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Baker Company

by Arthur Wood

This is Baker Company, activated in September, 1943 at Camp Barkeley, Texas, under the command of Captain Gerald E. Griffin. Our original staff of Officers consisted of Captain Roth (then Lt. Roth), Executive Officer; Lt. Schelin, Supply Officer and Platoon Leader; Lt. Wolper, Platoon Leader; Lt. Kennedy, Platoon Leader; Lt. Grubbs, Platoon Leader. The NCO’s were headed by 1st Sgt. Richards assisted by S/Sgts. Bell, Westmoreland, Burke, Carlin, and T/Sgt. Wazny. We were comprised of men from the 11th Armored Division, principally of the 41st Armored Regiment and most of them from Maintenance Company. Represented also were HQ Company of the 41st, Recon Company of the 1st Battalion and a few from the 3rd Battalion. The 42nd AR contributed a small number to our budding family. We seem to have the nucleus of a very good outfit and events later on proved this to be a modest estimation.

Shortly after our activation, the Eleventh pulled out for the desert and our location at Barkeley was changed to the original area at Sixth and G. The battalion commenced an intensive training program under the direction of Lt. Col. Spettel which was of great value in events of the following year. At this point, we said goodbye to Captain Roth who moves to Headquarters as S-2. In his place, Lt. Pivato became a member of our little family. Shortly afterwards, Lt. Schelin moved to HQ Company and Lt. Fuller took over his duties. In the meantime, we were undergoing a strenuous training in tank and infantry tactics. The boys were on the run from sunup to sundown and maybe those Texas nights weren’t cold out on Burma Road and No. 1 and 2 tank gunnery courses. You remember the nights when you’d slip under an old tank tarp while the guard kept a blazing fire going all night to keep you from freezing. Along toward the end of March, 1944, Captain Griffin took off for school at Knox and Lt. Fuller assumed command of the company in his absence. Meanwhile the first segregation of personnel had taken place in our ranks, losing such fellows as Gourley, Perry, Folkerson, Erickson, Tomak, and Wakefield.

The battalion was alerted for movement in April and around the last week of the month we shipped to Camp Maxey near Paris, Texas. The 99th Division was stationed at the post and were putting on the finishing touches to their combat training. The battalion was assigned the job of training them in tank operations with infantry. Those were the days, remember? Sixteen classes a day, in the area just back of the athletic field and when that period was over back to the old grind of tactics. And how those tanks bogged down, sometimes almost going out of sight in the soft ground, which seemed to be so prevalent there. The reports must have been pretty good because by the last week in May we were on our way to Howze near Gainsville. This was it, since Howze had a reputation of being the last stop on the circuit.

Camp Howze, Texas, home of the 103rd Infantry Division and polishing up point on the world’s tour started by Hitler and Company. The heat was on and the gang worked day and night, road marches, firing coursed, gas mask drills, films, orientations, tank tactics, insurance talks, allotments, furloughs, weekends at Dallas, Fort Worth, and Ardmore, Oklahoma. These were days, remember those familiar calls: “Get out our Duffel bags. Try them on. Are they marked? Where did you get those shoes? Get a new pair. You can’t have seconds going overseas. Wait until you get to POE.” Inspections by the hour, the Mess Sgt. Tore out what little hair he had left and the Supply Sgt. Applies for a room at the nearest insane asylum. Those night problems! Get out your flashlights. Let’s check those tanks. Scrape off that mud. We’re turning them in tomorrow. In the midst of all this we received a new crop of athletes from Knox, Lt. Waddy joined us for a spin and Captain Griffin returned from school. Then some of the gang were shipped out to different outfits and we missed the familiar face of Barber, Vandersypen, Jonson, Carlin, Botte, Pettineo, Vuolo, and Pappy Smith. Lts. Waddy, Wolper, Kennedy, and Pivato moved on and we gathered in Lts. Foy, Butler, and Araujo in place of Lt. Howell who transferred to C Company. Tanks away and they lumbered down Lincoln to Ordnance, the boys were tickled to get rid of them and so were the Supply Sergeants. The rumors were hot, fast and furious. One had us in the Pacific, the next in China over the Burma Road, and the choicest of all was Myles Standish. That was hard to believe but it became a reality afterwards.

Camp Myles Standish, Boston’s POE, at last after almost 3,000 miles of traveling and with more hustle-bustle. Layouts, protective clothing, orientations, the obstacle course and that final inspection where Braun failed to kill the goose. Those famous words, “Lt’s in my chest, Doc, not under my arms.” A few nights in Providence, Taunton, and Boston and the green light was on. Loaded down under those packs, he march to the train, the ride to the pier, people waving, women wiping tears from their eyes, most likely remembering the day their love ones hit the rails. On the deck where the Red Cross passed out Orangeade and doughnuts, while the band whipped up a few tunes. That was the day as Ronsky stepped aboard he called out, “Yeah man, twenty percent for Musha.” Aboard ship we were installed in those luxurious quarters in “Four F”, early the next morning they shipped anchor and we slipped down the harbor and out the bay, we were on our way. Europe bound. So long folks, we’ll see you subsequently.

