117TH INFANTRY, 30TH INFANTRY DIVISION - TENNESSEE NATIONAL GUARD
BY WARREN C. GILES
This is a narrative of events of Company "B", 117th
Infantry, 30th Infantry Division, Tennessee National Guard, from
April 1921 to November 24th 1945. This account includes the combat
service of Company "B", through World War II.
The material for this history was obtained from the history of
the parent units, personal interviews with Glenn R. Aytes, James
E. Barclay, John M. Calhoun, William H. Cate, Roy B. Duggan, John
I. Elkins, John B. Owen, Jr., Charles P. Robinson, Karl D. Saulpaw,
Zebulon V. Sherrill, Edgar H. Tutterow, other individuals and
the personal knowledge of the writer.
Warren C. Giles
COMPANY "B", 117TH INFANTRY, 30TH INFANTRY DIVISION
When the 3rd Tennessee Infantry was called into Federal service
during World War I, Tennessee was left without National Guard
troops, and subsequently the 4th Tennessee Infantry, Tennessee
National Guard was organized as the only Infantry Regiment in
the State of Tennessee. The 4th Tennessee Infantry Regiment was
redesignated the 117th Infantry Regiment, Tennessee National Guard
in April of 1921.
Company "E", 117th Infantry, Tennessee National Guard
was located in Athens in the Armory over Horton's Drug Store on
the south-east corner of the court house square. Captain John
B. Elliott was Company Commander, Hermon L. Moses, 1st Lieutenant,
Frank K. Boyd, 2nd Lieutenant and John S. Kelley was 1st Sergeant.
Company "E", 117th Infantry was given Federal recognition
on April 1, 1921. Federal recognition was withdrawn on April 18,1922
but was restored on April 30, 1923. At that time the Armory was
located in the Doctor Beard Building on North Jackson Street.
Company officers were Captain Hermon L. Moses, Company Commander,
1st Lieutenant Frank K. Boyd and 2nd Lieutenant Robert C. Hornsby.
The senior enlisted man was John S. Kelley, 1st Sergeant.
Company"E" was redesignated Company "B",
117th Infantry, Tennessee National Guard on May 1, 1938. At that
time the Company officers were Captain Hermon L. Moses. 1st Lieutenant
Walter E. Moses, 2nd Lieutenant Glenn R. Aytes and the senior
enlisted man was 1st Sergeant Warren C. Giles. The authorized
strength was three officers and 61 (enlisted) men. Company "B"
was the only National Guard unit in McMinn County. The Company
had enlisted men from Etowah, Englewood, Niota, Riceville, Calhoun,
Meigs County and Monroe County, but most of the enlistments were
from the Athens area.
The authorized strength had been increased to five officers and
over one hundred enlisted men by September 16, 1940. Company "B"
was a part of the 117th Infantry, 30th Division. The Division
was later designated 30th Infantry Division and consisted of National
Guard units from Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South
Carolina, The Division was a large multi-state unit. The 30th
Infantry Division was ordered to active Federal service for a
period of only one year on September 16, 1940. However, war clouds
continued to rise in Europe and the Pacific. As a result, the
Division was retained on active Federal service until November
24, 1945. It was deactivated on November 24, 1945 at Fort Jackson,
Company "B" was ordered into active Federal service
along with the Division on September 16, 1940. After the officers
and enlisted men received physical examinations and were found
physically fit for military service, the unit moved by train to
Fort Jackson, South Carolina to join the Regiment and the Division.
At the time of induction into Federal service on September 16,
1940, the roster of the officers and men of Company "B"
consisted of :
Moses, Hermon L.
Walter E. Moses, Mess Officer
Aytes, Glenn R. Giles, Warren C. Sherrell, Zebulon V.
FIRST SERGEANT MESS SERGEANT SUPPLY SERGEANT
Pierce, Only M. Robinsons, Charles P. Lay, Carl E.
Carmichael, Frank C. Miller, William C. Stalcup, Gene S.
Harmon, Kinzel I. Rowden, Garnett M. Womac, James D.
Lansford, Jack P. Simpson, Joseph E.
Barclay, James E. Carmichael, Earl W. Peck, John L.
Bell, Jack A. Hamby, William E. Richeson, James M.
Benton, Robert L. Jiles, Neil L. Saulpaw, Karl D.
Brock, Hugh C. Melton, Clyde R. Trusley, John F.
Owen, John B., Jr.
PRIVATES FIRST CLASS
Anderson, Carl A., Jr. Giles, Jesse N. McMahan, Harry
Calhoun, John M. Goins, Issac V. McSpadden, James H., Jr.
Clayton, Jefferson C. Hamilton, Lloyd V. Teague, Leonard E.
Clayton, Arthur R. Hughs, Charles A. Tutterow, Edgar H.
Elkins, John F. Jenkins, Otto K. Walker, Henry E.
Milton, Maurice D.
Bain, Vernon T. Hicks, Ross Stamey, Henry W.
Brewer, Virgel J. Hicks, Paul Stanfill, Odis C.
Cate, William H. Hutsell, James D. Stansberry, Gordon B.
Chambers, Rolf C. Lingerfelt, Roy L. Stephens, Hugh, Jr.
Coleman, Robert V. Lingerfelt, William L. Stevens, Luther L.
Cunningham, James G. Lingo, Hamit Stone, William B., Jr.
Cupples, James E. Malone, Arnold L. Teague, Jesse M.
Derrick, William A. Manry, Millard D. Thompson, Hubert G.
Dodson, Alto P. Mason, Clyde Tuell, Thomas Reed
Duckett, Lloyd G. Moore, Donald E. Underdown, Thomas H.
Duggan, Roy B. Moses, George A. Underwood, Edsel W.
Elliott, Amos C., Jr. Mulkey, Jimmie R. Wade, Bernard W.
England, James T. McCarty, Dennis J. Wade, Harold William
Ferguson, Jack A. McKenny, Fred Wade, Ross C.
Frase, Spencer M. McNelly, Jesse W. Walker, Joe A.
Freeman, Elbert J. Philpots, Earnest Walker, Robert L.
Garwood, E. B. Queen, Samuel G. Ware, Alvin H.
Giles, James E. Raper, Charles B. Whaley, Ernest J.
Giles, Quayle B. Raper, Jay C. Wilson, Carolos
Ghann, Charles L. Sexton, Fred Winder, James O.
Goodwin, Wayne H. Sexton, Horace G. Witt, James P.
Graham, Golue Richard Stamey, James L. Womac, Elbert
Hamby, Theador C.
This roster includes eight groups of brothers as follows:
Earl W. and Frank C Carmichael
Arthur R. and Jefferson C. Clayton
James E., Jesse Neil, Quayle B. and Warren Giles
Theador C. and William E. Hamby
Paul and Ross Hicks
Hermon Lee and Walter E. Moses
Henry W. and James L. Stamey
Henry E. and Joe A. Walker
On the 24th of September, the Company arrived at Fort Jackson,
South Carolina and started training. The enlisted men were housed
in squad pyramidal tents and the officers in small two men wall
tents. Later, wood frames and floors were provided along with
a small Sibley stove in the center of the tent to knock off the
chill of the winter cold. During the middle of October, the Company
began to receive men to bring it to full war strength through
Selective Service. Most of the men were from the Knoxville area.
Construction started in a big way. Latrines, bathhouses, mess
halls and supply and administrative buildings were built. The
Company furnished several non-commissioned officers and two officers
to form a training cadre to administer basic training to the new
Company "B" had been at Fort Jackson only a short time
when Staff Sergeant Charles P. Robinson, mess sergeant, established
a reputation of operating the finest mess in the entire Division.
Colonel Grant A. Schlieker, assumed command of the 117trh Infantry
on August 12, 1942. Within a few weeks he moved Sergeant Robinson
to Regimental Headquarters to operate the officers mess. He did
such a superior job that he had more influence with Colonel Schlieker
than any officer or man in the entire Regiment.
Before December 1941 Captain Moses was sent to the Infantry School
at Fort Benning, Georgia. When he returned, he was promoted to
Major and assigned to the Third Battalion as Executive Officer.
The remainder of the Company officers were sent to the Infantry
School. When they completed the school they returned to the unit,
but by the spring of 1942 they had all been reassigned. Major
Moses was cadried to the 77th Division; Walter Mosses to the 100th
Division, Aytes to the 89th Division; and Sherrell to the 78th
Division. Giles was reassigned in the 117th Infantry as Company
Commander of Company " L", 117th Infantry. Twenty-two
enlisted men of the original company attended Officer Candidate
School and became officers.
On May 27, 1941 the Company moved by motor convoy from Fort Jackson
with other units of the Regiment and the 30th Division to the
vicinity of Dixie, Tennessee to participate in the VII Corps maneuvers.
