The Remembrances of:
William A. De Vilbis ~ Elmer C. Denis ~ George Gardner, Jr.
William A. De Vilbis
Machine Gun Squad
H Co 2d Bn 290th Infantry Regiment
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 1944
De Vilbis, William A-, Age 19, Serial Number 37669281. Reported for duty March of '43 to Camp Dodge, Iowa. Sent to Camp Wallace, Texas by train. Trained on 40 mm AA for 6 months, then by train to Fort Bliss, Texas in El Paso for 6 more months while I trained on Half-Track quad 50 cal. I thought I would never get out of Texas. In June of '44 we were put on trains and sent to Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky where they put me in the 75th Infantry, 290th Regiment, 2nd Battalion 'H' Company, where I was on the 30 caliber water cooled machine gun. Left Camp Breckenridge for Camp Shanks, New York. From there boarded the USAT Brazil. Spent 6 days aboard the Brazil and landed at Swansea, Wales. From there, I believe, we were transported to Porthcawl, Wales. Was billeted in an old castle. Our platoon, "Comp. H", was assigned to the horse stables. Trained for about a month there, also has a pass to London. Went on a ship from Southampton to Le Havre, France. Trucked to Yvetot. Stayed in a field in our pup tents where the rain made a quagmire of the field. A Catholic priest called us to this area and blessed us in our coming battle. Boarded 40 & 8's, then known as a freight train. I remember standing in the open door watching the "V I" (or buzz bombs) heading for England. Our destination was the Netherlands, but Hitler changed this. Taken off the 40 & 8s and transferred to service trailers with no tops. A very cold and miserable ride all the way. Taken to Liege - from there we were loaded into 2-1/2 ton trucks. I believe we went about 250 miles in this cold and miserable trip. Things were really mixed up. Spent one night in a hay loft. It was Christmas Eve when we started - spent most of the night going over this hill, the back& of the houses on the hill we were going up faced us. I will never forget, through all of the small arms and machine gun fire at us, a young girl standing in the back door of the house watching us. I believe this village was Wy.
Pushed the Germans out of the other side and then proceeded to the other side of town. Ecke and I were very tired, so we flopped down behind a hedgerow. We learned our first lesson. We should have started to dig in where we were. AU of a sudden we were hit by very heavy 88's and mortar fire. Instead of staying there we started to run toward an old stone building. We could not have been more than 5 feet apart - it blew us about 40 feet into the air, probably only 5 feet. Ecke was pretty badly hit. I was not hurt at all except for the blast that tossed us in the air. From there on, it was very confusing with heavy artillery and mortar fire.
On the 25th we pushed them back out of town again, but shortly they started at us again. We went back to the center of town and set up the gun in a large shell hole. Later that night we moved back down the hill, dug in there and on the defensive. Mostly received heavy barrage of artillery and mortar fire. One thing I do remember when our bombers, on the way to Germany, dumped a lot of tinsel on us which I thought was for Christmas. It was not. It was to interfere with their radar so they could not trace the planes. I believe we did not get our Christmas turkey until either the 26th or 27th of December. The Germans somehow zeroed in on the cooks and their big kettles - everybody had dirt on their mess kits and on the turkey. When the skies cleared above us we saw
quite a few dog-fights. On New Years Eve our artillery gave the Germans a good pounding. Sometime in the first part of January I went back to the Aid Station. I could not feel my feet. They said I had frost bite. Went by ambulance to Liege, then on to Paris by hospital train. After a short stay there went to Cherbourg by ambulance. C-46's to 97th General Hospital at Oxford. Was my first airplane ride. Was in hospital a couple of months. After that, was given a ten day recuperation leave. Went to Edinburgh, Scotland. Very nice place. Went from there to Birmingham Replacement Depot. Was sent to Southampton by truck, across the English Channel on a ship to Le Havre, France, then to Paris by truck, to a replacement depot a couple of miles from Paris. Stayed a couple of weeks. The war ended while there. Had pass to Paris (a real wild time was had by everyone). Then back to England by truck, then by boat, then by truck again. Exactly the same way as we had come over. I was put in the Air Corp at Manchester and helped shut down the 8th Air Force base the early part of September. Left by C-46s to Frankfurt, Germany and assigned to the 9th Engineer Command. Drove a 2-1/2 ton truck. I got to see a lot of the American zone. Sometime in December we moved close to Nurnberg. Late part of February I was trucked to Le Havre. I think it was Camp Lucky Strike. Then was loaded aboard the USS S.D. Squire. It was a very small ship. Had a rough ride to New York. In Camp Kilmer we boarded a train to Camp McKay, Wisconsin. After about 3 days I was discharged April 1946 - very happy to be home.
