Page 15


The Remembrances of:

Dale T. DeVore ~ William T. Rice ~ Charles R. Miller ~ Wallace Duffney


REMEMBRANCES

Major Dale T. DeVore

S-2, 290th Infantry Regiment

75th Infantry Division

24 25 26 Dec 44

"The night of 22-23 December Maj. [Dale T.] DeVore [S-2 was] attempting to sort out the tremendous volume of maps that were being continuously delivered".

"Orders came late in that night for the regimental staff to report to Major General Maurice Rose, commander of the U.S. 3rd Armored Division. The entire regiment loaded onto trucks early in the morning on the 23rd and rode all day in miserable, freezing rain and snow. ... 1st Battalion was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division ... According to Maj. DeVore, the convoy moved all day and most of the night. The move was wearing. The known factor was the cold. ... through the darkness to their bivouac area near Biron, Belgium. The all-night ride in open trucks, combined with two sleepless nights, left the GIs exhausted .... By mid-morning the [24 Dec] 2nd and 3rd Battalions had dug in and were awaiting orders".

"On the 23rd, fighter-bomber activity in the Bulge had increased steadily, with P-47 Thunderbolts and P-38 Lightnings hammering..." German units in The First Army's Corps Sector. GIs watched as an endless procession of aircraft flew overhead; a strike force of B-24 Liberators enroute to targets..."

"... the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were ordered to move forward and secure the Hotton-Soy Road, shortly followed by new orders to take and hold the high ground south of the road. 3rd Battalion also asked to secure the town of Hotton".

"Late Christmas Eve, Col. Duffner moved from the regimental command post in Biron to the village of Soy ... The advance command post was established at a small inn in Soy, occupied by the 3rd Armored Division, who has wrested it earlier from. the 116th-Panzer and 560th Volksgrenadier Divisions. Col. Duffner and his advance CP staff --- Maj. DeVore, a telephone orderly, and several sentries ... After midnight, those present in the CP exchanged Christmas greetings".

Note: This draft was taken from Russell Greer's Hearts in the Snow and sent to Dale DeVore for confirmation. Mr. DeVore was most anxious to prepare his Remembrances and Military History. Unfortunately, to toll of years made it too difficult for him.

June 1994

A.S. Roxburgh


 

REMEMBRANCES

and

MILITARY HISTORY

 

William T. Rice

I & R Platoon

Hq Co 290th Inf. Regt.

75th Infantry Division

24 25 26 Dec 1944

I was in the I & R Platoon of the Headquarters Co. of the 290th.

We were diverted from Holland when on Dec 16th the Bulge started and we were sent there and the 75th and the 3rd Armored stopped the furthest penetration of the Bulge.

I have to tell you a story of why you and your friends were hit on the night of Dec 24th. Col. Duffner was the Regimental Commander. On Dec 22nd or 23rd he told our I & R Platoon Lt. Diffy to go forward and scout out the Germans so he, Duffner, could decide how to deploy the troops.  The same orders, I understand, were given to the I & R Platoons of the two other Regiments. Diffy told the Colonel that since we knew nothing of where the Germans were, the lightly armed I & R Platoon should not be sent because they couldn't defend themselves if they got into a serious fire fight. He told the Colonel that one of the line companies should do the scouting with a strong, well-armed platoon. Fortunately for me the Colonel agreed. I don't know if it was your K Co. that was picked but I always heard a rumor that the other two I & R Platoons were consumed that first night.  Of course I was just a PFC and did not have the big picture but at least that is a story I have always believed that saved my life that Dec 24th.

Except for a 2-week stay at a Paris Hospital to have a small piece of shrapnel removed from jaw, I was with the 75th right on through to the cigarette camps.

The 2nd Infantry Div. came through and they needed people. The deal was join them, get to the States, get a 30-day furlough, and then to the Pacific. I was the only sole from the 75th to join, came to the States, got the furlough, went to Camp Swift in Texas, VJ Day came, I went to Cooks and Bakers School for about 8 weeks and got discharged on Dec 5th 1945 in El Paso.

