134th Infantry Regiment Website
"All Hell Can't Stop Us"
The following is a history of Pvt. Michael L. Linquata's service in the U.S. Army, beginning with his induction on January 12, 1944 and ending with his Honorable Discharge on December 4, 1945. During this time period he served as a Combat Medic with Company D, 134th Infantry Regiment and was held captive as a POW for 88 days.
I was inducted at Fort Devens, on the 12th of January 1944, near Ayer, MA. I was eighteen years old. Then sent to Camp Grant near Rockford, IL, for my basic training. There I celebrated my 19th birthday. This was the same as the infantry except we had no training in the use of firearms. We were instead trained as medical aid men. This included procedures that we needed to know if we were assigned to assist doctors in hospitals and training as combat aid men, if we were assigned to the front with the infantry.
The third camp I was sent to was Camp Reynolds in the western part of Pennsylvania, near Youngstown, Ohio. While there, I was temporarily assigned to the drum and bugle corps, with my little Italian friend" Umberto Lucente".
Camp Kilmore in New Jersey, near New York City was the "POE" Port of Embarkation.
On the third week of October 1944 I was on the vessel Queen Mary with Winston Churchill and thirteen thousand other men for five and a half days. This was used as a troopship during the War.
We landed in the Firth of Forth, in Scotland. From there to Salisbury, England for about three weeks (Salisbury is about 40 miles southwest of London). I was on the English Channel on Thanksgiving Day 1944. I spent about a week in France before I was assigned to the 1 34th Regiment 1st Battalion aid station. Just before Christmas 1944 I was then transferred to D Company 2nd Platoon as a combat medic. I surrendered twenty wounded men on January 4th 1945. Held in captivity for eighty eight days and released on April 2nd. Then we were sent to Camp "Lucky Strike" in LeHarve, France for about one week. About the end of April 1945 I arrived in the U.S. and was given two months leave. The first two weeks of July I was sent to Lake Placid, New York for some R&R where I celebrated my 20th birthday. I was then sent to a camp near Joplin, MO, "Camp Crouder," for three or four weeks. September, October, November I was assigned to ward 44 of Lovel General Hospital in Fort Devens. I was discharged in early December 1945. I spent twenty two months in the Army. I was now twenty years old.
WWII was probably the single most significant event in the 20th century. I had the honor and duty to be able to serve my country.
At the end of 1943, we, the boys at the Gloucester High School had completed an accelerated schedule of studies. This enabled us to finish four years of studies in three and a half years. Many of us in the class of "44" were drafted in December and were sworn in, in early January 1944. Some went in the Navy and the rest of us in the U.S. Army. About thirty of us from the Gloucester High School, along with about a thousand other young men had our physical examination in a large garage that the US Government took over for that purpose in Boston. There was about a dozen stations set up for different exams. Each of us was given a clip board with that many forms to be filled out by the doctors and sergeants who were in charge of each station. We were first ordered to strip down. We were now completely naked except for our shoes and stockings. About a thousand men all naked at the same time and place, what a sight we must have been.
Along with the others, I went from station to station and had each form filled. I am near sighted, and that was recorded. Also I am partly color blinded. I was afraid that I could not pass this exam, and then be declared 4F (rejected). This was a stigma, that no one my age wanted to bear. We all wanted to go into the service at this time. We all wanted to be involved in the war effort.
When I got to the colorblind station Jack Curly, one of my schoolmates was directly behind me. I blurted out "Oh Shit". Jack asked me what was the matter, and I told him of my handicap. He assured me of help, and he did help. The sergeant at the desk would flip a page and Jack would whisper into my ear the correct number on the page. I would repeat the number. That is how I passed this exam.
I went into the Army because I am nearsighted. Jack went into the navy because he did not have that problem. For the rest of his life, Jack blamed himself for me being captured and held prisoner. Despite my assurance that he was not responsible, and that I never ever blamed him. I knowingly put myself in harms way.
Because I'm near sighted, I was assigned to the Medical Corps, under limited service. This meant that upon my completion of Basic Training, which lasted sixteen weeks, I would be assigned somewhere, but not in the front lines. About the end of June 1944, the army realized there would be many casualties. They then decided that another physical exam should be given.
At the end of this exam, a sergeant told me that I was in limited service. I knew that. Then he asked me if I wanted to go into general service. I was delighted, that I could, and said yes. This meant a straight line to the battle zones, I knew that too. I did not know that five months later I would be engaged in the greatest battle that the United States Army was ever in. This was the biggest battle in duration, in the number of men, and the amount of materials. There were also more casualties, both American and Germans of any single battle that the U.S. Army had ever fought, before or since this time.
In October 1944, myself, thirteen thousand other troops and Prime Minister Winston Churchill crossed the Atlantic Ocean, without any escort, on the "Queen Mary". The vessel took a zig zag course the entire way. The ocean was still infested with German U-boats. This trip took five and one half days. We were all able to see "Winnie" disembark, at the "Firth of Forth" in Scotland. We gave him a big cheer and he responded with a V for victory sign.
I spent about three weeks in England, in the Salisbury area, southwest of London. While in these English Army Barracks, a notice was placed on the bulletin board. In exchange for a pint of blood, the Army would give us a 24-hour pass to visit London. About a dozen of us went to London. Some of us hired a cab to show us the sights. At the end of our tour the cabbie brought us to a place in the center of London and asked us to get out of the cab and look around. We did, and we could see the remains of buildings, none more than waist high, in all direction, for fifteen or twenty city blocks. Imagine, thirty to forty blocks, in each direction totally destroyed. This was a residential area. There we witnessed the devastation that the German Air Force and the German Rockets visited on that great city.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1944 I was on the English Channel on another troop ship. My Thanksgiving dinner was herring in tomato sauce in an oval can, that I purchased in the ship's commissary.
I spent about a week in Repo-Depots in France to be processed again. This included another whole series of inoculations. I think I got them about six times in six months. The Army moved us faster than our papers. They had no idea when we got our last shot, so we got them again, and again. This was probably a Godsend. Although later in the POW camp I had lost about sixty or more pounds, and was malnourished, I did not get a disease.
