It came as quite a surprise when Capt. Swanson informed me we were relieving the Third Battalion, 104th Infantry, 26th Infantry Division. I was assigned to this unit prior to joining Company I, 346th. The meeting with some former friends of the 104th seemed a little strange although I was well accepted. The strained moments seemed to reflect the feeling that we were as yet untried and not battle indoctrinated as they were. With the exchange completed, I remember standing on a hill with John Swanson and remarking that the unit on our left was taking a pounding. John offered the remark, “They’re only registering there. They know we are here, and we will soon be recipients.” True to the words, within five minutes the first shell exploded within our area, and I heard the first “cry” of “Medic,” a word that would be repeated often.

We soon started our move forward into our “baptism of fire.” I can’t remember how many times I hit the ground that day, but I estimate once for each round, ours and theirs, that fell in our area. The second day, I was beginning to be able to distinguish between ours and theirs. On the third day, I was beginning to get a feel for proximity to my position, and although it did not lessen my respect or fear, it did, nevertheless, give me the feeling that I could possibly survive in this type of atmosphere.

On 15 December 1944, I had received the order to alert my platoon to the fact we were in position to attack Rimling and cross the German border. Standing on the hill overlooking the German border with Al Messier, Sgt. Roberts, and Headquarters personnel, I was commenting how quiet things were when suddenly there was a sharp crack, and I found myself on the ground looking up at the sky. There was no pain, just a dull feeling like someone whacked me with a four-inch wide board. I knew I had been hit but for a while was too scared to determine how bad. I finally got the nerve to look at my arm, and I was very relieved that I still had an arm, hand, and five fingers intact. I could not see the wound, but Al Messier confirmed that my raincoat, field jacket, and shirt were all bloody. A feeling of relief came over me because I knew I was leaving the battlefield.

I was evacuated by ambulance to Nancy. By the time we arrived at Nancy, the morphine shot, given me by the aid man, was wearing off and the pain was starting. The operation to remove the shrapnel was conducted without my knowledge. The nurse informed me afterwards that there was quite a lot of muscle damage and that they got most of the shrapnel. However, I would carry the remainder for the rest of my life.

U.S. Army Star
Robert J. Watson
I Company, 346th Infantry Regiment

Lt. Robert J. Watson

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