HQ 1st BN  117th INF

Battle of Mortain drawing by Henry M. Stairs Jr.   After much research and double checking it was learned that Waldo Pierce, 1st scout in the 1st Platoon of Company A, 117th was with Frank Joseph in the drawing.  Apparently it was the first day of combat for Buzzard and although he did come up and drop off bazooka ammo, he did not stick around.  Waldo Pierce was quite a character along with Frank Joseph.  Follow this link to read more about the two...courtesy of Frank Joseph III. 
Frank Joseph/Waldo Pierce Link

Frank Joseph website link

Famous Drawing by Mr. Stairs of Stavelot Bridge

TOP: Battalion commander discussing the attack of November 16, 1944 with his Company Commanders.  Officers are identified in the text.  BOTTOM: Map showing the Battalion attack Zone of Oct. 2, 1944.

The clipping from the "The Stars and Stripes" showing the shoulder patch inspired by 'Axis Sally' broadcast on our way to the "Bulge", December 17, 1944.

Burned out gasoline cans on the road above Stavelot, Belgium. December 18, 1944.

"Liberated" German money (note Ten Million Mark note).  Small blue One Mark note was U.S. issued money during and after the war.  One dollar Silver Certificate carried by H. Stairs through the war.

Upper Right: Nazi Infantry Assault Badge.  Upper Left: Nazi SS collar insignia..Unit ??? plus uniform insignia and Nazi armband.

Russians and Americans  Cpl. Stairs, standing, third from left; Second from right, standing, Cpl. Don Pontius; Center kneeling, Lt. Nick Haluszczak, Stairs Platoon leader (Battlefield Commission); on Nick's left, Lt. Ralph Daniel; others unknown. Magdeburg, Germany.  May 1945

 1. At left, Cpl. Rod Driesens with Cpl. Stairs.  Note bulge "K" rations in field jackets, old style leggings.  Oct. 5th, 1944 near Ubach, Germany.  2. Sgt. Stephen (Shotgun) Habetler, left with Cpl. Stairs, January 25th, 1945 in Sart, Belgium.  3. Center rear, Cpl. Stairs; Left rear, Cpl. William (Muscles) Bryant; at right, PFC Glenn Pearson.  4.  At left, PFC Thelman Harvey holding a high silk hat and Cpl. Rod Driesens near Ubach, Germany, October 5th, 1944.  5.  The town square in Sart, Belgium, January, 25th, 1945. (Photo No. 2 above was taken on the steps of the church in the background.  6.  Cpl. Stairs in Magdeburg, Germany after V-E Day, May 1945.


 I know Capt. Kent had his HQ in the Chateau.

We, Hq Co, were in a small house  on the Francorchamps Rd below the burned out gas depot.  I'm
guessing it might have been 500 yards from the Ambleve River. Some time later, perhaps two or
three days we moved into Stavelot.
Following is a story that is unbelievable; 
From the house above Stavelot several of us, maybe four or five, were outside of the basement in
the rear looking across the valley toward the "Jerry" side across the river.  The only reason I can
imagine is, we were watching the artillery shells fall on the hill.  Suddenly, from the right (east)
a single German plane came zooming over the river at what I call tree-top level.  It was a single
 engine plane with a pointed nose. (I have since been told it was probably an ME 109). As it reached a
point directly across from us, the plane made a quick turn up-side-down and THE PILOT FELL
OUT !!!!!  As the years went by, I would have gone crazy thinking I dreamed it but for a comment
made by one of the GIs with me, he turned and said, "A Company guys will have his flight suit
off him before he hits the ground".  Actually, "A" Company was to the right, I think it would have
been "B" company in that area.  What is also strange, I do not recall the plane crashing which it
 no doubt did but most likely it was further down river.
Another story.  I returned to the Bulge area with others from the 30th on a tour in 1999.  We were
visiting the site where the Malmedy Massacre took place.  I said to our Belgian host, "The passing
years may have affected my memory because when we walked by the spot, on the way toward
St. Vith, I thought the site was on the LEFT."  He answered, "It WAS on the left when you passed,
the road has since been changed". 
You asked about our attack on Ubach, and the counterattack of Oct 4.  I know we jumped off on
the attack on Oct 2 following an air strike by P-38s dropping Napalm bombs on the pill box chain.
(ineffective). I don't know if it was later that evening, on the 3rd, or the 4th.  Hq Co troops were
told to dig in and expect an attack, we were now part of the Front Line. (The same thing happened at
Mortain). The counterattack did not come.  Later, as we were charging into Ubach or Zu Ubach we
were getting direct fire from "dug-in" tanks.  As I was running toward a building that I think was a
school house, for some reason I had to jump over a dead GI.  Now, I had seen casualties before but
as I leaped over him, the sunlight caught a flash from the gold bar on his collar.  I am not sure why
but that hit me hard for an instant.  I think I realized how vulnerable 2nd Lt Platoons were.

