35th Infantry Division Memory

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134

James G. GRAFF

Company C - 134th Infantry Regiment


James G. GRAFF

Things I Remember

I guess I should tell a Battle of the Bulge experience but maybe I will just try and tell about some of the things that stand out in my three weeks of fighting in the Bulge, from the outskirts of Bastogne to the Our River and the German border.

First, the Bulge was my initiation into battle. I was a 19-year-old infantry replacement and came in the line at night and never saw my foxhole companion until first light. My first American casualty was a result of a self-inflicted wound. My first dead Germans were a black booted officer and a blue-eyed soldier no older than I. They were killed in the woods southeast of Bastogne near Lutrebois, Belgium.

Our first attack towards Arloncourt -- 15 knocked out 6th Armored tanks along the road leading towards the town. Three more tanks burning in town and a half-track loaded with wounded and burned tankers coming back. My first German tank refueling in front of our positions and two of our tanks wanting our C.O. to fire some 60mm mortars at them in the hope we could set the refueling vehicle on fire. Lt. Chappell our C.O. telling them: Nothing doing. If they wouldn't attack them what chance did we have. We didn't have a bazooka in the whole company. My first attack against tanks -- get in close so they couldn't fire on you. The first casualties of the men I joined "C" Company with: Carl Kittleson of Illinois was killed in action by a tank shell.

I remember that I dug three foxholes in a day as shelter against the German fire. The medic was sent in as a replacement without an entrenching tool. The number of casualties soon corrected that error. I still see the German soldier walk by while two of us were drinking coffee and eating a roast beef sandwich. He had walked through two platoons and a section of heavy machine guns until a runner at the company CP challenged him. Have you ever hand carried chow and bed rolls in the middle of the night following a telephone line?

I remember those cheap little wool and imitation leather gloves we had. We would have been better off if we would have had some corn shucking mittens. I wore long and short underwear, a pair of fatigues, a pair of wool O.D.'s, sweater, field jacket and a wool overcoat. Also, the combat boots and four buckles felt overshoes. We got shoe-pacs when we finally were relieved in January 26, 1945 by the 90th Infantry Division, and being pulled back to Fischbach, Luxembourg. I remember that bath in an engineer shower and our first pair of socks and change of underwear in the Bulge. Somewhere I read where a Bulge historian called the 35th Infantry Division the foxhole division, because they never got out of the woods and foxholes.

I remember the snow, you know it got deeper each day. It was clear up to my butt by the end of January 1945. Too many casualties from rifle companies attacking across snow swept fields into woods and fortified towns. Good example, January 24-26 in our attack against Weiswampach, Luxembourg. Tanks turned back and left us to the mercy of the German tanks and small arms fire. Also, those damned "screaming meemies" which they chased us out of the woods with and leaving our wounded and floundering back to a little village.

Jim Steinhaufel and I slept with an old ewe sheep and a couple of lambs. That sheep manure creates heat when you burrow down into it. Getting up and getting a second breakfast because so much was left over because of the casualties.

Also I remember falling asleep on the edge of a foxhole and being awakened by Lieutenant Neel. Also we attacked the town the next morning and the lead tank hit two mines, compliments of some American unit, laid on the road probably six weeks before and covered up with snow, only to be detonated when we came in another way. Sergeant Loos and I dug them out and threw them in the ditch.

I remember cutting up some German cemetery crosses, we got them out of a carpenter shop to start a fire in a cook stove of a house trying to warm our squad leader's frozen feet. I remember the BAR I inherited, but didn't test fire, it failed to eject the cartridges and I dug them out with a pocket-knife. I'll never know whether I used too much oil or whether it was a real malfunction. I didn't give it a second chance. I remember the new replacement. He came in about two weeks after me, he wouldn't give up the machine gun receiver because he was frozen with the fear of his first combat and not just the zero weather. He never did get that gun in action. I remember Sergeant File coming back from his fifth wound with a duty slip, he was only to carry his pack and rifle, only to be hit twice in the same leg the next morning. You know "C" Company, 134th Infantry Regiment suffered almost 200 casualties in the month of January 1945. These included POW's, CO's, KIA's, WIA's and all the non-battle casualties from frostbite. Frostbite was good for a Purple Heart though.

You know after the Bulge the rest seemed easy but you know it wasn't.

I remember the so-called re-enforcement men who had been in the army for years but not in the infantry. On January 21, 1945 we received some of these men. My squad leader S/Sergeant Sanborn told me to go out and get me an assistant BAR man. I went out in the street and this one individual looked lost. I said to him: "Do you know anything about a BAR?" He answered: "Hell no, I don't know anything about this rifle they gave me." I said, "Why its an M1." He answered: "I was a mechanic in the AAA. I took my basic 3-1/2 years ago with an '03 Springfield bolt action." I then noticed he was a T/4. He became a member of the 3rd Squad of the 3rd Platoon.

Next morning we moved out to clear some woods. As we advanced across the snow swept fields we came under heavy machine gun fire. The medic hollered "Graff, your buddy's been hit." I ran back, here was my assistant laying face down in the snow. I turned him over but couldn't see any blood but then he had on as many clothes as I did. In a matter of seconds he came to. Apparently, he had fainted, and lying face down in the snow revived him. A couple of nights later we forgot him and left him in the woods when we fell back. Next afternoon he was rescued by the 90th Infantry Division. He never slept that sound again as long as he was in "C" Company.

Source: Battle of the Bulge 1995

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