The Remembrances of:
Joseph T. Harlukowicz ~ Robert Ebers
Sgt. Joseph T. Harlukowicz
1st Platoon 3d Bn
K Co 290th Inf Regt.
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 44
Date of Induction: July 21, 1943
Date of Entry into Active Service: August 11, 1943, Fort Dix, NJ
After 16 days of Army indoctrination, we were shipped to Camp Davis, NC about 30 miles from Wilmington, NC. Our unit was the 329th AA Battery (radar and searchlight section). My assignment was a power generator for the searchlight and placed in charge of a water cooled 50 cal. machine gun which was fired on a number of occasions. That was my baby.
In the spring of 1944 a War Department directive came down looking for men to join the infantry, six of us applied and were accepted. In a short time we received our orders and I was accepted at Camp Breckinridge, KY. The AA outfit was sent to Orlando, FL for maneuvers but a month later they were all placed in the infantry. Irony, eh!
After completing our training in Camp Breckinridge (remember the "ridge"), we entrained for Camp Shanks, NY near Nyack. A short stay there and we shipped out from Weehawken, NJ on the Brazil. We landed at Swansea, Wales in about 11 days and was sent to Porthcawl for staging prior to any commitment in Europe. Our unit crossed the Channel and landed at Le Havre. We were trucked to a small village (St. Marguerite), about a two hour drive from Rouen. There we had a short period of field work and hikes before entraining toward the front passing through Hassell, Marche, etc. The division went into reserve amid signs that the conflict was at hand. But when or where?
December 23, 1944
That morning I was awakened by a low, persistent hum. I stood up and stretched in my slit trench as the hum became louder. The sky was then filled with bombers in every direction. Long straight contrails followed the bombers as the fighter escort weaved their own long curling contrails. Almost an inspiring and awesome sight for one to behold to keep in memory forever. The back of my neck seemed to become electrified.
December 24, 1944
We trucked through a small village (Septon) in our move towards the front. Our group left the trucks and entered a wooded area. While sharpening my bayonet, a P47 swooped in low firing its machine guns at a nearby target. One could see and hear the guns firing.
A single track railway on excellent ballast passed through the woods. Shortly after the P47 flew by, a P38 came in very low over the track on the other side and went into a slow roll. It disappeared beyond the trees and never came up. "Snow" had been released to foul the enemy radar but as I watched, five of our bombers were blown apart. In a short span of time we lost 50 men.
In the evening we moved to Ny where we were told that a paratrooper outfit had cleared the village. It was a beautiful night with a bright, full moon. However, the scene was marred by the sight of a bomber going down in flames from nose to tail and all wings. It was going down in long twisting spirals. A short time later I noticed a gap in the column opposite our column but then filled. Someone was carrying what appeared to be a carton. We had passed a truck parked under a tree on that side. It developed that Leher had "borrowed" some C rations. Upon arrival at Ny we were told not to expect to see the kitchen. It is my understanding that a general showed and told cooks to break out the C rations for us. By Leher's good deed our gang shared in his generosity, and added to our supply from the cooks.
Soon after, we headed up a road to our Line of Departure. On the road the bodies of three Germans lay in a group as a result of the paratroopers that afternoon. At midnight we left our Line of Departure and advanced through woods that had been blasted by artillery. We made our way down a ravine and waded across a small stream and up a small hill. Eventually we came to a road and met a tanker attached to the 3rd Armored Division.
December 25, 1944 (Christmas)
The tanker and I chit-chatted for a while as we stood alongside his Sherman tank. Shortly after we formed a line at the base of a hill and advanced up the hill. I got a little ahead of the advancing line and came to a wire fence (evidently for cattle) and an opening was made. At about this time two rounds bracketed me. Near the top of the hill "Dutch" Meier and I discussed the situation while a machine gun was firing away. Dutch was our platoon Lt. He was a great guy. It was noted then, looking east, the break of dawn. We started up the hill when I got one helluva wallop in the upper right arm. It probably caused me to stumble because I found myself face down. The next move indicated that my right arm was shattered. In no time at all a medic was along side me. After cutting through my coat, field jacket, sweater and OD shirt, he told me the bleeding was somewhat contained by the embedded clothing. Just then a bullet tore through my left forearm, upper left chest, missed my Adams apple, and Thank God missed his head. With some fervor I said, "Son of a bitch. You better get the hell our of here. They are trying to pick you off'. He had lost his helmet and asked for mine. I later felt like a naked "jay-bird". After placing my right hand between the buttons of the coat, I tried to crawl down hill to a terrace on the hill. The terrace was about 12 inches high. Well, it did not work because I heard a bullet go "pfft" overhead. There was another attempt later. Another "pfft". And a third try. Again "pfft". Someone had me in his sights.
