Roy Denman: My Army Service in WW II  
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 Frank Kotoski: A Brief Battle, A Long Day

6th AD patch

S/Sgt. Hubert C. Grimes, 
Trains Recon

as recounted by son Joe Grimes
Copyright  ©  1998, Joe Grimes. All rights reserved.


S/Sgt. Hubert C. Grimes was the Reconnaissance Platoon Sergeant for Division trains, and he preceded them as they moved across Europe. He was a modest man who didn't talk much about his war experiences, but after he died, son Joe began to put the pieces of his story together. In the story that follows, Joe presents the formal citations for S/Sgt Grimes' decorations, followed by the stories behind the decorations.

A Silver Star for "Directing Traffic"

For gallantry in action in the vicinity of Avranches, France, on August
1, 1944.  In the face of enemy strafing, Staff Sergeant Grimes placed
himself in an exposed position and successfully directed the deployment
of the Division Trains.  At Plouvien, France, on 8 August, 1944, as
reconnaissance non-commissioned officer he made vigorous mounted and
dismounted reconnaissance against enemy sniper and machine gun fire, to
deploy vulnerable gasoline and ammunition trains during an enemy
counter-attack.  His leadership and unhesitating courage have been a
constant inspiration to his platoon.

Now for the story behind the Silver Star......dealing with the bridge at Avranches.

A little background first.  Dad was a truly modest man, who never felt as if he had done anything other than his "job".  The recognition of his awards, while nice, always seemed to make him a bit embarrassed or uncomfortable.  From the time that I was a child, I would ask him about what he had done that warranted a Silver Star, and all he would ever say is that he was "directing traffic"....nothing more, nothing less. Obviously, this honor had to involve more than being a traffic cop, but he went to his grave without ever telling the story behind it.

I was visiting on the telephone recently with Clint Humphries, who was the Comm. Chief for Div. Trains, as well as a very close friend of Dad. I asked him about Avranches, and he remembered it vividly.

Division Trains had a large convoy of over 100 trucks loaded with artillery munitions that was being moved across the bridge just outside of Avranches during the night.  The Germans detected this movement, and sent a large number of aircraft to attack with bombs as well as strafing runs, hoping to knock out this vital supply.

The lead vehicle stopped at the far end of the bridge for unknown reasons, and it's crew abandoned it, blocking the bridge completely. Dad went to the front of the convoy, and had a half-track push the truck off of the road, and stood at the end of the bridge, giving orders and encouragement to the remaining vehicles in order to get all of them across the bridge before the Germans could make a successful strike.  It is obvious that any successful hit on any one of the trucks would have resulted not only in a severe loss of needed supplies, but also the physical loss of the bridge as well as numerous lives, given the fact that the trucks were carrying a highly explosive payload.

And to think that he called this "directing traffic".

A Bronze Star of Humor and Tragedy

For meritorious service in connection with military operations against
an enemy of the United States in Avranches, Plouvien, and Bastogne
during the period 28 July 1944 to 15 February 1945.  As Reconnaissance
Platoon Sergeant, he demonstrated outstanding ability and unusual
devotion to duty.  On many occasions he went forward over
unreconnoitered routes and into questionable territory while making road
and bivouac reconnaissances.  On one occasion, he encountered enemy held
positions and although he had only small arms at his disposal,
successfully wiped out the position.

The story behind the last sentence of this warrant is unique in that in retrospect, the first part is humorous, while the end of the story is tragic and unfortunate.  However, things happen in war that are not pretty.  Hopefully, the reader will gain an understanding of what our brave men had to deal with at times, rather than condemn them for their necessary actions.

This occurred in the dead of winter, and in order to stay warm, the men all wore many layers of clothing - to the point that there were several inches of these layers that surrounded them.  Dad was on a reconnaissance mission with several of his men for Division Trains.  At one point, they came across a 2 story farm house.  As can be expected, it was necessary for them to check it out, determine any possible usefulness, and move on with their mission.  As they came close to the house, machine gun fire erupted from the upstairs corner of it.  They all took cover, and found themselves completely pinned down, as the gunner was a definite marksman.

