World War II:  Anecdotes from WWII

  

History of the 14th Infantry Regiment
 with the 71st Infantry Division
in World war II

Anecdotes from WWII
Written by then Captain Harold Gatslick
Communications Officer, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment

In March while in a forward area in the mountains near Pirmasena, as 1st Battalion Commo of the 14th Regiment I received orders to place a guard on the road and not allow anyone to go forward because the read was under direct fire.  I posted and told one of our wire men, Teless Rochefort "Rocky, donít let anyone up this road."

A short time later I was told to check with the guard post.  I arrived to find Rocky holding his rifle down on the Assistant Division Commander, General Rolfe, and his driver who had been persistent but unsuccessful in their attempts to pass him.  He had told the general he didnít care who he was, his lieutenant had told him "Donít let anyone up this road." and that was it.

General Rolfe told me he had to go up the road and would take his chances. I told Rocky to let him through, which he did reluctantly.  My apology to the general was met with "No need. If all of our men responded to orders like this man, it would be a much easier war" and they drove on.

Forty years later at the reunion in Linz, Austria, General Rolfeís driver, Andy Vaclav vividly recalled the incident.

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Our intelligence and maps often left much to be desired.  As 1st Battalion Company O of the 14th Regiment, I often moved around in our forward area, occasionally forward of any of our troops, and fortunately without casualty.

The most interesting incident occurred in April while moving toward Austria.

Asked to deliver some documents, my driver, Joe Denicola, and I picked up the A Company messenger, "The Bard", and headed for where we thought A Company was.  Without seeing any troops for some time, we finally approached a small German village.  Driving through, it was extremely quiet with no one to be seen until we reached the far outskirts.

With his rifle propped against the well, a German soldier was shaving.  We stopped, jumped out of the jeep and covered him.  Just then the farmhouse door opened and another soldier came out rifle in hand.  We told him "Hand-e-hoe".  He dropped his rifle and looked over toward a door on the shed alongside.  I ordered him over and he opened the door showing a third soldier on the toilet who jumped up and didnít know whether to lift his arms or his pants.  I indicated the latter, which he did.

In the next few minutes, we rounded up four more enemy soldiers and started back out of town, using them as a shield trotting in front and beside the jeep.  Watching carefully, we got out of town as fast as we could, occasiona1y firing our weapons where we thought we saw movement, and stopped in the first depression that provided cover.  As we did, we met the first scouts of our battalion lead company.  We were pleased to see them and they were amazed to see us.

It took almost one hour for the battalion to clear the town that was manned by a platoon-sized German infantry unit that had been well alerted by our intrusion.

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It was April 1945 and the 71st Division was heading southeast toward Regensburg.  A Danube River crossing was imminent and the 1st Battalion of the 14th Regiment was in reserve and moving up in convoy.  The Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Sam Hubbard, received a message to go forward with his company commanders to meet the regimental CO at an observation point for a briefing on the next operation order.

Since I was Battalion Commo and acting Headquarters Commandant with the forward echelon, Col. Hubbard told me to bivouac the battalion in a wooded section to the left of the road.  He distinctly pointed to the forward section of woods.  After the command jeeps departed, I started to move the battalion off the road.  Even though I was known for following orders, on visually surveying the area and without hesitation, I told the lead elements to move into the rear section of the woods, some 500 to 1,000 yards from the designated area.  Just as the movement was completed, I watched a 15-20-minute heavy enemy artillery barrage on the forward section of woods.

Because the designated wooded area looked like a tornado had struck, I waited out on the road for Col. Hubbard and the others.  When they returned, Col. Hubbard jumped out of his jeep and walked briskly toward me with ashen face and frightened eyes and softly said "What have we got left?"  "No casualties, Sir. I moved the Battalion to the rear section of the woods."  "Thank God" said the CO.  Whatever possessed you to do that?"  "I donít know, Sir, but I thank God too, for the units hadnít been in the woods for five minutes before the shelling began."

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The Danube Assault, April 23-30, 1945

It was April 1945 and the first morning of the Danube River crossing.  I was a 2nd Lieutenant and the Communications Officer of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment.  The 14th was on the right flank of the 71st Division and the 69th Division was on our right flank across the Regen River.

The 1st and 2nd Batta1ions were the assault battalions of the 14th and had already crossed the river near Regensburg, with the 3rd Battalion still on the north side of the river in reserve.  The wire lines for the 1st and 2nd Battalions had been put across the river by Regiment, but the lines of the 1st Battalion on the left were knocked out by interdictory shell fire.  Taking my wire party into the 2nd Battalion area, we tied into one of their lines, in an attempt to establish wire communications with our 1st Battalion elements held down by flak gun fire from the air base east if the city of Regensburg.

Shortly after making the tie and moving east toward the rear of our units, we noticed several German command vehicles with white flags coming from the city directly toward us several hundred yards to our south.  I stopped my men at the road and awaited their arrival.

A field-grade German Officer approached me and said they wished to surrender the city but to a senior officer and not a 2nd lieutenant.

I called the 2nd Battalion OP, relayed the Information and waited for a senior officer, after sending my men to complete their mission.  I do not recall whether it was Lt. Col. Brandt or Major Campanella, but the surrender was negotiated with, I believe, a German General Officer.

Two weeks later I received a newspaper clipping from my wife telling how the 69th Division had captured the City of Regensburg in a major battle.

(Newspaper reports were always questionable at best, but this one was ridiculous.)

Note: It turned out that this was a German Army Group that was surrendering and General Wyman formally accepted the surrender.  The surrendering General Officer was then shot by an SS man upon his return to his headquarters in the city.

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We wish to thank Capt. Harold Gatslick for contributing the above additions to our website

 

 




Acknowledgements:
World War II:  Anecdotes From WWII
Copyright © 2012  14th Infantry Regiment Association
Last modified: January 19, 2013