A WWII Veteran Remembers
From the AFSLH Newsletter; A Publication of the American Society of the French Legion of Honor December 2004 Vol. 11 No. 4; 740 Madison Avenue, Suite 5-S New York, NY 10021
Alfredo Cordova, Chevalier, Private First Class As told by Alfredo to his brother Sam
In May 1944, I was inducted into the Army and received basic training at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas. By November we were shipped overseas. I joined Company A, 1st Rifle Battalion, 142nd Regiment, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard.
In December 1944, on my second day of combat in France, I went on patrol with orders to retrieve two enemy soldiers who, based on certain intelligence, were supposed to surrender to us. When we arrived at the designated meeting place, concealed enemy soldiers opened up with small arms and machine gun fire. We were forced to withdraw, walking through a mine field of both exposed and buried mines. The ordeal was further
complicated as nighttime fell, and we only had one flashlight. Luckily we got through without suffering any casualties. A stray dog followed us through the minefield, and he too emerged unharmed.
After securing an area along the Siegfried Line, we were receiving fire from an enemy tank. Artillery was called in on the tank. Much of the artillery fire was short, with shells exploding above and raining shrapnel down on us. A comrade next to me took shrapnel in the back and was bleeding profusely. I removed the larger pieces from his back and carried him to a secured pillbox. He must have been a new replacement, or had wandered in from another outfit. I never knew his name or what became of him.
During a mild snow storm early one Sunday morning in late January 1945, in Bitche, France, we went on a platoon-size probing patrol of an enemy-occupied hill.
Two comrades and I were taking the point position. The enemy allowed us to approach before suddenly opening fire and pinning us down. Whereas my two forward position comrades were wounded, I managed to find cover behind a mound in the road. Enemy fire was present all around us. We withdrew taking our wounded with us.
The next day we mounted a full company attack on the hill, facing tank, machine gun and small arms fire. Again we were pinned down until the 3rd Squadron attacked from the flank. We succeeded finally in taking the hill and a substantial number of prisoners. In this action, I was hit in the right foot with a piece of shrapnel that penetrated the show pack and two pairs of socks. The shrapnel badly bruised and burned by toes and drew a considerable amount of blood. After the battle, I removed my shoe pack and extracted the shrapnel, which was jaggedly round and about three quarters of an inch in diameter. I then returned to my assigned position.
We held this position for four extremely cold days, and I did not have a replacement shoe pack. During these four days we went on nighty patrols, and I sustained frostbite on my right foot. When the company was relieved, our squad leader, Sergeant Ernest Hughes and I lagged behind. He too was suffering from frostbite. Together we spent ten days recovering at the aid station.
In February, after spending one night on patrol as our company was being relieved, Sgt. Hughes, two other soldiers and I, finally caught up with the rest of the company in the early morning hours. It was still dark as we approached our company rest area, and I lost an anti- tank grenade. Later that morning, a comrade and I were standing outside the house where we were taking shelter, when we observed two young boys, perhaps eight or nine- years-old, banging a grenade against a rock. Before we could intervene or even think to shout a warning, the grenade exploded killing the two boys instantly. I think it’s called collateral damage, but I still carry the hurt. This occurred in a small French village whose name I never knew.
Near Dorrenbach, Germany in March 1945, our company was halted by machine gun fire from an enemy pillbox. I advanced through a heavy mortar and artillery barrage and secured the machine gun. Then, when I observed two enemy soldiers outside the embankment, I called for them to surrender. They fired on me. I fired back killing them both. For this action I was awarded the Bronze Star.
During the same month, our squad was on top of a ridge overlooking a small valley occupied by the Germans, who began directing mortar fire (screaming meemies) at us.
The first shell hit some 400 yards to our right and a second one hit some 200 yards closer in. Something told me that a third shell would land right on top of us, and I yelled a warning to my comrades. We withdrew fifty feet into a large shell crater; however, a recent replacement named Nelson Copeland, didn’t heed the warning and remained standing on top of the ridge. He took a direct hit from the third shell, mercifully never knowing what hit him.
Somewhere in Germany in April 1945, a comrade PFC Aldi from New York, took enemy fire as he stood next to me. There was nothing we could do to help him. Another soldier shot himself in the leg with a pistol that was not supposed to be loaded. Perhaps some of the last casualties of the Second World War.
I returned to the States in December 1945, and was discharged from the Army on New Year’s Day 1946, at Fort Dix, NJ.
Alfredo Cordova and his wife Lina live in Albuquerque, NM.