Colonel Cubbison was the BN 334 CO and I became his voice radio operator once overseas – in his command car.
We arrived as a green division in the Saar Basin. The first night a couple of GIs walked into our farmyard – I think from the 26th division, the unit we were replacing. They recognized me and insisted I get out of the car, lay behind a Iow stone fence as ordered by the colonel. I used my extension cables to the set. They me told the Germans threw mortar shells in the yard in the early morning hours.
Later, while still dark, Col. Cubbison, Major Siler, the driver, Smyth, and I motored to the area where the attack was underway. (We lost Smyth in the Ardennes via frozen feet). The command car was obviously visible to the Germans. We came under artillery and mortar fire. I saw a tank commander get cut in half while exposed standing in the tank turret; a foxhole with a mortar direct hit. Pieces of him vomited skyward. The colonel ordered Smyth, “Get the shovel off the rear of the car and dig a hole for me”. Major Siler also wanted a hole. I cried, “Smyth, dig one for me – I’m chained to this damn radio!” Meanwhile, death continued to rain from the sky.
Casualties in Jeeps began to zoom down the road – a platoon Sgt. he looked familiar. Then another swift Jeep carrying a body, still and bloody. Did they survive? Do we ever know in retrospect? Then came the walking wounded. Then Bob, a familiar face sauntered by. He was a Jeep driver. “Where is your jeep, Bob?” I asked.
He smiled. “I came under machine-gun fire while minding my own business. I jumped out of the moving jeep and ran like hell. If you don’t believe me see the holes in my overcoat! Looks like the Krauts have a slightly beat up Jeep. He spread his coat. Sure enough, I saw the holes. He, too, vanished – I never saw him again, either. I wonder: do old soldiers evaporate or just fade away? Today, where are they? Did they really exist? Did any of us exist? Was it real? Did the blood evaporate or did the blood join the soil of centuries to live again and fertilize future wars? Will it never end.
We returned to HQ. The two officers never left the HQ nest to the best of my knowledge. Major Siler did not survive the war. He was killed by a German mine near the end of the war while seeking a new location for the batteries. Captain Mobley died with him. The other two men in the Jeep survived.
We saw the result of mortar shells into the courtyard. Several dead, including my best friend, Carl. A fragment had torn off his head. There was a morsel of bread clasped in his hand. If I had not gone with the colonel, I would probably have died with Carl. A quirk of fate…
After the war I visited his family and a girl friend in Florida. I went fishing with his father. He asked me the obvious question, “How did my son die?” I said, “He died instantly. There was not a mark on his body. He never knew what hit him.” Carl would have done the same for me if I had been KIA rather than him.