Upon completion of maneuvers the Company returned to Fort Jackson
on July 5th. The remainder of 1941 was spent in field exercises
with the 117th Infantry, the balance of the 30th Division and
the 9th Division of Fort Bragg, N. C., in the First Army maneuver
area in North and South Carolina. The Company returned to Fort
Jackson and did corrective training based upon deficiencies noted
On September 12, 1942 Company "B", along with the remainder
of the 117th Regiment, was detached from the 30th Division and
ordered to Fort Benning, Georgia. Its mission was to furnish troops
for demonstration purposes and to assist instructors in the training
of officers' classes and Officer Candidate Classes at the Infantry
School. The movement was made by motor convoy with all organizational
On September 17, 1942 three working days after arrival at Fort
Benning, Company "B". assisted in a problem "Battalion
in River Crossing" before an audience of four officers classes,
two officer candidate classes and several dignitaries of the Post
and Infantry School. Later, Company "B" again assisted
the battalion, establishing a Post record in the construction
of the footbridge across the Chattahoochee River which was a part
of the same problem. The Company furnished daily details for the
demonstration. The details ranged in size from one man to the
entire Company. Performance ratings given by the instructors from
the Infantry School were 42 percent Superior, 50 percent Excellent
and 8 percent good.
The Company along with the rest of the Regiment, rejoined the
Division at Camp Blanding, Florida on February 28, 1943. There
it underwent training especially designed for physical hardening
in preparation for maneuvers.
On September 7, 1943 the Company with the remainder of the Division,
moved to the maneuver area near Camp Forrest, Tennessee. There
they participated in maneuvers with three Infantry Divisions and
the 2nd Armored Division. On November 14, 1943 the Company moved
to Camp Atterbury, Indiana and completed the final phase of training
before being ordered overseas.
The Company departed from Camp Atterbury, Indiana on January
27th, 1944 and arrived at the staging area at Camp Myles Standish,
Massachusetts on January 29. The Company sailed from the Boston
Port of Embarkation aboard the USS John Ericsson on February 12
and disembarked in Liverpool, England on February 24.
The convoy was an impressive sight, with ships spread out over
the ocean as far as the eye could see, shepherded by battleships
and by destroyers frisking around the edges of the great pattern
From February 25 to April 5, the Company was quartered in Nissen
Huts near Petworth, England, where unit training was conducted.
From April 6 to June 14 Company "B" was billeted in
the town of Berkhamstead, England, and completed their final phase
of training before entering combat in Normandy. By this time the
Company was composed of men from practically every state in the
union. The Company was introduced to the air war during their
stay in England.
In March 1944 (two months before the actual Normandy Invasion)
an armed officer-courier delivered to the 30th Infantry Division
Headquarters a bundle of documents published by the U. S. First
Army containing a plan known as "NEPTUNE". The object
of "NEPTUNE" was to secure a lodgement area on the continent
from which further operations could be developed. It was a part
of a large strategic plan designed to bring about the total defeat
The First Army was to land on "D" Day, H-Hour. At Utah
Beach, on the east side of the Cherbourg Peninsula north of Carentan
and at Omaha Beach facing north into the English Channel just
east of Isigny. The VII Corps would assault Utah Beach. The V
Corps, led by the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions would assault
Omaha Beach. Two Airborne American Divisions would make vertical
envelopments behind the western assault area. The British would
attack with three divisions initially, the first objective Caen
and Bayeux. Overwhelming air and naval power would support the
assault. The 30th would land on Omaha Beach as part of the XIX
Corps, after the initial beachhead had been established. The XIX
Corps on landing would consist principally of the 30th Infantry
Division and 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions. After they were all
ashore it was contemplated that the XIX Corps would pick up the
29th Infantry Division and lose the 2nd Armored Division.
This was a secret the 30th Division guarded zealously and effectively.
A planning room was set up under armed guard. A special list was
made of those who could enter the room and consult the document
there. It was a very restricted list of personnel who were allowed
to know and study the plan. In the 117th Infantry Regiment, the
Commanding Officer, the Operations Officer and the Intelligence
Officer were the only officers in the Regiment that were allowed
in on the initial Planning. Major Warren C. Giles was Regimental
Intelligence Officer and was in on the initial planning. (This
information is mentioned so as to give the reader a picture of
the grand strategy of the Allied Forces for the initial invasion
of the continent).
There were two things particularly noticeable on Tuesday, June
6, as the troops "woke up and looked outside". The first
important thing was that there was sunshine and the skies were
clear, a welcome sight after having so many days of bad weather.
The second thing was the sky was filled with more planes than
anyone had ever seen before, not the four motor bombers of normal
time, but light twin bombers. All of them carried black stripes
on the underside of their wings. The invasion was on.
On "D-Day" (June 6, 1944) the 30th Infantry Division
was alerted for movement to France. The Units moved to a staging
area in Southern England and were briefed on the situation. They
then moved to Southampton docks and loaded into transports.
The First Battalion, under individual company control, crossed
the channel at night. Weather in the channel was rough. Continued
enemy air action made the crossing hazardous but it was completed
without serious mishap. Daylight found the improvised harbor at
Omaha Beach filled with vessels of all descriptions and sky dotted
with big anti-aircraft balloons.
Company "B" went into an assembly area with the First
Battalion, near Lison on June 16.
The Company remained there until July 2, while in the assembly
area they received a baptism of fire from the German 88mm's and
suffered some casualties.
The Battalion had been scheduled to be the assault battalion
for the Vire River crossing, July 2. However, when it looked as
though the heavy weapons of the battalion, which had been delayed
at the beach, would not arrive the plan was changed and the Battalion
was scheduled for reserve. The code name of Company "B"
was Curlew Baker.
The First Battalion relieved the Third Battalion along the Vire
River on July 2. The crossing of the Vire was re-set for July
7 and patrols were sent out. A particularly unfortunate patrol
was made up of a group from Company "B"s First Platoon
under Lieutenant Wilfred Ruffley. As they waited on the night
of July 3/4 while the rest of the patrol reconnoitered forward,
eight men were ambushed by a German patrol. Of the eight, some
were killed and some captured. Sam Queen, who was a member of
the patrol, was captured.
At 4:30 A. M. July 7th, 1944 the Vire River crossing was made
and the initial battle to break out of the Normandy beachhead
was underway. Company "B" led the First Battalion across
the Vire River and Baker Company continued the lead in the rainy
attack toward Les Landes east of Saint Jean-De-Daye. Late in the
afternoon Captain Edward R. Friday, Company "B" Commander,
was wounded and Lieutenant Daniel L. Sullivan, Jr. assumed command.
By nightfall Company "B" and the remainder of the 117th
Infantry had firmly established its bridgehead. The Germans counterattacked
but were repulsed. On July 9 the Germans counterattacked again,
combining infantry and tanks from the Panzer Lehr Division. Again
they were repulsed with heavy losses.
In spite of the increased "know-how" the Company had
not become accustomed to hedgerow fighting. The thick earthen
walls of the hedgerows were so restrictive that rapid and large
advances were virtually impossible. The trouble with the hedgerows
was not so much the hedgerows themselves as the fact that they
were planted on high earthen walls (5 to 8 feet high), which surrounded
The Company by this time had learned some important lessons:
The ability to distinguish sounds that occur in battle, the ability
to evaluate the relative danger of different types of fire, and
to remain cool in the face of fire. They were also learning the
nature of fear and how to handle it. It had been found that the
battle-worth of a man was utterly unpredictable. Many poor garrison
soldiers made good fighters and many good garrison soldiers made
poor fighters. The previously strict "rules and regulations"
type of discipline was being replaced by a much stronger one based
on respect and battle necessity.
On July 12 the First Battalion jumped off toward the south and
received heavy resistance. They advanced slowly across hedgerow
country. By early afternoon, the Battalion reached Hauts-Vents,
a settlement at the junction of five roads. It sustained many
casualties from the terrific shelling and small arms fire. Lieutenant
Sullivan was wounded and Lieutenant Robert C. Spiker, from Morgantown,
West Virginia assumed command of Company "B".
On the 13th, 14th and 15th the Company and the Battalion sustained
heavy casualties. On July 16 Capt. Robert A. Gelwick was assigned
to Company "B" and assumed command.
From July 18 to the official end of the Normandy Campaign on
July 24, the entire 117th Infantry Regiment was in Division reserve.
While in Division reserve near Pont-Hebert, Company "B"
led the usual life of a unit sitting Division reserve. Hot meals
were served, hot showers were made available, haircuts were given,
equipment was cleaned and letters were written. During this period
Company "B" received its first wholesale lot of replacements.
