Heading for Africa and Europe
We crossed the Atlantic in the Liberty Ship Matsen liner S.S.
Monterey. My job in the 456th or/and in the 463rd was Radio
Tech. While we were at the Anzio beachhead, I heard about the
split of the 456th and the 463rd.
At Lake Albano, Italy, 1944
When we jumped in Southern France, I had a good soft tree
landing. We were way off our drop zone though. At Barcelonnette,
the only activity that I was aware of was our fire missions on
visible German positions and one pill box.
My story about the pill box, I think, is amusing. At times
the Germans would come out to get sun and fresh air. When they
did that, I would call for our artillery to fire on them. Iím
sure they were annoyed, they would then go back inside.
The 463rd PFA arrived in Mourmelon, France, just a few days
before the start of the Battle of the Bulge.
(Col. Cooper asked to join the 101st Airborne on their
Rendezvous with Destiny and then the Division headed first to
Werbomont, just a bit later the plans changed and the 101st went
I had no idea where we were going. I just realized we were in
combat again. Our trip was cold and damp.
In Bastogne I slept on the ground outside, and woke up to
snow. Lucky for me, I had just changed into winter combat suit
with snow packs.
I recall, on December 17th, the 463rd moved to Bastogne,
Belgium. On the 22nd, Lt. Anderson, Pvt. Nelson, Pvt. (ďGopherď)
our Jeep driver and I went by Jeep to scout out the enemy. We
came upon some of our troops being held down by a German machine
gun position, so Lt. Anderson said we would circle around and
bring our artillery fire on the German position. Well, we
circled and tried to locate the enemy but in the deep woods
they, instead, found us. We were ambushed and so ended our
combat action. From then on it was all POW.
I was brought to a number of camps starting in Bastogne,
Belgium, then Koblenz, Hammelburg, Nurnberg and lastly Moosburg,
Germany. I was treated reasonably well, although there was very
First marched 80 miles from Bastogne, Belgium to Koblenz,
Germany (Stalag XIIIA) in the snow.
While on this trek we were strafed by our own P47's because
they thought we were German troops. That is when Lt. Anderson
was wounded in the leg.. (It looked bad). Since he was an
officer he was kept separated from the enlisted men. Then shipped via train in box cars from Hammelburg (Stammlager XIIA) to Nurnberg. We then marched
another 80 miles from Nurnberg to Moosburg.
At that time, we were not registered as POW's. They used us
to do labor, such as moving coal cars by hand.
(A cold, bad place).
We were freed April
29, 1945. Very special, but confusing. We wandered about the
village of Moosburg. That night we slept in a private home on
We were liberated by the 86th Division. The German guards were
sent this message: ďIíll give you 45 minutes to surrender. If
you donít, Iíll sock the hell out of you.Ē They did not, he did.
Every guard was killed with exception of one elderly guard,
he was good, we befriended him.
Looking back : the most compelling event for me was while on
a march from Hammelburg to Moosburg. I lay on the ground by the
side of the road trying to eat grass. We had no food for several
days. A British soldier, from India, came to me and gave me a
dried banana chip and told me not to eat grass. That was the
greatest gesture that one man to another could do. I think of
When the war ended
I was shipped home. I was very weak and sick when I came
home, I had lost weight (145 lb. down to 86
lb.) and developed pneumonia and a lung infection. After
spending four months in an Army hospital, I was given a medical
discharge and was released to a Veteranís Hospital. I was
released after two months from there.
Thinking back, if I could do it all over ... what would I
Nothing, it was an experience I would not change.
I met some members of the 463rd at reunions after the war,
Don Fairbanks and Reed Satterstrom.
I was in contact with Carlton Lichtey (shortly after the war) and Don Fairbanks
(how he found me I don't recall) before they passed away. These
two men were my best friends, especially on forward O.P.
About your question "What can we teach our students about WW2 ?"
my answer is : that it was a difficult war. Iím 89, so what I
think would not impress a very young person.
I keep the memory alive by wearing my cap, which has the 101st
Airborne pin on it and several of my decorations (Purple Heart).
Iím pleased when people stop and says ďThank you for your
Many people, young and old do that.
Mr. Pfeil in 1984
Dear Mr PFEIL, thank you very
much for this interview !