The Remembrances of:
Dino Argentini ~ Jim Pease ~ David R. Coggins ~ Carl F. Duffner ~ George Van Way
I & R, HQ Co.
3rd Bn, 289th Inf. Reg.
Several comments were received on the article of Cpl. Wiegand K 289th in August B.B. (Bulgebusters Newsletter). This was one of the more interesting.
Upon reading the August edition of "Bulgebusters" and particularly the splendid article "The Naming of a Hero," I was jogged out of a lethargic state, Re: the war, and thought I would write of my recollections of that "baptismal" night.
What was left of a platoon of Shermans was sent up the hill and down the other side into Grandmenil to engage the German tanks. One of the American tank commanders was chewed out for having come back out of the town after his ammunition was expended. He climbed back into his tank and headed back down into town.
The 3rd Battalion, 289th Inf. Reg. was headed headed up the mountain in a column of companies when heading towards them in the total darkness was a line of tanks. They were "Tiger Royals" and headed by a Panther. They were making their way THROUGH the column of men and jeeps and jeeps with trailers and not until one of the tankers yelled something in German was any officer or enlisted man aware that they were the enemy! Then all hell broke loose. The men were on both sides of the mountain road when the Germans opened up with machine guns and Schmeiser Machine Pistols. Some men were scrambling up the mountain and others tumbled down the other side in darkness. Many, many Bazookas were fired at the tanks but the green soldiers all forgot to pull the safety pins on the rockets except for one soldier from K Company who got behind the lead Panther tank and put a rocket right into one of the two tool boxes hanging on the stern of the tank. The rocket went right into the engine - disabling it. The following tank tried to push the lead Panther off the road and down the mountainside to no avail. They could not get past it. Had they gotten past that tank they would have proceeded down the mountain unopposed and into the valley filled with regimental and division artillery. There were no other Shermans or M10 Tank Destroyers to oppose them. They spun in their tracks and headed back where they came from flattening all the jeeps and trailers as they went.
I don't believe that I for one would have survived that awful night without the valor and presence of mind of one. Cpl. Richard F. Wiegand, K Company, 289th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry. R.I.P.
K Company, 289th Inf.
Just received the August Bulgebuster. Good job. I especially enjoyed the article on Grand Halleux as well as 'the Naming of a Hero' about our Christmas ordeal at Grandmenil.
My wife and I as well as another couple spent a few days, early May, 1991 retracing steps, now 46 years old.
We stayed overnight in the hotel across the street from the church in Vielsalm. We had to take a sniper out of the tower by bringing up a tank as field piece which had impeded K Co. progress.
This tank was probably the one which created so much havoc Christmas Eve. We drove up the road where the encounter originated. Unmentioned in your article was that we were caught under artillery as well as our own which were mainly tree-burst, inflicting unaccountable injuries and deaths. Yes, I remember the jeep and trailer being run over by the tank. As for Cpl. Wiegand-his name is somewhat familiar in this context and could have indeed, been the one to use the bazooka.
Jim-as an 18 year old, one does not forget those roads, turns, hills etc. whose picture is etched so Firmly in one's mine. I had no trouble at all recognizing our trail thru village after village in the Ardennes. To see towns and people, peaceful and prosperous, makes it all worthwhile. This journey was a therapy for me.
I was with K Co, 289th from the start thru April 12, 1945 down the Ruhr River when I was finally hit by shrapnel and in 221st hospital in Challons for 31/2 months thereafter.
May God bless us one and all. Regards to all-
Jim Pease K-289
Bulgebusters Vol. 47 Number 6
David R. Coggins
Aide de Campe to
Assistant Division Commander
Brig. General G.S. Mickle, Hq
75th Infantry Division
In mid-December, General Mickle was sent to Venlo, Holland to meet with a General Dempsey, commander of a British Division - I do not recall the number. The 75th was to be the northern most unit of Simpson's Ninth Army. Dempsey would be Montgomery's southern most unit. The area was relatively quiet and I recall a general feeling that, for fresh troops about to get their baptism of fire, there were locations that could have been a lot worse.
On December 16th or 17th, while still in the Venlo area, we heard about the Von Runstedt offensive - and that it was a very strong effort. The division continued its movement to take up its assigned position until - I do not recall the exact date but I would guess it was around the 21st or 22nd orders were received to reverse course and head south. The change in orders was a part of the effort to move every available unit to prevent a further rupture of the Allied lines.
In the process, units of the 75th were committed piecemeal as fast as they could get into position. The division was strung out. 75th units were attached to units already in the line, e.g., 290th to the 3rd Armored Division. Time was of the essence. On 24 December, I doubt that any one was sure that the German Offensive had been fully blunted. It was into January, 1945 before General Prickett regained control of all 75th units.
Thus, when going into battle for the first time as an integrated unit with its command structure intact is tough enough, the situation was one in which the accustomed command structure had been broken. A condition that was made many times worse than it otherwise would have been by adverse weather, time of day and the general confusion of a highly fluid situation, i.e. feeding the troops, terrain, and the night of the 24th was pitch dark and bitter cold.
David R. Coggins
Corpus Christi, Texas
Colonel Carl F. Duffner
CO 290th Infantry Regiment
75th Infantry Division
"He sends his warmest regards to all the former troops of the 290th Infantry, of whom he speaks very fondly. The colonel is in excellent health and eagerly awaiting his ninetieth birthday in three weeks."
