The Depression, Being Drafted and Deploying to England

Combat in France and the Battle of the Bulge

Crossing the Rhine and Manning Roadbloacks

Battle of the Bulge and the Malmedy Massacre

Remagen Bridge, Colonel Pergrin, and the End of the War


The Ardennes Forest


Francis Hurd was born in Woodhall, New York to parents who were farmers. When he was 16 years old he was forced to quit school to help support his family. He worked for Corning Glass Works to help support his brother and two sisters. Hurd doesn't remember much from the depression. His father worked on a farm for others. He had his own equipment but did not have a farm of his own. He worked at Ingersoll-Rand for a time. Hurd doesn't recall where he was when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was drafted on on 27 January 1943 and inducted at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. From Indiantown Gap, he was sent to Camp Swift near Austin, Texas. While on maneuvers in Louisiana he was given a ten day furlough. He took a train to Williamsport, Pennsylvania then hitch-hiked home. The following morning his mother told him she had a telegram for him ordering him to report back to his outfit. He returned to Louisiana the next day. From Louisiana he went by train to Taunton, Massachusetts [Annotator's Note: Hurd's unit, Company B, 291st Engineer Combat Battalion, was deploying from Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts] for embarkation. They boarded a boat but didn't know where they were going. It turned out to be a Liberty ship which took them to England. The trip took 13 days from Massachusetts to Liverpool, England. There were 653 men in Hurd's outfit. The men had to share bunks. They ate out of their mess kits or their steel helmets. There were a lot of sick guys on the ship. Hurd spent eight or ten months in England before the invasion. In England they built huts for other troops and learned to build Bailey Bridges [Annotator's Note: a prefabricated bridge developed by the British during World War 2].


Francis Hurd's engineering unit [Annotator's Note: the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion] built a number of Bailey Bridges in Europe. Before the invasion they spent time getting all of their equipment up to date. There were rumors that they would be going into Germany. Hurd sailed out of Liverpool. All of their equipment was loaded on LSTs [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. They spent three or four days out in the English Channel because of a storm, then landed on Omaha Beach on D plus 22 [Annotator's Note: 22 dates after D-Day, 28 June 1944]. As they moved inland, Hurd saw a lot of dead animals. Much of the work Hurd's unit was doing was done under fire. He was armed with an M1, .30 caliber rifle [Annotator's Note: also known as the M1 Garand]. One of their jobs was to clear minefields. After moving off the landing beach, Hurd's unit went into Carentan [Annotator's Note: Carentan, France] to help get troops and supplies to the front. They did not get much sleep for a while. There was not too much enemy opposition when Hurd got to Carentan. During the Battle of the Bulge they had Christmas dinner. They would pick their food up then run down into a basement to eat it. During the dinner, an 88 [Annotator's Note: German 88mm multipurpose artillery piece] shell came in and hit the Mess Sergeant. It took off his knee but didn't explode. If it had exploded it would have killed a bunch of them. Hurd's unit spent six weeks in the Ardennes Forest waiting for the Bulge to be cleared. They slept in pup tents with only a candle for heat and light. They had to put their footwear in their sleeping bags or it would freeze solid. The Germans fired buzz bombs [Annotator's Note: V1 rocket bombs] over them. Their supplies were terrible. Sometimes a soldier would shoot a deer, other than that they had C and K rations. The C rations were a luxury.


Francis Hurd's unit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 291st Engineer Combat Battalion] was responsible for keeping the roads open for the Red Ball Express who was delivering fuel to the fronts. The Red Ball Express did a perfect job. Hurd's outfit was kept busy patching and maintaining the roads. At the front they would be transferred from unit to unit. The 291st was the number one outfit for building bridges. The 291st built a bridge across the Rhine River. After the infantry got across it was a very short time until the war was over. The pontoon bridge set up across the Rhine was a great experience but bloody as well. They lost a lot of guys crossing the river. The Ludendorff Bridge [Annotator's Note: Bridge at Remagen] had some traffic going across it but not much. The Germans had it wired with explosives but it collapsed on its own. A pontoon bridge was set up next to the collapsed bridge. The pontoons were set out first then the treadways were set on top of them. The bridge was bombed out five times before they successfully spanned the river. Hurd was not on the bridge when it was bombed. Hurd was buddied-up with three other guys in the motor pool. If any of them were killed the others would visit the parents of the dead man. All four of the guys made it home. Hurd's buddies were Charlie Sweet, Bob Cresswell, and Johny Erbach [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling of names]. Of the four, there are only two still living. During the war they got very few replacements. Hurd has forgotten a lot over the last 60 years. They knew that the Germans were coming. At Malmedy, Company B had orders to hold the town. They moved into the town but had very little ammunition. They had a couple bazookas, a half a dozen .50 caliber machine guns, and their M1's [Annotator's Note: .30 caliber M1 rifles, also known as the M1 Garrand] and were manning roadblocks.


