Book Description Pat was a teenage boy who came of age during the tumultuous times of World War II. He entered the Army during his 18th year as a voluntary inductee. Basic training was administered at Ft. Bragg N. C. After basic he was scheduled to be shipped to the South Pacific as a member of a pack artillery unit but an untimely bout of the flu forced a change in his assignment. He was placed in a replacement pool, a pool of young soldiers who would step into the vacancies caused by the inevitable casualties that would occur during the planned invasion of Europe, code named "Operation Overlord." Pat shipped over seas in a small wooden vessel that once carried fruit from South America to Boston. It had been requisitioned to carry troops to Great Britain. It was a very large convoy that included Pat?s ship. The speed of the crossing was no greater than the speed of the slowest vessel in the fleet. The crossing took weeks in a constant attempt to evade German U Boats by an erratic course across the Atlantic. The port of debarkation was Liverpool England. A troop train transported the soldiers from there to a military establishment in Cardiff Wales. Here the soldiers continued to train and bide their time, waiting for the inevitable invasion of Europe. Soon the soldiers were transported to the Channel Coast where they remained on standby alert for the invasion to commence. D Day, June 6, 1944 arrived, Operation Overlord was unleashed. The gruesome casualties of Omaha Beach were endured and the beach head prevailed. Six days after D Day the contingent of replacements that included Pat landed on Omaha Beach and fulfilled the purpose of their existence. They replaced the soldiers that had been killed or wounded in the preceding 6 days. Pat was assigned to the 1st howitzer gun crew of A Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. The Fifteenth Battalion was the artillery support and a part of the 9th Combat Team (9th CBT) that included the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division. Pat learned his job as a 105 howitzer gun crew member as A Battery fired their guns in support of the 9th Infantry, moving from position to position through the French hedgerow country. He learned his job well and eventually was assigned the job as loader for his crew. Pat formed two close friendships in his military experience, Ed who he had known since basic training and Ben, the Texan on his crew, who became his pup-tent partner. After the successful conclusion of the Normandy Campaign the 2nd Division was ordered to subdue the port city of Brest on the Breton Peninsula. A 220 mile road march brought the 2nd Division to the outskirts of the city. Brest was defended by a garrison of 36000 German soldiers, the core of which were the vaunted 2nd Paratroop Division. After the surrender of the German garrison at Brest. Pat?s unit had a short respite before embarking on another road march of 710 miles through liberated France to the German boarder. The 15th Battalion took defensive positions in the Schnee Eiffel forest. Here for the next month the 15th Battalion?s Artillery Batteries engaged in counter battery, observed and harassing fire missions in this sector of a thinly held front. Log bunkhouses and mess halls were constructed to combat the increasingly sever winter weather. German Buzz Bombs were observed here for the first time. Early December found the 9th CBT on the road heading north to begin an attack on the Siegfried Line. Pat and his buddies reluctantly gave up their comfortable quarters to a green division fresh from the States that relieved them. After heavy fighting and artillery bombardment a critical crossroads on the Siegfried Line, Wehlerscheid, was taken, only to be given back the next day. The Germans had started their infamous winter offensive, The Battle of the Bulge. Our troops were ordered to withdraw several miles and establish a defensive line. This unprecedented withdrawal under fire was accomplished with minimal losses. The protective artillery barrage laid down by Pat?s 15th Artillery Battalion was instrumental in the successful withdrawal. Pat learned that German tanks had overwhelmed the Division that had relieved them 6 days before in the Schnee Eiffel. The next several days were filled with acts of heroism by the infantry, artillery forward observers, rear echelon troops and many others. An incessant series of enemy tank and infantry attacks were stopped by our brave fighting men and the constant rain of artillery shells that poured down on the attackers. The 2nd Infantry Division and neighboring units held firm the northern shoulder of the Bulge, denying the Germans access to a network of roads that led to the channel coast. Pat?s unit, A Battery, during the apex of the German attacks was ordered to move to a new, less exposed position. The move was accomplished in the dead of a moonless night over a ridge-line road that was subject to intermittent enemy artillery fire. Reconnaissance, displacement, emplacement