"He was a sergeant in the first World War, and won his appointment to West Point through the ranks."
"After the start of World War 11, Lieutenant Colonel Duffner was assigned to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHEAF) in London. He worked initially on plans for the Allied invasion of Africa and the long range plans for the cross-channel invasion of Europe. However, he strongly desired a combat command. He was given one in the States to a regiment due to ship out shortly to North Africa, but quickly realized he did not have the field command experience necessary to command a regiment in combat and asked to be relieved. He then attended a field commander's course at Ft. Benning. It was only then that he felt he had the necessary experience and confidence to take a regiment into combat. He then was assigned command of the 290th Infantry at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri."
"The issue of trench foot was a real sore spot between the colonel and General Prickett. Col. Duffner said he went up in the lines one night about 200 yards from the German holes and whispered to a soldier. The soldier did not answer, so he whispered his name to him. The soldier still did not respond, so he reached to tap him on the shoulder and the soldier fell over, stiff as a board. He had frozen to death. Co. Duffner had been after the quartermaster company for some time to get overshoes for his troops to no avail. He said after that, 'We'll just do it like they did at Valley Forge,' and he told the exec to order 1000 blankets for the 290th. These were to be cut up into strips for the men to wrap around their feet. It was better than nothing. The division exec and Col. Duffner had a big row about the blankets, with the exec claiming that the colonel was 'making a fool out of the general'. Duffner told him to 'get his and the general's asses up on the line and see what the hell was going on for themselves'. Col. Duffner spoke very angrily about the senior leadership not responding to the needs of the guys in the lines. Eventually, several hundred of the blankets arrived, and as they were being cut into strips by the regimental staff, a large order of arctic overshoes arrived. He was once at odds with General Prickett about being forced into an attack he did not think the 290th could win
"When General Prickett was relieved, he blamed the colonel publicly for having him relieved. Col. Duffner asked General Porter to relieve him as well, but Porter would not because he saw no need to. He had known Porter for along time and things ran more smoothly for the 75th after that."
"Col. Duffner retired from the Army in 1953, after having had command of Ft. Richardson, Alaska. He said the most meaningful time he spent in the service was during his tenure as commander of the 290th, ... the best infantry in the world."
Source: Russell Greer's unpublished Hearts in the Snow. Russell Greer's letter to William P. Blincoe, F Co 290th Inf. Regt., 10 October 87.
Colonel Carl F. Duffner died April 1990.
Below is a letter I received from Col. Duffner in 1983. I had begun a minor inquiry even back then. J Puckett
Dear Mr. Puckett,
Your very welcome letter arrived here yesterday and I wish to reply to it without delay. I am always glad to hear from former members of my war-time command, the 290th Infantry Regiment. I did not know your father personally, because unless one is in contact daily with a person among such a large number as one finds in a war-time regiment, one can not get to know those people. I am sorry to hear that you lost him in 1980.
I am enclosing a copy of the Bulgebuster which I had received a few days ago. Perhaps, by writing to Mr. Twigg, the President and Membership Chairman, you might be able to get the information of other members of Company F of the Regiment, people who were in close daily contact with your father.
I left the Regiment while it was in Mourmelon-le-Grande, in France and was sent to Frankfurt, Germany, to denazify the German State Railroad. I stayed in Germany until 1949, doing that and taking charge of the German Railway Police as first chief after the war. Then I came back to the States, and became Senior Instructor of the Louisiana National Guard until 1952. From there I went to Alaska, to take charge of the Alaska Defense Force and Fort Richardson, until I was retired in 1953.
After that I studied at the University of Missouri for one year, and two years at the University of Munich, in Germany, where I studied post-graduate work in Education, intending to become a high school teacher. This I did, and taught for two years at a small military school in Alabama and from 1958 until 1974, I taught at the Air Force Academy High School, located on the base of the United States Air Force Academy. In 1974 I retired from teaching and now am engaged, to a degree, in the town government of Palmer Lake, where I am chairman of the Planning Commission.
I am very glad that you are so proud of your father's role in WWII. You should be - he was, as all members of the Regiment, a damned fine soldier.
(signed) Carl F. Duffner
LETTER FROM GEORGE VAN WAY, COL (RET.) U.S.A.
TO AL ROXBURGH 25 DECEMBER 1993
290th Infantry Regiment
75th Infantry Division
Thank you for sending papers showing your extensive research refuting derogatory remarks about elements of the 75th Division in combat. I concur with your conclusions and congratulate you on exposing careless writers as well as those concerned more with sensationalism than with fact.
"Col. Duffner and I, no less than the troop commanders concerned, were shocked and dismayed at the complete disregard of basic tactical doctrine and command control demonstrated by the CCR and CCB in their use of Infantry troops. The most surprising fact is that our troops did so well under adverse circumstances and particularly considering the inexcusable initial commitment of the 3rd Bn of the 290th Infantry' Only their training, discipline and attention to duty saved the day. We are ever indebted to those who were lost in our conflict."
"... those of the 75th Division who were killed in action need testimony of their heroism from those of us who survived and were there. ... in being our voice to everyone to that effect."
"Today, Christmas seems to be an especially appropriate time to recall events of, exactly 49 years ago to the day."
George Van Way
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