The War Memories of Charles F. Richardson:
Left Click on all pictures to ENLARGE.
Mr. Richardson was preceded in his war exploits by his uncle, Charles R.
Richardson, 113th Regiment,29th Infantry Division in WWI and was KIA.
His Grandfather, Thomas Richardson, served in the 14th Brooklyn in the Civil
War. Mr. Richardson was a B.A.R. man in Co. L, 3rd Battalion, 117th Infantry
Regiment. This is his story:
My comments will be in highlighted yellow.
The Ardennes, Battle of the Bulge, was a tough, bloody fight. The Germans killed our men that surrendered along with civilian women and children. Because of this, the word was passed among the troops man to man, "Don't surrender and don't take prisoners." After about 8 days of fighting we lad lost about half the men in our outfit and killed many enemy troops. We were in a pine forest and it was Christmas Eve. (I believe Mr. Richardson was located between Petit Coo and Ster facing south.) I was one of the last men on my outfit's left flank. Directly ahead of us was a snow-covered field, dotted with low rounded mounds that were in fact fallen soldiers from both sides. Four hundred yards across the field was another pine forest occupied by the German forces. To my left was a forty foot fire break. The woods on the other side were very dark, and I worried about what was concealed there. As I lay on my belly watching the dark woods ahead and to my left, I admired the beauty of the night. A full moon made the ice crystals in the snow sparkle. The snow heavy on the pine branches reminded me of a Christmas Card. Suddenly there was movement ahead. A German soldier stepped out of the shadows of the trees across the field. He looked to be a high ranking officer complete with highly polished knee length boots and fur collar. He strolled a good twenty feet into the moonlit field. Was the Bastard crazy? He cast a shadow fully twice his height due to the bright moon behind him. What an easy shot!! I wondered why no one else had fired. Was I the only one awake on the line? I thought to myself, "If I shoot, I'll give away my position to the enemy on my left flank." It was Christmas Eve and to disturb the beauty of this time and place seemed obscene. Oh, what the hell, I gotta get him. I got him in the sights of my B.A.R. He had turned away, and I aimed at his back high between the shoulder blades. He was headed slowly back to the shelter of the woods in the knee deep snow. There was no need to lead my shot. I held my breath automatically as I squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened!! The bolt was frozen open. I removed my gloves and held my hands to the cold metal covering the bolt. Maybe my body heat would melt the bolt loose. He was fading into the darkness but there was just time to get the shot off. I aimed again and squeezed the trigger. The bolt remained open!! As the German faded from sight into the darkness of the woods, I muttered, "Merry Christmas you Son of a Bitch!"
Any information you get from me will be from the guy on the lowest part of the totem pole. My first lieutenant, our 3rd platoon leader, was Lt. Daugherty. My first company commander, a captain, I never saw in five months of combat. He was relieved of his command for refusing to make a night attack on dug in enemy in a pine forest. The new captain, (saw him once), got lost his first day in combat, the Roer River crossing.
I remember Alsdorf the best. I received my first wound there. I shot a German soldier with a rifle slung across his back and carrying two suitcases. I fired a short burst from my B.A.R. and got him in the head. As he fell four women ran out of a house and his mother and sisters ran to his body. He was home on leave and trying to get back to his unit. On Halloween I was sitting in an overstuffed easy chair that my squad had set up for me (my wound was still healing). I was on a roadblock in the darkest part of the night. I heard hobnails on the road and fired a long burst down the road. Daylight showed I shot a 12 year old boy stringing wire across the road neck high if you were in a jeep. This comes to mind every Halloween.
My assistant B.A.R. man was from Sioux City, Iowa. His name was Patton, everyone called him George. He was a taxi driver.
I relieved a German Major of a weapon; he was carrying a 9mm ASTRA made in Spain for the German Army. He served in the Spanish Revolution. His Iron Cross was dated 1939 for the French invasion. He spoke English with a New York accent. He went to school in N.Y.C. and lived in the German Conciliate. I was disappointed that he wasn't carrying a Lugar. He said his weapon was better and made from "Spanish Steel".
One day after a failed surprise
attack, (surprise meant no artillery support), Col. Johnson had the
survivors of his attack gather in a factory courtyard. There he told us what
lousy soldiers we were...and cowards to boot. Someone in our berated group
shouted out, "We will go anywhere YOU lead us." Johnson was
astonished and said, "Get the man that said that." Everyone in the berated
mass started yelling and calling Johnson some choice G.I. names. Some
officers with their heads averted were adding to the insults. Finally as
things were getting out of hand a officer grasped Col. Johnson by the arm and
led him out of the area. As soon as we had started the "surprise attack"
we were under heavy fire. We advanced a short distance, men being hit all
around. Finally someone with a brain ordered, "Pick up the dead and
wounded and fall back." I was walking backwards, firing short bursts in
the general direction of the enemy. I nearly tripped over a wounded G.I.
just sitting waiting for help. I asked, 'Piggy back, OK?" he pulled
himself up on to me as I emptied the B.A.R.'s magazine. As I ran back,
almost to a safe spot, I felt the guy I was carrying get hit and go limp.
I twisted around and got him in front of me and bear hugged him the rest of the
way. The medic checked the wounded G.I. and found his foot hanging by its
tendons. The wound in his back was high into the right shoulder.
They said he would live.
THE NEXT DAY WITH ARTILLERY SUPPORT WE TOOK OUR OBJECTIVE. The verbal shakedown by Col. Johnson on Co. L was also observed by Capt. William Druckenmiller who had just arrived to take command of the company. He had knowledge of the fact that the officer commanding them previously was lazy and inefficient.
We were attacking a coal mining town in the Warden area. This town may have been Mariadorf. My platoon was the point platoon and my squad was the point. We were in a diamond formation with the two scouts out. The squad leader (Red) was next in line with my assistant B.A.R. (Patton) man afew steps to left and rear of Red. I was to Red's right. The rest of the squad followed in their positions. The supporting artillery was right on the Germans and their guns and mortars seemed to be raising hell behind us, most of the German shells were going over the point and landing behind us. The shelling slowed as we neared the enemies positions. I turned around to see how the others were making out and there was no troops behind us. We five on the point were attacking the German army. Their small arms fire increased as they stuck their heads out of their holes. We ran to the cover of a railroad track that crossed the field. It had a very high bed and the five of us laid behind the track wondering what we could do. We decided that we would never make it back across the field. So we decided to surrender. Patton supplied a white handkerchief and tied it to his rifle and started to wave it. After a short time a German officer, a bottle of booze in one hand, a sheet in the other, yelled to us "nix, nix" pointing to the white sheet he was holding. The German was standing on a table by a three foot stone wall, laughing, drinking, and waving the sheet telling us we were dead. I got him in my sights and I was going to give him a long burst. The others pushed me and said, "Flag of Truce". I argued about this and as we were arguing a white smoke shell hit in front of the German line. Several more smoke rounds came in, and we made a run for it under the smoke cover. When we returned to our lines, Col. Johnson was waiting. He said he had to send all the way back to the ammo dump to get the smoke rounds. He would not abandon his bravest men. Two men were sent to call us back but one was killed and the other wounded.
"Cobra", St. Lo Breakthrough bombing:
The 30th was bombed five times by American heavy bombers. Two times in France and three times in Belgium. In France the first wave of heavy bombers was to bomb the German front line and each wave to drop their bombs a short distance to the rear or East of the previous dropped bombs. The American infantry was to advance behind this creeping bombardment.
The first group of planes dropped their bombs right on the enemy front line and the Infantry started to advance. The second group dropped their bombs just to the rear of the advancing American Infantry and each following group of planes dropped their bombs a little further back into the American rear echelon.
The Air Corp was told that they had bombed in the wrong direction. They said they were confused by the smoke and would come back the next day and do it right.
The next day was a repeat of the first day only they bombed so far to the rear an American General was killed (McNair) and this operation was called off. The Air Corp apologized, they said, "Sorry about that."
Bombing of Malmedy:
During the Battle of the Bulge (Ardennes) our support troops were in a town called Malmedy. One clear day the Air Corp bombed Malmedy and killed many headquarter personnel, cooks and supply people. When told of their mistake they said they did not know American troops were that deep into enemy controlled territory. Then they came back the next day and bombed the town again. And again on the 3rd day.
We were strafed so many times by American fighter planes we called the Air Corp the American Luftwaffe. The men of the 30th were extremely cautious when American fighter planes were in the area and I only saw one man killed by one. We were in the second section of a truck convoy going from Germany to Belgium to fight in the Ardennes and to stop the German breakthrough. The convoy had stopped because the first section had been strafed by American fighter planes. As we sat in the trucks a Mustang fighter started to circle us, very slowly about tree top altitude. Almost all the men disembarked from the trucks and took cover in the trees on the side of the road. The convoy leader's driver told him "that S.O.B. is going to strafe us." The officer replied, "Nonsense" and climbed up on the hood of his command car, holding a recognition panel (A glossy hunter orange colored panel about 6 ft. by 2 ft. When a pilot sights this he is to be aware that there are American vehicles or troops near the panel.) in front of him with his arms outstretched. The plane flew up the road tree top high, machine guns blazing, shot the officer through the panel into his chest and knocked the first four trucks out of action. It flew away.
We didn't think much of the Air Corp. We thought they just shot up anything, dropped bombs anywhere and then went back to the four Bs; Britain, Booze, Broads, and Bed.
I am aware the Air Corp had lost many men before the Infantry ever set foot in France. The reason they killed more of us then German Air Force is because they destroyed the enemy air power before D-Day.
The air attack dates for St. Lo
were July 24th and 25th, 1944. Eight hundred and fifteen American troops
were killed and wounded including Lt. General Lesley J. McNair. There were
1500 bombers and 350 dive bombers involved in the area of St. Lo, France.