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The Remembrances of:

Ray Vittucci ~ Clifton C. Whitworth ~ "Excerpts from After Action Report" ~ Philip R. Bradley

James F. Collier ~ Norman F. Johnson


REMEMBRANCES

Vertical Control Operator Ray Vittucci

Fire Direction Control

Cannon Company 289th Infantry Regiment

24 25 26 Dec 44

On Christmas morning, in a field North West of the intersection of the Grandmenil and Mormont roads, the Company was in place. Our Action took place in the portion of the northern sector of the Bulge. The Germans were making a major drive North for Liege through Manhay and Grandmenil, and in the dark of early Christmas morning were driving West towards Erezee, Soy and Hotton. For the first time since the enactment of the Fire Direction Control in our Cannon Co we (FDC) directed the fire of the cannons of the two Batteries. Sgt. William O'Brien was directing the crew of myself, Moe Ringel, David Mestemaker and Leon Weikert, although I do not remember him in FDC at this time. The material for the first combat encounter was very primitive, but our resourcefulness brought about an accurate performance. Two ammunition boxes nailed together served as our horizontal and vertical control tables. That night, under a tarp, our light was from a flashlight. The initial fire directions were most critical to the support of the Bns and their Cos on the line to the south of us. Our elevation for the guns was zero. The targets were called in over the phone by Lt. Charles Anderson and his forward observation crew to O'Brien. These early requests were for random firing into German targets at this time.

Ray Vittucci

Utica, NY

September 1994

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MILITARY HISTORY

Clifton C. Whitworth

Whitworth, Clifton C., Age 21, Height 59", Weight 165 lbs., tired of waiting on the draft, so went down and was sworn in March 19, 1941 at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. Assigned to a Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft Training Battalion at Camp Wallace in Galveston County, Texas.  Thirteen weeks basic training on 3" AA Guns, then assigned to H Btry., 79th CA at Ft. Bliss, Texas - 37 MM AA Guns. August 1941, was among 120 personnel drawn from various units of 79th to 6rm 2nd Provisional Truck Company to go on Louisiana maneuvers. Hauled 8th Calvary Regiment personnel to maneuver area. (Horses had been shipped ahead). Attached to 3rd Army Headquarters in Louisiana. Busy time, hauled personnel, supplies, etc. night and day. Upon return to Ft. Bliss, had to go by Camp Polk and pick up the whole 25th Infantry Regiment (black) which had to be returned to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. Delivered them and returned to Ft. Bliss in November. Regular training duties at Bliss until April 1, 1942 (my birthday) shipped out to Hartford, Connecticut for security guard around plant of Hamilton Standard Propeller Company. In Hartford one month, then, among others in the regiment, was assigned to an AA Battery at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts and prepared to ship overseas. After three weeks at Edwards, trucked to Boston and loaded aboard our ship for 3W8 (Sondre Stromfjord) Greenland. Arrived late May 1942. Set up tents to live in, dug in our gun 37 mm) emplacements. This with permafrost six inches from the top of the ground. My gun section and I lived in a ten until it got 30' below, until they finished our barrack. No more of the unhappy events at this place - suffice to say that it was quite the longest year-and-a-half in my life. We finally got away from there in late October, sailed back to Boston via Newfoundland, and were sent to Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts for a week. From there we entrained to various destinations.  Fourteen of us went back to Ft. Bliss. There we were assigned to various training battalions, which was extremely boring to most of us. When calls came for volunteers for the infantry, I held up my hand, as did quite a few of my outfit at Bliss. (Shortly before this I have been accepted for Air Corps Wright training, but had my order for that canceled just a week before I was to check in) - Wound up at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky and assigned to Cannon Co., 289th Infantry, 75th Division.  Cannon Co. was actually a battery of light artillery - 105 MM Howitzers. Trained through the middle of October, shipped out Camp Shanks (POE) October 15, 1944. Loaded onto HMS Franconia, ended in Liverpool, England November 4, 1944. Settled at Morristown, Wales for a few weeks until Embarkment at Southhampton, England aboard the SS Leopoldville, on December 9, 1944, headed or Le Havre, France. Rough seas at Le Havre allowed only part of us to board the LST sent to land us - the ship had to go up the Seine River for a landing. We learned later why the French are often referred to as Frogs - no end to the rain and we are in pup tents. Moved up to Holland, but were here only one night, then pulled back down into Belgium for advance to the Bulge. Enroute to Bulge were almost the victims of a U-2 buzz bomb. One to the Ardennes and involvement in the Bulge. CNCO played a role in stopping the German armor and infantry at Vielsalm, Bech, Grand Halleaux. Under the command of the French Army. CNCO played a large part in driving the Germans out of the Colmar Pocket and across the Rhine River. CNCO was bombed and strafed by German ME-262 jet planes, the first use of jet-propelled planes anyone had hear of in this war. Back to Belgium and fired at Maas River crossings. In Breyell, Germany CNCO fired a heavy Bombardment in support of the Allied Rhine River crossing. Also received some heavy fire from German artillery at these actions and at Ickem, Central Germany. Moved from Ickern to Ludenscheid where the end of the war caught us. CNCO moved down to Kierspe-Bahnhof for about three weeks, where my job was making surveys of munitions dumps left by the Germans, and of several DP and POW camps in the vicinity. Moved to Camp Detroit at Laon, France awaiting shipment to Pacific theater. Then things in P.T.O. simmered down. Had 96 points, the most of anyone in CNCO but

