 6, 1945 - Maberzell, Germany
We've surely been having some lousy weather lately as it has been cloudy and rainy most of the time. We slept out in the rain night before last, but found a shed and two warehouses for most of our men last night. Co. M and the rest of the 3d Battalion prepared close out its area near Breitenbach for movement forward. At 0600, we were loaded on QM trucks and began the displacement of approximately 25 miles to the general vicinity of Fulda. Our route of march via convoy from Breitenbach was north through Hauswitz and to Hosenfeld where we detrucked at 0830.
We deployed and began a sweep of the Forst Grossenluder via Giesel, Neiderrode, Hainbach and on to Maberzell. We had completed a foot march of 13 km or 8 miles in a search and occupy operation. The Forst Grossenluder sweep resulted in the capture of 70 POWs in this mopping-up exercise by the 14th Infantry. A house-to-house search was made in the towns, and the woods in between were thoroughly searched. The weather continues bad with uninterrupted light rain. The road was very muddy. The 2d MG Platoon and the 3d Mortar Platoon were in direct support of the battalion in this sweep. The 1st MG Platoon was still on guard duty at Eberstadt. We made our way into Maberzell, three miles west of Fulda, at nightfall. At 2000 Co. M was billeted in Maberzell for the night. We received word that the 1st MG Platoon would rejoin us tomorrow. At 2200, we received the order to move eastward tomorrow morning. The billeting parties are to be at regimental headquarters in Fulda ready to move promptly at 0600.
April 7, 1945 - Kaltensundheim, Germany
At 0930, the company loaded on trucks in Maberzell and started the displacement to Kaltensundheim. As was the case in nearly every move forward, the motorized elements of Co. M would drop into the QM truck convoy. We arrived in Kaltensundheim at 1500 after a move of 25 miles. The weather had improved and was starting to clear. The day continued cool, clear and bright. The roads were still muddy but drying. The company was billeted in Kaltensundheim for the night. All of the company's machine-gun-mounted jeeps were active in roving patrols during the afternoon and up until near midnight.
April 8, 1945 - Kaltensundheim, Germany
The company had machine-gun mounted jeep patrols active throughout the day. The weather was crisp and clear. The company remained billeted in Kaltensundheim for the night. We were at our most northerly advance into Germany. From now on, we would be traveling in a south-southeast direction until we met the Russians. We have stayed in houses the last two nights and it was much appreciated. The first night it was raining and last night there was frost on everything.
April 9, 1945 - Dreissigacker, Germany
This is the second morning in Kaltensundheim with very little to do. The company continued jeep patrols in the morning. The weather was cool and clear. At 1400 we loaded on trucks and traveled ten miles to Dreissigacker, just outside of Meiningen, arriving at 1500, where we billeted for the night.
April 10, 1945 - Meiningen, Germany
The company continued jeep patrols for most of the day. The weather was hazy with one mile visibility in the morning but burned off by noon to four miles visibility. The nights have been clear. At 1830 the company loaded on trucks in Dreissigacker for a two mile ride into Meiningen, arriving at 1900 to relieve elements of the 2d Battalion, 66th Infantry. The 3d Battalion was now in regimental reserve. We billeted for the night in Meiningen. Again, we were called upon for night patrols in and around the city. At 1855 the 3d Battalion reverted to attachment to XII Corps, relieving 2d Battalion, 66th Infantry, vicinity of Meiningen. This means were are now on call by Corps to handle hot spots. We are now in reserve.
World War II: The 14th Infantry in Training and Combat
Copyright © 2015 Capt. Pete Sims, "Blue Mike: The Story of Company M, 14th Infantry"
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Last modified: February 04, 2015