Within the ranks of the military, a rifle company is unique. Its prolonged exposure to the horrors of face to face combat forges bonds that are virtually unbreakable. They would literally insist on going hungry for another, freezing for one another, dying for one another. . . a closeness unknown to all outsiders. Comrades are closer than friends, closer than brothers. Their relationship is different from that of lovers. Their trust in, and knowledge of, each other is total. Stephen Ambrose
The history of I Company begins 15 September, 1942 when it was activated at Camp Adair, Oregon. Adair was famous for its rain and the neighboring towns. At that time only the original cadre was there, of which there are two lone survivors today, T/Sgt. Walter Thompson of St Louis, Missouri and S/Sgt. Ivan Elgersma of Samborn, Iowa. Most of the rookies had joined the company by 1 December and soon after they were on their first leg of training under Capt. A. E. Landers. For these soldiers who were all new at this the training was rough, but it was not long until results began to appear.In June of 1943 a Second Lieutenant, Arthur D. Decker, who was destined to be our capable C.O. joined the company. We had basic and advanced training at Adair until August 1943. The men now had some idea of what soldiering really was. We then left Camp Adair on 3 August, 1943 not to see garrison again until the spring of 1944. This was the period of desert maneuvers. On the Oregon desert we maneuvered against such outfits as the 96th Infantry Division which was to become veterans of the Sixth Army which fought in the South Pacific. It participated in such major engagements as Okinawa and the Liberation of the Philippines. We also maneuvered against the 91st Infantry Division which later fought so well in the mountains of Italy.
It was in the desert of Oregon that the Divisional Command was assumed by Major General Terry Allen, veteran general of the crack First Infantry Division through North Africa, Tunisia, and Sicily.
We left Oregon in November of the same year for more complex maneuvers on the Arizona-California desert. It was there we battled with the Mountain Boys of the famed 80th Infantry Division who later served with the United States Third army in Europe. We will always recall Palan Pass and California's liquid sunshine.
It was not until March of 1944 that Company "I" found itself garrisoned at Camp Carson, Colorado where all men went on well-earned furloughs. At Camp Carson we received replacements and little did we know that many of these men would prove to be some of the outstanding combat veterans. Most of them were transferred from the Army Specialized Training Program. At Carson night training was further emphasized. Weekends found most of the men in Manitou, Colorado Springs, or Denver on pass. Yes, Carson left a wonderful impression on us.On 16 August, 1944 we left Camp Carson for the Port of embarkation at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey and on the 27th August we sailed from these wonderful United States aboard the USS LeJeune for duty abroad. Rumors aboard ship had us landing everywhere from England to Iran, and a cinch for occupation of Germany. A few rumors remained, some died and a few more were added when we received our French books. Others proved true when we landed at Cherbourg, France on 7 Sept.
From Cherbourg we moved to an assembly area near Valognes and a week or so later to Barneville Sur Mer. On the night of 15 October we marched through rain to a railhead and squeezed into 40 & 8's for shipment to Vilvorde, Belgium. Here we enjoyed ourselves in Brussels and Mechlin for several days.
At 0600 hours 23 October we left under the command of Capt. Albert F. Johnston and rode twenty-six miles in British lorries detrucking at 1000 hours. We marched five miles and at 1400 hours moved into position against the enemy at Loenhout, Belgium relieving a company of Second Essex Battalion, 96 Brigade, 49 Division. We thus became part of the First British Corps, First Canadian Army. Who can forget those first nights at the front?
