3:22 | It was a cruel winter leading up to the Battle of the Bulge and Bob Uhl recalls how the Germans dropped propaganda leaflets urging the Americans to surrender and get a warm bed. There were no takers. His unit was south of the battle, keeping pressure on the enemy. When the order came to "straighten out the line," he knew he had to leave his safe foxhole and go to work.
Keywords : Bob Uhl German propaganda winter cold Battle of the Bulge 7th Army French tank foxhole
Bob Uhl was a freshman at Georgia Tech but he was also a soldier on paper, having gone into the Army Reserve in 1943. Eventually, the manpower needs of the infantry caught up to him and he was off to basic training. When he shipped out, his convoy was the first to land in France instead of England.
Shortly after arriving in France, Bob Uhl found himself near the Maginot Line, feeling out the German defenses. That operation went well, and in his family correspondence Bob tried to always reassure them, but still they could get a sense of the danger he was in from the media of the day. The unit began to receive replacements after suffering losses and these men were suddenly thrust into an unnerving situation without knowing anyone around them.
They were trying to advance across a railroad cut but the Germans were on top and firing down the cut. As Bob Uhl struggled up the bank with his bazooka, his friend Bill Miley was hit and killed instantly. It was hard to leave his buddy, but he had to press on.
The foxhole was a pretty good thing, if you had time to dig it right and reinforce it, according to Bob Uhl. When he left it, he had to contend with the German 88, a devastating weapon that fired a shell at supersonic speed. It was a multi-purpose weapon, used for anti-aircraft, anti-tank and anti-personnel situations. He managed to dodge that, but a conventional artillery shell sent him to the rear to face an unusual medical situation.
Units were shuffled around continuously and he sometimes found himself back in a position he had previously occupied. That's how Bob Uhl remembers his time on the outskirts of the Battle of the Bulge. When that fight was over, it was just holding the line until March. At that time, a big push began, but his unit, after 155 days of continuous combat, was kept in reserve.
The Germans kept falling back through small towns until they got to one they felt like defending, then the pattern would repeat. Bob Uhl was a bazookaman, then a runner. As a runner, he was paired with the medic and he pays tribute to the bravery of those men.
There was a German observation post in a church steeple and every time Bob Uhl's unit tried to move, mortars and artillery pounded them. It was a pretty church and they hated to destroy it, but it had to be done. After conventional artillery failed to take it out, a new weapon was called up. After that, he was disturbed when World War I tactics came into play.
At the Rhine, one of the 44th Infantry Division's units directed the first ground fire across the river into Germany. German resistance stiffened at that point because they were now defending the Fatherland. He recounts an operation to capture a bridge at Heidelberg and another incident which cured him of a strange phobia.
After passing through the devastated city of Reims, Bob Uhl couldn't feel much pity for the German citizens. After all, they had started the conflict. After the war in Europe concluded, he felt the same way about the Japanese who had suffered the atomic bomb used on them. His unit was designated to take part in the invasion of Japan, so naturally he has an opinion on whether President Truman did the right thing.
The German 88 was a formidable weapon, but it had one disadvantage. The high velocity of the shell didn't allow for a timed burst, which was a great tactic to use against ground troops. American technology had developed a new proximity fire shell, which would always explode at a set distance from it's target. This made it very effective.
When Bob Uhl was made a runner, he was given a carbine. It was lighter than his M-1, but the limited range caused him to go back to the powerful rifle for his personal weapon. He never had an incident in his unit of men wounding themselves to get out of duty, but there were plenty of wounded feet from improper footwear. Fortunately, new boots designed for the cold, wet winter conditions were issued.
There were other things than combat going on, recalls Bob Uhl, during the push into Germany. There was the guy who snored loudly, the shovel handle shaped bruise on his posterior, and the amphibious truck driver with a five gallon can of schnapps.
In the push into Germany, Bob Uhl lost a good friend named Calvin Farmer. The enemy was beginning to surrender and Farmer lost his life to some unscrupulous Germans who indicated they were going to do so. They later surrendered but somehow never made it back to the rear. After hostilities ceased, his unit was sent to guard a Bavarian hotel full of political prisoners.
There were lots of bullets and shells flying during that last year of the war in Europe, but Bob Uhl was spared and went on to have a full life. He always remembers the 28 men from his company who didn't have that opportunity and he memorialized them at the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.
