I was in the 87th Signal Co. Our radio team (4 men with radio in a C&R car) was attached to the 345th during the Battle of the Bulge. One evening we were bivouacked in a farm house in one of the three towns named Freuz (pronounced “Frooo” ) There was Freux, Freux La Bois (in the woods) , and Freux La Rue (along the road). I think we were in Freux La Bois. As you can remember there were many stories about Germans dressed in American uniforms infiltrating our lines.
This then 19 year old was at the exalted rank of PFC, the “baby” of the radio-section on the 87th Signal Co. It was well after nightfall, when our team-chief suggested (an Order) that I go take some steel helmets, and go back down to the little stream behind the farmhouse and fill them with fresh snow – (for shaving, etc.) It was fairly dark. Directly to the right of the house, there was a dirt road that ran back down to a bridge over the stream. I elected to use that route!
So: with my carbine over my right shoulder, and both hands occupied with a pair of steel helmets, I did as instructed and filled them with “clean” snow! On the way back up the road, I suddenly hear “HALT!”
I gave the password!
No countersign — “Halt” again!!
We had joked about this often — and I used the tried an true answer, “Look, Mac! It beats the shit out of me!”
He ordered me to not move my hands from the helmets I was carrying, to turn around and go back down the road, over the little bridge, and into a farm house up the hill on the other side of the stream.
As I entered the front room, there was two officers and a couple of enlisted men lounging about. I was ordered to put my helmets of snow down and remain standing in front of a Major. He wanted to see my dog-tags! They had vanished about our second week in France, when we were down in the Saar!
The it began: “Where were you born ? — what school did you go to? On and on! I tried to explain that I had lost the tags, etc. My wallet’s contents didn’t help. “After all, soldier — they could have been lifted off an American casualty!”
Finally: “Who won the World-Series?” I answered, “Who played?”
I kept suggesting that they call with the army-telephone on the desk (will never forget this number) — Half-year 28 “L” ! After some thirty minutes they seemed to believe me (perhaps they were just having fun with one scared teenager) and did use the sound-power phone. Fifteen minutes later Lt. Wells arrived with his jeep and said, Oh, there you are, Frank.” He turned to the major and said, “Yes, he’s ours!” There were smiles all around except for this one teenager — I was really upset!
As I look back — I too laugh about it! It was no laughing for me during the incident.