Herbert  J. ''Herb'' Suerth   -   ''Junior''
Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR, 101st AB

Herb Suerth enlisted at November 11th, 1942, at the age of 18 as a volunteer for the reserve engineer corps while he wanted to become a mechanical engineer. In March 1944, he joined the service at Fort Ballfort for basic training. Herb arrived in England in early July 1944, and he was still an engineering replacement. He was expected to be assigned to an engineers corps or a construction battalion. He and his friend Chase overheard some guys of their company talking about faking illnesses or shooting their toes off so they got themselves transferred asap.
When Herb and his friend sat in the bar they said to each other: ''When we stay in this unit we will be the only ones fighting, we better try to get out of this outfit if we can''. A couple of days later they heard that the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division were coming over to recruit. They already knew that these were outfits that were going to make their mark in WWII. They decided: ''if we are going to be with an outfit to fight with, we want to be with one where the rest of the people are doing the same things as we are''. They went to their commander and told him they wanted to volunteer. Their commander said that it wasn’t possible because they were service forces and the 101st was looking for infantry ground forces so it was simply not possible.
The following Monday morning, they were called for a special meeting and the colonel told all the replacements that from this morning they were all infantry replacements. For Herb and his friend this was the ticket to assign to the Airborne. Chase ended up in the 82nd and Herb in the 101st. Herb began jump school training in August 1944, and captain Sobel headed this school.
September 17 came and he hadn’t finished his jump school training yet so he missed Operation Market-Garden in Holland. A couple of days later he made his jumps and got his jump wings and 101st patch. A few days after Thanksgiving they were sent out to the continent. The first time they had to come back while the weather was too bad to land. A few days later they made it to the area of Reims, France. Within a couple of hours after landing they stood in front of a group of officers and that was the first time Herb met Lt. Shames who was platoon leader of 3rd platoon of the 506th PIR, E-Company. He looked at Herb and said: ''Okay I pick this one'' so Herb Suerth became an E-Company member.
He still remembers his first evening with the 101st. He asked some guys where he could find the latrine so they showed him the directions. He ended up in a typical French latrine with 2 holes in the floor and a set of footprints to keep your feet dry. Next to that there was some kind of a basin but it was rather dark. Herb relieved himself and was just finished, zipping his pants, when another guy came in him. At that moment this guy starts to wash his face in the same basin where Herb relieved himself in a few seconds earlier. ''Thank god he didn’t see me!'' Herb recalled “ when that happened I’m sure I ended up dead''.
When he came back in the barracks he noticed that the men of 3rd platoon were very quiet. He realized that these guys had been living in death and destruction and lost some buddies in the last 102 days. They were not ready to welcome new people into their outfit. These men all trained together since early 1942, and they were not really ready to begin to take other people into their group.
Herb was introduced as Herbert J. Suerth Junior so his nickname became ''Junior''. Everybody had nicknames like One Lung McClung, No Shoulders Mellet, Popeye Wynn. The nicknames were important when we crawled in the dark and asked: ''who is that''. We used our nicknames so we were sure there were no Germans.
The training continued and they got re-supplied. After 72 days on the lines the gear was not complete anymore. It wasn’t a big problem in Holland while the weather there was nice fall weather. Heading up Christmas it was getting worse in France, constant rain, a lot of mud but not too cold. Around December 15, 1944, their platoon leader came in and said ''Men we are going to leave, we are going back up to the lines next Monday, get your combat gear ready. Take everything you need because there is a breaktrough and we are not sure what happened''. Half of the platoon was on leave in Reims and Paris and the MP had their hands full with gathering the troops to get them sobered up. Nobody believed that they really had to go because they just got back from the lines less than 2 weeks ago.

