On January 7, 1915 the 508 Parachute Infantry
Regiment with G Company and a section of Headquarters 3rd Battalion
machine guns in the lead attacked the Germans in Thier Du Mont,
Two days later, Russell Mill, a war correspondent attached to the
First Army, visited the Company C.P. and interviewed Captain Wilde.
Recently contacted, Mr. Mill granted permission to reprint his
dispatch which appeared In the January 20, 1945 edition of the New
York Herald Tribune.
FOX-HOLES IT LEFT CHRISTMAS EVE
Airborne Division Drove Nazis Out By Silencing One Gun After Another
by Russell Hill, by Wireless to the Herald Tribune C right 1915,
N. Y. Tribune Inc.
WITH 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION, Western Front, Jan. 9 (delayed).—The
paratroopers of the 82nd Division are in the same foxholes they were
or-dered to evacuate on Christmas Eve. "It took us five hours to get
out of here and five days to fight our way back,” they said
ruefully. They obviously would have preferred to stay in their
positions and take on all comers, as the 101st did at Bastogne,
rather than carry out the first withdrawal they had ever undertaken.
When they left, the Belgian civilians went with them, stringing
along the winding roads with their horse carts, bicycles and baby
carriages. It was not a very merry Christmas for them. They went far
to the rear, and left their cattle behind. When they come back they
will find that farm boys among the parachutists have been milking
their cows for them. It was not
so much that the paratroopers wanted the milk, it
seems no farmer can bear to stand by idly while milk dries up in
Taking their present positions the second time was harder for the
paratroopers than at first, for the Germans had time to dig in. They
were firmly established on a long wooded ridge that rises abruptly
from the river at Salm Chateau and slopes down gradually to the
west. There is another shorter ridge beyond which is connected with
the main one by a low saddle, and this saddle is bare of trees.
The Germans on the ridge had their 88's placed on the edge of the
ever-green forest covering that lovely field of fire as the airborne
men began to move across the saddle. The 88's fired at point-blank
range, as though they were machine guns. Less plucky troops would
have fallen back. But this division has not had any practice in
those tactics. They took on the 88’s with machine guns and bazookas.
Once, one of those mean, long-barreled German guns opened up at 150
yards. An officer asked for machinegun fire on the German piece.
Private William T. Kenny, of Baltimore, obliged and forced the
German crew to take cover. Then another paratrooper stood up with
his bazooka and dropped two rounds right on the position. You can
still see the German gun at the edge of the clearing, and two frozen
Americans lying where they were killed by that gun.
A similar story could be told of how each one of those guns were
silenced, as they had to be before the airborne soldiers could get
onto that ridge. Once they had a foothold it was not so hard.
Another unit passed through the first, and another one through it,
and so the ridge
That first night on the ridge was not pleasant. The men had nothing
with them but what they wore. Their blankets had had no time to
catch up with them. Their old foxholes were there but were half
filled with drifted snow. So they lay, wet and shivering,
and munched cold rations.
They feel better now, for they know all the tricks that enable men
to make themselves comfortable wherever are. They have cleaned out
their foxholes, which are covered with spruce boughs, slates from
abandoned huts nearby and earth and snow. They have blankets and
rations and cigarettes and their Christmas mail caught up with them.
* * *
Russell Mill provided some background
information about himself, He relates that initially he covered
World War II in the Mediterranean. In October 1911 he moved to Spa,
Belgium and located at Hotel Portugal which became the unofficial
head-quarters for the correspondents in that area. Each day they
went forth in jeeps and visited whichever division was involved in
the fighting. On October 19, he was wounded in Aachen and sent to a
hospital in Paris. He missed the Ardennes break-through but by New
Year’s Eve was in Brussels and soon after back in Spa.
Author of the following books: Desert War, Desert Conquest, and
Struggle for Germany, he is currently editor of Radio Free Europe,
New York Chapter