Dad managed to break free from his cover, and planned on entering the house through the front door in order to mount an attack on the machine gun nest.  What he did not know was that the house was constructed in such a way that the stairwell leading upstairs was directly in line with the front door.  He crashed through the front door, and was immediately thrown back outside from the impact of a bullet - there had been a German at the top of the stairs waiting for someone to try to enter as he did.  He always grinned when he told this part of the story, as he could say that he had been shot without being hit.  The bullet had hit him in the side, and passed clean through the layers of clothing, exiting out the back.  He wasn't even scratched, however, he was shaken up a little having been knocked back outside by the velocity of the bullet passing through his clothing - not to mention being rudely reminded of his own mortality.

This is where the tale takes a tragic turn.  Realizing that immediate action was necessary in order to save himself and his troops, and that a "traditional" assault was not likely to be successful, he chose to put a phosphorous grenade to use.  Apparently, the phosphorous ignited the house very rapidly, precluding an escape by the German troops.  They all died in the fire, and as these men watched helplessly, they realized that it was Hitler Youth who had been so successful at arming the machine gun.

Miscellaneous Stories: The humorous, the amazing, and the interesting

A few more quick stories.  One is humorous....the second absolutely amazing....the third an
interesting note in history.

First the humorous...

Dad used to laugh about the time that he "got a ticket for taking a xxxx".  It seems that there was a policy that vehicles could not be left unattended any time they were outside of a bivouac area.  Dad was alone in his jeep, traveling from somewhere to wherever, when nature called. He did his best, but eventually realized that there wasn't any possibility that he would make it to a secured location before having a most undesirable accident.  He pulled to the side of the road, and jumped over the short wall that was there, and answered the call. Unfortunately, while he was in a somewhat compromising position, two 6th Armored MPs arrived, and were less than understanding of his predicament - and gave him a ticket for leaving his jeep unattended.

The amazing.......

Dad had been on an extended mission with his Division Trains Recon Platoon, resulting in them being awake non-stop for almost a week.  They finally were able to stand down and get some greatly needed sleep. There was a short wall running parallel to the road that they had been traveling, and his men simply climbed over it, and went to sleep against the opposite side of it.  There was a beautiful meadow there, with a huge shade tree not far away, and being an Indiana farm boy, Dad decided that that was where he would get some rest.  Keep in mind, this was a beautiful meadow when they all went to sleep.  When they awoke, they found themselves completely surrounded by craters.  An artillery barrage had been placed right on top of them, origins unknown, and they all had slept through it.  To top it off, no one had so much as a scratch or a new hole or tear in their uniform!

The interesting note in history.........

I have the .45 that Dad carried with him at the end of the war.  When I was young and first had an interest in it, he proudly showed me a unique little cross that is stamped into the trigger guard and told me that it was a German property marking.  Even though I was young, I knew that Germans would NOT be carrying a weapon stamped M1911A1 U.S. Government Property, and asked him how that could be.  He simply said that he got it off of a dead German, and would never elaborate.

Thanks to Clint Humphries, the Comm Chief for Division Trains, I now know the rest of the story.

Dad and his Lieutenant were traveling in the area of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.  They came to a fork in the road that had two 6th Armored MP's on duty.  Dad started to go in one direction, and they stopped him, informing him that he should go the other way.  An argument ensued, and the Lieutenant finally interrupted him, saying that the MP's MUST know what they were talking about, and ordered him to go that direction.  Having been in the Army for 9 years at that point, he knew he had no choice but to follow orders.

They traveled less than a mile, and were ambushed.  Dad managed to turn the jeep around and escape before either of them were injured, and headed back for the fork in the road.  It turned out that the two "MP's" were actually part of the elite German group that had American uniforms and spoke fluent English with no accent whatsoever.  The make-believe MP's were rapidly dispatched, and thus, he got it off of a dead German.

As an interesting side note, I had the pleasure of using this same weapon to qualify at the pistol range while I was in the Marines.  Dad proudly gave this heirloom to me when I got home from boot camp, and I had used it many times myself.  On the day that I was to qualify, I was given a standard issue .45 for practice in the morning and was to fire for qualification in the afternoon.  The weapon they provided was absolute junk, and I knew that I would be better off throwing the bullets at the target.  The company armorer was a good friend, and I got him to agree to let me use this one after he had inspected it.  I qualified high expert that afternoon, and to this day, it is capable of hitting a 6 inch bulls eye at 50 yards.....not bad, considering the fact that the maximum effective range for the .45 is only 42 yards!

Roy Denman: My Army Service in WW II 
Table of Contents 
 Frank Kotoski: A Brief Battle, A Long Day

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