FOSSE (Trois-Ponts) - January 03, 1945
Co, 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division
By Sgt. William H. TUCKER.
is a draft of my experience in the battle to attack Fosse which I Co, 505th
PIR of the 82nd Airborne Division made on January 03, 1945.
We had a two
days rest area after having been relieved on New Year’s day by the 517th
PRCT. We had held that position
since Christmas Eve and on that day as a result of Field Marshal Montgomery’s
order to pull back. We had to fight our way to the route from Rochelinval to
Basse-Bodeux after encountering elements of
Jochen Peiper battle group, 1st SS Panzer Division. This group
was at the same time trying to go back to Germany after they had been cut off in
La Gleize area. Although we suffered some casualties and had to leave two good
men at the railroad track at the Salm river, we did the move back successfully.
We did not want to give up our strong position at Rochelinval on the Salm river,
and believed we could have held there.
a.m., the 03rd of January 1945, we move along the road to-and-through
Basse-Bodeux to the Initial Point (IP) of the attack which was a dirt trail
where the road to Basse-Bodeux turned left towards Trois-Ponts. Our route was to
take the trail to the right and then go up the hill and seize the town of Fosse.
Along the way to Basse-Bodeux, American heavy artillery was firing all along the front and when we were on the way about 100 yards away from us a “short round” hit and a piece of the shell stuck Pvt. DIGIRALMO in the head and killed him instantly, no one else was hit.
FOSSE, monument to thirteen men of I-Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div, who lost their lives on Jan. 03, 1945..
|We went along the dirt trail all over the wooded hill between Fosse and Basse-Bodeux till we reached another dirt trail going up the hill. Captain McPHEETERS was leading the company and he moved pretty close to the top of the hill when he directed that my platoon, the second platoon, commanded by Lieutenant CHRISTIAN moved along the right side of the hill, it would be some distance from where we were coming out the woods to the town or the west flank of the town. The three squad leaders of my platoon knew Charlie MATASH, had a feeling that he thought enemy guns were nearby. Captain McPHEETERS was leading us as brave fine leader. Somebody had to move on to that part of the hill and see what had to be done. McPHEETERS was killed instantly with a machine gun bullet to his head and several of us were hit, including the fine Lieutenant DEGENHART badly wounded as he tried to move his men forward McPHEETERS. PFC CUTLER was cut down and died in the arms of his buddy, Sgt THOMPSON. Near CUTLER, Corporal Bill HALLAHAN, died as several machine gun bullets hit him.|
first squad move along the upper left side of the hill and I lead my squad just
to the right of MATASH’s people. By that time, we were getting heavy machine
gun fire from the top of the hill and they were able to hit anybody as that went
alongside of the hill. The first man hit was PFC Nick CAVALLERO who was killed
instantly. Right after that, medic
Patsy PASSERO was wounded several times, trying to help other wounded, even
though his red cross bags were clearly displayed and could be seen by the enemy.
I was just below CAVALLERO and at that time Dennis FORCE of MATASH’s squad was moving up the hill. He went down when he was wounded by machine gun fire and at that point a burst hit him in the face while he was on the ground and also, I was hit to the helmet. This made a small hole in the half rear of my helmet and it gave me hole in the front but it did not break the skin of my head. I saw Pvt. STALD just ahead of me looking up the hill and I remember saying as I looked in my helmet, ”Hey STALD, is the top of my head still there?”, and it was.
along right flank and the other platoons were moving along by this time mostly
on the right flank below the crest of the hill. However the German machine guns
were very well placed all along the top of the hill running in the little town
of Fosse, somewhat towards Basse-Bodeux and they were taking their toll.
It had snowed
off and on all morning and the snow was incredibly deep. Now, there is a
combination of snow and sleet as we neared the side of the town. Some of us had
got close to the town and we were about a hundred yards or so to the right of it
looking towards the east. At some point very heavy and accurate German artillery
began hitting our area. It was coming from Wanne, across the Salm river, so I
was told later, but it got to be devastating. By that time, the closest people
to the town were myself, Lieutenant CHRISTIAN and S/Sgt TEPSICK, our platoon
sergeant. We were hiding behind the huge haystack and for some reason the
Germans didn’t fire at it. But we were watching the artillery coming very
intensely and we were loosing men strung out along the side of the hill to our
artillery and did in a chance of surviving it more than anything else – and
reaching our objective – I suggested that we consider an open assault through
the snow toward the town. TEPSICK and I thought that they might not be much in
the town and that the Germans had dug in to the west of the town with most of
the machine guns. That seemed particularly reasonable since we had not received
any machine gun fires since we reached the point directly in line with the town
at the haystacks.