I joined the first Battalion 134th Infantry, 35th Division as a "Medical Aid Man" on the first week of December 1944. We replacements were driven to the front lines in a large army truck, (known as a six by six). The skies were overcast, and it was cold and damp. We began to hear the American Artillery sending the shells out. Then we saw and passed the American artillery emplacements. As we got closer to the front, we now heard the American outgoing and German incoming shells. This would continue for a month that I was in battle, and then some more while I was a POW. The American shells overhead screaming towards the German positions and the German shells screaming back trying to hit us. We were now in Habkirchen, Germany. This is just north of France between Switzerland and Belgium.
I assisted the doctor at the Battalion Aid Station, and was also a litter bearer. I and another would go to the front lines, about a mile away, to pick up the wounded and bring them back to the aid station. The aid station was within the German artillery range. Shells were bursting all around us, but none hit the aid station.
During this time, one of the infantry men was brought in with a terrible case of trench foot. His feet were full of sores, and he could not get his boots on or off. His feet were swollen. His eyes had a far away look, and he spoke as if he were mad. He did not want to stay in the aid station, for medical attention. He wanted to go back to his outfit. He wanted to go back to the stress and horror of the front. The place where he fit .
He told me this story, and I believed him. "At night he would crawl out of his foxhole, cross no man's land, crawl into a German foxhole, slit the enemy's throat, cut off an ear, as one would leave a calling card, and go back to his own foxhole." Physically and mentally, he had crossed the line. Some men lost body parts, he had lost his mind.
Those that died while in the aid station were placed outside for the Graves Registration, to pick up and bury. In the third week of December I was reassigned to the 2nd platoon, D company, as a Combat Medic.
In December of 1944, the 35th Infantry Division was pulled out of the front lines in Habkirchen, Germany, near Northern France and committed to the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. I was a Medic with the 134 regiment, Company D, 2nd. Platoon.
On the way, the 35th.stopped overnight in Metz France. It was the 24th of December and some of us were allowed to go into town for some much needed R&R. However we were still in a battle zone, and the men were required to be fully armed at all times. I was the only one of eight or so, that did not carry a gun. Medics were not allowed to carry a weapon.
The average age of the United States Infantrymen was nineteen years, fresh out of High School, then not old enough to vote.
After an afternoon of exploring, we decided to go to a Christmas Mass. that evening at a small church, near our temporary barracks.
The Mass had just started when we walked into the church. We took our seat in the rear. At the appropriate time we all received communion. All but me carrying fully loaded rifles to the Communion rail. Until then, most of the parishioners did not know we were in church. I'm sure that we must have been a very intimidating presence.
It was snowing when the Mass was over and we left the church. On our way back to the barracks, not far from the church, we started singing Christmas Carols, Silent Night, Come All Ye Faithful and others, of course in English.
Not far behind us, we hadn't much noticed, was a French Family, Father about forty years of age, his wife, a little younger and two children, a girl about nine years old and a boy about six years old.
As a family they sang the same carols in French. We then sang together, they in French and we in English.
We were then invited to their home. Where we were each offered and accepted a glass of home brewed Schnapps.
We unloaded our pockets of candy and gave it to the children. We gave them the only gift we could. This was probably the first candy that they had seen since the German occupation.
That evening it was truly Christmas. We enjoyed a Christmas Mass, carols, snow and a family to remind us of home. That night we were at peace. The next day we were again in combat.
On January 4th., in the Battle of the Bulge, after a fierce battle and after we ran out of ammunition, we left about one hundred German dead. Most of us in the second platoon, Company D and Company C were killed, or captured and many were wounded. About 40 out of 135 men escaped back to American Lines.
The 134th Regiment, after a fierce battle with the enemy, in conjunction with the 4th Armored Tank Division, opened and kept open the road to Bastogne. This enabled the defenders to get much needed supplies, ammunition, and reinforcements. For this action the 134th Regiment received the Presidential Unit Citation (General Orders # 62) signed by General Eisenhower.
PVT Michael L. Linquata BSB DCS Suffolk University
President, Gloucester House Restaurant
The Germans had broken through the American lines in Belgium on December 17th, 1944, The General Staff ordered General Patton and his troops to disengage the battle in Habkirchen, Germany and to join the battle in Belgium. On the way we stopped on Christmas day in Metz, France. Here we got hot turkey dinner. My last hot meal for the next three and one half months. Christmas morning the 134th Regiment was assembled and roll call was taken. The officer in charge would shout out "Company A" and the top non commissioned officer would typically respond "All present or accounted for". Second Platoon was all lined up but there were no non commissioned officers to respond in the second platoon.
I guess because I was the medic, the men prevailed on me to respond. My reply was "All's present that's present". I was afraid I would be reprimanded. I wasn't. I found out later, that all that were missing, had been sent up ahead into Belgium in jeeps, to scout out the front lines.
On the 26th of December, the 134th Regiment moved to the vicinity of Arlon, Belgium. From there we pushed on in conjunction with the 4th Armored Division to relieve the One Hundred and First Airborne, that was surrounded in Bastogne. We opened and held open the road so that supplies, and ammunition could be brought into Bastogne. The 35th Division fought from Arlon, Belgium, which was about 3 kilometers from Luxembourg to and beyond the town of Bastogne. We fought in and out of Luxembourg and Belgium. While I was with them we freed Bigonville and Boulaide in Luxembourg. In Belgium we liberated Tintange, Viller-La-Bonne- Eau, Lutremange, where we dedicated a monument to the 35th Division on Saturday the 14th of September 2002, Lutrebois (where I celebrated New Years Day-see page 12) and Marvie, where I had to surrender twenty wounded men.
The average life span of an infantryman, in the European Theatre, in WWII was about 10 to 15 days. Some were lucky, they lived longer, some not so lucky, and they died or were a casualty much sooner.
The hazards that we faced from the enemy were from the artillery and mortar shells, land mines, booby traps, tiger tanks, small arms fire, trench foot, frozen feet, and battle fatigue. I don't remember a hot meal in the front. We could not light a fire or light a cigarette in the open, because it could give away our position to the enemy. We spoke in whispers or not at all, we did not want the enemy to hear or see us. We wanted to be alert, and be prepared, at all times.
