I Still Have Nightmares

(this letter to the editor, Bill Parsons, appeared in the July 1999 edition of "The Flash")

Whenever I read "The Flash" I cannot help but go back in time.

What memories I have of 55 years ago. It seems like yesterday.

I still have nightmares. I lost my very best friend Angello Aurelli, shot and killed while firing at the German advance units that surprised us at the outskirts of Kesternich.

We were on top of a hill and it seemed that the entire German Army was coming toward us. Tanks and infantry as far as the eye could see. How did they break through without any detection?

Our squad leader called for help. The response was "the Germans are all around our division. We will send a tank to get your squad off the hill."

It seemed like eternity, we were digging in and firing at the same time. We had no advance warning. A tank showed up and we jumped on. We may get out of this mess yet I thought. We hit hedgerows and it took three attempts to break through. Finally we were driven into town and we joined up with the rest of G Company, 310 Infantry.

We took positions in two houses and dug in around the perimeter. We had two heavy machine guns on the outside of the houses.

We covered our front with traversing fire. Within a short time a direct hit from an 88 hit our porch, destroying our machine gun and killing the men operating the weapon.

The Germans sent in their infantry. We were able to stop them but suffered heavy losses.

Then the tanks approached. We fired our bazookas, but they kept coming.

Another hit on our house destroyed the front of the building. I was knocked out and most of the other men in the building were also wounded or killed.

Our Captain Sperry was shot in the throat and could hardly talk. When I finally came to, we were out of ammo. The Germans were asking for our surrender. Captain Sperry saw that the situation was hopeless. Knowing we could not fire our weapons (no ammo) and seeing enemy bodies all around, he told us that he was going to surrender and that we may be shot because we had inflicted heavy casualties on their infantry. Only three or four of us had survived the blast and were in bad shape so we took our chances.

At that time our house was surrounded by the German tanks. I was taken to a German field hospital where I was the only American soldier among German wounded. I thought they would tear me apart, seeing my uniform and my being instrumental in them being wounded, but, you know something, they offered me a German cigarette and felt sorry for me. We were all hurting and in the same situation. I was 19 years old, but looked very young. They thought I was 15 or 16 and that the American Army was desperate taking boys so young. I don't know, maybe my youthful looking face saved the day for me.

I was seperated from all American G.I.'s. Just imagine I was Jewish and all alone in Germany. I thought I was up a creek without a paddle.

I recall many stories with the Gestapo, boxcars, starvation, constant pain, no overcoat, gloves, or overshoes (coldest winter in Europe ever).

These are some of the memories. I later found out that Captain Sperry was killed by our bombers while in a prison camp. There were forty-two officers in a barrrack and only two survived.

The horrors of death in the prison campo still haunt me to this day.

I recently visited the grave sites in Europe where our buddies are at peace and I wrote to them about our feelings.

These are my thoughts.

Irving Booksin

G Company 310th Infantry