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no discharge. Received orders to go home along middle of August, but for some reason not known to this date, said orders canceled. Spend most of the time working with the 1st Lt. of Air Force on various projects - making charts, cutting stencils, etc. Middle of September order for discharge came through. Went a circuitous route to Antwerp, Belgium, from there seven days to Camp Shanks, New York. Seven days later found a place with room to handle us: Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. There a week and discharged October 22, 1945. Have not applied for medals so have only those issued to me: ETO with 3 stars; American-European Theatre; Good Conduct and of course the one that really means something: the Combat Infantry Badge.

C. Whitworth

Boerne, TX

August 1991

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EXCERPTS

AFTER  ACTION REPORT

897 FA. Bn

24 25 December 44

and

APPENDIX NO. 1

24 25 26 27 28 29 December 44

The 24th is a day that I will never forget. It dawned clear and cold, a beautiful morning, and before long the bomber formations started coming over. What a sight and what a thrill. The first time we had ever seen any planes in great number and to see their vapor trails, to know that there for the first time in days we could really use our air power, and to see the ack ack pick of [f a] number of them was a sight never to be forgotten. They continued to come over in a steady stream all morning and well into the afternoon. Fighter planes became active and several of ours and theirs were brought down not far away. We were scheduled to move out later that day, so I went out to check the route to Heyd. The roads were jammed with all kinds of troops, including much armor, and I got a great kick out of all the activity. It stayed clear all day and got dark, as usual, around 4:00 pm. We moved out about then. Good progress was made until we got near Heyd. Here the road was jammed for miles, a narrow road with nasty deep ditches. While waiting here, we discovered that two firing battery's were missing and that no one had seen the Colonel for hours. Major P decided that he would go ahead to where he knew we were supposed to go in position and find out the score. I worked my way into town and finally got to the Hqs of the Combat team of the 3rd Armd that we were working with. Here was the first CP I had seen of a unit actually in combat; here was General Hicky [Hickey] working over maps with his Ex; here was the situation map, covered with all the various symbols; here was the constant ring of telephones and the raised voices. This was it. I was turned over to Major [Sherwood L. Adams] Adams, [S-21 to be brought up to the minute. He showed me where we were going, what troops there were around there, where the enemy was and where some of his units were. It was not a cheery picture. Schoolay was with me at this time, and Colonel Brown was anxious for him to go off to a meeting at their Div Arty CP. Before we got it straight whether Harry was to return to Heyd or would end up with the Bn, they took off. - I had to wait until our order was finished, so I stayed put. Finally, however, I had the order and a copy for the 730th and it was necessary for me to get going, as it was then after midnight. I had some way to go to a place where I have never been, and it was cold and black and the roads were covered with snow.