We also had to face the natural enemy of freezing temperatures. The temperature was below freezing, day and night for over a month steady. When we had the opportunity we would dig a foxhole, and hope that we would be able to use it for a day or two. This provided some shelter and a degree of safety, from incoming shells or a sudden enemy attack.
The typical foxhole was about four feet deep and three feet wide and about five feet long. Usually two men to a foxhole. At night one man was on guard while the other tried to sleep. If we had enough time we would build a roof over the foxhole and leave an opening about two feet by three feet. The roof would be logs and branches over the foxhole, then our pup tent over that, and then earth that we had removed was put over the pup tent. We almost never had the luxury of using the same foxhole more than a day. Sometimes we thought we were going to hold a position, then start a foxhole, have it partially done, and then leave it for another position and then start another foxhole. We no sooner got settled down, and then we were again on the attack.
The Army General Staff expected the fighting to be over before cold weather set in, and did not order or supply us with warm clothes. Frostbite affected our feet, hands and ears. Also trench foot was not that unusual. This was caused by leaving ones shoe and stockings on for long periods of time. Often times, wet cold and dirty. If an emergency arrived we might not have enough time to put on our shoes. To survive in these frigid conditions, we wore long johns - two pairs of woolen stockings, our army boots, two pairs of pants, two shirts and a tie, a sweater, and a coat. On our head, army issue wool cap, a helmet liner, and the steel helmet.
The ground was frozen solid and there was a foot or more of snow, and it was cold.
As might be expected, high fevers sometimes disabled men. Because of the stress of battle, some men suffered mental breakdowns; we called that battle fatigue. These men would become hysterical, cry and sometimes shed tears. We looked at them and thought that they had gone crazy. In reflection, I wonder, they got away from the front lines and the terrible danger. The rest of us fought, at considerable risk. Who was crazy?
A few men were lucky; they received million dollar wounds. These were minor wounds that required the injured to be evacuated to the Field Hospital to recuperate, sometimes for a week or two. Once healed that soldier would be sent back to the line. I met a man that claimed that he was wounded and sent back five times.
Unlike the Air Corps, or the Vietnam veterans later, there was no tour of duty; we were there for the duration, if we could survive. There was no rotation for the infantrymen in WWII.
The front was in a constant state of flux. We were never quite sure where the enemy was. To know, sometimes required patrols to be sent out. Our platoon was ordered to send one out, and as I was the only medic, and the men would not leave without the medic, I went. We covered five or six miles. We were very fortunate there was no enemy in the area. If there had been we would have been dead ducks. Headquarters would make decisions, based on this type of information, as where to deploy men and supplies.
When we were on the attack or doing a patrol, we kept five yards apart from each other. This would ensure that only one or two at a time would be wounded or killed, with an enemy shell burst. The medic's position was always last in line.
One day at dusk while near Bastogne, we were ordered to move into position, to support Company B. They were located about a mile away. Sergeant Masse led us. When we arrived the captain of Company B told us to set up a position across the road. We did and started to dig in. By this time it was dark. There we got ambushed by snipers with burp guns. These Germans were about fifteen feet above us, up in the trees. They caught us unaware, opened fire and used strong flashlights to spot us. Sergeant Masse kept his composure, and ordered us to follow him out of the area. We did, then we crossed the street, to rejoin Company B. They were not there. So we headed back to our last position. We went single file, fifteen feet apart, up a gully on the left side of the road. All the time keeping very low, and very quiet.
As we went up the hill, we heard a company of German soldiers on the right side, across the street. Then our platoon stopped moving. Again I was the last man in line, and I was very concerned about my safety. Apparently, a German soldier had seen something and crossed the street to investigate. Before, he could do anything, our men got the draw on him. About that time I came up from the rear. I asked if he had any weapons on him. Our men had removed a revolver and holster, and did not think that he had any more weapons. I was not comfortable with that answer. I did another body search. He had a P38 revolver tucked under his belt, under his coat that I removed. We led him up the hill to a newly set up American checkpoint. The new troops, first suspected us of being Germans in American uniforms. They asked us for our password, we had none. After a few minutes, they let us through. Then we commandeered a Jeep, put the German on the front of the hood, and drove him up to Company Headquarters. There to be interrogated. We were proud that we turned disaster into success. However the captain was not happy with us. In headquarters, on a further search, they found this German to have a stiletto knife in his boot, that we missed. The P38 was mine. However, I was captured a few days later. Someone from Headquarters Company, instead of me, probably took it home as a war trophy.
On New Year's Day, 1945 we were on the attack again. We were advancing through farm country in Lutreboise, Belgium where we were temporarily held up by a stone fence about four feet high. The Germans knew that we were advancing and they had us zeroed in by their artillery and mortar shells. They were landing very close and it was only a question of time before they would land where we were.
The sergeants were the first over the wall, and the rest of the men were supposed to follow them. Because I was the medic I was to be the last one over the fence.
The men had good reason to fear for their lives, and were reluctant to follow the sergeant. I saw it differently, I feared that if we remained there, we'd surely be hit by artillery or mortar shells.
I made a vain attempt to cheer the men up by wishing them a happy new year with each incoming round of German shells. That did not cheer the men up. Then I tried to shame them by asking if "they wanted to live forever". They saw no humor in anything I said (the average age of these men was only eighteen or nineteen years old). I wanted these men over the fence, because we were in mortal danger to remain there, and I had to be the last to leave.
We did all cross the fence after some hesitation and we did attain our objective that day. The one night that we were quartered in a farmhouse before the last day, something happened, that struck us as very funny. One of the men had to respond to nature. He went outside and alongside the building that we were staying in, to do his duty. When he went outside the night was very quiet. However when he took his pants down, the German artillery shells started coming in. He was caught with his pants down. He received a small piece of shrapnel in his rump. He came back into the building on all fours, crying out, "I'm hit, I'm hit." Still with his pants around his knees. We all had one really good laugh. Here he was with a minor wound, and he would be out of action for a week or two. This is what we called a million dollar wound. He was the luckiest man there. And a purple heart to boot.
