The Remembrances of:
Frank W. Maresca ~ Ted Breeden ~ "Dolphin BLUE Diary, 3rd Bn, 289th Inf" Author Unknown
Frank W. Maresca
Company F, 289th
My Army service covered 3 years: from 1943 to 1946.
I was in my senior, year in high school when I left to "join up." I was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey where I was given a physical, and sworn into the Army. My timing was bad. There was a grave need for rifleman, so I was classified as fit for infantry duty. As a consequence, I was sent to the Infantry Recruitment Training Center (IRTC) in Camp Blanding, Florida.
I was given 17 weeks of basic training at Blanding. Afterwards, I was furloughed, and given orders to report to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. After two weeks I was shipped by train with a goodly number of trainees to Camp Howzie, Texas. During one of the hottest summers on record, we were put through various exercises involving tanks up from Fort Hood.
Near the end of August, orders were cut transferring 800 of us to the 75th Division in Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky. We arrived by troop train by the evening of August 28th. I was assigned to the 1st Squad of the 3rd Platoon of Company F, 289th infantry.
During my time at Breckinridge, I was promoted to PFC, and given the infantryman's Badge to wear, and a raise in pay!
On October 14th, we boarded a troop train for a two to Camp Shanks in Orangeburg, New York. After four days of processing, etc.' they put us on another train, and thence a New York Harbor ferry for a ride to Brooklyn. There we boarded the HMS Franconia. We sailed from the Brooklyn Army Replenishment Terminal (BART) on Saturday the 21st for the E.T.O.
The sea crossing took 14 days. We arrived on the Mercer Estuary leading into the Liverpool port on November 3rd. We docked at the Albert Dock, and offloaded late that evening. We were marched over to the train terminal where we were loaded on a train using side doors. British Railways took us to Llanelli, Wales where we debarked, and marched through darkened streets to a Home
Guard Drill Hall. They billeted us in the Hall for three days. Then we were led out, on a 6 mile march to a series of Quonset huts that were next to a golf course, and overlooked Carmathen Bay. The place was called "The Harbor Camp". It was a mile outside the twin villages of Pembrey, and Burryport.
We stayed there for a month. Then in the wee hours of December 9th, we were bussed out of the camp for a train ride to Portsmouth. There we were loaded onto the ill-fated MS Leopardville. We sailed into the harbor of Le Havre, France, and clambered down nets to bobbing LCTs. We were trucked through the rubble that was Le Havre, and after a 50 to 60 mile ride, we reached a small village of Frevile in the Picady
district. We camped on open farmland that was frequently swept by slanting rains.
We spent four days there marching, and listening to a series of lectures. Then we were trucked to -i rail siding about an hour's ride from the mud flat that was our camp. At the siding, we were loaded onto French boxcars which were labelled "Quatante hommes et hultieme chevals." We were told that these were some of the boxcars left over from the first world war. These boxcars were used to move the "Doughboys", like my father, up to the front. To the "Yanks" of those times, the boxcars were known as 40 and 8ths; 40 men, and 8 horses.
Our troop train snaked its way through the ruins of dozens of rail yards, all the way up to Maastrict, Holland. Then we were forced to back-up all the way back to Liege, Belgium. Our British allies told us that the rail bridge over the Meuse River in Holland had been blown because of the German advance in the Ardennes.
Company F went onto the combat line on December 21st around Briscol on the Erezee-Manhay road. Its first mission was in support, and to clean-up any enemy pockets found behind our lines. It was in an action related to one of these clean-up operations, that I got mine.
Despite the fact that I was suffering from frostbitten feet, and hands, I was "volunteered" along with nine other tired, hungry, cold comrades to go back of our lines "a piece", to fetch water, rations, and ammo. The "a piece" turned out to be about a 1/2 mile behind our lines. We were ordered to take only our weapon, and cartridge belt with us.
The ten of us were walking in indian file, a couple of yards apart, We were approaching the place where they had dumped the supplies. Suddenly, the air was filled with what sounded like the screams of every baby in Europe. The sound was all around us because the fog overhead was warping the sound thereby making it difficult to pinpoint where the rockets were coming or going.
