A Machine Gunner's War
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A Machine Gunner's War
From Normandy to Victory with the 1st Infantry Division in World War II
"In a strong new volume, A Machine Gunner's War, one of [those poor foot soldiers], Ernest Andrews Jr., tells the tale of his own struggle to fight and survive as an unheralded infantryman.” — The New York Times
Ernest “Andy” Andrews began his training as a machine gunner at Fort McClellan in Alabama in July 1943. In early 1944, he arrived in the UK for further training before D-Day. Andy’s company, part of the 1st Infantry Division, departed England on the evening of June 5 on the USS Henrico. Due to a problem with his landing craft, Andy only reached Omaha Beach on the early evening of June 6, but still had a harrowing experience. Fighting in Normandy, Andy was nicked by a bullet and evacuated to England in late July when the wound became infected, before returning to participate in the Normandy breakout. Following the race across France in late August, Andy participated in the rout of several retreating German units near Mons, Belgium, and his outfit approached Aachen in mid-September. For a month, Andy's squad defended a bunker position in the Siegfried Line against repeated German attacks, then after Aachen surrendered, the unit fought its way through the Hurtgen Forest to take Hill 232. Early on the morning of November 19, Andy engaged in his toughest battle of the war as the Germans attempted to retake Hill 232. Andy was wounded in the shoulder.
After surgery and a month convalescence he rejoined H Company in time to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. His unit then participated in the fast-moving Roer to the Rhine campaign, then the battle to expand the Remagen bridgehead. Breaking out from the Remagen bridgehead, Andy's squad stumbled on a German tank unit and Andy narrowly escaped getting killed. Following a rapid advance up to the Paderborn area, Andy's unit races to Germany's Harz Mountains, where the Wehrmacht was trying to organize a last stand. Andy's outfit ends the war fighting in Czechoslovakia, where Andy witnesses the German surrender in early May. Following occupation duty, Andy returned to the States in October 1945. The war shaped Andy's postwar life in countless ways, and in 1994, Andy made the first of three return visits to the European battlefields where he had fought.
This vivid firsthand account takes the reader along from Normandy to victory with Andy and his machine-gun crew.