Bill Rice

Excepts from letters to Paul Ellis

January 1995

Hockessin, DE

Add 3/95 Page 1


REMEMBRANCES

Charles R. Miller

1st Squad 1st Platoon

A Co. 1st Bn

290th Inf. Regt.

75th Infantry Division

24 25 26 Dec 44

I was a rifleman in Company A, 290th Infantry Regiment (A-290) which was part of the 75th Infantry Division. This 'account is my recollection of the Battle of the Bulge, supplemented by research of official records.

On 16-12-44, the day the German attack began, we were in a muddy field near Yvetot, France known as Camp K-15. We had arrived there 14-12-44 from Porthcawl, Wales where we had been stationed since our arrival from the United States 1-11-44. While in K-15, we were told that we were assigned to the U.S. Ninth Army which was planning an operation for the 75th Division in the vicinity of Gelenkirchen, Germany.

On 19-12-44, we left Yvetot by railroad, riding in the infamous Forty and-Eights. We were told that our planned destination-was Wiljre, Netherlands but apparently this was changed enroute along with our assignment to the U.S. First Army. We arrived at Tongres, Belgium at 22:00, 20-12-44, and marched approximately 8km to Hoeselt, arriving at 01:20, 21-12-44, and were billeted in houses and barns. At 00:45 on. 22-12-44, we left Hoeselt and traveled approximately 96 km by truck to Septon where we dug in, preparing a defensive position along L'Ourthe River.  It was very cold and the open 6X6 trucks provided little shelter. I remember trying to open the meat can from a "K" ration and having to hold the opening key between my teeth because-my fingers were too cold to grasp it. It was warmer when we arrived at our position and the physical labor of digging holes was welcome.  While we had no direct contact with the enemy, during the night there was continuous heavy gunfire somewhere south of our position. As I was to learn later, a battle was being fought in the vicinity of Soy and Hotton where the enemy was trying to break through and it was the uncertainty of the outcome of that action that had caused us to be put in our position to help defend along L'ourthe River.

On 23-12-44, the 1st Battalion, 290th infantry was attached to the Third Armored Division (3 AD) while the rest of the regiment moved to a position along the Soy-Hotton Road. During the night of 23-12-44, the 1st Battalion, including company A, marched to the vicinity of Erezee. We were burdened by heavy packs and it was difficult to keep up the pace set by the Battalion Commander and many men fell out and many more straggled. When junior officers and NCO's remonstrated the Battalion Commander about the pace, he told them that he was ten years older than most of the men and that he had orders to be at our destination by midnight. The NCO's pointed out that he was carrying only a musette bag and a carbine and, besides that, his orders were to have his battalion with him. I remember marching through small communities and discussing with my comrades the reason that most of the vehicles parked next to the houses had their engines running. We decided that

1

the vehicle operators had run wiring into the buildings for lights and were operating the engines to keep the vehicle batteries charged. If we had known that there had been a big enemy breakthrough, we would have realized that the engines were running so that the operators could "bug-out" if necessary and not be delayed by difficulty in starting a cold engine. But we knew nothing about the enemy attack until much later. When we arrived at our destination, we were told to dig slit trenches for protection and get some sleep. This proved almost impossible because we were in the midst of numerous artillery pieces (probably 105's) which fired almost continuously.

