Looking Back

This blog features poems by a native New Englander and octogenarian, as he looks back on the stomping grounds of his youth -- Chaffee's Woods, Kent Heights, Beach Pond, Escoheag, Wood River -- and his army days in Europe towards the end of WWII.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


And once the trees had all been cleared
We came down from the hills
And moved along much faster now
Accompanied by tanks.
We once were stopped in a village
Where snipers held us up
But heavy tank fire into town
Convinced the Krauts to quit.

But soon we reached the dragon teeth
That lined the Siegfried Line.
It was then that we all did know
We were in Germany
Which outfit had first crossed the line
Will never now be known
The skipper called for us to halt
And move into the woods.

We stayed in this spot for a day
Until ‘twas figured out
Which outfit would make the attack
Into the Siegfried Line.
We rested back just far enough
So we would not be hit
And somehow knew with certainty
That we would be the ones.

And sure enough when darkness came
Our leaders spoke to us
And said that we’d attack at six
After a huge barrage.
This time we were not that concerned
About our losing feet
For when artillery hit that hard
It would explode the mines.

And so we ate some C-rations
That just had been brought up
Then sat around and quietly
Did speak of times gone past
Of our girlfriends, and also wives
We reminisced a lot
Then turned into our cold gas capes
And spent a chilly night.

At four o’clock we all arose
And got some K’s to eat
The mortar squads were still attached
As they had always been
First and third in skirmish line
Would make the first attack
While second platoon was in reserve
To fill in any gaps.

And so we waited once again
For our artillery
And promptly at five forty-five
It came down with a bang
The noise was unbelievable
The cordite stench was bad
But right on time, at six o’clock
We started our attack.

The artillery lifted as we moved
And threw shells to the rear
While we with useless mortars could
Do nothing to help out.
But many of our riflemen
Had spotted a pillbox
And if we could take that one out
We could move right ahead.

Then one who had a satchel charge
Did creep up to its side
And threw that charge into the slit
And – bang – that box was ours.
We then moved quickly up the hill
Right thru the dragon teeth
Our engineers came right behind
And blew some all to bits.

The tankers now went right on through
And we just followed them
Our casualties in this attack
Were not one single man.
We then got back onto the road
And moved along all day
The Krauts had seemingly pulled out
And were in full retreat.

We then continued on our way
And came upon a sight
Of what artillery can do
To a convoy in flight.
There were wagons just everywhere
But most along the road
Both men and horses had been caught
By that terrific fire.

We had a slow time passing through
The damage was so great
But some Kraut wagons did contain
The blankets for their group
And these we took most gratefully
For nights were very cold
But then we heard we were pinched out
And would stay put a while.

Then when we reached the little town
Of Dimbach, we were told
To spend the time just rounding up
The horses that survived.
We also used the horses to
Flush out some hidden Krauts
The remnants of the Tenth Mountain
The one we just destroyed.

I never had been on a horse
But Borders showed me how
He had ridden most of his life
I took his training well.
And then one day while we were out
Just riding thru the hills
We saw a couple of Kraut troops
And took them prisoner.

I dismounted from my horse
And held the two at bay
While Borders rode back into town
To find out what to do.
I learned that they were Polish troops
And had been forced to serve
They wanted to surrender to
The first Ami they saw.

And so we turned them over to
Prisoner Detention
And then the two of us went out
To round up all the strays.
And these we turned into the town
To use as they saw fit.
And so we were afoot again
And finally got some rest.

We stayed there for about a week
We packed up all our gear
Then left in trucks on Easter morn
To go across the Rhine.
We rode all day and when night came
We crossed it on pontoons
And all the trucks had half-lights on
As we headed into Worms.

We traveled just about all night
And when the dawn did break
We halted in a little town
To catch some sleep and wait
It must have been late afternoon
When we did get the call
To move, and so we headed east
But this time ‘twas by foot.

Now Würzburg was our latest goal
It lay upon the Main
But in between were villages
And each had to be cleared
So we devised a strategy
For taking these small towns
We’d move in column on the road
Until we got some flack.

Then two platoons would form a line
Extending right and left
And we’d set up all three mortars
In the best place we could
The skirmish line did then move out
With scouts out way ahead
And if resistance then was met
They all would go to ground.

Now it was then our mortar squads
Would show what they could do
And for the first time in this war
A section we became.
We had our three guns all lined up
In close proximity
To fire wherever needed most
And only on command.

We then received our fire requests
Directly from platoons
And when they asked us for support
We always did the same
We set up for four hundred yards
Then drove the base plate in
By firing first with a charge four
Which sent those rounds way out

Which always made the Germans think
We hadn’t spotted them
Then each gunner would set his sight
Level and on base stake
But this time he would use charge one
To reach four hundred yards
Then each squad would fire a round
Thirty seconds apart.

And as the rounds would hit and burst
Each leader would adjust
To hit the Krauts with the next round
Without a bracket first.
When all were ready – they were fast –
We’d all get set to fire.
Each assistant held one armed round
And waited my command.

I dropped my arm, they dropped their rounds
And all were on their way
We watched to see where they would land
And then fired for effect
Five rounds now went out of each gun
Before the first did hit
And when those rounds dropped in so fast
The Krauts just up and quit.

Our riflemen then started in
And moved in very fast
Before the Krauts decided that
They may have quit too soon.
The bed sheets started coming out
White flags were everywhere
It’s then we knew the town was ours
We moved to clean it out.

We captured many prisoners
In that one town alone
Then sent them off to prison camps
Where they would end the war.
We then went house to house to see
Where we would sleep that night
For in the morning we would start
This whole routine again.

We captured many towns, and hiked
So many, many miles
In taking major cities like
Würzburg, Schweinfurt and Fürth
But Munich was the best of all
If war can be called “best”
For here we rode the tanks all day
Where we had hiked before.

Würzburg was mostly Two Three Two
Although we did help out
What I’ll remember mostly is
The castle on the hill
It had a rainbow painted on
With our division too
Before the city had been ours
By a good hour or two.

I also think about three vats
We found at Würzburg U.
They were wood vats of giant size
And filled right to the brim,
With wine, that all would love to have
If access could be had,
But word passed fast, the general heard
And promptly put out guards.

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