Into The Bulge
An Account by Harold M. Simon
We had just gotten to the last little hollow before the grand rush when we noted that the artillery or mortars or both were still hitting ahead of us. Dutch had to holler back to Andy to have them cut it out, And he hollered back for more times than I like to recall until it finally stopped. Then we moved and dodged bullets right and left. Joe Harlukowicz was there beside me, and then all of a sudden he went dashing up that hill like he was possessed, like he had a personal grudge to settle with those Heinies. I remember thinking what a huge target he made even when his 6 feet seven inches were crouched over. I must put something in here that I wish weren't so. Probably no mention of it will ever be made but for this account. Our "K' Company objective was to be the right half of the hill. "L" Company was to account for the left half of it. Evidently we had had to start so far over to the left for our attack that we had not covered the distance to the right which we were supposed to, for when we got up the hill we found ourselves in a little clearing at the left of the main body of woods. On our way up when we were being extremely cautious, some voices called down, "Come on up - are you cowards?" and similar taunts. We believe these had come from "L" Company with whom we had failed to keep proper contact. Such a thing was not at all unheard of - as witness the events of the night before. We had not been told the whereabouts of the other two platoons of our own company, so we didn't know whether these shouts of "Coward" and or "Yellow!" came from some of these. It is now my opinion that the latter was the case and that some of the Germans took up the cry, hoping to find out where there were groups of men and then using their machine guns on the poor beggars. This latter theory was borne out of the fact that as soon as the calls stopped, the German machine guns spoke. I got up as far as where I saw one of the fellows lying with blood turning the frosty earth around him a crimson hue, and I was amazed to find that he could move and talk still, though it was evident that he was losing much blood. My heart went out to him, and so I dropped to my knees to see if I could help him in any small way. He had not taken his sulfa pills as yet and seemed to think that they should be taken. His canteen was frozen over so I got out my pills and gave him four and the water from my canteen. I had broken the ice on it just previously so I knew that it would pour. I kept the other four pills for such time as I might need them for somebody else - myself, perhaps. He had two holes in his helmet; one where the bullet entered and one where it left. It had stopped in his skull long enough to produce the bloody effect I have described.
Then, because I expected our own medic to come up at any time, I picked up my rifle, which I had dropped in the frost. I noticed now for the first time that I had lost my bayonet somewhere on the trek up and down the night before. I picked up one of the rifles I found lying around on the ground and appropriated the bayonet from it for my own, just in case. Then Schmidt came up; he had run out of ammo, and I still had plenty of B.A.R. shells in my B.A.R. belt. My hands fumbled at the fastenings, but I had to get the ammo out so I forced my frozen fingers to work. Then someone let 90 a grenade with our cry of "Pepsi Cola." Then the Heinies began throwing their "potato masher' grenades as they shouted, "Grenad." We clung to mother earth's bosom and then we noticed Frank Gillespie, who was lying out in front of the mounds we were using for some meager cover. Schmidt crawled out to try to get him back - white faced - and breathed, "Franks done for, I think. He was hit in the bowels." Roesch was there, and he got his in the hip. Then Schmidt picked up the ammo and "Baby" and lit out to the left a little. I could see the silhouette of some of the Germans getting ready to throw their grenades. I resolved to get them, and so I used one of my last two clips in the pursuance of this task. I couldn't say if I got any of them, but I do know that my fire kept them down for a brief while. Then I decided that I ought to hunt up Schmidt and see if I could help him. I scurried over to where the clearing cut a bit of the forest from the main pocket on the summit of the hill. There I found Goldie, Gordon, and Home huddled in less than ten yards space. Almost at once I heard a heretofore unfamiliar whistle, and when Gordon, who was primarily a machine gunner, heard it, he hollered, "That's a mortar! Duck!" We did and were relieved to hear it explode to our left by some 25 or 30 yards. When we heard someone out in front of us - I couldn't see where - shout, "Pepsi Cola" and, as if he were clairvoyant, Goldie remarked, "There's Risley and a grenade." It seems the remark was more witty than this as I write it. But the event which followed so swiftly upon this remark will, I am sure, excuse my lax memory. We heard another mortar whistle and burst, and Gordon, who had the Weapons Platoon man's respect for mortars, uttered something like, "Those mortars are bracketing in on us. I'm getting out of here." With that he got up from where he crouched and lit out past me. When we saw that, the
Schmidt had taken out with Gordon, so I was just collecting myself to crawl back to the comparative protection of the patch of woods to my left rear when it happened. I was in the process of extricating my legs from under me when the whistle and burst of another shelf came too close. In fact the concussion picked me up off the ground, shook me, and banged me down to the ground again. In the process of being shaken, I must have been hit, for when I had been able to clear some of the reeking powder smoke and the powdered frozen earth out of my nostrils, I felt the most peculiar numbness - a stinging feeling in my left leg. The actual feeling is, unfortunately, like nothing I have ever experienced before; hence I can't adequately describe it. Damn the written word!