Early in the morning of 24-12-44, we were picked up by 3 AD half- tracks which carried us to Manhay. That name stuck in my memory because it seemed to me a peculiar name for a community in Belgium. Manhay was being shelled by the Germans - the first time we were under enemy fire - and we stayed there only a short time before retracing our route to the west as far as Grand Menil and then turning south to Oster where we arrived about 10:00. Dismounting from the half-tracks, we formed up to attack the high ground to the southeast of Oster, advancing in an open formation with two light tanks moving on trail roads on either flank. As we moved across the open fields, approaching a dense stand of planted evergreens, we were fired on by a small number of the enemy armed with schmeisner machine pistols - the infamous "burp gun" which made a sound that you never forget once you have heard it. Several men were hit immediately including our platoon leader who took a burst on the left side. I remember him sitting on the ground with blood streaming from his left arm and shoulder but waving us on with his right arm and saying "Go get em', boys!" A number of us moved into the edge of the woods and took dubious cover behind rather small trees. The company commander was fifteen or twenty feet to my left, lying behind a small tree and yelling at the men to move forward but I followed his example and stayed put. Then, one of the platoon leaders came forward and', standing beside me, told me to shoot and start moving. I told him, "Lieutenant, I don't see anything to shoot at." He said that it didn't matter but just to shoot and move. He managed to get the company on its feet and moving again. Thus we learned about "marching fire', which the experienced units were using but which we had not been taught. As we continued up the hill, encountering no more Germans, the company drifted to the left and we lost contact with the tanks on the right which promptly turned around and returned to Oster. As we neared the top of the ridge, the C.O. decided we were too far left and ordered the skirmish line to move right in single file which frightened me since we didn't know if there were more enemy in the woods. We moved some distance to the right, losing contact with the tanks on the left and came to the top of the ridge overlooking a valley. There we saw an enemy tank down below. A check revealed no bazookas among us and, in fact, we only had the first and second platoons and no officers except the captain. We withdrew a short distance and the captain placed outposts and ordered us to dig in. I leaned any rifle against a tree, took off my overcoat and started digging. I had one of the new style entrenching tools that could be used a a shovel or a hoe and quickly got my hole down knee deep. The two platoon sergeants tried to convince the captain that we should return to Oster and reassemble the

2

company which had become scattered as we maneuvered through the woods.  The captain said that he wanted to hold what he had gained to which the two sergeants replied that he hadn't gained anything. As you might expect, the captain prevailed and told the sergeants to select two men to return to Oster and advise the executive officer to send up the jeeps and trailers with the bed rolls, and ammunition. I was selected by my platoon sergeant who then took me and the man from the other platoon aside and told us to tell the executive officer what the situation was and ask him to come up with the jeeps and convince the captain to withdraw. As I was putting on my overcoat and other gear, one of the men in my squad asked if he could move over into the hole I was digging since it was much deeper than his. I told him, "O.K.", and started down the hill with the other man. We were cursing the captain and two sergeants all the way since we were convinced that we had bypassed many Germans as the company advanced up the ridge.  Fortunately, all we met were several groups of men from the company who were wandering around trying to flush out any of the enemy they could find. We reached Oster and were telling the company executive officer what both the captain and the platoon sergeants had told us when we heard small arms fire up on the ridge and shortly thereafter we saw the men we had left on the ridge streaming down the hill led by the captain. As I learned later, the Germans had surprised them and killed four men including the men on the outpost and the man digging in the hole I had left. As soon as the captain reached us, he told the executive officer to get the company on the road and ready to move out.

It was getting dark as we marched out of Oster and we had gone about one kilometer north when we met the Battalion Commander who asked the captain where he was going. When the captain told him that we were "pulling out", the Battalion Commander told him that he couldn't pull out because "C" Company had taken their objective and if "All Company pulled out, it would leave "C's" flank exposed. This was not true as I was to learn much later and, in fact, most of the 2nd SS Panzer Division was between "All Company and "C" Company, moving up the road in the valley the other side of the ridge which we had attacked earlier, on their way to assault Manhay which they captured later that night. It also explained the audacity of the handful of the enemy who had stood their ground in the face of a reinforced rifle company supported by tanks - we had been skirmishing that day with SS Panzer grenadiers from one of the most notorious of the SS Panzer divisions.  When the Battalion Commander told the captain that he must take the company back on the ridge that night, the captain fainted and was placed on the Battalion Commander's jeep. The company executive officer was ordered to take command and move the company back to Oster and up on the ridge. We marched back to Oster but, rather than going back on the ridge that night, the new company commander positioned outposts and occupied some houses and barn's on the north end of Oster.  The next morning, Christmas Day, we did move back on the ridge and dug a line of fox holes on the slope overlooking Oster. We had not been resupplied and ammunition and food was in short supply. I remember sharing a "C" ration with two other men. We also had a little bread which had been found in an abandoned house in Oster. Later that day, the company commander was ordered by the commander of the 3 AD task