So after leaving word for Harry if he should come back, I went out and woke Brann (who was practically congealed), and we took off. Leaving Heyd, going south, one had to climb a hill and then go down a long one. As we neared the top of the hill, I became conscious of some men off to the left of the road, and there were two Batry Comdrs of the 730th looking for their outfits. So I gave them their copy of the Order, and started on down the grade, We soon ran into traffic and the start and stop business went into effect again. This did not last long and was definitely exciting at one point, when, without any previous warning, a "long Tom" cut loose from within the valley we were entering. The first thing I saw was a great ball of fire to our left front and then the report. It was a good curtain raiser, as all firing we had heard before this was from a distance. The road cleared as an infantry company got its trucks out of the way, and Brann and I were on our way, alone.

I had a good map, 1/50000, and the general location of the Bn area had been pointed out. I had decided that a particular house would be a logical location for the CP, so I was heading for that. This house could be reached by either of two roads, but from the talk I had heard, I chose the one

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Excerpts

After Action Report & Appendix No. I

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furthest to the rear. This was found after a little footwork and we were progressing through a badly rutted road which was so narrow that the jeep was getting tangled up in a hedge on the side. Brann was not accustomed to this driving so I took over and he pushed. About this time we heard some activity nearby and found one of the Battery's. They verified that the CP was just down the road, and I sighed with relief and took off, leaving poor B to walk the rest of the way.

Apparently they had been wondering when or if I was ever going to get to the CP because my entrance was greeted with evident relief. The CP was all set up and the missing Btrys were found in position having been picked up by Maj W and brought a shorter way. So here we were, all together, and all set to go, and it was Christmas morning.

 

APPENDIX NO. 1

NARRATIVE REPORT OF BATTLE.

The 897th Field Artillery Battalion as part of the 289th RCT went into position at *Awez, Belgium the night of 24-25 December 1944 in order to support the attack of the RCT scheduled for 0700 hours 25 December 1944.

The attack was postponed until 0800 hours. At 0600 hours it was reported that friendly Tank Destroyers and Armor were withdrawing further west along the Grandmenil-Erzee road due to pressure of enemy armor. This threat was finally halted and turned back around 0700 hours after penetrating to within three kilometers of the battalion position. At 0800 hours the battalion fired nine concentrations of support of the attack. For the balance of the day, a number of targets of opportunity appeared and taken under fire. At 1745 hours a counter-attack was broken up by two battalion volleys. The Infantry progressed satisfactorily during the day while the artillery fired 799 rounds. In the breakthrough of the tanks, Btry B 897th Field Artillery Battalion, had a 1/4 ton overrun; losing all of the equipment but suffering no casualties. When the 2nd Battalion [289th RCTI was caught in an exposed position by heavy machine gun fire, the Artillery Liaison Officer [Lt. Webster] lost his radio.

* Awez is located in coordinated 90-46-91-47 on attached map.

Liaison section no. 3 was strafed by an unidentified plane.

26 December 1944

This day saw the capture of Grandmenil by the 3rd battalion of the 289th RCT. In the morning K Company, accompanied by tanks, attempted to take the town of Grandmenil, but after losing tanks and suffering numerous casualties were forced to withdraw. At'1330 hours, after the town had been cleared of friendly troops, it was strafed and bombed. Following this, the 3rd Battalion again attacked at 1415 hours. Between 1445 hours and 1700 hours the 897th FABN fired 240 rounds on enemy troops and material as they fled from Grandmenil. This fire was most effective being responsible for the destruction of at least (1) tank and many troops were caught in the open by time fire. A total of 1997 rounds were fired during the day.

Liaison No. I reported at 1930 hours that enemy patrol had broken through "A" Company and was behind them. Although numerous concentrations were fired in front of the lines, a number of the

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After Action Report & Appendix No. 1

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enemy infiltrated during the hours of darkness and penetrated to within fifteen hundred (1500) yards of the battalion position. M close-in security measures were taken while continuous defensive fires were laid down by the 54th and 83rd Armored FA Battalions as well as the 897th FABN.

27 December 1944

During the early morning hours the battalion was called upon to fire numerous close-in fires to prevent further infiltration. By 0530 hours, the liaison officers with the first and second battalions reported that their sectors were stabilized and the situation was in hand.  