I still wanted to get out of there, but I made the mistake of trying to creep away. I got my right knee to move and my fingers, almost frozen now because I had lost both of my gloves by this time, clutched at the frosty grass in an effort to pull myself away from this dangerous spot. My left leg though, just would not creep or hold my weight on it. I just pulled myself along and couldn't help but be glad for the hot times I had pulled myself along like this in the grass and weeds of Kentucky last Summer. Although I cheerfully admit that this thought did not occur to me at this time. Then another whistle, and as I lay there, I must have uttered a small but heartfelt prayer that this one wouldn't have my name on it. I felt the sting of the clods of metal or frozen earth on my gluteal region and the back of my arms. This I took as adding insult to injury so I got angry and decided I would really leave now. I stood up as best I could and was surprised to see Roesch standing not far from me - standing on the hip which I knew had been hit. He yelled that I ought to drop my gas mask and pack. I think I muttered something about his standing up and walking on his bad leg, but I dropped and wriggled out of my gas mask and the confines of my "light pack." When I rose again, Roesch was out of sight and mortars were laying in on the short side of the hill. I got up on my legs and began the slow descent. I had left my rifle back at the spot where I had met up with the mortar fragments. I return for just a seconds digression to tell of another less fortunate than I was. In the burst that immediately preceded my own, Home had been hit in the chest and face, and he had dragged himself back a way. Then when my burst came, he must have been hit in the chest again, for while I was removing my impediments, I could see his humped over figure in the somewhat ludicrous attitude of praying as do the Mohammedan, on their multi-colored prayer rugs, so full of life and color. I recall that the place he had stopped was little less frosted than most of the terrain, and so the Winter dead grass and weeds made for him a sort of natural prayer rug. The sound issuing from his lungs was far, I am sure, from that of the Muslim praying - the rasping intake into and out - rush of air from the metal pierced lungs. That, I think, was the thing that disagreed with my stomach most. Before that I might have been content to lie there waiting for an end which seemed inevitable. But then I decided that I wanted to live - not for any heroic ideals or patriotism, which could go hang for all of me - I wanted to live for myself I thought of K.T. and how she would smile if I expressed this view to her. I was not going to lie there and wait for some Jerry to stick me with the cold steel of a bayonet, which I had been taught to dread during training. No, if my bad leg would hold me, I was going to get back to where I felt sure an aide man (medic) could be found.
