My Name is Posey

 

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Last day’s account of an infantry replacement Bernard Paul Posey, A Company 50th Armored Infantry Battalion 6th Armored Division - Battle of the Bulge

 

 

FORWARD

This short story was created for and dedicated to the brother John and family of Bernard Posey. Also, the many men who served their country in WWII. We have tried to reconstruct (as far as possible) what Paul experienced in the brief time he was a replacement in Company A of the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion, who served at the Battle of the Bulge. We have talked to several replacements before and after Paul’s time as a replacement, some as close as one week. The travel portion of this story is gathered from general information, more so than from fact. In no way are we representing that this account is entirely accurate. The information at the squad level is more from facts (50th history and personal accounts). We welcome any other information about this account or any other activity of the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion.

Bernard Paul Posey

Paul was born November 1918 in Henderson, Kentucky, one of twin sons. He attended local schools, and attended two years of college at St. Josephs College in Renssaleur, Indiana. During the early years of the war, he worked at a war plant in Evansville, Indiana. He was drafted in the summer of 1944, and had basic infantry training in Texas. He left for Europe leaving behind a wife and two daughters (one born two months after his death). His descendants living at this time are: two children, five grandchildren, seven (and counting) great-grandchildren. He also had six brothers and sisters, two of whom are living today.

December 25th

What a start to Christmas Day, assembly in front of the Camp Shanks barracks with all our gear. All our belongings in a duffel bag. After a hurry up and wait routine the army is famous for we loaded on to trucks for a cold ride to the docks in New York Harbor. While on the docks there were Red Cross workers handing out hot coffee and donuts. Also, we were given sewing kits, button bags and other personal items. After all had arrived we played another round of hurry up and wait then we started up the long gangway. Every man just following the man in front of him into the side of the ship. The ship is the U.S. Army transport George Washington. Following one another through the maze of this ship down gangways and through bulkheads we reached our designated area. Here we found canvas hammocks stretched between the many pipes. These hammocks were three high and so close together that you were only inches above the man below. Christmas night and I get a top bunk on a troop ship. I didn't know the army loved me so much. Being on the top bunk only means that there are pipes in your face instead of a body. The aisles between the hammocks were extremely narrow with all our gear, packs and duffel bags. Our deck was just above the water line. This made most of us feel better about the possible hit from a German torpedo. The almost 7,000 souls were about to cross the Atlantic for an unknown destination alone, no convoy, no protection. Our only ally, speed and winter. All of us are replacements for the 3rd Army.

I really miss my family. They tell us four to six days depending on weather. I hope I don't get sick. Hot and crowded below and cold and damp up on deck. Christmas alone and on the way to Europe where we have heard of so many men giving it all up for the U.S.
December 26th
Damn that hurts, woke up sudden and hit my head on the pipe above me, not enough room to sit up. This day, our first, proved to be a new challenge that nobody was prepared for. This luxury liner was so smooth I thought this trip would be great, not a chance of being sick. To my surprise we had not left the dock. The loading of supplies was not complete. We spent the day settling in and finding our way around. We had received a $5.00 parting payment that we could spend in the ships store. Cigs were only 4 cents a pack, what a deal, and Pepsi Colas (warm). We only get two meals a day. Lining up for chow became quite an inconvenience because of the Company's lining up incorrectly in the passageways but it was figured out with nobody missing a meal.
Some of the others have already changed a little after only one night. Some of the men are grouping together. Common home states seem to be the reason. Still, some school boy jokes and loudness. We seem to be more to ourselves during the day, not much training and only lifeboat drills, no place to march - thank God. We still have watch duty. Don't really know what for. Was able to win some smokes in a card game. Lots of new players. We seem to be all mixed in, not much of any order. I try to get some extra sleep and think of what my family is doing.
December 27th
Well, most of the guys lost their money the first day and now all they can do is watch the never-ending card games; black jack, craps and bridge, my favorite. Boy, it's rough in the North Atlantic in the winter. When we can go up on deck we have to wear our life vest. There are some deck chairs to sit in but with the rough water and salt spray it's to cold to stay on deck. It's really rough in the Atlantic in the winter. Never was this cold in Kentucky.
Well, between lifeboat drills and the hurry and wait game for the two meals the only other things to do are play cards, write home and sleep, things we all needed to catch up on. Well, not playing cards. Life on a ship turns to hum drum very quickly. The only time that it seems normal is 6PM to 6AM.The pitching of the ship and the aroma of bad food with the smells of so many men together sent many a man to the head or to the railing. Even the officers were not immune to this pattern that so many men fell in to.
Well another day much the same. Rough water, the lines for chow, letters home and the card games. I along with all the others will be glad to reach our destination. Infantry training has not prepared us for this trip. 
December 30th
Well, finally the anticipation of this long journey from the States is almost over. Cramped quarters, bad food, hot below deck and too cold to stay on deck. Land ho. It seems it has been hours to get to port but being so busy with all the other ships trying to unload we all have to take our turn. Looks like another night on board. Tomorrow will be a great game of hurry up and wait. 

