The Remembrances of:
"629th Tank Destroyer Bn" ~ Donald Ratliff ~ Thomas E. Shockley ~ Carlton P. Russell
629th TANK DESTROYER BATTALION
Tank Destroyer Forces, p. 121, "629th ... Combat Equip. M10, M36 ... Attached [24 Dec 44]...75th INF
Divs ... Commanding Officer Glen Cole ...
HEADQUARTERS and HEADQUARTERS COMPANY
p. 100, "Along the northern side of the Bulge, other German divisions continued to attack furiously. Everyone, including headquarters personnel, took part in stopping them. In the wee hours of 28 December, for example, off duty men in the 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion's A Company CP at Sadzot were awakened by the crump of mortar, and the increasingly louder sound of small arms fire drawing closer. Capt. Charles Grimshaw and lst Lt. Anthony Covatta quickly established a perimeter defense around the CP with cooks, supply clerks and mechanics and even the company T-2 armored recovery vehicle. Three M10s which had just returned for a "rest" were also pressed into service. Between 400 and 500 grenadiers of the 25th and 26th Panzer Grenadier Rgts. assaulted Sadzot. The 629th reported:
For over two hours, the tiny village of Sadzot sounded like a basic training machine gun range, but the out-numbered headquarters platoon wouldn't admit the Germans were getting the upper hand. T5 Barney Young, of Lancaster, Ohio and Cpl. Bill Blue, of Greenfield, Indiana, threw the knockout punches in the form of three-inch shells. Fired point-blank at a range of 300 yards, the HE was hitting directly in front of the enemy. Evidently the Huns hadn't anticipated anything as potent as that back in a CP area. Their screams of pain and confusion were audible over the din of battle. From that point on, there was no doubt as to the outcome. Welcomed assistance in the form of two companies of paratroopers from the 509th Para Bn. arrived between 0430 and 0500.
At 0900 the firing was still sporadic, but it was possible to venture out to see the results of the nocturnal adventure. The final count was 187 dead Jerries. Add to this the 60 prisoners sent to the PW cage, and the fact that not one of our men received a scratch - yes, it would be called a successful evening."'
p. 107, "The process was hastened by conversion of Tank Destroyer battalions to the new M36...March, the 629th ... were converted. Former MIO crews disliked the gasoline engine, higher silhouette and cramped turret of the M36 with its slower rate of fire. ...the power traverse and the more powerful 90mm gun made up for its deficiencies. With the new 90, they could finally engage the Panther head on."
Operation of the 3d Battalion, the 290 Infantry
p.17, "25 December 1944... 'At 1430 hours, on schedule, I Company reinforced by a platoon of M-10 Tank destroyers from the 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion (36) crossed the Ourthe River at Hotton, moved along the south bank through the 84th Division area, recrossed the river by means of a half-destroyed bridge, captured Werpin...'
Medic, Litter Squad B Co
375 Medical Bo, Attached to the
75th Infantry Division
24 25 26 Dec 44
B Co 375th Med Bn set up a Collection Station in Hotton to receive wounded from the three Bn Aid Stations of the 290th Infantry Regiment. The 375th's Co's A, B, C, each operated a Collection Station for each of the three 75th Regts. The 290th's Bn medical surgeons were responsible for relocating and operating an Aid Station to receive the wounded from each company in that Bn. In addition two medics were assigned by the Bn Surgeon to each company. The 3d Bn Aid Stations was located in a cellar without a roof 24 25 26 Dec south of Ny and west of Soy. The 2d Bn Aid station was located south of Soy during the initial 2330 24 Dec attack and then moved to the north end of Wy initially but later in the day of the 25 Dec moved to a safer location in Wy. [The location of the 1st Bn's Aid Station is unknown as of this writing]. D Co 37th Med Bn was responsible for the first hospital level of care for the wounded.
My Litter Squad was attached to the 3d Bn 290th Inf Regt Aid Station. We were to help evacuate the wounded from the field to the Aid Station initially. Members of our squad were: George Palmier and Tex Burquottr (sp).
My first vivid memory of that morning, 25 Dec, was a dead Medic along the foot trail that led to the hill. He was not a 375th Medic and I do not know who he was. We were told that he had been killed by a mortar round. [Roy Hammarlund, 4th Platoon Leader reported seeing a dead Medic which was probably this Medic. Roy identified him as PFC T.G. Womble, his 4th Platoon Medic. He was the first casualty of the 4th Platoon. See the Remembrances of Roy Hammarlund.]