This is the S.S. Monticello folks, Navy troop ship just out of Boston in a convoy enroute to someplace in France. Part of our contingent is made up of the 778th Tank Battalion and so far they have proven pretty good sailors. Anyway that gang from “Four F” make deck call every morning but don’t ask me how. We pull into Cherbourg tomorrow and the gang will hit dry land sometime during the night. Well fellows, there she be Normandy, France. Betcha you never thought you’d ever see it a few years ago. Here’s where you get off, good luck to you all, do a good job and we’ll have a Queen ready on the home trip.

Well gang, you do remember that place now, the home of calcados, chubby women, bad wine, big dung piles and good old Normandy mud. From Cherbourg to Balognes where we drew most of our equipment and the to LaCroix Moraine, the village of the shacks. Wasn’t that first place a corker, rain and mud, more mud. After we moved to Baker’s motor court, things began to hum, always seems that way doesn’t it. Al Squires made Sgt. Ike Winebrenner got his T/5, and Jack Stern made Cpl. Brownie’s hot dog stand did a pretty good business and our picnic stand setup was the best in the battalion. The battalion had been assigned to the Ninth Army and one morning we woke up to find ourselves assigned to old “Blood and Guts”. What a sensation, everyone acquired a new outlook. This was it. No one need worry now, you’re on the right wagon. Then on 5 November 44 orders came to move out in the morning and that same morning we lost Willie Morris to the hospital because of a bad ear. On our way 6 November 44, first stop Villeady. We covered 70 miles that day. The next jump was to Ferte Ce Mace a distance of 73 miles and then on to Ferte De Vidence, 74 miles away. The distance Emise Clichy Sur Bois was 99 miles from our last bivouac. The next evening we rolled into La Ferte Sous Jouane and the following day L’Epen was our goal, 67 miles to go. Then Briey where we stopped to change tracks and had for a visitor the kingpin himself, General George S. Patton. Contact had been established with the 95th Infantry Division and as soon as the tracks were set we were on our way. The assembly point Rhombas and on the following day we jumped off at Pierrevillers at 0800, 15 November, 1944.

The drive for Metz had begun in earnest and Baker was attached to 3rd Bn, 378th Infantry Regiment and the objective was Vigneulles. We got our first casualty when Lt. Butler’s tank was hit by a bazooka. Ed Jaszczor and Butler were evacuated, and Steve Singleton drove the tank in for repairs. Once more the god of war struck out, this time getting George Burke and Diamond Jim Brady. Steve Mitan took over Burke’s platoon, and Jack Beaton filled in for Steve. Then on 21 November John was evacuated for severe burns to the face, lt. Kennedy, Webber, and Willie T. joined us about that time and Lt. Butler returned from the hospital. We entered Metz on the 23rd and stayed on two days before taking off for a new job, Saarlautern.

Saarlautern, toughest part of the Siegfried Line and a bad nut to crack. On to Glatigny where lost Lt. Foy to the hospital and picked up Lt. Abernathy as his replacement. The next move was Buzonville and then around the horn to Leidingen where some tough fighting took place. Baker was now attached to the 378th Infantry Regiment and held a long front. Lt. Foy returned just in time on the 30th as the close in on Saarlautern began. Here Ryan, Barry, Blight, Akins, Bland, and Newton received promotions. Then the wraith of war lashed out in earnest robbing us of these swell fellows, Mitan, Gates, Sutton, Trieckler, Schuman, Wittingen, Bashaw and sending Abernathy and Wilder to the hospital. The very same day we evacuated Harry Fox and Paul Ubl and four days later we lost John Connerton and John Bridges. Bud Hayes, Mont Davis, Frazier Beaves, Don Ledwards, Mike Ramirez, and Mason Armond were promoted at this time. Willie T. came back from the hospital and Gil Richardson joined the company. Bill Lloyd, Ollie Berry, Jack Beaton, and Woody Woodall took another bow, and soon after we lost Jack to the hospital. Bud Hayes became a tank commander and Fred Bashford was made corporal gunner. These were the hectic days of Saarlautern when the gain of 100 to 150 yards meant something and the Heinies threw everything back at us but the kitchen sink. But the gang stayed in there pitching and one night our luck strayed again taking Foy and Frank Klavora back along the battle0strewn highway. Again reaching out with talons, gory with the blood of our buddies at Santa Barbara still fresh on its claws, snatched Blinky Ryland right out of our hands. Harry Perry and Floyd Wazny were injured the same day with Dimples taking the long ride back. But like every cloud with its silver lining, we received Silver Connerton, Bridges and Jack Beaton as a Christmas present and Frank DeCoursey joined us for the first time. The day after Christmas, Jack Pearl was evacuated and joined Red Baldoziew and Ben Barnett on the big highway. Yes, these were the days of Saarlautern, Wadgassen, and Schauffhausen when Baker held the right front end of the line for the 3rd Army.