Around mid-morning, the battalion was called upon to fire more missions. The battalion received several rounds of enemy fire (150mm). However, no casualties resulted. During the day numerous targets of opportunity were fired upon. The front lines remained stable and were reinforced by the 2nd BN of the 112th Regiment of the 26th, 'Keystone", Infantry Division.

28 December 1944

Taking advantage of the thick fog, the enemy infiltrated a considerable number of troops during the early hours the morning of the 28th. At 0200 hours, the presence of an enemy patrol near the battalion position resulted in alerting everyone and strengthening the local defenses. From 0200 hours until 0342 hours, the battalion fired 408 rounds in close support of the Infantry. After 0400 hours the situation was again in hand and quiet.

"SECRET"

During the morning all of the batteries were subjected to counter-battery fire and the battalion suffered its first fatality. At about the same time, however, one of the wire crews killed three of the enemy while servicing their lines. The battalion was active during the entire day with targets of opportunity and defensive fires ending up with a total expenditure of 4349 rounds for the day.

29 December 1944

As the situation became more stable, the elements of the 3rd Armored Division, under whose control the 289th RCT has been, moved out and for the first time in combat, the 897th FABN came under control of its own Division Artillery. A total of 31 missions were fired during the day.

The above Excerpts were taken from After Action Report and Appendix No. 1 furnished by Tom Leamon from A Co 289th RCT July 1994.

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REMEMBRANCES

 

Philip R. Bradley

Forward Observer Team, 897th

Field Artillery

Battalion 289th

Infantry Regiment

75th Infantry Division

24 25 26 27 28 Dec 44

If the Germans had broken through us at Sadzot, Erezee, Manhay, Grandmenil, they would have reached Marche. From Marche, with its five major roads and railroad junction, the flat terrain, Antwerp was an easily reached objective.

We, of the 75th Infantry, were untested troops. The vast majority of our private soldiers had been soldier/students in colleges and universities throughout the U.S. prior to the assignment to the U.S.  They were men of superior intelligence. All of our private soldiers, a few months before had been taken from us to become replacements for the casualties of D-Day. Those men were replaced by the student soldiers who were trained to become infantrymen and artillerymen - hurriedly.

The three regiments of infantry and four battalions of artillery of the 75th Infantry were fed into the combat in Belgium, piecemeal. Our division headquarters did not function as a command source.  We were thrown into the fighting as roads allowed us to proceed from Charleroi. Each regiment of infantry was supported by a battalion of artillery but, without a unified command. We, the 289th Regimental Combat Team, made up of the 289th and 897th Artillery Battalion had only lateral contact with our sister RCT'S. We were put into the line of combat to support and reinforce the 3rd Armored Division at Grandmenil. We advanced against relatively light resistance until we took the ground above Sadzot. This ground was taken by the First Battalion of the 289th Infantry, supported by the 897th Field Artillery, which supported the entire 289th Regiment of three battalions of infantry. Above Sadzot, we held the low ground. The men of A Company, 289th were dug in on the edge of the meadow. The forest ground then descends, lower and lower, to the lowest meadow. This is the ground held by C Company. The rifle companies of 1st Bn. 289th were all on line - B Company on the left, C Company in the center and A Company on the right.

But, we were static for two days - and nights, while the 2nd S.S. Panzer Division (Das Reich) brought up its infantry. During the nights of 25 and 26 December, the first rate troops of the 12th S.S. Panzer and 2nd S.S. Divisions probed our defensive positions. We were hit by units probably of reinforced platoon to company strength. One must conclude that if our positions on the ground had not been so disadvantageous, the attack would have been directed to a different part of the 289th line. We were attacked during the preceding days by tguing probes that hit, withdrew, rolled to the German right, hit, withdrew until they rolled and found a weak position. They probed for our weakest positions. We were thin on the ground. We held the low ground. We had no reserve infantry. AU of our rifle companies were on the line. We held 1,000 in. of ground. C Company held the least defensible ground from the left edge of the forest, to the forest on the opposite side of the lowest meadow. In that forest were the Germans. When the German probes reached C Company in that meadow, that Company retreated, then counter-attacked having lost some killed, wounded and captured. The weak position was C Company. C gave way, the Germans withdrew and C counterattacked to retake its positions. Several of C's men were captured. Later we found five bodies, each with a bullet in the neck and boots taken. They murdered our men. After the discovery of those murders, the "word" spread up and down the line, "Take no prisoners!!". Shortly, S-2 demanded prisoners.