We began to scatter; every man for himself! Some ran for cover in a ditch by the road. others tried to make an embankment for safety. Some just dropped where they were. The rockets landed an the three places. I got off the road, and dove under a giant Christmas tree, Rockets must have hit the top of the tree that I was under, and some of the other trees that were around it, and exploded with a loud BANG-BANG!! This was followed almost simultaneously by a CRACKING of, limbs, a TINGLING of falling ice, a CRASHING sound of tree-branches falling, and a THUMP, THUMP coupled with the ground shaking as some trees came falling down.
The concussion from the rocket(s) hitting the tops of the trees slammed into my back pushing the breath out of my lungs.
In addition to having the breath knocked out of me, I felt as if someone had been poking me all over my back.
When the attack passed, I crawled out from under the fallen branches, ice, and snow, and bec3an to walk back to those who were attending to those who had been hit. I was walking or to be more descriptive, tugging first one foot, and then the other out of deep snow. I was doing this in a weaving fashion. One guy said that I looked drunk. It was only when I got near the men that they saw that I had been hit, I was leaving a spotted trail of blood. I had a number of puncture wounds on my back, ass, and down the back of my legs. First Sergeant Matt Hurley said "That's it for you! Your through! Your fighting days are over!
Sergeant Hurley, and Jeep Driver Bill Hogan helped the men load a 3/4 ton Weapons Carrier with the six men who had been hit by the Mimie rockets. I was one of the men.
We were taken to an Aid Station which was in a small house with interior walls painted yellow. Every "holding room" was crammed with men taken off the lines in need of medical attention.
They took off all of my clothes, and shoes. They quickly examined me, and determined that my wounds, and the condition of my hands, and feet were serious, but not life threatening. They gave me a needle to ease my pain, tied a tag on my big toe, and wrapped me in a couple of GI blankets. I passed out After that.
I drifted through a gantlet of hospitals during the months of January to mid-April. First was the tent hospital located 7 miles south of Liege, Belgium, the 164th. I had a tough time there between nearly pissing the bed from friight caused by "Buzz-Bombs" cutting off overhead, to sweating out if a Surgeon-Major was going amputate my left foot because of poor circulation. Fortunately, the blood supply picked up because of some special leg exercises they had me do to ward off gangrene, and thereby make an amputation unnecessary.
From the 164th, I went by train to Paris. I arrived in a snowstorm. I was booked into the 40th General. The French called it "Hospital Beaujon". This hospital was crowded! The wounded, and those in need of medical attention for other reasons, were stacked in the hallways, aisles, even on the landings in the stairwells. Because of the overcrowding, I was one of many loaded aboard a hospital train, and shipped to another tent hospital, the 174th General Hospital situated outside of La Haye du Puits on the Cherbourg Peninsula.
My response to therapy was slow. So, I was sent to the U.K. for further treatment. 1 was flown (C-54),to Swinden which is in southern England, and placed in a General Hospital. This hospital suffered from the same problem that plagued the hospital in Paris: overcrowding. So, after staying a few days, I was flown
to the 140th General Hospital in Lincoln, Robin Hood's territory. The 140th wag shaped like a giant wagon wheel. All the wards radiated out from the hub. The wards were all bright and airy.
Inside my ward were men who had suffered severely from being in combat. The man in the bed next to mine was Horace Greely's great, great grandson. He lost his left elbow when a sniper's bullet hit the stock of his carbine, and ricochet upward hitting him in his left elbow. Two guys across the way had both been hit in the face. One lost hearing in his left ear. The other lost part of his right cheek, and most of his ear. The rest of the ward was filled with men who had lost their sight or were without arms or legs. Most of these men were marked "Return to the States when able to travel".
And me? I kept asking myself; "What in the hell am I doing here? Looking at these men 1 felt that I was cheating! I had had three operations to take out pieces of shrapnel, and wood splinters. Both of my hands, and feet had pieces of skin peeling or hanging waiting to be sliced-off. Yet, my hands, and feet were still a part of me! They were whole! They weren't missing! Someday, I would walk out of a hospital into the open once again. However, most of the men in my ward wouldn't be able to do the same.
It was feelings like this that made me want to get up, and walk out of the hospital, and head back to the company, in spite of my own problems.
Despite being weak, underweight, and still feeling some of the effects of multiple wounds plus some pain in my hands, and feet, I was discharged from the hospital around mid-April. Of course, I complained about the quick release to an Officer on the Review Board (a full blown colonel) but to no avail. He told me that he believed me when I said I was in pain, and still not feeling up to pitch. However, he said that soldiers like me who suffered the misfortune of having their extremities frozen, had to face the fact that very little could be done for them. They would have to live with the effects of "on and off pain" for the rest of their lives.
