We Smash the Wehrmacht – Chapter 4

Ike’s goal was to so cripple Hitler’s war machine that it would finally have to surrender.  Keep in mind that our goal was unconditional surrender and we would do whatever it took to accomplish that end.  There was no doubt in our mind that we would win and that is one of the big factors that was missing in both the Korean conflict and the stupid war in Viet Nam.  I have to say that when the democrat, Harry Truman fired General MacArthur in Korea because MacArthur wanted to chase the Migs across the Yalu river and was told that the war was to be contained we made a tactical error that has haunted us until a Republican, George Bush, showed us how to win a war.

When an armored division like the Super Sixth decided to attack it was an awesome power.  First we would call for air support and the air force would bomb and strafe the area we were going to attack.  Until you have been under an air attack you don’t know what real terror is.  I was one time and it was soon stopped.  Unless you have air superiority, there is no way ground troops can really win.

When the air attack is ended timing is critical we must be ready to advance and take the objective, whether it was high ground or a town, as soon as the planes stopped our artillery added some insult to the injury of the target.  Then we rode in half tracks if it was tactically feasible, that meant if the resistance was not great we would literally drive thru and shoot anything that moved or if there was an effort to surrender we would accept prisoners, take their weapons and start them to the rear.  I’m sure that toward the end it became easier and easier to get prisoners, because they knew it was hopeless and that way they would be thru fighting and they would live to come home again sometime. 

When resistance stiffened, we would leave the half tracks and advance on foot or ride on top of the tanks.  The tanker needed us to protect them from the Panzerfaustman.  The Pnanszerfaust was the German bazooka.  It was a weapon that a foot soldier could fire into a tank and if it hit the tracks the tank would be crippled.  We had one big advantage with our tanks over the German Tiger tank.  The turret with the cannon on the Sherman tank would spin 360 degrees or it could fire in any direction.  When the tiger was crippled with a tank blown off we had him because he could only spin the turret 270 Degrees.  That meant you could come up from behind and put a bazooka shell into the rear and usually either blow the motor or maybe penetrate the tank and set it on fire.  When a tank burned the ammunition it was carrying would explode and nobody ever lived thru a tank fire. 

A battle group of the Armored division had infantry, tank destroyers. (a vehicle that looked like a tank but it had lighter armor, bigger guns and more speed) a tank battalion and artillery, anti aircraft section and of course the medics.

 When a battle team decided to take a certain area we usually won.  After you had been through several successful attacks and understood the teamwork that wins the power of the unit gets to be an awesome force.

The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things, and we were very good at it.  We began to move more rapidly as the weather began to warm up and then as we neared the German border, the resistance stiffened.  Hitler still had one ace left.  It was called the Siegfried line.  It had huge concrete tank barricades and series of concrete bunkers that were designed to protect each other and when the Seigfried line was full of soldiers they had all sorts of weapons to prevent entry across the German border into Germany.  Couple that with the faith they had in their fortress it was a formidable task to destroy a section of the line. 

They had a huge abundance of 88mm cannons.  When they sprayed the approaches to the line with antiaircraft shells and filled the air with flak it was impossible for a foot soldier to get close enough to attack.  Of course they had the tactical advantage of high ground, an unobstructed field of fire and they knew where the attacks had to come from so their artillery was already zeroed in on the likely approaches.

The one thing they did not have was air superiority.  This meant that our warplanes got a chance to cripple the 88 cannon emplacements which were outside the bunkers.  Once that was done the ground troops could approach without the flak.  The plan then was a massive attack all along the line.  This made sure that already weakened defense force would be strained to the point that there would be some weak spots.  Once we breached the line the battle at the Siegfried line was history.

The area our company was assigned to was just across the Our river.  Really rugged country. Hills too steep for tanks.  We would have a complement of engineers and we would have our heavy machine guns and mortars.  I had three mortar shells to carry in addition to everything else.  The three shells probably added 75 pounds to my load.  We did try first to cross the river by wading, and lost two men.  After that we got a pontoon bridge.

Climbing that hill to reach the high ground was a tremendous physical effort.  I was near exhaustion when we got almost to the brow of the hill.  Our assignment was to get close enough so we could dig in and fire at the gun openings to keep them from shooting while our engineers crawled up to place dynamite charges called a beehive next to the wall.  The beehive would cause an implosion and bore a hole through at least two feet of concrete.

All our plans had to be coordinated up and down the line so when the signal to attack came we would have the Germans under fire for miles and miles up and down the line.

This is to describe one of the closest calls I had during the entire war.  There was considerable brush and undergrowth as we neared the brow of the hill.  Beyond the edge of the woods the Germans has mowed the brush out of the way so they would have a clear field of fire for anyone who tried to cross the space at the brow of the hill toward the bunkers.  I inched forward to get to the edge of the brush, got my pick ready to dig and noticed a wire strung above the ground about a foot above the earth.  I was going to dig right under that wire.  It turned out to be a trip wire for a booby trap.  Had I begun to dig there and hit that wire it was connected to a 500 pound bomb which would have killed most of our squad and certainly crippled the 3rd platoon under the command of Lt Oakes. 

I was able to convince them to send me an engineer to look and he was able to replace the pin in the device which held the wire so that the wire could be cut without blowing up the bomb.

This was one of only the Lord knows how many times I was protected.  I left the war absolutely convinced that I had some guardian angels. 

This is as good a time as any to inject into this story one of the connections I had with God Almighty.  I had a delay enroute to go home just before I was sent overseas.  My poor mother knew I was headed for combat in the infantry and she knew enough about war to know I would be in great peril.  She bought me a new Testament with a steel cover that fit in my left shirt coat pocket. She made me promise I would wear it there.  Then she urged me to read the 91st Psalm, often.  I gave her my word I would.

This is the 91st Psalm.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2.  I will say to the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress.  My God in Him wills I trust.

3.  Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, And from perilous pestilence.  4.  He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall find refuge.  His truth will be your shield and buckler.  5. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night nor of the arrow that flies by day.  6.  Nor neither of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.  7.  A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you.  8.  Only with your eyes shall you look and see the reward of the wicked.  9.  Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.  10.  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11.  For He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. 12. In their hands they will bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13.  You shall tread on the Lion and the Cobra.  The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.  14.  “Because He has set His love upon me, therefore I will deliver him.  I will set him on high because he has known My name.  15.  He shall call upon me and I will answer him.  I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show Him my salvation.

I intended this story to have sets of three pages but this time I guess you will forgive me. 

When my dear daughter-in-law, Dana was in med school and headed for the worst place in the world to see patients, the Los Angeles Jail in the Aids ward, I certainly prayed for her.  I told her to read this Psalm.  She came through this terrible place with no damage and I trust the word of God as much as any thing I know about.  I know one more thing, my mother’s prayers were answered.

There is a verse in the book of James, Jesus’ half brother, where he says the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 

Never discount the value of prayer!!

Robbie and Leslie and David and April and Janice and Eddie and Clinton and Alex all owe their lives to the fact that I survived. 

I included April because I guess most of you know that I cannot tell any difference in the love I have for her compared to my blood offspring. 

Next section, the final push to meet the Russians.

Three more close calls.

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment