I was an infantryman
with Company "K" ,
157th Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. Uncle
Sam sent greetings to me, March 1943. After
completing 13 weeks of basic training at
Camp Wheeler, Georgia, I was sent to Camp
Kilmer, NJ, a port of embarkation. My basic
training consisted of 4 weeks of close order
drill, learning weapons, etc. While most
trainees went through an infiltration course,
for some reason or other, I did not. In fact,
my first experience with an infiltration
course was after the war. Nine weeks of basic
training was spent in Clerk's and Stenographers
school at Camp Wheeler. I was trained for
duties as a company clerk, or any other field
clerical position. After spending three
months at Camp Kilmer, port of embarkation
headquarters, typing and performing clerical
duties, I was transferred to another port
of embarkation at Camp Shenango, Sharon,
Pennsylvania. Once again after three months
of clerical duties, orders came down to ship
One could not remain at a port of embarkation
longer then three months unless you were
permanent cadre. The next move was to Newport
News, Virginia, where I boarded USS General
Horace A. Mann on 1/31/44 headed for Casablanca.
This was a troop ship carrying about 5,000
men. It was built in Kearney, New Jersey.
I was on the second trip over for this ship. The
first trip brought fresh troops to Africa
and returned with wounded. After 9 days,
the USS General Mann docked at Casablanca
on 2/8/44 . It was an unescorted trip. This
ship was much too fast for an escort. After
spending a week or two in Casablanca, orders
were issued to board the 40 and 8 railroad
cars headed for Oran, Africa. This was a
miserable trip as there was standing room
only. From Oran, we boarded an LST and headed
for Naples, Italy. The visit in Naples was
short and before we knew it, we were on another
LST whose destination was Anzio. This
was our first experience with shelling. An
LST, beside us was hit. There was no one
to meet, advise, or instruct us. We carried
our duffel bags for awhile until they became
unbearable. We threw them on the sides of
the road. Little did we know what the future
held for us.
On 2/22/44, about 1:30 in the morning, names
were being called and men were being assigned
to different companies. I was assigned to
Company "K" weapons platoon, 60
M.M. Mortars. Remember, I was trained as
a company clerk, with 4 weeks of basic training,
and 9 weeks of clerical school. In fact,
I didn't know what a mortar looked like.
I brought this to the attention of the platoon
sergeant. He thought I looked healthy enough
to carry ammo until I learned the 60 M.M.
Mortar. It didn't take long to learn this
gun, and how to fire it.
At this particular time, the division was
at a stalemate. Middle February, 1944, the
Germans made a drive to push the American
and British off the beachhead. There were
many casualities, and the need for replacements
was paramount, regardless of your previous
training or MOS. They needed replacements
to fill the companies that were understrength.
I was one of those replacements.
Through March and April, 1944, things on
Anzio remained unchanged. Living in a covered
foxhole for 45 consecutive days was quite
an experience. Most of us became infested
with lice and had to be "deloused" .
The hair on our heads was shaven off completely,
and we were taken back for a shower, and
issued used clean underwear and OD's .Our
clothes were sprayed with DDT Powder. This
was the very first time, that I heard there
was a shortage of new clothing for the U.S.
Troops. It was my understanding that the
used clothing came from wounded and
deceased G.I.'s .
May 23, 1944 was push off day at Anzio.
It reminded me of a movie. Artillery was
sounding off, plane's flying above, tank's
on the roll, mortars, machine guns, rifles,
all adding to the excitement of the big "pushoff".
The German artillery took it's toll on the
men of the 45th. I can recall jumping in
a ravine with two other buddies. I was in
the middle. After things quieted down, I
looked around and my two buddies were dead.
I stood there without a scratch. One of these
fellows is buried in the American Cemetery
in Netunno, Italy. After reaching the outskirts
of Rome, and spending a few days there, new
plans were being made for the 45th.
Next on the agenda was the invasion of southern
France which took place 8/15/44. We landed
at St. Maxime and St. Tropez. We encountered
hardly any resistance while other outfits
ran into stiff resistance. We moved through
France rather quickly for about 45 days until
we reached Rambervillers. The Germans had
prepared their defenses and the going got
tougher. The most difficult time was in the
hills of the Alsace area.
When Hitler realized that his attack through
the Ardennes, Battle of the Bulge, was not
successful he launched "Operation Nordwind" ,
also known as the "Second Battle of
the Bulge" . For those who are interested,
Charles Whiting wrote a book titled "The
Other Battle of the Bulge - Operation Northwind" .
In the introduction of the book, the author
points out that the history of the Second
Battle of the Bulge, in the winter 1944/1945
has never been recorded, in spite of the
fact that it lasted a month longer then the
original Battle of the Bulge and cost the
Americans some 16,000 casualties. It also
cost perhaps twice that number of French
soldiers serving under the American
command. Operation Northwind began 2350 hours,
12/31/44 in the Alsace region of France.
After the shifting of American Troops from
Alsace to the Ardennes, the 84 mile line
in Alsace was to be defended by 6 divisions.
This line was thin and it wouldn't take much
for the Germans to penetrate it. The 45th
division was one of the 6 chosen to defend
this line. The 45th was a veteran division
that made the invasion of Sicily and fought
its way in Italy up to Rome. It also made
the invasion of Southern France, on 8/15/44
and moved swiftly through France. By November
we were in the Alsace area.