3

force to which we were assigned (T.F. Kane - Lt. Colonel Mathew Kane) to have a patrol work the woods southeast of Oster to search for tanks. The company commander elected to lead the patrol himself and I was assigned to it, in part at least because I was armed with a rifle grenade launcher. We worked around the edge of the woods and in the afternoon were lying on a hillside overlooking a small group of buildings gathered around an intersection where a road crossing a small stream turned west from north-south road which we were following. We watched as a number of Germans walked up and down the main road in their long overcoats which I always envied because they appeared much warmer than our short ones. At one point, there was an attempt to contact someone on our company back-pack radio and shortly thereafter a number of artillery rounds fell on the cross roads so a decision was made not to use the radio again since some felt that the guns had ranged on the radio. It's more likely that it was just interdictory fire on map coordinates. At this time, most of the remainder of Task Force Kane was in Freineux and Lamormeriel so the Germans were on a direct route between "A" Company and the rest but it was possible to communicate through la Fosse.

About dark, part of the patrol returned to the company position while the rest of us turned east toward Odeigne, leaving the woods and walking along the road. After we had gone a short distance, a machine gun to our left fired on us. I wanted to use a rifle grenade but was told not to do so. I heard explosions as someone had worked up to the machine gun and used grenades. The patrol proceeded on to Odeigne where a very chaotic action took place and two men were killed and another captured. As the patrol broke up, we heard that the company commander had been killed and, with another man, I made my way back to Oster. We went to the house of M. Achille Lerusse who invited us in and told us that there were other Americans there. He directed me to a room on the left side of the hall and on opening the door, I saw about six weapons aimed at me from a number of armored division soldiers who were sleeping there without any guard posted. Although we knew it was a foolish thing to do, my friend and I were very tired so we joined them and slept through the remainder of the night.

The next morning, 26-12-44, we found that the remainder of the company had come off the hill and also learned that the company commander had not been killed but was badly wounded - shot through the chest. He survived and rejoined the company in Germany toward the end of the war. The rest of the 26th was uneventful, the weather was clear and sunny and the ones who had been on the patrol the night before were excused from any duties. Toward dark we were issued a Ten in One ration - the first food we had been provided since 23-12-44 but, before we could finish eating, we were ordered to move out since the task force was withdrawing to the line established by Field Marshall Montgomery on 24-12-44. This line ran from Trois-Ponts southwest through Manhay, Grand Menil and Amonines. We followed the rest of the task force along a trail road west to Sadzot and on to Blier where we spent the rest of the night in a barn. In the three days the company had over thirty casualties killed, wounded, captured, missing or sick.

These remembrances were taken from Charles R. Miller's, The Battle of the Bulge, December 1, 1987.

4


REMEMBRANCE

Wallace Duffney

75th Infantry Division

290th Regiment

BAR man

1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, L Rifle Company, 3rd Battalion

 

.PDF Format

 

These are my remembrances of the experiences on the attack of La Roumiere hill by the 75th Infantry Division, 290th Regiment, Company's K and L during the Battle of the Bulge in the Belgium forest, December 1944.  I was a BAR man with the 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, L Rifle Company, 3rd Battalion.

 

As I remember, while we were at the tent camp in La Havre, France, we didn't do much of anything --- just hurry up and wait.  Throughout the time that we were there U.S. aircraft continually flew over us and we guessed that they were flying casualties back to England.  While we were there some of our guys went into a nearby town and purchased some French bread and brought it back to camp.  I recall that it was very fresh and tasted great compared to what we had been eating.  We later heard that the Germans had broken through the defense line in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium.