Our first attack came at 0900 25 October, 1944 when the first platoon reinforced by one light machine gun squad and one mortar squad moved to wipe out harassing machine guns. They met the enemy and were badly outnumbered. The entire company was sent up to aid them. While waiting for support Pfc. Beverly Tipton inched up to a machine gun nest and wiped it out single handed winning the Distinguished Service Cross.The company arrived supported by two Churchill tanks which raked the enemy positions with incendiary and direct fire. We stormed their emplacements and consolidated beyond by the light of burning barns and houses. During the night we withdrew to support another battalion, but returned before dawn after coming under mortar and machine gun fire. Next morning we climbed out of our holes and met a heavily fortified enemy just a few hundred yards beyond. All day long a moderate fire fight ensued between our hedgerow positions and their well-dug-in defenses. At 1900 we launched a frontal assault with almost spearhead support from the courageous British tankers. We flushed Heinies from under haystacks, out of dugouts and trenches, and from buildings; sweeping on into the woods where we spent the night. Our casualties were moderate.
Next morning hungry, tired, and wet the company moved against Zundert, Holland with a powerful armada of Churchills and with ropes for crossing the canal. instead of Germans we met joyous civilians waving white sheets and Dutch flags in carnival costumes. This was the first large town liberated by the men of the Third Battalion. Here we rested for three days and received our first twenty-one replacements.
From Zundert en route to our bivouac at "House 20" outside of Oudenbosch, Holland we had to pick our way through nearly a half mile of roadblock consisting of huge trees felled across the road a few minutes before our arrival. At House 20 we prepared for the Big One-the Mark River.On the night of 4 November we moved up along narrow rutted roads jammed with supply and medical vehicles and dashed across the canal on the bucking single-plank pontoon bridge. Grazing fire from the battalion left flank slowed us up temporarily, but by 2400 we had mopped up Kreek, Holland and captured 21 prisoners.
When we left Kreek the company was in battalion reserve for the town of Noordhoek, but moved in immediately after the attack to hold the smoldering, devastated area. That night we sweated out heavy enemy artillery fire. Next day British Spitfires virtually silenced it by dive-bombing and strafing less than a mile ahead of us.
Back we went 7 November for a bigger job. From House 20 again we went by truck through Belgium to Aachen, Germany and bivouacked overnight. Through driving rain and snow we slipped and stumbled in pitch blackness to relieve I Co. 18th Regiment First Division 7th Corps 1st Army at Verlautenheide 9 November. From then until 16 November we were subjected to heavy and accurate mortar and artillery barrages, harassing machine gun fire, and some night patrols. One large patrol inflicted losses on the Third Platoon before it was driven off. The answer was given 16 November with a tremendous coordinated drive aimed at the Roer River miles away. The first night Pfc. Joseph Schallmoser voluntarily escorted a German officer prisoner to a heavily manned pillbox in our path in hopes of talking it into surrendering. So many of its men surrendered to him that the others left it undefended the next day. The Company took a total of forty-one prisoners during this operation.
Through a section of the Hurtgen forest and across the Aachen-to-Cologne autobahn the company joined in chasing the enemy. Sgt. Clifford Haynes set up his machine gun in a fully exposed position and wiped out a Jerry machine gun nest which was holding up the company.
On that rainy day before Thanksgiving we moved from Fronhoven against the high ground of Putzlohn. We were obliged to move up wide-open fields with the enemy looking down our throats. Aided by perfect observation they ripped us with direct fire from 88's from 800 yards, mortars, snipers, perfectly camouflaged machine guns and accurate concentrations of screaming Meemies, but we held what we had won.
Attacked Putzlohn - pinned down without support from tanks, tank-destroyers self-propelled or anti-tank guns, etc. but held positions until relieved by the First Battalion, 413th Regiment. Casualties extremely heavy.
Thanksgiving dinner was a day late for "I" Company!
After a few days there we received replacements and moved out the same night to relieve two companies of the First Battalion in Putzlohn amid heavy artillery and mortar fire. On 31 November we marched to Lohn and from there slogged through ankle-deep mud and water in driving rain in a night attack on Inden to give much needed support to the First Battalion holding precariously to a few buildings on the edge of town. Once in town we spent the night organizing and strengthening our positions in the "rag factory" against tanks and infantry.