The days ahead looked black, up north the Bulge fight was in progress and reports had the Heinies massing troops down Saarbrucken way. Engineers mined roads and bridges, alerts were held, and the platoons were rushed out on a minute’s notice. It was a ticklish spot and worst of all that hungry demon of war kept reaching out and clawing down our boys. First we lost Walter Liles, then Glenn Chance, R. G. Bland, and Gilbert Richardson to the hospital. Then he struck us a terrific blow at Schauffhausen tearing Jim Westmoreland away sending Tom Collins to the hospital. Lloyd, Beaton, Bridges, and Kovacs received a lift along the line, and Marv Bouhner joined us one cold night. You all remember those days when the lookouts up in the church tower would almost freeze on a watch shift. Al Squires was made S/Sgt. And old silver was upped a step. Jim Brady returned about that time and Ken Barend joined us from Dog Company, with Foy following closely behind. The days of Uberherren when the platoons went to the show at the end of the street on alert and they held the USO shows over in the theater on Main Street. January 21. 1945: that should mean a lot to some of you fellows, remember about twenty of you became members of Baker Company then. “Old Helmet” DiBattista made corporal gunner then and Ralph Toler an “Pat” Padrnos took sick on us and went back to the hospital for a much needed rest. Harry Perry and the “old codger” Hugh Toye were upped a step or two as were Konnen, Boone, and Leon Higgs. Those were the days of Uberherren, with Santa Barbaara, Bedersdorf, Villing, Falck, Ittersdorf, Altforwieler, Felsberg, Oberfelsberg, Beaumaurais a thing of the past. Those weeks in Saarlautern, SaarLouis, and Saarlautern Roden just bad memories and the tension lessened by the successes in the north. The 95th was relieved by the 5th and it in turn relieved by the 26th and the battalion still carried on with Baker out on the point. Frank Miller and Bob Akins took a trip to the hospital with Bob returning in a few days and then old Pappy Latham received a boost in jobs. A few more new faces joined our family circle on the 13th of February, and then on the 15th Chance and Miller came back.

We got orders to pull out and join the 94th at Sierck where they were assembling a large force to crack the 11th Panzers. So on the morning of the 16th of February we packed and got ready to take off. At 1400 the column moved and arrived at our destination in Montenack just south of Sierck at 1700. The tanks moved into position that night and jumped off in the morning with the 301st Regiment at 0650. They went clear through to Munzigen and Faha before pulling up. Old Dong returned to us after a short sojourn in the hospital and brought Toler and Bland with him. Then the mad dogs of war began to run amok, Baker was hit again and again. Foul blows that sapped the life-line that had held us together all through the campaign began to leave serious gaps in our ranks that could not be restored. They hit us a stunning blow at Freudenburg as a sniper got Lt. Foy and then we lost Bashford, Swede Hanson and Bob Akins in a short space of time. Across the Saar River to Serrig where we lost Lt. Grubbs, Chance and Willie T. in succession. Old Silver left us about this time to go back home, God’s country and the only free place left in the entire world. Blight, Armond, D’Alessandro and Mates were given a pat on the back and upped a step. Those were the days of Serrig, you remember, don’t you? Lashing out like a dinosaur frothing at the mouth, they struck down Duarte, Seegers and then Bud Hayes also sending Lt. Arnold, Frazier Beavers, Frank DeCoursey, and Bill Presley along to the men in white. Padrnos came back to us and Lt. Allen became one of the family. A hurry-up call came from Pellingen, some SS fanatics had holed up and were giving the boys on the river road some trouble and old reliable Baker was thrown in to plug up the hole, Reeling, bobbing, and staggering under the pounding at Serrig and Zerf we once more hit the Jerries a decisive blow driving them out of Pellingen and giving the doughs from the 37i6th a chance to dig and make it uncomfortable for Jerry. But what a toll to pay. When the smoke of battle had cleared, 13 of the gang had gone down before the terrific and fanatical onslaught of those maniacs. Lt. Allen and Cooper were missing, Bridges and Carl Parker had been unmercifully shot down when their tank had been hit. Ray Boone, Holt, Sieg, Clyde Harrison. Mates, George Woods, Jesse Sherard, Stern, and Rossi had been wounded and evacuated to the hospital. Rossi returned the following day and then we lost Beladino and Beaton to the boys in white.

 


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