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 "From now until the end of the world,  we and it shall be remembered. We few, we Band of Brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."

Northern France    Rhineland    Ardennes-Alsace    Central Europe










  The Veterans

  Fletcher B. Cox

  Donald A. Fuesler

  Francis X. Hoelscher

  Charles R. Hughes

  Richard E. Hunton

  Hugh F. Ingalls

  Andrew Miller

  Seymour L. Schnuer

  Edward D. Snell

    Fletcher B. Cox
Company "Anti-Tank", 377th Infantry Regiment

  In late March of 1945, when the Allies had almost total control of the skies in the European Theater of Operations, the Supreme Command, Allied Expeditionary Forces, (SHAEF) sent armored spearheads east from the Rhine River toward the heart of Germany.
  Everyone who has learned of the Blitzkrieg knows that columns of vehicles led by tanks and supported by Stuka dive bombers blasted their way through French resistance and France fell very quickly.

  Now we were using the same tactic, and I -- a Private First Class and one of the expendables -- had a very small role in Task Force Baker of Combat Command A, 2nd Armored Division, driving across the north side of the Ruhr Valley. The assignment was to break through any resistance and keep going. Other troops would be coming along behind to keep the corridor open and clean up any pockets of German troops we bypassed.

  Our column was led by three tanks. Right behind them came at least six -- and maybe more (I don’t recall) -- anti-tank crews riding in 1½-ton trucks towing 57-mm anti-tank rifles. These were followed by many riflemen of our 95th Infantry Division, riding in 2½-ton trucks. Then came self-propelled artillery -- tracked vehicles with open tops, each carrying a howitzer. Then more trucks bearing riflemen, some combat engineers, and more tanks.

  Our column crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge and on March 30, at 6 a.m., opened its drive near Peddenburg.

  The anti-tank squad that I served in was right behind the lead tanks as we passed through riflemen dug in on either side of the road at what was then the Western Front in our area.
  I’ll never forget the look of delighted astonishment on the face of one of our GI riflemen as he climbed out of his foxhole and watched us head east. I believe he began at that moment to believe he could surely live through the end of the war in Europe.

  So, we were now in enemy territory. Where were they?

    The role of our anti-tank gun crews was this. As required, one or two squads would drop out of the column at each intersection and protect the flanks until the last element had passed. Then the guns would be hitched back up to their prime movers, crews would climb aboard, and each returned to the front of the column to be dropped off again in turn.
  I had a ringside seat when the lead tanks blew a troop train off of the tracks and the German soldiers ran away. Our squad was somewhere else when the tanks shot up a German motorized convoy. Later, while the spearhead paused, riflemen cleared out Germans holding high ground near Augustdorf.

  Our ten-man anti-tank gun crew, after being committed to active combat in early November, 1944, had been extremely fortunate. We were shelled and mortared frequently in indirect attempts to kill or wound us  but none of us was hit. I don’t think anyone had shot at me directly until now, on that spearhead about noon on a bright Easter Sunday.


Above : Picture of the team Anti-Tank taken in Metz, November 1944. Fletcher is on the right of the picture.

  We had been dropped at a "T" intersection of two-lane paved roads. We were to guard the right flank of the column, which turned left at that point.

  We set up our 57-mm rifled cannon between the road and the side of a square brick building, pointing down the intersecting road to the right. Then Driver Walt Hunt parked the truck beside the building. We unloaded a few rounds of anti-tank ammunition, put them behind the gun, and sat there to wait.

  The convoy flowed behind us, turning left following the tanks farther into Germany.

  Soon, about half a mile away on the road we were guarding, a low, camouflaged vehicle appeared, coming very slowly toward us. Then a young, well-dressed German couple with a baby carriage walked past us, moving toward the approaching vehicle. Apparently they were walking home from a church service because bells were ringing behind us.

  Our squad sergeant, Al Arndt, stood immediately behind our gun, looking through binoculars at the vehicle. One of ours or theirs? Tank or what?

  He dispatched Bob Trial across the street to lie down in the ditch with our air-cooled .30-cal. machine gun. Jimmy Powers and I assembled the squad’s bazooka and prepared to run out on the right flank and attack if our gun were knocked out.

  We watched and waited.

  When the vehicle and the German pedestrians came together, the vehicle stopped and a man popped up out of the turret, apparently to ask what they had seen at the intersection. At that moment, able at last to see a German army uniform, Al shouted "Fire."

  All hell broke loose for a short time. Our gunner, Earl Honeycutt, hit the vehicle, which proved to be a German armored reconnaissance car, with three shots. Trial, across the street, used up one belt of machinegun ammunition and signaled for more.

  Meanwhile the guy in the turret was firing machine gun and 20-mm cannon shells at us. The 2½-ton trucks stopped and riflemen came running up to support us.

  Arndt shouted, "Cox, take this (can of ammunition) over to Trial!" I deserted the safety of the building, ran across the street without being hit, flopped down beside Trial, and fed a new belt of ammunition into the machine gun. Then, suddenly, the shooting stopped.
  Our entire squad and our supporting riflemen escaped injury.

  They climbed back in the trucks and the spearhead started forward again.
  When the tail of the spearhead column reached us, we packed up our weapons, hitched our anti-tank rifle to the back of our truck, and went roaring off to overtake the head of the column and be dropped off to guard the flank again somewhere farther on. The German recon car was left there in the road, dead and unexplored.

   Later we learned that one of Earl’s three shots, the one that hit the middle of the armored car’s front, took off the leg of the car's driver and he bled to death sitting there. I don't know what happened to the other Germans -- the couple and the guy who was firing from the turret.

  But I do know what happened to me. An epiphany.

Above : Picture made in Brussells in 1945 as the division was returning to the U.S.A.

  For the rest of my life I have treasured that moment when, told by Al Arndt to go across that street, I went! That's something to remember!

  Also I have remembered that hundreds of thousands of riflemen and other infantrymen faced such moments thousands of times and they went, too, into the killing zone. Many thousands were killed and many, many more were wounded seriously.

  Front-line infantrymen are my heroes  every one of them.

  Now for a bit of irony. One of the guys in our squad at the very beginning of our combat, when we attacked the Germans holding Metz, France, asked to be -- and was -- transferred to our kitchen crew, which was always farther back from the killing zone than we were. He had a wife and children at home.

  Now, on this spearhead, shortly before VE Day, our crew was set up beside a building, brewing a pot of coffee while we protected that armored column's flank. Within a blink of time, the column was strafed by a German fighter jet, one of the very, very few operable aircraft left to the Luftwaffe. Our former squad member, riding in one of the kitchen trucks, was hit by a 20-mm cannon shell and died almost immediately.

  The rest of us came home OK.

I want to thank Fletcher B. Cox for his great testimony and his photographs.