John GRABER - 3rd Platoon, I-Company,
291st Infantry Regiment
75th Infantry Division.
Courtesy of Steve Graber.
The following account was recorded on 15 June 1995 when my father, John "Jack" Graber (I-Co, 291st Regt) and I sat down and recorded his recollection of the Battle of Grand Halleux. -Steve GRABER
BATTLE OF GRAND HALLEUX Throughout the day of the 15th of January 1945, we could see the Germans digging in and the Germans could see us. Occasionally, some of our men would take pot shots at them but we knew they were out of range.
During the night of the 15th, between midnight and 7:00 am, we advanced our position about 200 yards into the field and attempted to dig in. I tried to dig in along a dirt road that ran through the middle of the field, perpendicular to the tree line straight ahead. During the night, our engineers were clearing the area of mines so that we could have tank support. One engineer was working along side me when he detected a mine. His instrument located the mine directly under my feet. Because the ground was frozen solid, the mine did not register my weight. The engineer flagged the mine and we continued our work. We couldn't dig in due to the frozen ground so we laid on top of the ground waiting for 7:00 am.
View of the open fields above Grand-Halleux.
Since we knew the Germans were only 200-300 yards away, we fixed bayonets. At 7:00 am, the American artillery barrage began and lasted about 15-30 minutes. Lt. HOLLOWAY gave the orders for our platoon to attack. We ran as fast as we could at the well dug in German tree line. As soon as we started the attack, the whole tree line opened up with machine guns, grenades, mortar fire and all the fire power they had. In the first few yards, we took heavy casualties. As I looked behind me, Dave TEETS and HENLEY just loaded the bazooka and fired past me. When I saw the blast hit, I could see German soldiers and machine gun tripods flying through the air. He knocked out a machine gun nest directly in front of us. There was a barbed wire fence in the open field that had to be crossed. Many GI's were hit while trying to manoeuvre over the fence. I dove right over the fence, rolled, got on my feet, and sprinted straight ahead into a shell crater. At this point I am almost up to the tree line. I peeked over the edge of the crater when I saw 4 or 5 German mousers sticking out of a well hidden foxhole about 15-20 feet away. I ran as fast as I could to the German foxhole and stood above it firing into the logs covering it. I then began to fire into the blanket covering the opening when I heard Lt. HOLLOWAY yell that they were surrendering. 4 Surrendered while 1 was dead in the foxhole. We had broken their first line of defense and advanced further with less resistance.
We pushed through these woods and other clearings for a mile when I was hit in the back of the right shoulder with a piece of shrapnel from a shell burst. It felt like my shoulder was on fire. Walt CAWLEY (NY) let me drink his water with my Sulfa pill since my canteen was frozen solid. The medic reached me a short time later and dressed the wound. I made a sling for my arm out of my jacket. Sgt. Story, wounded in the groin, and Sgt. Carr who was wounded in the hip from a bullet wound, both met up with the medic and myself. I was told to go to Bn aid with Sgt. Story. Further back, we found that the rest of the company was not behind us. When I came into the original clearing, I could hear the popping of bullets going over my head and see the snow kick up around my feet. We dove into the culvert along side of the road and saw someone waving to us to get down. The rest of the company were held up by a lone machine gunner located in the tree line along the side of the clearing. In the same culvert that we were in, was our radio man. He and I decided that we would get back into the woods and circle around behind the machine gunner. We would get up and run about 10 feet and dive to the ground. Each time the snow would kick up around our feet from the bullets, and we could again hear the pop of the bullets just missing us. About 10 feet from the woods, the radio man was hit in one side and the bullet exited him out the other side cutting through the straps of his radio pack. At this time, Sgt. DECKERT who was already in the woods, came running out to us and dove on the ground next to us. Three Germans also ran out of the woods with their hands in the air and surrendered to Sgt. DECKERT and I. The German machine gunner was also trying to hit the surrendering Germans but fortunately failed. Nobody knew the exact location of the machine gunner. The only way to pinpoint his position was to locate the flash of the machine gun. Sgt. DECKERT ordered the German prisoner to stand up out of the culvert so we could see the flash from the gun. The prisoners were afraid to stand but began to crawl, on hands and knees, towards the rear. The gunner opened up fire on them and shot the fingers off of one of the Germans. When the gunner shot at the prisoner, we saw the flash of his gun. The prisoner picked up his fingers and stuffed them into his pocket. Sgt. DECKERT called in for mortar fire on the gunner's position. The third round of mortar fire was a direct hit and we could see the gunner's equipment fly through the air. This allowed the rest of the Company to join up with 3rd Platoon who was about a mile ahead.
We made it back to Bn Aide which consisted of several tents with cots. I was laid in a cot alongside Sgt. HILL (OH). Sgt. Hill had 3-4 bullet holes across his chest and stomach. He had a grey, death-like look on his face and did not respond to me when I spoke to him. When two medics rolled Sgt. HILL over, it appeared that his back was torn from the rest of his body. The bullets must have hit his rib cage causing all the damage, and I thought that he was dead. I ran into Sgt. HILL at the 1992 75th reunion in Seattle, WA. He was walking and seemed fine but tells me that he still has stomach problems as a result of his wounds. Shortly after being patched up, trucks took us to the rear. While in the truck, I reached for my K-ration which I was dying for. I found my back pack had a couple of bullet holes in it. The meat can inside of the K-ration was ripped open and there was a perfect German bullet lodged in the meat. I must have been shot while at the culvert trying to get into the woods.
These trucks took us to a rail depot where we boarded trains to a Paris hospital. Arrived in Paris the night of the 16th of January 1945. When we debarked from the train everybody was dirty, wounded, and clothes ripped. A drunken GI celebrating in Paris laughed like hell at us until one of our guys grabbed him and shook him up. It seemed to wipe the smile from his face in a hurry.
Copyright © 2003-2011 Steve GRABER & Eddy LAMBERTY
Grand-Halleux, bronze plaque honoring the men of
the 291st Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division
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