I cannot remember how many wounded we carried off the hill that day. The one I will never forget happened just before dusk. The main attack had gone over the crest of the hill. This GI, I do not know his name, had been hit in the stomach area probably by a machine gun burst. He was on the ground about halfway up the hill. A Mortar Squad was still firing about 15 feet away. I set the blanket I was carrying on the ground, while we were placing him on the litter. Another GI picked up the blanket and started to walk away with it. I started to give him hell for stealing our blanket when he told us he had given the wounded man his blanket! The wounded man asked for water, which we could not give him because of the nature of the wound. He was in terrible pain and we could not help as we had not been issued any morphine. He asked for a cigarette which we could supply and he indicated he was sure it was the last one he would ever have.
When we got him up to the road, we placed the liter on the hood of the jeep for the short trip to the 3d Bn Aid Station. I had to sit on the hood of the jeep to hold him on the litter as he was conscious, in great- pain and struggling. During the ride to the Aid Station he got weaker and seemed to think I was his mother as he talked to me. He was still alive, but barely when we got him to the Aid Station.
I have often wondered over the past 49 years who he was and if he survived or not. At the reunion at The Pines, I talked with several K Co men but no one could recall anyone who fit that circumstance.
Later that night we heard there were a number of wounded along the road at the top of the hill. Knowing that it would probably take hours to carry them all out by litter we got the driver of a Weapons Carrier to drive his vehicle along the road that circled the hill and up to the top. I recall sitting on the right front fender of the Weapons Carrier with a loaded Ml in case we ran into any Germans. We were able to evacuate eight or ten wounded by this means. My Squad Leader, Charles Stroud, later received a Bronze Star for our efforts that night.
December 9, 1994
Donald L. Ratliff, born April 10, 1924 on a farm near Kirksville, MO. Inducted into the Army, February 1943, at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. Sent to Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Denver, for Medical Basic. Promoted to T/5 and sent to Dental Tech. School. Joined an ASTP unit at Washington University, St. Louis, May 1943. Requested and was granted transfer out of ASTP, September 1943. Sent to Camp Grant, IL for more Medical Basic.
January 1944, assigned to Co B 375th Med. Bn. 75th Infantry Division at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. Arrived in Europe with 75th November 1944. First saw action in Bulge, Christmas Day 1944, when our squad was sent to assist K Co. 290th evacuate their wounded. Remained with 75th through Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns. Awarded Combat Medical Badge.
Returned to U.S. with 28th Infantry Division August 1945. Discharged December 1845, Camp Atterbury, IN. Enrolled at N.E. Missouri State University. Moved to Cleveland 1947. Married to Mary 1949. Two children, no grandchildren.
Worked as agent for Prudential 33 1/2 years. Served on executive board of independent union, representing insurance agents for 17 years.
Now retired, and I travel a lot and attend most of the reunions and meetings of the 75th Division Veterans Association.
November 4. 1993
- Military History Brief -
Mr. Thomas E. Shockley
780 S. Ridge Street
Southern Pines- NC 28387-6544
Born Shockley, Thomas E. Jan. 6, 1918 at McAlester, Oklahoma. Graduated MHS, Class '36. Served 2 years with 75mm truck drawn Firing Btry of Okla. Nat. Guard's 45th Div Arty with two summer camps at Ft. Sill, OK. Three years of ROTC at Univ. of OK ('36 through '39) -- this was a horse-drawn 75mm gun unit -- including six week summer camp in '39 at Ft. Sill, OK. Was selected Cadet Col. of unit for '39-'40 school term, but financial problems prevented return to OU for this term.
Spent year or so in CCC camps in OK and Wyoming; worked up to Top Kick, then sub- district Co's aide de camp.
Volunteered for service and reported to Ft. Sill in Feb. '41 for basic training. Sent to 48th Field of 7th Inf Div at Camp Ord, CA. April of '41 and quickly moved to buck Sgt in communications and FDC sections. Back to Ft. Sill in early Nov. '41 for OCS #4; commissioned in Feb. '42, SN 0-453596. Requested active duty and reported to 9th Inf Div's 34th FA BN (Box Trail 155 how's), commanded by no other than May Westmoreland, at Ft. Bragg, NC, in April of '42. Received Silver Bar in June of '42. Volunteered for parachute school, accepted and received jump wings in Aug. '42.
