134th Infantry Regiment
"All Hell Can't Stop Us"
Sgt. Jerome A.Yaeger was wounded and captured on January 5, 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge and lay in a dug out for 5-7 days before the US Army overtook the position. He survived and eventually became a priest in South Carolina. The following information is from a book that Sgt. Yaeger started to write about his experiences during World War II.
To appreciate or understand this story, one must be acquainted with some happenings just prior to this Saturday morning, the 5th day of January, 1945.
About two weeks before Christmas 1944, the Germans put on one last desperate display of strength and as a result, history now records that battle as the "Battle of the Bulge". If you remember, the Germans did push us back a considerable distance. This, of course, all centered in and around the little country of Belgium. I was in Germany at the time of the breakthrough and as a result, we were forced to abandon that ground and travel back to Belgium. We were immediately put into the front lines and began our new push into Germany. However, I, myself, never got back into Germany as my fighting days ended on that 5th day of January 1945, about a mile and a half east of Bastogne, in the Ardennes forest.
At that time my outfit had been dug in and surrounded by the Germans for the better part of a week. Naturally, we were without communications and supplies. At the end of four days there was little left of our company due to the terrific shelling the Germans were giving us. On the 3rd of January the situation was getting very desperate because we were running out of ammo, food and certainly on manpower. There were many killed and wounded in those three days. However, on the following day things started to look a little brighter, for the 137th Regiment of our division had finally made contact with the Germans who had us surrounded. They had a tough battle all day long. That night I led a patrol through the German lines and contacted the 137th Regiment. I returned to my company sometime early Saturday morning.
Things then were fairly quiet so I decided to get into my hole and get some much needed sleep. I didn't sleep very long when one of my buddies woke me up. He seemed a little disturbed, so I asked him what was wrong. He proceeded to tell me about the dream he just had. In his dream, he dreamt that I took out a patrol of ten men into the woods ahead of us, was wounded and captured. Before he finished, my platoon sergeant called me. So all I said to my buddy was "That's a hell of a thing to dream about".
The Sergeant and myself then went to see the C.O. (commanding officer). He told me to take a patrol of ten men and make contact with "A" Company which was supposed to be somewhere ahead and to our right flank. Incidentally, the beginning of my buddy's dream coming true. The C. O. briefed me on the direction I was to take. He suggested that I proceed straight out from our lines and then bear to the right. I objected to this because I was certain that ahead of us the Germans were dug in, in numbers. However, he assured me that this was not true as Army Intelligence had had a patrol out front of us that night and they reported not much opposition. Although I still objected, you don't argue with the C.O. I returned to my squad and my men.
The patrol consisted of almost all new or green men except myself and three other men. We proceeded straight out from our lines, across a mud road and into the woods again. Everything went fine until we spotted a few Germans. My scout stopped the patrol and he and I looked over the situation. While we were still deciding as to what to do, one of my men opened fire on the Germans. Well, that started the fireworks and soon all hell broke loose. It was then I saw the woods was literally crawling with Germans. There was only one thing to do and that was fight our way out. Things happened so fast that before I could get instructions back to my men, they decided to get up and run. Well, it was a slaughter. The six men behind me tried to get across that mud road. However, the Germans had cross-fire machine guns covering the road and the six never made it. All were killed. My B.A.R. man was hit in the right hand and upper arm so that left three of us and believe me we fought.
Fortunately for me, I was lying next to a big tree which protected me. However, a sniper did succeed in knocking off my helmet. About that time a German jumped up in front of me with a burp-gun and shouted "Give up, Comrade". There was no give up in me as I figured that if this was to be the end, I wasn't going to be captured and killed as the Germans were doing at that time. This German was about 15 to 20 feet away from me so I took aim and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. My rifle didn't fire so I yelled to my buddy and fortunately for me he got the German. I then crawled back to where the B.A.R. man was lying. Just as my feet touched the B.A.R., I heard a noise in the brush, in front of me. I looked up and here came three hand grenades. One landed in back of me, the other two to my left and right front. I recalled then that in basic training they told us that you have something like five seconds to get out of the way of that grenade. But where was I to go? Those five seconds went fast, the grenades exploded, and the damage was done. The explosion knocked me out and blew a fragment from the sling of the B.A.R. into my right leg. (According to Sgt. Yaeger's sister, he did not want to worry his mother or his sister so he downplayed the wound. A grenade fragment tore into his upper right thigh and left an indentation large enough for a mans fist after it healed.)
The next thing I knew the Germans were on top of me. They dragged me back behind their lines, searched me, took what they wanted, and then allowed me to bandage my leg. They then carried me back to a big dugout, which was about two to three hundred yards behind their lines. There were medics there but they did nothing about my leg. They just laid me in this hole and each day they'd tell me that I was going back to the hospital. That day never came. I stayed in that hole for seven days during which time I got nothing to eat or drink. At the time of my capture I weighed about 150 pounds. After seven days I weighed 89 pounds. Worry? I had two fresh packs of cigarettes when I got captured and by the night of the first day I had them all gone. On the morning of the seventh day, my own outfit attacked. As the Americans approached, a German medic gave himself up and told the G.I. that I was in that hole. Well, within an hour, I was given first aid, removed and rushed back to a hospital.
Thanks to William Donohue and Delores Wiepert for providing these pictures and biographical information. Delores Wiepert is Sgt. Yaeger's sister and William Donohue is his first cousin. His cousin, Bill Donohue, would like to hear from anyone who remembers Sgt. Jerome A. Yaeger. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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