Several days into the attack, the Army, in its infinite wisdom, took away our Engineer's Mackinaws and gave us the long G.I. wool coats and twelve buckle overshoes. Each shoe weighed at least ten pounds, and the overcoats quickly acquired a coating of ice and snow from the knees down as we plowed through the deep snow. That made climbing onto a tank next to impossible and walking extremely difficult. Our neglect by the Quartermaster Corps. was driven home when we took a small village and a squad of Germans surrendered; coming out with their hands up. I saw that one of them had on a pair of good-looking gloves. I took them and told him "You won't need these where you're going." They were great and for days everyone admired my new German gloves. Being waterproof and windproof, the gloves kept my G.I. wool gloves warm and dry. Weeks after, I found that my fancy gloves were actually G.I. issue that the Kraut had taken from a captured American soldier.
The first large town we attacked and captured was Regne'. We hit it on the 7th of January. There was no real resistance, but the Germans pounded the village with shells and mortars. My squad got into a deep basement on the edge of town and dug one out-post foxhole. Mail from home came forward to us and we feasted on Christmas packages. That night, in addition to the shelling, we were all hit with diarrhea, vomiting, and heartburn. The diet was too rich and too sudden a change. We went back to our usual K rations!
From Regne' we marched South. A few miles outside of town, we passed through a small cluster of farmhouses and out in a field across the road, there was an American light tank. Then we spotted two German's standing in a ditch looking out into the field. Two of the men in my squad and myself fired at them. They both went down. Then we shouted in lousy German for them to "Raus" "Commen zie heir." One stood up with hands in the air, looking down at his buddy who was still on the ground. Apparently we had all aimed at the same German. The remaining one was sent back as a prisoner.
Out on the snow-covered field we saw the object of the two soldier's attention. It was a G.I. lying face down. He moved and tried to wave. It was obvious that he had been hit. I looked at one of my men, Roy Plummer, he looked back at me then shrugged and said, "OK". We both knew what we had to do. Slinging our rifles, we ran out into the field expecting the crack of a bullet any second. The G.I. was pretty far gone with a sucking wound in his back, but we dragged him back to the houses and yelled for the Medic.
We later learned that Co. D and Co. F with some 33rd Regt. Tanks had attacked the area to the south of Regne' and our G.I. was probably from one of those units.
Around the 8th of January, we hit several towns and hamlets late in the day and the daylight quickly turned to night in the Belgian winter. Fighting in villages during daylight was confusing, but night fighting was a nightmare. In the light of burning buildings and with clouds of smoke, the shadows moving near you could be either friend or foe. We were working with another squad in our platoon when a figure appeared in a doorway in front of us. One of the G.I.'s went forward thinking it was an American when the figure in the door fired his burp gun. Luckily our G.I. only lost a finger. The German disappeared into the smoke.
In another small town, probably Ottre, we thought we had cleared the houses and had grabbed a nice warm basement for the night. I was changing my socks when our Platoon Sgt. Jim Cofer came down the stairs and shouted, "Cullen, get your squad and come with me." We saddled up and went into the night. An officer thought he detected Jerry movement in some houses to the right of the road. We were to clear them. The patrol started badly when I crept past a small building near the first house. I stepped through some ice into a liquid pig manure cesspool. My overshoe quickly filled with the stuff. Then as we entered the house, as silently as possible, my canteen started to make a loud "clunk". The water in the canteen that had been frozen solid had partially melted in the warm basement. Every time I moved it made a noise. Apparently the Germans had moved on or we scared them away. We went back to our basement where I washed out my boot at the insistence of all the men in my squad.
In another night attack across fields and woods, our own tanks mistook us for Germans and started shooting at us with their bow guns. The tracers danced all through our ranks as we fell into the snow. Fortunately, no one was hit, but some of us wished we had an anti-tank gun.
The tanks did it again to us during an attack through woods after a heavy snow. My squad was on Point for the platoon and as usual I placed myself near the end of the squad column. Although the snow had stopped, the pine limbs were full thereby cutting the visibility and noise. We could neither see nor hear beyond a few feet. We were picking our way forward when Earl Cordell came up from the rear and said, "Sarge. I think something has happened behind us." I passed the word forward to our people to stop, then went back along the trail with Earl. About 100 feet back a cart path crossed our axis of attack, and as I stepped onto this path a German soldier appeared before me, about five feet away. I had my rifle at my hip with the safety off and I fired out of pure reflex. He went down.