The Remembrances of:
"ETO Book, King (K) Company, 289th Inf., 75th Division" Author Unknown ~ Shelton
K Co 3d Bn
289th Infantry Regiment
75th Infantry Division
Our destination was Tongeren or Tongres, Belgium depending on what language you speak. Upon arriving there we hiked to a nearby field and built fires. That afternoon we moved to a hay mow where we had hot chow again. Three days later we left in truck convoy. At daybreak the next morning we stiffly got out of the trucks; and, after the usual wait, moved down to the little town of Durbuy near which we set up a secondary line of defense along a high, rocky hill on the Liege side of a small river flowing past Durbuy. After two days in those positions we moved out in Third Armored Division Trucks to an orchard where we ate our Christmas Eve supper - C-rations, made beds of hay, and prepared to spend the night.
At 2300 that night we entrucked again. Most of us slept until we were awakened by our tank destroyers and tanks firing from positions near the road. Since we had been asleep, the explosion of the guns and swish of the shells as they passed over our trucks has us not a little bewildered for a while. At the town of Briscol we detrucked; and, after what seemed like an endless wait, we started up the road. After passing a column of tanks, we reached an area where our artillery was passing over our heads and bursting close to the road on the hillside to our right. The cold, clear night, the quiet forest, the gun flashes in the distance all around us, and the shells twisting down to burst on the hillside all combined to make us very nervous. At length we stopped just before a bend in the road. We all lay down in the ditches to rest. Further, there was no sense in standing up because we were hitting the ground every thirty seconds anyway. After some wait we heard some activity in I Company ahead of use. We thought we were moving out, but soon the call of "Tanks" was whispered back along the column. The first tank that rounded the bend was a Sherman but it was followed closely by many Tigers, and the company dispersed in the woods. The order was given to open fire with bazookas and rifle grenades, and the woods was soon filled with explosions. A phosphorus grenade hit the back of a tank and set it afire. The tank stopped. The other tanks drew up along side and drenched the woods with machine gun and eighty-eight fire while the crew of the burning tank extinguished the blaze. Right there, a lot of us learned about foxhole religion. It seemed as act of God that we were not all hit that night. After the fire had been put out, the tanks, seven in all, moved down the road till the roar of their engines died in the distance. At length the silence was broken by a badly wounded many calling for a medic and soon the forest was filled with the cry as other wounded men took it up.
Men tended their wounded buddies; squad leaders and platoon leaders assembled their units; and the company reorganized on the road as day broke. We marched back past the place where the tank attack occurred, and dug in on a hillside overlooking the town we were to attack, Grandmenil. On the road we had seen our company jeeps which had been run over and smashed by the tanks. During the day planes bombed and strafed the town and our positions. Armor moved up. That evening a sniper opened up and wounded a few men until he was driven off or hit by our fire.
At 0300 the next morning, December 26, we loaded up with extra ammunition and grenades and
pushed off for Grandmenil, our first attack. After moving into the edge of town quietly, we deployed with the first platoon on the left, the second on the right. The first platoon fought their way slowing several blocks into the town. 'Me second, having a wider front, cleared one row of houses in their zone of advance when they were pinned down in the yards and field behind this row of houses. At least everyone in the second thought that he was pinned down at the time. After trying bazookas, rifle grenades, hand grenades, mortars, rifles, and machine guns in an effort to knock out the enemy position, it was decided, since day was breaking, to set up a line of defense in the houses we had taken. At this point the enemy machine gun position suddenly began shooting eight-eights at point- blank range into the houses we were occupying. It was a tank. Other machine guns opened up down the streets of the town and other enemy tanks could be heard rumbling around on the outskirts. Many men were hit. The company left the town as German tanks entered town from the far side. German machine guns opened up from all directions, and our artillery poured in exploding across the road from us an din the town. Under fire from three sides, we finally worked our way back to a position near our original foxholes. When the artillery lifted, what was left of the company formed a skirmish line before the town as I and L Companies, supported by armor, occupied the town.
The battalion formed a perimeter defense of the town in snow-covered, wind-swept foxholes. On January 2, 23 moved to Sadzot, Belgium and, after a two-day stay, moved into the woods to clean out a pocket of Germans who wanted to surrender the hard way. We cleaned them out ....
E.T.O. BOOK KING COMPANY, 289h INF 75 Division
The author and subject of this Remembrance is unknown to me, if anyone can identify the subject please let me know.
John K. Shelton, Jr.
K Co 289th Inf. Regt.
