This is Sgt James Cullen of E/36 Armored Infantry in 1945
Jim had been fighting in Trios Ponts in the later part of
December and had been surrounded for a couple days
but managed to escape, regroup and led his Squad in
the January Offensive in TF McGeorge.
A SOLDIER'S MONTH IN THE ARDENNES
By Staff Sgt. James K. Cullen
In Trois- Ponts on Christmas Eve, 24 Dec. 1944, the word came down to get ready to move. We left our foxholes and houses and freed the treads on our half-tracks where they were frozen to the ground. The 30th Division was attacking the German lines on the Petit Coo road in an attempt to get us out of the trap we had been in since December 20. Our “Task Force Lovelady” had left Germany on the 18th with the mission of driving to the Ardennes to help stop the German attack. We were E Co. 36 Armored Infantry and E Co. 33 Armored Regiment.
The 30th did open the road, and at dusk we drove out on the icy roads. The Germans shelled our column as we drove through the roadblock. In the dark my half-track hit a shell hole, and I was bounced into the air where I was standing in the .50 caliber ring mount. When I came down, my head hit the steel ring mount and I was knocked out. Luckily my helmet was on and I was only stunned momentarily. We drove on through the night until our half-track slid on the icy road into a ditch, and was later pulled out by a tank of the 33rd. We came to an assembly area by dawn and after reporting to the C.P., I slept on the warm hood of our vehicle.
Our Combat Command “B” moved to several assembly areas then took a defensive position in the Soy-Hotton area. We were to back up the just arrived 75th Division, who were being committed for the first time. My squad was emplaced on a roadblock by a small farmhouse. A field sloped up from the road and the house and ended in thick brush and small trees, and I had my men dig in in two-man foxholes, due to the cold, along the brush line and in sight of the road. Our half-track was next to the house.
On the second night in this position, the first deep snow arrived. I was in my sleeping bag in the hole with Earl Collier, with a blanket covering the hole. When we were alerted for guard we saw that the snow was pouring down German shells were also coming in. I was back in my hole near dawn when we were blasted awake by a tremendous explosion. We scrambled out of the hole as we heard debris rain down around us. I went down the foxhole line to see if my men were O.K. Vernon Spores, who had been on alert, told me “…these five G.I.'s came down the road carrying racks of mines. As they came near our position, they blew up! They just disappeared in a big flash.”
The next morning we found that the debris that pattered down was pieces of the five soldiers. I had to clean off the top of our half-track. There were small bits of flesh all over the canvas winter cover. In the brush, on the hill, I found a torso still covered with a G.I. sweater and nearby in the snow was a bloody pelvic bone.
New Year's Day was cold and clear. We had left the Soy-Hotton area for an assembly area near Les Avins and were preparing for a big attack. The word was passed that our division would be teamed with the 83rd Infantry Division. On our right flank the 2nd Armored would work with the 84th Division. January 3 was set for the major offensive.
The Order of Battle rarely came down to us on the squad level, but I learned that our Task Force would be called “McGeorge” and would consist of 1st BN 33rd Armored, elements of 703 Tank Destroyers, the 23rd Engineers, the 33rd's, Recon. Platoon, and part of the 83rd Field Artillery. We were still Combat Command “B”. At 0700 we were told which tanks to work with and off we went on foot. The tracks stayed where they were with all of our sleeping bags and gear.
Each man in my squad—2nd of the 1st Platoon, carried a combat pack with some K and C rations and clean socks. Our uniforms were Long Johns, wool O.D. uniform pants and shirt, a fatigue sweater, wool gloves, and a field jacket. On top of that we had a great Engineer's Mackinaw. It was blanket lined with a windproof shell and fitted below the hips. On our feet we had wool socks and regular G.I. boots with leggings. We didn't learn about shoe pacs and combat boots until much later.
Our weapons were an M1 rifle with an ammunition belt of clips and maybe a bandolier of extra clips. Wes Pitzer carried a Browning Automatic Rifle. Some bayonets and the odd pistol was all we had; no bazookas, no rifle grenades—only fragmentation and concussion grenades and not many of them. We kept the grenades in our pockets with the pin spread and the handle taped, if we could get tape. We didn't hang them on our shoulder straps as some generals did.