HQ, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Inf. Div.
On November 6, 1944, the 12th Infantry Regiment was attached to the 28th Infantry Division, which was having a rough time in the Hürtgen Forest. The Germans had driven a salient in their lines and had essentially split their defense in half. The 12th Infantry left for this assignment at 1745 hours for the 45-mile motor march to the location of the 28th Infantry Division. The weather was miserable with a cold rain falling. The original plan was for the regiment to go into a bivouac area and wait until morning for the relief of the 28th.
Colonel Luckett, the Regimental Commander, and his staff, along with Lieutenant Colonel Montelbano and the staff of the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry, went ahead to meet with the staff of the 28th to get more information on the relief. I was S-3 (Operations Officer) of the 2nd Battalion. When we reached the headquarters of the 28th, we were informed that the relief was to take place immediately, rather than the next morning, so there was no time for reconnaissance. Since we were operating with radios silenced, a messenger was sent to inform the columns that they were not to go into bivouac. At 4 A.M. on November 7, the relief began—in pouring rain, total darkness—and was not completed until midmorning.
The positions that were occupied by the 109th Infantry Regiment were along a salient that the Germans had driven into the 28th lines and were not always in the best place for fighting. The positions that were occupied by the 2nd Battalion of the 12th were along a firebreak and not passable by vehicles, so everything had to be hand carried.
There were dead bodies of the 109th all over the area. Since we had replacements who had not done any fighting, we had some of our troops who had combat experience move the frozen dead bodies, pile them in several spots, and hide them with boughs broken from the trees by artillery fire.
On November 10, there was a 500-yard gap between Company E and Companies F and G. The plan was for the 1st Battalion to attack at the deepest part of the German salient; Company E was to attack the edge of the salient, and Companies F and G were to attack their fronts. Shortly after the attacks began, the Germans stopped them and got behind F and G Companies. With Companies F and G were the Battalion CO, the S-3 (me), and an artillery observer with his radio operator. When we tried to send wounded people out, we discovered that we were surrounded by the Germans.
Every day we were subjected to an attack by the Germans. After each attack, we took stock of the .30 caliber ammo on hand for the machine guns, as well as for rifles. If we felt that we didn’t have enough machine gun ammo for the next attack, we took ammo from the M-1 eight round clips and hand inserted it into the wet cloth machine gun belts or vice versa. We withstood an attack each day, with two attacks on one day.
On one occasion the Germans brought tanks within one hundred yards of our positions and yelled for us to surrender since they had us surrounded. The men yelled back, “F–k you,” and we requested the artillery forward observer to request artillery fire, high explosive as well as white phosphorus in the area of the tanks. The artillery officer at the guns requested a repeat of the coordinates because of the nearness to our troops. I took the handset from the observer, told the officer to fire, and assured him that we knew what we were doing. When those tanks saw the white phosphorus, they left the area in a hurry.
The lack of food was quite a problem. We searched the packs of the dead 28th Infantry Division troops for food, and retrieved from the ground the “dog biscuits” and cheese that had been discarded by the troops. Our first-aid station, which was in large, log-covered holes, had a number of casualties to handle. We had a medic sergeant and aid men manning the aid station, and they really did an excellent job.
By the morning of the third day, November 12, only two of our radios had batteries with a little life left. Fortunately, the artillery radio worked until noon. We were finally left with our battalion radio, which couldn’t reach our Battalion HQ. I knew that the 1st Battalion was closer to us than our Battalion CP. I remembered the channel number of their radio net because of a firefight we had taken part in with them in the Siegfried Line. When in a stagnant or offensive operation, we used call signs of Red, White, and Blue for the battalions. Also, when in a defensive situation, we used a three-day prearranged code. That code expired on our first day of isolation. I switched our radio to the 1st Battalion’s channel and called, “Red from White,” twice, with no response. I then called, “Red from White, come in Chuck.” (Chuck Jackson, the 1st Battalion
CO, and my brother-in-law.)
His reply was, “Love from __,” (I don’t remember his code name now). But I still remember ours. His message was, “Bring all your loves to me.” We interpreted that to mean, “withdraw,” but we wanted to make certain, so I replied, “I think I know what you mean, but want to be certain.”
His reply was, “What do you do when you meet a girl with more than you have?” I later told Chuck that the reply should have been, “Attack!”
There was very little daylight left, so we assembled the two company commanders and discussed a withdrawal plan. We decided to withdraw to the location of the 3rd Battalion since it was a shorter distance (about six hundred yards). We also prayed for a foggy morning, but while we slept it snowed all night. When we got up it was to a bright sunny morning. For some reason the Germans had left during the night, and we lost only two men to mines during our withdrawal. When Chuck Jackson greeted me, he said, “I’m so glad to see you—I wondered what Mary would say if she found out that we were so close, and you didn’t make it.”
When we reached our Battalion Headquarters, Major General R. O. Barton, Division Commander, was standing outside to welcome us and to inform us that we were again in the 4th Infantry Division.
When I returned to the CP, I learned that I had trench foot and was evacuated two days later. I didn’t return to the 12th Infantry Regiment until early February 1945, so I missed the German breakthrough. We had been told nothing about trench foot or its prevention, but when more casualties were being sustained from that problem than from the Germans, prevention was really enforced. Trench foot was encountered in WW I also—guess that’s where the word “trench” came from.
~~~ Tallie Crocker ~~~
August 01, 1920 - † March 20, 2008