Some time later, "I" Company began their
counterattack. One soldier had thrown a white phosphate grenade and
it hit the metal window frame and dropped to the ground outside
before exploding. Some of the shrapnal came into the building and
landed on the back of one of the Germans hand, causing a painful
burn. The soldier that threw the grenade was wounded in the heel and
was captured and put in the room with me. From where I was, I could
see through the door of the room and out the side door I was brought
in through by the frightened German. You could tell something was
beginning to happen because gun fire began picking up. Finally, I
saw a trooper from "I" Company place his machine gun in the
intersection and began firing down into the area where we were. The
Germans began leaving the building and I recall the last fellow to
leave looked over at us and kind of smiled and gave a salute as he
left. I do recall our troopers had fixed bayonets and we could hear
the Germans screaming from the area where our mortar was.
I learned later that Sgt. Hess, Swint, and the
other two in our squad were about 100 yards behind us as we rounded
the corner of the building. They saw what happened to Lindsey and
me. Thinking both of us were killed, they went down some stairs to
the basement. This is where they stayed until after "I" Company had
cleared the area.
As our comrades came up to the building, we
shouted and told them there were no Germans left, only two wounded
troopers in the building. One of the men helped us get back to our
aid station, about 100 yards behind the main intersection of Erria.
We were a bunch of wounded troopers helping each other as best we
could. To our immediate front, was a field where fighting had taken
place earlier. Some Germans were wounded and begging for help. I
recall thinking, if some were wounded, some could still be alive and
armed. Therefore, I found a rifle and stood guard over our wounded.
Nothing happened though, and at daybreak we were moved to the
regimental aid station for treatment and relay to hospitals where
our wounds could be treated. Our regimental surgeon, while examing
me, kept looking at my head for a wound. Finally, he asked me if I
was wounded anywhere other than my mouth. My reply was, "no" and he
began helping me take the overcoat off that was given to me earlier.
My comrades brains were still on the collar and back of the coat.
Later that morning, an ambulance loaded up a group
of us to take us back to the hospital. Since I was not a stretcher
case, I was placed in the front with the driver. As we began our
journey back, it was clearly evident a major battle had taken place.
Our guys were bringing the dead to the roadside to be picked up
later by trucks. Most were Germans, yet some were our guys. I feel
certain some of the dead had only been wounded, but died later as a
result of exposure because it was extremely cold. We then began
passing mile after mile of our armored vehicles, which were getting
ready to launch a counteroffensive on the Germans. Boy, did I feel
great when I saw these men and tanks. About this time, the morphine
I had received at the regimental aid station plus the warm sunshine
coming in the cab of the ambulance, began to make me sleepy. But
before I drifted off, I remembered wondering why was I spared and so
many others died. Why?
John H. Hodge, Jr.