Chapter 3

England, France and Belgium (The Maginot and Seigfried Line; the Battle of The Bulge)

By Lester Segarnick

Life in the southern part of England was relatively quiet and uneventful in the fall of 1944.  The war on the continent raged on, with both sides taking heavy losses.  Allied troops left England for the continent with new, bright and clean equipment and uniforms; and filthy, bedraggled and war-weary soldiers returned, wounded in body, mind and spirit.
By the time winter rolled around I had gotten to know the countryside of southern England quite well, and my buddies and I had learned to like beer British-style . . . warm, sudsy and bitter; sometimes with a dash of lime in the bottom of the glass, before the brew splashed in from the tap.  I also got quite good at darts while frequenting the local pubs; and got used to hearng the pub owners chant around 10 P.M. . . . "Drink up now, gents - pub's closing in 5 minutes, ya know!"  One thing I never really got the hang of was the English "drive on the left side of the road" traffic rules.  Invariably, I looked intinctively to the left as I prepared to step off a curb, and I almost got creamed by vehicles coming from the right!  Thank God for good brakes and quick reflexes.  The then war-torn England observed nightly black-outs, of course, with German air raids being a constant threat.  I got to know the location of desigated bunkers (air raid shelters) very quickly everywhere I went in England - ones life depended on it.
Shortly after the Battle of the Bulge took place, around Christmas time, 1944 (and about D-Day plus 180), my original combat unit, the 69th Infantry Division, was disbanded and we were shipped across the English Channel as replacement infantrymen for the 29th Infantry Division which had suffered severe losses.  I was assigned to Service Company of the 116th Infantry Regiment, along with Butch Gilberti and Harold Brooks. We  moved swiftly across France, into Belgium, stopping only briefly from time to time when pockets of German army units were encountered along the way.  Basically, it was a "mop-up" operation, capturing stragglers who couldn't keep up with the main German retreating forces.
We marched and drove past the heavily fortified, famous French Maginot Line and the German Seigfried Line, both no longer operative or manned, or offering any kind of threat to advancing Allied forces.  There were some minor skirmishes along the way, with some brief fire fights, usually at long range; and two or three times our advancing columns were attacked and strafed by German fighter planes hoping to slow our advance, rather unsuccessfully.
The initial problem I encountered with my feet and toes happened about that time when, because of the inability of the supply lines to keep up with the rapidly advancing troops, I was not able to stop long enough to find a change of socks or boots, and I went for a period of about two weeks wearing th same wet, dirty socks and boots.
When my toes and feet beganto itch and blister, I went to the medics who painted my feet and toes with Gentian Violet, a then commonly used cure-all for infections, rashes, and the like.  There was just no time or inclination then to be concened or to seek additional medical help. Everything and everyone was on the move, and we'd worry about such "inconveniences" later!
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