December 21, 1944, Trois-Ponts, Belgium
by Cpl. Gordon A. WALBERG, A Btry, 80th A.A.A. Bn, 82nd A/B Div.
« After 59 days of combat in Holland and the “Market Garden”
mission we returned to Suippes, France. On December 7th, 1944, I
received a pass to Paris where I spent four days with my friend Chuck MAHALECK.
By December 17th, I cautioned my squad to get some sleep and secure
warm clothes, sleeping bags and ammo.
December 18, 1944, at 04.00 a.m. Sgt. Fox woke me and said to pull out before
dawn. The Germans had broken through the American lines in the Ardennes in
Belgium hitting the hardest at the 106th Infantry Division. I secured
all supplies I could get stored in my ‘B’ bag.
I had a good breakfast at the mess hall and lined up jeep and 57mm into a
convoy and started out. Others promised to follow as soon as large trucks could
be secured from the Air Force.
We could not await the arrival of the Air Corps trucks to move our 80th
AAA Battalion. Paul SCHLUPP, the jeep driver, Morris KARSHENBAUM and I in rear
seat departed from Suippes. We had only eight rounds of 57mm shells, our jeep
and the 57mm anti-tank gun. No planes flying because of the terrible weather.
Our only plans were to advance as far as possible heading for Ličge, Bastogne,
St. Vith or Trois-Ponts, Belgium. Our only orders were to advance until we made
contact with the enemy. We later discovered this would be the advance elements
of the 1st SS Panzer Division, one of Hitler’s most feared. On the
way, we stopped at the Bastogne crossroads and the MP said we were not needed so
we went on to Werbomont. By 09.00 p.m., our convoy had moved more than 170 miles
and went into a defensive position near Werbomont, Belgium. We were not a part
of a large group and we did arrive before the trucks.
We went further down to the Lienne creek. As we approached the bridge we found
it blown. This was where the 291st Engineers stopped the Kampfgruppe
PEIPER before his troops were surrounded in the village of La Gleize. We slept
under our jeep where we laid down on the ground covered by sleeping bag afraid
to get into the bag since the delay in getting out in a hurry.
December 19, 1944, at dawn I awoke and could hardly move. I was so stiff from
the long jeep ride and sleeping on the cold ground. The temperature about 10°
above zero, cold, fog misting and most uncomfortable. We were right in the
middle of the “Battle of the Bulge”. After the coffee and discussion on what
way to go, I returned to my sleeping bag rolled it up and carried it to the
concealed jeep. Early in the morning, they had put planks down and we crossed
the Lienne creek and turned left. We found five to seven knocked out armored
vehicles of the advance element of the 1st SS Panzer Division. The
dead were still lying near the vehicles and we noted the olive drab or G.I.
blankets so we knew this unit had already captured American equipment, fuel and
other items needed for their advance. We moved most of the day and stopped at a
farm house that evening and took over an aging barn. At least it was warm and we
spent the night there.
On the 20th of December, in the evening we were diverted to the road
toward Trois-Ponts to prevent any Panzer to cross the Salm River. We set up our
gun that evening in the front yard of a farm and Paul SCHLUPP made a deal that
if we were allowed to come in and get warm we would share supper rations. The
farmer had fought in World War I and went to the basement and got a bottle of
French Cognac of 1918. He said he was keeping it for an important occasion and
if the Americans chased the Germans out this would be the day. We furnished the
cheese, Nescafe and our crackers. We knew that the next day contact would be
made. Lieutenant BULLIS, Paul SCHLUPP, Morris KARSHENBAUM and I slept on a bench
in the farmhouse with each men staying with the gun two hours each.
A few moments before the attack, I told Morris KARSHENBAUM and Paul SCHLUPP to
remove their overshoes and long wool coat and be prepared to move rapidly. I
thought the weight of the overshoes and coat would hold us back.
Shortly after we had the guns set up, everything broke loose. Sergeant Richard
SCOTT was wounded and Lt. Jake WERTICH was killed by two shots to the head. He
was later posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The first gun
was knocked out after firing at the tanks. It was then that Sgt. SCOTT came back
to me and said that shrapnel had cut his clothing and his back. After
examination of his back side as
best as I could while firing all
around us. I told him to go to the aid station located in a small stone building
Our gun team, SCHLUPP, KARSHENBAUM and myself waited the tank and would attempt
to stop it from entering Trois-Ponts. The firing was so heavy that I thought the
enemy had already pushed by our defense. About the same time, my best friend
Gordon SMITAL, from Chicago, with whom I went through basic training and camps
every day, was killed along with Corporal Stokes TAYLOR and others from our
battery. Corporal William BALLANTINE, the only member of three men of the
battery point team, who survived the battle and related the events to me.