I was prepared for most eventualities. When I could, I would go to the battalion aid station and load up with medication and pills for the men. The medication was in large glass candy jars. All properly labeled as to use. The blue ones were for constipation. The red ones for dysentery. The yellow ones for a cold virus. I would dispense them according to the color and the condition of the sick. I also had medications for sore muscles, and headache pills. Mostly I had to be well prepared for serious wounds.
When a soldier was wounded, the call went out immediately for the "Medic". The medic would rush to the wounded man, cut his clothing to expose the wound then remove the medical pack from the wounded's belt, and use that first. This consisted of a compress and a vial of morphine. Most men at the time were afraid of addiction and usually protested the use of the morphine. All the wounded received this drug. It was necessary to calm them down and to avoid pain. Otherwise pain would be felt about a half hour later. As soon as possible, depending on battle conditions at the time, the wounded would be rushed to the battalion aid station. Usually located less than three miles behind the lines. I don't recall myself or anyone else, shedding a tear, when a fellow soldier was wounded or killed. We thought that the dead were lucky. We knew that the dead were all going to heaven. A merciful God would not send them to hell again. It was all over for them. The less seriously wounded were also lucky. They would go to the hospital to recuperate, they too would be away from danger, and into a clean warm bed. I only felt sorry for those with very serious wounds, that they would have to live with. Such as loss of arms or legs, or bad stomach wounds. But still we shed no tears. We could be next.
From the battalion aid station, the wounded would be transported to a Field Hospital. If the men had extensive wounds they would than be sent to England or to the United States.
Our Infantry Divisions were about thirteen thousand men when fully staffed. About 1,800 men to a regiment and three regiments meant that about 5,500 men out of a total of 13,000 were front line infantry. These took the vast majority of the fatalities. These were the men in the rifle and heavy weapons companies. The other parts of the Division were made up of the support troops. These included headquarters companies, supply companies, field artillery, cooks, mail clerks, truck drivers, engineers, and support tanks. These were usually a mile to three miles behind us, and sometimes more.
The sounds of war could be deafening when there was an artillery barrage on top of us, or when we were in the middle of a fire fight. And at other times the sounds were deadly quiet. These were times we did not want to be heard and we would be listening, least there be some enemy activity, nearby.
Immediately after each of the artillery barrages that the Germans laid on top of us stopped, I got out of my foxhole and looked around to see if any of our men were wounded or killed. One of these times after I tended to the wounded, I saw one of our men lying on the ground, face up, eyes open, part of his skull blown away, and half of his brains hanging out of his head. There was no blood because he died instantly. Then I did a strange thing. I gently put his brains back into his head, I bandaged him up and put his helmet back on. Somehow I did not think it proper for him to be buried with his brains sticking out of his head. I'll never forget that macabre event.
The sights of war were devastation of homes, farms, walls, churches, burnt up trucks and blown up tanks. This was mostly caused by artillery shells, mortar shells, shells from the tanks and bazooka shells. We and the Germans both caused this damage. We saw dead animals, such as cows and horses with swollen bellies, lying on their backs and their feet pointed to the sky. We saw animal parts, and human arms and legs scattered about. Also the bodies of dead Germans and Americans, some crushed beyond recognition, by tanks.
The smell of war can better be described as a "stench". It was a mixture of dead and rotten animals and human parts. Add the smell of dynamite, the smell of burning buildings and the smell of burnt human and animals. It was a stench that will never be forgotten.
To give another view of the horror and destruction of war: The village of Houffalize, about six miles north of Bastogne, with a population then as well as now of one thousand people, two hundred were killed and only four homes were left standing after the Americans liberated the town. And yet, they were happy to pay that high price just to get rid of the Germans.
My assignment as a combat medic was no more or less dangerous than an infantryman. We were in the same foxholes. Because medics did not carry arms, we were not considered as combatants. Infantrymen, and all the others in the combat zone received extra pay, but not medics. From St. Lo, France where the 35th infantry first engaged the enemy, to VE day when the European War was finally declared over, for each one of us left alive in the front probably five or six men or more had come and gone. Those missing, were all killed, captured or wounded. This was typical of the price that the infantry paid in ten months of heavy fighting.
About the 20th of December, I was transferred to the 2nd platoon, D Company. Although I was still a private, I was suddenly elevated to an honored position. I was now referred to as "Doc", except when one was wounded, then the call would go out for "Medic".
As a Medic, my position was to be the last man in line. In battle formation, we kept fifteen feet apart from one another, and we kept silent. The medic was a non-combatant, and we were not allowed to carry firearms. We were identified by four large red crosses on a white background painted on our helmets, and similar armbands, one on each arm.
The 35th division joined in the Battle of the Bulge on Christmas Day 1944, we were part of the Third army under General Patton. For our heroic efforts, the 134th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. (See attached document)
The First Battalion, consisted of Companies A, B, C, and D. Even while in combat, all troops under General Patton's command were required to wear a necktie, it had to be up to the collar and buttoned up. We also were required to wear our shoulder patches. These would signify the division we were in, and also the last division we served in. The General's philosophy was he wanted the Germans to know that they were up against "General Patton".
The fighting was intense. We arrived under strength, and in ten days of heavy fighting we lost half of the rest. Mostly they were wounded or killed. A few got sick, and were sent back to the field hospital. The last hot meal we ate was in Metz, France on the 24th of December. We stayed in some French Army barracks overnight on Christmas Eve. In the field we ate C-rations, cold out of a can, or K-rations that were packaged dry, not a hot meal. In combat there were no hot meals.
Nine of my last ten days, we slept in or on the ground. It was almost impossible to dig a foxhole because the frost line was at least four feet deep. Our clothing was inadequate for the bitter cold weather. This was one of Belgium's coldest winters. The temperature was below freezing day and night for over a month steady. This was the coldest winter Europe had in forty years.
We fought opposite one of the most notorious German SS Divisions under the German General Piper, and beat them and turned them back.
