4 Oct 1999
Received your letter last week, very glad that I have been able to confirm the after-action report of 20 March 1945 for you. After 54 years, it is hard to find people who can do these things.
We immediately ran into the buildings and our most direct access was thruy the gate and alleywaty between the two houses. Our lead elements froze there momentarily. If Arthur Careyís memory is still good and I sure hope it is, he will be able to give you the story of the rest of that day. He was quite a soldier, believe me.
Regarding your question about the deployment for the attack
on Frankenforst. Any foxholes found there would have been for a small recon
patrol at most. The company moved up to the Line of Departure at the edge
of some woods, just before the attack time.
This is roughly the general layout of the farm as nearly as I can recall it. Needless to say, I wasnít really that interested in the layout. Our initial movement had to funnel through the gate between the houses. When I got to the gate, everyone had froze up, afraid of what was on the other side of those houses. One of the platoon sergents and I were the first ones thru the gate, then the others came in. Fortunately, we encountered little opposition. Our losses primarily came from the tank and artillery fire, all German 88ís.
Iím trying to help you understand what happened in those first few hours. It may sound like Iím trying to take a little extra credit for doing a few things. Iím not. Most actions in combat situations occcur without thought. They are reactions to a given situation. When we crossed the Line of Departure we immediately ran into the buildings and alleyway between the two houses. Our lead elements froze there momentarily. When the platoon Sargent and I got there, no one was going through. I can understand why, had there been one machine gun covering that location, we would not have gotten thru. Fortunately for us, there was no one there to stop us. Ater getting thru the initial setback, the riflemen proceeded to clear the buildings. Our machine gun squad headed for the dairy barn to get better fields of fire. Enemy resistence was very light at this point. It was at this point the tank and artillery fire broke loose on us and it was drastic. In the dairy barn and hay barn area, we had very heavy losses. My understanding was that they had to evacuate 16 or 17 by litters from this one location. I was in the process of lightening my load of equipment and ammunition when a shell hit myself and three others (one of my ammo bearers was killed trying to get to the hay barn). I made a run for the company CP to try to locate another medic, ours having just been killed trying to get to the haybarn. After sending the last medic out, I proceeded to check my wounds. Fortunately, we had captured a German medic and Carey made him treat me. Believe me, I have never had better care! I assume this to have happened about mid morning. I was never off my feet until that evening when I got to the evacuation hospital. By that time I could hardly walk. One of my wounds was hemorraging badly and after being operated on, I was sent back to a general hospital in England.
Upon my release from the hospital, I returned to join C-Co/309 Infantry on occupation duty in Germany. In November í45, I decided to go regular Army and I enlisted as such at that time. I retired as a Master Sergeant (E8) on May 1, 1965. During those years I served in Alaska 5 years and supervised the building of three defence perimeters around the Eielson Air Force Base 26 miles out of Fairbanks, served in Fort Lewis Washington, served one tour in Korea, 1 additional tour in Europe, at Fort Mead Maryland, at Fort Ord California as training cadre and Fort Knox, Kentucky as Senior Instructor in a 150 man instructor group. In March 1953, I married a girl from Belgium who had taken care of a friendís grave (placed flowers, took pictures, etc. for them) at Henri Chappel Cemetary in Belgium. He was 19 years old when he was killed on the Cologne Plains at a place called Engen, Germany on 3 March 1945. This is another story.
Last night we were looking at some old pictures and I realized that Mrs. Burnham had written the same comment on the back, that John Burnham was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. Apparently the way the news was reported, many of our parents got confused about which battles started and ended when. The Battle of the Bulge became a "catch all" for most of the fighting that took place in eastern Belgium, and western Germany.
Iíll give you the name of another book you may want to read. It is the story of an officer who was an infantry platoon leader and company commander from D-Day thru the end of the war. The title is If You Survive written by George Wilson. I found it rather interesting sometimes a little confusing. Pulbsihed by Ballantine Books in a pocket book edition copyright 1987.
Hopefully, most all of your questions have been answered. I shall check on that block on my telephone, I was unaware of it.
By the way, my wife and I have six children. One is a Lt. Colonel due to retire in about two years. All five of the boys have had some military training, be it ROTC, National Guard regular Army.
Hope this all makes sense to you. One of these days maybe Iíll be rid of this flu bug and get my voice back.