RECOUNTING MISSIONS ON THE WAY TO AACHEN
Although there were many interesting things that occurred along the march towards Aachen some recollections made a greater impact on the soldiers. The events below are some of the more impressionable moments, many of which will never be forgotten.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
In the early dawn hours just before the light of day a group of soldiers organized their supplies into backpacks. Rations for the days ahead and a meager amount of precious possessions from home were carefully placed inside for safekeeping. Weapons that had been cleaned and double-checked for firing accuracy were slung over the shoulders as the troop began its journey towards the German border. Leaving Luxembourg and moving through Belgium and the Netherlands was no small venture. Several miles stretched ahead from the starting point to the final destination.
On this particular day there was a slight drizzle of rain that fell from the skies. It went unnoticed by the men who had learned to march under extreme conditions. The boots made slight impressions on the ground and from time to time the flutter of birds could be heard as the men brushed against the branches of trees in the area. Hand signals rather than voices gave direction and meaning to the way to scout out the area.
At the outset of the mission things were rather quiet. The infantry progressed methodically and although there was the need for mental alertness, it was a relief to move forward unopposed. Evening hours were spent talking and reminiscing about the day. Smoky curls of smoke wafted into the sky as the men took the time to relax. A deck of cards could occupy empty moments and give the men a chance to unwind. The shuffle of fifty-two cards indicated that a game would soon be in progress. Betting was part of the action and successful bets brought a smile to the soldier’s face who had managed to win the hand. Soft strains of a harmonica drifted through the air and songs like Billy Boy, Deep in the Heart of Texas, and the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy entertained the group.
Events of the day were recounted and discussed. Little things like the spooky time when Joe walked slightly behind the infantry and managed to fall was something that Joe never allowed to forget. Everyone had instantly stopped, froze and looked around for the enemy. For five minutes they scouted over the everywhere over the area. After it was deemed safe, the real story surfaced. Joe could be a real klutz at times and with the branches littering the ground he had managed to stumble and fall over a rather large tree branch. It happened at the curve in the pathway. Everyone else had managed to see the branch in the middle of the crooked pathway but since the bend in the road left Joe out of the line of vision from the rest of the group, no one actually knew what had occurred. In that one short moment when he was distracted his boot had somehow managed to get entangled between two branches. He was okay but his pride had been injured.
The closer the troop got to the destination the more cautious they had to be. Sometimes they encountered the Germans and had to put their combat skills into practice. In more than one town they had been successful in overcoming Germans. Never, ever let your guard down.