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Brightwood Boys, The History of the Men from the North End of
Springfield, Massachusetts, During World War II
by Christopher P. Montagna

The Battle Of The Bulge


On December 16, 1944, the Germans launched a surprise offensive through the Ardennes Forest which caught the Allies completely by surprise. To help reinforce the siege at Bastogne Alexander Samol and the men of the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division was committed to combat.  From December 23 to 25, elements of the Division were flown to the Reims area in France and then traveled by truck to Belgium.  Upon arriving the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment and the other elements of the 17th Airborne Division were attached to Patton's Third U.S. Army and ordered to immediately close in at Mourmelon. After taking over the defense of the Meuse River sector from Givet to Verdun on December 25, 1945.

On Christmas night 1944, Sherwood Diamond and the 345th were on the road, destination unknown.  Throughout the night, the Regiment traveled across France.  Their final destination was Moricy, Belgium.  The next day, Joe Montagna and the men of the 277th departed Le Havre.  The roads were rough and the men slept as best they could and later that day arrived at the Red Horse Assembly Area located at Gourney, France.  The men felled trees and set fires to warm themselves. 


As New Year’s Eve approached, Joe Montagna and the men of the 277th Combat Engineer Battalion wondered what the New Year would bring for themselves and the war.   On the eve of 1945, the Red Horse Assembly area was bright with fires and songs poured forth as men hoped that the New Year would see the war’s end. 


On December 29, the 345th arrived in the enemy held town of Moricy.  At 6:00 am the elements of the 345th, including Sherwood’s first battalion, Company “B” began the attack.  Within hours the Battalion encountered enemy fire as they approached the strongly fortified town of Moricy.  Throughout the day, Shed Diamond’s company participated in heavy fighting with German troops.  The fighting in and around Moricy continued through the cold snowy weather until the town was secured on December 31, 1944.  Shed Diamond and the men of the 345th Infantry Regiment spent New Year’s Eve of 1945 around the Belgium city of Rondu.  Pvt Sherwood Diamond was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge for his participation in the battle of Moricy. 


After marching through the snow, Alexander Samol and his regiment arrived in Morhet on January 3, 1945 and relieved the 28th Infantry.  In the ensuing days, Alexander Samol and the men of the 194th GIR would endure heavy fighting as the regiment battled for control of Flamierge, where the 11th Armored and the 87th Infantry Divisions had encountered brutal resistance from the Germans. The 194th was hit hard and along with the 17th Airborne's two glider regiments sustained heavy casualties but they gallantly achieved their objectives.


While Joe Montagna and the 277th Combat Engineer Battalion loaded up their trucks and traveled further east, the 345th spent January 2, 1945 cleaning and checking equipment and weapons.  The 277th battalion thought their next destination would be Gelpern.   As they traveled, the men began to realize that the signs were no longer written in French, but in German.  The unit arrived in Aachen, Germany at 1800 hours on January 4, 1945.  Three months before, Aachen became the first city on German soil to be breached by Allied forces.  On October 22, 1944, personnel from the 9th Army breached the defenses at Aachen.  The invasion of the Motherland was an affront to Adolph Hitler, who ordered the defenders at Aachen to hold the city at all cost.  The battle of Aachen lasted twenty-one days at the cost of 5,000 Allied and 5,000 German casualties.  With a foothold in Germany, the allied forces began their offensive into the heart of the Third Reich.


In Aachen, the 277th Combat Engineer Battalion was attached to the 1142nd Engineer Combat Group and located in the bombed out Aachenwald Hotel.  The 277th was assigned an area to perform all engineer work to maintain the Allied supplies lines.  The unit’s main task was bridge building and road maintenance.  During the period from Jan 4 to Jan 15, 1945 ice control was of primary importance and the situation was aggravated by almost daily sleet and snowstorms.  The battalion constructed two snowplows to remedy the situation.  Companies of the 277th operated on a 24-hour basis.  The unit experimented with different methods of ice and snow removal. The actions of the 277th allowed access necessary for the “Red Ball” trucks to supply the advancing Allied troops.


Aachen, GermanyThe 277th was also given the mission of demolishing pillboxes and troop shelters on the Siegfried line.  Prior to destruction, personnel search the billets. Within the billets the men found German coins, flags, armbands and other souvenirs. 


On Jan 4, 1945 Joe Montagna and the 277th Combat Engineer Battalion was called to take-up arms at the Roer River.  That morning Major Swickward called members to the hotel lobby and informed the men they were now an infantry unit.  The 277th was released from the 1142nd ECG and attached to XIII Corps and 102nd Division as infantry troops.  All engineer equipment and supplies were left in the rear echelon.  On January 15, the unit was transferred to Welz, Germany along the banks of the Roer River, where the 277th’s mission was to relieve the 36th Cavalry Recon Squadron and maintain active defense of a 3,000-yard line along the Roer River, Germany from Flossdorf to Linnich.  Their new homes were existing foxholes left behind by members of the 101st and 102nd Infantry Divisions.  The snow was waist deep and each foxhole contained a small stove. 


Not having the firepower of an infantry unit the 277th requested mortars and were able to secure ten 60mm mortars.  Former infantrymen in the unit were able to train mortar crews within a few hours training.  The crews, although slow, were able to put down accurate fire.  Throughout the night the men of the 277th were subjected to sporadic mortar and small arms fire.  However the enemy rounds fell short and the 277th suffered no casualties.


On January 27, 1945 the 277th Combat Engineers were relieved of responsibility on the defense of its assigned sector and released from the 102nd division and the unit was transferred to Elderin, Germany.  On Jan 28, the 277th returned to Aachen and was attached to the 1143rd ECG.  The Unit moved to Glons, Belgium on Jan 30th, where Company C was located at Groote-Spauwen.  Company “C” took over from the 554th Heavy Pontoon Battalion the operation of cutting and hauling logs for thirteen saw mills for lumber needed for the pending Rhine River crossing.


With the end of the Bulge, Alexander Samol and the men of the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment returned to camp at Chalons-sur-Marne in France on February 11, 1945 then traveled back to Belgium on  March 21,1945 to prepare for the air assault across the Rhine River.