Pondering the situation the terrain was studied to determine my escape. In the valley beyond the trees two church spires, almost in tandem, indicated a village and I wondered who owned the place us or them. At the bottom of the hill lay three or four dead cows. A bit behind the cattle, a deep gully meandered out of the woods across a small meadow. As one looked downhill to the right a hedgerow provided the Germans cover to work their way up and down the hill. Short bursts of their burp guns signaled the movements. On one occasion, I saw two Germans lugging a third badly wounded comrade. They hustled across a small stretch of open field to the gully and almost dived in for cover. From the corner of my eyes a figure would scoot past up on the hill near me. Sporadic artillery or mortar rounds came in. Things were quiet for a while when I heard a heavy accent, "cigarettes, cigarettes" and a "no" in English. One of our buddies was lying there about 30 feet away and did not know it because of my position on the ground. A German had come out of the woods and was on the hill scrounging cigarettes. I twisted my head to look over my left shoulder to see what was going on. We stared at each other for some seconds and he seemed somewhat surprised to see me move. His weapon was cradled in the crook of his arm. The uniform a gray-green and appeared to be quite clean. He had a Hitler type mustache. He then turned around and walked away. As was mentioned before, one of the incoming rounds landed very close to my feet. The blast was so close that it picked up my right foot and spread-eagled me. At the aid station a doctor told me I had a small nick on the inside of my right foot.
Another attempt to get from the top of the hill to the terrace was successful. However, as I started to crawl away a dead German lay about a yard away. He was checked to make sure as his eyes were half closed. Behind the terrace lay Larry Seesholtz who had caught a round in the left hip. As we lay there a round came in on one side and then the other. I told Larry to lie still. The third round did not come down the pike. I asked Larry if he could move down to the next terrace and so we did. Later in the afternoon we could hear the Germans on the hill getting excited as they cried out "Americans, Americans" with a heavy accent.
Co. I -- firing broke out in the woods at the bottom of the hill and about six or seven Germans came out escape-running at a fast pace. When Co. I formed a line at the base of the hill a GI near us got up to run down hill. Well, someone took. a shot at him and 1, could see where the bullet hit the ground about a foot away from his left foot. There was a cease fire command. I told Larry that I would get a medic for him. Two medics were working on a wounded GI and informed me they would find Larry. One medic led me downhill and up a cow path where a German had been buried under a neat pile of stones with a sign. A loss of blood caused me to become dizzy so I sat down but quickly recovered when a GI told us that some snipers were around. The path led up uphill to a CP. There Gen. Mickle was with Lt. Col. Glezer who was on the phone. Mickle sat on the ground with me until a jeep came for me. He thought I would be back in a month but I did not say anything about my busted arm. I was to spend a little over 11 months in hospitals and rehab with three operations. The journey went from a farmhouse that was nearby to HUY school, to a hospital by Paris, and a hospital in southwest England near Torquay. At the hospital in England they took an X-ray of my arm and discovered a bullet just under the skin. It was. obvious that it had hit a rock and ricocheted hitting me broadside. They gave me the slug for a souvenir - blood and all. It is still around home someplace.
On March 10, 1945 the wounded were shipped out from Portsmouth, England and landed in Staten Island March 21st. Some of us were taken to Camp Kilmer across the Raritan River from New Brunswick, NJ, my home. Then to Halloran Hospital on Staten Island and later on to Camp Upton, Long Island. Discharged November 30, 1945.