I was sent to the "Limited Service Center" in Southampton. The doctors there pronounced me unfit for infantry duty. Accordingly, I was assigned to report to the 926th Aviation Engineer Regiment, The Regiment was moving down to take over the maintenance of the German Fighter base in Furth, which is just outside of Nurenberg, Germany. The war was still on, and would not end for two more weeks. While I was with the Regiment, I was given desk jobs in Personnel, Transportation, Construction, and Equipment offices.
In July of '45, the Regimental Headquarters, to which I was assigned, was ordered to return to the states. Since I did not have enough points to go home, I was transferred to one of the
battalions stationed outside of "Frankfort on the Main." I spent two months with them doing MP duties. One of the duties was to guard German SS who were working on the construction of the roadway in front of the Terminal Building of the Main Airport.
At the end of August, I got my traveling papers again. I ended up with another battalion working on two airfields: one outside of Nurenberg in Bavaria, and the other near Wurzburg, in northern Bavaria. I was given two jobs: procuring foodstuffs, and managing the P.X. I got promotions to go with these duties. First, I was promoted to Corporal, and then to Buck Sergeant.
I came home in April of '46 on the Liberty ship the U.S.S. Lehigh. We called it the "Leaping Lehigh" because it blew two of its three boilers while a few days at sea. With the remaining boiler, we made 71 miles a day for a two week period. We were told that we were making the same speed as Columbus made on his maiden voyage to discover the New World. Thus, what should have taken 10 days to cross the North Atlantic, took all of 21 days. Hence, the nickname of "Leaping Lehigh".
I was Honorable Discharged from the Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey on April 27, 1946.
While in the Service, I earned the following decorations:
The Combat Infantryman's Badge
The E.T.O. Ribbon with 3 Battle Stars
The Purple Heart
The Bronze Star
The Victory Medal
The German Occupation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Good Conduct Medal
Frank W. Maresca
Company F, 289th
February 14. 1996
I Co 289th Inf. Regt.
24 25 26 Dec 44
Two recent items in the Bulgebusters and your critique, Exhibit A, have clarified a couple of items that have been on my mind for nearly fifty years.
As I moved up that hill, west of Grandmenil on Christmas Eve '44, there was no thought that we were moving into action, just moving into position.
In the village we had just departed, we crowded past stationary American tanks and troops and I recall someone telling an officer ahead of me in the column (thought it was our Company Commander), "be careful up there the German's have taken the next town" (Grandmenil).
Not having access to a map or compass we just trudged along up the hill. We, being Company I, 289th Infantry.
On the crest of the hill we were given a rude awakening by several shells suddenly screaming down on top of us. Shrapnel flew in all directions as I hit the low side of the road. It seemed to be our own artillery as the sound of shells came overhead from our rear.
With things quieting down we scrambled up the bank on our right and quieter side. A few of us rose to start down and gather on the road.
George Morrow and I (light-machine gunners) were coming down the back and were about 30 feet from the road when a Sherman Tank and several German Tanks came up the road from the east, spraying bullets as they passed.
George and I dropped into a depression in the ground, our heads facing the road, and though we thought we were shoulder to shoulder, bullets still struck between us and neither of us were hit.
I should mention that I was carrying the machine gun and where the tripod and ammunition was I'll probably never know.
With the sound of the tanks disappearing over the rise, a handful of us gathered in the road to get our bearings and we started back up the road following the tank treads.
After walking about 50 yards we came to the crushed American jeep with its 50-caliber machine gun and what later appeared to be Christmas mail crushed into the dirt.
The silence was suddenly broken by something huge crashing through the brush on the north side of the road.
We stood transfixed with weapons ready, loaded and unloaded, when a large elk bound up the hill and crossed the road heading for high ground.
It was growing lighter and we were startled to hear the tanks returning. This time we scrambled to the low side of the road with the intention to seek cover to see what the situation was. My defense was still only a 45-Colt.
One of our tall gangly boys was in a panic and running in a circle. Three of us pounced on him and held him on the ground as the German Tanks passed us heading back down to Grandmenil.
We were about 25 feet from the road, it appeared to be getting very light, we were prone in sparse brush and felt certain we'd be seen.