William A. De Vilbis
2nd Lt. Elmer C. Denis
Anti Tank Platoon
Hq Co 3d Bn
290th Inf. Regt.
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 44
The following is a typed copy of a written report by Elmer C. Denis describing the action of the Third Battalion, 290th Inf. 75th Infantry Division on 24 and 25 December 1944. This report was written on 11 July 1993 - PBE.
On 24 December 1944 Co. I had been detached and was deployed in the area between I-lotton and Soy. Late in the afternoon (4 to 5 PM) on the 24th, orders came from the Regimental Commander (Col. Duffner) for us to come to Soy to receive the attack order. Since LTC Gleszer [CO 3d Bn 290th C@fl was with I Co., Major John Baskin [ExO 3d Bn 290th CT] and I went to receive the order each in our own jeep. We received the order at the back of the building at a road intersection in Soy.
I was instructed by Major Baskin to go back and lead the Bn (less I Co.) to Soy. It was nearly dark by the time I got back to the Bn. We moved out without supper.
We arrived in Soy about 11 PM and were ordered to advance across the LD immediately. Major Baskin had remained behind in Soy to reconnoiter the area as best he could with the remaining daylight. I-le had very little time to brief the Co. Commanders. LTC Gleszer arrived about this time. Co. & Co. L and Co. M moved out. My anti-tank platoon remained in Soy until the next day (25 Dec.).
I remember being up on the left side of the hill (La Roumiere) early Christmas morning and talkng with LTC. Gleszer and Lt. Jones. The weather was cool but not cold and there was no snow. The ground was dry and not frozen. I do not recall exactly but it was a day or so later before we had snow.
My reconnaissance indicated that the wooded terrain was not suitable for anti-tank trucks in the front line defense. I consulted with the Co. Commanders and arranged to place the bazooka men from AT platoon with the troops in the line and placed the AT guns in position behind the hill. My driver and I hauled bazooka ammunition up to the top of the hill and stockpiled it for use if needed. We informed the troops where it was located.
During the ten days or so that we were in defensive positions I made many trips from the Bn. CP to the top of the hill. I was also in phone con'tact with all of the Co. Commanders during my duty at the Bn. CP. I am unaware of any other units involved in the 3rd Bn. sector during this period.
I went back to Belgium, in July 1985 and walked over the above terrain and I was amazed at how accurate my recollection was.
Elmer C. Denis
Kansas City, Missouri
11 July 1993
George Gardner, Jr.
Company Clerk/Rifleman (MOS 745), I Co.
3d Bn 290th Infantry Regiment
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 44
December 24, 1944 ..... The Bn. was alerted to move up right behind the battle line and take up defensive position. Two ME 109's, which had been attempting to knock out some of the huge fleet of B-17's that thundered overhead, swept low over the marching troops but did not fire. The Bn. reached its assembly area in a large patch of weeds. From this weeded area, 'K' and 'L' Companies moved out in the attack of the high ground east of the communication hub of HOTTON. The companies attacked at 2330 that night. Because of insufficient ammunition supplies, the two companies were forced to withdraw from the hill after they had taken it. Reorganizing, K and L Companies again attacked the hill. They took the hill but once again were unable to hold it against the counterattack. Casualties were heavy in both companies. K Company reported all officers, except the Weapons Platoon leader, casualties.
