Occasionally, I publish some of Mr. Montgomery’s musings edited only for grammatical errors. I really appreciate all that our Veterans have done for our Country, so this article is for today’s Veterans Day. Thank you, Mr. Montgomery.
Battle of the Bulge – 1944
I wasn’t there – I was back at Headquarters in Versailles doing typewriters as usual. The following stories are second hand from acquaintances that seemed to know something about it.
I had an Army friend that I seemed to meet every once in a while during my time in the army. His name; Laurence B. Rogers, from Salt Lake City1. I originally met him in the giant bunkhouse for the army at University of Utah Field House – we were nearby bunk mates. I found him to be a sincere hard working man. The Scene changes: Almost a year later, both of us are transferred to the 66th Infantry Division in an Arkansas training camp.
Later I was standing on a street corner in Paris, and there was Rogers again, on leave from a different army unit that was working in the front area. This was the period when the Allied Armies had the Germans on the run, and were approaching the German border. He said he was part of a crew who were manning an Anti Tank field gun. They had their own army truck, complete with pot bellied stove, along with piles of ammunition, and an anti tank gun trailing behind them. We exchanged stories, pleasantries, etc, and both departed. I ended up in HQ in Frankfurt, and he ended up in a fracas with the Germans.
The time, sometime later after the Germans were really on the run, he came into HQ on a visit to Frankfurt. He was on his way to a training school for army officers. Here is his story.
Laurence was in a forward area in a forested area in the French/German border area. Word came down to them that the Germans had launched a major attack against the American lines. Somehow he got separated from the rest of his squad, and was skulking around in the bushes when he heard the sound of a German Tiger Tank. It came roaring around some trees and bushes, but continued on to the west, ignoring him hiding there. He found out later that he was maybe 10 miles or more behind the American battle lines. So he “retreated” up a hill and joined some other stragglers heading west to find the rest of the US Army. All of a sudden a jeep came hurtling along with a Major General aboard. The General inquired “what outfit is this” , everybody looked puzzled, and admitted that the group of about 20 came from all parts of the army – no particular outfit. The General replied instantly: “All right, You! (pointing at Rogers) I’m appointing you 2nd Lieutenant, and you are in charge of this platoon”. “You are to go up this hill (pointing) and join the army unit to make a stand against the Germans. On the double, move it”, He wrote down Rogers name, climbed into his jeep and rushed off.
I had no way of knowing who the other people with Rogers were, but I think the fates were looking after the Americans that day. My own personal judgement, from knowing this man for a short time previously, the General had picked the right guy. The military stand on that hill was a success, and was one of the important places where we held the line against the German advance. The story is that the German advance had run into an American army unit that held a hillside against the German advance, and so delayed the Germans that they were forced to retreat. This US army unit was just a collection of Army engineers, with cooks, clerks, and other US soldiers commandeered to defend the hill. It was followed by the defensive hold at Bastogne. That finished off the German army in the end. I met Rogers, briefly again in his Lieutenants uniform, he apparently was a success.
Life at SHAEF (Versailles) after the start of the Battle of the Bulge. We were so far behind the lines that our first inkling that something was not right, was the security attitude of the Provost Marshal, who set up road blocks, and security points all around Eisenhower’s headquarters. There was a rumor that a special unit of the German Army (actual SS) had been assigned to invade headquarters and attempt to kidnap or kill Eisenhower. Actually he was not there at all; Eisenhower spent most of his time at an advance headquarters up near the actual battle lines. Here in Versailles every gate and entrance was patrolled by MPs (guns at the ready) checking everybody’s ID cards. Even our passes for SHAEF were carefully examined by the guards every time we went through a check point in the various offices. Yes, I was still fixing typewriters.
One incident told by one of the SHAEF HQ Command truck drivers was pretty wild. (I don’t guarantee the accuracy of this report) but it’s a good story anyway.
This was several days into the Battle, when the Germans seemed to be everywhere. We had a unit of SHAEF up in Luxembourg, and our truck was on its way back to Paris. Our driver and Sergeant claimed that they were getting low on gas somewhere just out of Luxembourg, so they pulled into an obvious army gas station, and filled up their tank, and added an extra 5 gallon can of gas. EXCEPT, they claimed the guy working at the gas station spoke German – so did our sergeant. They rushed off toward the west. Whether true or not, its a good story, and plausible. The German army had moved so swiftly that they had gotten behind the US lines. It was plausible that they had established a fuel dump near Luxembourg ready for action – we just borrowed some of their gas.
The rest of the Battle of the Bulge story has become legend, and can be read in the news paper accounts of the defense of Bastogne and General McAuliffe’s replay to the German surrender ultimatum: “AW NUTS”.
Foot note1: Corp. Laurence B, Rogers, 23, son of Mr. and Mrs. Leon B. Rogers, 45 N. 8th West, received the silver star for voluntarily remaining with his machine gun while under intense hostile mortar and machine gun fire. He aided in stopping the advance of three infantry-supported Tiger tanks and stopped the enemy advance two and a half hours, thereby permitting the uninterrupted formation of a strong defense line. Corp. Rogers was graduated from West high school and attended Utah State Agricultural College at Logan, Utah.