d'infanterie américaine - 1944
history of the 324th Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry
NOVEMBER IN THE LINES
The Germans starred November with a barrage of
propaganda beamed towards the front lines with
"Hello men of the 44th," they said. "Thanks for
relieving the men of the 79th Division. This is going to
be a bloody mess. The men who are wounded are the only
happy ones. Come over with your hands raised, under a
white flag. We know you have been in the lines two weeks.
We know you came over on the U.S.S. Gordon. The 79th is
glad to be relieved. Ask your General Spragins about
this. He knows. He's in the rear. Ask him. This is going
to be a long and bloody war. Come on over and surrender."
Yes, they had a pretty good G-2 staff too.
But the mud stained GI's merely laughed, or fired a few
mortar shells towards the enemy lines, or just ignored
it and went ahead doing their jobs and trying to make
themselves more comfortable. The men were getting more
used to the rain and cold. They began to find ingenious
ways of camouflaging, and reinforcing, and protecting
their fox-holes against the elements, as well as against
the enemy. They used sticks, wooden boards, tree boughs,
bits of tin, burlap, cardboard, and almost anything to
build a roof or wall to help keep some precious heat in
the damp and muddy foxholes that were their homes. And
there are men who are alive today who tell of shells and
shrapnel hitting the roofs of their "houses" without
harming the men huddled to the cold earth beneath.
Most of the men had little to do except clean their
rifles, strengthen or repair their fortifications, pour
the water out of their foxholes, and sit and wait for
things to happen. Sometimes the GI would leave his
foxhole to jump up and down trying to warm up a bit if
the enemy shelling wasn't too heavy.
Or he would stay where he was, and wonder if he would
ever know again the luxuries of civilian life. A
bathroom, hot water, a steam bath, and clean clothes
seemed like things out of this world.
Sometimes there were reconnaissance patrols to explore
enemy territory and to discover terrain features that
lay ahead. Some men would volunteer for this, just to
vary the deadly monotony of their existence and to get
the chance to move around a bit. Some of these men never
came back. Once in a while, enemy combat patrols would
attack our outposts, as they did to those of Company F
one day at 1815. They made no headway however, and
retreated three hours later with no casualties on our
And sometimes a few enemy planes would strafe one of the
battalions. Usually no damage was done. Occasionally a
few men were hit.
All companies were rotated into reserve positions and
got a chance to change into dry clothes and to get a hot
meal again behind the lines, or maybe write a letter.
That helped a lot, mainly because the men were away from
the tension of the front lines and could relax for
There were small line strengthening operations, designed
to give us a slightly better position for attack or
defense and to straighten out the line. The enemy had
the high ground to the regimental left front which he
could use as an effective observation post. On the left
flank the 121st Cavalry Squadron, aided by combat and
contact patrols from the Second Battalion, moved in and
occupied the high point.
In addition to the Cavalry, there were the supporting
Tank Destroyers of Company B of the 776th Tank Destroyer
Battalion and Company C of the 749th Tank Battalion.
While waiting for things to happen, and while taking
part in these small scale operations, the big picture
called for the building up of the line, maneuvering into
better positions for attack, reorganizing defense
sectors, improving camouflage and defenses against the
increasing enemy activity, a sign that Heinie was
getting worried about the future.
Patrols of the First Battalion effectively coordinated
with an advance by the 71st Infantry on the right were
designed to fill in a gap in the lines.
The 71st also relieved Able Company of part of the
territory it was holding, allowing more men to be taken
off the line for relief and rest.
Engineers and the mine platoon of AT Company had
discovered and demined many minefields, thus enabling
the 220th Field Artillery, of combat team 324, to assume
new positions and give closer support to attacking
Patrolling of enemy territory continued and grew more
frequent. The patrols often secured vital information,
from prisoners or through observation, which was quickly
rushed to higher headquarters. There, plans were being
made for the big attack everybody felt was coming. But
November 8 dawned, rainy and wet, making movement almost
impossible. The roads were muddy, as well as the fields.
But still, three patrols were sent sloshing away into
enemy territory to reconnoiter. The next day found
little change in the situation. Still the rain and mud,
still the patrols, still the lifting of mines, still the
strengthening of fortifications, and still the light
maneuvering of troops to better and stronger line
positions. The 106th Cavalry Squadron relieved the 121st
on the left, and advanced to the vicinity of Vaucourt.
