Oh, so young
The following remarkable story is written by Frank Douglas, member of F Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th US Infantry Regiment. This is one of the rare personal accounts of the battle for the village of Weinsheim. Sgt. Frank Douglas was positioned in the village of Hermespand with his unit the days prior to the Prüm river crossing, and on the 28th of February his company had the objective to seize the hill of Weinsheimer Hardt. The story below will give the reader a phenomenal view of the situation the Americans encountered in the Weinsheimer Hardt woods. The German resistance, counter attacks and the overall chaotic situation which I mentioned in the chapter “Pruem river crossing” will be told by someone who experienced it first-hand.
The story below is taken from his book, titled “Oh, so young”:
Monday, February 26, 1945
Something new has been added to our diets. They’ve put us back on 10-in1’s, the first time we’ve seen these things since last July – which is at least seven months ago. The first order of the day was to fill up several empty 105 and 81 ammo boxes with dirt and plug up the windows of our room. The krauts have decided to shell this town in the usual way – only more so. We laid low most of the day, played cards, looked over the joint, gabbed, sorted out the 10-in-1 rations left by the 3rd Bn., and just waited. I expect Chap to be back any day now. Nobody stuck his big toe out of any of the buildings, for the jerries are in everything across the river. Especially the railroad station. We have run up against a solid line again and it looks as though we’re in for trouble. This is it for the krauts as they haven’t got much land left on this side of the Rhine River. There’s an OP and machine gun located in the railroad station. The 105’s bounced off that place most of the day, but couldn’t do much damage to those inside. I slept alone tonight as we expected Chap to come in after dark; however, he didn’t show. Hope nothing happened to him. We set up a 50 cal. machine gun on the second floor before turning in for the night.
Tuesday, February 27, 1945
The first thing that we did this morning was to bluff the krauts with a feint attack. In short we fired everything we had; Jake had a field day with the 50 cal. – its barrel got red hot before he quit firing. The object was to draw jerry fire to find out their positions. In this purpose we were successful. Too damn successful, for the 88’s came in by the dozens; so, we all hauled our little asses down to the fruit cellar under the house until things cooled off. We weren’t there alone, for the two old krauts left behind to take care of the cattle were there also. No comment! But, we’d better keep our eyes on the old farts. After a breathing spell and an all quiet we went back upstairs. My but they sure changed the appearance of this rubble heap with their 88 special delivery mail. Greek has been fixing our 10-in-1’s, he even made a batch of chocolate pudding. Hollywood came through with an 8 oz. package with a large Hershey bar in it, as well as four letters. I answered and asked for more air mail stationary, cookies, handkerchiefs, etc. At times I wonder if the folks realize that any one of these letters could be the last one? I wonder myself. This game is beginning to wear my nerves down. Kennedy just came back from the CP with the hot poop. G Co. is to come in on a left flank and wipe out the railroad station and F Co. is to go to the right, break the line, and then with E Co. go up to the top of the hill. That isn’t much, so sleep good tonight.
Wednesday, February 28, 1945
The hot poop says that this is to be the real thing. Suprise is to be the major weapon. “What no 1,000 bomber softening up process? They can’t do this to us. The hell they can’t. Aw, go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. Not a bad idea, you furnishing the doughnut?” Well, anyway we had a light breakfast, stacked our rolls, got our K’s and water, and left early. It is about 6:00 AM, rather dark out yet, and the sky is very overcast. We are in luck. This is one deal Chapman is going to miss. “Now isn’t that just too bad.” Lord only knows that he’s had his share of shit. I wonder how the rest of us will fare in this deal? We’re off! In a single column we went up the road to the right, followed an 8 to 24″ wide path along a slight ridge, over the railroad tracks, and into the first trenches. So far, so good. We’ve caught the fuckin’ bastards with their pants down. Just about this time the 22nd opened up and all hell breaks loose on the right flank. The element of suprise is kaput! We have been lucky so far, for all we’ve run into was a couple of characters for some POW pen. Kennedy has kept this thing going and moving forward. In short we’ve been moving upward in a ravine in the woods. Unfortunately the jerries either saw us coming or figured that we’d be there, for they started to toss over some 120mm mortars. Kennedy kept us moving, so we managed to stay just ahead of where they landed. However, a few managed to do some dirt. One got Greek. What a low blow! He was the next to last of the original 26 replacements to this outfit. I’m the 26th. The spirit in me just died. What sort of deal is the fickle finger of fate going to give me? Time and time alone will tell.
