Once we secured the Southern France area designated in Operation Dragoon, we were sent to the Maritime Alps to provide artillery fire to suppress the ability of German troops to retreat out of Italy, etc. By late 1944, we were heading north through Nancy, France where we bivouacked (temporarily camped) at Mourmelon with the 101st Airborne Division. Shortly thereafter we were told and deployed to the Bastogne area as the German Offensive had begun.
Bastogne and Beyond
We were assigned to a perimeter position northwest of Bastogne in a small village called Hemroulle. The Command Headquarters was located in the town in the military base, today called Bastogne Barracks, and “CP” is the military abbreviation designating the Command Post. The Battalion Batteries were deployed strategically along the ridges adjacent to the town to secure a perimeter. My personal responsibility was to crew the 50 caliber machine gun and prepare a machine gun pit for its location. Our crew also dug foxholes nearby so we were at the ready for immediate readiness while having shelter and safety when not on duty. At one point, some of us decided to seek the shelter of a nearby barn; however, a duty sergeant ordered us to vacate and return to our foxholes. We thought his Order was a bit peevish until a German artillery round destroyed the barn. A few days later when the Third Army arrived, we were in our foxholes when General George Patton was making rounds and appeared. I was awestruck personally, but one of my foxhole crew spoke up (I believe it was PFC Campbell) and asked the General if the handles on his revolvers were pearl. The General responded: “Pearl handles are for pimps; these handles are made of ivory.” At that point, he noticed the ground was littered with 50 caliber empty brass shell casings and ordered us to clean up the grounds.
As the Battle of the Bulge wound down, we were relieved and travelled with the 101st Airborne division through Belgium and into southern Germany through the spring and until the end of the war which was in early May, 1945. At that time, I was 1 point shy of the required number to get to come home, so I remained deployed until November, 1945. I can recall 2 incidents while serving as an occupational force. The first was when I had the comforts of a home including bedding. I recall the homeowner crying as we were cleaning our weapons on her expensive living room carpet. Later on that year, we were in Bad Reichenhall, a town in Southeastern Germany in Bavaria and to the German-Austrian border. It was here, at the Hotel Kaiser, where I received my Orders to go to Berlin and eventually home. At this time, either I or our Battalion was assigned to the 82nd “All-American” Airborne Division
So, it was off to Berlin, then to Le Havre France which is coastal town on the English Channel. From there I boarded the S.S. Wilmington and it was back to the States where I wound up at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I was then transported to Fort Bragg, N.C. where I was mustered out of the Army.
After my discharge, I entered civilian life and took a job as lineman for the phone company in North Carolina as well as starting a family. By 1948, I decided to re-enlist with the 82nd Airborne home based at Fort Bragg. Later, I entered Nike Missile Surface Defense School in Buffalo, New York. By 1962, I received Orders to report to Bitburg, Germany, where a Nike Defense System protected the NATO Air Base. Bitburg is about 20 miles north of Trier, Germany. I located my family in a military town outside Trier until it was time to retire and come home late in 1963, early 1964. I had achieved the rank of Master Sergeant (E-8) when I retired.
As a footnote to my military career, I had an opportunity to visit Hemroulle when I was assigned to Bitburg. It was now about 18 years since the Battle of the Bulge. The nostalgic trip was so vivid to me as I walked along the ridge where our foxholes and gun pit were located. Even though I went in the fall and the grounds were strewn with leaves rather than snow, I walked to the exact spot where I was 18 years ago with much of it like it was in December, 1944.
As I reminisce of that time in history, I think of the Bomber Groups and Fighter Squadrons that took to the air, the Armies and Battalions that occupied the land, and the Naval Task Forces and Flotillas that roamed the seas, both American and Allied, to rid the scourge that menaced the world. Thank you once again for this opportunity to be part of such a noble endeavor.
Richard Cornaire, former PFC, B Battery, 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion