Personal Accounts from December 1944

Christmas '44. Yes, this one I do remember vividly. I said to myself: 'What a way to spend Christmas!' It was cold, snowing, wet - just plain miserable. We were positioned in a defensive mode, though I still was doing recon work. There were no building for shelter where we were- just unroll the bedroll on the ground  one of  the 'bad' days.
The next night I left the guns where they were and we set out in the jeep and wound up staying the night by ourselves in a bombed out house. In the middle of the night we woke up to strange noises. We had our Thompsons at the ready and were getting set to shoot it out with whoever was coming after us. LUCKILY, we heard voices in English, and it turned out to be an advance patrol from I Company that didn't know we were there. Then, as now, communications can be and often are far less than perfect. In fact, I believe I was shot at as often by our own troops as by the Germans. I would radio my positions, but by the time info went (maybe it did, maybe it didn't) from Battalion to Regiment and maybe to our accompanying Tank Battalion the info was ancient history.  I should also add that we perpetually violated one of the cardinal rules; always put out a sentry at night to stay awake. The squads did this because they had ten people to share the load, but with the four of us in the jeep, it just didn't make sense. The incident above was the only time we almost got "burned".
Lt. Robert A. Peters, 117th Infantry Regiment
(His personal description of his 'job') "My job was the antitank officer for the 3rd Battalion. I reported to the Headquarters Company Commander theoretically, but really reported to Lt. Col. McDowell. I placed the guns in defensive positions either at his request or where I thought they should be. I had some contacts with the company commanders like Capt. Culp of K company in doing all this. My resources consisted of three squads of ten persons each; each squad had a 57mm AT gun pulled by a 3/4 ton truck. As it turned out we used the guns very little, having more success with our bazookas. We had four types of anti-tank ammo: high explosive, armor piercing, canister and later on "sabot" ammo, a British type that had a hollow charge capable of piercing heavy armor. We used the sabot ammo in the Bulge against an armored column of King Tigers in the area of LaGleize. Most squad leaders were sergeants. I had a jeep for me, my driver, my platoon sergeant, and one extra. Because of many casualties in the regimental I & R platoon, much of my own work turned out to be recon work. On the jeep I had a pedestal mounted 50cal machine gun, and a light machine gun on the passenger side. We all carried Thompsons and the extra on my jeep carried a bazooka. My job was to make contact, find out where they were, their strength, and their intention if possible. Then the rifle companies had a better knowledge of what was coming up. Throughout the war my platoon earned 13 silver stars, 21 bronze stars, and 10 purple hearts which included one KIA.
 


Captain William (Bill) Druckenmiller...117th Infantry Regiment....When we went overseas, I was Captain of the Regimental Anti-Tank unit.  During the battle of Mortain I took a machine gun bullet through my thigh, fortunately missing the thigh bone.  Thus I was able to get back to Regimental HQs, ending up in a hospital in England. I rejoined the 30th, now billeted in Germany, a day before Thanksgiving. Another officer had taken command of the AT Co., so I was assigned to command, on a temporary basis, Co. K.  Upon return of the Co. K commander I took command of Co. I- also of short duration. Next assignment was commander of Co. L.

Capt. William Druckenmiller
 


Dec. 17th, 1944   We were loaded into trucks, full gear, stood the entire night as we rode.  We were being sent to stop KG Pieper, however at the time, no one knew this. I remember going through Malmedy and the entire trip I recall dense pine forests almost all the time. It was very cold the water in our canteens kept freezing. We camped in the mountain forests since there were no buildings available for sleeping. Dec. 25th, 1944  I remember our P-47's dive bombing and strafing us with 50cal MGs and dropping bombs. They were peeling off one after another after dropping their bombs on us. The lieutenant called artillery to fire a line of smoke to outline friendly forces but by the time this happened it was too late. I remember the mortar section of Co. K took a direct hit. I also recall taking a bath in the Spa mineral springs but am not sure when this occurred.
Pfc. Donald Hogue, Co. K, 117th IR, Rifle Squad from Alabama. Donald was 18 years old, just married. He carried two bandoliers of ammo, rifle grenades, winter and summer underwear, etc. He NEVER received combat boots...they seemed to be all taken by MPs and rear echelon before they could make it to front lines. He wore leggings and overshoes.


Excerpts from the personal history of an officer in the 117th Infantry Regiment, name withheld by request.