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Philip R. Bradley

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Between Briscol and Sadzot is a farmhouse. That house was the 1st Bn. 289th aid station. If you were hit above Sadzot, you were taken to that farmhouse.

The Germans had to take Marche in order to reach Antwerp. The terrain changes dramatically from hills; narrow deep valleys and forests to gently rolling country easily accessible to armor. Von Runstedt had the 6th S.S. Panzer Army loaded and cocked for the breakthrough out of the "impassable" Ardennes. For more than one reason, that Army never became effectively operative.  We were one (a major one) of those reasons.

The Combat Teams from the 75th had no Division support at Erezee. We were put into the line without the capacity to maneuver as an Infantry Division must in order to be effective and without the capacity to mass our artillery. Division Artillery did not exist for us. We were Horatio, or whatever his name was, at the bridge.

The Airborne Infantry Company of the 509th PI Bn Company, reached us only after Dec 28th. The 112 Infantry Regiment 28th Infantry Division's reinforcement was incidental. On that terrible night, it was the 289th and the enemy face to face.  

On the night of 27/28 Dec, the enormously superior strength of the S.S. troops attacked. Our entire regimental front was hit. But the principal strength of the attack was directed to C Company's positions. C Company was penetrated after it had been deserted by its commander and executive officer. The Commander of 1st Bn. 289th, Maj. Henry Fluck, ordered an artillery officer, Captain Kastenbaader, 1st Liaison Section, to place artillery fire closer and closer to what had been C Company's line. We did not know that part of C Company was still fighting. We did know that hundreds of Germans were pouring into the forest that was behind us, to move into Sadzot and Briscol. We brought the artillery fire into the forest itself. The artillery shells, exploding within the trees, rained shell fragments onto the German S.S. and our own men who had held fast. The Germans were, of course, exposed. Our men were dug into their foxholes, still shooting at the Germans. Inevitably, we fired into A and B Company positions as well. Of course, the German artillery and mortars did not fire into C Company's positions that night. Those woods were full of Germans. So, we killed and wounded some of our own - we knew that. Platoon Sergeant McClure's men, unknown to us, were still fighting. The 897th Artillery brought fire with extreme accuracy to C Company's front and rear, so as to stop the advancing Germans. Captain Kastenbaader's shooting (fire direction) was an example of exquisite skill in the employment of artillery in a close support situation. The 897th Bn. guns fired 4,700 artillery shells that night. Those shells were fired by a mere 12 guns!! They were fired by artillerymen whose gun positions would had been reached and overwhelmed by the advancing Germans had the gap between A and B Co.'s not been closed by artillery fire. The forest behind the C Company area became a slaughter house.  

During the night, Maj. Fluck, 1st Bn CO, was at the forest edge, with A Company. The fighting in front of A reached the hand grenade stage. A Company held. Captain Kastenbaader was in the foxhole next to Maj. Fluck. I was next to Capt. Kastenbaader. B Company held. A Company held.  C Company, except for Sgt. McClure's men, evaporated as a fighting unit.

During the previous days, 897th had fired +/- 300, 400, 800, shells per 24 hours. Four thousand seven hundred shells, fired by a mere 12 guns, approaches the impossible, considering that they were

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Philip R. Bradley

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virtually all fired within a period of three hours, but, we did the impossible. 897th Field Artillery fired 4,700 shells that night. By the time we reached Belgium, our former student soldiers had been transformed into a superb fighting force. The riflemen and gunners of the RCT were excellent artillerymen and infantrymen. Our gunners were so fast that they could fire six shells before the first shell fired struck the ground! We called it "six in the air." As a gun fired, the #1 man had ejected the shell casing by the time the gun tube had reached its full recoil. By the time the tube reached battery, the #2 and #3 men had placed a new shell into the breech, and the #1 man had locked the breech block, the men had cleared the space for the tube's recoil and the gun was fired. So - you see - we were able to load, fire and reload, all within the time of the gun's recoil and return to battery. ("Battery" is the tube's firing position.) During the instant of time between firing of shells, the gun's aiming had to be checked by the gunner. Not all of our gun crews were as good, but most were.

