We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


The Men He Couldn’t Save

“He still gets nightmares, and he thinks back to the men he couldn’t save,” Bernard Friedenberg’s wife, Phyllis, told FoxNews.com.

Sergeant Bernard Friedenburg was a medic in the 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry. When he landed on Omaha Beach, 40 minutes into the landings, it was a nightmare. He came in near the D-1 “draw”, outside Vierville-sur-mer.

As a medic, he was trying to save men, but he is haunted by the terrible calculus of war. Trying to treat one soldier with a sucking chest wound, he had to give the young man morphine and move along to less-wounded men. He could save more of the others, but he is haunted by the memory of that one. He went into a minefield to save five men, only failing when the sixth man rolled over onto a mine. For that, they awarded him a Silver Star.

He ignored heavy fire in “Munsterbusch, Germany, to treat and evacuate wounded comrades. This earned him his second Silver Star.”

While his memoirs seem to be hard to find, both the memoirs and an oral interview can be found at The Veteran’s History Project of the Library of Congress.



Holding the line for 30 years

When Private Maurice E. Lloyd went out to his foxhole on New Year’s Eve 1945, he may have cursed the cold, but assuredly, he must have thought he’d be warming up in one of the houses behind the lines before too long. Sadly, it would be 30 years before Maurice left the front line.

One of my Christmas present this year was Edward Longacre’s War in the Ruins.War in the Ruins cover Longacre is best known as Civil War cavalry historian, so when I saw that he was speaking up in Carlisle, I had asked Eric Wittenburg about him. Eric had good things to say and my sister-in-law picked up the book for me based on a review she’d read. (Yes, my wife’s sister is brilliant!)

The 100th Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Century” Division, moved into line on the 1st of November 1944 and fought their way toward Germany. When the Germans attacked to start the Battle of the Bulge, the Century Division, fell back a little bit to shorten up their lines as troops were rushed into the Bulge. The Germans tried to take advantage of this a few weeks later, launching Operation Nordwind.

The commune of Lemberg sits in the midst of forest northwest of Strasbourg. The patron saint of Lemberg is Saint Maurice, who Century Division historian Frank Gurley identified as having been a soldier who defended France in 303 AD. Thus, Église Saint-Maurice de Lemberg sits in the midst of the town, looking in modern photos like the tower was destroyed in the fighting and replaced after the war.

When the Germans attacked on New Year’s Eve, Lloyd stood his ground, fighting off Germans until he was mortally wounded. Longacre relates,

Because he refused to withdraw, his fate was preordained: at some point, a Mauser bullet spun him about and knocked him down. The enemy rushed past, leaving him for dead. Desperately wounded, “Mo” Lloyd dragged himself across the frozen earth into a dense thicket, where he found refuge in a log-covered foxhole. (p.14)

When the area was re-taken, the fight swept past Private Lloyd’s well-hidden position and he waited, BAR at the ready, for 30 years, until a local man and his son followed their hunting dog to Maurice Lloyd’s foxhole. Today, the only foxhole in France with a monument was defended by Private Maurice Lloyd for 30 years.



Weekend Wanderings, 9 July 2011

As the weather gets hot, one can always sit in a cool air-conditioned room and revel in the vast expanse of knowledge that sits out there on the Internet, begging to be found. Here are a few tibdits I found this week that interested me.

  • Barbara Whitaker blogged about her father-in-law’s servicein the 276th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, seeing action during the Bulge, crossing the Rhine and within Germany.

    Barb's Father-in-Law's M7

  • Beanandgone is a humorous blog by a young Australian woman who loves her coffee and her travels. She was recently in Berlin and notes some of the funny things as well as some of the horrifying ones.
  • As a historian, I tend to visit a fair number of museums when I travel and it sounds like we all ought to visit the National World War II Museum. The even have an annual Family Overnight (yes, it was last night, so you missed it this year!) The capstone, however, appears to be the Victory Theatre’s “Beyond the Boundaries”.
  • Courtesy of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, you can also move around inside The Secret Annex and experience The Diary of Anne Frank in a completely different way – virtually in 3D, with stories and videos. Hat tip to musingmk for these two.
  • I finished reading Wukovitz’ book on Boyington today and thought a fair amount about Afroxander’s blog entry on Hemingway’s suicide. In reading Hemingway as a young man, I wanted to be him. To have grand adventures, to cheat death, to drink “manly” drinks and to truly “sieze the day”. With Boyington, his alcoholism was fueled by doubt and discomfort. With Hemingway, I wonder if it was all just from boredom. Perhaps he just kept searching for elusive happiness in bigger and bolder things until he finally despaired. I’ll be honest, if a bit brutal, but the Hemingway who zipped around France during WWII strikes me as a comical figure, trying to act the part of a war hero while others actually fought it. Kind of like John Wayne’s and Humphrey Bogart’s experience on USO Tours – the tough guys were the ones in the audience, not the ones on stage, but at least Wayne and Bogart realized that.