While K and L Companies were attacking, I Company had moved up to the city of HOTTON and had relieved the garrison of the city, Hqs of the Third Armored Division, which had successfully defended the city against numerous German attacks.
December 25, 1944 ..... K and L Companies assaulted the hill a third time, captured it and held it against counterattack. The two companies had made the frontal attack. I company moved from its positions in HOTTON, crossed the OUERTHE RIVER via a half-blown out bridge and attacked the town of WERPIN. Resistance in the town was light and I Company pushed up into the high ground past the town. I Company assaulted the right flank of the German line of defense. In the bitter fighting that followed the Germans were driven back and I Company drew abreast of K and L Companies. M-10 Tank Destroyers moved up on line to furnish protection against an armored attack. In the attack on the high ground past WERPIN, I Company was assisted by F Company of the 290th Infantry and small elements of a paratroop Bn. [A Co lst Bn 517th PTRI.
December 26, 1944 ..... ne Bn S-2, [Hugh M. Coonfield], while trying to get an ambulance through to I Company in WERPIN, ran over a mine and was badly shaken up. A Lt. of the Third Armored Division entered the Bn C.P. and reported that enemy troops were being reinforced. The companies on the hill were notified and alerted. However, no counterattack occurred.
These remembrances were taken from 'The Combat History of the Third Battalion 290th Infantry Regiment".
George Gardener, Jr.
Warner Robins, GA
Former T/5 George W. Gardner, Jr., age 72, is a native of Albany, GA. He was drafted in the Army in October 1942. George was inducted at Fort McPherson, GA and transferred to a Barrage Ballon Battalion at Camp Tyson, TN. Afterwards he was sent to Los Angeles, CA where they operated barrage ballons built around aircraft factories. The BB outfits were deactivated in late 1943 and he was transferred to a Military Police Escort Guard Company at Fort Custer, MI to guard German POW'S. In the summer of 1944, he was transferred to the 75th Infantry Division at Camp Breckinridge, KY. There he was assigned to Company 1, Third Battalion, 290th Regiment. George served as Company Clerk until he was transferred overseas. He entered combat on Christmas Eve of 1944. Immediately he became a rifleman (MOS 745), losing his status as a Company Clerk. He served as a rifleman until the end of the war in 1945.
George remembers entering combat in the Ardennes-Alsace (Battle of the Bulge) on Christmas Eve, in a wooded area near Hotton, Belgium. Christmas Day they attacked Werpin and the high ground near Werpin. Later in January, I Co attacked Burtonville. Fighting was fierce and the casualties were high. He remembers 1st Lt Arthur North getting killed and 2nd Lt James Lawson being wounded. Lt Lawson died later, in a Paris hospital., He also remembers T/Sgt Ernest Bay and PFC Charles Breckinridge being killed. Two of his best friends, S/Sgt Gordon Reitzel was wounded and had to be evacuated but survived and Sgt Clarence Kline was captured by the Krauts and remained a POW for the remainder of the war. Company I was pinned down on a hill by machine guns, small arms, mortars and artillery for most of Christmas night and was rescued by an artillery forward observer, Lt. ? Gandell. Lt Gandell and his radio operator were killed about a week later. There were many other wounded and deaths, however George cannot remember all of the names.
After their stay in Werpin, they were ordered to take a little village named Beffe and all hell broke loose. The company commander, Capt Ralph Rigdon was severely wounded and evacuated. He did survive.
George remained throughout the Bulge and participated in two more battles, Central Europe and the Rhineland. He was never wounded, however he does have some vivid memories. He was awarded the Bronze Star, CIB, ETO Ribbon with three battle stars, Occupation Medal, plus some other medals. He feels that he earned his "Bachelor of Life' Degree in combat. He remembers the bitter cold weather, confusion, inadequate clothing, lack of food except for K and C rations, Tiger and Panzer tanks, 88's, screaming meanies and the atrocious acts by some of the Krauts such as shooting children because they were playing and making a noise. He still has to look over his shoulder when walking in snow.
He considers World War II the last war that was fought with a sense of purpose and there will probably never be another war with a sense of purpose.
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