At first light on the 28th Dec. Capt. Kastenbaader sent e to reconnoiter the forest and identify the flanks f A and B Companies. It was an absolute necessity for the artillery to know exactly where our own troops were. I cannot adequately describe the conditions within the forest above Sadzot.  The forest floor, was littered with German dead. I saw the left sleeve arm bands of the "Das Reich Division." This was the 2nd S.S. Panzer, I did not count the bodies. Then, I thought in terms of General hundreds killed. The number seemed to me to be upwards of five hundred. But, such a high number seemed impossible. We were a mere battalion of infantry on line supported by only a portion of 12 gum. Only C Company had been penetrated. How could go any have been put into that gap to their deaths by the artillery tree bursts? Only later did we learn that we had been attacked by two regiments. Sgt. McClure's description of the German attack being made by wave after wave of Germans was clearly evidenced by the location of the German dead. Many were ahead of what had been C Company. Most, by far, were within the forest.

We later learned that the 2nd S.S. and 12th S.S. Panzer Division were the Schwerpunkt, "hard point", of the Sixth S.S. Panzer Army, commanded by Sepp Dietrich. We had no force behind us. The 289th Commander, Col. Douglas Smith, had so informed us on the night of 25/26 Dec. Marche was the objective of the German attack. A glance at a contour map tells you that it had to be so.  Looking back across the meadow from the German line, one is looking down the throats of 1st Bn.289th Infantry. If we had held against the initial rolling attacks of the 2nd and 12th S.S., the Germans would have hit further west after probing the 289th and then the 290th and 28th Division's strengths. Could those troops have held? We don't know. But, our C Company crumpled. The Germans knew that C Company was weak. They had pushed C Co. back before their main force attacked. Unintentionally a trap had been created by our own failure. The trap was closed by the 897th guns and the deaths of hundreds of S.S. - crack troops - resulted. Some S.S. penetrated through Sadzot and into Briscol and beyond. A platoon of B Co 87 chem mortar Bn and three 2dAd light tanks in Sadzot were overrun by the German thrust. We had no men with which to engage these S.S. troops behind us. two days later, with those Germans operating behind us, firing our 120mm mortars that they had captured into us, the Airborne Troops [Co 509 P I Bn were brought up; they swept up behind us, by forming a long, loose skirmish line and forcing the Germans into a pocket with their backs to our forest and us. Those not killed were captured. ten of these S.S. were captured within C Company. By this time, and well prior, C Company's commander had been relieved by Maj. Fluck. (To be relieved of command is the most disgraceful possible event of a soldier's life.) There is no doubt about the fact that every man in our command knew of "the murders" of C Company's men well before the 28 Dec. We will not speak of what ensued regarding those ten men.

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Philip R. Bradley

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If we of the 75th, had done nothing in Alsace; if we had done nothing in Holland; if we had done nothing in Germany, to earn our other two battle stars, we would have acquitted ourselves well as a fighting force in the Ardennes forest above Sadzot. Our casualties from the twin enemies, the Germans and the terrible cold, were horrifying. 1st Bn. 289, without replacements, continued to function as an effective fighting force, under the inspiring leadership of Col. Fluck until we reached Braunlauf 30 days later, near St. Vith. At that point, A Company had been reduced to 18 men.

The 75th Infantry suffered 930 killed in action. Our battalion (897 FA) surgeon, now Col. Robert Johnson, reported we suffered 20 wounded for each killed in action. An Infantry Division in 1944 had 6,000 infantry soldiers. The infantry bore the brunt of the battle. Their wounded, of course, were more likely to die - in the cold, of shock. They had to be hand-carried by litter, sometimes many hundreds of meters to aid, if they were evacuated at all.

