E Company, 41st Cavalry, 11th Armored Division
An excerpt from a letter
home from Spc. Jerry Bartling
"I've been putting off
telling you something for a long time Mother, and I guess this is
time I told you. I heard some bad news when I returned to the Division.
I was in this this town of Wendelsheim back across the Rhine where
our rear eschelon was situated at the time, and the morning they
were pulling out I ran across a fellow named Allen that I used to
know quite well in A.S.T.P. [army specialized training program]
He is in the 56th Engineers now, same Co. as Bakewell, and therefore
I asked if would say Hello to Bakewell for me. He looked at me and
said, 'Bakewell! He's dead'. Well, that's the way I got it, only
a little more sudden. Allen didn't know any of the particulars,
and I haven't seen anyone else from there to find out anything [more].
I think he must have gotten it in the first part of January in the
latter part of the Battle of the Bulge.It surely is a shame. I still
think that it [was] best that he did get married, though maybe I'm
wrong. I'll bet that she's not sorry though.
As for Chuck, I can't find out anything definite. I know that he
was evacuated; one said frozen feet, another said he had bad wounds
and was back in the States. I'll try to find out more.
The Battle of the Bulge must have been Cruel, bitter fighting, nothing
like this last phase of the final drive.I guess you know that the
11th [Armored Division] got there in the nick of time. I won't say
that they stopped the Krauts, because from what I heard from the
fellows, the 6th Armd. took the beating there. Nonetheless, the
11th played an important part,and they were very unfortunate to
be in a counter offensive such as that one was. Both sides lost
heavily and I guess it ranks with some of the worst fighting of
the War, at least in the E.T.O. [European theater of operations]
By the time I got to the fight, it was practically over as far as
the big picture was concerned. The Armd. Division could move as
fast as the tracks would carry them, except for the fact that their
supply lines were so vulnerable to small arms fire. For that reason
we slowed down and only moved as fast as the Infantry could clear
the woods behind us. For a period of time there, we were losing
a great many gasoline trucks due to snipers passed up. Finally they
started convoying the supply trains with tanks, which helped, along
with the fact that we slowed down.
Around Suhl is where we were having some of this trouble. Sometimes
the terrain would be such that heavy, dense woods were all around
us, and the road would be hardly wide enough for the light tanks
to get through. In these places, a handful of Infantry could play
hell with our armored column. That was the[ir] plan, but human nature
proved stronger than Hitler's influence, especially when he [Hitler]
was safe underground and these old men were [exposed] to elements
of nature and the overwhelming odds of our Panzers.
Their main weapon, if they had used it to any extent, would have
been the Panzerfaust. One of these fired at close range will knock
out a medium tank. Of course, the one who fires the thing faces
certain death. That was the big drawback to the weapon. Even the
most fanatical Nazi hated to trade his life for one American tank,
because he knew that there were hundreds behind that one. No, the
only ones who used those Panzerfausts were the Hitler Youth in the
Wehrmacht, kids of 15 & 16. They just didn't know what the score
was. Even that small percentage was enough to keep you on the alert
and wonder[ing] if one was in the woods to either side, because
there millions of acres of those pine woods in Germany.
We also came across a lot of road blocks, but they never stopped
us, just slowed us up. Snipers in towns caused the Infantry trouble,
but we were only troubled like that once. I only experienced 2 artillery
barrages and the column was fired on 3 times by Panzerfausts while
I was with them. I've seen countless Krauts holding those things,
but they were "resting". Don't think what you're thinking,
because comparatively speaking, I didn't see any gruesome sights.
I guess that there were plenty in the Bulge.
"Hoping to hear from you soon, I'll close
and send Love and Kisses, Jerry"
An excerpt from a letter
home from Spc. Jerry Bartling
Sunday June 2, '45
"...One shell tore my bed roll all up and
put nicks all over the tank, but we on the inside only got a shower
of dirt and a feeling that is another one of those unexplainable
[things]. It's usually called Fear, but I think that that word doesn't
explain it very well. Fear comes close enough though, I guess.
That fellow might be here today if we had moved
a little sooner, but you never know. If out tank driver had driven
just 8 ft. further across that open field, that one shell would
have dropped right in [our] open top and alles would have been kaput.
One other time they started bracketing [us] with
that indirect artillery fire which is of the "to whom it may
concern" variety, and we just sat there in the open. Finally,
we moved our tank to cover while the troop we were attached to left
their armored cars and peeps, and took off for nearby cover. As
a result, several vehicles were lost and others damaged. I'm afraid
I'll have to blame some of the officers for some of these incidents.