Although it rained a good bit, Company "B" members
had learned more and more to put tops on their foxholes as protection
against both weather and shrapnel. The Company received intermittent
shelling and a few casualties were sustained almost each day.
On the night of July 20, a rumor that had spread like wildfire
all over Normandy hit the Company with a wallop: The jerries were
using gas. A mad scramble for gas masks resulted but the rumor,
like a thousand others proved false.
Although the Normandy Campaign technically ended July 24, 1944,
Company "B" still had plenty of rough hedgerow fighting
ahead. Of the five weeks Company had been in France, virtually
all of the period had been spent in contact with the enemy and
the casualty total was comparatively high. By veteran standards,
Company had not performed brilliantly but it had done well. If
the measure of a new combat unit, however, is the speed with which
it learns, Baker Company had excelled.
Operation Cobra was tailored to meet these conditions. VII Corps
was to make the main effort along the St. Lo-Periers highway just
west of St. Lo. The primary job was to drive clear through the
enemy's crust-like defensive position before he could reform.
For this purpose, the Army planned a saturation bombing by fighter-bombers,
mediums and heavies over an area from the front lines back through
the enemy's artillery positions. Following this bombing, three
battle-tired divisions, the 4th, 9th and 30th, were to attack
southward on a narrow front, clearing the way for three entirely
motorized divisions which would then pour through the opening,
the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions and the 1st Infantry Division.
The VII Corps, was to advance rapidly south then to the southwest
into the rear of the forces opposing the VII Corps along the western
position of the Cotentin Peninsula.
The 30th Division plan called for an assault by two regiments
abreast, the 120th Regiment on the right, on the axis of the main
highway to St. Gilles; the 119th Regiment on the left, with Hebecrevon
the first objective. Two Battalions of the 117th Regiment were
loaned to the attacking regiments. The remainder of the 117th
Regiment was to be in reserve initially, prepared to pass through
on the left to clear out the curve of the Vire River opposite
The air preparation was a key factor of the assault plan. Air
enthusiasts in particular felt that a massive carpet-like air
attack before the ground troops jumped off would virtually annihilate
the main enemy positions by reasons of concussion or sheer destruction,
so that the attacking infantry could swiftly secure the breach
and hold it for the following armor and motorized infantry. The
air plan called for 350 fighter-bombers hitting the enemy front
lines, then by 1500 heavy bombers assigned a target area 2,500
yards deep and 6,000 yards wide. This was to be followed by a
350 plane dive-bombing raid on the enemy front lines. The final
air assault (as the troops moved forward) was provided by 396
medium bombers hitting the rear portions of the target area for
forty five minutes.
For their own protection, assault troops were to withdraw 1,200
yards behind their lines of departure before the heavy bombers
attacked. Front lines would be marked with panels and smoke. The
attack was first scheduled for the 18th of July, but was postponed
due to bad weather to the 21st when the weather forced another
July 24th, the first of two terrible days which opened the St.
Lo breakthrough, dawned clear with a slight haze over the ground.
At 11:30 A.M., on schedule, the 350 P-47's arrived for their preliminary
dive-bombing, followed by the heavy steady drone which signaled
the approach of the 1,500 heavy bombers. Scarcely had the men
in the rear echelons caught sight of the seemingly endless tight
patterns of heavy bombers glistening in the sun when the first
alarming reports began to arrive. Some of the dive-bombers were
hitting friendly troops. One heavy squadron dropped its bombs
squarely on friendly troops, and in twenty minutes the entire
bombing had been called off.
New orders were given for the 25th. The Infantry attack would
start at 11:00 A.M. Artillery would concentrate on no man's land
from which the troops were to withdraw prior to the bombing. July
25th proved to be even more of a slaughter than the 24th. The
30th Division suffered a total of 814 casualties including 64
killed in the bombing. Lt. General Lesley J. McNair, who had come
to Europe from his post of Commanding General, Army Ground Forces,
to take a new assignment in Europe, was killed in the 30th Division
area but is not included in the division total killed.
The portion of the bombing which fell on the Germans shook some
of them up and caused some damage. They had the advantage of shelters
deep enough to withstand the heavy concentrations which seemed
to characterize American artillery tactics. When the assault troops
approached they found enemy "doing business at the same old
stand" and using the same tactics with dug-in tanks and infantry.
The enemy artillery was still falling on the main routes of approach.
By July 26th the 117th Infantry was given the mission of taking
the high ground overlooking St. Lo. Thus a protective screen was
provided for other American Troops advancing on the city. Having
attained this highly desirable objective, the 117th Infantry was
returned to Division Reserve. Captain Gelwick was wounded in this
attack and Lieutenant Spiker assumed command of Company "B".
After the breach of the German defensive positions at St. Lo,
the 2nd Armored Division and the 4th Infantry Division were committed
through this hole and advanced to the south.
On July 27, the entire 117th Regiment made its longest continuous
march of the Normandy Campaign under most harrowing conditions:
Through darkness, over poorly graded roads jammed with armored
vehicles and other traffic, and with enemy bombers overhead.
The troops reached the vicinity of La Gonnivierre before daybreak
and "dug-in" during and before the early hours of dawn
into defensive positions. Company "B" and the remainder
of the 1st Battalion were on the move again attacking south toward
Mesnil-Opac. By August 1, most of he Germans had been cleaned
out or had withdrawn to another defensive location. By this time
Company "B" had reached the vicinity of Tessy-Sur-Vire.
During the period August 1 to August 6, Baker Company effected
a reorganization. Many replacements filled depleted ranks. Captain
Fredolph A. Hendrickson was assigned and assumed command.
At 1:30 A. M. August 6, 1944, the 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry,
received orders to move southwest to the vicinity of Brecy, France,
and relieve elements of the First Division. The quartering party
left for the new area at 2:30 A.M. By 5:30 A.M. the Battalion
had cleared the area and were moving by motor to the new area.
Guides from the 26th Infantry, First Division were picked up at
Brecy by the First Battalion of the 26th Infantry.
The Companies took over positions of the other Battalion. Orders
were given immediately to dig in for a defensive situation. The
troops had hardly gotten into position before a group of enemy
ME-109's were overhead strafing and intermittent mortar and artillery
fire harassed the Company for the remainder of the day, making
it difficult for them to finish their defensive positions.
Just at dusk, two German motorcycles were seen along the road
north of Company "B" area. As soon as it was dark, it
became apparent that there were Germans in great strength arrayed
against the First Battalion. The men stated that they appeared
to be madmen. During the night they heard and saw enemy troops
yelling and laughing. It was later believed that the German troops
were drunk, gaining courage and fortitude for the attack that
was to start early the next morning.
The 3rd platoon of Company "B" had set up a roadblock
near Le Bois-du-Parc. Baker Company got its first real taste of
the coming Battle of Mortain about 1:00 A.M. August 7, when a
main column of crack troops form the First SS Adolph Hitler Division,
approaching the battle area ran smack into the 3rd Platoon roadblock.
The anti-tank guns were quickly knocked out and the roadblock
Platoon was forced to pull back. From 12:00 midnight to 4:00 A.M.,
August 7, 1944, the whole 117th Regimental area was blanketed
by intense and devastating mortar and artillery fire. Artillery
personnel supporting the First Battalion were being bombed and
strafed by enemy aircraft as they tried to register their fire
on enemy tanks and infantry.
The enemy kept pecking at various points along the entire front
during the night. Civilians, sneaking through the line, reported
the enemy to have a great number of tanks and infantry. When attacked
at dawn in the exceedingly thick fog, the tanks and troops were
upon the First Battalion positions before they could be seen.
The attack came in several waves. Company "A"'s roadblock
was knocked out first. Then another finger of the German drive
hit Company "C"s roadblock, out on the right flank,
but it held. The attack seemed to pause briefly. Then about seven
German tanks and a company of infantry started on Company "C"
again and, despite stubborn resistance, penetrated. Company "B"
was in reserve and was ordered to aid Company "C" with
one platoon, which had hardly gotten ready to move out before
the full force of the attack hit the Battalion from several different
directions. Company "C" was disintegrated and Company
"A"s main line of resistance was broken.
The situation became extremely "fluid" and all the
events that followed are still not clear. Saint-Barthelemy appeared
to be swarming with enemy tanks by 7:00 A. M. Before mid-morning,
the bulk of the town was in German hands. Companies "A"
and "C" had stuck to their positions doggedly and heroically,
but in vain; the tank destroyers supporting the First Battalion
had been wiped out.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Frankland, commanding officer of
the first Battalion, 117th Infantry, watched a jerry tank move
up beside the house (in Saint-Barthelemy) he was using as his
observation post (OP). When he saw two of his men, hands up, walking
out the rear door in front of two Germans, he pulled out his pistol,
ran to the door and shot the two Germans dead. One of the GI's
got back inside safely. An immediate withdrawal of the OP group
was ordered and the exit was made through a rear window.
