Monday, January 25, 2010

Between the Lines: Bill in Combat March 5-15, 1945

On March 11 Company A is sent back to the Garrison position in the Bitche sector. Back at the Garrison everyone senses something big in the air. Men from the rear bring tales of feverish preparation, such as the massing of units and the building up of supplies. By the 14th the Company knows that the big push is about to start.

On March 15 Able moves into the attack, retaking the old positions of December 15 outside of Bitche. Some of the men move into the same foxhole they previously occupied. They meet light resistance. That evening a patrol of the Second Platoon is sent out from the positions to learn enemy points of resistance. At a distance of 500 yards the patrol is pinned down by machine-gun fire. It looks as if the morning attack will be rough.

The following morning, March 16, the Company shoves off. Proceeding cautiously, the men discover that the enemy strong points encountered the night before have been evacuated during the night. The soldiers move all the way down into Bitche without meeting resistance. The Germans are again on the run.

Bitche shows many signs of the winter siege. The first thing most men see upon entering the main part of town is a huge German Tiger tank knocked out at an intersection. The XII Tactical Air Corps had done a terrific job of smashing important targets. Many evidences of the effects of Corps Artillery are present too.

The French who still remain in Bitche are overjoyed to see the long awaited entrance of American troops as well as an end to the siege and destruction of the city. This marks the first time in history, dating back to the 17th Century when Louis XIV had the bastion built, that its defenses fail. The city had held out against the Prussians in 1870, again during the First World War, and finally against the Nazis in 1940.

Able Company continues through the city and directly along the main route from Bitche toward Camp de Bitche. Tanks are to follow the Company. Fire is opened upon an enemy OP, but no resistance is met until the edge of the camp is reached. At this time no tanks are available. The enemy detects the unit’s approach and plasters the general area where the men are deployed with mortars and SP guns. It is decided to go in without the tanks, squad by squad. A squad from the Second Platoon stealthily works its way into the first building into the camp. Each squad advances man by man, until the Platoon holds the building. Finally the enemy spots the new position and concentrates mortar fire on the building. Only about half the Company has worked its way into the camp at this time. As soon as the entire unit is moved into the camp the platoons begin to spread out and prisoners are taken. Meanwhile the enemy fires on the Company with tanks. Rapid action taken by a bazooka team succeeds in destroying the lead tank and its crew. Pushing steadily in conjunction with other units, Company A finally secures the greater part of the garrison.

Chow is brought up after dark and the Company is relieved. The march back to Bitche is a real opportunity for reflection. Fires dotting the countryside dispel the tired thoughts of loneliness as each dogface trudges through the all encompassing darkness. Houses are ready at Bitche. After fighting all day it is the greatest of luxuries to roll up on the floor and sleep.


  1. The official history of Company A does not seem to include much about casualties. Greg, do you have access to the morning reports? Can you give us an idea of the losses?

  2. David- I do not have the Morning Reports for Co. A, but the official company history "Able in Combat" lists 27 enlisted men and 1 officer as killed in action and 1 enlisted man as MIA. It does not give specifics about the casualties or list the number of men wounded in action. According to John Day, a living member of Company A the MIA, David Cox has been accounted for and is buried at St. Avold Cemetery,near the French city of Barrarat, along with a number of other Co. A fatalities.

  3. You write as well as your father, Greg. (not that it's any of my business) :)

  4. Thanks Griff for the compliment. Unlike my father I don't have to worry about a censor breathing down my neck. That said, I have to tell you that most of the narrative for "Between the Lines" is taken directly from the official Company A history "Able in Combat". I have changed it from past to present tense and made some minor changes to make the narrative flow a little better, but the credit should go to the soldier or soldiers who wrote the history.

    As an interesting sidelight to this I can tell you that my father was approached to be a writer for the Regimental newspaper during the Occupation but "nothing came of it". He did work for "Stars and Stripes" later in the Stuttgart area, but as a driver not a reporter. He writes some interesting letters describing his "wanderings" as he drives reporters around in search of stories.

  5. The "what might have happened" must occur to, you Greg. Other vets of Stars and Stripes include Andy Rooney and Bill Mauldin.

  6. The note that Chow is brought up after dark reminds me: the U.S. Army map symbol for rations is a quarter moon for that reason.

  7. David, I reread the letters and discovered that I misspoke when I said that my dad drove for the Stars and Stripes. He actually drove for the "Century Sentinel" which Bill describes as "the Regimental newspaper". Still from that modest position he could have progressed to a career in journalism or writing.

    Regarding Chow, is it a military tradition that the evening meal, at least in the field is brought up after dark? One can see some practical reasons for doing so in the battlefield.

  8. Moving rations up at night was entirely practical. Usually the men had stopped, dug in, and the cooks could find them.

    Century Sentinel sounds like a divisional paper rather than regimental. But Bill would know best.

  9. Bill specifically describes the Century Sentinel as "the Regimental newspaper". Maybe he misspoke. The Century Sentinel still exists. Currently it is described as a "newsletter" and is published three times a year by The Association of the Century which is associated with the U.S Army Reserve 100th. Division.


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