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 44
Now that the delightful interlude in my fighting career will afford the opportunity and since the lifting of censorship restrictions will permit me to relate incidents that I could not tell you in the past, I will give you, in their proper sequence, the highlights of my experiences since I left the States. Some of it may not be enjoyable reading, but if I wait until later to tell you the story, I might have difficulty in reconstructing the facts. So here goes.
On December 10th we abruptly broke camp and took a train to Southampton, where we boarded a L.C.I. for Le Havre, France. We had to wait four days in the harbor because the port had not been opened. After landing, we took trucks to a village about 30 miles from Paris, where we pitched tents in a field of mud. It rained constantly and we thought it was horrible that we had to be out in weather like that, but little did we know at the time that this was merely a foretaste of the dreadful events that lay ahead.
A week later we were put in 40 & S's and rode three days to a place in the Belgium-Holland border. You may get some idea of the kind of ride it was when I tell you that there was not room for us to sit down and that sleep was impossible. We then took trucks to Durbuy where we dug in a defense position on the hills above the town and along the river. We did not know that a German counterattack was then under way. The enemy pushed to 2-1/2 miles east of our positions and we had believed it was at least 30 miles to the closest enemy.
On the morning on December 24th, we (75th Infantry Division) started out marching. I was carrying the mortar which weights 45 pounds. We walked uphill for several miles. I was just about ready to drop. Our artillery was hitting close to us. A dud landed but ten feet away from me. At the time, I did not realize what it was. In a very few minutes, about ten American tanks roared by us, heading in the direction from which we had come. It meant little to us. We kept marching on.
It was dark by now and a few minutes later, we heard more tanks coming. We kept on going, thinking they were more American tanks. Suddenly, someone ahead shouted back that German tanks were coming down the road. We thought they were kidding but nevertheless my squad got off the road. Some went down the hill to the left, while others, along with myself, went up the hill to the right. In a matter of seconds, eight Tiger tanks came into view. Some of the guys were still on the road. The tanks stopped within a few yards of us and opened fire with machine guns. Selda, my assistant gunner, and I ran further up the hill away from the tanks. It was dark and they could not see us but they heard us and opened up with their 88's. We, Selda and I, hit the ground and huddled together. Suddenly there was a terrific explosion as a shell exploded above us. The blast lifted me completely in the air. I felt a sharp pain in my back and knew that I was hit. However, we hugged the ground and did not dare to move.
Soon the tanks moved on down the road, crushing the jeeps that were on the road, and spraying the area with machine gun fire. As they moved out of range, I rap to the road to locate the guys in my section. Lying on the road and all around the area were the wounded and dead. There was general confusion as the air was filled with the groans of the dying and cries of the wounded for medics. I
started helping as much as I could but there was so much excitement that I could do but little. A boy and I were trying to fix up a guy hit in the leg when a shell from our artillery landed very close to us and badly wounded the fellow assisting me. About two hours had passed and we were still trying to help the wounded when we heard the tanks coming back. We hid the best we could. They passed by without seeing us. I noticed that one tank was missing. Soon it became daylight and we organized what was left of the Company (Co. K). We went on up the hill to dig in. I dug a couple of minutes and my back began to hurt me severely. Then I remembered that I had been hit. Tony took off my jacket, sweater and shirt. My undershirt was completely soaked with blood. A piece of shrapnel had lodged in my back. I went to the aid station where a medic removed it and patched me up. I knew that the company needed every available man so I asked that I be permitted to return. It was granted and I went back to the hill where they had dug in. It was now Christmas day 1944, and we had experienced our first contact with the enemy, far away from a decorated Christmas tree at 609 No. Monroe in Arlington.
Well, the contact with the enemy was costly. Among the dead was Bob Marlowe, a good boy and my close friend (he, Bill Ward and I are on the pictures taken in London, one of which was sent you). That afternoon P-38's bombed and strafed Grandmenil, a German held town two miles to our front. The pilots did not know we were so close so they accidentally hit several of our men. The Colonel, meanwhile, had learned that Grandmenil was the forward point of the German drive so he set about getting the town. He sent tanks into the town but they did not see much so they came back and reported that information. The Colonel ordered our Company (K) to go in alone and take the town. So, we marched the two miles to Grandmenil. On the outskirts machine guns opened up on us but they were soon overcome. The Company made its way into the town, but suddenly two German tanks opened up on us. We had nothing with which to defend ourselves against these tanks. Many had been hit so that the C.O. decided to withdraw to the outskirts of town. My squad leader went down so I took over the squad. We were the last to leave the town. We were trying to reach a wrecked building across the field where the rest of the company had already withdrawn. Machine guns opened up on us and we dropped to the ground and dug in. I observed a strong force of the enemy coming at us from the flank. I got up and ran to the building and warned the others.
