My father, Walter E Scribner, Jr. (1922-1971), entered the military in 1943. He sailed across the Atlantic in the fall of 1944, and landed, with his division, the 100th (known as the Century Division) in Marseilles, France in late October, 1944.
Based on the chronicles of the Century Division, and his regiment, the 397th, plus his war diary, he entered combat in November 1944. He participated in the Vosges Mountain campaigns, was part of the contingent that captured the Bitche Citadel (and he became a lifetime member of the famous “Sons of Bitche“) and participated in other actions in France and Germany.
As 1944 drew to a close, Hitler launched the Ardennes Counteroffensive, which became known as the Battle of the Bulge. However, his last major offensive, not discussed much in the history books, was Operation Nordwind, what has become known as the Second Battle of the Bulge…It’s objective – divert attention from his attack in the Ardennes, hoping to draw Patton’s US 3rd Army away from the Ardennes theater. They made an attempt to cut off several divisions, including the 100th. Dad participated in this battle to stop the Nazis in their tracks. On December 30, he participated in a counter-offensive in Beitveiler, France, near the German border, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star.
His war diary has scant entries during this time. I know from family members that conditions were brutal. He lost a best friend in battle. After the war, my mother told me he would wake up in the middle of the night, remembering some of the horrors. The war became close and personal – hand to hand combat – included. In January 1945, he developed hepatitis and was evacuated to a hospital for several months in France. We all believe this may have saved him, as he did not go back into action for several months.
After the war ended in Europe in May 1945, he served as part of the occupation army. I remember him telling me that he at one point, as a corporal, was put in charge of 200 Polish prisoners of war. I did not understand the context of this until many years later, when I read that many Poles had been conscripted into the German Army, at gunpoint for all intents and purposes, after Poland fell in September 1939. He also told me that they were not sure if they would be called on to participate in the invasion of Japan…I believe there were 3 tense months for his division before the atomic bombs were dropped in August of that year, to end the war in the Pacific.
Dad returned to the States in February 1946, his service to his country concluded. After the troop ship landed in New York’s harbor, he took a train home to Baltimore. My aunt, his little sister, told me a great story, about him walking through the door of my grandparents house on Pulaski Street in Baltimore the day he got home. I like to imagine what that felt like for his parents, my grandparents, that day…they were so lucky to get him home. And, likewise, so was I…