The general purpose of this whole picnic is to capture the hills around Prüm. This is known as task force Rhino or the next step is the mighty Rhine of song and history. Without too much trouble the rifles and machine gunners managed to get to the top of the hill. We started to dig in along a road about 100 yards to the rear of the front line. The new guy and I, Al Holter and Aason, and the rest in a big hole dug by the krauts. As we were digging, my partner says, “Look over there Sgt!” I did and dropped, for standing there like a big assed bird was a fuckin’ jerry paratrooper with a burp gun. He missed us, but that sure as hell was a close call. Then the war really let loose. The kraut landed behind a tree and I with the damn M1 tried to at least scare the bastard. Old Joe Dimino yelled from the hole, “Duck, here comes a grenade.” It bounced through the trees and that was the last of the cocksucker. Just then there was a terrific explosion next to our hole. The new guy is badly cut under the arm, so I’m trying to patch him up. Just then another series of grenade explosions in the big hole. We looked up horrorified to see a big column of smoke and hear screams from that spot. Things sure moved fast after that. The God damn bastards thought they had us and started to move in for a killing. The fuckers aren’t satisfied, its got to be all or none. Just then Al Holter cut down a couple running in from the flank to finish off the job. Good for him. It’s for sure that I didn’t see them coming – what with watching the road and trying to help stop the new fellow from bleeding too much – and they sure didn’t see Al behind that tree stump.
About this time Kennedy comes back on the double to see what’s going on with the mortars. We’ve having our own little war; whereas, the rifles and machine gunners aren’t doing anything up front. Kennedy knocked off a couple more swine with his carbine and high tailed it up to get some riflemen to bail us out. About this time I looked over to the big hole and I see Tenn running like a streak of shit through the woods for the rear. Other than that all I hear is groans. With Kennedy and his re-enforcements things really opened up for awhile. It seems as though the krauts have sucked us into a real trap. However, we shot up their flanks; so, we still have a way out of here. When things finally calmed down there were about 15 dead krauts cluttering up the woods and a few wounded ones here and there.
The medics moved in and we moved up to the top of the hill. It’s better all around. Besides, there is only Aason, Holter, Jake, Joe and I left of the section. Banks, Sugar, Peters and Tenn got hit in that big hole. Jake and I dug in at the top of the hill – it didn’t take long either. This has been the roughest going that we’ve had since December 16 and 17th. Then Jake said, “My God, Doug, what happened to you?” “I don’t know” “Well, the left side of your helmet’s all beaten to hell and there’s blood all over your face.” Feeling with my hand confirmed this. Nothing serious. The medic put a bandage on it and Jake and I finished setting up housekeeping. You know, this is beginning to get a little bit toooo rough. I feel like the tenth little Indian; but, I’ll be damned if I’m going to get on a fence if I don’t have to.
The show now began to get a little hot up in the front; so, we sent over a few mortars and got plenty of everything right back. “They don’t play fair, I’m going home!” Poor Tucker, gunner on the machine gun got it right through the head. His poor wife and three kids. Meanwhile, Mike Donovan is loading some of the wounded down the hill and on the way he knocked out a machine gun nest. However, a jerry killed Sugar as they made a break for back into town. The old fickle finger of fate sure is fucking them today. The rest of the boys got through the aid station.
Jake and I now moved our guns over fifty feet to a small ditch in a clearing. We dug them in and then ourselves. That’s four holes so far today. “We’ve got to keep in training you know”. All of these arrangements are tied together with sound power phones. So, the day went. We paid plenty on a section and company level for this damn hill and it’s for sure we ain’t finished either, for we’re on top and they’re all over the rest of the place. About this time Chapman comes up with the rations and some doughnuts. It sure was good to see the little shit. He was quite upset to hear about Greek and how things had turned out. However, we told him to stay in the rear if he could. He did. During the early morning Peters died before the aid men could get him out. He really wasn’t hurt bad. Just a small wound in the leg. In short he killed himself from pure fear. That’s really getting a screwing!
Guard was long, lonely, cold as hell, and very unpleasant tonight. We were each on for a total of six hours. In the moonlight on this frosty night and in these cursed woods a lot of things passed through my mind. It can all be summed up as follows: Your luck is still with you; for how much longer? What is the purpose of all this crap? This life sure is an uncertain affair; and God Bless those who have paid so much for all of this real estate.
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