1. At Camp Davis, NC my next oldest brother had been there before me. He later was assigned to the 87 (Alcorn) Inf. Div. that served in Patton's Third Army.
2. Patton in his book "WAR AS I KNEW IT' stated that the 75th Inf. Div. had been promised him December 10 and the whole division December 15, 1944. Enclosed is a copy of that page 163.
3. At Camp Shanks, NY my youngest brother had been there with a Paratrooper outfit. He served in the Pacific that included the Philippines and made a jump in the Manila area.
4. The blood that was lost from the wounds had been replaced with 1000 cc's or a liter.
5. I consider myself very fortunate when one considers the perspective of the GI's lost, missing or so badly wounded, many maimed for life, physically and/or mentally.
6. At one of the hospitals I met a fellow GI from our division name Goss. He told me we had taken the hill but lost due to a lack of ammo to hold the hill. Sometime after I was hit, I heard Lt. Myers calling, trying to locate me, but by that time the Germans were around on the hill. It was no use jeopardizing him. Evidently command, pressed by time, put us on the line (like chess) where units were required to stem the attacking forces. There was not time for reconnaissance to determine enemy positions, strength and the terrain. In the dark of night it became more difficult. A full moon plays tricks with shadows and an assault in an open field, well, could create some problems. That is all for now because it is beginning to look like a thesis for a Masters Degree.
Sommerset, New Jersey
Lead Scout 1st Platoon
K Co 3rd Bn 290th Inf. Regt.
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 44
DECEMBER 24 & 25,1944
The Company left a farm the morning of December 24th and, after a very long hike, arrived at an open field on the edge of a wooded area. We dug in, and after some rest, we left the position (it was now almost dark) and proceeded up a ravine.
I was the lead scout of the 1st Platoon at this time. Shortly, hostile fire stopped the advance. I tried to confirm where it was coming from with no luck. The march continued for perhaps two miles when it was decided a wrong turn had been made. Tle column had to retrace and continue. We then arrived at an assembly area at around eleven hundred hours (11:00). I company, which I understood was to make the attack, had not arrived at this time. The field kitchen was set up and the company was supposed to eat.
While waiting for the food, a high ranking officer (name unknown to me) ordered K Company (1st Lt. Andrew Robbie) to never mind the food and to attack immediately. It was now around twelve hundred hours (12:00).
We divided what ammo we had. I had three (3) clips (24 rounds). The rest had two (2) or three (3) clips - not nearly enough to make an attack.
At about twelve-thirty hours (12:30), the 1st Platoon, with Lt. Robbie leading the attack, started up an open field toward a line of woods. There was very bright moonlight, almost like day. About seventy-five yards from the wood line, the Germans opened up on us. My ammo was tracer and I began firing at what muzzle flashes I could see. By this time, we were taking casualties. The radio was put out of action. Lt. Robbie told me to go back and inform Lt. Ellis to get the 2nd Platoon, which was in reserve, "up quickly and give us some help".
I ran (or maybe flew) back down the hill and gave Lt. Ellis the message. I-le turned to his Platoon Sgt. and told him to get the men together and bring them up. He then turned to me and said, "Let's go."
We almost immediately came under fire from two (2) automatic weapons. I believe he was hit in the leg first. We continued our advance. He was hit again, this time in the heel of one foot and could not continue. He said for me to "get the hell out of here".
At this time, I was not aware that I only had one round of ammo left. How I ever got into the woods, I will never know. They must have been lousy shots. When I got into the woods, a German came at me with a Mauser. I shot him first, and the clip flew out, and my last round was gone. Now, it was a matter of survival, which I won.
There are several stories going around that I personally find inaccurate:
1. "K Company was still on the hill". Late in the afternoon, some officer (possibly of I Company) found what was left of the 1st Platoon and told us to retire to the rear. I was one of the nine (9) that went back to a barn outside a small town and spend the night.
2. I saw no [517th or 509th] Airborne on that day or any other day.
This is all I remember, or want to remember, about Christmas Day, 1944.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
My 75th Division Dad
Copyright 2001, J. R. Puckett
Email: J. R. Puckett