Early on the morning of January 4th, from the village of Marvie, Belgium we again went on the attack. Company C led and the Second Platoon Company D followed. The rest of the first Battalion, A and B Companies were behind us. Early in the attack we lost two more men, the German mortars had us zeroed in. The head machine gunner lost his legs and the man behind him lost his face. I administered to these two and maybe a hundred others, before and after this. We were now in Marvie, Belgium 3 kilometers (about 2 miles) southeast of Bastogne.
About a half-hour later, while still on the attack, we spotted a disabled Tiger Tank in the clearing. Sgt. Masse wanted to investigate what may have been a German forward observer in there. The Major leading us chose not to investigate.
About fifteen minutes later, Company C crossed an open field into the next woods, the Second Platoon D Company followed. Company C, reached the woods, 2nd platoon, company D was half in and half out. When I the last man in line, was about half way through the clearing, the Germans opened fire. We had been ambushed. We made a mad dash into the woods ahead. Because I carried less weight than the rest, I was able to pass most of the men. However, one of the men was about thirty years old, we called him "Pop", and he had five children in Boston, he panicked. He fell behind a log in the clearing. I could have left him there, but I decided to go out, in sight of the Germans, and bring him in. I did. The Germans held their fire. We never did see the Major or Companies A and B again. I found out at Reunion of D Company in 1997 that the major misread the map and led us too far into German lines.
We fought a pitched battle for about two hours. Both Company C and Second Platoon D Company had less than one half of our complement of men going into battle.
I kept hearing and responding to the steady cries of "Medic". I did not have even one moment to observe the battle. While tending to one wounded near the edge of the woods, one of our men took aim at a German. His rifle was inches from my head and blew out my left eardrum. I thought I was hit. This punctured my left eardrum. I rolled away in the snow then I saw that I still had by legs and my arms and I saw no blood, so I continued with the wounded. My ear got infected and wept for the three months that I was a POW. There was no operation then available to correct the problem. Dr. Fritz of Gloucester was able to correct it fifty years later.
About 2pm the Germans stopped the attack. Captain Denning of C Company decided to evacuate the area. He could not take the wounded with him. He asked me and a medic of Company C if we would stay behind with the wounded. An Officer's request is a command, so we stayed. The Captain said that when he got back he would send an ambulance to pick us up. Sure, the snow was a foot deep and no roads.
All the men that were still able to fight left with Captain Denning. The Captain left us without guns, ammunition, or food and I was almost out of medical supplies. The Germans knew our position and might attack again or send in some mortars. We were now defenseless. We were in a hopeless situation.
My sergeant, Sgt. Jim Babcock, was one of the wounded left behind. He had a bad stomach wound and was losing a lot of blood. He was in a shallow foxhole about a foot deep, and he was half sitting up. He asked me, a private what he should do. I said that first he had better say his prayers and make peace with God because I did not believe that he would last the night and secondly, he must get rid of any letters or photos from home so that the Germans would get no information.
In the winter in Belgium, the days are short, night falls about 3:30 p.m. Now we had to decide, stay the night, and hope that the Germans would not shell us or attack us again, or surrender, and hope for the best. Not a good choice either way. The other medic, the wounded and myself discussed our situation and decided the prudent thing to do was surrender.
I asked the other medic if he would do it. He absolutely refused. We could not stay there, no food or guns, men dying, and in peril of another attack. I did it. I surrendered the men. The day was January 4th, 1945. As I left our position I first noticed all of the German dead. There were so many that in respect for the dead, I walked between and around the frozen bodies. I estimated over one hundred dead. It was the reason they stopped the attack. They did not want to take any more losses.
Somehow, I knew the Germans were entrenched on the top of a large hill near us. I walked up the hill with my hands clasped over my head. I was very scared. So much so that I had an out of body experience. My body was walking up the hill, my spirit was watching.
As I was approaching about one half way up, I heard the rumbling of German Tiger Tanks. Then I saw two 88 tank cannons pointed at me. The Tiger Tanks were on a level area. The tank crew captain motioned for me to walk between them and then to proceed up the hill, which I did. At the top of the hill, dug in, was a Company of German Infantry. I was met by a German non-com. He tried to interrogate me in German. I could not speak or understand German. But I spoke to him in sign language motioning twice with all fingers showing, then at the same time saying ten, twenty Americans wounded, and I pointed to my Red Cross to indicate that I was a medic.
He motioned me to follow him down that hill and halfway up another. There behind a wooden door, dug into the hillside was a German command post. The non-com knocked on the door, and a German Officer in full dress uniform answered. They conversed in German, then the officer tried to interrogate me in German. And I responded in the same manner of sign language as before. Apparently they understood that I had twenty wounded. I led a squad of German Infantry to our location. As we approached our men they could hear us and began to holler out "Comrade, Comrade", as I had instructed, before leaving them.
The Germans immediately began to strip our men of their wristwatches and rings. I jumped up and down, yelling "Geneva Convention, Geneva Convention". Surprisingly they stopped and did not take any prizes. Later, as prisoners, we needed those rings and watches to trade for food with our German guards.
As it got dark, a company of German Infantry settled in alongside our newly vacated position. The Germans took Sgt. Babcock and another seriously wounded. The rest of us were escorted out. I paired up the wounded, so that they could assist one another. Example: If one had a left leg wound, I would match him up with one who had a right leg wound.
We walked maybe a mile or so. We were then put into a large barn with other prisoners.
I could hardly believe my eyes. Here was Captain Denning with most of the men of Company C. Only two men that I know of were able to get back to the American lines. One of them was Sgt. Masse. According to the official army records 40 to 50 men escaped, back to American lines, out of an estimated 150 men. If we had been at full strength, there would have been about 300 of us in that battle.
Sgt. Jim Babcock died on his farm in North Platte, Nebraska four years ago. He lived fifty years after the battle. I never did see him after the war. I thought he was long dead.
The Battle of the Bulge started with the German offensive on December 17th 1945. The order from the German High Command was that this battle was to be conducted with "a wave of terror and fright" and without "humane inhibitions". It was expressly stated that "prisoners of war must be shot where the local conditions of combat should so require it." One company commander told his men "I am not giving you orders to shoot prisoners of war, but you are all well trained SS soldiers. You know what you should do with prisoners without me telling you that."