Meanwhile the artillery kept moving up.
During the next two days troops, fresh out of reserve
positions, relieved some of the water-soaked and
fatigued GI's who had been holding the line. Company L
relieved part of Company В on the battalion's left flank,
while elements of the 71st Infantry relieved the balance
of the First Battalion. The First Battalion moved into
support position for the Third Battalion. Elements of
the 114th Infantry relieved the Second Battalion, 324th,
and they too moved into reserve. But not for long.
"The 324th Infantry with Company C, 749th Tank Battalion
will attack at H-Hour, D-Day in zone in column of
Battalions. Control roadnets at Remoncourt and Moussey.
Contain enemy forces in Bois de la Garenne mopping up
from east and rear with reserve unit. Force Bois de
Ketzing on narrow front containing enemy forces north of
penetration. Protect Division left flank, destroy
bridges across and block crossings of Rhine-Marne Canal
west of Gondrexange. After being relieved of left flank
protection west of Gondrexange, be prepared to release
one battalion to Division control." That was the
Regimental order. The 324th Infantry was on the
Division's left and to the right was the 71st. On the
left were the 106th Cavalry, and one Battalion of the
114th which had relieved 324's Second Battalion in
place. The 324th Regiment was to attack in a column of
battalions. The Third Battalion was to be in the lead,
with the mission of attacking the small woods along the
right boundary of the regiment's territory, then moving
rapidly northward and eastward to railroad tracks, and
then to secure the roadnet to the south and east of
Rechicourt, thus controlling the approaches to that city
and to the Bois de Ketzing, and denying the enemy the
opportunity of occupying in strength, his prepared
positions south of Gondrexange.
The First Battalion, close behind was to act as support
for the Third Battalion and move upon orders from
regiment. Its mission was to assist the leading
battalion, should any resistance in strength, larger
than anticipated be offered by the enemy. In the event
that the Third Battalion would be halted by enemy
action, the First Battalion was to bypass such action
and proceed with the original mission of the Third
The Second Battalion's mission was to move to the
northeast upon orders from regiment, and secure the
roadnet around Moussey. From these to proceed eastward,
capturing the high ground along the south and southwest
edges of the Bois de la Garenne and clearing the entire
woods of the enemy. It was then to secure the roadnet
south and southeast of Le Garde and also all crossings
of the Rhine-Marne Canal as far east as Gondrexange,
thereby securing the left flank of the Division.
There was the plan, down to the last detail. Each man in
every unit knew what he was to do. Every possible bit of
knowledge of the enemy's situation was used in
formulating the plan. According to the latest
information, the enemy to the front was a formidable one
for a defending force. The 553rd Division was still the
major German force consisting of approximately 1500 men
on line with a reserve force of about 650. In addition,
the 553rd was possibly supported by some tanks. That was
the line-up of the Boche. And the odds in warfare are
said to be four to one in favor of a defending force.
So a few things about the enemy were known. But there
were many things not known, and about which we could
only guess. What was the caliber of the German soldier ?
Would he run before the attack ? Or would he make a
stand ? Would the enemy counter-attack ? Would he try
surprise ? Did he have hidden reinforcements? Does he
know of the coming attack? Will he set up an ambush?
Will I get out alive, God ? Will I be killed or wounded
? Time alone would tell.
November 13, 1944 - D-Day. The 17 battalions of
artillery along the division front had been pounding the
Germans all night. The Germans pounded right back. The
time was 0655, H-Hour minus five minutes. The men of the
second and third platoons of Company L nervously
fingered their weapons. They were weighted down by the
extra ammunition that had been given them. A few men
bitched. To the left was Company I, preparing to advance
with Company L. To the immediate rear were K and M
Companies in direct support while to the far rear was D,
preparing to give long range support to the attacking
with their heavy machine guns. Lt. Erick M. Erickson,
platoon leader, had just finished a final briefing to
his men when an enemy artillery shell hit causing seven
casualties. Up ahead with Company L, Captain Anthony
Pico, Lieutenant Meyers Satzow, T/Sgt Harold Loder, and
T/Sgt Ike Edwards anxiously looked at their watches.