[Annotator's Note: Francis Hurd served as a truck driver in Company B, 291st Engineer Combat Battalion. He saw action during the Battle of the Bulge and during the crossing of the Rhine River.] The Germans would pass through their road blocks in American jeeps, wearing American uniforms. They would turn the roadway signs around. Hurd saw some of them. It sent chills right up his back. The Germans dressed in American uniforms didn't fire much at the American soldiers. The Malmedy massacre took place a few miles down the road from where Hurd was. He claims that the Germans backed trucks up to a group of American prisoners, removed the tarps on the back of the trucks exposing machine guns, and opened fire on the American prisoners. Hurd saw the results of the massacre after it happened. While they were in Malmedy, the Air Force bombed them three days in a row killing their company commander and some other GIs. When word got out that his unit was holding the town of Malmedy, additional units began to move in to reinforce them. After leaving Malmedy, Hurd's unit built a pontoon bridge across the Rhine River. Hurd's job was driving trucks, but he knows that clearing minefields was dangerous. His unit had to clear a lot of minefields when they first arrived in theater. Hurd drove a two and a half ton, six by six GMC truck [Annotator's Note: also known as a deuce and a half or CCKW]. His job was to haul the second platoon of Company B and their equipment. Each company had its own mess truck. They never remained in any place for more than a day or two. When they moved sometimes it was clear for three or four miles but sometimes they had to fight their way up to the front through sniper fire.


When moving from place to place they had to keep alert. During the building of the Remagen bridge, Francis Hurd was hauling supplies to the two treadway bridge companies that were constructing the bridge. The Red Ball Express would haul supplies in and Hurd would pick them up and bring them to the front. The river [Annotator's Note: the Rhine River] at Remagen was swift and wide. It seemed to Hurd that they were building the bridge at the widest part of the river. There was a lot of bloodshed at the crossing. Crossing the river was a turning point in the war. Hurd believes that the German officers wanted to fight but that the regular German soldiers didn't want to fight. When he transported German prisoners he had MPs [Annotator's Note: military police] with him. The prisoners he transported were kids his age and younger. At reunions after the war their battalion commander, Colonel Pergrin [Annotator's Note: US Army Colonel David E. Pergrin], would tell the guys "you kids did a good job." Colonel Pergrin was a good man and would stop and talk to his men no matter where they were. He was a good leader. After crossing the bridge they followed behind the front lines until the Germans surrendered. When word came out that the Germans had surrendered, German soldiers came out of the woods in all directions with white flags and with their hands in the air. The wine flowed like water after that. Regardless of where they were the driver of the battalion's air compressor truck, Melrose, had a keg of wine attached to his truck. The guys had a lot to drink over there. Hurd was discharged on 15 November 1945. After the war ended the company broke up. They had all been waiting to go to Japan. When word was passed that they had surrendered there was another big party.


For Francis Hurd, the most difficult part of the war was crossing the beachhead onto French soil because they didn't know what to expect. When they arrived in France, he drove his truck off of the LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank] into the water then onto the beach. Hurd wouldn't want to go through his wartime experiences again but he doesn't regret a minute of his service. After returning home, he didn't talk about the war and still doesn't. His children and grandchildren didn't ask about it. He has a collection of letters he wrote home starting when he went into the service in January 1943. His mother kept every letter and numbered them. He didn't know she still had them until after she passed away. There are 65 letters from his time in the United States and 89 that he mailed home from overseas. One of the letters Hurd has is a Christmas card sent to his parents by his battalion commander, Colonel David S. Pergrin. Charlie Sweet was Hurd's best buddy. They stayed in contact and visited each other every year until Charlie passed away. Hurd's son Chuck is named after Charlie. Hurd's outfit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 291st Engineer Combat Battalion] started having reunions in 1975, 30 years after they were discharged. At 86 years old, Hurd is the youngest of the Company B men.

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