At breakfast time Borge and Blackie
wanted to get some bacon and eggs. They were sick of croissants. They asked
alot of people where they could get bacon and eggs, and were sent to the
railroad station, but the information turned out to be false. After a long
walk, they settled for croissants!
In 1944 we took out a roadblock in
Chateau-Salins and the Fourth Armored went in and took over the area. We
then pulled back into the Champaneaux Forest where we spent six weeks waiting
for gasoline. We didn't exactly wait. Our mission was to keep the main
supply roads open, and we walked miles and miles, replacing roads. We also
took in replacements there. In 1984, we found the site where we had removed
the roadblock, but we couldn't spot the farm where we chased chickens and
turkeys with helmets, knives, etc. We had given the loot to the cooks,
who prepared a nice chicken dinner for the troops. We kept the butter we
had liberated, and fried some of the fowl to keep in reserve for snacks.
After six weeks, we went back into
Chateau-Salins, where we were bivouacked up on a hill overlooking what
we thought was the entire Fourth Armored Division so we felt very safe..
We dug foxholes, and I was sitting on my foxhole
writing a letter to Lucy when my peripheral vision picked up an artillery
burst off to the left; then one to the right. I got into my foxhole, and
the next shell landed in the foxhole next to me, killing Carl Fryback.
In 1984 we stopped in Gramacey where
we held a memorial services (left) for the three men who were killed in
this area: Carl Fryback, James Cassidy, and Jimmy Kasmir. When we finished
our ceremony, three doves flew over us as we stood on the steps of the
We noticed in the Battalion History
the 150th passed through here on September 23, 1944. We were here again
on September 22, 1984!
On our way to attend an English mass
at the little stone church in Diekirch, we stopped at bridge sites at Ettelbruck.
At one of the bridge abutments we saw a small park and a statue honoring
General Patton. This is where we first pre-fabed the pneumatic floats with
the saddles and used a quickway crane to load them on trucks and unload
them into the water. We used this same procedure later on the Rhine.
The people of Luxembourg observe Liberation
Day July 10th in gratitude to the Anerican and British troops who gave
their lives for freedom. The church was
already filled when we arrived, and two more busloads made "standing room
only". After the mass, in spite of the pouring rain, the entire congregation
marched to the monument in a lovely park filled with roses. There we listened
to speeches by the lady mayor and the U.S.Ambassador to Luxembourg before
the unveiling of the monument. All veterans and
their guests were invited to a wine reception in City Hall.
We got back into the buses and went
to Clerveaux for lunch. On the way we found another bridge site in Lipperschied
where A Company built a 120-foot Double-double Bailey. In Clerveaux we
saw another monument which had been
dedicated just the day before "To our Liberators" (above right). What a
pretty town, way down in a valley, with no autos allowed in the center
of the village. Later we returned to Diekirch for the dedication of the
new World War II museum. Colonel Reagan had donated a number of artifacts.(Right;
Some of the members of the 150th; Clerveaux 1984)
Crowd at Museum Dedication in Diekirch
(Myles Smith in foreground, left)
On the way back to Luxembourg City,
as we bypassed a small village, Borge called me and said, "Hey Norm! That's
where we stayed in Mersch." One night when we came back to the house after
putting in a bridge, the lady of the house had made a nice, hot barley
soup, and boy, it tasted good!
As we approached Luxembourg City we
saw a large modem concrete and steel bridge, and Agnes, in her sweet accent
said, "Und you built THAT one, too, I suppose?"
While we were in Mersch in 1944 the
Quartermaster Corps had set up a shower down by a river. We had left Sarguimines
with the Third Army and had been on the road for something like six weeks
working under cold,
wet dirty conditions with no time for personal hygiene. A platoon at a
time went to the showers. There you stripped down, leaving all your clothes
except your personal items and your boots. You were given soap and a towel;
and oh, that hot water felt good! When you were clean you were given a
complete set from the skin out, of CLEAN CLOTHES. You put on your clothes,
put on your boots, took your personal items and got on the truck to go
back to Merch. (Picture is location of showers in Mersch in 1944).
This quartermaster shower is mentioned in the book THE DAMNED ENGINEERS
by Janice Holt Giles.
On to Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne
stopped the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. It was here that
General McAuliffe gave his answer to the demand for surrender: "Nuts!".
The entire city was destroyed in the battle.
In Malmedy we stopped at the memorial
to the American prisoners who were murdered there by the Germans. (Picture,
Then we persuaded the Colonel, and
Agnes, and Carlos to take us to that little town called Hoesdorf where
the 150th put the 80th Division across the flooded Sauer River in assault
boats under cover of darkness, under fire, after several failed attempts
to build a bridge. The Colonel
had not been involved in that mission, so didn't understand why it meant
so much to us, and it was only after Hoesdorf that Agnes understood that
our group was NOT in Europe to see castles and cathedrals!
The Colonel said, "Due to time restraints,
we will say a little prayer outside the bus, and then go on." We had a
different idea. As the doors of the bus opened, we headed down into the
tiny village and into the cemetery, (left) where we could view the apple
orchard (below) and the river that we had seen only at night until this
The Seigfried Line across the river was gone. All the pillboxes and bunkers
from which the enemy fire came had been destroyed and removed.