December 31st
We landed in Grenoch, Scotland it's mid-day, cold and damp. After getting all our gear together and assembling on the dock (hurry up and wait U.S. army style) we are loaded into trucks for a long ride to Southhampton in southern England.

We got an 8-hour pass. We are in Oxfordshire near the port of Southampton. This is the area that the 50th garrisoned for four months before crossing the channel for France. The people are very friendly to us. There is not much to do. Getting a meal, drinking in the pubs, walking around and talking to the locals. 

January 2nd 
Crossing the channel today. Well, I survived another ship ride. This trip was short, but the ship was quite a bit older and smaller. We are in La Harve France at a large tent city. Just one of the many camps here all named after cigarettes; looks like mine will be Camp Phillip Morris.
Thousands of men in squad tents all in rows with mud streets. Only thing to eat are Spam sandwiches. Spam on bread. Cold tents. Colder mud. The daily ration of coal for the tent stove was barely enough. Only enough heat to defrost the dirt floors so your cot would sink about 4 to 6 inches into the mud. We carry the coal in pails or our helmets. I have almost all of my clothes on at night to try to stay warm. My raincoat under me and a blanket over me. When you get up to go to the latrine you don't even buckle your boots and the jingle of the buckles can be heard all night long. I can only think of my family and home. The weather here is not what I expected and the conditions for all of us is poor at best. That is why they say war is hell I guess.

January 6th
Time to move out. Loading into a truck for the ride to the train yards. Oh great, now a train ride in no less than a boxcar. The 8/40 on the side of the boxcar meant 8 horses or 40 men. Well, the luxury is going down hill. I guess Paris is out of the question. Nobody knows where we are or where we are going. Cold and wet with lots of mud. Never this cold in Kentucky. I really miss my family.

Only a few short stops. I tried to swap some smokes for some bread. I really like my smokes but the bread is good. I have figured out who gets issued smokes and who doesn't smoke. They have been willing to give them up to me for free until now but they are getting smarter and only want to trade. Looks like they are also learning I am a decent card player and don't want to bet with me as much as before. 

January 10th
Look at the bombed and wrecked buildings. One building is just fine and the one next to it just ruined. Stopping at another camp, looks like we will be finally getting off the train. This stop I am told is our staging camp, our last camp before we move on to the front.
Where are we was the question for the day. Must not be hell because it's too cold. Never this cold in Kentucky. Most of the road signs have been removed by the Germans as they left an area to confuse or slow us down. Three days on a train, we could be anywhere. New Chateau just south of Metz looks like an old fort like from Napoleon times. Fort Koenig's is what we are told. Metz has many old forts around the city. People seem much more serious here. I feel more like an outsider with everybody around me but the fellows I came here with. Hot meal, another cleanup and an inside place to sleep. Boy, I really miss my family. I am told this is where we will be assigned our unit. Everybody going a different direction. Looks like four of us together are going to the Armored Infantry. They issued us a rifle and some ammunition this morning. Four of us along with about a dozen others we don't know. Damn, it's cold snow on the ground now, never was this cold in Kentucky.
Been on the move so much no time to write. Supplies are getting shorter. Only the necessities from here on. Getting a little nervous but being older has helped at every step. A lot of these boys are so young. Trucks are stopping again, looks like a small town. I hear my name, grab my things, off I go.
I remarked at how cold it felt. They told me before it got so cold the mud was just grand. In everything, from your shoes to your shorts.

I was told I would be going to the 50th Armored Infantry; they ride in half-tracks. Hmmm? Doesn't sound that bad. They did not tell me you walk ahead of it more than in it. Only a place to keep your gear.

January 11th
We loaded about ten deuce and a half trucks and started out towards the front. As our truck traveled out, the group got smaller. A short stop and a few got off, about half left now. Arrive late the last day of a battalion bivouac in a town called Bizorie, most here call it misery. This is where the much needed resting, maintenance and repair took place. The Sergeant barked, "We're short handed, you two there, you there." Then pointing to me, he said, "You there, what's your name." The other man replied, "John." The Sergeant snapped, "No your last name." The new replacement replied, "Bolender." When the Sergeant asked my name I was quick to reply, "Posey." My new squad, seven seasoned men, together since the beginning. Hope I can learn what they know. Maybe my few extra years of experience will help. "Listen up what I tell you, I only want to say it one time, that's your new home" he pointed. I looked at a dented, dirty, covered in mud, gear stuffed, halftrack.
I walked over and introduced myself. Sarge was telling the other new replacement, "Keep your head down kid and stick with one of us older guys and soon you'll be a combat vet like the rest of us." Another man in the squad was telling us both, "It's okay to be scared kid, you just joined the biggest club around." I was thinking back and they said there were about twelve men in a squad. Our squad, including myself, counted nine. I learned it would be soon and we would be at it again. Damn, it's cold, almost as cold as my reception, well, not quite that bad. Maybe I took the cold reception the wrong way. Nobody wants to get too close to the replacements, afraid that they might not be around long. 
As night fell we were able to have a semi hot meal cooked on a small squad stove. "New home," one man laughed, "You don't sleep in it, on it, or around it and you hardly ride in it, but you sure will learn to love it." I really miss my family. I listened a lot and did not talk much. Each man gave me a few tips as the evening went on and it was early to bed. In the distance I can hear the maintenance crews working and it is well past midnight. I could sense that something was coming and soon. Little did I know it would be before the morning. It is so cold I am beginning to think I am the only guy that can't take the cold. I got up and scrounge another blanket that was overlooked under some ammo cans behind the halftrack. Damn, there go the buckles on my boots again. We are supposed to remove our boots each night to let our feet dry out but I only loosen mine at the top. I'm sure not going to take a chance on making a run for it without shoes on, not a chance.