So I got up and began to follow a frozen, rutted roadway down to the bottom of the hill. As I started, I heard "Dutch" marshaling a small band of men into the small clump of woods which had been to my left rear. Halfway down the road I saw a band of men two of them were supporting another who, I felt, surely must be Roesch. They were fired upon, and I was close enough to see one of the group fire in return. He had a German machine gun at his hip and the ammo belt draped around his neck. The group moved down the road. When I got to where they had been, I found a Handy Talkie which I, for some reason, thought might be necessary for sending for help. I picked it up and tried to get it to speak to me, but I really don't know what I should have done if it had. Later on I picked up a rifle which caught my eye because its stock looked like Baker's. In less time than it takes to tell it, the story of the Grecian mother's parting words to her warrior son flashed through my mind. I had no rifle - I was supposed to be a soldier - a soldier isn't much without his rifle. Besides hadn't his mother said, "Return either carrying your shield or carried on it?" (Clearly I needed a replacement for my missing Betsy - 14000613) A report and a cloud of dust where the Jerry had concealed a mine in a tank with a trip wire across the road way. No one was hurt though, I guess, but I found it easier to be careful as I passed that spot minutes later. While I was helping the fellow with the hole in his head much earlier, I had looked at my watch and was rather surprised to find that it read 0810. I must have been hit within 45 minutes of that time, and when I had got down to where we started from on our doomed attack, I was pretty much tuckered out. There was a medic there, and he helped me out of my overcoat and put me so that the blood would not rush to my feet. That is my head was lower than my feet anyhow. He ripped my trouser leg open and applied a first aide bandage to my wound there. In the process of removing my overcoat, he found another wound in my right chest surface near the junction of the arm and body. He gave me a shot of morphine from a little syrette and then he tied the tag to my clothes. I looked at my watch and found that it was 0940. 1 must have dozed, for it seemed like no time before the litter bearers arrived, and I was placed on one. Then began a journey of up and down climbs which was just as tough going as it had been the night before. The sun was out, and it would have been a beautiful Christmas back home. There were frequent stops to let the bearers change around on the ends of the litter, and some damn Jerry must have been watching us, for just as soon as the bearers stopped, mortars would start laying in on us. I remember that these bursts fell short or over to the left, but I didn't seem to care. The morphine had produced an alcoholic-like type of inurement to the dangers of this fire, for although the three bearers set me down and scurried off for cover more than once, I lay there without the slightest care in the world. Thank God for the tin that went for the making of that morphine syrette. We finally arrived at the collection point, and I was whisked into a waiting ambulance and thence back to the Battalion Aid Station, which I am sure was at a point where we had sneaked the eats the night before.
From there I remember only vaguely the ambulance rides and stops at numerous places along the way where I was carried into other houses and re-examined. I remember that at one place I was taken in and put by the heat throwing fireplace. Boy, that heat was the most welcome thing that I could have felt. It was here, I believe, that I got my tetanus shot and had the B sulfa pills. Then I was carried to a waiting ambulance, went to sleep, and awakened only when I was removed and carried into a place that was filled with wounded, both German and American wounded. I used my first "duck" here and heard groans of Jerry which were certainly no proof of the Superman myth. Later I was carried further inside where the medics made out an envelope and records for me. I saw Plock, who told me of Andy's wounds, Heavner's demise, and the wounds of some of the others. Then the medics carried me up to Ward D-6, and while I was there I saw Goldsberry and had my shoes taken off. I was beginning to think of my stomach now, as I hadn't eaten since 1500 on the day before. Besides, I had heard some of the fellows talking about the turkey dinner they had had. No such luck for me. The nurse came around and told me there would be no food for that night, for on the morrow I was to be operated on. L of course, had heard of this silly superstition and kept still after that. A quick trip to X-ray where I first realized the extent of my injuries followed. A front view and side view of my chest were taken, and then the medics had a rough time trying to get my leg straightened under the X-ray tube and on the plate. One front and side view of this too were taken. After this I was carried back to D-6 and had a good night's sleep.
At 7:30 the next morning I was down in the surgery waiting for an empty operating table. The medics took off my clothes, already tom beyond wearing condition. In the process they found my pen and pencil and some other odds and ends which I wanted to keep. They took off my ring, my watch, and my dog tags. I had another shot of morphine and a capsule. I remember that the shot made me more than usually talkative. I mumbled something about feeling like a newborn baby. Then one of the Surgical Technicians began shaving the hair (?) from my shoulder. I remember remarking at his use of the razor blade held firmly between the jaws of a scissors-like instrument (a clamp, of course). Then my left arm was strapped onto a board, and I saw a little man in white - mask and all - approach with a good sized syringe and a length of rubber tubing. He said to turn my head the other way, and that is the last thing I remember until I hollered, "Ouch!" and looked up into the face of a red haired nurse who had just put one c.c. of penicillin into my left deltoid muscle. Having wakened me, she gave me a shot to make me sleep, and then I had some supper. My dressings were changed sometime that night; I found that I had been operated on in four places. I forgot to mention that I was glad to find out that I wouldn't get a spinal - instead, they used sodium pentothal, an intravenous type of anesthetic. This was in the 102nd Evac. Hospital in Huy, Belgium. From there I went Liege - the 76th Field Hospital - and felt for the first time the ground shake from the impact of a buzz bomb. I grew to dread the sound of those putt-putts and then to hear them cut out and wait for the concussion. This fear was compounded by the news of a disaster just two nights before. a German Airman had seen fit to strafe the nurses' quarters at that very hospital. He had been shot down and suffered from two broken legs. He was, when I left, being fixed up so that he could be stood up against a wall and shot. Ironic?
