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Dogface Infantry Massacre on the RhineDr. Phil Leveque Salem-News.com
Baptism of fire with mortars and artillery; a scary introduction to the war.
(MOLALLA, Ore.) - My 89th Infantry Division was one of the last to go to Europe in WWII. We left right in the middle of The Battle of the Bulge in which our casualties were catastrophic and the worst ever.
For us to be jumping into the Dragons Lair was pretty scary. We arrived in France on 10 January 1945. It was cold, cold, cold with the ground frozen at least a foot. We had to put up our own 20 man tents which were frozen.
We had almost no food, not enough wool clothes, summer boots, two blankets and no way to get warm or keep warm. They took away our trucks because the guys at the front were even in worse shape with about 80,000 casualties and very few vehicles.
After about two weeks we were moved close to the front and our baptism of fire with mortars and artillery, a scary introduction to the war. Luckily we had little action till we got close to the Rhine River.
There was a rumor that Hitler had broadcast words to the effect that he might be planning poison gas for us at the Rhine. We weren’t really prepared for that either but he would have killed many of his own people. He was crazy!!
We approached the south or west side of the Rhine through a huge forest plantation. We were told to stay off the main roads and the sides because of mines which would have blown us into little pieces.
We walked about 20-30 feet from the roadside but the Germans knew where we were and artillery followed our march. I was in front or near the front and I tried to keep ahead of the artillery bursts. Behind me tree bursts of shrapnel were exploding on my column.
We finally got to the road leading down to the Rhine. Our mess tent was there. As soon as they started serving, the artillery zeroed in. I was second in line. I exceeded all records for 50 yard dash to my foxhole.
The next morning at 230 our group started crossing in small boats. The Germans fired at us with everything. Most of the first boats were sunk and we lost 150 men killed or drowned in a few hours. By then it was getting light. The German gunfire was slow but continuing.
About 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon my company and my section got the order to cross. The boat engineers running the boat were drunk and we made a 360 degree circle to the middle of the river with German bullets splashing all around. None of us were hit!!
When we got to the north shore, I ran for the nearest house. When I got there, I found I was alone behind German lines. It took me about 3 hours to sneak back to my own lines where I belonged.
THIS WAS THE WORST DAY FOR MY BATTALION AND THE DIVISION!!!
Dr. Phillip Leveque has degrees in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and minors in physiology and biochemistry. He was a Professor of Pharmacology, employed by the University of London for 2 years, during which time he trained the first doctors in Tanzania. After training doctors, he became an Osteopathic Physician, as well as a Forensic Toxicologist.
Before any of that, Phil Leveque was a Combat Infantryman in the U.S. Army in WWII. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 60 years after the war, and specialized in treating Veterans with PTSD during his years as a doctor in Molalla, Oregon. Do you have a question, comment or story to share with Dr. Leveque?
Email him: ASK DR. LEVEQUE
More information on the history of Dr. Leveque can be found in his book, General Patton's Dogface Soldier of WWII about his own experiences "from a foxhole". Order the book by mail by following this link: DOGFACE SOLDIER OF WWII If you are a World War II history buff, you don't want to miss it.
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