 

MOVING OUT

 

On the night of 22 Dec we were ordered to move out.  We were loaded onto 40 and 8 boxcars and headed for Belgium.  We arrived somewhere in Belgium at 0200 and then loaded onto deuce-and-a-halves for an exhausting 8 hour ride.  We passed through the outskirts of Liege, Belgium, and I noticed a lot of the women were crying.  We didn't know why.

 

On 23 Dec at 1000 hours, the trucks stopped somewhere in between Hotton and Soy in Belgium where we camped for the night.  The following day was Christmas Eve.  We received our light packs and were issued ammo and donned on our overcoats and overshoes.  At 0900 we were given the order to move out and marched throughout the day until we arrived at the small Belgian town of Ny at 2100 hours --- it had been a long day.  The chow line was set up and we were to receive a hot meal.  As we were hurriedly being served, a division officer drove up in a jeep and ordered the food put away as we were about to go on an important mission.  Some of us didn't even get to eat.

 

Companies K and L were ordered to move out at five - foot intervals along an old logging road, still without an idea of what our mission was.  As we marched along the road we came along a dead German soldier lying face up; this was the first time we had ever seen a German soldier --- dead or alive --- and it was quite a shock to most of us.  We marched up this trail for two hours and finally arrive at the line of departure.  As I recall there were two officers standing near a small steep hill and, as we passed by, one of them said, "Boys, it's only a mop up."

 

I remember thinking to myself, "Here it is 2130 hours, how in the hell can a unit attack a defensive line at this time of night?"

 

At 2400 we moved across the line of departure and came to a small hill that we had to slide down and at the bottom was a small stream (Lisbelle Rau).  After crossing the stream we came upon a cow pasture; this is where L Company split up.  The 1st platoon went to the right of the pasture, the 3rd platoon to the left, and the 2nd platoon got the pasture itself!  By 0030 we had moved across the pasture into position near the wood line and prepared for a flank attack.  We had no idea that we were within 20 feet of the German's defensive line and that they could see and hear us coming.

 

All hell broke loose and the Germans opened up on us;  their bullets rained down on us like fire.  Within a minute 16 members of our platoon became casualties.  The rest of us hugged the ground until the firing stopped.  Our platoon sergeant and a second lieutenant, along with four others, crawled off the hill to seek cover.  We stayed in that position for two hours, all the while we could hear cries for help from our buddies who lay in agonizing pain; there was nothing we could do to help --- it was frustrating.

 

The second lieutenant and sergeant debated on what to do.  We had no idea where the Germans were, it wa pitch black and we couldn't see anything.  As we got up on our knees the Germans spotted our position and opened up with machine gun fire over our backs.  Our 105s didn't help us either.  We were unable to fire off any shots and didn't cause any casualties among the Germans.  After the firing stopped we made our way further down La Roumiere hill and into an old barn that we stayed in for the rest of the night.  By that time our entire platoon was split up and two guys with us had frost bitten feet.

 

We later learned that the 1st and 3rd platoons referred to us as the "lost platoon."

 

CHRISTMAS DAY

 

At about 0600 Christmas Day, Companies K and L were given the order to attack and take La Roumiere hill again; something we were unable to do.  We reassembled to prepare for another assault on the hill.  At 1300 there were 125 of us gathered on an embankment looking out 300 yards at the German's defensive line.  Fortunately for us the Germans didn't have any big guns with them --- what a relief.

 

I was so exhausted when I arrived because I hadn't eaten anything in the last 18 hours.  I grabbed a box of K-rations, sat down and ate.  Boy, was it good, too!  While I was sitting there eating a shot rang out from a German sniper and a lieutenant from our company's 4th platoon was hit in the buttocks.  A Major from our platoon spotted the sniper and fired six rounds at him with his .45 side arm; he never bothered us again.