In early January 1945, the German army launched
an attack toward the Alsatian plains with
the objective of breaking through to disrupt
the allied attack. The 45th division was
in Germany in an exposed position and the
division was ordered to withdraw. On 1/13/45
the 157th Regiment of the 45th Division withdrew
to positions around Reipertswiller, France
to counter the German penetration. The following
day, 1/14/45, the 1st and 3rd batallions
of the 157th jumped off and reached their
objectives by mid-afternoon. From this point
on, everything went downhill. We were
fighting the 6th SS Mountain Division from
Finland, nicknamed "NORD" . This
was a division well trained for mountain
fighting. On 1/15/45, I was hit. After getting
a shot of morphine, sulfa, and dressing on
my wound, I was asked if I was able to walk
23 German prisoners from our position to
our CP in Reipertswiller. I carried out the
request. From the medical clearing station,
I was sent back to a hospital in Epinal,
After being in fox holes for nearly
12 months, it was a great feeling to be indoors
and in a hospital bed between two clean sheets.
When I left the company, the weather was
freezing and snow covered our positions.
While in the hospital, I could hear the wind
howling. Little did I know what was in store
for the men I left behind. After fierce fighting,
and trying to cope with the snow and cold,
the men of 6 American Infantry companies
were either killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
They were Companies K, L, I, C, G, and M.
Most of the Artillery Forward Observers assigned
to each rifle company were killed or missing
in action. Every effort was made to get these
men out but it was in vain. This all happened
on 1/20/45. Out of 600 men trapped on the
hill, only 2 managed to get back to division
lines. On 1/21/45 the 157th Regiment was
ordered off the line leaving 6 companies
cut off. This was the dismal experience that
the 157th Regiment had with "Operation
Northwind" . In 1986 (41years later)
, the remains and dog tags of 2 American
soldiers were found in fox holes in the hills
at Reipertswiller, by a French gentlemen
named Rene Sald. There remains were sent
home for burial. Today, there are approximately
100 men of the 157th living who experienced
this encounter at Reipertswiller.
After a month in the hospital, I was discharged
and reassigned to Company "K" on
2/15/45 . The 157th was in the process of
reorganization. At this point in time, there
was a shortage of men . Rear echelon groups
had to release 10% of their personnel and
send them up to the infantry companies. Officers
and NCO's were being pulled from other divisions
to rebuild the 157. By 3/15/45, the 157 was
once again ready for combat. The regiment
advanced quickly and the Germans retreated
to the Siegfried line. Within 11 days we
went through the Siegfried line and across
the Rhine River. In the reorganization of
the 157, a major change was made. 60MM Mortars
were replaced by bazookas.
Our next major encounter took place at Aschaffenberg,
Germany. Company "K" was selected
to spearhead the attack on the barracks that
were being used to train future German officers.
The barracks housed 600 potential German
officers. Major von Lambert was the commanding
officer of the barracks. On this attack,
company "K" was pinned down from
8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Once again, there were
many casualities. The bazooka did not prove
successful in this operation. As soon as
one of our men would raise his head, to fire
into the barracks, he was picked off by snipers
from behind. From a squad of 9 men, only
3 of us survived. Finally, at 3:30 PM, our
tanks arrived and the barracks were taken.
This town fell on the morning of April 9th
1945. This was another dismal day. At this
point, I was beginning to wonder if my time
was running out.
Our next stop was Nurenberg. By 4/20/45
organized resistance ceased. Despite the
fact that snipers were still firing, the
157th celebrated Hitler's birthday with a
We then looked forward to taking Camp Dachau
. On 4/25/45 we crossed the Danube and on
4/28/45 the 157th received notice that when
Dachau is taken, nothing was to be disturbed.
The following day, we received another order
that upon the capture of Dachau, guards were
to be posted and no one would be allowed
to enter or leave the camp. On 4/29/45, Company "I" of
the 157th was the first company to see the
horrors of Dachau. Despite anything you may
read or see on television, it was Company "I" of
the 157th that liberated Camp Dachau. There
are no words that can describe the sites
From Dachau to Munich is about 20 kilometers.
The First and Second Battalions of the 157
covered the distance on 4/29/45 against light
and scattered resistance. The Third Battalion,
of which I was part, remained at Dachau to
guard the camp. Word that the official shooting
was over came to Munich on the evening of
After the war, the point system, played
an important part. I was one of those, who
did not have enough points to be sent home.
On the other hand, I had enough points to
remain in Europe and had to be transferred
from the 45th to the 9th Infantry Division.
The 45th was Pacific bound, via the US. When
they reached the US, the war in the Pacific
ended. My few months with the 9th were rather
pleasant. I arrived back in the states on
10/18/45 and was separated from the military
at Fort George G. Meade , Maryland on 10/23/45
When I first joined Company "K" on
Anzio, the question that ran through my mind
was, "Why me God , why me" . After
the war, I was asking my self the same question.
Why was I spared while so many others paid
the supreme sacrifice. I saw Company "K" turn
over many, many times.
After the war, I considered every day a
bonus day. My wife and I were blessed with
three wonderful children and 8 grandchildren. In
1984 and 1989 we revisited Italy, France,
and Germany. We travelled the same route
that we covered during WWII. We visited several
American cemeteries and one British cemetery.
While standing in the cemetery, one has to
ask the question, WHY, and has the human
race learned anything from war and the atrocities
that go with it ? I wonder ???