CHAPTER 4
 

 

Arnold E. Harjehausen

 
MEMOIRS OF .................

A SOLDIER

with the 125th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mecz) in World War II

 
 

NORMANDY CAMPAIGN

 

We arrived at the Normandy beaches on the 3rd of July. We unloaded from our freighter by climbing down a rope ladder onto a rhino barge. The vehicles were unloaded by winch from the ship. The first barge load of vehicles and personnel arrived on the beach at 20:30. Immediately upon arrival on shore a German Messerschmitt 190 strafed us. Captain Stolberg and I crawled under a metal container for protection. I don't remember a lot of debris on the beach from the initial landing. The last barge of vehicles and personnel landed about 01:30 on the 4th of July and joined the rest of the unit at Colleville Sur Mer about 03:00. All vehicles were de-water proofed and the unit proceeded to our bivouac area 2 miles Southeast of Isigny.

 

On the 7th of July, we were ordered to take two small towns named Goucherie and Le Mesnil-Veneron. I was at Squadron Headquarters when Captain Kennard Gardiner of Council Bluff, Iowa, and 1st Lieutenant Robert J. Foley, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, were getting ready to take a medium tank from the 3rd Armored Division, to a crossroad. Captain Gardiner asked me to help them. I said OK, and went to get my things. By the time I returned, they had left with the tank. Captain Gardiner was wounded and captured. Don't know what happened to Lieutenant Foley. He was listed as Died Of Wounds (DOW) on the 9th of July 1944.  Shortly thereafter, I was standing next to a collapsed house with a thatched roof, I notice a limoges sugar bowl.  I picked it up and sent it home. Now when I see that bowl, it reminds me of that fateful day. That was one time luck on my side.

 

After this action, we were short nine officers so I took a requisition to the Adjutant General's Section, Headquarters, First United States Army for replacements. The Lieutenant that I contacted told me that he had a meeting to attend, so he gave me all the Qualification Cards of the Cavalry Lieutenant's that they had in the replacement pool. The Lieutenant with the most impressive qualifications was a Lieutenant Dick Hall, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was graduate from the U.S. Army Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. When the Lieutenant returned, he told me that General Bradley had told them that their most important job was to take care of the troops. He showed me where to go to pick up the lieutenants that I had selected. I went to the replacement pool, loaded them, and returned to the Squadron. I assigned them to troops and told them that they could ride to their troops with the ration trucks, when they came in. The next thing that I heard was that 1st Lieutenant Hall, had been killed on 30th of July 1944, with Troop B, 113th Squadron. When and how he was transferred in only conjecture. My guess is that our Squadron Commander told the Group Commander that he had a West Point Graduate. The Group Commander then decided the 113th Squadron needed him worse that we did.

 

One day when I visiting the Medical Detachment, Captain Lawrence Loewinthan, MD, from New York, showed me a young muscular German prisoner dressed in a camouflaged suit. A bullet has grazed his shoulder and he was showing a lot of pain. We could not figure out why he was in so much pain. Later, we were told that the bullet traveled under the skin an lodged in his kidney.

 

The U.S. Army Air Corps, with their P-47 Fighter Aircraft, were attacking German targets all day long. You could see them coming and going. One day I was sitting on the side of a slit trench I was digging and saw a P-47 fly right across in front of me. The next thing I heard was some firing, the pilot slid the canopy back and bailed out. One of our recon troops picked him up so he did not fall into enemy hands.

 

When the sun was going down, the last flight of P-47s were coming home and right behind them came the German fighters and bombers. They would bomb us most of the night. You could tell where they were from the sheet of fire from the anti-aircraft guns that followed them.

 

Three officers and one hundred twenty-two  enlisted men from Headquarters and Service Troop, 125th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized, were bivouacked 1 miles Southeast of Couvains, France, when they received orders to move 1 miles East of St. Clair Sur Le'Elle, France. The Squadron Commander ordered them to move closer to the front lines and the troops that they were supporting. The Headquarters and Service Troop of a Cavalry Squadron provides all of the support required by the troops in the Squadron. It is the lifeblood of the Squadron.

 

They departed on a cloudy and rainy day, at about 19:00 hours, 20 July 1944, and arrived at the new location, in a wooded area, at about 19:25 hours. Company F, the tank company, was located on one side of them and the Medical Detachment was located on the other side. Heavy rains marked the days from 19 to 22 July, heavy even in a normally wet month.

 

Members of Headquarters and Service Troop immediately went to work getting ready to support the forward troops. The next morning, personnel from these forward elements started to arrive. 1st Sergeants and Troop Clerks to deliver mail to be sent home and to pick up letters and packages from home, deliver reports and pick up replacements. Supply Sergeants came to pick up new clothing, weapons, and ammunition. Motor Sergeants came with their disabled vehicles, picking up replacement vehicles, parts, gas, and oil, and the Mess Sergeants to pick up their rations!

