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R.H. Barnhart's Remembrance Continued...

R.H. Barnhart

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up the side of the ravine (20 yards) on a sort of a path among the trees and brush when we came upon his body. I checked, he was in a uniform that I was to see many more times. He was laying just below the top of the ravine. We moved out of the ravine to the gully (1-2 ft.) along the road (Melines-Werpin) in groups of 2 or 3 over a period of 30 minutes. We fired from the gully for at least an hour. (Ammo) There was a 2 or 3 strand cattle containment barbed wire fence along the road and wire cutters were passed along and used. I believe the order was passed to "fix bayonets."  I was carrying a carbine and I know that at the, at least, 200 yard range of the enemy my carbine felt like a pea shooter and about as effective! That strip (20 yards?) was under fire as well as the gully along the road. The area in which we came out of the ravine must have been close to the north/south center of the field. Co. K was on our left (north). We made the charge up the hill to the cast.

By looking at a scaled map of the area it appears to me that the ravine could be as much as 60-700 hilly, wooded, yards west of Werpin and screened from it. I feel that K Co.'s original approach to the ravine was from the upper (northeastern) end. 

I was acting communications Sgt. of Co. F 290th when we received our 'Baptism of Fire' on the 25th of December 1944. We were baptized with mortar fire in a ravine below a dirt road that ran through a lightly plowed and frozen uphill field. We advanced up the side of the ravine and into a gully along the side of the road. The ravine was lightly wooded up to about 50 feet from the road. Our first casualty was from a mortar fragment during this advance. Mortar, machine gun and rifle fire were coming at us from the lightly wooded area along the up hill edge of the plowed field (150-200 yards away?). Our company and several others, I believe Co. K was on our left, were in the gully. All in all I believe were stretched out over 500 yards, from (I think) a farmers stone barn on our right (300 yards?) to the uncleared slope on the left end of the field. We were probably facing East or Northeast. There was at least one dead cow in the field. (I paused behind it later during the charge).

Our company's light machine guns were placed along the ditch to return fire and cover our eventual charge across that field. We waited in, and fired from, that ditch for at least 30 minutes. We were waiting for artillery or heavy mortar fire to screen or soften our dash across that open field - it never came! There was some light mortar support and maybe some support from our own H Company?  We were under fire all of the time we were in the gully, mortars also. Within my limited view there was one head wound while firing out of the ditch. The bullets were 'snapping" over our heads and kicking up tufts of dirt in front of us when we came out of the ditch on our charge up the slope, across the field, and into the lightly wooded area near the top of the hill.

Almost as soon as I came out of the gully, at the sound of the whistle, a mortar burst knocked me down. I fell behind some of the others at that time. When I got up my canteen was shot off. After that I was zigzag running about 20 yards behind some of the others. I dropped down behind a dead cow about half way across the field. From that position I could see several men running in a broken line towards the woods about 30 yards in front of me. One of those men was the Exec. Scattered men were coming up behind me. I continued the charge after a minute or two and finally hit the edge of the woods with two other guys. Enemy fire had almost ceased during the 1st 50 yards of the charge. It just so happened that where I and two other guys went into the woods was one of their machine-gun positions. There were three 'bodies" in the dug-in position. The two guys with me were

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wondering out loud whether to bayonet them to make sure. They did not - we kicked them - no response. I still believe I saw some kind of red and yellow (plastic?) belt links or cartridges in that position. There were many of them, (50-60) not just one or two.

Now, the incident of the Exec., I started the "charge" with the Exec., about 10-15 feet to his right.  The mortar burst and the canteen incident slowed me down initially and as a result I and others finally went into the woods about 50 yards behind and to the right of him. When I and the other (3-4) went into the woods we formed a line roughly parallel with the edge of the woods, about 3-4 yards apart. We were firing into the woods at the sound of machine pistol or rifle fire. We advanced slowly dropping and firing when fired upon. Our line of maybe 6-8 by this time drifted down slope (south) as we advanced. Occasionally we could see the enemy retreating and firing through the thinning woods and we would drop and return fire. We moved in this fashion until we could see a partial clearing ahead and their firing had ceased. We then began to move to the left (north) toward the top of the hill and the partial clearing. It was then that we came upon another group (6-8) that was prone and firing at an enemy soldier on the ground ahead of them. He was visible in the woods maybe 20 yards away. He raised his arm and someone in the other group told the prone group of men to fire. They did. We did not. When both groups continued the advance again it was discovered that the dead enemy soldier was the Exec. [1st Lt. William R. Adcock] wearing his grey-green trench coat. I do not who the other group of men were or who directed them to "fire." I do know that everyone on the "charge" that day was angry about the Malmedy massacre and the condition under which we entered battle. The firing that had taken place at the time had apparently convinced the enemy that we were still attacking because we could hear them running across the clearing on top of the hill and we followed as they ran down the other side of the hill. We finally stopped at the edge of the clearing on the far side of the hill top. We pulled back to the crest of this hill, in the clearing, and began to establish a CP just below the crest at the near side of the clearing.  While we were still in the clearing, and before we began to dig in, the smoke mortar landed in the middle of about 10 of us.

I had reestablished contact with the CO and the first Sgt. when we had all moved back from the open crest. Bean [Clarence F. Bean] was not carrying the "300." He had been hit and someone else was carrying it, I do not remember his name. It was at that point, just below the crest, in the woods that the CP was finally established after the firing had stopped for about 1/2 hour. It was at this point that the other two 300's assembled.

