Engaging the Germans
& War Stories

By Anton J. Suppes
34th Tank Battalion

D-Day (5th AD not involved)


War Stories - On July 25th the word went out that they were moving out the next day and everyone was to stay in that night. Oyler told Tony he was heading up the hill to party with a young lady, if he did not return by 9:00 AM Anton was to go get him. As 9:00 approached, Tony got anxious, but Oyler showed. While eating lunch, Lt. Walson notice Oyler stumbling around a bit--he was unfit to drive the tank that morning. The task of loading the tank onto the ship via the narrow plankway fell to Tony. After the ships were loaded, they were on their way to Utah Beach.

As they approached the beach, Lt. Walson put out the word, prepare to unload directly onto the beach. A few minutes later, the word came back that there was a delay. It would take time to remove the dead bodies on the beach that would be in the way when unloading the tanks. Finally, they were in France. The U.S. had a few miles of beachhead but were experiencing slow, and troubled, and costly progress due to the hedgerows that provided cover to the Germans.

Anton performed a fair amount of guard duty as they awaited the breakout from Normandy. While driving for a captain, Celly Hartman was shot by a sniper, the day after visiting with Anton in Normandy.

General Patton was finally given the command of a real army for engaging Germany in France. Armored divisions would play a vital role in operation COBRA. During operation COBRA hundreds of tons of bombs were blanketed 3.5 miles deep of the German lines in Western Normandy. Patton's 3rd Army would move rapidly to encircle and entrap the Germans. The reconnaissance tanks would take the lead in this action.

July 26, Tony wrote Agnes. Did not say where he was.

July 26 - August 8, 1944 @ Utah Beach-Argentan

Anton was the gunner (50 mm and upper machine guns) in the Lt.'s tanks (Lt. Walson). Anton also provided valuable translation and communication in German--when Anton started school in 1st grade he spoke German fluently and could hardly speak English.

Half way through operation COBRA and several miles behind enemy lines, Lt. Walson's five tanks run into three members of the French Underground in the country, next to a farm and bails of hay. They were crying loudly and in great distraught. Nobody in the company spoke sufficient French to communicate with the French underground soldiers. The onerous task fell to Tony who cold speak German fluently as could the French underground soldiers. Speaking German the soldiers explained that the SS had recently been on their farm searching for them. During the search the French soldiers hid under bails. The SS rounded up the women and children and interrogated the women and children as to the location of their men--the interrogation took place right around and above the very bails under which the French men had been hiding. When the women and children refused to give up their men, they were shot right before the eyes of their men. The German SS men fled due to the approach of Company D.

The French knew where the Germans had gone. Having communicated this to Tony, they hopped on top of the tank and directed the tanks down the road. In a building and tall grass up the road, they ran across the Germans. When commanded in German to surrender, several surrendered without battle against the tanks. The command to surrender was repeated. In total about 15 surrendered. Their guns were taken; however, the Company D platoon did not have provisions to take prisoners. Lt. Walson radioed back to Captain Harvey, the German's guns were to be handed over to the French underground and they were to take the prisoners back. The German's protested to Anton, fearing for their own lives after what had happened to the women and children of the French; however, orders were orders--the platoon never did find out if the prisoners made it back to the front lines.

Having taken prisoners and given two opportunities to surrender, the order went out to shoot the Germans that did not surrender. A few fled, guns fired, and the Germans fell. These were probably the ones guilty of the war crime of shooting French children.

A few hours later, the platoon approached a group of trees on top of a hill. There they caught three heavy German tanks by surprise. The German guns were pointing toward the road where the platoon had taken the prisoners a few hours earlier. The Germans had not noticed the reconnaissance tanks--they had actually come up from behind the tanks being so far behind enemy lines. Lt. Walson gave the order to quickly retreat in a zigzag path down the hill--they were not equipped to take on the German heavy tanks. The Germans were unable to turn the guns around in time to engage the reconnaissance tanks. The positions of the German tanks were radioed to command--easy targets for American aircraft.

One of the scariest moments for Anton was when they approached a small French town as evening approached. The Americans were overtaking the town; however, the Germans still had a strong hold and had taken many prisoners. The reconnaissance tanks decided to hold off attacking that night--they could easily be taken prisoner as well. Lt. Walson was not satisfied with this decision, against orders he volunteers Anton to circle the town and attempt to rescue American prisoners. With rifles in hand, the two of them proceeded along a ditch around the town-- informing the lookouts not to shoot them upon their return. After following the ditch for over one half a mile, the ditch ended. A German guard was pacing his watch. Lt. Walson informed Anton that they would take the guard when he walked close to the ditch--he never did. They returned to camp. Upon arrival, the camp was active with excitement--several American prisoners had escaped and were in camp. The guard warned them that if they had not already eaten, there would probably be no food left. This was welcome news to Anton--the army rations had grown old. The next day new rations arrived--the same old stuff.

August 9 - 29, 1944 @ Argentan - Seine River

The different reconnaissance companies of the 34th Battalion were warming up the engines of their tanks, ready to take on the Germans who were thought to be held up in the town down the hill. After debating what to do for over two hours, Capt. Harvey sent out the word that Lt. Walson's platoon was to head down to the town and Sargent Emerson's platoon was to go to the trees on the right. Right before heading out, orders were changed; Emerson's platoon was to take the city. When they were half way down the hill, German Panther Tanks hiding in the city destroyed all five tanks.

Hours after this, Lt. Walson's platoon was overtaking the trees adjacent to the town. It was a rainy day. Anton was to cover the others as they rushed the trees on foot. Jumping off the tank with the heavy machine gun, Anton slipped and sprained his ankle. The sprained ankle was quite sever--small parts of the bone had broken off. His ankle has bothered him and at times disabled him ever since.