On this same day, 130 captured Americans were massacred at Malmedy, Belgium. A handful escaped. These men reported this atrocity to the American Officers. This news soon spread through the American lines. They gave us no quarter, we gave them no quarter.
In battle our men were sometimes captured by the enemy. This could happen for many different reasons. Usually if fighting men were overwhelmed by superior forces or if they ran out of ammunition the choice was surrender or death, the logical choice was surrender. Sometimes the wounded were left behind in battle. In my case I, a medic, was left behind to care for the wounded.
I surrendered myself and twenty wounded. Soon after, I was separated from the less critically injured, and left to care for eight of the more seriously wounded men.
In a small farm village in Luxembourg, we were quartered in a farmhouse, with two German guards. All but one of the wounded was put in the barn, adjoining the kitchen. The one most seriously wounded was in the living room floor. He was bleeding profusely from a large wound in the upper leg. By this time I had run out of bandages, and I started tearing up bed sheets to arrest the bleeding. However, I could not slow the bleeding enough. This soldier became weaker and weaker.
Finally I convinced the guards to get some help for this man. The next day a young, handsome SS trooper came with a sled. He and I put this wounded man on the sled and started to go down the village street. Now the American Artillery shells started to come in. Some were high explosives and the others were incendiary shells. On the way to the German aid station we had to duck in and out of the road and into safety.
The aid station in the next village was in the cellar of a home. We carried the wounded man down and then I tried to speak to the German doctors and inform them of the problem. They could not speak English, and I could not speak German. They asked if I could speak French or Italian. I said that I could speak a little Italian. I tried to converse, but my language skills were very limited. They started to laugh and then to ridicule me. I got upset and it showed, they in turn got so angry with me, that they pulled out their revolvers. I made a hasty retreat up the cellar stairs, and I left the wounded man with them. The SS trooper escorted me back to the farmhouse. About a month later I saw this wounded man in one of the prison camps, Stalag 12A. He survived.
At this same farmhouse, where we were kept, we hadn't had any food for about four days. We had none, and the Germans gave us none. The Americans started to shell the village again and the German guards went into the cellar for shelter. Even though they left their rifles in the kitchen, I could not even think of escaping. I had wounded to care for, they could not leave, and if I did anything rash, we would have all been shot.
At this point, hunger and duty prevailed. I started looking around the kitchen for food. There wasn't much around. However, there was a leg of lamb hanging from the wall. As I was cutting some meat off for a stew, the owner of the house came in. He said nothing. I had the knife in my hand, and I was going to cook. I found some bouillon cubes, some half-rotten potatoes, and onions. I put a large pot on the stove and started cooking. All went well, and I was pleased with myself and my first attempt to cook a meal. The stove was in the comer of the kitchen and above the stove there was no ceiling, nor was there one on the second floor. The hole went up to the attic. The stew was about done, it smelled great, I was proud, and now the American shells came in again very close to the house. The house shook violently like a bad earthquake, and the soot from the attic floated down into my stew. I should have put a cover on the pot.
Well I was not going to throw this food away and I did not dare try again, so I stirred the pot, food and attic debris together. I filled each man's quart canteen cup. They enjoyed the stew and raved about my hidden abilities, until they came to the bottom of the canteen cup. The bottom was gritty. I never admitted as to what had happened.
Soon after this, I was separated from the wounded and was held captive with about one hundred others in the attic of a monastery. The first floor was German soldiers, cooks etc. The second floor was for German wounded. This was a German field hospital. The American prisoners were forced to work repairing the bombed out railroad tracks under cover of darkness, moving German artillery shells, and working in the kitchen and caring for the German wounded.
At first I thought the German wounded were American, because most of them were wearing captured American uniforms. I worked there two or three days. On the last day that I worked in that hospital, I was folding a blanket. The German guard did not like the way I was folding the blanket. He swore at me in German and called the Americans some sort of derogatory name in German that I did not understand. I did not like that and said, "nix, nix Deutsche", (and repeated the same word.) This upset him very much. He pulled out his revolver and pointed it at me. I put my hands behind me and said, "Shoot, you bastard!!" I don't think he understood English. If he did he probably would have, Well he didn't, I'm here to tell the tale. The next day the call went up again for" Asarni" the German word for medic, to work the hospital ward. I sent my prison comrade "Ray Miller" to take my place. He got a hot meal and he was forever grateful.
We were then moved to a town called Prum and then to Geroldstein. In Prum, one of the American prisoners was sick in bed. He was ordered to get up and go to work, he refused and was shot by a guard named "Eisenhower".
About fifty of us were marched, under guard, through some small cities and towns. This was to reassure the German population, that the German Army was still in charge. I noticed the streets littered with aluminum tinsel. The type that we used to decorate Christmas trees. At the time, this did not make sense. Why were they celebrating Christmas, when they were losing the war? And why were they not cleaning the streets, two weeks after Christmas? After I was released, I learned that the American Bombers dropped this tinsel to confuse the German Radar.
During this march the German guards would point out residential buildings that had been heavily damaged by our bombers. Then they wound point and shout out, "Alles Kaputt", meaning everything is ruined. I foolishly responded" Alles Kaputt". After seeing London about two months earlier, I had no sympathy for them.
We then were marched to a railroad depot and put into boxcars that were designed to carry forty men. The Germans locked ninety of us in each car. We were so tight that we could only sit if another was sitting between our legs. We were in there two or three days and we were given only about three ounces of cheese and no water. The American airplanes bombed the railroad depot while we were helpless in the boxcars. Yet, we cheered them on.
When we got out of the boxcars, we were so thirsty that we got on our hands and knees and drank from puddles on the ground like dogs. At the same time others were urinating.
The first POW camp I went to was Stalag 12A. From there we walked under guard about sixty miles. It took about three or four days. At night we slept in barns. In this time we got one hot meal of soup. This was early February 1945, and it was cold. I arrived at Bad Orb Stalag 9B about the middle of February and spent about six weeks in this hellhole.
