Pfc. EDWIN E. HEBB

B Company, 245th Engineer Combat Battalion

 

Ed Hebb [Framingham, Massachusetts] was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort Devens, Mass on November 9, 1943.  He was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi and assigned to the 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, B Company, 245th Eng. Combat Battalion.  In January, 1945 Ed was promoted to PFC.  His U.S. Model M-1 Garand Rifle was serial number 2089631.  Sometime in late January 1945, Ed’s picture was taken by the battalion photographer while cleaning his mess kit at the B Company chow line at a chateau near St. Lucien, France. 

 

The following narrative is Ed’s own account of the events that occurred when he was seriously wounded by an S-Mine or "Bouncing Betty" near Fremersdorf, Germany the night of February 13-14, 1945:

     “After dark, a group from the 1st Platoon was trucked up to the front on the west side of the Saar River.  Merzig and Saarlautern are on the east side, where the Germans were in their Siegfried Line pillboxes.  Weather: not bad, perhaps 40 degrees, sky overcast, snow had melted.  No other friendly units were in the area, except for some men holding a village on our side with armored tank destroyers, I believe.

     A pair of masonry pedestals blocked access to the two lane concrete highway that ran alongside the Saar River.  We were told to dig out the centers of them, fill them with 50lbs of TNT packets, and ready them for demolition.  We dug away.  After a bit, the enemy heard the digging, and opened up with a machine gun in our direction.  They could not see us, so they missed us by at least 150 feet, but I will never forget those tracer bullets streaking through the night.  The American response was to open up with artillery and shell the positions that they had already zeroed in.  Each time a shell whistled overhead and exploded, I grabbed my helmet as if I could cram my whole body into it.

     We had hit the dirt, but soon I heard the other guys working on their pedestal again, so I went up and completed the digging and loading of the TNT.  I attached some Primacord to the latter, and left it hanging outside for the attachment of a time fuse later.

     After my racing pulse settled down, I joined a detail that was checking the concrete highway for mines.  We swung the mine detectors for about three miles, but found nothing.  At a point where a single lane, dirt road turned away from the river, we followed it, encountering a knocked out enemy vehicle, about the size of a pickup truck, blocking the lane.  I went around to the far side of it, but somebody behind me stepped on an S-Mine.   That caused a good bit of trouble, including the wounding of Lt. Oler, our platoon leader. [Lt. Robert A. Oler]

     This left me on the front side of the vehicle, with an escort soldier from the tank destroyer detachment, who had caught a mine pellet in his lung, and another soldier, unknown to me at this time.  Someone then went up the lane to round up some medics.  I put the bandage from my first aid kit over the hole in the wounded soldier’s lung.  We sat with him for about an hour, when I saw flashlights in the woods ahead.  I told them I would go and meet the medics and direct them to us.  But first I went to pick up my M-1, lying a few steps away.  I never got to it.  My right foot hit another S-Mine.  Now flat on my back, unable to crawl, my first thought was “Damn, another casualty.”  Fortunately, the timer on the mine was defective, so that instead of exploding a few feet above ground, it had gone up only a foot or so before bursting, catching me mostly in the lower legs.

     The medics picked us up and carried us to their ambulance, which was a halftrack.  I asked for and received a shot of morphine for the pain.  They drove us to an aid station.  On the way, I noted that the halftrack had a nice soft ride, unlike the normal G.I. truck [6x6].  Years later, I realized that it was fortunate that I stepped on the second mine when I did, otherwise there would have been multiple casualties among the medics.

     From the aid station, I was taken to an evacuation hospital at Thionville, then on to Paris via a C-47 aircraft that was filled with litters, one of which held Lt. Oler.  I was surprised to read in the battalion history that he was returned to duty a few months later.  From Paris, a train took me to Cherbourg, and from there a hospital ship to England.  After several weeks there and receiving 13 or 14 pints of blood, I was shipped back to the U.S.A., ending up at the hospital at Fort Devens. 

     About a year and a half after my first stop at Devens, I went through the same clothing line to get a new uniform.  Next was recovery from hepatitis, and three months rehabilitation on Cape Cod.  Finally, on December 3, 1945, I was walking quite well again, and was discharged.

     Today I am among the old soldiers that are fading away in numbers, but I am in pretty good health at 84 years.”

 

Edwin E. Hebb

Dearborn, Michigan

March 4, 2009