The snow was
deep and it would not have been easy to assault. Lieutenant CHRISTIAN, a strong
and brave officer wasn’t about to risk the company under these circumstances
because he knew by then Captain McPHEETERS had been killed.
shelling intensified as we saw some other American troops moving towards us from
our right rear coming up from a little valley. We decided to move our men down
the hill about 10-15 yards to take some cover by what I would call ledges and
some other curbs and hedgerows. These were ridges cutting to the side of the
hill with little wooden fences on the top. Ledges running parallel to the spine
of the hill by Fosse running east-west. The ledges I took my squad to was only
about 20-30 yards from where they had lying in the snow. We had to slide through
the fence to get behind the ledge. I was the last man through and I was hit by a
shell fragment in my left leg. By that time I had also received a small puncture
wound in my left arm which was not bandaged but my knee wound was not good.
Shells were screaming overhead and PFC Emilio INTRIERI, my gunner, had a bad
luck, he was hit squarely with an artillery shell which ripped him apart just
about as we went to this ledge. The last two men killed were, two close
comrades, PFC HARRIS and PFC BROWN when an artillery shell landed between them.
I managed to
get to point where they were loading wounded onto jeeps to go back to Regimental
Headquarter (HQ). Lieutenant CHRISTIAN went along with me as he received a bad
head wound. When I get to the HQ’s aid station area I saw wounded and dead
lying all over the ground from this
attack. I was told that C company of our regiment had a terrible fight at
Reharmont and had heavy casualties there. Lieutenant Colonel KRAUSE was then
Executive Officer and second in command of our regiment, he was pretty sad and
had misty eyes to see so many men dead and wounded. And the snow, the sleet keep
coming down. I was put in an ambulance headed back to Ličge and I was able to
trudge around a little bit and I had a bandage covering my knee. At that time, I
had some morphine, so it was not too bad and I was able to start thinking about
the attack after I climbed into the front seat beside the driver. On the road
back to Ličge I saw every kind of equipment that
ever been made in America from trucks,
to jeeps, to tanks, to antitank guns all moving towards the front. I had
a sort of despair about how we were
going to get back to the Salm river with so few people at the front trying to
fight as we were. Then, I realized all this tremendous power moving behind the
front would keep going ahead, on and on.
Bronze plaque that can be seen on the memorial at Fosse.
concerns then and I still have now. They might be called the reflections I seem
to develop about how things were set up and running, how things should have been
done, what things were done. At that time – as I expressed in writings – I
Why in the name of heaven Montgomery had moved us out of a position we could hold for days at Rochelinval on the Salm River. Later in January 1945, we had to attack to regain the ground we gave up, in doing so, loosing thirteen good men out of about one hundred men and officers, killed in two hours, one day at Fosse on January 03, 1945; why didn’t we have at least done to the company level a better intelligence from a proper reconnaissance which would have found the machine guns and guns setup and so forth of what was at Fosse; why with our numerical superiority, the 505th PIR on the right and the 551st PIB and the 517th PRCT on the left of Fosse, why didn’t we just bypass the town and let the reserve units simply make it die, which is probably the best question in terms of military tactics.
later times, I had somewhat questions in hearing about the 551st PIB
attack on Rochelinval. It was poorly planned and executed but most of all, by
orders from the division staff simply to take the town of Rochelinval. The
battalion reconnaissance had found
there were some pretty strong gun positions there, and they would be more going
up terrible hills and cross difficult fields to enter the town. Why?? It would
have been easy for the 551st to go along the right side of
Rochelinval down to the river and be behind the strong point of the 62nd
Volksgrenadiere Division and cut them off. I guess, there was a desire coming
from WWI army philosophy that we were to sweep everything before us.
In any event, I had another operation on my knee wound at the 164th General Hospital way back at La Haye du Puits in Normandy, I was back with my outfit in late February. At that time, it was on the Ruhr river still fighting.
By William H. TUCKER, Massachussetts, February 2003.
This book is available to the following address:
INTERNATIONAL AIRBORNE BOOKS
Post Office Box 782
Harwichport, Massachusetts 02646
Other publication by William H. TUCKER also wrote:
- D-Day: Thirty-Five Days in Normandy -- Reflections of a Paratrooper (2003)
- Parachute Soldier's Post War Odyssey (1996)
- Parachute Soldier (First Edition 1994, Second Revised Edition 1995)
- Put on Your Boots and Parachutes, co-authored with British author Derek Wills
Created : August 15, 2005
Updated : August 15, 2005
Copyright © 2001-2002-2003-2004-2005 William H. TUCKER & Eddy LAMBERTY
Please send your comments, WWII accounts, WWII pictures to:
Eddy LAMBERTY - Rue de Farničres 14