We met a lady whose mother had told her
what we had done there. We persuaded Agnes to come down and interpret as
When we got back on the bus, most
of the men agreed that was, for us, the high point of our trip to Europe.
As they took turns at the
microphone they described how vulnerable they had felt as they took the
assault boats down that brilliantly lighted hillside to the water under
heavy artillery fire from across the river; and as they came back from
across the river with prisoners to seek shelters in the cellars of the
village houses. (like pictured at left). "It felt like they were all aiming
On Tuesday we entered Germany. Trier
is Germany's oldest city, dating from the first century before Christ.
A Roman bridge is still in use on a main road of the town. After Trier,
going towards our hotel in Koblenz, we traveled a Roman road built by Constantine;
very narrow, through a tiny village in the Mosel valley, heading for a
bridge site at Moselkern.
The 150th had built a 378- foot heavy pontoon bridge
at Moselkern, and I had raided a beer garden and picked up enough wine
for the platoon.
What a change as we crossed the border
into Germany. Everything was fast. At our hotel in Koblenz our evening
dinner took half an hour, from salad through dessert, and was just as elegant
and delicious as the three-hour dinners in France! We went up to our room
on the top floor. It had been completely renovated, with sky-lights and
wood paneling. Opening the skylight, we could look out at the Mosel River.
The beds were single beds, immaculately done up, with one quilt--an eider
puff, actually--that was shorter than I am and not much wider. The temperature
was such that you needed some cover, but not that much; so all night you
were hanging an arm or a leg out from under the covers, trying to cool
On to Oppenheim, where we built the
first bridges across the Rhine to allow Patton to proceed with his tanks
and infantry. We were billeted in a wine merchant's house and down in the
cellar were big wooden barrels full of wine aging. I took the owner down
into the cellar (with my rifle) and, in case the wine had been poisoned,
I had him siphon out some wine and drink it. Then I had to taste it. Before
we were through, we were friends, and all the guys knew they could get
all the wine they wanted from down in the barrels, and we had mentioned
which ones were the best. Now he had bottled a substantial supply of wine
which we took out to the road where the Fourth Armored was passing to go
across our bridge. We gave bottles of wine to the men on the tanks and
jeeps and half-tracks and the armored cars that went by. Forty-one years
later, on a golf course at Myrtle Beach, I met a man who had received one
of those bottles. Lately I found that one of the members of the VFW in
Avon CT also got a bottle. We march together every year in the Memorial
At Oppenheim we saw (in 1984) the
modern army's bridging already in place at the sides of the Rhine. All
they had to do was move it into position and tie it together. We changed
money there in a bank; then we went for a ride down the Rhine on an excursion
boat. We went past the Loreley, and saw many castles.
Enroute to Bayreuth we stopped in
Nurnberg, shopped, and went up into the new Nurnberg Tower and looked over
the construction that had taken place since we were there last. We also
saw the building in which the Nurnberg trials were held after World War
Then we went on to Regensburg where
we were billeted in that German artillery outfit and rode horses through
the bombed out aircraft factory buildings. Faile and I were on detached
service with an artillery unit working with German POW'S. One of them cut
his SS tattoo out from under his arm with his pocketknife!
We had a tour of
Regensburg on the Danube by boat, then had lunch on an Austrian steamer
built in 1865. The medieval stone arch bridge in Regensburg (pictured left)
is the longest in the world. It has fifteen arches. In Colonel Reagan's
ODYSSEY WITH PATTON he states that most of the officials we worked with
here were elderly and maimed or disfigured from the war. One reported that
when the German SS troops were scorching the earth near the end of the
war the citizens tried to prevent destruction of their old stone arch bridge.
In answer, half the town council was gunned down in front of the others,
and part of the bridge was destroyed.
In Straubing we found our bridge site
a mural on the wall of a building; still there, forty years later! The
war was over when we built this one. It was built for two reasons:
1.) to keep us busy while we waited for passage home
or to the Pacific Theatre; and
2.) to build up the civilian economy. It was to be a
permanent bridge, but they were working with equipment unsuited to the
job. Ninety-foot beams had to be dragged to the site by hand; then there
was no equipment to stand them up with. Later when we were trying to blow
debris out of the navigation channel, a German couple who were trying to
repair their tile roof fought a losing battle. Every time they would get
a section of tiles in place, another blast of TNT would go off in the river
and the tiles would dance merrily in the sun. The bridge only lasted a
short time, because there were no fenders to protect it from ice damage
in winter, but it gave the German population time to construct a permanent
One day I asked Colonel Reagan why
he was always walking around with packets of vegetable seeds. He was giving
them to the German people because they are almost impossible to buy over
there. You have to grow your own seeds.
We stopped in Heidelberg and saw the
ruins of Heidelberg Castle. At Saarbrucken we held a farewell party. At
Luxembourg Airport we said goodbye to Carlos and Agnes, and the red bus
which was blue We enjoyed our fortieth anniversary battle sites tour, but
I have always wished we had had a driver from the 150th with us. During
the war, we could only see where we had been, from the back of the trucks;
not where we were going! As it was, we picked up a bit of culture, and
Agnes and Carlos learned a bit about combat veterans.