Thirty seconds - Fifteen seconds - 0700. H-Hour. The men
clambered up and out of their foxholes and started
forward into the snow and the fog. The third platoon was
on the left, the second on the right. About 250 yards
from the line of departure, they were halted and took
cover. Where were the machine guns ? To the rear Company
D gunners stood helplessly by their guns and peered
hopelessly in to the mixture of snow and fog ahead. They
could not see ahead. They could not fire. Visibility was
so poor that they could hardly make out objects 100
yards away. To fire would be risking the lives of their
own men. So Company L moved ahead without the assistance
of the masking fire of Company D's guns, while Company I
remained pinned down in the positions where they had
halted. Snipers and pill-boxes were holding up their
Company L moved to about 2000 yards from the line of
departure where they were stopped cold. Before them lay
a hedgerow shaped like an upside down L. From somewhere
in its depths came the staccato fire of four machine
guns in addition to sniper fire. And the pill-boxes that
were beyond that kept spouting lead too. The third
platoon, moving parallel to the hedgerow, were able to
flush the jerries out of some trenches and take over.
The second platoon, moving ahead on the right, had only
an open field between them and the Germans. There were
30 casualties in 15 minutes. Two platoon leaders were
killed instantly. The men either hugged the ground or
were shot, their blood spilling over the white snow.
Company L was now out on a point. No Medics could reach
them. No men could be evacuated. Some of them lay out in
the cold, moaning for three days. To the living it
seemed hard to believe. Hearing the moans in the winter
wind, when only a few months ago they had laughed and
talked with those men under a sunny American sky.
Finally Sgt Robert Wilger, Sgt "Skip" Loder, Pfc Anthony
Bandych and Pfc John Frankour loaded themselves with
grenades and rushed the two machine guns facing them on
the left and blew them out of existence. They then found
that the long trench behind the hedgerow contained all
four machine guns, with an obstruction of earth and
small trees in the middle, protecting either half of the
trench from observation or fire by the other half. So
for two days, Germans occupied one end of the trench and
Americans the other. The snow and rain increased. The
men could not dig deep foxholes because the walls
collapsed or the holes filled with water. They had one
to two boxes of K rations per man per day, plus some D
bars. These were their emergency rations. No supplies
could be brought up. lt was too muddy for tanks. All
they, could do for the next three days was wait. The
casualties from the enemy and from trenchfoot mounted.
Of the 210 men who started with Company L, there were
now 42 left able to fight. Rugged ? Yes, they were.
In the meantime Company D had rejoined the rest of the
First Battalion which had been ordered to pass by the
Third Battalion and assume its mission. However, the
First Battalion too was stopped by pill-boxes in the
same line as those holding up the Third Battalion right
flank; first Company C, then Company A, then Company B,
each in turn had been beaten back.
But what of Company I, which had jumped off along side
of Company L. What had been happening to them ? Most of
the men still alive, think about that jump-off as really
starting the day before, because you have to adjust your
mind to do a thing before you do it. So they did a lot
of thinking before the attack and got themselves ready.
In the words of S/Sgt Harvey Fletcher of Company I, this
is what happened: "Sunday, November 14, 44 - The snow
was still falling. The ground was white, with the
exception of black spots. Sunday like any other day held
no rest for the men in the foxholes, deep in slush and
mud. Our feet were cold and wet, but that didn't seem to
bother us that day. We were all thinking about tomorrow,
because tomorrow was the day that was to start the
drive, a drive that was to take us through the Vosges
Mountains, across the snow-covered Alsace plains, and up
to the edge of the Rhine River, and Strasbourg... though
we didn't know all that for sure, then. The day crawled
by. The stillness was nerve wracking. The lull before
"The snow continued to fall, and the night approached,
occasional artillery dropped in to break the eerie
stillness that had settled over the front. That night
was even worse... waiting, waiting, waiting for the dawn,
because at dawn we strike !
"We looked at each other as we waited in our foxholes,
wondering if we'd all make it, knowing very well that
some of us wouldn't come back. But each man of us felt
certain he himself would make it. We checked our rifles
time and again during the long night. Nobody could sleep.