He could not see anyone else. In the predawn, he gathered up his parachute and began a futile search for his unit and his gear, including his weapon. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau joined with an American captain he found on the road and they made their way toward the small Normandy town which was his target. Suddenly, there was the ominous whistling of aerial bombs right on top of them.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
When he jumped on D-Day, Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau was way off target, but he finally found his unit in the small town of Varreville. Assigned to clear out a German pillbox near a bridge that was scheduled for demolition, his situation went from bad to worse when the bridge was blown.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
Canadian Army recruit Dennis Trudeau's friend played a trick on him by volunteering him for a special forces unit, so Trudeau returned the favor. Both of them became paratroopers and were soon in England, training hard for the coming assault on the mainland of Europe.
It was a new experimental branch of the Army, infantry in gliders. Bob Seeley loved to fly and had a private pilot license, so it was an exciting assignment for him. He reveals how he survived all the crashes and how he wound up at jump school without going to Fort Benning.
Stalag 4B was a huge camp, with thousands of POW's. Dennis Trudeau was captured just inland from Normandy and when he arrived at the camp for British and Canadian troops, he was put on a work party at a coal mine. The men thought the war would be over by Christmas, but new arrivals told them about Bastogne and dashed their hopes.
One man from the unit would get a thirty day furlough with travel back to the United States. The honor fell to Bob Seeley, who was one of the few in his unit to survive the Battle of the Bulge. He reveals why he moved back when General Eisenhower was greeting soldiers in Le Havre and why his accommodations on the crossing back to England were first rate.
After his ordeal in a German POW camp, Canadian Paratrooper Dennis Trudeau returned to his home and his accumulated back pay. A strike ended the civilian job he'd taken, so he went south and enlisted in the US Army, where he went Airborne, of course, and made a career of it.
The Germans were down in a valley and the Americans were up at the top of the hill. From the German perspective, the Americans were setting a trap. On the hill, Bob Seeley didn't want to huddle down in a foxhole and freeze so he kept walking back and forth, trying to keep warm.
His father went north of the border to work for the railroad in Canada, so when war broke out, Dennis Trudeau enlisted in the Canadian Army as soon as he could talk his way in. The seventeen year old went to basic training and then let his parents in on it.
Once in England, Bob Seeley's glider unit began training in British gliders, with tragic results for the first aloft. At the Battle of the Bulge, his 30 caliber machine gun was overmatched by the German tanks, but he found a way to disable them. His unit suffered tremendous losses, including all the officers in the first day.
Charles Fallis was in the ninth grade when the war started, but he became part of the effort when he entered the Navy in 1944. Assigned to the beach party on a troop transport, he was surprised when he had to learn to do what soldiers do every day. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
They knew that the time was close. Equipment was being loaded. Then they were bused to a highly secured camp near an air field. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau had trained hard and now he was told his mission. His targets were in a small town just inland from the Normandy coast and he would be in the first wave.
He was seasick the first two weeks, but it went away and he was never bothered by it again. Charles Fallis was on the USS Grimes, a troop transport that ferried troops to Iwo Jima, and then picked up the wounded for evacuation. When a severely wounded Marine died, he witnessed a burial at sea, something he will never forget. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
He went home on a 30 day furlough and never went back to Europe. Bob Seeley's leave was extended, his back problem tied him up for five months, and he was shuffled around to different bases until he wound up in Maine. Rather than face the cold, he resorted to drastic measures, reenlistment.
While anchored off Iwo Jima, a typhoon pushed the USS Grimes near the shore, near enough to Mount Suribachi that Charles Fallis had to take cover. After dropping wounded troops off in Hawaii, the ship went back to San Francisco, where he had to take cover from an angry hotel manager. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
They were sure Patton would liberate them as he began his push, but the Allied POW's were put in boxcars and sent to Germany before that could happen. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau describes the long, slow journey, including the strafing by American fighters, the badly needed Red Cross packages they got at the first camp, and the games they tried to play while trading with the guards.
The Japanese knew that Okinawa was the last step on the Allied move toward the mainland, so they went all out with suicide attacks. Charles Fallis remembers the kamikaze alerts when he was anchored there. His ship was part of the task force that readied to invade Japan, and then after the surrender, part of the occupation. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
The POW's rose before dawn for their work detail, but the German guard said there would be no work that day. Instead they set out on a march toward the American lines. Canadian Paratrooper Dennis Trudeau didn't know it yet, but the Russians were approaching. After the guards abandoned them, the search for friendly forces began. Soon the hungry men would have some food, too much food as it turned out.
Some of the men on the USS Grimes went ashore at Nagasaki, after they delivered occupation troops there. Charles Fallis was on duty, so he missed out on that. One thing he did not miss out on was getting reacquainted with the girls back home once he got there. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)