Captain W. P. "Pete" Sims, author of "Blue Mike"
March 12, 1945 - Assenoncourt and Guermange, France
This was the place, the starting place for our 1000-mile journey in combat,the "jumping-off place," the place where I went from "Non-Combat" to "Combat" and was paid $10.00 extra each month, the place where the countdown ended, and the last place to make adjustments between my duffel bag and my field pack. I wouldn't see the duffel bag again until the war was over. I would wear one combat uniform that would get dirtier and dirtier until a shower unit showed up with piles of clean uniforms to rummage through. This was the place where the two parts of the company, the motor movement part and the train movement part, finally got together again, that is, assembled. I calculate that I've travelled about 4,000 miles by car, train, ship, and truck to reach this place, with almost no walking. Just think of the poor Greek and Roman soldiers who would travel similar distances on foot. I use the term "Blue Mike" in this post since that was the simple radio code in WWII for Company M, 3d Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. I'll be selective in this post and tell only about what affected me.
The train from Camp Old Gold had stopped in Luneville at 0100. We had traveled 331 miles in 59 hours, or an average speed of 5 mph. At 0730 division sent QM trucks for us. At 0800 we went by truck a distance of 59 kilometers or 37 miles to our assembly area in the town of Assenoncourt, France, arriving at 1300. The motorized section of Co. M had arrived earlier. The town was so small that the 3d Mortar Platoon had to be billeted nearby in Guermange. I remember being in a store room or office on a dairy farm where I found a "Lucky Strike" cigarette package in green. (Remember their motto: 'Lucky Strike green has gone to war'?)
March 13, 1945 - Night March, Weisslingen to Meisenthal, France
According to Blue Mike, at 0800 we turned in all extra clothing and duffel bags for storage to be returned to us at some later date. During the day, equipment was checked and live ammunition was issued for all weapons. All platoon jeeps were loaded with heavy weapons and ammunition preparatory for a move into combat, which seemed imminent. The less we had to carry, the better. From that time on, it was your pack and your rifle [pistol in my case].
Again according to Blue Mike, at 1830 our unmotorized troops loaded onto trucks in Assenoncourt and with company vehicles began a move of 32 miles to the forward area near Weisslingen, France, arriving at 2130. We were on our way to relieve elements of the 100th Division, which had this area pretty well secure before our arrival.
Leaving our vehicles behind, we departed on foot at 2200 on what all were later to call the 'death march,' traveling up the valley to the northeast for a distance of seven miles. This night march seems to have been more of a training exercise than it was a combat necessity. Our top brass was giving us our first taste of a forced march at night under combat conditions.
I was in a group at the tail of the movement that got separated from the rest and spent several hours in a barn with hay in it. The next morning with good daylight we were able to find our way into Meisenthal, where I remember being invited in for coffee by a French family.
Our motor vehicles had been held in Weisslingen and were not brought forward until the next day. The regiment had completed a move of 39 miles under cover of darkness. I remember hearing and seeing flashes of artillery firing during this move.
March 14, 1945 - Meisenthal, France
In the early morning Co. M occupied hasty positions northeast of Meisenthal, France. When our jeeps arrived with our mortars and ammunition at 1100, we emplaced the mortars immediately northeast of Meisenthal with observers on the high ground in each rifle company area. I remember watching US planes attacking Bitche, some six miles to the northeast.
March 15, 1945 - Meisenthal, France
We continued to occupy and fortify our position in what seemed to be a vineyard northeast of Meisenthal, expecting a German counterattack. I remember being on guard duty a few hours at night and hearing a nearby stream that sounded like German soldiers on patrol. The counterattack never materialized. Our mortars were all properly targeted, but we never received the order to fire. The weather continued good.
March 16, 1945 - Bitche, France
At 1130 the company received a warning order to be prepared to move on one hour's notice to Bitche. At 1200 hours the company was pulled back into Meisenthal for a fine steak dinner. Blue Mike reports that I considered it, at the time, possibly our last one. The 3d Platoon and I moved out at 1400. I was riding in our jeep, for a change. We moved into a 'rat race' sweeping operation in the woods south of Bitche on foot, where we spent the night in bivouac, a most unpleasant night. At 0300 we decamped and moved in our jeeps into Bitche, which had been taken the day before by the 100th Division.
March 17, 1945 - Camp de Bitche, France
We moved on through Bitche to Camp de Bitche and dug in our mortars between brick barracks buildings that were part of a French army training camp. Blue Mike says that I was feeling ill and did not enjoy the good food served in the mess that night. As I recall we slept in the buildings near our mortars three nights.
March 18, 1945 - Camp de Bitche, France
Blue Mike reports: "The day dawned cool, clear and bright. The enemy was observed around a pillbox two miles east of Camp de Bitche."
March 19, 1945 - Camp de Bitche, France
Blue Mike reports: "The company continues its defensive mission. Improvement of positions continues. At 1310 the mortar platoon was alerted to fire on selected targets if called, but the order was not sent down. The 3d Battalion is in reserve. It surely was cold last night."
March 20, 1945 - Night March, Camp de Bitche to Liederschiedt, France
Blue Mike reports: "The weather was cool, slightly overcast and with scattered showers. Visibility was good.
"At 1015 our new regimental commanding officer, Col. Carl E. Lundquist reported in, replacing Col. Donald T. Beeler, who had to retire because of medical reasons.
"At 1530 the regiment received telephone orders from division to relieve elements of the 5th Infantry along the line of Ropperviller to Walschbronn.
"At 1630 the company withdrew from defensive positions and assembled in Camp de Bitche. We closed in to the assembly area at 1930 and awaited instructions. The 42d Division was on our right.
"At 2350 the company began a night march of seven miles to relieve 3d Battalion, 5th Infantry.
"Pfc William T. Johnson referred to this move on foot as the 'second death march.' He and others shivered for a few hours before loading up with mortars and ammunition and started the foot movement up a long hill and across a wide open space to a ruined town where they relieved elements of the 5th Infantry." [I remember that the town was a horrible mess, with buildings ruined and with dead animals in the street.]
March 21, 1945 - Liederschiedt, France
Blue Mike reports: "After midnight, the march continued until the relief of the 3d Battalion in Liederschiedt, France, about one mile from Schweix, was completed at 0450. Pfc Johnson moved through fog until reaching town of Liederschiedt at 0400. [I remember meeting a guide from 5th Infantry who led us to our mortar positions.]
"Pfc Johnson noticed that every time a flock of sheep appeared over a hill 1500 yards behind us, we got enemy fire on our position almost invariably. Later, after the shepherd had been picked up by American troops, we learned that he was actually an artillery observer. A flock of white sheep can be seen for miles and serves as a good signal for the enemy to start firing.
"At 2220 we received word that the 71st Division was attached to the XXI Corps with VI Corps on our right. Once again, the 14th Infantry Regiment was on the 'Right of the Line' for the division."