 

It didn't take the German Forward Artillery Observers long to notice all the traffic in and out of the area. They were seasoned soldiers and knew that the best time to strike was when the troops were assembled for a meal. They patiently waited until suppertime. Master Sergeant Joseph W. Felthegger was sitting under a tree, not far from the chow line, 1st Sergeant Jess J. Richardson and Private First Class Chesley J. Brannon of F Company, 125th, and I were standing near the tree when the first round came in. I heard it coming and knew it was going to hit close to us so I hit the ground. It hit the tree, sending it straight up in the air. The shrapnel killed Master Sergeant Felthegger and Private First Class Brannon, wounding 1st Sergeant Richardson in the leg. The next round landed in the maintenance area causing seventeen more casualties. Technician 5th Grade Carl E. Dunegan rendered first aid to some of the wounded men. Disregarding his own safety, he helped his comrades, while the shells were still falling. Private First Class Henry J. McEwen ran to the aid of a wounded comrade, dragging him to safety, possible saving his life.  

 

Fortunately, Our Squadron's Medical Detachment was located in the adjoining field and responded quickly to 1st Sgt Richardson's call for help. With the Medical Detachment suddenly overtaxed, it was necessary for every aid man to work individually and as rapidly as possible in an effort to treat and evacuate the casualties before any more artillery shells fell.

 

When Sergeant Jerry D. Kelly, Squadron Mailman and Private First Class Joseph L. Burgun, Clerk, heard the rounds coming, they stepped behind an armored half-track vehicle for protection. Private First Class Burgun was lightly wounded with shrapnel in his leg. His wounds were not as serious as some of the others, so he was sent across the road to the 104th Medical Regimental Aid Station, supporting the 115th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. While he was there, he asked about a friend of his, Sergeant Karl Knechtel, from his hometown of Jennette, Pennsylvania. They showed him where his friend was, sitting in his foxhole cleaning his weapon. They had a memorable reunion. 

 

The three members killed, Master Sergeant Joseph W. Feltheger, Squadron Motor Sergeant; Private First Class Charles V. Brannon, Truck Driver and Private First Class Walter  L. Boyer, Bugler, were collected by the Graves Registration Officer 1st Lieutenant Francis B. Burbridge, and delivered to the cemetery at La Cambe, France.

 

Fifteen men were evacuated to the 609th Evacuation Hospital: Seriously wounded Technician 4th Grade William (Paw) Doerning, a mechanic, died while lying on a gurney, next to Sergeant Richard M. Fry; also seriously wounded and waiting for treatment. Nine others, also seriously wounded were Technician 4th Grade Oliver A. Hunemiller, Technician 5th Grade Leo G. Maki, Technician 4th Grade Ernest S. Nagy, Staff Sergeant George S. Osborne, Technician 5th Grade Raymond G. Petersen, Technician 4th Grade James W. Sands, Technician 5th Grade Robert J. Stirling and Technician 4th Grade Johnnie E. Curry.  Four men, lightly wounded were: T/Sgt James C. Ita, Technician 4th Grade Wendall J. Fish, Technician 5th Grade Samuel E. Lott and Private Paul G. Sutton. 

 

1st Sergeant Jess J. Richardson, Technician 5th Grade Carl E. Dunegan and Private First Class Henry J. McEwen were awarded the Bronze Star Medal for their heroic actions and all of the dead and wounded were awarded the Purple Heart Medal for their service to their country. After the evacuation of the dead and wounded, Headquarters & Service Troop moved to a safer area, one mile Southwest of St. Clair Sur Le'Elle. 

 

Major Everett E. Orman from Ottumwa, Iowa and I knew that the Army Air Force was going to bomb the front lines near St. Lo. We sat on the hood of the jeep and watched the first formation come and drop the smoke markers. We could see the smoke markers drifting into our lines, so we knew there were going to be some problems. Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, Commanding Officer of the Army Ground Forces and the fictional First U.S. Army Group, FUSAG, in England, came to witness the saturation bombing of a six square mile area of enemy territory, Southeast of the St. Lo to P'eriers highway, on 24 July 1944. A tragic error caused one flight of the aerial armada to drop their bombs short of the target area and the 30th Infantry Division suffered 662 casualties.  Lieutenant General McNair was with these troops when he was killed. A Medical corpsman, on the scene, identified Lieutenant General McNair's body by the three stars that were still on one of his shoulder straps. The body had been hurled eighty feet from his slit trench. The burial detail took the body to the La Cambe Cemetery.  The first vehicle contained the body, the driver and one Major. They took the body to the grave and placed it in a pine box for burial. The second vehicle contained the military police, which provided the security. They stood, surrounding the area, facing away from the grave. The third vehicle contained the members of the firing squad from Troop B, 125th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mecz. (formerly Troop D, 113th Cavalry, Mecz, from Washington, Iowa) and the bugler from the 66th Army Ground Forces Band (formerly the Band, 113th Cavalry, Mecz. from Oskaloosa, Iowa).    

 

The members of the firing squad were Sgt. Joseph Astrolko, Sgt. Kenneth L. Hahn, Sgt. Phillip Stemper, Tech 4 Radall Parlett, Cpl. Sherman Kuhn, Cpl. S. P. Stackareski, Cpl. Irwin Volgelson, commanded by Lt. John D. Anderson. The bugler was Pfc. Guido D'Orazlo, who had the honor of playing taps for this great soldier.

 

The burial was a closely guarded secret because the First U.S. Army Group was formed to deceive the Germans into thinking that the main invasion force would land at Calais, France.

 
 

Chapter 5

 

 

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