The Remembrances of:
Leonard P. Schur ~ Luther Gordon ~ Ross K. Rasmussen
Leonard P. Schur
K Co 3d BN
290th Inf. Regt.
75th Infantry Division
+ 24 25 26 + Dec 1944
Leonard P. Schur enlisted in the Army Reserve Corps on November 13, 1942 and was called up for active duty on May 17, 1943.
He was separated from the military on October 13, 1945 when he was discharged from Nichols General Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky due to medical disabilities that were the result of wounds and injuries suffered in action on December 25, 1944.
His Army awards and citations include the Purple Heart, European, African, Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Good Conduct ribbon.
The first two weeks of his army career were spent at a reception center known as Camp Perry, approximately 75 miles west of Cleveland on Lake Erie. Then went on to Keesler Field outside the city of Biloxi Mississippi for eight weeks of Air Corps basic training.
During a trip to a "Star Unit" at Alabama Polytechnical Institute (now Auburn University) in Auburn, Alabama, Leonard qualified for the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) to study basic engineering for the purpose of serving in the United States Army of Occupation as an engineer.
Then on to Brooklyn, New York, and Fort Hamilton until the Ft. Greene Housing Apartment living quarters located at Myrtle and Navy Streets were readied.
The second semester of classes at Pratt Institute of Technology in Brooklyn, New York, began in mid-December 1943 and completed in late February 1944. After the first week of the third semester Leonard's career in the Army Specialized Training Program came to an abrupt end when the United States Army terminated the program.
On March 10, 1944 Leonard's unit was shipped to Camp Polk in Shreveport, Louisiana where he joined the 75th Infantry Division on maneuvers in the woods of Louisiana and Texas and was assigned to Company K of the 290th Regiment. For further basic and extended infantry training, moved to Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky, thirty miles southeast of Evansville, Indiana.
On October 15, 1944 Leonard shipped out for overseas duty with the 75th division rather than as an individual replacement. The itinerary included a two-day train ride to a staging area in New York's Camp Shanks and a train trip to Weehauken, New Jersey to board the U.S. Brazil troop ship on October 21, 1944.
On November 3, 1944, Leonard's 22nd birthday, after two weeks on the high seas (Atlantic Ocean) the ship docked at Swansea, Wales on the Bristol Channel. The final twenty-five miles was by motor convoy to Porthcawl where the 290th Regiment was billeted in houses previously occupied by other troops.
In South Wales (Porthcawl) for five weeks, Leonard's regiment entrained to Southhampton (England) on December 10, 1944; boarded a ship; crossed the English Channel and debarked at Le Havre, France. The first stop on the continent was Yvetot, fifty (50) kilometers northeast of Le Havre, where rain had made a quagmire of the "sunny" France bivouac area. On December 17, 1944 the 75th division entrained from Yvetot for Wiljre, Netherlands, which was subsequently changed to Tongres, Belgium. The infantrymen made this two hundred fifty (250) mile trip in the traditional open I-lommes 40-Chevaux 8 (40 men - 8 horses) box cars. By December 20, 1944 the division was in Belgium and its command post was set up in Tongres.
The 290th moved into a defensive position around Petit Han, north of Hotton, and received orders at 1600 (4:00 p.m.) on 24 December to assemble at Ny for an attack to begin two hours later. The attack was re-scheduled for a half-hour before midnight. The regiment had no idea of the ground over which it was to fight but did know that the line of departure was then held by a battalion or less of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment deployed along the Soy-Hotton Road. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 290th were chosen for this first battle, their objective the wooded ridge south of the road. About midnight on the 24th the battalions started their assault companies forward, crossing a small stream and ravine, then halting to reorganize at a tree @line which edged a broad meadow over which the assault had to be carried. The companies were not straightened out before dawn. Company K made a frontal attack straight across the open snow-covered meadow, 300 yards wide, beyond which lay the ridge line objective, but was pinned down by enemy machine gun fire with great loss. Leonard was severely wounded in this action. In mid-afternoon Companies I and L plus a platoon of tank destroyers came up and a fresh assault was organized. This carried through the woods and onto the ridge. Many acts of heroism were performed by the officers and men of Companies K, I, and L in taking this hill.
Leonard recalls Christmas morning 1944 as follows:
Moving across the open field, covered with snow, in the early moments of the attack he was felled by shrapnel wounds to his right thigh, right foot and left wrist. As he lay on the field face down unable to move, a German soldier came down when the fighting subsided and bayoneted two of his wounded buddies and shot Leonard in the back with an armor piercing bullet that, fortunately, went through his back pack, ultimately lodging in his lower spine.
