It’s Pironpre that sticks in my memory, because it was there that I came closest to becoming a KIA and there that the Third Platoon lost one of its most popular members, Sgt. Norman “Pop” Schultz. Pironpre, G Company’s first objective in the Ardennes, was just a small clump of houses at a crossroads, but a vital part of the Germans’ supply system and thus heavily defended. On the day in question, G Company, what was left of it, mounted its attack with the First Platoon on the right, the Third Platoon (my platoon) on the left, and the Second Platoon in reserve.
We moved out straggling through foot-deep snow, across a two-foot deep stream, again through deep snow, and finally into the village itself. I tossed a grenade into the nearest house, which flushed out a bunch of civilians but no Germans. We entered the house but saw no Germans. Whether any were hiding in the cellar we never found out.
At this point, Palmer Montgomery and I ran across the road looking for the First Platoon. We couldn’t find them (to this day I don’t know what happened to them), so we made a dash back across the road to the Third Platoon position. Palmer went first; I followed. He got across the road, but as I was crossing, a German tank fired its 88 at me. The shell landed close enough to knock me ass over teakettle about 15 feet down the road and caused me to lose my N-1. To add insult to injury, the tanker then opened up on me with his machine guns. Luckily there was a slight depression in the road and I did my best imitation of a snake slithering along the ground. Strangely enough, I was more mad than scared and as I crawled along, I cursed those Germans with every curse I could remember and a few that I invented on the spot. Unfortunately, I was so intent on my cursing and crawling that I lost my It was at this point that I discovered my pack and the K Rations in it had been riddled with bullets from the machine gun, and I realized just how close I had come to death.
Later, Montgomery and I got back to our group and there we saw Sgt. “Pop” Schultz lying dead in the road. He had taken an almost direct hit from a mortar round. It took me awhile to get over his death. Pop was a fatherly type to us. Most of us were 18 or barely 19; he was in his late thirties and married.
Of course war leaves little time for mourning or for worrying about past near misses. We still had to face Tillet, Bonnerue, the Rhine, Koblenz, and all the rest. Nevertheless, from that day to this, I’ve lived my life by the credo that every day is a bonus.