The First Battalion's Command Post was re-established near the
117th Regiment Command Post (OP) at La Rossaye. Colonel Frankland
was contacted by Colonel Walter M. Johnson, 117th Regimental Commander
and was told that he had received orders from Division to hold
at all costs because virtually nothing existed past the First
Battalion to stop the Germans from advancing directly to the sea.
A new line of defense was established on a sunken road bi-sected
by the highway from Juvigny to Saint-Barthelemy and situated on
a hill overlooking Saint-Barthelemy. On the left side of the highway
the defense line consisted of Company "B" and portions
of Company "D". On the right side, clerks, cooks, messengers,
etc. of both the Battalion Regimental headquarters groups quickly
assumed reflimen's duties and dug in a defense line along with
the remnants of Companies "A" and "C".
The First Battalion had been under continuous, murderous shelling
for more than 15 hours. Only one Company in the Battalion showed
a semblance of being in fighting shape and that was Company "B".
The only weapons remaining for tank defense were bazookas. Due
to enemy airplanes, our supporting artillery was not able to deliver
effective fire support.
Late in the afternoon of August 8, after consolidating its capture
of Saint-Barthelemy, the Germans launched a fresh large-scale
attack employing numerous tanks with infantry. Despite terrible
odds, the First Battalion stopped the assault cold. German infantrymen
were stopped by determined and stubborn riflemen and machine gunners,
primarily from Company "B". Captain Hendrickson was
wounded during the battle and Lieutenant Spiker again took command
of Company "B".
Late afternoon saw the Jerry counterattack smashed, but the enemy
still had much superior power as it regrouped for a new assault.
The German potential at Saint-Barthelemy soon was crippled, however,
thanks to the brilliant performance of a group of British RAF
Typhoons. About 6:00 P.M. the British airplanes suddenly appeared
from nowhere, swooped down to the tree tops and accurately strafed
German troops as close as one hedgerow from Company "B"
riflemen. Spouting rocket fire, the planes also knocked out many
enemy tanks stacked up behind the crippled lead vehicles. The
RAF men performed with a disregard for danger and with an accuracy
almost unparalleled by Allied airmen in World War II.
Company "B" and the remainder of the Battalion fought
courageously and intelligently. An instance to show how every
man contributed to the stubborn defense by not only doing his
job but by doing as many other jobs as possible, is the story
of Pvt. Timothy L. Birt of Company "B". He was a platoon
runner but had to double as runner to all 4 platoons. Through
the heavy enemy fire he carried messages, orders, ammunition,
rations and mail from Company "B" Command Post to all
platoons. On six different occasions he repaired the telephone
line between the Company CP and the platoons, and once he helped
evacuate a seriously wounded man from an open field. Twice he
went with liter bearers to help evacuate the wounded, and once
served as observer and adjusted the Company's 60 mm mortar fire.
It sounds as though he played Superman that day, but so did all
The battle for Saint-Barthelemy and Mortain was a crucial battle
of World War II according to three top German Generals: Jodl,
Keitel and Von Kesselring. Interviewed after the war, they state
that this engagement was one of the two critical operations leading
to the defeat of Germany in the west. The main drive of the German
Army was absorbed mainly by the First Battalion, 117th Infantry
On August , Company "B" received orders to attack and
retake Saint-Barthelemy. However, the Company was so depleted
that the going was very slow; but by August 11 it was obvious
that the Germans had been defeated and they were withdrawing.
Then on August 12, the Third Battalion 117th Infantry passed
through Company "B" and re-took Saint-Barthelemy. Colonel
Walter M. Johnson, Regimental Commander and Major Warren C. Giles,
Regimental S. 2, were the first to re-enter Saint-Barthelemy August
12 and make a survey of the situation.
On August 13, the First Battalion pulled back to the vicinity
of la-Baurpolin for a day's rest and re-organized. The filing
of NCO vacancies proved to be a problem due to the heavy casualties
suffered during the past few days. One private for an example,
had hardly arrived at the front before he was made a Technical
Sergeant. Company "B" received replacements of 3 Lieutenants
and 70 men.
The First Battalion entrucked on August 14, and moved to the
vicinity of Rouelle where Domfront could be seen perched on a
hill. As German artillery fire began coming in near the head of
the motor column the troops detrucked and proceeded to move forward
on foot to the high ground overlooking l'Onlay-l'Abbaye. The next
day the First Battalion relieved units of the 28th Infantry and
the 3rd Armored Division. From August 16 to 19, the battalion
rested in reserve.
Domfront, Alencon, Belleme, Longny-du-Perche and Senonches were
the principal towns though which the First Battalion motor convoy
sped on a 124 mile move on August 19. The Battalion left l'Opine-l'Obiere
at 3:00 A.M. and soon found themselves in the wide open spaces.
No one felt a moments regret at leaving hedgerow country. Along
with the remainder of the Regiment, the First Battalion was in
Division Reserve and Corps Reserve. While in Corps Reserve, Tennessee's
117th Infantry was entertained by a Tennessee Girl, Dinah Shore.
The popular singer sang a number of songs in a USO show staged
in front of a Chateau.
The Seine River, which had been such a strong barrier to the
Germans in their movements both toward and away from the battlefield,
was proving no real obstacle to the Allied advance. The First
Battalion along with the rest of the 117th Regiment crossed the
Seine River near Mantes-Gassicourt some 25 miles west of Paris
and was ordered to relieve portions of the 79th Division, which
had established a bridge-head across the Seine River. Northeast
of the Seine there were two ridges more or less paralleling the
course of the river. The one closest to the Seine towered 600
feet above its banks. The second ridge was slightly higher. These
ridges were important not only because they covered the Seine,
giving the Germans superior observation and cutting off the Mantes
bend in the river from the area above it, but because they dominated
the rolling plains northward.
Two days of fighting were required to make a clear breakthrough
of the enemy position, and by the 30th of August, the First Battalion,
along with the balance of the Regiment, was moving just about
as fast as their legs would carry them. The crumbling of enemy
opposition that had happened on the battalion front had been duplicated
all along the battle line: the enemy was in headlong flight. The
whole United States First Army, therefore, was going to advance
northeast as far as it's gasoline supply would permit and as fast
as the enemy opposition would allow.
The 30th Infantry Division received orders about midnight August
31/September 1, from XIX Corps, making it clear that this was
no ordinary drive forward. The Division was ordered to an assembly
area just north of the French-Belgium border, near Tournai, Belgium
as soon as possible. On the 30th's left was The 29th Division
of V Corps. The Division would use a single route through Roye,
Peronne, and Cambrai.
A task force was set up under the command of Brigadier General
William K, Harrison, Jr., Assistant Division Commander for the
30th Division. The task force consisted of the 125th Calvary Squadron,
30th Reconnaissance Troop, the 743rd Tank Battalion, 1 Battalion
of Infantry (entirely motorized), the 118th Field Artillery Battalion,
Company "A", 105th Engineer Battalion and Company "A",
823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. This force was powerful and highly
mobile, just the thing to rapidly knock out anything but really
strong opposition. The Division followed Task Force Harrison in
trucks, leaving the 117th Regiment in reserve, as there just were
not enough trucks to go around.
On September 4, the 117th Infantry Regiment traveled 128 miles
by truck in one day to catch up with the advance column. It crossed
the Somme and the Oise Rivers, passed the historic towns of Cambrai,
Valenciennes, and St. Amand and entered Belgium at Tournai. The
30th Infantry Division was the first American Infantry Division
to enter Belgium.
The117th Infantry bivouacked near the famous Waterloo Battlefield
southwest of Brussels, Belgium.
The next day they marched to Lauminais, Belgium, and on the 6th
of September motored 90 miles more to a position behind the Second
Armored Division, where the entire 117th Infantry went into an
assembly area near Ceroux-Moustie. Only a critical shortage of
gasoline prevented additional progress at this point.
On September 8, the regiment began hiking, marched 27 miles the
first day, 22 miles the second day and 15 miles the third, and
"wound-up" in an assembly area near Houtain St. Simeon,
Belgium within sight of the renowned fortress Eben Emael. Company
"B" and the balance of the Battalion bivouacked near
Houtain-Saint Simeon, a town about six miles north of Liege. At
Houtain, the Battalion spent September 11 nursing their feet,
which were not in particularly good shape after 64 miles of hiking
in three days.
The First Battalion moved out at 3:30 A.M. on September 12 and
crossed the Albert Canal and the Meuse River just south of Vise,
Belgium; then moved north toward the Holland border. Very little
resistance was received until they reached the Holland border.
