36th Signal Company - Message Center Section

MARCH 1945

We stayed on in Brumath and Stephansfeld until the 14th of March, living a life of tranquillity and frequent formations. At 1200 of 14 March, one team moved forward to the town of Batzendorf and established a message center there in a private home; the Brumath installation closed out entirely. The rest of the section continued to bivouac in Brumath, and at 1800A, 15 March, these men pulled out for Pfaffenhoffen as an advance party. Our infantry was beginning the push into Germany, and a number of message center men were assigned to liaison work with task forces and recon radios: Privates Yore, Anderson, Williams and Werner were at one time or another detailed to such duties.

At Pfaffenhoffen, the advance party set up shop in a basement of an isolated private dwelling, and the teams, as they arrived, hunted for accommodations in the homes of the townspeople. Occasional shellfire fell into the town for a time, but the front rapidly receded. By the morning of the 17th, it was time for another advance, and a team was sent out to establish a message center in Morsbronn-les-Bains. That was easier said than done; the team followed the advancing 142nd Regiment until it ceased to advance, at Griesbach. Not until 1600A was it possible for the advance detail to enter Morsbronn, and then they were greeted by a lively tank and small-arms scrap.

The advance did not begin operations at Morsbronn until 0900 hours. Sgt. Tessie McCray’s team loaded up the truck at Pfaffenhoffen by 1000, and moved up to Morsbronn in time to eat noon chow and leave immediately on an advance to Soultz-Sous-Forets. The roads to Soultz were utterly congested with every type of vehicle, and the town was not reached until 2100. Coming in to Soultz, we observed a whopping selfpropelled gun of the enemy, which had been knocked out and burned at a rail crossing. Pvt. Yore, our artillery expert, identified it as a 170 rifle. Several of the boys walked over to photograph the monster in the morning, but were discouraged by large shells falling near it. Soultz had taken a pretty bad beating.

A scheduled 0800A advance to Wissembourg was delayed, owing to heavy shelling of the town, until 1330A. This advance was unable to proceed directly to Wissembourg, as the enemy laid in another barrage in midafternoon, but by 1645 the message center equipment had been installed in a midtown house, and the remainder of the section closed in at dusk. The company bivouac was two large stone buildings, previously used as barracks by the enemy, behind which, close by, were a battery of 155 rifles.

The message center, 700 meters from German soil, operated normally until the 23rd. A fine supply of potatoes had been found in the cellar, and in slack periods the teams fried vast quantities of fried potatoes. Life at the company was punctuated by concussions from our outgoing mail, and occasional close bursts of enemy shells. On the 20th of March, Pfc. Lerner was wounded by shrapnel in the right hand, when a large enemy shell air-burst over the bivouac area; this same shell killed a Corps wireman, and put some of our vehicles and one motor in need of repairs. Sporadic shelling and occasional visits of enemy aircraft continued throughout our stay in Wissembourg. When things got quiet for a while, camera fiends were able to climb to the fourth floor larger building and photograph the first burning German town, on the near side of the first hill.

Next stop was Bergzabern. At 0930A on 23 March, one team moved forward through the Dragon’s Teeth of the Siegfried Line, bombed low by fighter-bombers, and crushed flat by tanks, and reached their objective by 1330 hours. This town, like all localities near the Siegfried defenses, was all but deserted, and we moved into the soft beds of wellfurnished private homes. The civilians had evidently been gone some time, for a desk-calendar in one house read February 15. One team of the section had remained in Wissembourg, and did not advance until the personnel at Bergzabern had packed up again and headed for Herxheim, at 0800 of 24 Mardi.

From 24 March through the 28th, the company remained in Herxheim, a village so swiftly passed by our infantry that it was altogether unscathed. To secure a message center and quarters for personnel, the section ordered Germans out of two houses; most Germans take dispossession stolidly, but the hausfrau into whose kitchen and parlor we moved our message center went wholly off her trolley. Quarters were cramped but clean in the section residence. An octet of bottles, abandoned by the tenants, were discovered by one team; we had been warned of poisoned liquor, so that the first round of drinks was taken rather thoughtfully, but from then on the cognac, vermouth and anisette went down rapidly. Pfc. "Pop" Williams, returning with a radio reconnaissance car to the CP, brought to each cigar-smoker in the section a box of 200 to 300 German cigars, found in an abandoned factory in the forward area. They had an alfalfea tang, but they were cigars. The big excitement of our days at Herxheim came when several of the drivers, for some obscure reason, turned a civilian car (damaged beyond repairs) over onto Sgt. Clay’s laundry-fire. The car’s gas-tank promptly blew up, and the barn adjoining the section quarters began to burn briskly. At the first cry of fire, many of the men jumped from the second-floor windows, but when they saw that the building was not immediately threatened, they entered again by the door, and began throwing army and personal possessions out the windows. The yard was soon ankle-deep in equipment. Bucket-brigades and a little clever engineering soon put the house out of danger, though the barn burned clown to the ground. At one point, a group of soldiers and civilians came running up the street with a fire-hose, and unrolled it toward the building, then someone recalled that the municipal water-system was kaputt.

On 29 March at 0830 in the morning, an advance went to Klingenmunster, followed by the rest of the section as soon as the French had taken over the Division sector. By 31 March we were all in Klingenmunster.

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