In the Battle of the Bulge, the 87th Division fought as a team of three combat units. Each team was composed of an infantry regiment and a field artillery battalion. Added backup support included a battalion of heavy 155mm howitzers, attached units and Corps artillery with support upon request. During the Battle of the Bulge, the 87th fought with reduced strength, under severe weather conditions with snow, fog, lack of shelter and limitations on the use of artillery fire. The enemy had an advantage with shelter and camouflage for equipment and men in the towns of St. Hubert, Moircy, Pironpre, Remagne and Tillet. Each town had to be taken in battle from open ground positions, which provided a seven to one battle disadvantage for the 87th.
Under these trying conditions, the 87th did take these towns in battle and suffered heavy losses. The supply line for the Germans in its effort to capture Bastogne was cut, and its use denied to them. Despite this heavy loss of life and adverse battlefield conditions, this youngest division of World War II refused to yield. Had the early death of General George Patton not taken place, a voice from the Third Army Command would have been able to provide due and earned credit for the fighting record of the 87th Division. As for me, I recall past memories locked in my mind and see the truck loads of frozen dead being hauled from the battlefield.
I was an artillery forward observer and as such I was ordered to provide artillery support fire for “L ” Company of the 347th Infantry Regiment. The mission was to take St. Hubert “at all costs.” The words, “at all costs”, mean that you are not to be concerned with risk and the loss of lives during battle. The order from General George Patton was a direct command order.
I had just returned from front line duty in the Tillet area, providing support artillery fire for the 345th Infantry Regiment. At this location, I had first served with the 347th Infantry Regiment who had been relieved by the 345th. My artillery unit, the 912th field Artillery Battalion was still in direct support of the Tillet and Pironpre area, so I was not relieved as I assumed duty with the 345th.
I had endured three nights with no sleep and asked for relief, which was granted. Before I could obtain any needed rest, I was ordered to join the lead infantry company of the 347th to enter St. Hubert. We entered St. Hubert prior to midnight without battle. Snow was on the ground, and we had good night vision. At the entrance to St. Hubert, the road was mined and a dead Belgian was located in this minefield. I learned later that his body was not removed because there was fear that his body was booby-trapped, and it was not safe to remove him from a minefield.
Captain Kidd, “L ” Company Commander, selected the 4th or 5th house into St. Hubert for his command post. Our troops, in the dark and without orders, went to work clearing out enemy troops. They discovered that there were none. We learned that they had left about five hours before our arrival.
I made radio contact with my artillery unit and gave them a good news report. I also maintained a “standby” position with the infantry. After about 4 or 5 hours, it was determined that our position was stable.