Somewhere in Belgium or Germany near the Siegfried Line
One day the captain of our company summoned and ordered me to lead a daylight patrol in thick woods, which I believe were in the Ardennes Forest. He told me to pick five men and lead a reconnaissance patrol into the woods to gather all the information we could, look for enemy installations, and see whatever the Germans were up to.
I picked five men as no one would volunteer. I told one of the men to be 1st Scout and picked one man to be the left flank and one man to be on our right flank. The man that was to be 1st Scout spoke up, “I don’t want to be scout,” and refused to obey my order. I told him he could be court-martialed if he did not obey. He said he would rather be court-martialed as the snipers in the woods would always shoot the first man that showed up.
I called the officer and reported my problem as no one offered to be scout. He ordered the private to follow orders but the private steadfastly refused. The captain was agitated at being rebuffed and asked for volunteers but no one volunteered. He looked bewildered and confused and finally looked at me and said, “Sergeant, lead your men,” and walked off. I had the task of leading the squad and being scout also. I wasn’t eager to be scout either, but I did not want to refuse the order in front of my men so I accepted the honor.
We were walking slowly in the snow into the thick woods and suddenly I caught movement on my right flank. Dressed in white suits were 15 to 20 Germans walking fast down a trail that paralleled the direction that I was going approximately 130 yards away. About 5 feet in front of me was a road or trail like the one they were on. My heart was pounding as I eased down and lay low as I saw them — they hadn’t spotted me or my men. Suddenly, I realized that the road they were double-timing on would pass within 5-7 feet from where I was lying in the snow and I would have to fight or be captured. Most of my men were 30 yards behind me scattered out, lying down, and didn’t know the situation. What must I do – fight, die, or surrender? Thankfully I did not have to decide as there was a fork in the road in front of the Germans and they turned and took the right trail and went down a hill. I was one relieved but scared soldier. After they disappeared, we trailed down to a wooden cabin and decided they were snipers and reported back to the captain that what we saw were snipers in white suits. This experience that day aged me considerably.