By Kevin M. Hymel

What was it like to come to grips with the enemy, to fight and survive combat? For each men, the experience was different; for many, it was almost impossible to relate to those behind the lines or an ocean away. In an effort to better understand the human condition in combat, the U.S. Army asked a few soldiers who had just experienced their baptisms by fire against the Germans to offer a few words about their ordeal.

On March 3, 1944, several soldiers of the 69th Infantry Division, who had just dueled with the Germans on the Siegfried Line, were asked to explain what they thought of their first time under fire. Their answers were varied and insightful; but despite their best efforts, these men could not completely convey the essence of the combat experience to those who had not been there.

Private Raymond L. Roth
“I was scared to death.”
—Private Raymond L. Roth
S.Sgt Alexander Walegir
“I didn’t have much time to think; being a squad leader kept me busy.”
—S.Sgt Alexander Walegir
Private Fred I. Green
“It was different from anything I ever saw.”
—Private Fred I. Green
Pfc. Robert M. Sokoloff
“I was pretty busy. I hate those screaming meemies.”
—Pfc. Robert M. Sokoloff
S.Sgt Aloysius Ruthoviski
“Didn’t mind the small arms fire, but damn that mortar and artillery fire.”
—S.Sgt Aloysius Ruthoviski
Pfc. Willey E. Thompson
“I prayed like I never prayed before.”
—Pfc. Willey E. Thompson
Private Harold R. Sprang
—Private Harold R. Sprang
Private James B. Gray
“Cold weather was the worst part of it all.”
—Private James B. Gray
Private Charles D. Doriocourt
“The weather really was the worst part.”
—Private Charles D. Doriocourt
Pfc. Earl W. Higgins
“I just thought of my wife and kid through it all.”
—Pfc. Earl W. Higgins

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