Several hours later Leonard was rescued and brought to the aid station by someone. Forty years later Leonard learned that the person who saved his like was his foxhole buddy and close friend since World War II from Euclid, Ohio - Harold Winkelman (awarded the Silver Star for his efforts).
As a result of wounds suffered on December 25, 1944 at the Village of Ny in Belgium, Leonard underwent five operations and was hospitalized for nearly ten months in U.S. Army hospitals in Paris, France; Bath, England; Charleston, South Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi and Louisville, Kentucky.
The highlight of the ordeal was the three week return voyage to the States in a specially equipped hospital ship that cruised the southern waters of the Atlantic Ocean and served only American food that included the first fresh milk Leonard had had in over six months.
Special Reflections and Memories of the 24th and 25th of December 1944
1. The sight of a dead German soldier as we marched up a road on Christmas eve. We were warned not to touch him in any way shape or form - he might be booby-trapped.
2. Digging in on two different occasions with Harold Winkelman in the dark either late on December 24th or in the very early morning hours of the 25th.
3. We were waiting for days for a hot meal but it never caught up with us. We went into battle hungry and cold and on very short rations.
4. We didn't have any bandoliers of ammo (none were issued). The only ammo we had was what we had in our belts.
5. While being assisted or carried down the hill, I heard the voice of my friend from Company F, Sidney Sherer, who was waiting with his unit at the bottom of the hill. He inquired "Schur, how is it up there?" I answered in Yiddish to the effect that "you can get killed up there!"
Leonard P. Schur
Luther Gordon S/Sgt.
1st Squad Machine Gun, 4th Platoon
K Co 3rd Bn
290th Inf. Regt.
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 44
My recollections prior to and including Christmas Day 1944 are vague as to the name of areas and towns, if I ever knew.
About December 22nd or 23rd, K Co had been put in a defensive position along a river [Ourthe]. We were to prevent infiltration of troops or equipment across a bridge on the river. We were next to a farm house and across the river was a fair sized town [Septon] on a hillside. We spent one cold night at this location then moved to a forested, hilly area the next morning. We set up defensive positions. At this point we witnessed wave after wave of heavy US bombers and fighter escorts being engaged by German fighter planes. I can remember seeing some of our planes being taken out. At one point a German fighter, probably crippled or out of ammo, flew over us just above the tree tops. That plane had gone less than a mile when we heard it explode and saw the smoke and flame. At the time I thought one of our AA guns had gotten it but it may have crashed on its own.
We had not hardly gotten set up at this location when we were invited to take a hike. It was well after dark when we arrived at a small farm settlement [Ny]. We were told we were waiting for the chow trucks to feed us before we made our assault. It was a long fruitless wait. I remember Gen. Mickle, with this M-1 rifle, talking to the troops. When he heard we had not been fed he lit into our Battalion CO [Gleszer] and made him get into his jeep and look for the chow trucks. The trucks showed up just as we started our march up a mountain road. Needless to say, we did not get our hot meal. The cooks did manage to throw some chunks of bread at us but few of us got any. This was Christmas Eve.
As the column reached the top of the hill, word came back that there were dead Germans in the road ahead. This put the realization into most of us that we were about to engage the enemy.
As we caught our wind, we were ordered to hit the woods on our right, as skirmishers. This included the weapons platoon with our mortars and machine guns. After busting our way through underbrush and timber we came down to a steam [Isbelle]. On the opposite side was a 30 or 40 foot embankment. I recall the weapons platoon was held up here trying to get our weapons and ammo up that hill. Everybody, and equipment, kept sliding back down. A runner came back from the CO to say they needed the machine guns set up on the flanks of the Co.
We finally got to the Co., after hearing people yelling back and forth. We dug in on the right flank. That was the last time I saw either our second squad or the mortar squads. . I know they were somewhere in the timber but did not know where.
There was a rifle shot up the hill from us followed by a burst from a "Burp Gun". Right after that we were all ordered out along our left flank, in column, through the brush and timber just above a stream.
After traveling not more than half a mile, which seemed like five, we reached our jumping off point. Orders came down that there would be a five minute artillery barrage on the hill at 2400 hours. We were to strafe the hill with machine gun fire. Someone's signals got messed up as the barrage never came at that time. Lt. Robbie told us to take off as the riflemen were already starting up the hill.
