Segment 8

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Robert Walter was a platoon sergeant in Company L, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division.]On 24 or 25 December the skies cleared and the fighting slowed down. Walter had never seen such an armada. There were so many Allied planes in the sky that Walter thinks he could have gone in the sky and walked from wing to wing all the way into Germany. He did not know that anybody had that many planes.Walter saw a number of dog fights and saw some planes shot down from both sides. He also saw a solid streak of bombers that flew from sun up to sun down. Seeing those thousands and thousands of airplanes was relaxing to Walter and his men because they knew that having all of those planes in the air took some of the pressure off them. The Germans were in the woods with their tanks about a quarter of a mile in front of them where the forest started up again. When the planes went up they would strafe the enemy positions day after day. On 28 January they started to advance through the open field. They had to walk through snow two feet deep. When they got to the woods the Germans opened fire on them and pinned them down until they could get more tanks and air power. After that fight it was all a matter of being able to keep up with the Germans as they retreated. On 11 February Walter took a patrol out into German territory. They did not have any contact with any Germans. When they got back a jeep was brought up to pick them up. Walter suggested that the lieutenant take half the patrol in the jeep and drop them off. Then they could come back for the rest. The lieutenant insisted that everyone would ride on the jeep. When they took off they hit another jeep head on. The lieutenant was thrown over the jeep they hit and Walter ended up pinned in between the two jeeps. That was his last day of combat. [Annotators Note: the interviewer switches tapes] Elsenborn was an open space. The only place there were any trees was the place where Walter wanted to put his platoon. There was just nothing there but foxholes up on a ridge. Walter came into contact with the 2nd Division [Annotators Note: The 2nd Infantry Division] and a British division. Both of those units were on Walters right as he faced Germany. The 2nd Division was the first to get back to help them set up a line on Elsenborn Ridge. The 9th came back too. Once the Allies were able to shore up their positions they were able to get more men to the front than the enemy had. Prior to that there was just a few men scattered here and there that would gather together and start firing. One of the biggest battles Walter saw while he was on Elsenborn Ridge was when a British unit was replacing another on the line. Their communication was not good and it was the British troops firing on each other. While on Elsenborn Ridge if someone was going to take a patrol out they had to notify Walter of the patrols particulars. One morning Walter that a patrol was going out an 5:30 in the morning and would return around 7:30 in the morning. 7:30 in the morning rolled around and no patrol arrived. Walter called the captain asking if he knew about it but he did not. Battalion did not know what it was about either. Walter believes that the men were actually German soldiers in American uniforms that were trying to get back into the German lines. Another time Walter had men on outpost duty who he lost contact with. He sent some guys down to find out what was going on and when they got to the foxhole all they found of the guys in the outpost were a helmet and a wrist watch. Years later Walter was at a reunion and met the man that the helmet and wristwatch belonged to. The men on outpost duty had been captured.

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