No sane, rational human would willingly subject themselves to the mercy of their sworn enemy. An enemy that was known for being ruthless, and one that was convinced that he was a member of the super race, and all others were beneath them. When they had the power, the Germans were arrogant bastards. They killed the powerless, with no more thought, as one might kill a cow or a sheep. All this because, "they were just following orders."
I was nineteen years old, at the time. This was about the average age of the infantry men. I was a POW in January, February and March 1945 in Germany. I had no choice, but if I had, I would have preferred to die in battle.
Soon after my arrival at Bad Orb, I learned there was a Massachusetts Club. This was a very loose association of men from this state. Because of this I learned that Albert R Cardini, from Gloucester was also a POW. I looked him up and found him in his bed. He was very weak, but he was happy to see anyone from home. I saw him two or three times more, then he was gone. He died from sickness due to malnutrition and lack of medical attention. He was 28 years old. His people lived in the Lanesville section of Gloucester. He was in the ill-fated 1061h Infantry Division.
We received no medical attention from the Germans. If a POW developed a disease, there was no one to turn to for help. I wore the same clothes for four months steady. There were no facilities to wash them. We were allowed only one shower in three months.
We all had dysentery almost the entire time we were in captivity. Because of this someone was always in a hurry to go. Most of us had soiled our pants. At night there was no light, we were packed closer than animals, our allotted space was so tight, that we had to sleep on our sides, on the bare floor, we had no beds. We were issued a small blanket, that was less than three foot square. There was few places to put ones feet when going to the toilet. One rushing to go, would invariably step on another trying to sleep, he would wake up, curse, and wake the rest of us. Night too was hell. The nights were long and we got little sleep. In the middle of this barrack, there was a hole in the floor, this was our toilet. The stench was unbearable. There was no ventilation. We were locked in the barracks every night, and the windows had bars.
Lice were constantly biting us day and night, they were all over our body, and embedded in our clothing. We would pick them off our bodies, roll them between our thumb and forefinger. They felt like a grain of rice, then we would crush them between our two thumbnails.
Our diet in the last camp I was in (Bad Orb, Stalag 9B) was only warm water, that was imitation coffee, for breakfast. Lunch was a cup of soup. Often time, with a taste and smell so bad that we could not eat. Supper consisted of a pat of margarine and a small loaf of a German sour bread that was shared by seven men.
At this time my normal weight was 155 lbs. At the end of my captivity I had an extended stomach, and I weighed under 100 lbs, a loss of sixty lbs.
I was in this, my last, camp for about five weeks. We had heat only two hours a day. There was a trickle of cold water that came from a tap for 300 men to share.
Because we were weak and malnourished some of the men developed medical complications, and illnesses. The Germans gave us no medical attention. When these illnesses would get too severe, men would die. In Bad Orb, Stalag 9B, the Germans held 3,300 Americans, average age of 19 or 20 years, another section for French, and another for Russians. In the first week we saw an American die on average, every other day. The second week, on average, one would die a day. The third week about two a day on average, then about three a day. At that rate, I believe that ninety percent of us would not have made it another month. Before we were liberated by the 7th Light Armored Division on the day after Easter, April 2nd, in 1945 I saw funeral processions go by with four caskets.
Our captors allowed one German speaking American to listen to the German Radio. Of course they broadcast only propaganda. He was allowed to post daily in the Rec hall what he heard. However, it had to be word for word, he was not allowed to embellish it or interpret what he heard. The Rec Hall was a large room with wooden benches and a bulletin board, and nothing else.
We would read the bulletins daily for news. This is the gist of what we read. One day it would read, "The victorious German Army destroyed ten American tanks, captured 500 American prisoners and drove the Americans back 20 kilometers, one hundred kilometers west of Frankfort." The next day it would probably read, "Our Gallant German Army led by the 211th SS Panzer Division inflicted severe losses on the American forces yesterday. We destroyed 20 artillery pieces, captured 600 Americans, and destroyed five tanks 50 kilometers west of Frankfort". The next day Frankfort would not be mentioned. One or two days latter the news would be about another great German victory. This time 50 kilometers east of Frankfort.
Of course we knew where Frankfort was and we also knew the American forces were getting closer and closer.
Sometimes during the days we would hear the drone of American Bombers above us, flying further into Germany. Sometimes so many that we could not count them. They were flying in formation plane after plane, and no visible German attempt to stop them. This was a great morale builder.
About a week before the Americans liberated us, at night we saw flashes of light in the distance. At first we found it hard to believe that our troops were getting nearer. Then two or three nights later we started to hear the shells bursting. They sounded like thunder in the distance. Then the German flag came down and the guards disappeared.
We were now free to leave, but we dared not go. We feared a hostile German population, as well as the remnants of a losing German Army that might be tempted to take out their hostility on some defenseless American soldiers.
About the third of April truckloads of c-rations started to come into camp. We were instructed not to over eat, because it could kill us if we did. No one took that advice, and some did die.
About the 4th or 5th of April, some army 6x6 trucks came to pick us up. It took two or three more days to remove us all out of the camp and to process and delouse us.
We were driven about ten or fifteen miles away to a large army tent. This was equipped with hot showers. First we had to strip naked, and then we were told to soak ourselves with gasoline to kill the lice especially under our arms, our private parts and our heads. This was effective, it worked. Then we took a hot shower, and at the other end of the tent we were issued clean clothes. The first in almost four months.
We were then taken to an airfield in Frankfort, Germany and flown to Le Havre, France to Camp Lucky Strike. A port of demarcation, where we slept in tents.
While in Camp Lucky Strike, we were again told, "not to overeat," because our bodies were weak and an excess amount of food could kill us. And again, we did not heed that advice. Ray Miller and I would line up for breakfast at one of the field kitchens. We would enjoy our breakfast, then get in line at another field kitchen. Lunch we did the same and for dinner again the same. We ate six meals a day, and we could not get enough food.
While at this camp, the roof of my mouth ached. I reported that to the doctor. He told me that this was the result of a poor diet "malnutrition".