from Liege I went by hospital train to Paris and the 48th General Hospital there. Just try to eat and drink from a tray bouncing from your abdomen to your chest to the tune of clanking railroad car wheels while you are lying down. I spilled some of the best coffee and cocoa I've ever tasted onto and into my dressings. At Paris, I was put into a bed having clean white sheets on it, my first since I got hit. I might as well digress here long enough to tell where on my body I was wounded. My chest was the recipient of a piece of shrapnel in the extreme right side between the third and fifth ribs over close to where my armpit is. Another piece was lodged to the left of my sternum, on half inch above and four inches to the right of my left nipple. If that one had gone in with more force my heart would have been punctured. My right thigh - upper third anterior - shrapnel penetrated just deep enough to stop at the fascia of the Quadriceps Rectus Femoris. A slit of about two inches down from the hole turned up after the operation. Then comes the worst wound of all - a shrapnel hole where the metal bit into the tibia of my left leg just below the cartilaginous processes which fit into the knee socket. This shrapnel went deep into the leg and somewhere in the course of its journey snipped (or impinged) on the motor nerve to the foot. That caused the foot to swell and sharp needle like pains in all parts of the foot - especially in the arch. I also had a slight case of mersion or trench foot - responding slowly to whirlpool treatment.
It is 1989 or about 46 years since the events recounted took place. The account was written during my convalescence in England while the facts were still clear in my memory. I wrote them into a little notebook which I entrusted to another soldier whom I met there and who was on his way to the States.
Because what I write now is not directly part of that story, I want to add the following:
When I was able to understand where I was and what I was doing, I found that my own field jacket had a hole in it where the shrapnel had entered near my heart. It was there that I had carried my testament before I left it with my other gear prior to entering battle. In looking into that pocket, I found that someone had placed a luminous crucifix and a broken rosary in that pocket. Perhaps these were to be omens - indicators of the direction I should have taken in my life's work. If so, I missed the meaning at that time. Though in the years after I returned home and began writing to Ken Chittick more or less regularly, I expressed religious views and dogma which I might have been....
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The following is a brief answer to where I was hit in answer to a query from my mother while I was working at the "Little Red Schoolhouse" in the signal Supply section of Oise Surplus Supply Disposal Group.
"Now as to the operations, I was operated on at the 102nd Evac. Hosp. They shaved me where they had to - standard prep - and then the needle for the Sodium Pentothal was introduced into my arm after it had been strapped to a board. sometimes the anesthesiologist asks the patient to count backward from 100, but with me the Pentothal worked so fast that I watched the needle go in and turned my head back to watch the fellow taking off my bandages. That is all I remember, the turning back. The next thing I knew I woke up with another needle in me. This time it contained penicillin, and every four hours thereafter for three days I had these shots. I wasn't sick from the anesthesia; Pentothal doesn't make you that way. I was hungry but I must have gone back to sleep for it was supper before i had anything to eat. After that first penicillin shot, the nurses redressed my wounds. I looked a little and felt like a mummy with wrappings from my throat down to my knees. I held the left leg very rigid, of course, for it sent pains of a peculiar burning kind into my heel when that leg was jarred.
I was sent to Liege to the 76th Field Hospital, and it was there that I learned to fear the buzz bomb, of which I had already written. Now (1991) I remember that what made it so terrifying was the putt-putt of its motor which would then stop and the inevitable sound of the explosion. After two nights in the 76th, I was put on a hospital train and taken to the 48th in Paris. I didn't get to see much of Paris that time - you don't from the floor or racks of an ambulance. All this time I had no pajama pants on; and since I was no longer taking morphine or codeine, my since of prudery came to the fore. Just before I left for the U.K. I had to struggle through a shave, my first in perhaps two weeks and into a woolen undershirt. I couldn't have gotten into the wool longies so I just let them ride. In one hour and fifteen minutes, roughly, I was over the English Channel and on English soil again. A good supper and then a snooze till about 0300 when I was bundled into an ambulance and then a train ride. This was in some ways better than the first, for now I was a little stronger, but I was beginning to smell it, I'm sure. There were real beds in the ward - not just canvas things. That was good. I was right across from the Irish branch of the Simon family or so some Looie (Lieutenant) said. we were very sparsely fed, the worst meals during my post - op days. At last I was moved into the 137th Gen Hosp and a swell warm bed and food again. I had some fine ward boys (?) who took care those of us who could not do for ourselves. The doctor here decided he had to make on closure, in my right leg. That place is the only one I think they succeeded in removing the foreign matter. In fact, I know that the shrapnel is still in my left leg. The X-rays I had taken at the convalescent center prove that. I was groggy and a little dizzy from the morphine and codeine, but awake for the sewing up. I think I rather annoyed the doctor by keeping up a running line of chatter all during the process. That's the way the morphine affected me. The opening took six stitches. Within a week they were ready to take out, and I was ready to move that leg. The other wounds had to keep having the granulation tissue burnt out with silver nitrate sticks. The two places on my chest cleared up first, and the last to heal was the place on my left knee.