We checked our ammo. Was six bandeliers enough? Maybe
one more wouldn't be too much weight. We were set.
"We pushed off at 0700 on Monday the thirteenth, the
snow was knee deep. It was a sharp, brisk morning as we
cut through it. Everything was quiet; not a rifle shot;
not even the bursts of artillery. But it didn't stay
quiet long because on top of that next hill was a Jerry,
a pill-box. It was quiet until we were nearly on top of
it, then, like the deadly strike of a rattlesnake, it
cut loose. Hot lead streamed out in three directions.
The men of I Company dropped to their stomachs, buried
their faces in the snow. Some never got up again as the
snow turned crimson from the blood of a dying Yank.
"The third platoon maneuvered into position along the
front of the pill-box. They took up firing positions and
returned the fire, while the second and first platoons
maneuvered to the left flank along a draw. The second
platoon was to move along the left flank into position
there while the first was to remain in support to be
called upon when needed which was almost immediately. As
the second crawled into position to lay down fire, the
enemy machine guns laid down grazing fire, pinning the
second down like the third. This left only the first to
swing around to the extreme left of the second.
Lieutenant Peterson led his platoon around in hopes of
hitting the Heinie from the rear, but before the platoon
had moved a couple of hundred yards, the machine guns
had opened up and the entire company was pinned down.
"L Company was on the right flank - we were depending on
them. M Company's machine guns joined I Company trying
to lay down fire so we could move in closer, but enemy
guns again found their marks and our machine guns were
idle. A few men in the draw were moving about in an
attempt to move on. Captain Dews was up there with his
men, pinned down by the grazing fire of the enemy guns.
"S/Sgt Ken Harrold began crawling back to find a
bazooka. That's what we needed, something to blast the
pill-box out of existence. Before he could get back far
enough, a bullet ripped into his leg and he was stopped.
Sgt Fletcher took up where he left off, found the
bazooka team, but one man had a bullet wound in the
stomach and the other's hands were frozen from the wet
snow. Sgt Fletcher grabbed the weapon and the ammo, then
crawled to within thirty yards of the pill-box. With a
little help he laid in about six bursts then he lobbed
in a few grenades. The enemy machine guns were silent. I
Company was back on its feet except for those lying in
the crimsoned snow. Casualties were high; the company
seemed about half its original strength, but they pushed
on. The pill-box was knocked out, but Jerry still had
artillery and he showed it to us. The shells whistled
in; the sound of explosions was deafening; the ground
shook and shrapnel hissed through the air. The men hit
the ground, hugged Mother Earth, cold and wet from the
snow. This was combat."
Yes, the enemy was tough. In the official G-2 report for
the period 13-14 November, it is stated:
"The enemy defended stubbornly long the dominating high
ground to our front. He employed his mortars and machine
guns to the utmost and with skill, as his observation
was good. Fire from snipers was also effective. His
artillery, although not in great volume, was troublesome
to the front line units, particularly in the vicinity of
the high ground to the north. An Officer PW, from the
553rd Combat School, whose personnel were manning the
out-guard stated that his platoon had orders to remain
in position until the last shot was fired, and that, his
platoon proceeded to do."
To relieve the perilous situation and lessen the
tremendous pressure to the front, something had to be
done which would negate the enemy's terrific fire power
there. Upon orders from Division, the 114th Infantry
Regiment struck at the Heinie from the right flank of
the 71st Infantry, also stalled and swung sharply left
at right angles to the original direction of advance.
With a rolling barrage of artillery in front of them and
supported by the fires of the 324th and 71st, the 114th
moved northward across the front of the 324th Infantry,
literally sweeping the enemy from his "impregnable"
positions. This maneuver enabled the first and third
battalions of the 324th to move forward. This they did
towards the town which nobody in the whole 324th
Infantry Regiment thinks about without putting the word
"bloody" in front of it. Avricourt !
The second and first battalions pushed forward while the
third reverted to regimental reserve and went to a large
clearing where they spent the night. Expected
reinforcements did not arrive. Nevertheless, the next
morning, the third set out for the town of Avricourt,
approaching it along the railroad tracks leading into
the town from the right.