After the charge, we had time to sweep the top of the hill, set up and organize a line of shallow fox holes across the semi cleared area on top of the hill all with daylight to spare. When I joined the CO and 1st Sgt. the "300" radio was alive with requests for ammo from the other companies. We were low also. At one time there were three "300's" and accompanying officers at our position. This setting up of a CP probably occurred between 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM. The whole "baptism" episode probably started with the incoming mortar fire in the ravine at about 8:00 AM 25 December. We had lost nearly 1/2 of our Company personnel, including the Exec. and the man carrying the "300."  My canteen had been shot off and I caught a gouge at my knee from a mortar burst. We were secure enough, so that at dusk, I went back down the hill and across the Geld to get a battery for the "300" radio. Dusk at that time must have been (4:30-5:00 PM?). Some supplies were brought across the field to the edge of the woods not long after dusk. (Ammo, cold frozen C Rations, D bars, water and sleeping bags). Every gas mask the companies had ever owned were laying in that field among

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many other things. I acquired a M-1 at that time and dropped off the carbine I had been using. I used the M-1 the rest of the time I was in the lines.

During the night stragglers of the US Airborne (517th?) [A+Co lst Bn 517 PIR] group came through our lines from the direction of the German lines and went to the rear. We had stripped down to our field jackets and a "light" field pack just before the engagement. It was very cold but no snow. 1st Sgt. (Sweeny?) and I shared a shallow fox hold on top of the hill that night. I saw no 3rd Armored personnel.

In the morning I went back to an aid station (in a tent?) and got an official bandage for my knee and returned to the Co. There was a Sgt. Olds from our Co at the Aid Station with hearing problems (mortar burst too close?).

I finally got my barracks bag back during a period when we were in reserve. It had to have been at least two weeks after I left it at Ny. Most of my personal stuff - razor, the book and a few other things were there, but two cartons of cigarettes and most GI equipment and clothing had been removed. I put the book and a few other things in my coat and still had them when I arrived in Paris. My mail never began to catch up with me until I had been in England for at least two weeks.

Like many of us I haven't talked about my 'War' experiences very much so they have finally become fragmented and fuzzy. But each year at this time I get 'snapshots' of my 3 + weeks in the lines when some of the TV show episodes depicting the 'Battle of the Bulge" area shown. For example: There was one episode which is quite clear, and I am reasonably sure, it was not the first day. It was when we were preparing to attack a ridge from the ridge we were on (500-1000 yards away?) some days after the 25th. Artillery fire was laid down on that ridge and it was a joy to behold. The bursts were occurring at tree top level and they were all along their lines. You could see them scrambling out of their holds and running back over their ridge. We were told at that time that it was "time" fire but was a new secret "proximity" fuse that was doing such a fine job. I heard we were going to receive a commendation.

A day or so after the 25th Baptism, the 1st Sgt. told me that the Co was going to receive some sort of citation for our action on the 25th.

I came back through the hospital system starting 20-21 January 1945 when I was taken out of the lines. When I left I do not believe there were more that 10 of the original Co still remaining. I was discharged from the hospital in August 1945 and Camp Butner, NC.

The enclosed copy of a section of map I had in my jacket when I arrived at the hospital in Paris may help you in placing the activity you are concerned about. I once had artillery overlays for several days later in the month but they got lost in the shuffle. Disregard the date locations on this map. I am not at all sure of them because they were added at a later date during an attempt to reconstruct the scene.

R.H. Barnhart

Hatboro, PA

January 20, 1994

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MILITARY HISTORY

R.H. Barnhart entered service Erie, PA

29 Aug 42

In Warren, PA

29 Aug 42 - 11 Sep 42

New Cumberland, PA (induction)

12 Sep 42 - 24 Sep 42

Warner Robins Army Air Base, GA

25 Sep 42 - 02 Oct 42

Syracuse, NY Army Air Base

05 Oct 42 - 25 May 43

NYC, CCNY ASTP Testing

26 May 43 - 02 Jun 43

Ithaca, NY ASTP Cornell University

03 Jun 43 - 14 Mar 44

LA- Camp Polk, Infantry Outfitting

17 Mar 44 - 20 Mar 44

75th Div. on maneuvers in LA.

21 Mar 44 - 02 Apr 44

Camp Breckenridge, IN

06 Apr 44 - 14 Oct 44

Camp Shanks, NY

16 Oct 44 - 21 Oct 44

Aboard USS Brazil and sailed

22 Oct 44

At anchor Swansea, Wales

01 Nov 44

Porthcawl, Wales

02 Nov 44 - 10 Dec 44

Southampton (on British xport)

11 Dec 44 - 12 Dec 44

Le Harve landing net & ldng craft

13 Dec 44

Pasture north of Le Harve

14 Dec 44 - 18 Dec 44

Xport to Belgium truck and 40+8

19 Dec 44 - 22 Dec 44

Bulge

23 Dec 44 - 20-21 Jan 45

Hospital in Paris ambulance and train

22-23 Jan 45 - 01 Feb 45

Hospital, Lincoln England C-47

02 Feb 45 - 24 Feb 45

Hospital, Camp Butner NC DC-8

27 Feb 45 - 15 Aug 45

Discharge

15 Aug 45

Awards: Bronze Star (3), Good Conduct (2), American Campaign, Europe-African-Middle East 2 stars, Victory WWII, Occ WWII (Germany), Combat Inf. Badge, Meritorious Unit commendation Marksman and Sharpshooter Carbine, Rifle.


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