Arendt, Laurie (ed.) / Back from duty 2 : more stories from Ozaukee County's veterans
[Profiles], pp. 11-148 ff.
Charles Asherman As told to Mark Jaeger Served in the Battle of the Bulge Charles Asherman grew up in Chicago and had just started the foundation for his career in engineering at Chicago Junior College when he was drafted into the Army in March 1943. After basic training he found himself back in the classroom studying pre-engineering, courtesy of the Army this time at Penn State University. That set the stage for his tour of duty in Europe. He served from March 1943 to December 1945. I started with the 65th Infantry Division in Camp Shelby, Miss. I was inducted as a radio operator and was then transferred to serve on a reconnaissance unit with the 87th Infantry Division. I didn't even know how to spell reconnaissance, but I was assigned to the unit. The nickname of our unit was the Golden Acorns, and the insignia patch had this acorn on it. It was the ugliest looking thing. We just called ourselves The Nuts. I was all boxing gloves when it came to being a radio operator, but I still remember Morse code. We sent messages straight at the time, nothing was scrambled. We landed in north France in September 1944. We went in as a total combat unit, although we had a lot to learn. There was a lot of on-the-job training, if you know what I mean. The job of the recon unit was to find the enemy, so we were often in front of the front lines. We were a mobile unit rather than an infantry unit. Often we would find the enemy at the same time they would find us. You developed an intuition that tells you when not to fire, when you don't want to stir up a hornets' nest. We started in Metz, an old town surrounded by five forts. From there we were sent directly to Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, although we didn't know it. We thought were going to get a chance to recuperate, but all of a sudden we found ourselves in combat. There was a lot of confusion and we didn't even have time for our Christmas dinner. It was hard to find the line of demarcation between the sides. One time we were out on patrol and we came across one of our artillery units with no one else around. It was very confusing. Charles served as a radio operator with the Sometimes the only way to tell what was really going on was to wait Golden Acorns - aka "The Nuts"- during World and read about it in Stars and Stripes. War II. I remember it was the coldest weather I had ever experienced. My feet were always cold, and trench foot was running rampant. I would look enviously at the geese we would see on the farms, because I knew at least they were enjoying the wet weather. While in Belgium, we were taken in by a group of nuns who hid us from a German patrol. We hid under some straw in a basement, and after the Germans left the nuns came and served us Belgian waffles. God, they were good! My unit moved east through Luxembourg, when I got burned by a piece of flying shrapnel. I never ended up getting a Purple Heart, however, because I was treated for pneumonia at the same time and that was all they put down on my record. I did receive the Bronze Star for valor, but I don't really know why they gave it to me. I wasn't going to turn it down. Eventually, I rejoined the 87th on the Siegfried Line, which was lined with pill boxes and underground rail lines the Germans used to transport troops and supplies. By the time we arrived, it was sort of a mop-up operation for our unit, preventive maintenance you might say. We kept heading east and got to Koblenz, the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. It was springtime, and I remember thinking it was the first time I saw anything that looked beautiful, like there wasn't a war at all. After we crossed the Rhine, we kept heading east. When we got to the Czech border a month before the war with Germany ended. We were told we weren't allowed to go any farther. I never did see any Russian soldiers, but when the armistice was signed the German soldiers came out from all over to surrender to us. Our officers won- dered what they were going to do with them all. My unit was assigned to occupy the town of Plaussen. Because I took four years of German in high school, I was asked to listen to conversations between the prisoners, although I couldn't pick up much of what they were saying. Eventually, we pulled back to northern France and in June of 1945 we were sent back to the States. My division was decommissioned and I ended with duty at Fort Bragg, N.C. as one of the fierce warriors of the accounting department. After I was discharged, I returned to study metallurgical engineering at the University of Illinois. Charles Asherman died on July 17, 2005. 16 BACK FROM DUTT:2
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