It is not easy to conjure up combat events. The vast majority of active combatants involved in the 'killing' fields have the God given gift to forget.
The 743rd was organized at Fort Ord, California.
It was reactivated years later during the
Vietnam conflict. As noted the 743rd landed
at Omaha Beach. 6 Tanks were lost not from
enemy fire but as they were designed to float,
the turbulence of the English Channel resulted
in 16 tanks sinking with a loss of 80 tankers.
The unit consisting of 3 companies with a
total of 45 Shermans. They fought through
the hedge rows of France in the vicinity
of Saint Lo and Mortain. The 743rd was credited
with defeating the elite Erected Panzer units(The
1st Elite Hitler Panzers) in two encounters.
How can you forget t he 743rd Tank
Battalion being part of the Omaha Beach 29th
Infantry landing force. The tanks were outfitted
for floating in. But the idea sounded good
on a smooth lake but not the heavy surf they
encountered in the English Channel. 16 tanks
sank and with that 80 tankers drowned. The
Battalion Colonel stepped on a mine and lost
How can you forget while at a front area
in the vicinity of St.Vith at the junction
of Petit Cou and Grand Cou. We were hidden
in a barn. This kept our Sherman Tank from
enemy eyes. Across a small brook, we spotted
the antennae of a German tank camaflogued
under a pile of hay. We notified the artillery
as to its position, only to be advised there
were no Germans there. That was crazy. Here
we were well positioned way ahead of our
buddies. To tell the truth we were not going
to fire at that anymore than they at us.
I am sure they had spotted our position.
Some time during the night they left and
we located them below us at a point some
100 feet below. We mutually left each other
While at this point Army patrols of some eight white camaflogued clad soldiers quietly eerily past our point and hours later returned. I stood guard with my buddy Dominick with a German tank facing us at about 75 feet away. We stared at it and the following conversation took place. "Dom that tanks gun is moving, what do you think?" He responded, "You know Rosey, It damn well is." We bantered over and over that the gun was moving. In the morning, we approached it. It was an abandoned tank with its gun out of commission by a phosphorous grenade.
I watched German fighters committing suicide. There we were moving towards an objective and in front was a German officer regaled in a full dress non-combative uniform. Our gunner was firing away with the 30 caliber machine gun, I as assistant tank driver or machine gunner refrained from firing. I kept yelling but to no avail the sounds of the 75 mm gun firing and the clatter of the machine gun miffed my voice. The officer repeatedly went down and got up. I prayed that he stay down. He finally did, he was killed. Another time, the battalion was parked in Stoumont or perhaps if was Stavolot. Two German fighter plane kept criss-crossing the road. You could see the pilot faces. All the 30 caliber and 50 caliber some thirty or more guns were firing at their flying but the height of a very tall fir tree. Later we saw a bent Lugar, which let us know they got their wish and died for Germany.
What about the time, we captured a 20mm anti-tank gun. It was manned by Hitler Jugend and an elderly German well into his seventies. I recall grabbing the old man's 22 caliber rifle gently kicking him in the backside and shouting, "Gehen sie nach hause."
were fitted with head lights. "Hey,
the war is over we are going to Paris" We
ended up in a convent where the Nuns were
silent. I at first thought they were rude,
only to realize they were an Order of Silence.
The orders were for us to move out. We were
to take up positions to contain advancing
German Panzer columns. Moving down the road
in front of us were a couple of GIs manning
metal or mine detectors. We hit a mine, unlike
states-side where a disabled tank was removed,
we fixed the damaged track in under 10 minutes.
As we moved along the hills ahead were being
saturated by phosphorous exploding shell
fire. It was an amazing sight. I was happy
to be on the 'other side of the coin.'
We took up positions on a hill. Next to
our Sherman was a 75 mm infantry anti-tank
gun. Our officers advised us that at '0730
hundred' the German forces would attack our
positions. And boy did they. Johnny Restad
was firing at least 75mm rounds every 2-3
seconds. He knocked out at least two German
Mark Fives, 3 half-tracks coming from different
directions. We lost communication with our
other 743rd tankers. Larry backed up the
hill and quickly turned it to face the direction
towards our lines. We pointed the 75mm so
it could fire backward at the on coming enemy
forces. He jump the tank off the raised road
shoulder and we continued to the rear positions.
Orders were to hit the tenth vehicle, which
was our tank. Up ahead were a 90mm tank destroyer,
105 mm howitzer, two 743rd Shermans with
their guns pointed toward where we were coming
from. All of a sudden a large bright ball
of fire screamed by missing us by a 'hair's
bredth.' We were the tenth vehicle and only
a shout, "Hey that's a Sherman" saved
our lives as the 90mm gunner instantly moved
We were all standing about lin appropriately
to fire at what ever approached. As for our
tank its gun was bent due to the tremendous
heat developed from the initial unceasing
firing at the advancing enemy. Our antenna
were blown away, hence our inability to communicate.