I then left the gun to see what was left of our right flank. To my left was the side of the mountain with the rough approach to the Salm River and the village of Trois-Ponts. As look up to the right, I spotted at least three Germans. The first one aimed his Mauser rifle and fired and I went down with a gun shot wound to the right shoulder. I later learned that the bullet passed the right shoulder following the clavicle going through the right lower lung and out middle of my back.
I was knocked backward about 12 feet by the impact with my helmet over my eyes.
I waited a few seconds and leaped up with my M-1 that was close to me, flicked
off the safety, and fired eight rounds at the scattering Germans to frighten the
enemy and save myself. I replaced a new clip in my rifle and fired four more
times. Then a stoppage in the rifle which didn’t help either. I yelled at Paul
SCHLUPP to look to his right and he did and shot the German in the head. I
hollered again to look to right of me and he shot the next one in the shoulder
knocking the Kraut down.
I shouted to my men I needed to go to the aid station. As I started the long way
down the hill, the Germans began to shoot along the road, and was kicking up
parts of it. By this time, Paul SCHLUPP took over the gun allowing me to go down
the side of the mountain. This is the reason I chose to go down the side of the
mountain and not the road. My itinerary to the aid station was carrying my gun,
running, falling, crawling the entire route down the cliff to the railroad
track, embankment. I finally found a shale lined and shallow place and waded
across the Salm River.
As I crossed over toward the houses and approached the aid station, I saw an
American officer who asked if I were deserting my position. I was a little fed
up but I pulled my jacket down and showed him my wound. He directed me to the
battalion aid station, the 307th Medical Co. As I walked away, I
suggested he would do more good up on the hill and not here in town.
I finally arrived at the aid station with an overhang on side of La Salm.
The doctor, Captain Robert FRANCO, made leave my M-1 behind the large
front door where I entered. He examined me after removing my sweater which was
in shreds of unravel and cutting off my long underwear top. He told me to take
16 sulfa pills and a shot of penicillin which was a new drug being used to
reduce the amount of bacteria in the wound. A blanket was spread on the dirty
floor and I laid down.
At this time, a noncom came in and said it looked like the Germans were going to
enter the village and he asked what he should do. The doctor notified that he
couldn’t leave the wounded and added that any who wanted to escape should do
so. This we did with 12 on the jeep. With the temperatures well below the
freezing mark, I chose the front of the hood because it was warmer there and I
only had a blanket over my shoulder. I wanted to take my rifle but was told to
leave it inside the door of the aid station and I secured a red cross flag
instead. Despite this sign, we were still fired on as we pulled out from between
the buildings. We located the
ambulance parked about 4 miles to the edge of town.
This day of December 21st, 1944 showed courage, depression and
sadness among the death and wounded of many along with confusion but later on it
will also show that the German thrust was stopped and they did not enter
The ambulance took us toward Huy, Belgium and we were directed to a little
schoolhouse where operations were being made in one of the classrooms with
portable lights overhead. En route to the school, rear guard troops stopped the
ambulance and asked us who Betty Grable was
and what kind of a team Brooklyn Dodgers was and other such questions.
Since Germans dressed in American uniforms had been captured working
behind our lines, I assured them we were all Americans with wounds and
shouldn’t delay us.
Again, not a normal day in the life of a 22 years old soldier. At the
schoolhouse, a nurse who couldn’t believe how we got so dirty, washed my arm
and my back gently because of my wounds. A couple hours later around 02.00 a.m.
on December 22, 1944 they operated on me. Around 11.00 a.m. we were told to get
any thing that we wanted to take along and got in an ambulance and we went to
Liege. This due to an increase bulge in the Americans lines and the fear if a
complete breakthrough was completed the hospital and wounded be captured.
Someday, I wish I could locate the small schoolhouse where the field hospital team operated on me. I would believe it would be in the Huy/Liege area but our ambulance did take so many detours to avoid the Germans troops pushing in the Bulge area.
Gordon A. WALBERG, Illinois, USA
Created : August 15, 2005
Updated : August 15, 2005
Copyright © 2003-2004-2005 Gordon A. WALBERG & Eddy LAMBERTY
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