Memories of a 19 year old Polish American 69er

Chet Yastrzemski
Company E, 272nd Infantry

    I was in 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon of Company E.  On April 14, 1945, information was received that a large Battery of 88 millimeter (mm) Anti-Aircraft (AA)  guns were in the area of Beersdorf.  Patrols from the 2nd Battalion verified the information.  
    I was a forward scout for our platoon walking on the high ground of the railroad tracks while to the right our infantry and tanks were firing at the enemy approaching through a deep valley.  Suddenly, to my surprise, I saw a person move the cover of a  manhole between the tracks.  Out from the manhole emerged a Polish displaced person.  Being that I spoke fluent Polish, I asked him what was he doing in the manhole?  Receiving no satisfactory answer and considering him no threat, I told him to leave the area.  He insisted on accompanying me to fight the Germans.  After threatening him with bodily harm, he got the message and left.
    In the meantime, we were receiviing small arms fire from a town to our left and returned the fire.   Plans were made for the 2nd Battallion to attack the positions.  Co B 777th Tank Battalion  and Co B 661st Tank Destroyer Battalion were sent from Combat Team Reserve to support Company E and F in the attack.
    At 1530  hours, an intense Artillery preparation was begun by the 880th Field Artillery Battalion.  At 1805 hours, the Artillery fire was lifted and Company E and F attacked abreast, preceded by the Tanks and Tank Destroyers. As we approached the enemy we received heavy fire from Panzerhausts being used as aniti-personnel weapons.  Our attack was a huge success..  The German positions were overrun, 474 prisoners captured, including three officers and three women.  Thirty six dual purpose 88 mm AA guns, capable of firing at either ground or air targets,  were taken.  
    I was a 19 year old Private first class rifleman.  All of this was quite a sight!  Walking on the high railroad tracks, watching the tanks and infantry men firing their weapons and approaching the Germans through that deep valley.  To me it was picturesque scene of battle probably like only Hollywood could make but it was real war!
    When I approached a building, a German officer emerged, surrendering to me.  He was one of three who gave up to me.  In my mind it was hard not to pull the trigger but he had surrendered and patience on my part  governed the circumstances.  Later on I went inside and saw three wounded female soldiers who were crying and in a state of shock.  
    My squad was to take that officer and other prisoners to a place of detention.  During the march the officer asked me for a cigarette.  I don't know if he recognized me as his captor or not but he sure didn't receive a cigarette - only a hard stare!  In my mind, I remembered that he or other German soldiers had mistreated my relatives and other citizens of Poland during their regime of war.