and the resumption of fire missions was accomplished in a 3 hour period. It was an unprecedented accomplishment. Later A Battery was subjected to a night time enemy artillery attack. Due to the excellent defilade provided by their position on the ascending slope of a hill the shells skimmed over A Batteries position and landed in the gully behind. Pat and his buddies awoke in the morning after a short nap between fire missions. They found the walls of their pyramidal tent riddled with shrapnel holes. Pat found one hole a foot over where his head had lain the night before. In the gully behind their position they saw innumerable black shell craters in the snow. By the end of January the German offensive had run its course. The 9th CBT was again on the attack. The 15th Battalion, after a series of moves was em-placed near the town of Frankin. An intact bridge had been secured across the Rhine river by the 9th Armored Division. The 2nd Division was given the assignment of protecting that Remagen bridge head. The action for A Battery was relatively quiet. Pat and his buddy Ben decided to take advantage of the slow action and site in their carbines. They walked a couple of hundred yards behind their gun position and fired a few rounds from their carbines at targets in a woods. They were very nearly mistaken for enemy snipers by a contingent of infantry on the other side of the woods and nearly become targets themselves of a mortar barrage. Luckily for them, they were recognized as American G Is by an Officer, who chewed them out instead. As the bridge head across the Rhine was consolidated. The time came for the 2nd Division to cross the river. On March 21st the Division crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge constructed by the army engineers. The 2nd Division pursued the German army, which by now was in a disorganized retreat, through central Germany. The chase was often interrupted by fanatic German defensive stands in delaying actions. A Battery moved into a firing position in the Gahrenberg Forest in an open field in front of a palatial German hunting lodge. The lodge was well stocked with fine wines and liqueurs. The Captain rewarded his men with a share of the booze. Pat, who was designated to collect his gun crews share, was less than popular when when he returned with only two of the three bottles he was sent for. The third bottle had inadvertently been dropped. It smashed against the flagstone floor when he stuck it inside his fatigue jacket for safe keeping without first tucking in his jacket. After following a tank spear head for several miles A Battery em-placed in an open field facing a patch of woods. German soldiers were soon observed in the woods. It obviously had not been cleared by the infantry. The Captain ordered the 1st Sargent to organize an ad hoc infantry platoon from men in the gun crews and clear the woods. Pat was one of the men selected and soon found himself advancing from tree to tree with his carbine at the ready. After a few shots were fired the 1st Sargent observed a white flag and called for a cease fire. He then ordered the Germans to come out with their hands in the air. At least one of the Germans must have understood English for six of them surrendered, coming out with their hands held high. In early April the 2nd Division?s advance slowed to a crawl. Enemy resistance increased significantly as the Division approached the Leuna-Merseburg industrial complex on the approach to Leipzig. This was the vital heart that supplied the life blood of the German war machine. The complex was protected by the greatest concentration of anti aircraft weapons on the European continent. One thousand anti aircraft guns were arrayed in 40 well fortified em-placements, all with clear fields of fire. They were manned by fanatic German gun crews who had no intention of surrendering. It was during the ensuing unprecedented artillery duals that C Battery was hit, loosing two guns and wounding Pat?s buddy Ed. Ed died of his wounds a few days later. The German guns were eventually subdued followed by the city of Leipzig?s defeat. This would prove to be the last major battle for the 2nd Division before Germany?s unconditional surrender. After the fall of Leipzig the 2nd Division turned south and was involved in minor skirmishes and mop up operations until they arrived in Czechoslovakia. This would be the location of their final offensive position. It was here they learned of Germany?s unconditional surrender. In due time Pat returned to his family in the U. S. A. and was on furlough when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Japans surrender followed, as did Pats discharge from the army. The final chapter of this story deals with Pat?s return to France, the retracement of his route through Normandy from his landing on Omaha Beach to the French town of Vire, 49 years later.
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December 31, 2009
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