My squad had the right flank and it was all open ground. About 200 yards up the hill we observed, in a brushy draw to our right, movement coming down the canyon. The movement stopped and guns could be heard and flashes were seen. Who ever it was firing toward our riflemen. Rather than reveal the location of our guns at that time, I had an ammo bearer with carbine and 1, with my M-1, emptied a couple clips in the flashes. We apparently were effective as there were no more shots from that location.
Shortly after that incident a riflemen told us Sgt. Lopez and some of his men had headed toward that draw. We felt bad about that, but not for long. Lopez, with his long legs, and a couple of his men were seen to our left running up the hill.
As we approached the timbered area -where the Germans were dug in, we came to a terraced area. It was there that I saw you [John Hoy). I thought your leg was nearly severed. You were tying a tourniquet around your leg. I think we spoke, (maybe wishing each other a Merry Christmas). We yelled for a medic. The men on the hill were calling for a machine gun from either DeRoche or Winsjansen and headed on up.
I never expected to see you again. "Jerries" tanks and our artillery, along with all the ground fire had pretty well covered all the open ground. When and how did you get off the hill?
I remember after leaving you I entered the woods and dove over a German machine gunner who I thought was dead. As I laid just above him I could see puffs of steam coming out of a hole in his helmet. Rifleman Winkleman dove over the body just below my position. I asked him to kick the body to see if he was still alive. Wink said, "Kick him, hell", he emptied his clip on the body and said, "He's dead".
I got our gun set up on a "Burp Gun" but I had lost the booster cap from the gun and could only fire single shots. A Sgt. laid beside me and we took turns popping the gunners who manned their gun until one turned their gun on us. As he did one of our BAR men cut him down. After the BAR opened up three mortar rounds zeroed in on our location. The third round got me in the arm, the Sgt. in the gut and finished our M.G. We felt it was time to find another piece of turf. I finished putting the M.G. out of commission, grabbed the ammo and joined several others along the edge of the woods.
It was while along the edge of the woods that Tommy Mathis came and told me the other ammo bearer, Tom Womble, had been bayoneted and killed. Tommy was in a state of shock and worried about his twin brother who was in the other M.G. Squad somewhere down off the hill. I told him to take off. Shortly after Tommy left Eddie Winsjansen, our 2nd gunner, came by and said, "I am going off the hill, Eddie had a hole in his helmet with blood coming down his face and a bloody rip in his pant leg.
1st Lt. "Dutch" Meier came by and said he was going to scout the hill. I-le said if he did not come back that what NCO's remaining were to take the rest of the Co. off the hill. (Not many of us left by then.) A short time later one of "Dutch's" messengers came back and said "Dutch" had been captured, stood against a tree and shot in both arms. Those of us still in the area decided to go up and get "Dutch". As we started up the hill the second messenger came down and said "Dutch" had been killed.
At that time a barrage of artillery from "Jerries" tanks came in and a ground assault started at our right flank over open ground. ne artillery would have been effective but what landed around us was duds. I took a M.G. from a dead "Jerry" and fired until I ran out of ammo. The Germans made a mistake on their assault as their automatic weapons led their troops, firing from the hip. This enabled us to lay there and take them out like a shooting gallery.
The first wave was turned back without too much trouble. In a short while they came at us again. This time I do not know if it was our artillery or theirs, but it came right on top of them and put a stop to their attack.
It was daylight by them and we could see cannons, jeeps and people along a ridge across the canyon. This was quite a way off but we felt these were our people. We all, maybe 30 or 35 of us, started down across this open hillside. As we ran, M.G. fire seemed to come from everywhere. Winkleman and I were together. We ran for awhile, hit the dirt and one of us would fire in the direction of the closest gun, then we would run again. We made it to the brush covered creek area, rested for a bit then headed for the ridge. When we got to the road on the ridge I only saw about 10 of the people who left the hill.
DeRoche and I caught a ride on a jeep with two Capts. from an armored division. They had been on a recon and offered to take us to an Aid Station I think this was the 2nd or 8th Armored in Marche.
I did not get back with the Co. until February somewhere in Holland.
I am sure the town of Roy, is really Soy, but heck, why not call it Hoy? I got a citation which said, "Near the town of Hoy", but I could only find Soy in an atlas.
I was surprised and glad to see you [John Hoy] at Valley Forge. When I had seen you last I was not sure you had made it off that hill or not.
