Jesse Brock Smith Greensboro NC Glenwood boy WWII Battle of the Bulge recollections, 82nd Airborne Division, “It was a privilege to serve”


From the Greensboro News Record.

“”It was a privilege to serve”

Jesse Brockley “Brock” Smith makes a great case for the saying “A year can make a lot of difference.”

In December 1943, the Greensboro Senior High School alumnus celebrated his 18th birthday and joined the Army.

He spent his 19th birthday aboard a landing craft bound for Le Havre, France, and into the thick of World War II. The Battle of the Bulge was in his immediate future.

Smith completed basic training at Fort Bragg, jump school at Fort Benning, Ga., and shipped out to Glasgow, Scotland.

“I went over on the Queen Mary and came back on the Queen Mary,” he says. “She was a great ship, but what you’ve heard about her chow lines is true: As soon as you finish a meal, you get in line for the next meal.”

The 82nd Airborne Division was in dire need of replacements because of the heavy casualties suffered during Operation Market Garden in September 1944, the largest airborne operation of the war that ended in failure and more than 15,000 Allied troops killed.

He was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.”

““After being alerted about the German breakthrough in the Ardennes, we rushed towards the front on flat-bed trailers — with no sides or tops — in freezing rain, then heavy snow. The last 20 miles or so, we moved on foot,” he wrote.

After several days on the front, Smith recalls, he heard the sound of heavy equipment being moved.

“I thought we were finally getting much-needed help,” he says. “Unfortunately, the heavy equipment was in the retreat mode and blowing bridges as they left.”

His platoon was ordered to stay behind and cover the withdrawal.

“About all we could do was dig our frozen foxholes a little deeper. I stashed away a large stack of left-behind hand grenades just in case they were needed.”

The experience refreshed his memory of the 23rd Psalm, he says. “If ever there was a shadow of the valley of death, I figured we were in it!””

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