March Order, M15 and Crew
Btty. A., 467th. AAA Bn (SP), USA
Overlooking Bastogne about December 27, 1944
We are waiting to fall into a column of our battery. Unbelievable but right after this picture was taken a flight of P47s flew over us at about 100 feet elevation - moving from left to right in this picture - and attacked a column of German tanks heading right towards us. This was the reason for our March Order. But we knew nothing of this until we observed the large German tanks being attacked.
I'm the person standing on the far left. The man standing at the door of the cab is Henry Ayala. The man squatting with his canteen cup with coffee was Frank Furey. Frank Bartalemeo and Raymond Bullock are sitting around. Of all only Ayala and I are alive. Note the Armored Division Insignia on a couple of the men. They were from the 4th Armored Division we were a part of at the time.
This Halftrack had plenty of fire power, the 37 automatic cannon could fire at the rate of 120 per minute. The two 50 cal machine guns could chew up anything we aimed at, except the German tanks. The turrett could traverse 360 degrees, though when we got to the cab we would have the guns pointed over the cab. There were about 6 inches of armor that were hinged all around the cab and could be dropped. There were panels in front of the guns that were hinged and we could lower them so we could fire on ground targets. The windshield armor was on hinges and could be brought down to cover the windshield with enough of an opening to see to drive. I say armor with a smile. a 22 cal. bullet could pierce that armor. It sometimes could stop some shrapnel. The pile atop the hood is our barracks bags. This is how we stowed our gear. A few weeks after this picture was snapped we were finally issued trailers. If you recall my story of D-Day, I tell because of the pile of our gear we couldn't shoot in that direction. Without the bags we could shoot over the cab past 45 degrees.
We had just received a march order and we weren't finished packing. That is an M1 rifle leaning against the rear of the M15. The cans at the fender and rear are what we called jerry cans. We carried both water and gas in them. In England we welded many extra spaces for the cans. I was reading my maps of the area. I think what the others were reading were copies of The Stars and Stripes. These papers were dropped off any time our platoon CP got them delivered. Coffee was brewing. As armored troops we had pots, pans and a coleman Gas operated stove. This was standard on all armor: Tanks, Halftracks, ETC. This scene might suggest some disorder and our not paying attention, but this is only a second of time frozen. Some of the men just sat for the camera and note that much had been packed away and we were almost ready to move out. Coffee was started as soon as we were in position and spilled as soon as we left. It was Cold out there.
My squad 2 is somewhere about 200 yards away also packing up. Those 4th armored Division guys were tankers whose tank was nearby. By the way, we could see Bastogne from that position. Looking down and ahead with your back on the front bumper you could see Bastogne. We were on a hill and we saw Bastogne clearly. At that time there was a narrow route to Bastogne open. Traveling that route was at your own risk. I think the night before Bastogne had a severe air raid. The Germans really plastered the place. The picture was taken the 27th Maybe the bombing was Christmas night, not Christmas eve. After a while our CP was located in Bastogne after the route in was considerably wider. I might mention that in the area where the picture was taken we came across the barrack bags of a unit of the 82 Airborne Division. They had obviously been opened by the Germans who littered the entire area with the contents of those bags. This was a battlefield alright. That night as I recall we found an unoccupied barn and we slept there. We almost froze to death. We continued the 2 hrs. on and 4 hrs off guard. We were ordered not to fire AA. The next morning as I was decending from the barn, we slept on the upper level, A guard, or MP in the Area went around shouting. WATCH OUT! General Patten is coming through. We looked like hell and I wasn't in the mood to be chewed out. So I gathered my section and got the hell out of that area. After a while I went back and we never saw Patton. WHEW!
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