They knew the are well and knew how dangerously close the enemy had come already. They were stationed in a bunker of the Westwall and had been under constant fire from tanks throughout the afternoon. In the front of the bunker shell hole lay next to shell hole and one could guess easily the mental strain on the troops inside of the fortification. We hurried down the last part of the way to the entrance. The mood that greeted me inside can only be called depressed. Certainly no surprise after the shelling of all loopholes and the entrance area. The men were pale and seemed disoriented especially because they did not know what the morning would bring. Gunpowder smoke still stood in the air and made breathing difficult. The young lieutenant openly showed his relief to see me as I was there to reinforce the defense as VB [VB seems to stand for "vorgeschobener Beobachter," forward observer] of the heavy guns. But he also showed his envy openly about the fact that I actually would have to leave the bunker to see the enemy at all. He reported my arrival to his platoon leader by phone and he explained to me how to get there. The main combat line in this area was a rural route that could only be very thinly covered by German troops.
I followed the course of that road with my body slightly bent forward until I reached the dugout of the platoon leader. The sergeant showed me the facilities and also allowed me to use his field phone. After I had transmitted my position, I decided to crawl across the road and to sneak into a nearby farmhouse in order to get a better idea about the enemy's intentions. Suddenly the phone rang in the dugout and somebody asked for me. It was my own platoon leader, First Sergeant Weber, who ordered me to retreat immediately. I was supposed to find new orders in the bunker that had just been vacated. The orders would be fixed to the table with a pistol. It was very urgent and I should not ask any questions. By pointing out the map of the area he explained how I would find the way to the command post and then he ended the conversation. Without hesitation I grabbed my utensils and left into the night with only my runner accompanying me. Before that I gave my best wishes for the next hours to the platoon leader. I navigated toward the railroad tracks, which I had already used before. Only this time I would follow the tracks backwards. I pressed on because I wanted to reach the command post before dawn at all cost. The night was full of crackling tension. I could hear engine noises from all sides, enemy tanks and motorized units that were moving into their intended positions. Dawn was already approaching on the horizon and the landscape looked very different. I began to have doubts whether we were on the right way or walking straight at the enemy. Suddenly, the shadow of a man appeared in the area just in front of me. Was it friend or foe? I had to know and so I called upon him, my gun in aiming position. Thank God, he was a friend! According to him we had indeed been walking straight at the enemy and thus we changed the direction. Soon we reached the part of the forest very close to the command post. Shots could be heard – enemy artillery! I ordered to take full cover – just a hunch – and sure enough the shells howled closer around our heads. Now the shells hit right next to us and the sound made by the flying splinters is frightening and just then new salvoes follow.
Is it possible that the enemy had guessed our exact position or is it just a barrage that is supposed to be close to the command post? Be that as it may! With long jumps we hurry toward the command post in order to get at least some protection from the artillery fire. But what a surprise! Corporal Schilling of my own company is just sitting there, all by himself. He had thought that he had lost all contact with out unit and that it was all over. Given that there was no German soldier in sight I had to agree with his assessment. The last straw he had held onto was the order he had found on the table, the very one that had been left for me. A foot injury seriously handicapped him and thus he had hoped that I would indeed come and take him with me or else he would have surrendered to the Ami (somewhat derogatory abbreviation of American). Now he was very grateful not to be alone any longer. We rested for just a while and then left, all three of us.
The written order was clear, I was supposed to report with the 13th Company in Weisweiler immediately. The sheet of paper was to be destroyed upon reading. Morning was near and I urged my comrades to leave. We aided Schilling and as silently as possible we moved across the wood paths toward Weisweiler. Suddenly all hell broke loose. To our right: enemy drum fire, a barrage heavier than any I had ever experienced. This had to be the beginning of the planned American offensive. Where this wheel of fire hit no stone remained unturned. For us it was important to get into Weisweiler before the low-level air attacks would make it near impossible to move along the roads. I knew an air-raid shelter in Weisweiler with a nice stock of preserves and pickles and I intended to pay it a visit before reporting with the company. After we had decided to march on we realized that the roads were dead empty. Only a young woman, crying, was moving in the opposite direction. Nothing could have stopped her. In the afternoon we reached Weisweiler and I reported with the company. Right away I was sent to the artillery position of the 2nd Platoon somewhere on the road to Jülich.
In the afternoon a typical November rain started pouring down and this could make it quite tough to be outdoors. The tent square that I wore like a poncho did not help much either. The wetness crept slowly to the bones. Due to this situation I ordered a two-man sentry to remain at the mortars and allowed the others to hide inside the stacks of straw that had been left on the harvested fields. Darkness had long since come and we had gotten used to the circumstances. But a new situation called for new orders and we were sent to Merode!
Both the mortars and the ammunition boxes are right there and off we are to the new sector, the new position. It will be a ghostly night for us. The rural route to Langerwehe is under fire. We have to get across this stretch running and we have to open up gaps for security purposes. As we turn off the road we reach an area that had been flooded when the Ruhr Valley dams had leaked.