No one really talked about what kind of weather we were heading up and got prepared.” Herb recalled: “I was on maneuvers a year before in the mountains and I knew that those army sleeping bags were no good for sleeping in when it gets below 10-15 below zero. So I started to wind it with extra blankets and the guys said to me: “Junior what are you doing.” I explained them why I did that and told them what I knew about the weather in France and most of them started winding blankets around their sleeping bags as well. That moment was a mark for me. I gained a lot of respect from the guys and they started to know me as a guy who was thinking ahead.” A lot of guys didn’t have their equipment, we had a couple of extra socks but most of us didn’t even have boots.
The following Monday we left and headed for Bastogne by truck. “The ride up there was miserable, we had to stand up, we were just a bunch of sardines in a can. We came close to the mainland of resistance. We heard small arms fire and suddenly E-Company came alive in a way I had never seen, they started to run, orders were shouted and the men transferred into combat machines. Everyone knew what to do. I watched it and I couldn’t believe what I saw. We slept in a haystack, 3 o’clock in the morning a shell took off the top of the haystack to blow up next to us. Everybody got out of the haystack and suddenly one of the guys went running by. It was Skinny Sisk. Skinny ran by us, he ran by for the second time and when he ran by for the third time somebody asked him “My god Skinny what are you doing.'' ''Getting to the other side of the haystack''. It appeared that he was sleepwalking. Most of the guys were not physically and mentally recovered.''
The next day E-Company headed to Foy. ''The company was not at full strength; instead of 130 men we had about 105 so we had to spread our lines. We dug our own holes. I dug together with Frank Soboleski and he covered the hole. We didn’t have that so-called foxhole buddy. The next morning we noticed that we were cut off. 39 years later I came back to the woods and I found that hole I dug on December 19th, 1944. It was only 10 inches deep but there it was, at the same position I was at in 1944.''
Bastogne was catching hell, attacked by heavy fire and buzz bombs. Hell broke loose when a shell hit the top of the pine trees and a German tank started firing shells. E-Company sat in a highly concentrated area of 506th infantrymen with the capability to stop the attack very quickly. The snow was cumulating to 20 ft. They finally found a bunch of gunnysacks that were used together with pine needles to keep their feet dry and warm. ''I put my wet socks in my helmet and my combat jacket so the body heat could dry my socks. By doing this I could change my socks a couple of times a day and that kept my feet dry''. Herb remembers that they headed up to Foy. Shifty Powers and Hank Zimmerman went on a small patrol to check out the area. When they came back a little while later McClung took off alone. It appears that he went on a sniper hunt. ''Mac did this all the time before we had to go out on manoeuvres. He was the best combat soldier ever; nobody was better with a rifle than he was. Now I understood why everybody wanted to polish his shoes and press his pants.''
''Circumstances got worse, ammunition was low, food was low, supplies of all kind were low and of course gasoline, what didn’t make much of a difference because there wasn’t much to go to while we were surrounded in a perimeter of 2 miles across with an estimate of 10 German divisions around us. If the Germans had come up to us, we never would have been able to hold the line, but they never did so we rewrote WWII history up there''.


They had been ordered to get out of their positions away from Foy to make a sweep on the other side of the elevated road to get out of Foy through the woods. “A couple of men from the platoon went ahead while some others were digging a big hole. It was a big hole for 4 people and that night was one of the coldest below –20F. “We had no sleeping bags with us, only our heavy overcoats. To keep ourselves warm 2 of us laid down on the bottom of the hole and the other 2 lay on top of us. We rotated every half-hour. It was not very comfortable but it kept us warm a little bit. The reason we didn’t have sleeping bags was because the truck that was supposed to bring up our equipment drove on 3 anti tank mines and blew up completely. The explosion was so heavy that there was a helmet of one of the drivers in the top of the tree with his head still in it.”
Just before Christmas the weather improved just enough for C-47’s to drop supplies. “We took what we could get and kept it very close to us so nobody could take it away. Later a number of P47’s came over, they were supposed to be American. They were but they started to drop 500 pound bombs on us. After the 3rd one we started to fire back and I think finally somebody got the message that there were friendly troops on the ground so the bombing stopped. Later on I went to a small stream to get some water and the first thing I saw was a GI helmet with a big hole of a 50 caliber round of a P47. The next thing I saw was the guy’s brain spread all over the rocks were I was supposed to go and get some water. So it was friendly fire that got him. As you can understand I didn’t drink much that day.”
The weather was getting better and one day it was like spring. That day I took my camera and made some pictures of Popeye Wynn and Hank Zimmerman. Those picture were to remain in my camera until Peppy King brought it to my house in Chicago in 1945 after he came home from the service. Until then the film was never developed. We developed the film and the photo of Zimmerman and Wynn was one of the photos that turned out ok.
The night of January 9th, 1945, is remembered by many of E-Company as a night in hell. Hell broke loose. ''Lt. Shames sent me out to get ambulances, stretchers and jeeps. I was at the collecting station waiting to give directions to the jeeps and there was a lot of artillery fire; not aimed at us but at the woods. Suddenly one of the men of a tank outfit lighted a cigarette out in the open and within a second there was incoming artillery. I jumped into a hole on top of a couple of wounded men who started to scream. Foolish enough I got out of the hole again and an artillery round landed next to me. That's when I got wounded''.
The next moment I was looking to the broken ends of my legs. I laid there for at least a couple of hours. They evacuated me but they didn't tie my legs down. As we came on an open field my legs started to bounce and they fell of the stretcher. They got me to an aid station and they put me on a kitchen table. The doctor came over en held my leg up. He took a pair of scissors and put some bandage on it, stuck it in the right side of my leg and it came out on the left side, I didn’t feel any pain. The doctor took a closer look and he said to me: ''Well I'm not going to cut your leg off''. Until today I'm grateful for what he did. He saved my legs''. ''When I woke up after surgery I was in a heated house, that was the first time since December 16th. That day was January 10th''.
''On April 8th, I was shipped out of England to the US on the Queen Elisabeth. I came in on the Queen Mary and back on the Queen Elisabeth. I like to travel in style. That was the end of my service''.