We hastily built up a firing line but a German tank that was supporting the enemy opened fire at us. We prayed for our tanks to show up, I noticed three knocked-out tanks near the building and got the idea of getting the machine guns from them and putting them to use. I managed to get five machine guns from these tanks and passed them out. In one of the tanks I had to go inside. The driver was in his seat but his head was missing. It was a little sickening. The enemy tank was hitting all around us. We had to yield more ground. Meanwhile the colonel summoned L and M Companies and some tanks. Reinforced by these companies and with the aid of the tanks, we took most of the town. We set up a defense in the town and started a house to house clean-up of snipers. We killed about 100 Germans and took around 200 prisoners. Many of them were mere kids.
The other battalions, meanwhile, had come up on our flanks to protect us. Thus, we had blunted the tip of the bulge in that sector. Ty Shelton's outfit, the 83rd was in action on our right but at that time I did not know he was in it. We stayed at Grandmenil for a few days in a defense position. It had started to snow as was getting very cold. Replacements were coming in. All that was left of my squad was Selka, Benny and Sheehan.
The next few days saw brief skirmishes but no major battles. About January 4th we moved in trucks to a rear area town where we were to have a five day rest. However, we were there but a day when we took off for the front to relieve the 82nd Airborne Division, several miles from St. Vith. The following three weeks in the Ardennes will long be remembered. Winter came on us in merciless fury. Blizzards, blinding snows, and icy foxholes were dreaded as much as the Jerries. It was here that so many were hospitalized. Walter Winchell made an appeal to the public concerning the 75th.
Our battalion took Salmchateau on or about January 15th with just a few casualties, We then moved on to Bech, the last village before the Grand Bois. We were shelled on the way and several were killed but when we arrived we found the town deserted. The next morning we (Co. K) moved out into an attack on the woods. We were heavily shelled and many were stopped. A mortar shell hit just in front of us, getting Jake and Selka badly. Tony and I came out with some scratches. Tony took over the section and we moved ahead. We ran into isolated machine gun nests but we knocked them out with our mortars. We finally dug in for the night. Grish and Sheehan, meanwhile had taken Jack and Selka back to the aid station. On the way back, they were captured and ruthlessly killed. The next morning Benny and I started back to where Jack and Selka had been hit to get their weapons. On the way we were ambushed by two or three Germans. Being armed only with pistols, we did not have a chance. So we ran for cover' They were only a few yards away but our flying feet took us to safety. We took to the woods and tried to make our way back to the Company. Just 100 yards from where the Jerries were firing at us, we came across a medic with a nearly dead G.I. in a foxhole. The medic had stayed with the wounded G.I. waiting for litter bearers. He had been there 18 hours with Jerries all around. He was almost delirious. We promised to send aid. After much infiltration, we made our way back to the company.
A few days later we drove our way through the woods and captured Bruenhoff, the last village before St. Vith. Many G.I.'s in our company became the victims of booby-traps cleverly concealed in the woods. The taking of this village secured the St. Vith highway and enabled other elements to take St. Vith. In a few days we left for what we thought was a well-earned rest-, but instead we gathered replacements and boarded a train for Alsace. Thus, on January 28th our fighting in Belgium came to an end. One month of fighting in which our company suffered more than 40% casualties. My deepest concern was the loss of three of my best friends - Sheehan, Grish and Marlowe. Many others were badly wounded. I especially hated to see Jake and Selka leave. But we tried to forget the past and wondered what was in store for us.
John K Shelton, Jr.
May 20, 1945
Excerpts from article by John K. Shelton, Jr. printed in The Bulge-Buster, March 1968.
K-COMPANY, 289TH COMBAT DIARY
Beginning in this issue of the BULGE-BUSTER, a combat diary of K-Company, 289th Infantry will begin. The Combat Diary was written by Dr. John K- Shelton, Jr. during the war and prepared and sent to his parents at the conclusion of WWII.
We are most grateful to Dr. Shelton for giving us permission to reprint this fine diary in our publication. To those members wishing to keep this diary, we will print complete pages (two sides) and they will be placed in the B.B. so that you can remove them without damage to the story.
Again, we wish to thank Dr. John K Shelton, Jr. for this fine article. Members wishing to write Dr. Shelton and express their appreciation may write him at the following address:
National Press Bldg.
5929 14th Street., Suite 200
Bulge Buster - March 1968
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