An additional word about Lt. Col, then Maj. Henry Fluck. At war's start, he was a sergeant in the 28th Infantry Division, one of our National Guard (Reserve) divisions of our army. He was sent to Officers' Candidate School, commissioned and rose to rank of Major, in Command of the 1st Bn./289th. I was with him in the States and in Belgium, France, Holland and Germany. My admiration for that man's personal courage, military skills, caring for his men, knows no limits. In 1944, 1 was a corporal, with Capt. Kastenbaader. In 1956, I joined the U.S. Army Reserves. I taught and was director of the Branch Officers' Advanced Course (a prerequisite to promotion to Lt. Col.) for National Guard; Army Reserve and Active Army captains and majors. I retired in 19767 as a Lt. Col. What had been interesting observations in 1944/1945 became fascinating events as I walked the ground above Sadzot in 1987 and 1994, after many years of military training as a reservist.

Forty-five years after the above events, I met with then Lieutenant General Henry Fluck and recalled these events as we pored over the 897th's maps that had been provided me by Col. James Johnson.  Our recollections, on all major matters, coincided.  

It has been an honor to have served our country under the command of then Lt. General Henry Fluck. He and Abraham Matza are the only true heros known to me of those times and places. All of us were required to be brave. Most were, but, Henry Fluck had the burden of command under circumstances where only genius could succeed. He did. Tberefore, we did.

Abraham Matza, a BAR man, the son of German refugee Jews, wounded, volunteered to stay behind to cover the withdrawal of his platoon of C Company. He died saving his comrades. Fluck and Matza, two magnificent soldiers, must be remembered by us all.

Philip R. Bradley

November 1994

Columbus, OH

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REMEMBRANCES

and

MILITARY HISTORY

 

James F. Collier

A Battery 897 FA Bn

289th Infantry Regiment

75th Infantry Division

24 25 26 Dec 44

When we were going into position (A-897) we were towing our 105 mm howitzer and the crew was in the bed of the 2-1/2 ton (?) truck which was wrapped tightly against the cold and prevention of lights being displayed. We had a small burner of some type lit to warm something to eat (or drink).  The stove had prongs which closed over the top to accommodate a small pot or whatever, someone could not get the prongs open, the stove was already lit and a spoon handle with a large hole in it was being used to open the prongs. I said, "Give me that spoon, I will get it opened". Well, when the guy handed me the spoon, I failed to appreciate the fact the handle had been 'under fire' and I grabbed the spoon handle and promptly received my first "wound' with almost an immediate blister on my thumb and finger shaped like a spoon handle. Remember it was COLD and someone in the truck said as the truck stopped, prior to unlimbering, 'Boy, we are sure giving them hell tonight!!'  As soon as we left the truck, we discovered all the noise was caused by incoming shells - NOT outgoing.

Remember, Was it on Christmas Day that flights of 17's were going over in large numbers????  Anything else that happened during our first several days in the Bulge could have been any time and not specifically the days memories requested.

I have returned to the Bulge area on two different occasions and even as early as 20 years after the war, could locate very few landmarks that I was certain would remain locked in my memory forever.

February 1943 Camp Perry, OH ---
March 1943 Fort Eustis, VA Basic Training AA
September 1943 Greensboro, NC Pre-Flight Classification
October 1943 Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA Pre-Flight
March 1944 Jefferson Barracks, MO Classification-Pilot
March 1944 Relieved from Pilot training for the "convenience of Government."  Transferred to Camp Breckinridge, KY and assigned to A-897, 75th Division. ---

 

James F. Collier

November 21, 1994

Amherst, Ohio

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REMEMBRANCES

 

Norman F. Johnson

T/3 Surgical Technician

Medical Detachment

897th Field Artillery Bn

289th Infantry Regiment

75th Infantry Division

24 25 26 27 28 Dec 44

The 897th Field Artillery Battalion was reconnoitered into position on the afternoon of the 24th of December, 1944 and were to be in firing position and ready to start firing Christmas morning. Our position was near the small village of Grandmenil, a position we stayed at almost two weeks.

Since I was the chief aid man I was pretty much chained to our aid station and many of the small details have been forgotten over the years. But I remember most vividly the intense cold, something a young fellow from the deserts of Arizona had not experienced before. We tried several ways to keep our feet warm, either by trying to wear 2 or 3 pairs of socks or taking off our combat boots and wearing only our galoshes with many more pairs of socks. We did have the advantage of having stretchers to sleep on rather than on the floor or ground.

We did have a Christmas evening service with the Division artillery chaplain, literally in a manger.  The only room available was in the cattle barn which connected directly to the kitchen of the house we were staying in. (The usual arrangement of all the rural houses).