Ross K. Rasmussen
S/Sgt 3d Mortar Squad
4th Platoon K Co
3d Bn 290th Inf Regt.
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 44
I was the twenty year old squad leader (S/Sgt) of the 3rd Mortar Squad, 4th Weapons Platoon, K Company, 290th Regiment, 75th Infantry Division, during December, 1944. 1 had been a member of the 3rd Mortar Squad since my first assignment during March, 1943 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
My immediate superior in December, 1944, was Sgt. William Bishop, who was the leader of the 60 MM Mortar Section (3 squads, 15 men). 1 Sgt. Bishop reported to Platoon Sgt. Lloyd Waldroop. Sgt. Waldroop activated and trained the 4th Platoon, beginning at Fort Leonard Wood. However, Lt. Roy Hammarlund was in charge during December, 1944.
The 3rd Mortar Squad, when it embarked for Europe (which I remember being the same when entering combat) consisted of the following four men: 1st Gunner, H. Dornan; 2nd Gunner, T. Withers; 1st Ammo Bearer, W.H. Whitman; 2nd Ammo Bearer, A. Denizer.
The approach march to combat was long and difficult. Trucks had carried us for some distance; then a long walk followed. I remember, during the night of December 23rd, seeing what seemed, at first, to be lightning. It was soon understood that artillery was busy on both sides. The Company continued moving up.
The approach march continued December 24th. I could see airplane contrails high in the sky and "dogfights" lower. I remember seeing a P38 explode with pieces failing to ground. Late in the afternoon, the Company was moving on a road which led out of a small village, working up a long grade, at the top following a straight road for some distance.
At that point, word came back through the Company, "dead German on left side of road". This was the first dead German soldier I saw.
It was close to darkness when the Company halted. Information came down the formation that the 75th Division Recon unit had advised where the German positions were located. I did see a Recon vehicle proceed back along the road the Company had been on.
The Company began moving again and then, I believe, doubled back a short distance and proceeded on a road down a long incline. The Company moved in short starts and stops as time went by.
At one point the Company halted and I saw our Company field kitchen setting up. We heard we would be fed. My Mortar Squad was close to the kitchen set-up. 2 Suddenly, a ranking officer came up, raised his voice to some K Company officers, advising them not to hold the attack, to move out immediately.
The Company moved into the first attack position. The moonlight was brilliant and I could observe open fields and wooded sections at a far distance. As I looked to see where my Mortar could possibly fire, I was looking out from a fence line, across a deep ravine or gorge. I seemed to be on higher ground looking down over a distance at the field and wood line that eventually became the Company attack avenue. It was soon apparent an attack from the first jump-off line would be impossible.
3The Company then moved in single file down an incline, made a right turn and got into an attack position behind a ragged type bush line. I could see an open field slanting upward to a wood line. '
It was now late on Christmas Eve. Sgt. Bishop told me to set up the 3rd Mortar Squad in order to fire in support of the 3rd Rifle Platoon when they, with the 1st Rifle Platoon and two 4th Platoon machine gun squads, attacked the hill. Before the 3rd Platoon jumped off, and, while waiting for expected artillery support fire, I had a brief conversation with S/Sgt King, who was taking a rifle squad up the hill. I had one clip for my MI. It was decided he would need it a lot sooner than 1, so it was his. At that time, this gave him two clips. I then tried to judge the distance to the wood line - at night, with moonlight, ground slanting upward, first time in combat, scared, and not that good to begin with.
The artillery support was a dismal two rounds. However, I do not think our 75th Division Artillery was in place. I think a 3rd Armored Division tank probably fired the support.
The attack began. I believe the 1st Platoon went up first, followed shortly by the 3rd Platoon. The 3rd Mortar Squad fired many rounds. I cannot recall well, but I do not think we had any left. I waited for orders. I could see and hear rifle and machine gun fire, both American and German. It had turned light. I crawled out unto the field for some distance, but could see nothing. I waited.
Mid-morning, I received orders from Sgt. Bishop to locate mortar ammunition. Another message came back that the attack group was very short of all ammunition. I left the gun position and started back to where the Company had advanced the previous day. As I got back a short distance, I met K Company supply people bringing up rifle and machine gun ammunition. I told them they were heading in the right direction. They did not seem to know about mortar ammunition. I saw another Infantry Company moving forward. (I think it was I Company). I saw M Company men doing their jobs. It was now mid-afternoon of Christmas Day. I got back to a small village, whose name I did not know. I talked with a Major about getting 60MM mortar ammunition. He advised that re-supply was taking place. He asked when I had eaten hot food and gotten steep. He directed me to eat, to a house to sleep, and then I should head back to my Company. I wish his name was known to me. He was handling many men very well. It was now dark. I went to sleep.
