Veterans Day

Today we celebrate the brave men and women that selflessly gave to our country their time, service, love and lives. To every American that has or is serving to protect our great country, we salute you. 

Today I am reminded of the bravery of my grandfather Frederic Marshall Comins, Sr. He served with the rank of Major and Tank Commander in WW II under Brigadier General Willard Holbrook, with the 11th Armored Division of the 3rd Army. He also served under General George Patton at the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Bronze Star. With the first group of American soldiers, of the 11th Armored Division, Fred opened the gates of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, in Austria, and freed the prisoners at the war’s end. Fred retired from the Army in 1946 as a Lt. Colonel.

Below is a post battle interview:

Interview with Major Frederic M. Comins, S-3, CCA, 11th Armored Division.Buret, Belgium.January 25, 1945.

After marching 85 miles over ice covered roads, CCA launched an attack on the 29th of December at 0730, without going into assembly areas for briefing, from the vicinity of Lavaselle and Remience.This attacking force was composed of Task Force Blue which included all of the tanks of the 42nd Tank Battalion, and Task Force White which utilized the 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion.  The objective was the road net at Remagne. 

The men of CCA at the time of this attack had been on the road for 5 days.The only sleep was “cat-naps” taken at infrequent halts.They were tired and worn out.They knew absolutely nothing about what they were going into or anything about the terrain.The maps of the area had been given to the S-3 at 1530 the day before and there had been no chance to do anymore than give them a map.

Task Force White, the 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. Brady, jumped off first, followed by the tanks.The attack moved ahead rather slowly, feeling its way against small arms fire and some mortar fire.  In the early afternoon, with two tanks that were ahead of the main body, Task Force White reached the high ground at (395-538).In the words of Lt. Col. Arhee of the 42nd Tank Battalion, “All Hell Broke Loose”.  The two tanks were knocked out by 88 fire and infantry were stopped by everything from small arms to rockets.  The infantry dug in and the tanks remained to the rear of the hill and protected the flanks.  They remained in this area that night, the 30th and 31st, fighting off counter-attacks by the Germans.  On the 1st of January the 17th Airborne Division started to relieve them.  This relief was completed on the afternoon of January 3, 1945.

There were several conflicting orders as to where they would go and what they should do.  One plan was that they would fight their way across country from Rondu, Chanet, La Damselle, La Hache and turn north.This plan was abandoned and at 1700 on January 3rd they started out to an assembly area in the vicinity of Sibret, via Wideumont, Bercheux, Vaux-les-Rosieres and closed into assembly areas around Sibret on January 4, 1945.

From the 4th to the 12th of January they remained in assembly areas in the vicinity of Sibret.  Then, with two hours notice, moved up and along with Task Force Bell and Task Force Stubbs, launched an attack from Longchamps with the mission of taking Bertogne, Compogne, Mabompre, and the high ground south of Houffalize.TF Bell and TF Stubbs consisted of two battalions of the 17th Airborne Division.

Task Force Brady, the 63rd AIB, moved in on Bertogne and Task Force Stubbs, the 17th Airborne, moved north to Compogne from Longchamps.Bertogne was cleaned out without any trouble and held there that night.  Task Force Stubbs and one company of tanks were unable to move completely through the woods at Bois du Nom de Falize that day.  The next morning (the 15th) Task Force Brady and Task Force Stubbs closed in on Compogne with the aid of the tanks and captured many POWs.  Company “B” of the 42ndTank Battalion proceeded northeast to the high ground south of Houffalize to occupy and defend, but not go into, the town.  Task Force Stubbs moved in later that afternoon against Very light small arms fire and occupied the southern half of the objective. On the 16th and 17th they occupied and defended the high ground, and on the evening of the 17th of January the 17th Airborne commenced to relieve the 11th Armored Division. 

In the preceding action the greatest hindrance to rapid use of the armor was the ice and snow.  This caused many tanks to slide off the road thereby reducing the strength of the command.  Snow slowed down the advance of the infantry, and in working with the 17thAirborne, their lack of signal equipment hampered the rapid execution of orders and movement.In many cases the only means of communication was by Line Officers and foot messengers.

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