I reported to Capt. Howard J. Wall of L Company, Third Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment. At first there was not a great deal going on in the way of combat action, but on the morning of 16 December 1944, we jumped off with a fresh, full-strength company in an attack toward an objective just across the German border. I didn’t know it then, but we were the right flank company of the Third Army. The Seventh Army to our right was echeloned some distance back from our forward position making us vulnerable to enemy artillery, which could turn around and hit us with that exposed right flank!

About mid-morning of that mild and sunny December day, the Germans hit us! They began shelling us from our right rear as we were attacking across an open rolling field with a few ancient apple trees scattered here and there. Joining the hostile artillery were machine guns in the little village of Medelsheim to our right front placing grazing fire across the ridge, pinning down L Company, while the hostile artillery had a field day!

I accompanied Capt. Wall and Sgt. Cutler in a mad dash to a building atop the ridge. (Cutler carried the radio and his job was to stay with Capt. Wall at all times.) It was the only building there, a brick structure behind which we took shelter. From our position we could see not only the little village of Medelsheim, near at hand, but also the much more distant village of Seyweiler to the northwest. We could see several German tanks maneuvering slowly in a wooded area across the valley a half-mile or so to our front. They were firing at and into our building and appeared about to mount a counterattack. However, Medelsheim, with its withering machine-gun fire was of first importance to us in our immediate situation.

Capt. Wall asked if I would bring artillery fire on the village. I called in my fire request for a Time-on-Target, which means all field artillery in range fire on one target. The effect of such a massive concentration of firepower is devastating. Medelsheim disappeared in one vast explosion accompanied by a dense cloud of black smoke. We had no further problems from Medelsheim. Our infantry friends were very happy to have us on their side that day.

The captain then asked me to try and break up the tank activity to our front across the valley while he returned to his troops who were still being “plastered” by the German artillery in front of the Seventh Army. One of our other observers could actually see the muzzle flashes of the enemy guns – BUT – it took him almost four hours to get clearance to fire into the Seventh Army’s zone and silence the enemy guns. That incredible blunder resulted in L Company being reduced from the fresh, full-strength infantry company all the way down to some thirty effectives. My feeling was then, and still is today, that somewhere someone was directly responsible for L Company’s bloody travail that sunny December day.

I continued to fire against the tanks to our front and was able to force them to withdraw behind their wooded ridge, after which they were no longer a problem.

Late in the afternoon, a lone infantry rifleman came up to tell me that Capt. Wall’s L Company had been hit so hard by the enemy shelling that they had been ordered back to that morning’s line of departure.

U.S. Army Star
A Company, 334th Field Artillery Battalion

James served as a forward observer in I Company, 345th Regiment.

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