In the meantime, the first and second battalions had
approached the town some distance to the left of the
railroad tracks and had dug in during the dark after a
long march, on the hilly ground outside of town. After
they had dug in, terrific barrages of enemy artillery,
mortars, sniper fire, and everything else in the book
came flying at them. Then they realized that they had
come flush up against the enemy defense line and, in
some places, were actually between the enemy outposts
and their main line of resistance. The Jerries poured it
to them hard and it was here that the name "Bloody
Avricourt" came into being. In some places, the Yanks
could see how close the Germans were and could hear them
Lieutenant Erickson called upon his second section of
machine guns to open up. Nothing happened. Again he gave
the order and again nothing happened. He became a trifle
wrathful as he moved to the gun position to see what was
the matter. All ready to bawl out T/Sgt Joseph Crystal
and Sgt William Rogers, he saw that both guns in the
section had been knocked out and some of the crew
The men could see mortar shells going up and coming
down, they were so close. The Germans moved around the
flanks in an attempt to surround the two battalions and
almost succeeded. Time and again, they rushed the flanks
and were beaten off by the superior quality of the thing
called American guts. Contact with regiment was
difficult to maintain. Movement or regrouping for an
attack with these forces was impossible. Help would have
to come from some other source. But where ?
The opposing forces, according to G-2 reports, were
still some of the elements of the 553rd Grenadier
Division plus some units of the 708th Volksgrenadier
On the right flank of the regiment, Captain Anthony M.
Pico of L Company received a message. The remaining
forty two men of his company plus some attached sections
of K and M Companies had dug in. Many of the men were
limping from trenchfoot; all of them were tired and
cold. Is it any wonder that Captain Pico looked at the
message several times to make sure of what he read
before calling his platoon sergeants together and
telling them ? They just looked at him and at each other
and shrugged their shoulders. The other men when they
heard it were very quiet and some of them wept unashamed.
They were the closest available force and they had to
attack. There would be some planes and some tanks to
help, but that cheered them little. They felt sick and
cold and miserable, but the order was to attack.
It was a ragged lot that picked themselves up out of
their foxholes and hobbled forward. They were headed for
a cemetery at the edge of town by a wide enveloping
movement around the right to hit the enemy from the rear.
As they drew closer they could see the Jerry guns
pointing at them. A cemetery is a good place to die.
Most of the men didn't care what happened to them
anymore. But they moved forward. The Jerries still
hadn't fired a shot; L Company's approach had not yet
been detected. When the men got halfway across the field,
something happened that made them run forward in relief,
shouting and with smiles on their faces. For there in
front of them, the Germans had risen from the trenches
and had come out from behind the tombstones, their hands
high over their heads in surrender ! The Yanks asked no
questions but rounded up the Jerries pulling them from
their foxholes, and began the advance into their sector
of Avricourt. As so often happens in the true drama of
war, there is a tremendous buildup to an unexpected
let-down; events leading up to a looked-for clash do not
end in the anticipated hard battle. Such was the case
here, although sporadic firing, mainly by snipers, met
Captain Pico's band as they entered the town. Returning
the fire and blasting window and cellar positions of the
beaten defenders. L Company moved in. Mopping up was
The 749th Tank Battalion also advanced into town and
started hitting the enemy emplacements holding down the
First and Second Battalions. Baker Company, in second
battalion reserve, entered Avricourt from the left and
likewise started mopping up operations. To the other men
of battalions one and two facing the enemy on the hill,
appeared this beautiful sight; out of the mists rumbled
our tanks and all around them our infantrymen. The
Germans were getting up and running, falling, dying, or
surrendering. Avricourt had fallen ! The key city to the
territory ahead was in American hands and the enemy was
routed. The fall of Avricourt made possible the
liberation of the rest of Alsace. The cost paid in
casualties was heavy, and the suffering from the rain
and snow and cold was severe. But the town was taken.
G-2's general summary of the enemy's situation declared
that he had withdrawn with lines badly cut and had
possibly evacuated, except for small holding and
delaying forces, the towns of Deutch-Avricourt,
Rechicourt, Igney, Foulney, Repaix, and Gogney had
fallen. Indications were that the 553rd Grenadier
Division was facing annihilation because of the
appearance of Battle Groups composed of personnel from
their Division and Regimental trains, and also the
reappearance in the line of the replacement battalions
of the 553rd and 708th Grenadier Divisions. Actually the
First f Battalion of the 728th Regiment was about the
only truly combat unit remaining in the German lineup
when the Battle of Avricourt was ended.