Assigned to 82nd A/B Div, new at Ft. Bragg, and became 1st BC of Hdqtrs Btry of 376th PFA BN
Overseas Duty: Landed Casablanca, North Africa May 10, '42. Shot out (not down) over Sicily duly' '43. Transf to Hdqtrs and Hdqtrs Btry Div Arty as Asst. Div Arty Commo and Btry Exe. to fight rest of Sicilian campaign. Hit beach at Paestum, Italy, from LST Sept. 17, 43; fought to north of Naples. Div. less one RCT ordered to north Ireland then England Nov. '43. Jumped Normandy on D(-) June 6, '44, after 33 days returned to England. Co-piloted a CG 4-A glider into Holland on Sept. 17, '44, and pulled out to Rheims area of France last week of November. Trucked to Ardennes (Bulge Battle) on Dec. 18, '44 -- 18th (XVIII) area and advanced to Roer River sector by middle of Feb., '45, before being relieved. Back to Rheims Base then to Cologne, Germany, in March '45. Here the battlefield promotion came through for our communications section chief and the CO sent me back to base in France for some R & R -- this was last week of April '45. After all these campaigns, yours truly missed the "finale curtain!!!"
Came back to states Sept. '45; discharged as Capt. in Jan., '46. This -- in retrospect -- was one of the greater mistakes of my life!!
Col. and Mrs. Carlton P. Russell
U.S. Army (Retired)
Carthage, MS 39051-3724
23 January 1995
Mr. Alfred S. Roxburgh
Sacramento, CA 95864-4950
After these fifty years, my mind grows dim, and my eyesight is nearly gone. One has aptly said, "On the day of battle, truth walks stark naked, but on the next day, it takes on a dress rehearsal."
I had been in the 3rd Armored Division since activation 15 April 1941. All of my service was in the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment. General Maurice Rose commanded the 3rd Armored Division, and Colonel Robert L. Howze commanded the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment during the period of the Battle of the Bulge. I was Executive Officer of the regiment and therefore, also of the Combat Command "R". This Combat Command did not have a Combat Command headquarters and thus the Headquarters of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment had to double as the Headquarters of Combat Command "R".
Colonel Howze gave the orders. He called upon me to see about some of the execution -- especially if it were not going satisfactorily. I was to do what he told me to do -- or what I thought he would want me to do -- in an emergency. Several emergencies developed. One emergency was the Battle of the Belgian Bulge.
Having moved back from Germany to Hotton and Soy, Belgium on 19 December 1944, CCR Headquarters was established at Soy in a small hotel. General Rose had only one-third of his division. The balance was off under other commands. Therefore, CCR was the bulk of what he had and he was in charge of the area in and around Soy, Hotton, Amonines, etc. As a result, he was around CCR Headquarters often and was breathing down Col. Howze's neck. Our orders were: "This area must be held at all cost and cleared of the enemy." We faced some powerful troops including SS troops.
On 24 December 1944, we were in dire circumstances. We had our Rear Headquarters and Headquarters Company at Hotton. They were calling for help. Captain John C. Anderson was commanding the company. The 509th Parachute Battalion was sent to our relief and helped some. We were relieved to hear that the 75th Infantry Division was assigned to come and help us.
The 75th Infantry Division could not have come at a better time for us, but not at a worse time for it. The division had only been on the continent since early December 1944. The 289th and 290th Regimental Combat Teams arrived late in the day -- I believe on 24 December. The personnel were tired, seared and lacked information on the actual situation. Frankly, we were uncertain of the enemy and their intentions. With the enemy wearing some of our uniforms and using our vehicles, it was very difficult to know who to shoot.
I remember the commander was much disturbed about going into combat that night and under those circumstances. However, Col. Howze said, "Sorry, but it must be done."
As the action progressed, I remember that a gap developed between the 289th Regimental Combat Team and the 290th Regimental Combat Team. Some SS troops infiltrated that area creating much concern. A tragic incident occurred when a company of 290th Regimental Combat Team (I think) was wiped out.
With your help the German attack was stopped here, and but for the Grace of God, this operation would have failed. Without the guts and determination of men like John Anderson and Jack Warden, the end could have well been different.
I must add the fact that the civilians had a terrible time. They had to put up with death, deprivation and destruction from both us and the Germans. Particularly at Hotton, they were in a precarious position both sides wanted the bridge. In 1994, the Belgian people had many ceremonies in honor of their liberation by the Americans and some British. I am attaching some pertinent material about the ceremonies.
Carlton P. Russell
Col. U.S. Army (Retired)
My 75th Division Dad
Copyright 2001, J. R. Puckett
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