Here the Germans had set up a defense. This opposition was overcome
and the First Battalion, 117th Infantry was the first Allied Unit
to enter Holland.
By the 13th of September the First Battalion had moved up to
the outskirts of Maastricht, Holland and the balance of the 117th
Infantry moved in and took that portion of Maastricht east of
the Meuse River. On the 14th of September, that portion of Maastricht
west of the river was cleared out by the 2nd Battalion, 117th
During this engagement, Lieutenant Elwood G. Daddow, of Company
"B", captured an enemy situation map from a German Officer,
thought to be a Division commander's aide. The map and accompanying
papers revealed pertinent data concerning the enemy in the zone,
including the German plan of withdrawal to the Siegfried Line
and its occupation. At the time it was felt that these documents
contained the most important information of immediate value that
had been captured in the war.
After the battle of Saint-Barthelemy (Mortain), Company "B"
got a welcome honeymoon period during the Northern France Campaign.
In the four weeks between the departure from the French hedgerow
country and the movement into Holland, Company "B" soldiers
did not dodge a single 88mm shell. The easy 500 mile drive gave
the Company a chance to break in gently its many green troops
and leaders. Under the expert guidance of such combat-wise leaders
as Captain Spiker, 1st Sgt. James E. Barclay, Staff Sgt. Roy B.
Duggan, Sgt. Lloyd V. Hamilton and others, these replacements
learned well. Roy B. Duggan later received a Battlefield Commission
of 2nd Lieutenant.
On September 18, Company "B", led the 1st Battalion
northwest through Windhagen, and by late afternoon had reached
the residential section of Heerlen, a neat industrial city, where
they received a liberator's reception in a Dutch manner. The Hollanders
lined the streets and gravely waved at the liberating heroes.
The soldiers who had become accustomed to the hysterical joy of
the French and the enthusiastic welcoming of the Belgium's, did
not quite know what to make of this solmn reception. Actually,
it turned out, the serious Hollanders were as happy as anyone
to see the GI's but simply were not as demonstrative as the French
The attack was contained and Heerlen was taken and the Battalion
continued on to the German border in the vicinity of Scherpenseel,
Germany. As the troops approached the homeland of the Germans,
the enemy fire became more intense from 155mm enemy artillery.
By late afternoon on the 19th of September, Company "B"
led the Battalion across the German border into Scherpenseel,
which had all aspects of a ghost town. The place had been vacated
except for "a handful of civilians". Here the Battalion
received detailed instructions for a September 20 attack on the
Siegfried Line, which was invincible according to Nazi propaganda.
The Siegfried pillboxes in the area faced Scherpenseel on the
northeast and southeast sides just across the Wurm River. Plans
called for a tremendous air strike on the fortified area to the
southeast and obliteration of the towns behind (Palenberg and
Ubach). Cloudy weather prevented the use of airplanes and, since
they were believed essential, the attack was called off. The next
morning plans were completely changed. XIX Corps, with its lines
stretched dangerously thin, had decided to wait until another
division could be brought up to its sector before breaching the
The First Battalion spent the next two weeks rehearsing in detail
for the assault on the Westwall. The training required considerable
manipulation since most Battalion members were on the front and
the enemy was sending in artillery barrages from time to time.
An elaborate sandtable was constructed in the Battalion command
post showing all terrain features in connection with the assault.
The sandtable was studied carefully by each unit of the First
Battalion, and every member was thoroughly briefed on all phases
of the attack plan.
Since the First Battalion was making the assault for the 117th
Regiment, the Second Battalion relieved the First Battalion on
the morning of September 25, and the Battalion marched about three
miles to the rear to near Reeweg, Holland. There training became
more intensive as various units went through "dry-runs"
of the attack. Considerable practice was gained in the use of
such specialized weapons as flame-throwers, pole charges and satchel
charges. The outfit returned to Scherpenseel early in the evening
of September 26.
During the pre-Siegfried period, reconnaissance patrols went
out almost every night. The first patrol to cross the Wurm River,
situated between Scherpenseel and the Siegfried Line, was from
Company "B" and led by Lieutenant Robert P. Cushman.
The group gained invaluable information about the nature of terrain
and enemy fortifications. Reconnaissance missions were flown by
the artillery observation planes who took aloft the various leaders
later involved in the actual operation.
Manning the Scherpenseel defense was a comparatively pleasant
duty. Few casualties occurred and a rotation system was established
among the front-line units whereby men could be sent, in trucks,
to take an occasional hot shower at a coal mine installation in
Heerlen, Holland. Hot meals were served three times a day and
movies were shown almost nightly in a schoolhouse in Scherpenseel.
The XIX Corps plans called for the 30th Division to breach the
Siegfried Line and the 2nd Armored Division and the 29th Division
to follow through and help exploit a breakthrough. The 30th Division
plans called for the 117th Infantry to assault the Westwall in
the Scherpenseel-Palenberg sector. The 117th plans called for
Regiment to attack in columns of Battalions, with the First Battalion
spearheading. The First Battalion plans called for Company "B"
to attack on the left and seize five pillboxes in that sector,
and Company "C" to attack on the right and capture four
pillboxes. Company "A" was to remain in reserve in Scherpenseel,
ready to take over any mission in the attack at a moment's notice.
Company "B"s plan called for two assault platoons attacking
abreast, and one in support. Each front-wave platoon, scheduled
to take two pillboxes, had an assault detachment and supporting
element. The Assault detachment, a 16 man unit, carried such equipment
as a flamethrower, pole charge, extra bazookas and plenty of grenades.
The detachment also had three specially-constructed ladderboards
15 to 20 feet long and 4 feet wide, to be used in crossing the
Wurm River. The boards could be made into a simple but effective
bridge using a procedure developed and promoted by Lieutenant
William J. O'Neill, Battalion Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon Leader.
Two of the boards were to be thrown into the water from opposite
banks of the river forming a V-shaped base, and the third was
laid on top as a walkway. The support element of each assault
platoon consisted of almost two squads equipped with extra Browning
Automatic Rifles (BAR's) for extra fire power.
The line of departure for the First Battalion operation was a
north-south path, several hundred yards east of Scherpenseel.
The zone of advance, about 500 yards wide, extended from the line
of departure 2400 yards eastward to the pillbox area. The first
1200 yards of the zone was an open beet field bounded on the left
the Scherpenseel-Marienberg road, and on the right by a barbed
wire fence denoting the German-Holland border. The next 300 yards
of advance was a series of woods, slopes, hills, quarries and
houses south of Marienberg. This area extended frontally to the
Marienberg-Rimburg road. Sloping downward from the road were several
hundred yards of open ground leading to the Wurm River, a muddy
brook with steep banks. Another slope extended up from the river
several hundred yards to a double railroad track. Sloping upward
until a few more hundred yards was a beet field beyond which was
the objective, the pillbox area. The fortifications were clustered
around a central crossroads south of Palenberg. The pillboxes
were of exceedingly thick reinforced concrete and had apertures
for five machine guns in one or two directions. Living facilities
for small groups of soldiers were provided inside the installations.
The structures were so arranged to take the best advantage of
the terrain so that they could support each other. The pillboxes
were abetted by connecting trenches dug in surrounding areas.
The attack was set for 11:00 A.M., October 2. The scheduled two-hour
saturation bombing preceding H-Hour proved disappointing. Of the
nine groups of medium bombers slated to wipe out such rear-area
targets as the town of Ubach, only four reached their objectives
and the final effect was negligible. Two groups of fighter bombers
came next and did an excellent job of bombing the pillbox line.
Since most enemy troops were safely inside the concrete structures,
however, the fighter planes effect was also negligible
Supporting artillery was considerable and did its usual thorough
job. The close supporting fire was furnished by the Regiment's
118th Field Artillery, as well as by the 92nd Chemical (4,2mm)
The assault platoons for Company "B" jumped off at
exactly 11:00 A.M. and advanced at a rate of "a fast walk
and a dog trot" to keep ahead of the enemy artillery barrages.
Initially the units moved astride the Scherpenseel-Marienberg
road but at the near edge of Marienberg they swung right and proceeded
down a draw south of the town. Still moving quickly, the lead
platoon wheeled southeast from the draw and headed straight for
the Wurm. There the improvised bridges were quickly put into position
under the supervision of Lieutenant O'Neill, who accompanied the
initial elements to the river. Although, Company "B"s
assault-riflemen had already rushed across more than a mile of
territory and were tired, they continued at a fast pace up to
the railroad track, where they began coming under considerable
fire. After a barbed wire along the railroad was cut, the spearheading
GI's worked their way up to the pillbox area. The First Platoon
got the day's bag by reducing five pillboxes, the two assigned,
and three in Company "C"s area. The Second Platoon seized
its two scheduled pillboxes, both situated near Palenberg. The
two assault platoons performed brilliantly, accomplishing their
missions in less than two hours.