Our back pack, which hung from the tanks
turret were riddled wit holes from enemy
fire. Needless to say all our articles there
in were macerated. A German Konig (King Tiger)
hove ino view it filled up the road. All
our aforementioned guns hit it. It backed
up and the the occupants 'bailed out.' Amazingly,
all that was seen on its front armor were
slight scratches. Not even the 90mm dented
its 9-11 inch tempered steel. It was too
large to manouver the narrow roads! The 75mm
infantry guys were captured, but we were
told a few days late that they were freed.
I am not certain, but we were led to believe
they were from the 79th Infantry Div.
For the rest of the encounters at the 'Battle
of the Bulge,' we were broken up into 5 tank
platoon units. As such we traveled to far-flung
positions, which were designed to make the
Germans think we were a division. In fact
Axis Sally called out, "We know where
you are the 743rd Division." It was
a great moment when after weeks of continuous
fighting we got to discard our combat fatigues
enter a long tractor trailer get showered
and given clean clothes at the other end!
The best way to describe our efforts is the
modern description of being a"24/7" bunch.
Our 743rd motto is "Veritas."
Malmady. Larry our tank driver had a flair
for smelling out alcoholic beverages. We
filled our Jerry cans with wine. I got inebriated
and passed out. Apparently the entire 743rd
Tank Battalion had indulged unwisely. I remember
backing our tank over communicating lines
and wondered why in the hell were we doing
this. I saw a field ahead and we were made
to see what it was all about some 150 American
prisoners were slaughtered. Decades later
it was officially determined that 87 were
thus killed. I have a total loss of remembering
what happened other than the backing of our
tank and viewing the field on the other side
of the road.
We were up high overlooking a Belgium farm. German soldiers were ducking into a large barn through a small door. Our tank gunners were firing at each occurrence. I'll always wonder as to how many beat the armor piercing projectiles. We maneuvered into another position. While there a German Tank Mounting an 88 mm struck our tank on the front. Oh, before going on I suggested we put sand bags over the front armor. The wet snow froze and with the sand bags were a life-saver. I recall our fellow tankers calling us Harpers yellow-bellies. The force of the 88 blew the sand backs into the top of the trees and made a bulge in our armor. I was knocked out. I heard my tank guys yelling that Rosie is dead. Normally when a tank gets hit it is common practice to get out and run. They didn't Larry got in and backed the tank out of the line of fire, thus salvaging my life.
Ten of us were chosen to go to liege to bring back 5 Sherman tanks. We came out of the damp, dismal combat zone into what one may consider Shangri La. There were rear echelon soldiers cavorting with happy extremely friendly females. In most cases on bicycles with baskets laden with picnic goodies. They were a happy lot out for fun on a mild sunny day.
We left with our Shermans and abruptly with in a short period were in the Ardennes historically called 'The Battle of The Bulge.
It was now enveloped in a thick blackened atmosphere. You could barely see a yard ahead.
Larry Crandall had an uncanny gift of finding alcoholic beverages. We parked the tanks in what appeared to be a factory site. Larry taking 'point' escorted us into a saloon. We gulped down a few and than set out to where the tanks were parked. While traipsing along a jeep appeared with at least 4-5 soldiers. It stopped an with that a voice cried out," Hey Mac is this the road to Liege?" Hearing Mac, I became suspicious, but following protocol left the responses to Tank commander, sergeant Harper. What was my concern related to the fact Mac was a Navy term for buddy whilst Army phrase was GI or Joe or in some cases a slew of profanity. All I could think of was that these were German. Major Skerzeny was leading a large pack of infiltrators that wreaked havoc upon our security. They executed prisoners and armed as well as dressed up as American fighters.
Had I questioned the word Mac we would have been executed. A large truck with head lights brightly shining came up upon us. They were probably MPs(military police) who put us through the routine questioning as to verify our being Americans. We had to answer where we are from, who hit the most homeruns, names of politicians and actors. Once they we satisfied they revealed that a jeep with Germans was being sought. That explained my concern over the usage of'Mac.' We could have blasted the MPs had we not been satisfied as they being one of our own. A final note MajorSkorzeny was the German who flew small plane into Italy, where he freed Benito Mussolini from his captors the Italian insurgents. He was brought to Berlin.
Skorzeny and his men were probably responsible for the Malmedy massacre.