At one time a tank came almost within grenade range, but was driven off by a bazooka round which killed the infantry protecting it. Next day we broadened our hold on the town without serious resistance. In a surprise move that night the company advanced stealthily to positions over-looking the Inde River before it was discovered. There we stuck it out for four days under the heaviest artillery concentration ever experienced by American troops, according to Stars and Stripes newspaper. Here the first platoon received a direct hit from a aerial bomb causing severe casualties. The town was secured by 3 December though artillery still crashed in at fifty rounds per minute. That night the 414th Regiment passed through us supported by the most awesome phosphorous barrage we were ever to witness.
Tired from so much fighting we welcomed a rest in Durwiss while the regiment was in reserve. It meant lots of sleep, hot chow, movies, and letters. To spite us the Germans launched their famous counter offensive. Passes, which started that day in Verviers, were called back. There were hunts for paratroopers and the battalion command post was bombed with incendiaries causing several casualties.
With 1st Lt. Arthur Decker as company commander, we rode and hiked to relieve a company of the 83rd Division at Gurznich on the Roer River Dec. 21. We now were a part of the 19th Corps United States Ninth Army.
Holding a wide frontage the company spent a long, cold winter manning foxholes, setting up defenses along the river, digging secondary defense at Stolberg, sending patrols along and even across the river and training in rear for the crossing. On Christmas Eve our enemies serenaded us with American music and homesick propaganda. New Year's morning we "Serenaded" them with every gun along the front. You will remember the fourth platoon's bathtub, the overhead heating "system" of the company CP, the big refrigerators the third platoon lived in and the "sieve" which the second platoon called home. Then there was the ten day rest in the town that once was Langerwehe. Such luxury it seemed! Some lucky ones got passes to Paris and others went to Verviers. We all rode at one time or another to division rear for showers and clean clothes. After looking at Duren all winter we went over and took it, we were again, part of the 1st Army with which we remained until V-E Day. At 0315 we shouldered the heavy assault boats and carried them that long way to the river raging with water from the dams controlled by the Germans. Exhausted but determined we forged across and beat the enemy from his positions with grenades; close-in fighting and with close support from our magnificent artillery. Inspired by the on-the-spot leadership of Capt. Decker the assault squad rapidly swept the factories and ruins clean and even popped up in the rear of Germans. We waited quietly while one heavily armed enemy patrol of fifteen men marched in column of two's at sling arms into our covering rifles and machine guns. Another on a bicycle fell fiat on his face in his fright when he made the same error. Soon these and more were prisoners. During their sixty-two days on the other bank the Germans had ample opportunity to build strong defenses. For its speed, skill, and daring in overcoming these defenses and its sector of Duren the Third Battalion received the Distinguished Unit Citation.
In close support of the Third Armored Division we moved to the outskirts of Cologne by 1200 6 March. At 1630 we jumped off but were forced to hold for the night because of murderous artillery and direct fire. You will remember the utter devastation of that crossroads, the ground cratered and re-cratered from innumerable bombings. At 0630 we slogged ahead against light resistance and suffered few casualties. By 8 March we were comfortably billeted along the Rhine River in the suburb of Rodenkirchen. We reveled in luxury with lots of champagne, cognac. and war trophies, until 19 March.
When the Eighth Division relieved us we entrucked, went south to Honnef, and crossed 21 March 1500 hours into the Remagen bridgehead which at that time was about ten miles deep. We relieved elements of the 26 Regiment First Division at an airfield.
At Stockhausen 22 March we relieved part of the Ninth Division amid tremendous artillery which seemed to search for each of us individually. Company L relieved us 24 March while we made a moonlight attack on a strategic fortified hill and the town of Rottbitze. Acting on its own the first platoon was caught in a heavy mortar barrage and a terrible cross fire from American machine guns manned by the enemy. Drawing back to reorganize and pick up replacements for their fifty percent casualties the platoon returned and flanked the enemy killing many and capturing more than twenty. The second and third platoons were held up by a series of machine gun emplacements which they forced to withdraw by a yelling bayonet assault straight up the hill. At about 0400, our mission completed, we heard the Third Armored Division take off with a roar on our right. At 1130 we began the job that took us to the end of the war. We mopped up behind the Third.