First Battalion 117th Infantry, which included Company "B",
was the only lead battalion in the entire Division to accomplish
its mission the first day. The First Battalion had cracked the
Westwall for the entire XIX Corps.
October 2, was a big day for Company "B" in the assault
of the Westwall, but it saw another week of rough fighting before
its part in the Siegfried operation was completed. On October
5, Ubach, jammed with troops from the 30th and the 29th Infantry
Divisions and the 2nd Armored Division, received one of the heaviest
German artillery concentrations ever witnessed on the western
By October 28, in addition to protecting the breach in the Siegfried
Line, the 117th Infantry constituted an important segment of the
American Forces encircling the city of Aachen. Units of the 117th
Infantry had reached the town of Schaufenberg, Germany, which
represented the deepest penetration of the German homeland up
to that time.
In the great offensive that carried the Allied Armies to the
banks of Roer River, the 117th, in the initial assault, carried
out what was termed by higher headquarters as the perfect Infantry
attack with artillery, tanks, direct fire, and other supporting
weapons, all faultlessly coordinated.
The First Battalion was placed in XIX Corps reserve on November
21, and they settled down for four weeks of rest. It was the first
long period in which the outfit was out of any contact with the
enemy. The system of sending old combat men home for rotation
was inaugurated when a handful of lucky GI's departed from the
Company on December 9, 1944 for a three month trip to the Sates.
The units had learned some new tricks in their attack of the
Siegfried Line and the drive to the Roer River. The outfit found,
for example that detailed planning and rehearsing for an attack
with the aid of a sandtable paid big dividends, as evidenced by
the very successful assault on the Siegfried Line. The use of
houses for certain defensive and attacking purposes was also found
In mid-December 1944, the quietest sector of the Western Front
was the rugged 60 miles along the German border between the tip
of Luxemburg on the south and the headwaters of the Roer River
on the north. There, where the Belgium Ardennes merged with the
German Eifel, the American drive during the fall of 1944 made
contact with the log bunkers of the Siegfried Line and stopped.
Defensive positions for the winter were set up on the hills along
the mountain roads. With difficult territory to the front, the
Allied Expeditionary Forces high command deemed this area unworthy
of serious offensive effort and was diverting troops to the Aachen
area in the north and to the Alsace-Lorraine battle area in the
South. The principal American Units left on the line were the
99th and 106th Infantry Divisions under V Corps in front of Malmedy,
and the 4th and 28th Infantry Divisions under the VIII Corps to
the south. They were connected by a calvary group. Both the 99th
and 106th Infantry Divisions were getting their introduction to
combat in this quiet sector. The 4th and 28th Infantry Divisions
were resting after heavy duty in the Hurtgen Forest. Behind the
latter two divisions was the 9th Armored Division, newly arrived
in the battle area.
At 5:30 on the morning of December 16, these divisions had new
troubles on their hands. For several days, their widely scattered
outposts had been plagued by persistent German infiltration behind
their positions. Also, in addition, their front-line troops were
reporting heavy incoming artillery from the east and what appeared
to be reconnaissance in force at several places. By nightfall
communications in many forward positions had been cut, strong
points had been isolated, and withdrawals of up to three kilometers
had been made on a 10-kilometer front. Six new enemy divisions,
including the 2nd and 116th Panzer Divisions, were identified
in the action. The Battle of the Ardennes, the most massive German
effort of the Western Campaign and one which would eventually
involve 29 enemy divisions, was under way.
During the night of December 16/17, the Germans dropped a large
number of paratroopers with sabotage missions in the Eupen-Malmedy
area, and on the next day began introducing more of their armor
into the struggle. The German operation was under the capable
direction of Field Marshal Von Rundstedt. He planned to drive
to the great communications center of Liege, capture the huge
Allied dump of gasoline and ammunitions there and split the Allied
The 30th Infantry Division was ordered to an assembly area near
Hauset. Belgium; while the 117th was stopped enroute by the Assistant
Division Commander and directed to proceed to Malmedy and Stavelot
to block the powerful German breakthrough attempt. Enemy planes
strafed and bombed the troops as they moved toward Malmedy. The
First Battalion was ordered to retake Stavelot, a town on the
Ambleve River. As they moved toward their new assignment, men
with radios in their jeeps heard Axis Sally, the infamous German
propaganda woman, tell of a huge German counterattack through
the Ardennes Mountains which she said could not possibly be stopped.
"The fanatical 30th Division, Roosevelt's SS Troops, are
enroute to the rescue, but this time it will be completely annihilated",
Sally said soothingly.
The First Battalion was ordered to relieve Company "A",
526th Armored Infantry Battalion, a green unit hastily sent there
the day before to try to hold the place. Since the Malmedy-Stavelot
highway had been cut off. The First Battalion, moving by truck,
had to go north to Francorchamps and then south to Stavelot.
The Battalion detrucked about 2 miles north of town, where they
found some of the armored infantrymen sitting around eating K-rations.
"The Germans ran us out", the men said. The mission
of the First Battalion abruptly changed from one of relief to
one of assault. The Battalion then advanced with Company "A"
on the right and Company "B" on the left of the highway
leading to Stavelot. Along the road large dumps of gasoline cans,
set on fire to prevent Germans from coming up and utilizing them,
were burning brightly.
As the troops approached the town they could see huge Tiger Royal
(Mark IV) tanks. Assault riflemen infiltrated into the center
of Stavelot, where the town square was situated. A platoon of
Company "A" and the First Platoon of Company "B"
took the square but were unable to move further due to several
tanks that blocked their advance.
The riflemen were able to hold the Tiger Royal tanks at bay by
firing rifle grenades and bazookas. The First Platoon of Company
"B" set up the rifle defense of the square and coordinated
the tank destroyers (TD's) and machine guns as well as mortar
Two American jeeps and two half-tracks overflowing with Germans
dressed in GI uniforms sneaked through the front line and roared
into the middle of the square with guns blazing. At first the
daring assault caused considerable confusion, but the GI's quickly
regained their poise and proceeded to annihilate all the Germans
and capture the vehicles.
The next morning the attack was renewed, the Battalion's mission
being to push forward about two hundred yards and set up a defense
along the Ambleve River, which flowed north-south across the eastern
part of Stavelot. The bridge across the river was blown by the
Battalion's Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon.
December 20, was a rough one for the First Battalion. The enemy
made repeated fanatical counterattacks in a desperate effort to
recapture Stavelot. The First Battalion was again pitting itself
against the 1st SS Adolph Hitler Panzer Division, which it had
met and defeated at Mortain. Stavelot, like Mortain, was the key
to the First SS drive, the main effort of the 1st SS Corps, which
in turn was the spearhead for the Sixth SS Panzer Army.
The enemy apparently gave up hopes for retaking Stavelot after
their six fanatical counterassaults of December 20th had failed.
The First Battalion had defeated the First SS Adolph Hitler Division
again. It was estimated that at least 1,000 German dead lined
the banks of the river, mute testimony to the heroic action of
the First Battalion. This entire operation was accomplished with
about 1 foot of snow on the ground.
The next operation for Company "B" and the First Battalion
was the Saint Vith offense to straighten out the bulge that had
been created by the German offense. On January 14, the First Battalion
entrucked and moved to an assembly area near Malmedy. At 2:00
P.M. the Battalion headed south, moving through Geromont, Baugnez,
Ligneuville, Recht, and finally taking Rodt on the 24th of January.
The Germans had no organized defense but relied on road blocks
and other delaying tactics. Company "B" encountered
very little trouble from the enemy since their troops in the area
were spread thin. However, heavy snow (18 inches) and cold weather
more than made up for the lack of opposition. The terrain traversed
was rough with very few houses where troops might have rotated
for a brief opportunity to warm themselves. A foxhole could not
be made warm in the snow and frostbite alone accounted for more
than 100 casualties in the Battalion during this operation.
On January 26, 1945 a Regiment from the 17th Airborne Division
relieved the 117th Infantry, and on January 28, the First Battalion
entrucked and moved through Vielsalm to Grand Halleux. This town,
like most others, was battle-scarred but the soldiers soon had
the houses in comfortable shape for a few days rest. While in
this rest area the men were issued new clothing designed specifically
for winter campaigning. However, the clothes were a little late
since, even as they were being issued, the snow on the ground
showed signs of melting.
