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Salute to My WWII Dogface Buddies: a Hoorah 65 Years LateDr. Phil Leveque Salem-News.com
It took me about 20 years before I could think about or talk about WWII. Many of my fellow Dogfaces still can’t.
(MOLALLA, Ore.) - This time of the year around Veteran’s Day and the Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we 'Dogface' Infantry Veterans of WWII in Europe pause in thankful reflection of the nearly unbearable sacrifices of our fellow soldiers in that battle.
20,000 young American boys, mostly under 20 years old, died and 80,000 more were wounded or captured because of some incredible blunders up the line of command at Regiment, Division, Corps and Army headquarters who had been advised of suspicious activity at the front, which they ignored.
The Two Divisions which were on the extreme front were the 106th (The Hungry and Sick, as they called themselves) had just arrived at the front. The other was the 28th (Bloody Bucket, as they called themselves).
The 28th had been nearly destroyed in the month before in the Huertgen Forest and was put in an erstwhile quiet, rest area to be re-equipped and re-supplied with green replacements mostly fresh from the States.
Neither Division could have been considered ready for battle. The American Generals KNEW this but so did the German Generals.
The Americans had suffered from several tactical and strategic blunders before, and the frontline troops knew that they would be miraculously lucky if they got home alive.
A million dollar wound which would get one out of combat was a fervent prayer, and possibly thousands either shot themselves or exposed themselves to enemy fire or the severe cold just to get out of a deadly no-win, no-hope situation.
The frontline combat forces could see that if an officer got even a slight wound or “battle-fatigue”, that officer was usually sent way back or home never to be seen again.
If a Dogface “broke down” he was given heavy sedation for 2 or 3 days and usually sent back to the front. About one-fourth of battle casualties were said to be “battle fatigue”.
General Patton didn’t believe in “battle fatigue” but he slept in a warm bed every night, had warm meals and NEVER got cold, wet, dirty, shot at or scared beyond his wits.
The Dogface Infantry, who were only about 10% of the armed forces, were usually cold, wet, dirty, hungry, dead tired, and scared out of their wits.
There was usually no surcease and little support because the rear echelon S.O.B.’s were stealing food, warm clothes, blankets, overshoes, etc and keeping it for themselves or trading it on the black market for wine, women or money. The officers didn’t care much because they WERE supplied.
The frontline scouts reported enemy tank and troop movement several days before Battle of the Bulge attack started. An Army scout can detect German tank track noise in his sleep. Nobody paid any attention.
Even Generals Eisenhower and Bradley were eating oysters and drinking champagne in Paris, 200 miles away, when it became evident that a big battle was on its way. General Montgomery was playing golf.
The 106th Division slowed down the German Panzer Army but about 20,000 were captured, killed or wounded and the Division ceased to exist.
The 28th Division, especially the 110th Regiment, was out- numbered about 10 to 1 but still held up the German advance for two days to give the 101st Airborne time to get to Bastogne and dig in.
If the 28th hadn’t held while being itself destroyed, there would have been no “Battle of Bastogne” and the total battle would have been much worse than it was.
I was in the 89th Division. The 106th barely beat us to the front – lucky us. We lost our men in The Rhineland and crossing Germany towards Dresden.
Other Divisions had high casualties but none as bad as the 106th and 28th.
In the Battle of the Bulge the 101st Division, because they were dug in in defensive positions at Bastogne, had only 1641 casualties. Other defenders: the 10th Armored had 503, the 9th Armored somewhat more. The remaining defenders suffered 1400.
The British had a total of 1400 casualties with 200 dead.
For the Germans it was much worse. They started with at least 500,000 men. About 100,000 were killed, wounded or captured, but the rest escaped back to Germany where we had to fight them again in The Rhineland, The Ruhr Pocket and Central Germany.
It took me about 20 years before I could think about or talk about WWII. Many of my fellow soldiers still can’t. We know what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is and we still get the shakes.
I’m relieved that I’m finally getting over most of it and it is my moral obligation to the 200,000 WWII Infantry Vets who died for me to tell at least a part of their heroic history.
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