Remember the scores of prisoners that day; the bumper-to-bumper vehicles that choked us with dust going to Schoneberg; the clean clothes; the snafu convoy from Marburg to Munchhausen; the restful Easter at Adorf; the two days in the woods in the rain looking for SS men; the "wildest" charge into Wiensen the day we crossed the Weser River; those killing hikes and long truck rides.
Then came the touch-and-go fight in Bad Lauterberg 14 April. Against snipers, burp guns and panzerfausts we dashed from house to house always forced to smash in the doors and expose ourselves. More amazing tales came from this nasty fight than from any similar period. We granted the enemy a five-hour truce to arrange for his surrender and the acceptance got as high as the German First Army Headquarters before it was rejected and the fight continued. Our battalion clinched the city by 14 April and we were replaced by a reconnaissance outfit at 1900. At 2100 strong forces from the 65,000 Germans surrounding the city swept in and retook it. We were well on our way to Reideburg near Halle by then!
Worn from those nerve-wracking days we rested for three days amid the lovely blossoms and pleasant homes. On the 20th we marched all day long towards Zschortau where we encountered determined machine gun and sniper fire. We replied with tank and mortar fire and during the night fifty-seven Germans surrendered. Next day riding tanks and tank destroyers we rode to Notixech near the Mulde River mopping up each town on the way. While we were there elements of the battalion met the Russians. We drew back to Sproda and our combat days were over.
The company then moved to Glesien for occupation and patrolling of an assigned area. From there we moved to Buschdorf near Halle for more occupation and routine training. We lived the life of Riley in temporarily confiscated houses, Movies every night, sightseeing, stageshows and even American style ice cream! Here we learned that we were to he redeployed to the South Pacific via the United States.
On the 11 June we moved to Leipzig and climbed into boxcars at 1800 hours for St. Valery, France. We crossed the Rhine on the Roosevelt bridge at 1317 hours. 16 June we were in Chaulnes, France. It was the first time the company had been in France since 17 October, 1944. We had been in Germany from 7 November, 1944 to 14 June, 1945.
We detrained at St. Valery and entrucked at Camp Lucky Strike a short distance from there. We stayed in tents in the dusty camp until 1000 hours 25 June when we boosted our bulging barracks bags onto trucks and rode to the ruined port of Le Havre. Its devastation could be matched by Duren and Nordhausen only. We boarded the USS Monterey of the Matson Line at 1330 and waited on our closed decks until we sailed next evening with the tide. Double loaded we had recourse to books, cards, and swapping stories to take our minds off the homeward journey.
On the morning of July 3 we steamed into New York Harbor and toward the red, white, and blue Pier 16 escorted by a tug carrying a GI swing band and a bevy of WACS. It was all wonderful to us after so long away from home.
With the same generosity as when we left, the American Red Cross had milk and doughnuts for us as we waited for the ferry to take us around the harbor past the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Manhattan and on to our railhead and Camp Kilmer. Here we dispersed for thirty day furloughs from separation centers near our homes.
In the period from September 7, 1944 when we landed at Cherbourg France, to May 8, 1945, V E. Day, "I" Company had approximately 325 men. Our battle casualties totaled 186; 38 dead, 143 wounded, 5 POW's. "I" company captured approximately 625 prisoners, and killed more than 150 German soldiers, a total of 775 casualties suffered by the enemy. This is a ratio of better than 9 to 2, not including an unknown number of German wounded.
Supplements to Company I history:
We are Indebted Company I War Stories Company I Combat Chronicle
This page last updated: 22 January, 2008
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