I could easily see the tank commander standing in the open turret and a carbine could have put him away, but the consequence would have been too great even if one of the men had taken the risk.
With the danger past and daylight fast approaching more of the men gathered on the road, but still no orders.
I recall moving down the road, closer to Grandmenil, then off to the low side to dig a slit trench. With the hole dug I was lying beside it soaking up the sun.
I looked straight above me at the sky and saw P-38's approaching, then directly overhead they each released one or two bombs.
As I rolled into my trench I thought how ironic as it was Christmas and back home in California, my parents, two uncles and three aunts were working at Lockheed building these beauty's.
I believe the bombs struck one our ammunition trucks on the road as the area was aflame and explosions continued for sometime.
Skipping all the little details, I'd always believed that this particular road ran more in a north-east direction but I see from your Critique map that it runs virtually west to east to Manhay.
There is a memorial tank that sits in Grandmenil. My fox hole on 26 Dec 1944 evening was just West of that tank, then around midnight we dug a horseshoe emplacement across the road just south of the tank.
There is a famous full page photo that appeared in Life Magazine in January 1945 that shows a two-story stone structure, about one hundred yards from that memorial tank. The snow covered field just south of the burnt out structure was strewn with knocked out tank hulks.
That house is still there.
Near dawn on 27 December 1944, M Company moved into the ditch just south of the memorial tank and started firing across the field. They killed a cow that fell halfway into our gun emplacement and Sgt. Blanton sent me scrambling back to let the unit know we were in their line of fire.
How I managed to not get hit by friendly fire I'll never know. We had no passwords at that time.
When I dropped into the ditch I landed right next to Captain Haverchak, the Company Commander, who had been one of I Company's Lt.'s when we trained at Fort Leonard Wood.
They ceased firing over our area and moved to another area. Never saw the Captain again, but we keep trying to get him out of Great Falls, Montana to one of our reunions.
Wish we had more time to get together and clear up a lot of little details. However, 20 January 1945 is as far as I go.
While hospitalized for the next nine months I tried to not get bored by writing of events of the action and drawing pictures while fresh in my mind.
Colorado Springs, CO
25 Feb 1994
From the "Dolphin Blue Diary"
289th Infantry Regiment
75th Infantry Division
As per orders, I moved forward and my boys were soon marching along a highway that led to a town called Grandmenil. It was that most peaceful of all evenings, Christmas Eve, when I arrived at my designated area and prepared to set up a defensive line. All evening elements of an armored division had been pulling back through me, warning of the proximity of the German spearheads. Another Sherman tank rumbled out of the darkness, more of the armored people I thought, they certainly must be taking a shellacking. But no, the silhouette that followed the Sherman was a stranger, an enemy. In close succession, eight Tiger tanks overran my position. To make a long story short, I caught hell that night. Those tanks shot us up pretty badly, several of my boys were killed and a large number wounded. The next few days were a continuation of that nightmare. First I took an awful strafing from the air, then one of my companys, King, took Grandmenil, but was forced out with some pretty rough losses. It wasn't until the 26th that I decided to really go into action, but when I did, I took Grandmenil without too much trouble and that put the quietus on the Heinie threat to Liege. From that day on their Bulge began to resemble a bump. I still lost some of my boys, the days were cold, the nights almost unbearable. I learned to respect and fear the zip of the 88's and the whoosh of the mortars - those Jerrys certainly knew how to use them. I became a veteran, hardened by cold, hunger, and danger in those first few dark days. My mission was to hold Grandmenil and its vital crossroads, which I did without any trouble for the next ten days. I'd much rather have been in Evansville!
I moved to Sadzot, Belgium, on January 4 to relieve some units of the 112th Infantry; also received some new men as reinforcements to replace my losses around Grandmenil and its vital crossroads, 130 to be exact. I attacked on January 5 to straighten my lines, a feat which was accomplished against little opposition then sat back to enjoy the bitter cold and lack of warm billets. My feet were slightly frost bitten, even got a touch of trench foot, but I managed to stick it out.
Dolphin BLUE Diary - 3rd Battalion 289th Infantry
The author of this Remembrance is not known to me, if anyone can identify this person please let me know.
Page URL: My 75th Division Dad
Copyright 2001, J. R. Puckett
Email: J. R. Puckett