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Kenneth  R. (Rock) Merritt - HQ 1st Co

On September 17th. 1944, the 508th parachuted into Holland. I was HQ1 light machine gun platoon sergeant.

After weeks of fighting in Holland, we marched 22 miles carrying all of our equipment to the town of Oss, Holland, where we met trucks that moved us to Sissone, France. Sissone was great, we billeted in an old French Artillery post with dry beds and hot food.

Following a few weeks training replacements, we were alerted to prepare for a quick move to Belgium. The Germans had launched a surprise attack of 12 divisions of infantry and armour through the lightly defended Ardennes woods.

3 American divisions tried heroically to defend the area.

They were the newly arrived and untried 106th  Infantry Division, the combat experienced 28th Infantry Division and the 7th Armored Division.

On the morning of December 18th 1944, the 508th loaded into large open trucks and headed for Werbomont, a small Belgium village located at the junction of two main roads.

[It was] a long cold ride with cold rations and very short rest stops.

In Belgium, we marched and maneuvered for several days while planners tried to find the best defensive positions from which to stop and destroy the rapidly moving German forces.

By late December 23rd, the 508th was deployed  in an 8 mile salient, stretching from the main battle positions to Vielsalm. The 508th mission was to provide a corridor of safety for the severely mauled and desperate survivors of the over run infantry divisions and the hard-pressed 7th Armored Division. The nose of the 508th salient rested upon the Salm river bridge at Vielsalm.

Our 1st Battalion, supported by my machine guns manned the tip of the salient.

By dawn of December 24th , hundreds of vehicles, tanks, armored cars, command vehicles, and jeeps, with desperate men fleeing destruction or capture by the Germans passed through the 508th corridor to safety.

HQ1st machine guns were covering the Salm river bridge under continuous enemy Artillery fire. In the afternoon, a U.S. fighter plane dropped a bomb on our position and buried our assistant platoon leader.

We managed to dig him out and get him evacuated, also two mortar platoon forward observers were wounded and evacuated.

The 508th position was becoming increasingly perilous. It was vulnerable to being cut off and destroyed by fast moving German forces.

Late in the afternoon of December 24th, the 508th was ordered to withdraw to the main positions.One platoon per rifle company would stay behind to provide a covering force.

We spent Christmas eve night executing the withdrawal, fighting strong German combat patrols and traversing densely forested snow covered hills.

On Christmas morning, the 508th was fully committed to developing a strong defensive position.

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