We were compromised and headed to the rear. Our gun was bent. Going through a fire break in the woods while heading for battalion headquarters we came upon a slew of American strewn about from a half-track apparently immobilized by a German howitzer. Larry was going to ride over them, but I insisted to help. "What are you going to do take their watches," was retorted at me. Mind you I was knocked out earlier and still feeling my bruises. I held a GI in my arms. He softly spoke out ,"Thanks soldier," Than "Mama," and died. I must have did a lot to aid the injured for an officer asked me for my rank, serial number and name. I did not know until a decade ago that the 99th Infantry Division gave me a Bronze Star.
We busted through Aachen and ceased to advance
between Duren an Julich. It was here that
we were setting up to undertake the crossing
of the Rhine River. A side thought while
at the former two German cities a USO group
of three entertainers showed up. They danced
in a one room school house. Above were German
fighter planes and American fighter planes,
but for some reason they did not counter
each other. What troubled me was these dedicated
girls skimpily attired performing while exposed
to chilly clammy weather in a virtual 'no
man's land.' When ever I think of their dedication
it brings tears to my eyes.
As you know we crossed the Rhine River.
I was wounded at the Wessel Canal in the
vicinity of Cologne. We witnessed the first
jets. There were American P 51s diving at
them. It was some what perplexing to see
the jets out speeding the P 51s, which were
diving at least at 450 miles per hour. We
were fortunate to visit the huge gleaming
white walled salt mine where they were being
produced and assembled. These jets were good
for about 100-150 miles, thus were relatively
not ideal as fighters, but psychological
disturbing. We rapidly traversed the German
Before entering Detmold, we went through
an armored tank facility not much unlike
our Fort Knox Armored School. Looking down
on us was a massive Valkerian statue. We
had deep concern as related to the fact all
military facilities are gridded for fire-power.
Meaning every inch was a predictable target
for artillery fire-power. We passed through
unscathed. Entering Detmold, I saw an apartment
with my family name. "Hey Guys, thanks
for the lift I'm home!" You know about
the old man, now we approached Magdeburg
Am Elbe. We expected to speed down the Autobahn
into this major city. But our officers sent
in one of our officers to negotiate a surrender.
He was blindfolded and escorted by Wehrmacht
officers. Upon return he had observed that
the autobahn had a heavy concentration of
88mm anti-tank guns strategically placed
all along the highway. Apparently, his blind
fold was not tightly secured. I BELIEVE THAT
THE GERMANS HAD DONE THIS BY DESIGN. After
all the war was a futility a this point.
The 743rd took the back roads and headed
towards Magdeburg. We were the second of
the lead tanks to penetrate the area, in
fact we were so secure that the battalion
Colonel ironically driven by a private named
Colonel headed us in their jeep. But an apparent
resistance set the colonel to get out of
there. The tank in front of us got hit by
a Panzer Faust, which killed Lt.Fruwith and
its 76mm gunner. The tank driver bailed out.
It was earie hearing the motor running. The
German's kept the medics from going to the
tank. Despite a huge Red Cross Flag they
relentlessly obstructed help. My tank was
somewhat at an angle, which enabled me to
fire my 30 cal. machine gun aimlessly into
a factory bordering the shoulder of the road.
I guess that did the trick. The Germans were
either wounded or killed or got out of there.
The next day, we as C-10 moved down a broad
road with a mass of destroyed buildings lining
the way. As far as we could see the entire
site was an endless rubble of twisted metal,
splintered wood and bricks. We were headed
to cross the Elbe at less than 300 yards
when we were exposed to an enormous explosion.
It was the destruction of the bridge and
with that the war as far as the 743rd Tank
Battalion was concerned was over. All that
remained was Japan, but the atom bombings
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki closed that!
We were playing baseball during a lull in
the fight. A strange brown tinted fog hovered
over the area close to the Rhine. The 110
mm long toms after days of sporadic firing
fell silent. Our guys were crossing the Rhine.
Among them was the 735th Tank Battalion.
We were called to mount up. We were taken
across the Rhine River on sections of floating
pontoon bridges. The US Coast Guard manned
the ferrying operation. I never saw Navy
or Marines, but 'son of a gun' Coast Guarder
were their. We moved ahead and stopped at
a rail road trestle. What happened on the
other side was a Wehrmacht 75 mm anti-tank
gun, which apparently knocked out armored
vehicles as the maneuvered under the rail
road overpass. I remember Captain Thornell,
a law school professor, who worked up from
a second lieutenant, demanding that a few
50 caliber machine guns be set on the top
and fired at the anti-tank position. A Pershing
diesel engine tank, which was much lighter
and lower than the Sherman scooted through.