On the vessel, that took us back to the United States, I noted all of the bites allover my body from the lice in prison camp.
At Lake Placid, where the army sent us for rest and relaxation I was again examined by another doctor. I complained that I was losing the hair on my head very rapidly. The doctor laughed. I was expecting a deeply sympathetic reaction. I was vainly concerned about my hair loss. I had spent a month in the front lines, three months in German POW camps, and that week I had my 20th birthday. The doctor was right. I was lucky to be alive, with or without hair.
I will be forever honored to know that I fought with such brave and gallant men.
-- Michael Linquata
As authorized by Executive Order 9396 (sec. I, WD Bul. 22, 1943), superseding Executive Order 9075 (sec. III, WD Bul. 11, 1942), the following unit is cited by the War Department under the provisions of AR 260-15, in the name of the President of the United States as public evidence of deserved honor and distinction. The citation reads as follows:
The 134th Infantry Regiment, is cited for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against the enemy during the period 28 December 1944 through 16 January 1945. On 28 December 1944, elements of the 134th Infantry Regiment, moving rapidly northward from hard-won positions at Habkirchen, Germany, relieved elements of the 318th Infantry south of Bastogne in the Vicinity of Sainlez, Belgium, and attacked northward in conjunction with the 4th Armored Division to relieve the isolated 101st Airborne Division in the vicinity of Bastogne. When the Third Battalion became involved at Lutrebois, it was bypassed by the First Battalion, which continued to fight northward to effect a junction with the forces at Marvie. The Third and Second Battalions continued to engage the enemy forces in the vicinity of Lutrebois, repulsing numerous counterattacks from the enemy in that sector. Enemy forces infiltrated through gaps in a wide front penetrated to within 400 yards of the Arlon-Bastogne Highway, but were unsuccessful in severing this vital line of communication. Large numbers of enemy personnel and at least 25 tanks were destroyed. In the face of terrific artillery and mortar fire, the attack was resumed on the afternoon of 1 January 1945. By the afternoon of 3 January the enemy was cleared from the town of Lutrebois and the First Battalion, 134th Infantry Regiment, assembled in the vicinity of Marvie, prepared to continue the attack. At 0700 on 4 January 1945, the First Battalion attacked from the north towards the southeast in an effort to break the enemy position east of Lutrebois. Holding these positions won on 5 January 1945, the 134th Infantry Regiment repulsed numerous enemy attempts to infiltrate. Heavy concentrations of mortar and artillery fire continued to pour on the front line troops and on the rear areas. Constant attempts were made to break the enemy position but it was not until 9 January 1945 that an attack, launched at 1000, succeeded in establishing a coherent line. Launching an attack again at 0800 on 11 January 1945, the Regiment advanced to the northeast, encountering terrific small-arms, artillery, and mortar-fire and after a hard battle, the Regimental objective was secured. Elements of 4 enemy divisions, including 2 complete infantry regiments and large numbers of special troops were decimated by the 134th Infantry Regiment during the operation. A total of 427 prisoners of war were taken in addition to the large number of enemy killed and wounded.
BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:
OFFICIAL: EDWARD F. WITSELL
Major General The Adjutant General
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Chief of Staff
At Lovel General Hospital, during September, October, November, I had the seven at night to seven in the morning shift. I alone was responsible for ward 44. There were about 30 patients in each ward. Each ward had a kitchen. About eight or so at night, I would cook up a light snack for the patients. In this ward none were sick. They were all wounded or injured, some had broken bones, and some were undergoing skin grafts. We had a nightly bed check at 3:00AM. At 6:00 AM I would go to the commissary and wheel up the breakfast, then at 7:00 AM my shift was through. I rather enjoyed this aspect of service. The patients and I got along very well. I seldom saw the doctors or nurses.
However, when I was assigned to this cadre of medics at Fort Devens, the others in many subtle ways let me know that I was an interloper. They let me know they were there first and I was the new guy on the block.
When passes for Thanksgiving day 1945 were assigned I asked for Thanksgiving Day off. This was denied. They claimed I had no seniority, because they were stationed there before me. But they did give me the day before off.
While home, my mother was preparing for the next day, and she was an excellent cook. Everything smelled and tasted so good. My mother asked if I was going to stay for Thanksgiving day. I told her I only had a pass for that day. She said that they certainly wouldn't miss me for one day. Somehow, I agreed with her and stayed for Thanksgiving day. What a contrast from the year before on the English channel from one can of sardines to a New England feast.
In prison camp, food was on our minds twenty-four hours a day. Thanksgiving Day was our idea of heaven. The next day, I was called into the captain's office and I was demoted. I was no longer a P.F.C, I was once again a private. I lost a total of four dollars in pay. Two weeks later, I was discharged.
I was reassigned, to be processed for discharge. This took about three days. We were discharged from the army according to the points we had accumulated. As a group we had the most to our credit. We received points for length of service, time overseas, time in combat, time spent in POW camps, Purple Hearts, Battle Stars, etc. We were as individuals, among the first discharged, We all had accumulated a large number of points. We were veteran combat troops. We had no love for the Germans. At that time we used the word Germansonofabitch as one word.
I remember going through the chow line. The German POWs were dishing out the food. One of the men behind me, told the German K.P. to put another piece of meat on his plate. The German K.P. made a mistake he said "Nien Nien". (That meant no). Upon being refused, the American G.I. reached over the counter, grabbed the German by the throat, and told him, "You son of a bitch, do I get another piece of meat or do I kill you now". I think the German got the message. He said "Ya Ya" and filled the G.I.'s plate. I'm glad he did. If he had not, the American G.I. would have killed him. Even though the mess hall was full of men, I don't believe that anyone in the room would have testified against that American. Our hatred and anger had no limits. We had seen too much misery and suffering to be tolerant. I was discharged December 4th 1945.
On August 21, 2014, the French Legion of Honor was awarded to Mike Linquata and Frank Mondello of Gloucester, Massachusetts at Gloucester's WWII Memorial. The presentation of medals was made by Fabien Fieschi, Consul General of France. The Legion of Honor is France's highest decoration for service.
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