Bulge Sniper Reloads

When he arrived in Europe as a replacement, Ted Gundy was handed a sniper rifle because he’d scored the highest in his company during training. Today, sniper selection and training is far more complex and involved, but, truth be told, Ted Gundy would likely be a sniper if he enlisted today. Given a replica of his old rifle and 65 years later, Gundy showed he is still a marksman.

Today, Gundy’s gait might be uncertain, his hands shaky and his hearing electronically enhanced (but not always quite enough), but when he settled behind “his” 03 Springfield A4 sniper rifle, none of that mattered.

From a basic rest, he proceeded to make hits on a silhouette target -at 300 yards. Each one was better than the previous, with the final round landing dead center.  Shooting Wire, February 8, 2010

I think this was passed to me the reenactors I know, but I’ve lost the original email, so can’t tell you which one passed it along. Gundy watches Shooting USA on TV and had emailed them about the long-range shots modern snipers make. When they realized they had a sniper from the Battle of the Bulge, they coordinated with the Army Marksmanship Unit (established back in 1956 by Eisenhower) to grant Gundy a chance to make a 1000-yard shot himself. It made for marvelous television.



Du kannst zum Teufel gehen
23 December 2010, 15:35
Filed under: 101st, 327th, 401st, Battle of the Bulge, Medics | Tags: ,

A few years ago, while I was looking for information of Joseph H. “Bud” Harper, I found an interview in the St Petersburg Times of Ernie Premetz. During the Battle of the Bulge, Harper commanded the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment and when the Germans came to demand the surrender of Bastogne, they came into the 327th’s sector.

Everyone knows the basics of the story, about “Nuts”, but Ernie Premetz can say “I know what happened. I was there.” You see, Ernie was a medic at the time, and, based on his post-war profession, marine biologist, probably one of the smarter men standing in the snow on the 22nd of December. Ernie also spoke German, so when the two German officers and two German enlisted men approached American lines, Premetz walked out with a sergeant to find out what they wanted. After GEN McAuliffe responded “To the German Commander, NUTS!, The American Commander”, Harper was accompanied by Premetz to deliver the note to the Germans.

Needless to say, the Germans couldn’t quite figure out what it meant. To quote from Jeanne Malmgren’s interview with Premetz….

Harper and Premetz discussed how else to convey the message.

“You can tell them to take a flying s—,” Harper said to Premetz.

Premetz thought a minute. He knew he had to be clear.

He straightened up and faced the Germans.

“Du kannst zum Teufel gehen,” he said.

You can go to hell.

Those boys had some brass ones. If you talk to any veteran who was in Bastogne, Patton didn’t rescue them in Bastogne. They had the enemy right where they wanted them.

The Germans’ faces darkened.

“We will kill many Americans,” one of the officers said in English.

“We will kill many Germans,” Harper responded.



Replacement Medic heads into the Bulge
21 December 2010, 22:38
Filed under: 501st, Battle of the Bulge, Medics, Veterans | Tags: , ,

Being in the Battle of the Bulge was not easy. Being a paratrooper was not easy. Being a medic was not easy. Being a replacement was not easy. On 19 December 1944, Leon “Jed” Jedziniak, had all four of those challenges as a replacement medic in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, going into his first fight. Eric Bradley wrote a great article about Jed in the Dialy Breeze out in Torrance, CA.

You tell people the story, Jedziniak said, and they don’t seem to understand.

That worries me. I know I’ll never quite understand because I’ve never been there, but as a military historian, I work to get as many of the stories as I can, in hopes that we can begin to understand.




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