Harold M. Simon, Jr.
Simon, Harold M. Jr. 18 year old resident of Detroit, Michigan.
Inducted at Detroit, 19 Mar 1943, ASN 36587226 and sent to Camp Custer, Michigan near Battle Creek before being sent to St. Petersburg, Florida, for basic training, 608th AF TG from April 14 to June 8, 1943. Applied for ASTP. Transferred to Buckley Field, Colorado, 336 B Hq & AB Squadron June 12 to July 21. Shipped to Signal Corps Supply School at Camp Crowder, Mo, near Neosho, Co A 31st Bn CSCRTC June 23 to Oct 11. Sent to Hq, 2nd Air Force and worked in Codes and Ciphers Office as clerk. Then sent to camp outside Salt Lake City, Utah to await an opening in the ASTP. June 19, 1943 promoted to PFC. Shipped to ASTP STAR Unit at University of Nebraska to review and prepare for college level courses when ASTP finally opened. Entrained to ASTP Unit at CCNY and was billeted in an old Jewish orphanage across the street from Lewisohn Stadium. Was entered in the engineering courses. On 2 Feb was reduced to Pvt from PFC. Attended classes for about one third of a semester when I exchanged the sybaritic surroundings of New York City for the swamps of Louisiana, where the 75th was on maneuvers. As a member of K Company, 290th Regiment, moved to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, with the division in the Spring. We trained and retrained all summer until October 1944 when the division moved to Camp Shanks to prepare for going overseas. On October 22 shipped out on SS Brazil to arrive in Swansea, South Wales on 1 November 1944. First in Porthcawl, then in Llantwitt Major, then back to Porthcawl we marked time before the channel crossing on British ship best (worst?) remembered for its supply of maggoty biscuits served to the GIs. Landed at Le Havre and moved by "40 & 8" railway cars to Yvetot. On December 24, took part in the ill-fated attack on La Roumiere Hill, was wounded and sent to hospital in some building where the operating room seemed to be on the first floor and the cots on the second. From there I was sent to a field hospital near Liege and had my first conscious experience of a V-1 buzz bomb. From there I went via train to a proper hospital in Paris and was finally sent from there to another in the southern part of England. Then to the infamous 10th Repl - Depot for further convalescence and return to the Continent. Stationed at a French station, I contracted (sic!) German measles and was sent to the Paris hospital again where I was when VE - Day came. From there I was assigned to Rheims, Oise Surplus Disposal Center in the "Little Red Schoolhouse" where the Germans signed the unconditional surrender documents. I was in the Signal Corps Supply Office there which sought out and brought to the reshipment camps outside Rheims for reshipment to the Pacific Theater . While I was billeted at the Caserne Colbert in Rheims, I came down with a persistent case of dysentery for which I was eventually sent to the hospital. Shortly thereafter I was sent to Metz to work at the Signal Corps Supply Hq as a clerk and acting sgt. Major (Chief Clerk?) supervising the French ladies who worked there as typists. On 1 aug 1945 was promoted to demobilization and on 5 Feb 1946 I shipped from Le Havre, France to the NYPE (Camp Kilmer) arriving on 16 Feb. From there I was sent to the Separation Center, Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and was separated on 21 Feb 1946, arriving home in Detroit that night.
My 75th Division Dad
Copyright 2001, J. R. Puckett
Email: J. R. Puckett