Of course, we always tend to find fault with officers and magnify
their mistakes when we probably couldn't do any better ourselves.
I do remember one blunder which was almost inexcusable in the eyes
of our E.M. and the attached T.D's (tank destroyers). It happened
about 10 miles south of Suhl at a town called Slushigen or something
like that. Anyway, it was a fairly large town, about 40,000 or more.
We were making a drive with a small task force, which consisted
of a Recon troop, a platoon of light tanks, a T.D. platoon and our
assault gun platoon. All told, about 200 men or more.
We hadn't encountered much that day, and I suppose
that that prompted them to try to take this town. Anyway, we pulled
in to the edge of it about 8:30 PM after bypassing a series of roadblocks.
If we had to get out of there in the middle of the night it would
be risky business. Narrow trails, sharp turns, small streams and
mud holes. Nicht gute. We took over a house on the edge of the town
and there wasn't time to search the town, or even the nearby houses.
For security, this bright Major set up outposts on the other three
edges of the town.
An outpost consists of a platoon or less, usually
less. I had first guard duty and before dark, I heard a burp gun
about 3 or 4 hundred yards away. Right then I began to get a hunch.
Inside the house, our platoon leader found some good cognac, vermouth
and wine. All in all, a good stock of liqour and, as usual, he started
right into it and was beginning to get really tight. Our platoon
Sgt, realizing the gravity of the situation, tried to get him to
take it easy, but I guess the platoon leader thought the stuff wouldn't
keep and [he] has an enormous capacity for the stuff. I went to
bed,or at least I laid down on the floor. No one had to tell me
to keep my shoes on.
Well, the expected happened about 11:00. We were
rudely awakened and told we were moving out. I got out on the porch
and it seemed as if all hell had broken loose. There were several
fires and plenty of shooting. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
I still don't know how we all got out, but not a man was lost. Our
platoon leader didn't know what was going on, of course. Incidently,
the Major went back to Hqs for the night. He left before dark. I
think every vehicle got stuck at least once that night retreating
out of there. If your tank gets stuck in a situation like that,
it's just too bad, because the column doesn't stop. You just have
to depend on a friend giving you a hand. And [as for] the guys manning
the outposts, well, it's just too bad for them, too. They figure
that it's better to lose a vehicle or two than for everyone to get
One platoon stuck it out there all night, maintaining
contact with the enemy. That calls for guts. I don't believe any
of those boys or their Lt. got a Silver Star for bravery, although
the Major did get one on another mission. Things were rather disorganized
the rest of the night and we were plenty mad. No one knew at the
time what had happened to the outposts. We expected a good many
casualties, though, and we really expected the Germans to use the
T.D's against us.
However, the guys came straggling in the next
morning on foot and were fairly certain all of their vehicles had
been destroyed. They had been attacked by small bands of infantry,
and everyone had to take off on their own. You can't fight infantry
in close quarters at night with only T.D's and a handful of men.
The T.D's were lost plus the vehicles of a Recon platoon, but no
lives were lost, and that was the thing that relieved all of us.
The next day, an entire Combat Command took over
the town. That's roughly a Battalion of infantry, Bn tanks, field
artillery, with all attachments, engineers, signal, etc. and us.
We helped mop up the outskirts. We fired our .50s at bushes and
such, and now and then a German soldier would tumble out. I did
quite a bit of firing that day, also. We'd shoot in a few rounds
of HE (high explosive shell) and a few Germans would come out. Then,
we would have to do the same thing again and again. After we had
been firing several hours, they gave up once they saw that we would
take them prisoner.
Well, I think I'll close now.
Lots of love, Jerry
Troop train on his way home after the war. It shows some of the
many displaced persons trying to make their way back home by riding
on top of rail cars or any other way they can. Notice also that
the boxcar in the photo is actually an oil car in disguise to keep
it from being shot up by the Allied air forces.
Taken in Apr,'45 in Preg, Austria and shows "E" Troop
of 41st Cavalry, 11th Armored Division. Jerry was a gunner in the
light tank that you see in the back, near the fence.
The men from E Company, 41st Cavalry, 11th Armored Division. Do
you know anybody in this picture? If you do please let us know and
The cavalry units did reconnaissence
work for the division, scouting out enemy positions or moving ahead
of the main body and holding objectives until the heavy tanks could
arrive. As to the town that was shot up, I don't know the name,
but the common policy of the
troops advancing in Germany and Austria, was to spare towns that
no resistance and destroy the ones that fired at them.
E Company, near Kirchdorf on june 8th 1945.