But as long as they can remember, the men of the 324th
Infantry will think of the things that were done there
and they will talk of the men who did them.
There was the time two German medics came crawling up to
the lines and Sgt Richard J. Leonard of M Company said,
The Jerries said, "Nix," so Sgt Leonard fired two shots
and got them both - one in the head, the other in the
"Now check your morning reports, you bastards !" he cried.
Upon investigation, it was found that both Germans had
pole charges which they were trying to place in American
lines. His words hurled at the Germans after he shot
them became the rallying cry of his company all through
Then there's the story of Pfc Luke G. Serensits of the
Medical Detachment, 324th Infantry, who, although he
knew he had lost his medical arm band, dashed across
open terrain towards two soldiers who had been hit by
sniper fire. As he did so the enemy machine gun and
sniper fire was directed at him. After being struck down
by a bullet in his heel, he crept towards his bleeding
comrades and in the face of intense sniper fire, removed
them to a partly concealed position where he
When a platoon of A Company passed from a wooded area to
an open field on the way to Avricourt, it was met by
concentrated small arms and artillery fire which
inflicted heavy losses. Under orders, the unit withdrew.
Noticing two casualties still lying in the open field,
S/Sgt James C. Noble and Sgt Joseph T. Pfeffer
unhesitatingly worked their way through the perilous
fire to their assistance. They treated the wounded men
and evacuated them to a position of safety.
Soon after becoming squad leader, S/Sgt. Charles T.
Flippen of Company L was wounded in the foot but refused
to be evacuated. For three days he forced himself to
perform his duties despite the fact that he was barely
able to walk. When he observed an enemy machine gun crew
attempting to overrun his position, he secured a BAR,
crawled through a defiladed area to within ten yards of
the hostile group, and killed the three Germans and
destroyed the gun. Then he crawled back to his hole
where he fainted from pain and exhaustion.
These are but a few of the many stories that can be told
of the heroism and gallantry of the men of 324 in the
early days of action against the enemy.
After Avricourt had fallen, the night was spent in
digging in and resting a little. Then next day, November
18, found everybody on the move again. With the Second
Battalion in the lead, the Regiment attacked Deutsch-Avricourt
and in one hour's time, the town was secured. After
immediate reorganization, the second pushed on and hit
at Rechicourt, assisted by the 106th Cavalry Squadron
attacking from the north. Rechicourt, too, was quickly
taken and all units of the regiment were ordered to
consolidate their positions for the night.
The next morning, the 324th attacked the enemy, again
with the Second Battalion in the leading assault
position. The mission was to clear the Bois de Ketzing
of enemy soldiers. Once again the mission was quickly
accomplished and for the first time Germans were
surrendering decisively and in great numbers. They
started giving up in large groups before being beaten
In many cases they came out of the woods with their
hands held high before the men had the chance to go in
and flush them out.
One hour and thirty minutes after the woods were cleared,
the Second Battalion again led the attack, this time in
the vicinity of St. Georges and the sector of the road
from Heming to St. Georges was secured.
The Second then occupied the high ground in the vicinity
of Neufmoulins and the First Battalion advanced through
them with the mission of securing the road crossings at
Heming. They got as far as the Rhine-Marne Canal where
they were halted by enemy sniper fire and by the fact
that the retreating Jerries had blown up the bridge over
The wreckage of the bridge, however, was partially out
of the water, so the men of Company B, led by Lieutenant
Laurence Bradbury, crawled across. One man was hit by a
sniper and Lieutenant Bradbury had one of the flap
buttons on his field jacket clipped by a bullet.
Other crossings were made and the town of Heming was
taken. The First Battalion then turned northward and
attacked the town of Haut-Clocher which the Second
Battalion was attacking from the west. After
Haut-Clocher fell, came Langate, also easy prey to the
On November 21, the regiment was placed in Division
reserve for a much needed and well-deserved rest. The
significance of what had been done was borne out in the
letter of commendation to the 44th Division by
Lieutenant General Alexander M. Patch, Commanding
General of the U. S. Seventh Army.