January 12th
Early start, about 3 AM, short trip going back to a spot previously occupied near Bizorie. Preparing to move east. Less than one hour later we reach the town of Magaret. A little town that sprawled across the main highway between Bastogne and the Luxembourg border. This road was very important to the Germans. Company B started clearing the town for the second time in two weeks. Fighting in town lasted all night. Our Company A passed through on the east to high ground just short of the woods in the morning. We were all in place by noon. We helped with the clean up - trying to get the last of the Germans out of Magaret. This movement battled long in to the night. Our Company used bazookas to take out the tanks of the Germans. Looks like it's going to be house to house. Our Company is taking the east side. This makes me very scared, any window, alley or opening can mean the end for you. I find myself counting the shots that I have made, eight rounds and out comes the clip (ping only the Garand rifle makes this distinct sound). It seems that I can load this rifle without even thinking even with all that is going on around me. The Germans know this sound and take any advantage they can from it. Sticking close to the walls and moving slow. Each passing opening seems to bring return fire from the Germans. We have lost two men from our squad and gained only one new man. Being scared or being cautious. I can't tell the difference. Only after a couple of days I am feeling how the others felt about new replacements. Here comes the dawn of a new day. I just realized that I have not slept or eaten in over 24 hours.
The battle for Magaret was fierce, house-to-house. The toll to our battalion was great. But it is too numerous to count what the toll was for the Germans. By mid morning we were moving to a point between Magaret and Bois St. Lambert just to the edge of the woods barely a half mile from Magaret.

January 14th
Moving through the woods to Bois St. Lambert was difficult, trees so thick. The trees here are planted in rows, not like home. Clearing the woods proved to be with little opposition. Small arms fire, very sporadic. A small break for us this night.
Digging in and a little food. The minutes pass like hours. All I am thinking about is my family. My hands and feet are so cold. I am very nervous. It's so quiet compared to the previous days. I feel like something will start at any second. I can hear off in the distance some fighting going on. It sounds like the famed 88's the Germans have (heavy artillery) you can see a slight glow on the horizon. Some poor bastards are getting it tonight. We are only about two miles from Bastogne and very close to the border of Luxemburg. A little food and a little sleep. I can't even imagine clean clothes or God forbid a hot shower. There is no comfort in war, only your little piece of hell. One man on watch with one napping. Can't get a good sleep between the nerves and the cold. There is not much difference between sleep and watch. I have to get very low into my hole to catch a smoke.
January 15th
Moving on towards another small town, Longvilly. Hardly two miles from where we were days before. The Krauts are into it again. Our Company pushed on to the east side, up the hill. Arriving just at daybreak we all dismounted and started walking along a small trail leading down towards a stream. "Alternate sides, keep your distance," the Sergeant said. We hadn't gone but a short distance before the mortars started. We have learned that the Germans had become very good at sending in shells with the 120mm mortar, it seemed to get through the trees better than the tank fire and the famous 88's. The noise was tremendous and the explosions seemed endless. First on the left, then behind me. Our small squad dashed for cover. If you were not in deep snow you were in a muddy spot. It was difficult to move. Men were falling. My breath became short and the cold air was thin, breathing was hard; my ears were hurting, only the faint yelling of my squad members. I kept moving forward. I looked ahead for some cover. My mind in a second deciding what looked safe and whether I should keep moving. Maybe I can run out from under it. Finally I decide on a spot. 

 

Bernard Paul Posey Killed In Action
10:30 January 15, 1945

You will hear it a thousand times.

I think my Dad was in the Battle of the Bulge.

Ask the questions, get the true story.

Keep the history alive.

Every day the story dies.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

John T. Posey for his effort to tell the story of his brother.  And to his research and fact-finding.

 

The family of Bernard Paul Posey for permission to do this story. Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Organization for the many endless questions answered by its members. 6th Armored website and Bruce Frederick for the information provided by him and all his members. Veterans and their families of the 50th AIB who have provided information, photos and stories. 2nd Ranger Battalion Fox Company Southeast Re-enactors for the every day comments and re-enactments of squad life.
 
To the many friends who have helped by answering posed questions and their help with layout and grammar. 
This story was written by John Bolender jjbolender@aol.com.
Military Collector - 50th AIB Historian – Military Vehicle Collector – World War II Re-Enactor 2nd Ranger Battalion