Co. D, 709th Tank Battalion
HOTTER THAN HELL, IN THE HURTGEN FOREST
Very vivid, I remember the night of 23 November 1944, in the Hurtgen Forest of Germany.
We were up front all night on the 23, as a task force. It seemed that our Tank bounced four feet off the ground, under the heavy bombardment of the artillery fire, prior to the engagement of the Battle of the Bulge, which was to follow.
Our Tank crew originally, was Tank Commander, Walter E. Baun; Gunner, John A. (Mike) Kunnen; Driver, Horace Barrett; Asst. Driver, Asst. Gunner, and Tank Commander Francis E. Healer. Lt. Charles Ellis, Platoon Commander; and Sgt. Virgil Haddox, Platoon Sgt.
Lt. Charles Ellis was an officer, who did not want to get hurt, nor did he want any of his men hurt. I recall that I never had seen Lt. Ellis with a gun. He was a brave officer. After the night of the 23, we came back to gas and re-ammunition up, for the day, November 24, 1944. It was a while we geared up for another up-front, that I made the statement, that we were going back up front, and that some of us would not come back. I just had that premonition, and sure enough it happened.
A replacement Lt. got into our Tank, and we moved up front. When we got to the point, where we were, we relayed on the intercom that this is far enough, it was HOTTER THAN HELL All NIGHT.
The Lt. said, "This is the jump off, keep driving." In less than thirty feet, we hit a minefield and off came both tracks. Yes we were behind enemy lines, and point blank to a Pill Box, less than sixty feet in front of us. WHAM, came the 88, and then thirteen Bazookas melted us. What a mess we were in. The Lt. jumped out and hit a shoe mine, losing his foot at about the ankle. My Gunner was hit under the chin, with one of the Bazookas, KIA. 1 received numerous wounds to the left leg, by 88 fire. Three compound fractures and a dud or AP Bazooka, took out the left shoulder. Sgt. Barrett did not get a scratch, but has lost hearing in both ears. In the midst of HELL, we lasted about ten minutes. It was the longest ten minutes I have ever witnessed.
I, at the time, did not know who the Lt. was but, in 1986, I met him at Louisville. His name was Lt. Truman Sylvest. We had a mission to do, and we tried to do what we were told to do. The situation became serious thereafter, when some of the men with me encountered heavy resistance, and above all the use of our own equipment against us, which had been captured or stolen.
~~~ Francis E. Healer ~~~
Source: MILITARY RECORDS - NOLAN CO., TX
Posted here with kind permission of Janie Davies Healer.
Note: Also read John (Mike) Kunnen's recollections at this page.