by Beryl H. Haught Jr.
Company "A", 114th Regiment
My first introduction to at least the close proximity of the line took place late one evening when an unidentified Sergeant responded to a question of our CO, Captain Williams, with this answer; "You dumb SOB, don't you ever ask a question like that up here again. What do you want to do get your head blown off?"
Now just what was this highly important question that our Captain had posed and that had brought on such a heated answer? He'd simply asked; "What outfit are you guys from?" Now I'd never heard a sergeant talk to an officer like that before, so it was quite apparent that we were getting ourselves into some new and different kind of a ball game.
To reconstruct, after we arrived in the city of Luneville on our train trip from Normandy, it still took us almost four more days to get up to the line itself, even though it was only 20 kilometers away. In an apparent attempt to confuse the Germans of our troop movements, we tried to hide in nearby patches of woods during the day and only advance toward the front at night. Regardless of our efforts, it didn't seem to work, since "Fritz" knew exactly when and where we took over the positions and foxholes of the 314th Infantry of the 79th Division.
It was on our last night's march that the confrontation between Captain Williams and the Sergeant took place. Since I was one of his runners, I just happened to be close enough to overhear their whole conversation. Along with the rest of our 1st Battalion, we in "A" Co. were moving up on a narrow country road when the silhouette of a half-blown down French farm house suddenly appeared out of the dark on the right side of the road.
There were three men standing in front of the house near the edge of the road. It was too dark to make out their uniforms, so we couldn't tell if they were American MPs or not. It was toward one of these three that Captain Williams had directed his question.
Now the Captain wasn't that accustomed to being called an SOB, so he in no uncertain terms informed his adversary that he was a "Captain" and demanded to know the other's rank. "If it's any of your business, I'm a 'Sergeant'," growled the GI. "And as far as I'm concerned, I don't give a damn if you're a 'General'. Nobody up here, and I mean nobody, asks such a stupid question! Where in the hell do you think we are, in Times Square?"
Captain Williams, who was clearly shocked by the outburst, simply turned and walked away. Since the line's very ill-defined, you never know exactly when you reach it, but when Sergeants chew out Captains and get away with it, you know damn well you're getting close.
When we moved out a little later on, the Sergeant and the other two were still standing in front of the house at the edge of the road. I can almost imagine them saying to themselves; "Give 'em a few days up here and they'll learn to keep their big mouths shut, or at least if they want to grow old, they sure as hell better!"