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Russell A. LAYMON
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29TH DIVISION - WWII STORIES

 

Russell A. LAYMON

 

29th Infantry Division

175th Infantry Regiment

C Company

We were in Belgium not far from Julich, Germany. We were gearing up for our drive into Western Germany. We practiced boat crossing at night at a small lake nearby. We had to practice using the oars without making any noise. We were planning on crossing the Roer River, which the Germans had flooded, during the wee hours of the morning while it was still dark. There were troops upstream and downstream preparing to do the same thing. As the time drew nearer we had to check our weapons to make sure they were in good condition. At midnight of the night before the push, we had to carry our boats on our shoulders to the rendezvous area near where the Big Toms and Big Berthas (huge guns) were blasting away at Julich across the river. Those guns shook the ground we were standing on. We took shelter in the basement of an old bombed up house nearby.

This is where the story begins about the red-haired kid from Alabama, who had joined us two weeks before. He told his buddy he had to write a letter to his mom and dad. His buddy told him he was crazy-he's going into battle in a few hours! He still insisted so we all took our packs and covered the basement windows and lit a candle so he could write. He told us he had to do that because he wanted to say Goodbye to his mom and dad and thank them for all their love and everything they had done for him because he had a premonition he was going to be killed that morning. He gave the letter to his buddy to mail. He had an envelope and stamp.

Later that morning we assembled at the river and assigned to our boats-I was assigned to the second wave of boats and I'm sure C.J. was, too. The first wave of boats got shelled out of the water. The engineers were trying to build pontoon bridges but they were getting shelled, too. The finally got a bridge built that survived. Since we abandoned crossing the river in boats, the Captain asked for six volunteers to cross the bridge and get an idea where the Germans were and how strong a force they had. Of the six that volunteered, only two came back alive. The redhaired kid from Alabama got killed halfway across (as you can see in the picture). They gave each one of us a "Mae 'West" life preserver and we all began crossing over into Julich, stepping over the Alabama boy. We discarded the "Mae Wests" and regrouped. The first thing I stepped over on the other side was a dead German. I was surprised, however, when I reached the other side and heard my name yelled from another group of G.I.'s that had crossed to our left. It was a fellow from my hometown of Mt. Pulaski, Illinois. He lived next door to us living with his grandmother. We saw each other a couple of times after that in other areas. Oh my, I got off the main topic. As I stated above, we regrouped and was ready to start

capturing Julich and German Krauts but before we could we got shelled. The guy in front of me and the one behind me both got hit. I didn't get touched-I had a pack board on my back with telephone wire. Later that morning my buddy and I got separated from the rest of the guys and got caught in two mortar barrages-again we didn't get hit. We finally found the rest of the guys and we started capturing Germans in the woods. Later, I started to take a German across the bridge when a sniper in a bombed-out house fired at us. The German hit the ground and so did I but one of the shots zinged my helmet. The guys behind me took care of the sniper. I took him across the bridge finally. For the rest of the day we captured more German Krauts and gained control of Julich. From there we continued on our drive into western Germany-our objective was Cologne but halfway across they started us northward.

 

Copyright: Laurent Lefebvre