The first battle was just a small sample of the things to
come. We shelled the enemy with our field artillery for about
twenty minutes, and then we stopped the shelling. Our infantry
was then supposed to advance into the enemy territory. Instead,
we could hear their tanks rumbling on the other side of the Normandy
hedgerows. They then started shelling our positions. The first
shell exploded and the shrapnel hit one of our men in the upper
arm. I was close to him and had the job of rendering first-aid.
His whole arm was hanging by the skin. I did the best I could
under battlefield conditions, but I am sure that he must have
lost his arm. That was my first baptism of battle.
Once we were running across a cemetery in Germany. German
snipers and machine gunners opened up on us. A bullet must have
missed my head by inches. It sounded like a bee. Pst! I ran and
hid behind a tombstone, laid down on the top of the grave, took
out my shovel and started to dig a hole. I said to myself, "Move
over, Otto, you are dead, I want to live." In the meantime
bullets kept bouncing off the other side of the stone. Eventually
the shooting stopped. I got up and took a look at the other side
of the tombstone. It was deeply chipped in about forty places.
I will never forget the tombstone of Otto Heintz.
We were fighting for several days and we were below strength.
We fought our way into a town called Bernburg, Germany, and we
were tired, dirty, and all worn out. We were informed that we
could rest for a few days while we received new replacements
for the dead and wounded. All of us split into groups and took
over the various houses. The civilians had all moved out. The
group I was with went into a hardware store. In the rear of the
store was a stairway leading up to a flat where the proprietor
and his family resided. We went up the stairs to the living quarters.
Everyone started to relax. Some men laid on the beds, some on
the couches, and some even laid on the floor. I went into a large
bathroom where there was a shower and a large water tank with
piles of wood along side of the tank. In order to get hot water,
there had to be a fire under the tank. I figured we were going
to stay put for a few days so I might as well take a shower.
I took my time, took the wood and started a fire under the tank.
After a long shower I came out and put on my clothes. Something
seemed strange. I looked around and saw that the flat was deserted,
then looked out the window and down the main street. There wasn't
a soul in sight. Everyone had evacuated the town and neglected
to tell me.
I really didn't know what to do. In the comer of a bedroom closet
was a ladder that went to a trap door to the top of the building.
I went up a ladder thru the trap door to the top of the roof.
It was a fiat roof that had a three-foot brick wall all the way
around it. I went back and pulled the ladder to the roof and
closed the trap door. I decided to stay on the roof and see what
would happen. I slept on the roof the first night and did not
hear a sound. It was eerie being the only person in the whole
town. Early in the morning things changed. I heard clanging and
banging and lots of noise. I sneaked a look over the wall and
what did I see? It seemed as if the whole German army had taken
over the town with tanks, trucks, and several hundred soldiers.
For four days and nights I was on the roof without substantial
food. I did have five candy bars. During all of this time I could
hear the Germans talking and walking on the floor below. Luck
was with me as they didn't notice the trap door in the closet.
I knew that eventually our men would return, but I was afraid
that they would first shell the town. In case shells started
falling, there couldn't be a worse place to be than on top of
a building. However after four days the Germans pulled out of
the town without a shot being fired. A few hours later our troops
came in. They thought I was either dead or captured. WHAT AN
One day several of our tanks were parked in a wide open field.
A German 88mm shell came in and hit one of the tanks. I was a
first-aid man and was close by. I climbed on the tank to see
if I could help. I opened up the turret and helped one of the
wounded men out of the tank and onto the ground. One of the tank
treads was on fire. So I quickly climbed back on the tank to
see if I could help those still inside. I heard the screech of
a shell coming in. I knew that the enemy had the tank in their
gun sights. I dove off head first and hit my chest on the corner
of the tank. My pistol belt, or gas mask, caught on some protruding
object on the tank. I spun around and hit the ground very hard,
knocking myself out, and woke up in an ambulance. I had a bump
on the middle of my chest about the size of an egg. The doctors
did nothing but put a SAND BACK ? on my chest for a few days,
and then sent me back to my outfit. The bump had gradually subsided
but is still noticeable. Every time I take a deep breath I still
feel the ache in my chest.
I saw many terrible things. Both American and German soldiers
lying dead in the fields, ditches, and streets. After one battle
I saw American soldiers filling a semi-truck with both dead American
and German soldiers. The truck was the size of a large moving
van. They were stacking up the bodies on top of each other like
sardines in a can.
There were many bad things to see all thru the war. The following
two observation were the worst:
After all the battles there were dead bodies, but one in particular
caught my eye. It wasn't a body but the blown off leg of an American
soldier with his combat boot on the foot.
The worst and most horrible of all was just to see the separated
head of an American soldier, lying along side a country road.
His helmet and body were a few feet away from his head. This
I will never forget. I constantly have nightmares.