12 October 1944: Kerkrade, Holland, was practically on the Germany-Holland border. We wondered just how far we were going toward the front lines. We moved into the town, into another school, and found that the position was in a sort of pocket and that the front lines were about a mile from us, or at least a flank of them. No sooner had we pulled in and begun to unload than Jerry laid three shells in close, our first time under fire, and scared all of us -- p-l-e-n-t-y.
Nightly we were visited by "bed check Charlie" and by day we listened to the shells and rockets whistle over our heads and watched our dive bombers work on the Jerries in Aachen, Germany. This was a beautiful sight to behold. Aachen fell on 20 October, but we could still hear the chattering of machine guns and the cracking of rifles on the front lines. Too close for comfort.
Election day [7 November] elicited, at best, a casual interest. As I write this, on 9 November 1944, I wonder which it will be, winter stalemate or costly push into the innards of the Reich?
The biggest conflict in Kerkrade on this Sunday in early June? On nearby Neustrasse, or "new street," which divides the Netherlands from Germany, numerous Dutch and German flags wave from homes and apartments: the World Cup is about to begin!
4 January 1945: As I again take up my typewriter, which I am wielding in place of a sword for this war, many a round of ammunition has been expended since I made my last entry on 9 November 1944. The rest of November and half of December were used in quietly building up strength on the banks of the Roer River, waiting for the flood waters to recede so that the river could be crossed. It was very quiet both at the front and at the rear in Kerkrade, where our existence was more routine than it had been at any time in combat. On 17 December the big Nazi counterattack against the First Army began, and the battalion moved to Belgium to stop Rundstedt's drive.
Our Christmas was spent in Holland. The nuns went to a great deal of trouble in gaily decorating the halls, stairways, and quarters with sprigs of evergreen and other festive decorations. On the Eve of Christmas, gifts from the Red Cross were given out, some of the personnel sections had parties, with movies and refreshments, and practically every room was an open house. The scotch, gin, cognac, and champagne flowed freely, and spirits and tongues of us downtrodden combat men were loosened.
Martyn's Becker sat-nav sends us on a surprisingly entertaining drive along twisty blacktop through high fields of grain and then on a veritable rally road through woods and villages that eventually deposits us in picturesque Fouron-le-Comte, Belgium. We're here to visit a friend of Greg's, Vincent Heggen, who has a museum dedicated to the 30th Division in his home.