Our only frightening experience was during the night of the 28th when the Germans found a gap in the front lines and broke through. That's when our guns fired incessantly for hours and the next day we saw a group of German soldiers, not more than 50 yards from our aid station, all in a row, dead.

After that, things didn't seen so bad, as we progressed to Arbrefontaine, Goronne, and Bech. Our last Bulge position was at Bech.

On our return visit to this area in August, 1994, the countryside looked so nice and green and the only reminder of the war was by the monuments and plaques in nearly every town center as well as an American or German tank or a large artillery piece. But the Belgium people have not forgotten us and all were very cordial.

Norman F. Johnson

December, 1994

Pasadena, CA

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MILITARY HISTORY

NORMAN F. JOHNSON, age 18, was born in Yuma County, Arizona and attended schools in Somerton and Yuma, Arizona and was enrolled in premedical courses at the University of Arizona when drafted into the U.S. Army March 19th, 1943 and inducted at Fort MacArthur, San Pedro, California. Shortly thereafter transferred to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, and assigned to the newly formed 75th Infantry Division (cadred from the 83rd Inf Div.). Assigned to the Medical Detachment of the 897th Field Artillery Bn. and participated in the activation ceremonies on the 15th of April, 1943. Basic training was as a unit and when completed promoted to T/3 (surgical technician). Additional medical training at Lawson General Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia.

Transferred to ASTP at Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa. Since engineering was the only option returned to my previous unit at Ft. Leonard Wood and retained my T/3 rank. (One of my better moves in the Army).  

Moved with the 75th to the Louisiana maneuver area in the spring of 1944 and when finished there moved to Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, for additional training and preparation for overseas duties. Moved to Camp Shanks, New York, and sailed on the Aquatania on the 15th of November, 1944 and landed in Scotland and then by train toCamp Heath, Wales, to await the trip across the channel. By LST to Rouen, France, and then convoyed toward our assigned destination with the 9th Army in Holland.

However, we never reached our destination because of the German breakthrough in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium. The 75th was assigned a small area to defend on the northern sector of the Bulge and the 897th F.A. Bn was entrenched successively at Grandmenil, Arbrefontaine, Gorrone, and Bech, Belgium. Our last position in the Bulge was at Bech, Belgium. After the Ardennes experience we were then convoyed, to the Alsace area of France and assigned to the 7th U.S. Army to assist the French First Army in expelling the last remnants of the German Army from French soil. (The Colmar Pocket). After a short rest in the Vosges mountains we then left for our original destination with the U.S. Ninth Army in Holland. We were parked for a short time on the western side of the Maas River in Holland before crossing over into Germany and stayed at Mors, Germany, for a time awaiting to cross the Rhine into the Ruhr area of Germany. After crossing the Rhine our position changed rapidly until the Ruhr pocket collapsed. These were our last days of combat.

The 75th Infantry Division was assigned occupation duties in Westphalia and our battalion was assigned successively to Attendorn, Laasphe and Brilon, Germany, before assigned management of redeployment camps in the area of Rheims, France. The 897th F.A. Bn managed Camp Norfolk.

We stayed at Cp Norfolk during the summer of 1945 awaiting the end of the war in Japan.

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N. Johnson

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After that date various units were returning to the United States. As I didn't have sufficient points I was transferred to other units to await my turn. I was later at Camp Boston and then to Camp Lucky Strike before leaving France on the SS Sea Tiger in February, 1946.  While awaiting to return home I was able to furlough in Switzerland twice and a jeep trip back to Germany and Austria and a visit to Hitler's burned out retreat at Berchtesgaden.  

From Camp Kilmer by C47 to Ft. Bliss, Texas, and discharged on the 22nd of February, 1946 and arrived back where I started from 2 years, 11 months, and 4 days earlier, Yuma, Arizona.

Honorably discharged as a T/3 with Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign, ETO Medal with 3 Battle Stars and a Victory Medal.

Thereafter, finished pre-medical education at the University of Arizona and Medical School at the State University of New York at Syracuse. I have been in medical practice since 1953 in Sierra Madre, California. I reside in Pasadena, California.

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