Seventy-four Years Ago Today ...
Remembering Pete Lynn. 74 years ago today, November 2, Pete was killed in action in the Huertgen Forest while serving with Company B, 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. Here’s a brief excerpt from my book, The Lost Soldier, about that terrible day:
A light rain started falling in in the early morning darkness of November 2, 1944. Like an amanuensis, a soupy mist settled on trees, buildings, and foxholes. The dampness made it feel colder than it actually was, though the temperature was already near freezing. “It was pretty miserable outside,” a German landser recalled.
Gradually it grew light enough to see, but the sun stayed veiled behind clouds the color of dirty cotton. Soldiers stirred. Those selected to attack first rose first. Other companies, like Pete’s Company B and Company K, would not jump off until later so it was 7:30 a.m. before these men shimmied groggily out of their sleeping bags. After eating a hot breakfast, the soldiers packed their belongings.
Col. Peterson woke early in his Germeter attic. One of his first tasks was to establish a sandbagged observation post for assistant division commander Davis. “I was to meet him at a specified point west of Germeter at a specified time on the morning of the attack to lead him to his CP,” Peterson later wrote. Dutifully, Peterson went to the appointed spot. When Davis did not appear, Peterson “deemed it necessary to get on with problems coincident with the attack.” It was the right call, but Davis later chewed Peterson out for missing their rendezvous. It was an inauspicious start to the operation.
American guns shattered the morning stillness at 8:00 a.m. For the next hour, the massed artillery of the V and VII Corps fired four thousand preparatory rounds while the 28th Infantry Division loosed 7,313 of its own shells toward known and suspected enemy positions. Cota described it as a “fierce concentration of fire” that increased in volume, as the deafening artillery shifted to nearer targets at 8:45 a.m. From the woods west of Germeter the 112th’s heavy guns — from the 707th Tank Battalion’s Assault Gun Platoon, Company B, 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 112th’s Antitank Company, and Company B, 86th Chemical Mortar Battalion — added their steel voices. Lt. Gunther Schmidt, a member of the 272nd Volksgrenadier Division, endured the bombardment from a vantage point near Schmidt. “There was a lot of confusion in the street, horses reared; we heard screams from the men that were hit,” he wrote.
Col. Peterson and his artillery officers watched the bombardment from his headquarters attic. As of this day, his regiment contained 3,239 soldiers, thanks to the arrival of replacements; in the street and among the houses below, the men of his 2nd battalion waited nervously. This was the line of departure. At 8:45 a.m., tanks from the 707th Tank Battalion rolled up behind the soldiers and idled their engines. The eastward view from the attic and street was normally good: open fields, marked by shell craters and the occasional fence, stretched between Germeter and Vossenack. Distant ridges framed the scene, but the shelling obstructed the view. “Schmidt, in the valley ahead, was hardly visible for the smoke of its burning houses and the thick white dust that lingered over each air-blast and shell-burst,” wrote New York Times reporter Harold Denny. “What one could see at Schmidt was only broken walls and naked chimneys and in the foreground the hulks of two burned-out German tanks.” Looking left, toward Huertgen, Denny saw more “tall chimneys, about all that is left of towns and other hamlets.”
At 9:00 a.m., the attack began.....
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