Updated May 31, 2013
How Proudly They Served
The "How Proudly They Served" series covers the true stories of Acadiana citizens who answered their country's call to duty in time of war.
with Tokyo is cancelled
Senior Helpers can lend veterans a hand
Hebert kept on truckin' during, after war
Keating carries on family tradition of war service
Vincent feels chill of global Cold War in Army service
Bourque sees tour of duty in Vietnamese highlands in '60s
Vincent sees field hospital service on Vietnam tour
Specs open up the world, but end dreams of a Naval career
World war interrupts budding career plans for LaBorde
WWII's D-Day: Coming ashore on Utah Beach
Christmas 1944 nears
Instead of Christmas, the 76th gets Germans
Passwords, Tigers and trickery
Unrelenting cold - and more Germans
How Proudly They Served: Unrelenting cold - and more Germans
By Doc LaBorde
Special to the Gazette
Editor's Note: The following is the true story of an Acadiana citizen who answered his country's call to duty in time of war. It's focuses on the life of our own military correspondent, Doc LaBorde, and picks up from last week's installment. It will continue in future issues.
The weather continues to ravage us with overcast skies, very cold with heavy wet snow and gusting winds.
The snow is covered with a thick crust making it difficult to walk and the roads are frozen, making trucks and tanks slide like they were on ice skates. Because of hazardous atmosphere, we cannot receive air protection or be re-supplied by our Army Air Force.
Instead, we relied on the "Red Ball Express" to deliver our needed medical supplies. I became aware of the Red Ball Express" during our stay in Normandy. They are to be honored for their dedication to duty in the establishment of a successful and efficient supply line to our troops from the beaches to the front line of our advancing Divisions.
Their trucks rolled 24 hours, night and day, delivering the needed supplies, ammunition and gas. The drivers looked like "death warmed over"; badly in need of a shave and a haircut because of too many hours behind the wheel, fatigued and in soiled and wrinkled uniforms.
A hot soapy shower and some sleep would be a welcome Christmas present.
These just out of high school drivers have seen and know first hand what our infantry is doing and what supplies they need.
Many times on their re-supply trip, their trucks have been used as ambulances.
They have seen the blackened frostbitten toes and fingers; the blood soaked bandages and the mummy looking burned tank crews.
You hear no complaints from these heroes as they accept sandwiches prepared by our cooks, wrapped in newspaper for their trip back to be reloaded.
They must travel on curvy, narrow, snow- and ice-covered roads, often under artillery fire and the worry that a V1 or V2 rocket would run out of fuel and hit in their path.
I asked one of the drivers how could they continue to drive at night when we are in a black-out area.
"You just follow the lead truck, staying as close as possible in its ruts so as to avoid the slip or slide caused by frozen icy roads." With the German SS breakthrough gradually approaching the 76th, our commanding officers finally realized that our perimeter guards needed more than tent stakes to protect us. Our guards are transferred to Infantry status, issued regulationArmy rifles, ammo and given some basic rifle training.
To further the need for this drastic change we are informed that within a one-hour walk of the 76th, the German infiltrators dressed inAmerican G.I. uniforms took some prisoners, executing them on the spot.
Because of the threatening circumstances, a Triage Plan of Evacuation and Surrender of the 76th to the SS was planned. If the SS does break-through and over-run the 76th on their drive to the Liege fuel depot, our personnel would be broken into three sections.
Group One would jam into all the vehicles in the motor-pool and head for Paris; Group Two, with back packs, would start walking in the same direction; and Group Three, including medical officers, nurses and the ranking non-com in each department, would stay with the hospital and continue caring for their patients.
Because of my rank and status, I was included in Group Three and fearfully wondered how the SS would treat me and my French heritage.
Good news from some of our patients: Most of the German infiltrators have been captured and executed as spies. I am told some of the amusing incidents that occurred prior to their demise.
One of the captured was found with a packet of Lucky Strike cigarettes that could have only been taken from a deceased G.I. So, he was forced to chew and swallow each cigarette. Another was found to have a chicken egg, a rare delicacy on the front. The egg was cracked on his head as he stood at attention while the egg yolk slowly crept down his face.
News from the other European fronts is not encouraging. The Allied advance in Holland is stalled by Field Marshall Montgomery's inept leadership and failure to link-up with the American forces as planned. The U.S. Third Army, led by General George Patton, was covering Montgomery's flank but was redirected to turn south and relieve the 101st Airborne surrounded in Bastogne.
My hope and prayers were that "Olde Blood and Guts" Patton would hurry and that the weather would clear.
Doc LaBorde is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 9210 of Youngsville. If you know of a veteran you'd like to be considered for this feature, or an issue you'd like discussed, email the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.