 

It was now 1500 hours and our Major was pacing.  I heard some of the guys say, "Let's go."  We were finally given the order to move out and over the embankment.  While running through the pasture I was able to fire off about 40 rounds from my BAR at the German defensive position and a few rounds came at me, fortunately none had my name on it.  About halfway through the pasture the Germans got out of their foxholes so they could better fire at us as we made our way up the hill.  We were finally able to reach our objective: the top of the hill.

 

A lot of Germans who defended the position were able to retreat, but some never made it out of their foxholes.  Another buddy and I climbed a steep hill and fired our weapons at some small bushes.  As we were firing a burst of small machine gun rounds rained down at us.  We slid back down the hill and had a difficult time trying to climb back up as bullets flew over our heads.  The 4th platoon fired off a couple of 60mm mortars at the German machine gun nest and silenced it forever.

 

My buddy and I began to take rifles and bayonets and drove them into the ground next to where our 2nd Platoon casualties had fallen, but it was beginning to get dark and we had to stop.  Along the La Roumiere hill wood line were several casualties from our platoon along with some from Company K that littered the pasture.  It took two days for the litter bearers to remove all the bodies.  We later moved north to a small secure Belgian town named Ny, where we stayed in the home of some really nice people who fed us some great cuts of beef.

 

TRINAL

 

The Germans had retreated to a small town south of La Roumiere hill called Trinal and set up their command post.  On 26 Dec we moved our defensive line to the south side of the hill overlooking the town of Trinal which was about a half mile from our position.  We dug in, set up our defensive perimeter and dug our foxholes 15 feet apart with two men to a hole.  As we held this position we were attacked by German infantry twice and both times we repelled them.  On 27 Dec our artillery showed up with 105s and 155s to help support us and on 28 Dec the Germans got their 88s trained on us.  Over the next 12 days there were continued volleys of fire from both sides passing over and at us.  My foxhole faced the road that led to Trinal and I could see the flash of the German 88s being fired at us so I yelled, "88s are coming in!"  I can still remember the scream of those 88s coming at us.  We put logs in front of our foxholes to help protect us from the incoming rounds but we had to make a slit underneath them to be able to see in front of us, which worked well.  As I remember, that first night I was in the foxhole and my buddy was on watch; he was killed instantly by an incoming mortar round.  I will never forget his lifeless body falling on top of me --- that was one hell of a night.  Within the first three days we had lost all of our officers and, near my foxhole, I remember there being four casualties during the time we were there on the defense line.  Two of the officers returned to our position on 28 Dec.  During the whole time we were on that hill we never got a hot meal but were given sandwiches and plenty of K-rations.

 

There were horses and cows in a corral near the town of Trinal and the buildings were burning.  At 1500 hours 12 of us wer given the order to go down and release these animals.  Before we were able to move out, a unit of the 84th Infantry Division moved in and cleared out the animals.  We spent the next three hours attempting to disrupt the German defense line at Trinal and then we returned to our foxholes.  That would be the last night we spent in those cold foxholes.  Fortunately for us, it never snowed during the time we were on the defensive line; there was only frost.

 

On 1 Jan 45 the artillery's 105s and 155s started to drop their rounds a little short of their target --- the town of Trinal --- and were hitting within 50 feet of our defensive line.  This shelling continued flying over our heads for over two hours, what a night that was!  The 898th Forward Artillery Battalions 105s and the 730th Forward Artillery Battalion's 155s continued firing rounds into the German's positions in Trinal until 9 Jan.  On the same day Companies K and L finally moved off La Roumiere hill for the last time.  Our artillery company had given good support to K and L  Companies during our defense of La Roumiere Ol Fagne hill.

 

CONCLUSION

 

In conclusion, our initial attack on La Roumiere hill was quite chaotic and the lack of planning by the upper command got a lot of our guys killed.  It should also be noted that we had a shortage of ammunition for our weapons.  Looking back on that battle, the men in our company were all green soldiers and this was our baptism of fire.  I often felt that we were like sheep going to the slaughter.

 

Wallace Duffney

Forest Lake, MN

 


 

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