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.
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.
Charles York describes the effects his artillery fire had on enemy positions and then the frightening feeling of being under an enemy artillery barrage. The air bursts were the worst. You could hear mortars or artillery pieces but there was one weapon, the 88mm gun, that fired with such a rapid velocity, you could not hear the round coming.
Rock Merritt had no knowledge of what he was training for in Nottingham, but soon the paratrooper was part of the vast invasion of Normandy. He describes the huge scope of the effort, the airplanes they used, and a unwanted responsibility he had regarding a bicycle. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The Russians were close enough that the American POW's could hear the fire in the distance. Their guards roused them all and put them on the road in a forced march, leaving their camp in Poland and heading for Germany. It was seventy nine days of freezing cold out in the open, with very little food. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
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.
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.
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.
Charles York had found an excellent observing position in a house overlooking the river. When his Lieutenant left to summon support to hold the position, he heard a clatter and saw eight Germans approaching up the hill. He waited until they passed, stepped out demanded that they surrender.
Several of the German weapons were far superior to his own, according to Frank "Lindy" Fancher. The Panzerfaust bazooka and the MG 42 machine gun were two that he really liked and he had more than one occasion to turn them on their makers. Sometimes he got orders that made no sense to him, like the time he was sent to a defensive position in a place that was impossible to defend.
One of the units from his group was surrounded and outnumbered by a large German force and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was ordered to keep the road open so they could escape. Later, back in a supposed safe area, he couldn't sleep and was the first to hear over the radio that the German armor was coming.
He passed a test in high school that sent him to Cornell University with the promise of a commission and an engineering degree, but the Army needed infantry more than engineers so Charles York went to basic training and became part of the 100th Infantry Division. After a queasy Atlantic crossing, he landed in Marseille where he was advised by veteran troops on the dangers he would face.
They had to take the hill. Patton needed to cross the Moselle River where the German guns were targeted and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was pinned down. He was so mad that he grabbed a 30 cal machine gun and some ammo belts and charged the hill. When it was over, the crossing was secure and Fancher had won a battlefield commission.
Charles York was fortunate to be assigned to the 100th Infantry Division. It was being filled at the same time as the 106th, which was decimated at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. His first job in the artillery battalion was just carrying shells but they need more forward observers and he was glad to move into that job. That outlook was soon modified.
Hal Puett joined the Navy ahead of the draft in 1942. He was sent to radio school where he was top of his class and earned a rare Radioman's rating while still there. Finding some action was his goal but the Navy had other ideas and made him an instructor at Pre-Flight school, teaching communications to student pilots.
Frank "Lindy" Fancher, in an incident that earned him a Silver Star, had to get his unit across a minefield into some bunkers where they would guard a Ruhr River crossing. Halfway across the mine field, someone sneezed, a flare went up and the machine gun fire started. He inched his way out of there, but before it was over, he would cross that field several times to aid the wounded, repair the telephone wire, and get his men into the bunkers. He would also be on the receiving end of a Screaming Mimi barrage.
On Kwajalein, a tiny atoll in the Pacific, the Naval personnel manning the communications station were very resourceful, says Hal Puett who was in charge there in 1945 at the end of the war. They had some appropriated steaks and some blowtorches, so you can guess how they worked that out.
Charles York had just been reassigned as a forward observer when he pushed toward the Maginot Line, where the Germans had turned the big guns around to face the advancing American troops. He was close when they fired over his head and glad the shells were directed elsewhere. He was charge of communications for the unit which usually meant laying phone wire because the radios were unreliable.
It was cold and the snow was up to your waist. Your skin would stick and "burn" if you touched metal. You couldn't see through the fog during the day and you huddled together at night in snow caves because it was twenty below. That was when you weren't fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, recalls Frank "Lindy" Fancher.
The classrooms and the headquarters were on different parts of the sprawling University of Georgia campus, so the instructors at the Navy's Pre-Flight School were issued a motorcycle and sidecar to get around. Hal Puett recalls a couple of times that this arrangement went a little sideways.
He was the communications specialist for the forward observer team, so Charles York had the job of laying phone wire back to the headquarters position. There was one problem, it was right through the middle of an active mine field.
They dug in every night from the fall of 1944 through the Spring of 1945. It was always rainy, and Charles York remembers waking up cold and wet. All the men in his unit had good German down coats, though, liberated from a factory, and they avoided frozen feet, thanks to some good advice.
The paratroopers traveled through Belgium to the cheers of onlookers, but they were miserable in the open trucks. Rock Merritt says it was the coldest he's ever been. There had no cold weather gear except snow shoes as they rushed to defend Allied gains in the Battle of the Bulge. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
P.G. Caudell chose Navy because his two brothers chose Army and he wanted to be contrary. There was only one problem, he weighed less than a hundred pounds and they wanted at least ten more on a recruit. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
Shortly after the Battle of the Bulge, Charles York was startled by the sight of a German jet fighter easily outrunning two Allied fighters. It was a frightening thought, that the enemy might have been able to manufacture more of them.