I joined the outfit before St. Vith. Leaving St. Vith, came the first taste of long hand-carrying jaunts over the steep and snowy trails. This was my first taste of the woods and it was far from the last. As we made the long marches, loaded down with heavy machine-gun gear, Ks and other necessities, we became used to the twenty-hour days, the digging in, and the uncertainty of hours, orders, and meals.
On this occasion, we got an orientation before the assault on the next town. This after a week of good chow, letter-writing and some good sleep on a respectable floor in a real house. “This is it,” we are told. “Not much there, easy pickings. K and L Companies are going to clear the hills to our right at this point. Then they will join Company I and us and take off for the town at a given signal. This town of Ormont is only a few hundred yards ahead from where we get off our carriers.” (I haven’t seen Ormont to this day.)
What started out as an easy mission, developed into nearly two weeks of real hell in the deep, dark woods. We would move a little, stop, dig, duck shells, and then repeat the same performance over and over again. There were plenty of mines and plenty of casualties. Our line, as it inched up, passed the wounded coming back.
It is a good thing we had some Jerries to help carry the litters back over the steep hills. We were far removed from any passable roads and we only could eat as a result of the long hikes for food down through the deep snows, the perilous woods, and the tree bursts. We would get in one hot spot, sweat out a counterattack, and the Jerries would have us well zeroed in. With each burst would come the cry for medics. McElvery got it one day, so did Stanton. Sudy, the amateur G-2, just sleeps through it all and injects his usual optimism, “They’re going to run. They’re unloading their stuff on us.”
It took many days for the unloading and we did much leaping into muddy holes. We sniffled into our C-rations and grumbled about not getting relieved. This guy with his high ground theory. Nuts! Let’s blow up a town one time and get a house to sleep in and get dried out. It was as nasty as all that, but we soon forgot it when we got into reserve.
Once in a while we’d get to sleep in a pillbox. Once in a while the Jerries would object to giving them up. We got into some boxes on Gold Brick Hill. There were plenty of objections there. Before we took off for the hill itself, we dug in on the line of departure and got bombarded with everything from every side. A lot of the boys got cut up with shrapnel and there were a lot of calls for the Medics. Our machine-gun platoon suffered a few casualties. Sudy got hit in the foot with a small piece of shrapnel. Very casually he remarked to me, “Those guys want to play rough.” DeLoce and Aimen are taken back.
The actual assault on the hill was a sight I’ll never forget. In all the noise of our own and enemy shelling and small-arms fire, the commanding officer of Company I just motioned forward and yelled, “OK, move out!” And move out they did to the last man.