Later in the hospital Anton was next to Sergeant Emerson who was wrapped in bandages. Tony spoke with him finding out that Sergeant Emerson was commanding the lead tank that had been hit. The shell decapitated the driver. The top gunner's mid-section was torn apart--killing him instantly. When asked how he felt, Sargent Emerson complained about the pain in his right foot; of course, his right legs was missing.

August 16, Tony wrote Agnes, stated he was in France.

August 22, Tony injured ankle while maneuvering with light gun on tank

August 30 - September 9, 1944 @ Seine River to Luxembourg

September 10, 1944 @ Liberation of Luxembourg

September 11, 1944 @ Siegfried Line-1st in Germany

September 16, Tony wrote Agnes--he was back with 34th Battalion

Anton rode the truck back to a camp for reassignment after he recovered from his ankle injury. Upon arrival, he asked how long until he would be able to return to his platoon. The staffing sergeant informed Anton that soldiers essentially never were reassigned back to their company. New orders would come along--he would have to wait. The others in the camp quizzed Anton--what was it like on the front lines. Anton responded that at some times it was pretty rough. At others it was manageable. The next morning, orders came in. After just one night after release from the hospital, Anton had been ordered back to his original platoon. He arrived and Lt. Walson dismissed Anton's replacement--the entire platoon welcomed Anton back. He was valuable--a good gunner, a great shot, driver, interpreter, and always followed orders--he could be t.rusted.

Once again, reconnoitering behind enemy lines the platoon prepared to engage several Germans fortified among the trees. As the Germans fled, the tanks pursued with guns to the right facing the fleeing Germans. At that point, Oyler drove too close to a tree, the gun hit a tree and pinned Anton against the tank. His face was blue and he was unconscious. It took 6 men to unpin Anton--everyone knew for certain he was dead. They lied him down next to the tank for medical attentions. Shortly after that he woke up--quite sore.

September 23 - November 23, 1944 @ Belgium

October 3, Tony wrote Agnes from Belgium

October 8, Tony wrote Agnes from Germany--3rd Army was first to enter Germany.

October 8, Tony promoted from private to 5.

October 14, Tony wrote Agnes from Belgium

October 14+, Tony wrote he was in Holland

October 27, Tony wrote Agnes from Belgium

With the Germans on the run, the roadsides were littered with many items of booty for soldiers. As the lead tank in a reconnaissance platoon, ample opportunities presented themselves for a gunner to go down and grab items. Lt. Walson would normally not allow this. During two times, Anton was allowed to get war souvenirs. Once when guns and swords were piled in a pond as collected from a village prior to occupation. From this pile Anton obtained a sharpy gun (custom-made marksman gun dating from late 19th century, Galen has), a ceremonial sword (WWI veteran, Galen has), and several ceremonial daggers (Sheila has). In addition, Anton was allowed to accept the pistol of a surrendering German Captain--this was a highly cherished weapon. A buddy begged and begged Anton for the pistol--finally he traded the pistol for a Browning pistol (Galen has). Later Anton saw a soldier hiding a Lugar pistol (Ivan has) by a culvert--he located and kept that pistol.

One of the guys had picked up an accordion. Back at camp the guys looked for someone who could play the accordion. They located Anton, he played all night with they guys providing drinks all the way. Later request for encores, including a major banquet were turned down.

December 1, Tony wrote Agnes from Germany

December 14, Tony wrote Agnes from Germany

December 25, Tony wrote Agnes from Belgium

November 24 - December 24, 1944 @ Hurtgen Forest


January 1 - 29, 1945 @ Belgium

January, 30 1945 @ Snow Battle @ Echerscheid Germany

February 8, Tony wrote he was in Holland

February 24 - March 10, 1945 @ Roer River to Rhine River

March 31 - April 4, 1945 @ Rhine River to Elbe River

March, Mom receives wooden shoes sent by Tony from Holland

After crossing the Rhine, the war's end was certain. Lt. Walson told Anton that they would now proceed toward Berlin into Germany--they would drive for 6 days and 5 nights stopping only to refuel. Then the war would be over.

On the first night at about 2:00 AM with Captain Harvey in the lead (in a jeep), they were next to the road. A truck loaded with troops pulled up, then a second truck. All was quiet. Captain Harvey thought they were Germans, but was not certain. After half an hour, the soldiers on the truck began to speak. Anton confirmed they were speaking German. The tanks opened fired with yelling, screaming, and scrambling for all.

They drove for 6 days and 5 nights and then stopped upon command from SHAEF. SHAEF allowed the Russians to take Berlin and end the war.

April 15 - 23, 1945 @ Last Fight: Hitzacker & Dannenberg

May - October 1945 @ Occupation

The German civilians had very little after the war. Food was scarce. Tony and others would go back for seconds during meals--keeping the extra food to be given to the German civilians.

After war's end, Anton had sufficient points so as to allow him to complete his duty in occupied Germany. Most of the men in his platoon were relocated in preparation for fighting in mainland Japan--something that never happened.

One of Anton's primary duties after the Germans surrender was to distribute mail. In addition, he was the guard for many of the camps that held military and civilians alike. His ability to speak German was valuable in this position.

May, received 2 maps of 5th Armored Division activities, knives etc…

October 1945 @ Deactivated

Tony's tank in combat. The wear can be seen.

Story received via Galen J. Suppes

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All rights reserved, Anton J. Suppes

Created August 27, 2001 by Yves J. Bellanger