I joined the division on August 4 while they (we) were in reserve.  Edward G. Robinson the "gangster" movie star visited the Bn.  I did not go to see him, I wanted to write letters.  There were about 25 replacements as I recall in the group.  Col Johnson had us gather around for a greeting.  He said (which I have heard somewhere before or since).,"Look to your right, now look to your left.  One of you will become a casualty, the other two are going to be damned soldiers for this regiment".  When we arrived at Bn Hq and were digging our foxhole the Bn Sgt Major came to us and asked if anyone could type. I said I could.  He said "Come with me". When we reached the Command Post he told me to sit at his typewriter and type.  I started, "Now is the time for all...."  He said Okay, you are now the Battalion Clerk.  I found out later the other clerk had been hit in the ass with a piece of shrapnel,  On the 6th we were on trucks to go "up front" to relieve the 1st division. It was supposed to be a picnic because there were no Germans in "the area".  No sooner had we detrucked when four German planes dove down and strafed us.  Next morning all hell broke loose, Artillery falling and bullets snapping over our foxhole (sounds just like a whip cracking). A Sgt came to our foxhole and said, "You two go up to that hedgerow and take a firing position,  "We are now the front likes" What time was it, I do not know for sure but the fog had lifted.  I could hear the tanks rumble forward of the next hedgerow.  I thought,  I can shoot a German foot soldier if he comes through but what the hell will I do if a tank comes through".  Neither did.  That night or perhaps the night before there was a tree burst over our foxhole Next morning the ground around our hole was peppered with pock marks from blast.  We were not told about the "Screaming Meemies" in training.  This is a multitube (I think six) mortar gun.  You could hear the scream from the time it left the barrel until it exploded.  Yeeewww, Yeeewww in quick succession all six shots pierced the air.  For five days, that was a constant threat. 

I joined the 30th an August 4th as a replacement, Mortain was my baptism to fire.  I do not know which day it was, I suspect the 7th of August.  Anyway, I was in Hq Co of the 1st Bn.  A Sgt. came to the foxhole of me and my buddy and said, "You two go up to the hedgerow there and take up a firing position, we are now the front lines".  I remember just like it happened this morning.  I could hear the tanks forward and said to myself, "If a Jerry comes through there, I have no problem shooting him but if a tank comes what the hell will I do?". Neither came. I also said,"If this is combat, how the devil does anyone survive?"

Indeed, it was one of the most important battles of the War,  the 30th Div saved Patton's" behind, he would have been cut off from his supply lines.  The RAF, with their tank killing rockets also gave us great support later in the day,  I can still see them flying over at tree-top height.

We left the Mortain area on or about August 14, swung south of the Falaise Gap and headed toward Paris in a motor convoy traveling east for over 100 miles. We crossed the Seine River in last days of August, north of Paris. heading northwest toward the town of Tournai, Belgium. Sept 7, trucks again in a 75 mile trip.  Then after hiking 65 miles in three days.  the division was the first Allied troops to enter Holland around mid Sept.  We reached the Siegfried Line on or about Sept 20. Next two weeks were spent in special training to attack the Siegfried and for other divisions in the rear to catch up for support. There was a small river in front of the line of pillboxes, we practiced crossing using a hand carried footbridge (three sections that would forman inverted "A" in the river).  It was more like a trout stream.  Trained with flame throwers and two types of explosive charges about the size of a small pillow made of canvas; one had a loop for a handle, the other was mounted at the end of a long pole. They were called "satchel charge" and the other "pole charge".  The idea was for small arms and mortar fire to blast the opening to keep the occupants head down while the the troops maneuvered forward with the charges to place them near the firing ports or around the back of the pillbox against the metal doors. They worked. Prior to the attack on October 2, artillery and air strikes bombed the pillboxes. P-38 planes dropped "jelly bombs",  I guess they were later called "napalm".  Neither did much damage to the Germans manning the forts, but the bombs did provide shell holes where our guys could get some cover as they advanced. I read some where, after Mortain our charge across France, Belgium and Holland was to longest advance in that short month of any infantry division in history.  I, as an infantryman, was in excellent physical shape but I remember during our "footrace" from Mortain to the Siegfried Line, my hip sockets felt like they were lined with sandpaper.