The 30th Infantry Division had been assigned to the First Army
during the Battle of the Bulge. It was relieved of that assignment
on February 2, 1945 and returned to the Ninth Army. Assigned to
the XIX Corps as Ninth Army reserve, it was moved to the vicinity
of Aachen, Germany. The First Battalion, 117th Infantry, moving
by night, arrived in Verlautenheide, Germany about 2:00 A.M. February
3. The next morning the troops found enough basements and rooms
partially intact to make reasonably decent living quarters. The
Battalion then moved to their "old stomping ground";
Warden, Germany, a town in the Siegfried Line which they had taken.
The Battalion was in Warden about two weeks training for the next
operation, the crossing of the Roer River. On February 19, The
First Battalion was presented the Distinguished Unit Citation
by General S. Leland Hobbs, Commanding General for the 30th Infantry
Division for their Saint-Barthelemy (Mortain) performance.
The 30th Infantry Division was awarded the Belgian Fourragere,
for its performance in the Ardennes and for its part in the liberation
of Belgium September 4 - 10, 1944.
The crossing of the Roer River was originally planned for February
10, 1945, but due to flood waters caused by the Germans blowing
the dams of the upper Roer River at midnight February 8, the crossing
was postponed until February 23. The Division designated the 119th
and the 120th Infantry as the assault troops, and the 117th was
designated Division reserve initially.
The crossing began during the pre-dawn hours of February 23rd
and the first notice the enemy had of the attack came at 2:45
A M., when all of the cannoneers along a 25 mile stretch of river
(from south of Duren to north of Linnich) began a pounding that
would last 45 minutes to H-Hour. That barrage was the biggest
ever used on the Western Front in World War II. On the 30th Infantry
Division front, covering 8,000 yards of enemy front lines, the
Division artillery was reinforced by 3 Battalions of artillery
of the 2nd Armored Division's self-propelled artillery as well
as Corps and Army battalions for a total of 246 tubes in action,
or one for every 32 yards of front. In addition to 36-4.2mm chemical
mortars fired high explosive shells. The 823rd Tank Destroyer
Battalion's 36 guns, also participated in the preparation.
The 119th and the 120th Infantry established a bridgehead across
the Roer and 117th, initially in reserve, was committed through
the forward units of the Division at 4:30 P.M. February 24th.
The First Battalion remained in Regimental reserve, and in late
afternoon, moved to the 119th crossing site near Schophoven. After
crossing the river, they returned southward to Krauthauzen and
northeast to Niederzier and stayed in the buildings there while
waiting further commitment. Company "B" leading the
Battalion, left at 1:45 A.M. February 25th and moved northeast
along the highway toward Steinstrass, through the die Burge woods.
The mission of the First Battalion was to protect the right flank
of the 117th Infantry which also was the flank of the 30th Infantry
Division, XIX Corps, Ninth Army and the 21st Army Group.
The First Battalion received orders to take Oberembt and Kirchtroisdorf
at 8:30 P.M. under the light of a half-moon. The Battalion jumped
off with Company "B" on the left and Company "A"
on the right and each Company was paced by a tank-mounted rifle
platoon. Companies "B" and " A" moved rapidly
and cleared out the towns, and by midnight the defense of Kirchtroisdorf
By this time Company "B" had become very efficient
in night attack using the tank infantry teams. They had found
that on a moon-lit night, by using tanks with infantry they could
move faster and with fewer casualties.
On February 27, elements of the 83rd Infantry Division and the
2nd Armored Division passed through the 30th Infantry Division
to exploit the Roer breakthrough. The First Battalion stayed in
Kirchtroisdorf several days. On March 2, word was received that
the Germans had penetrated the right flank of the 83rd Infantry
Division across the Erft Canal. The 117th was to move up and get
the situation under control. The First Battalion entrucked at
2:00 P.M. and sped north 14 miles, detrucked and worked their
way forward into Hemmerden. They then moved on and recaptured
the town of Kapellen, situated on the Erft Canal with Company
"B" leading the Battalion attack.
On the 6th, the First Battalion began a long motor movement through
Julich, Aachen and Heerlen to Linne, Holland; then to a point
several miles south to Roermond. After Lt. Col. Frankland, Battalion
Commander, persuaded higher headquarters that his troops should
have the best of quarters, the First Battalion had the privilege
of occupying good housing in a good section of Roermond. The troops
experienced one of the most pleasant 10-day periods they had while
in combat. (The purpose of moving back to Holland was to train
the Battalion intensively for assaulting the Rhine River, which
was the next operation)
One note of tragedy marred the training. On March 11th, a boat
containing one squad of Company "B" capsized in the
Maas River, where the training was taking place. Most members
were saved, but three were drowned in the swift current.
The 30th Infantry Division was again put on the secret list,
and Company "B", along with the First Battalion, moved
on the night of March 18th to an assembly area southwest of Wesel
near the Rhine River.
When the battalion moved into the assembly area near the Rhine,
it had seen little rough fighting for almost three months for
the last hard fight was at Stavelot, Belgium, during the battle
of the Bulge. The GI's of Company "B", however, were
sweating out the Rhine crossing. The elaborate preparations were
too similar to those before the Siegfried Line operation.
About 10:00 o'clock on the night of March 23rd during a break
in the movement of the First Battalion to an assembly position
near the Rhine, General Eisenhower, who was observing troops in
Company "B" and the rest of the Battalion, chatted with
several members. General Simpson, Ninth Army Commander, was also
in the area. He asked Tech Sergeant LeRoy Summers, head of Company
"B"s 2nd Platoon, if he thought he would make it across
all right. "General" the sergeant replied, "if
Company "B" can't make it tonight you can give up hope
for the whole Ninth Army".
Again the Fist Battalion was selected as the assault Battalion
for the crossing of the Rhine. The third Battalion, 117th Infantry
carried all stormboats to the river's edge in the dark so that
the troops selected for the crossing would be fresh for the assault.
On March 24th, at exactly 2:00 A.M., the assault platoon shoved
off: Company "B" on the right and Company "A"
on the left. At H minus 5 (H-5), the second wave of stormboats
carrying the remainder of the assaulting companies moved out.
These stormboats were equipped with motors. Some boats landed
at points far from where the were supposed to land but the troops
were so well briefed they could almost have felt their way in
the dark to their respective rallying points. On the whole, little
resistance was encountered. Company "B" was the first
unit to clear its obstacle, a dike (by 2:10 A.M.): it reorganized,
and then moved on and took the town or Ork. One hundred fifty
prisoners, most of them cowering in cellars were captured. The
operation was possibly the smoothest ever performed by the First
Battalion, but light opposition made such smoothness easy.
Shortly after midnight on March 25th, the First Battalion moved
on through Stockum, to a "Built-up" area west of the
Autobahn, on the Hunxe. Next morning (March 27th) Company "B"
on the left and Company "C" on the right took a German
Airfield; then set up a defense of the area utilizing the German
barracks just north of the landing field.
On March 28th, an English Armored Division passed through for
a proposed exploitation of the Rhine bridgehead. The First Battalion
then spent a couple of days in Regimental reserve.
The 30th Division had been assigned to XVI Corps for the Rhine
River Crossing and, on March 31st, reverted back under the control
of XIX Corps with the mission of racing toward Berlin with the
2nd Armored Division.
At 6:00 A. M., April 1st the First Battalion entrucked and crossed
the Lippe Canal and motored 55 miles to Brensteinfurt, where they
spent the night in scattered farm houses at the edge of town.
During the first day's dash, the battalion's GI's got a good idea
of what the "track meet" would be like. Streams of Allied
prisioners, thin as skeletons, were liberated from German prison
camps as were slave laborers from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia
and France. The Battalion also passed droves of German soldiers,
with their hands up, running toward POW cages to the rear. German
civilians en route gave the conquering Americans a welcome of
a peculiar sort. Beneath white flags draped from their windows,
the civilian would wave their hands listlessly, usually with expressions
of fear, or anger on their face.
The month of April was a period of fast and continuous movement
with the 117th Infantry traveling over 250 miles eastward to positions
in the city of Magdeberg on the west bank of the Elbe River.
The First Battalion moved through Oerlingshausen, Pansheide and
Hastenbeck on the bank of the Weser River near Hamelin, the Pied
Piper town. Hamelin had been bypassed by the 2nd Armored Division
and the 117th was given the mission of taking it. Company "B"
and Company "C" jumped off at 6:00 A.M. April 7th to
take the town. They experienced little difficulty in their attack
and captured hundreds of prisoners. The noted commentator, Lowell
Thomas, visited the Battalion while it was in Hamelin.