We were standing about trying to figure our next attack. While there a German shell hit the frozen turf and slammed into Lt. Thornell's tank's transmission, thus immobilizing the tank. Lt. Thornell commandeered Sergeant Frank N Harpers Sherman and we its crew members! We went down the road to evaluate the German position and its threats.Just in front we encountered a mangled Jeep. Larry the tank driver maneuvered around the disabled vehicle, which led to our setting off a German Teller anti-tank mine. Boy did we bail out. I remember seeing a German soldier in a crater in the middle of the road. He was armed with a bazooka like anti-tank weapon. I jumped over the hole and it seemed that I could have reached the top of the Empire State Building. The German was dead. Now, I and Dominick Micelli were back in the rear feeling naked. We were with out our Tommy Guns. We observed two infantry GIs sleeping and each had a 45mm pistol. Dom deftly unhooked their Sam Brown belts, which gave us the pistols.
We went back down the road and retrieved our submachine guns and placed them on the two. They were still sleeping. While back at our tank, an army General was firing his pistol together with his attaché,
a major who was firing a carbine at the now
vanished Germans. The general ordered Johnny
Restad, our gunner, to get in the Sherman
and blast away at the Germans. Johnny never
seemed to express vulgar words, but this
time in no uncertain terms he let loose a
selected tirade at the general. A month later
the Stars and Stripes Newspaper revealed
the general received a Silver Star for his
phony up front venture. At least Dominick
and myself were 'rewarded' with 45mm pistols.
We came to a point whereby a rest would
be welcomed. We could hear the creaky sounds
of a German's tank tracks. It was dark and
moonless. An infantry captain approached
our now Captain Thornell to under take a
night attack, which meant the 743rd was to
take point well in advance of the infantry.
I declared to my tank commander Sgt. Frank
Harper that we were in no position to go
ahead. He and other tank commanders of our
platoon conveyed the information to Captain
Thornell who objected to the request.
next morning at the break of day, I climbed
a cliff. We were not aware of its existence.
There I saw a German 75mm anti-tank gun.
I delightfully removed its sight, thus adding
it to my souvenirs. I was very engrossed
in what I was doing and when I looked up
I found myself surrounded by 21 armed German
soldiers. Surprising they surrendered to
me. Hell they could of killed me with the
butts of their rifles. They spoke German
and wanted to know what they should do with
their rifles? I ordered them to hold the
guns above their heads. I brought them down
from the cliff and approached at about 50
yards my platoon. They shouted,"Hey
Rosey what in the hell are you doing?" "Hey
these are my buddies!" They were ordered
to drop their weapons and my platoon shouted
out," Hubba, hubba" and chased
them off to the rear. This was customary
as we were too busy advancing to care for
prisoners. So much for my 'heroics' in capturing
the washed out enemy.
I was standing at the
back of my Sherman, which was parked at the
side of a building. At this point there were
rows of 7 or more dwellings standing side
by side attached to each other. This was
in a village on the Cologne Plain. A German
Tank fired its 88, which anti-tank missile
traversed the row of houses and left a streak
of pulverized brick across our engine grating.
It appeared as if it was a painted stripe.
I was but inches from being cut in half.
A few yards from my position a British crew
from a Sherman flail tank took time to partake
of their traditional custom of drinking tea.
It was around 4 PM. By the way a flail was
a heavy chained rotating apparatus designed
to strike potential mines and exploding them.
The tea partiers were killed by the German
Supply Sgt. Jensen, affectionately referred
to as Swede, after dropping off bread loafs
an other essentials parked his truck in a
deflated position. The German Tankers destroyed
his truck and in so doing killed him. He
had an envious position, which seemingly
was safe and secure.
This type tank was selected to beach the
invasion of Japan. The 743rd scooted through
unscathed. Rumor was that the other an unseasoned
outfit was whipped out. For years, I had
nightmares over the use of these guys while
we were well seasoned. That night we were
parked at the edge of a vast farm flattened
field. German anti-tank guns were firing
aimlessly at what-ever. It was an interesting
spectacle of red illuminate traces zig zaging
in our direction. It was a shot in a million
that hit my machine gun and driving it into
my 30 caliber machine gun. The gun hit my
seat almost emasculating my position, but
the projectile had lost most of it momentum.
I after a few moments realized I was bleeding
but not enough of a wound to put me or the
tank out of commission. By the way the supply
sergeant crazily stated I was derelict in
damaging the gun. Would you believe I owed
for the effects. This was sad a 'screw loosed
jerk. At the end of the war we met up with
the Russian soldiers at Magdeburg am the
The 743rd adopted the 30th Infantry
Division(Old Hickory). Along the way we landed
with the 29th, touched base with 78th, 82nd
Air Borne, 79th, 3rd Armored, 28th, 99th
and shouldered along side General Montgomery's
units. I wound up with The Purple Heart,
The Bronze Star and a slew of other medals.
It is determined, that the 743rd had a 400%
turnover. We went through five major campaigns
and received 5 Presidential Unit Citations.
WE WERE A TOUGH SEASONED BUNCH
Harold "Doc" Rosenberg