The experiences of Corporal Steinberg

On November 16, 1944, during the day, I was in Eschweiler with the II. Platoon of 13th Company, GrenReg 115, 47th VGD. After having been reconfigured, II. Platoon had four heavy mortars, caliber 12. My order was to stay hidden from the enemy during the day because of his air superiority and to wait for new orders. In Eschweiler I ended up with all the gunner crews in the basements of the local high school (Gymnasium). Horses and mortars were hidden away in suitable cellars close by. After I had meticulously searched out the town, I withdrew to the basement of the high school. It seemed that the basement walls were reassuringly thick and it would be hard to even get them to shake. This fact was very reassuring given the likelihood of enemy artillery assaults. Suddenly air-raid alarm sounded. The ham radio in the basement issued the warning: "Enemy air wings approaching Düren." An anxious uneasiness could immediately be felt because Düren and Eschweiler weren't far apart and from the air they may almost look like one city. Now the roaring sound of the enemy bombers could be heard and the storm broke loose. The dropping and exploding of the bombs filled the air with noise. The basement walls shook and one expected the structure to collapse any moment now. For how long this went on I can't say. Obviously, the soldiers breathed a sigh of relief once the all-clear signal had been given. Only later we learned of the scope of the disaster. Düren had been leveled. A few bombs had also been dropped on Eschweiler but without causing much damage. In the late afternoon a runner gives me new orders. I had to move with the whole platoon to the prepared firing positions immediately. Thank God it is already evening and he don't have to deal with low-altitude bombers at least. We leave Eschweiler into a large forest area. Upon reaching the positions I get a new objective.

Another runner takes me and my orderly to the regimental command post somewhere in that forest. The path leads us past dumps of coal, railroad tracks, and abandoned wagons. Occasionally the enemy artillery fires. But we do reach the combat post just a little bit later. Here I am told about my new objective. I am supposed to work as FORWARD OBSERVER inside the new main-combat line. My task is to help with heavy guns to fight off the enemy attack, which is expected for the early morning hours. What a pleasant surprise! Another runner is supposed to take me to a certain lieutenant in our main-combat line who will have additional orders for me. We leave into the darkness and follow a certain railroad track, always very careful not to make much noise. The runner was a very young fellow and he was quite uneasy, even his pants were shaking. The parole for the night was "Black-White!" Without saying a word we walked on the tracks and listened into the night. Suddenly tow shadows, right in front of us. It turned out to be ammunition carriers of the lieutenant I was supposed to meet. Well, I could join them and release the young chap who was very happy about that. In the meantime the moon painted the tracks in pale light and this exhorted the carriers to be extra-careful.