April 10th found the First Battalion moving eastward again, following
a screen by the I & R Platoon, 117th Infantry, 125th Calvary
and 30th Reconnaissance Troop. Company "B" reached the
Weser-Elbe Canal about 6:00 P.M. There a civilian met them with
the news that the German General in command of that sector wished
to surrender his troops. Arrangements were made to have General
Hobbs, 30th Infantry Division to meet the German General at the
canal at 7:00 P.M. This meeting was disappointing since the German
General would not accept unconditional surrender. Fighting was
The attack toward Brunswick started from the Weser-Elbe Canal
8,000 yards from the city. Brunswick, a city of over 250,000 population,
was a large manufacturing center, producing optical instruments
and numerous small mechanical parts for German weapons. The city
was also the site of a German artillery school, a replacement
center and an aircraft research laboratory which included research
on the German's V-2 weapon. Brunswick also had its strategic value,
and after its capture the path was open for a rapid advance to
the banks of the Elbe River.
Taking the city of Brunswick was not much of a problem. By April
12th, the city had been cleared and the Battalion had moved eight
miles east of the city where they entrucked and moved in convoy
to Calvorde. Arriving after dark, they set up a defense near a
canal on the eastern edge of town.
April 13th, proved to be the First Battalion's big day in the
fast moving "track meet". The Company rolled northeast
through huge Forst Letzlingen, passing, en route, an extensive
ordnance proving ground of the German Army. The drive was headed
for Tangermunde but at Huselitz they received notification of
a change in Corps boundary. The advance was then directed sharply
toward the south. The Battalion moved on and took the town of
Loitsche, a town near the Elbe River, some six miles away.
The next day, April 14th, Company "B" attacked Heinrichsberg,
a small town on the Elbe River. They remained there two days,
while the rest of the battalion remained in Loitsche.
Company "B" and the remainder of the Battalion, on
the 16th of April, moved south to Hermsdorf and Hohenwarsleben
where the units went into an assembly position in preparation
for the attack on Magdeburg. The assault plan called for the 30th
Division to attack on the left and the 2nd Armored Division on
the right. The First Battalion's zone of advance was through "almost-the-center"
of the city.
On April 17th, preceded by a heavy bombing, the Battalion jumped
off at 3:15 P.M. After running into considerable opposition in
a housing project at the outskirts of the city, the Battalion
pushed forward and was half way through Magdeburg by nightfall.
The advance was resumed at 6:30 the next morning with Company
"B" on the left and "A" on the right. Company
"B" reached it's objective on the Elbe River shortly
after noon. The Company threw up a line of defense on the Elbe
River and held up their advance.
With the scheduled drive to Berlin cancelled, Company "B"
and the remainder of the Battalion sat in place for three weeks
awaiting the Russian Army and the end of the war. Displaced persons
(DP's) rather than German soldiers, offered the greatest problem.
The former slave laborers were centralized in large camps for
feeding and control. Although the DP's were watched closely, they
often managed to slip out in groups and raid the homes of their
former masters. Another problem was caused by civilians and German
troops streaming into the American sector from across the Elbe
River. These groups were fleeing from the Russians, who did not
arrive at the east bank of the river until May 4. V-E Day was
declared, May 8, 1945.
During the combat Company "B" had sustained 386 Casualties
representing about 200 per cent of the table-of-organization strength.
Casualty breakdown was as follows:
WIA 269; KIA 60; POW 31; MIA 26; for a total of 386.
Out of the original group leaving Athens in 1940, there were
five killed in action; James Evans Giles; William Carl Miller;
Harry McMahan; Joseph Earl Simpson and Odis C. Stanfill.
In summary, Company "B" was the most aggressive Company
of the First Battalion and it proved this at Saint-Barthelemy
and Stavelot. The Assault on the Siegfried Line was Company "B"s
"Show" and its biggest triumph. The Company captured
eight of the ten pillboxes in the First Battalion sector. The
Company accomplished the ultimate aim of any unit in combat by
getting the most objectives in the quickest time with the fewest
Company "B" was lucky to have good combat leaders.
Captain Robert C. Spiker, who joined the unit as a 2nd Lieutenant
when the unit first entered combat and became an outstanding leader.
He was promoted to Captain on September 2, 1944. First Sgt. James
E. Barclay, was a big contributor to the success of Company "B".
He was promoted to First Sgt. In the summer of 1942 while the
unit was at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and served under several
Company Commanders. He not only served under them , but helped
guide many of the young Lieutenants and Captains in combat. Roy
B. Duggan, received a battlefield commission in September 1944,
and proved to be a great combat leader. There were many others
that contributed to the success of Company "B".
On May 27th, British troops occupied Magdeburg and the 117th
Infantry moved about 150 miles south to Oelsnitz and Bad-Elsren,
Germany, near the Czechoslovakian border, for occupation. Company
"B" was near Bad-Elsren. While here, orders were received
that the 30th Infantry Division would be redeployed to the Pacific
Theater of Operation for the Japanese War. On June 29th, Company
"B" exchanged all high-point officers and enlisted men
for low point-men of the 417th Infantry, 76th Infantry Division.
At this time most of the officers and men who had fought through
the war were transferred.
On July 31st the Company boarded the Liberty Ship Marine Wolf.
They arrived in Southampton, England to wait for the British liner
The Queen Mary docked at Ocean Pier in Southampton on August
13th. The next day troops started embarking, but before sailing,
news of the Japanese surrender was received and redeployment plans
were cancelled. On August 17th, the Queen Mary pulled away from
England to dock at Pier 90, New York City. Five days later Company
"B" returned to Fort Jackson, South Carolina and was
inactivated from Federal Service November 24, 1945.
On November 24, 1945, when the company was inactivated, only
one original member of Company "B" still remained in
the 117th Infantry and that was William H. Cate, who had been
transferred to the Service Company 117th Infantry and assigned
to Personnel Section. He assisted in the inactivation of the 117th
DECORATIONS AND AWARDS
Company "B" along with the First Battalion, 117th Infantry,
30th Infantry Division, fought in five campaigns (5 battle stars)
Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe.
It received two DISTINGUISHED UNIT CITATIONS, one for their Saint-Barthelemay
(Mortain) performance and one for their outstanding performance
on October 2, 1944 in cracking the Siegfried Line, where Company
"B" excelled and was the first to crack the west wall.
In summary, Company "B" produced many good officers,
out of the original group leaving Athens in September 1940. Many
of the officers remained active in National Guard, Reserve and
a few in the Active Army and Air Force. A roster showing the highest
rank reached as follows:
MAJOR GENERAL BRIGADIER GENERAL COLONEL
Warren C. Giles John M. Calhoun Carl A. Anderson, Jr.
Carl E. Lay Glen R Aytes
Jack P. Lansford
LIEUTENANT COLONEL MAJORS CAPTAIN
Jack A. Bell Roy B. Duggan William E. Hamby
Earl W. Carmichael Frank C., Carmichael Neil L. Jiles
Walter E. Moses Hermon L. Moses William Carl Miller (KIA)
Hihn B. Owen, Jr. Gene S. Stalcup John L. Peck
Karl D. Saulpaw James Duff Womac
Zebulon V. Sherrill
John F. Trusley LIEUTENANTS
James E. Giles (KIA)
Lloyd V. Hamilton
Onley M. Pierce
Edsel W. Underwood
Joseph E. Simpson (KIA)
This letter was received by the Commanding General 30th Infantry
Division and was reproduced from the History of the 117th Infantry.
16 March 1946
Dear General Hobbs
Now that I am leaving the service, I thought it might be well
to give you the following
Information for whatever satisfaction you may derive therefrom.
I was historian of the ETO. Toward the end of last fall, for the
purpose of breaking The log-jam of paper concerning division presidential
unit citations, General Eisenhower instructed me to draw up a
rating sheet on the divisions. This entailed in the Actual processing
that we had to go over the total work of all of the more ex-
perienced divisions, infantry and armor, and report back to him
which divisions we Considered had performed the most efficient
and consistent battle service.
We so did, and we named certain infantry divisions in the first
category and the same With armor and we placed others in a second
category and yet others in a third.
The 30th was among five divisions in the first category.
However we placed the 30th Division no. 1 on the list of first
category division. It was the combined judgment of the approximately
35 historical officers who had Worked on the records and in the
field that the 30th had merited this distinction.
It was our finding that the 30th had been outstanding in three
operations and that We could consistently recommend it for citation
on any one of these occasions. It was found further that it had
in no single instance performed discreditably or weakly when considered
against the averages of the Theater and that in no single Operation
had it carried less than its share of the burden or looked bad
pared with the forces on its flanks. We were especially impressed
with the fact that It had consistently achieved results without
undue wastage of its men.
I do not know whether any further honors will come to the 30th.
I hope they do. For we had to keep looking at the balance of things
always and we felt that the 30th Was the outstanding infantry
division of the ETO.
S/ S.L.A. Marshall
Colonel S. L. A. Marshall, GSC
Historian of ETO
324 Trinity Place
West Palm Beach