I awakened before daylight (now December 26), decided not to wait for a group, and headed back to the Company. I was on the same road the Company had been on December 24th. After a short distance, I met a 2nd Lt. with six or seven men. They were Airborne [A Co +/- 1st Bn 517thl. The Lt. asked where I was going. I told him my intention of getting back to K Company and what I had been sent out to do. He told me to fall in behind them and he would tell me where to find the Company.
4 As I recall, the road eventually went alongside the open field that K Company had attacked across on Christmas Day morning. Once there, the Lt. slowed the walk down. After a distance, I saw riflemen engaged in a firefight to their front, centered around a wide curve in the road.
5 The Lt. moved his men into the woods above the road and had them spread out.. He then told me to go straight up an incline, through the woods, and I would find K Company establishing a defense position. I went as directed, seeing several German and American dead. I heard digging after some distance and came back to the Company where Sgt. Davis was placing his Mortar Squad. I reported back to Sgt. Bishop. As I remember, mortar ammunition re-supply reached us on December 27th.
I never saw another Airborne Infantry officer or enlisted men during my time on the hill (I continue to use "hill" and not La Roumiere). It was just a wooded hill to us at the time.
While in the defense position, Sgt. Davis and Sgt. Flood advised me that a skirmish line had been formed which included the mortar squads. As it went forward through the woods toward the final K Company objective, Germans were engaged. I was told H. Dornan of my squad had done an outstanding job during this operation. The K Company objective was accomplished.
1 1st Mortar Squad - S/Sgt George "Slim" Davis: 2nd Mortar Squad - S/Sgt William Flood: 3rd Mortar Squad - S/Sgt Ross K Rasmussen
2 The ranking officer (name unknown) used profane language, berating a K Company officer.
3 I imagine the entire German Army, all the way to Berlin, knew the Company was in that position. The muffled noise, the moonlight, the delay after delay, would not have helped the situation.
4 The road wound around and down the hill and, eventually, got to Beefe, a town K Company fought on January 5th, 1945.
5 So, Airborne troops [A Co. +/- 1st Bn 517th] were around the hill and fighting on December 26th. That I know. The Lt. knew where K Company was. He said nothing to me about anyone "saving" the Company. He seemed perfectly matter of fact that K Company was doing their job establishing a defense line.
Ross K Rasmussen
Hot Springs, Arkansas
RASMUSSEN, Ross K; Age 18, Height 6'1/2', Weight 150 lbs. Born Kansas City, Kansas; moved to Los Angeles, California in June, 1942. Drafted February, 1943 and entered active service early March, 1943. Sent to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri and assigned to 3rd Mortar Squad, 4th Platoon, K Company, 290th Regt., 75th Infantry Division. Completed first basic infantry training, qualified on several weapons. Completed Louisiana Maneuvers and shipped to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky. Completed a second, shortened, basic training as a Sgt. with a 60mm Mortar Squad. Moved through Camp Shanks, New York and embarked aboard the U.S.S. Brazil for Swansea, Wales during October, 1944. Moved through Wales and sailed from Southampton on an English ship for France. Moved rapidly forward during December, 1944 as the Germans had started the Battle of the Bulge in the Belgium Ardennes Forest. Engaged in first combat December 24, 1944. Continued through Beefe, Vielsalm, Burtonville, etc, etc. In late January, 1945 with the first Battle of the Bulge about completed, we moved to what some call the second Battle of the Bulge or Colmar Pocket in the French border province of Alace-Lorraine, just below the embattled Belgium Ardennes. On February 3, 1945 shortly after moving into a wooded area to clear it of German infantry, I was wounded in what has been referenced "the heaviest artillery barrage ever thrown upon a part of this regiment" (290th Infantry Combat Diary, Page 29). A couple medical operations later, while still moving via stretcher, headed for home from Marseille, France to Savannah, Georgia aboard the Hospital Ship U.S.S. Algonguin. From there via Hospital Train to Hoff General Hospital, Santa Barbara, California. When able to walk with a cane I was discharged July 17, 1945 and went home to Los Angeles. I am entitled to several medals of which the Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge are on display.
My 75th Division Dad
Copyright 2001, J. R. Puckett
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