On Lincoln's birthday, 1943 I had a half-day off from work as an office boy for 20th Century Fox Films, New York City. I had not heard from my draft board as to my standing in the draft and you were to check every 6 months. When I gave them my name, William Bramswig, the woman said they had cards for Henry, my father and for John and Francis, my older brothers; but no card for William. When she told the headman he said make up a card for William.
Two months later in April, I was in the Army and sent to Camp Stewart, Georgia, for anti-aircraft training. Inside of 14 months I was sent to desert maneuvers in Arizona and then to Fort Bliss, Texas. A notice came to the anti-aircraft that the army was in need of Infantrymen and they were looking for volunteers. A few of us joined up and were sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I was a corporal and they made me a Sergent, which was April 1944. In October I was sailing on the Queen Elizabeth with 13,000 other troops to England. In December we were in France and went right to the front. I was a rifleman. The only people in front of me were the enemy. It was the only place in the world you could shoot someone and it was not murder.
I spent four months on the front lines and, confronting the Germans, we fought the winter in foxholes. I have been told it takes 13 people to supply a combat soldier. Truck drivers, stevedores, supply Sgt's, cooks, medics, mail clerks etc. I told my First Sgt. that I would like to trade places with those people, but he said I had a job to take care of my squad and be an Assistant Platoon Leader.
In 6 months many of our people were wounded, killed or had trench foot which is very bad. In March, 1945 we crossed the Moselle and Rhine Rivers by boat. The enemy was on the run yet to close in front of us to build a pontoon bridge.
When we got there with General Patton's 3rd army it was like the Wild West. The German army was very powerful and they beat the hell out of us GI's that were in the way. Somehow we did stop them. I'm talking about our young 18, 19, 20 year old draftees. Scared, cold but above it all, we were fighting for our country and there were very few babies. We GI's could talk for days about the war.
Our President Roosevelt died April 12th and that day I was told I was to be taken off the line that morning and go home on R&R for 45 days. R&R is Rest and Recuperation. I was alive and didn't have a scratch to talk about. It was the luckiest day of my life.
I had three combat battle stars: Ardennes Battle of the Bulge, Central Europe and Rhineland Campaign. I received the Bronze Star and the Presidential Unit Citation for our regiment being the 1st into the German and Siegfreid line. I was supposed to have 12 men in my squad but could never keep more than 8 or 9, even as replacements kept coming. I Came home on the Washington, a hospital ship with extra room I was ok.
Many men were killed, many men got the Purple Heart, many men were prisoners of war, and many men like myself kept fighting up front, waiting for our time to be up. They sent me home before any of the above happened. It was the roll of the dice. I wrote this to my mother when they told me the good news on April 15th 1945
I got some news here that I was going to hold back from telling you for a surprise. But before my mail starts coming back to the states I better tell you I am coming home on a furlough. I am O.K. and in perfect health, so don't worry. I am leaving the front lines tomorrow the 16th. I probably will take a month to get home, so don't expect me at 1850 Park Avenue until the middle of May. The transportation from here to the States is hard to get. So don't get to excited waiting for me. You can tell everyone to stop writing and stop the packages. The furlough will be 30 or 45 days. So I will have the best part of the summer home.The war is going along very good over here. This is probably the luckiest break of my life. If I don't write, don't worry, I am on my way home.
For its heroism in breaking through the Siegfried Line, members of the 2nd Battalion (Companies E, F, G, & H) were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. "In the Name of the President of the United States" for the 2nd Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment. As authorized by Executive Order 9396 (sec. I, WD Bul. 22, 1943)
The 2nd Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, distinguished itself by its extraordinary heroism, savage aggressiveness and indomitable spirit during its advance through the Siegfried Line and capture of Olzheim, Germany. From 5 through 9 February, 1945, the 2nd Battalion attacked violently and captured Olzheim in the face of extremely difficult terrain, fanatical enemy resistance, and devastating artillery fire. In this exemplary accomplishment, the battalion advanced 11,000 yards, smashing 6,000 yards through the Siegfried Line, neutralized many pillboxes and bunkers, and captured 366 enemy prisoners. The Brilliant tactical planning, rapid capture of assigned objectives and the conspicuous gallantry of each member of the 2nd Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
General Orders 246, Headquarters 87th Infantry Division, 19 July 1945, as approved by the Commanding General, United States Army Forces, European Theater.
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