April 25, 2012
Heinz Schupp, of Stover, didn’t sleep in a bed for 11 months, once he arrived in Europe.
He was drafted into the Army at the age of 19. He left Benton County on March 1, 1943, and headed to Camp Campbell, Ky. The Army decided he was best suited to be a replacement for the Army infantry. He trained with the 20th Armored Division.
Once he arrived in England, he was sent to Normandy, France, on July 10, 1944. When the Americans crossed the English Channel, they feared the Germans were going to use gas.
“If the Germans were going to use the gas like they did in World War I, it was getting to about the time to use it before we broke out of the Normandy beach head,” Schupp said.
Everyone put gas masks on as a precaution. Schupp believed the odor they were smelling could have been from the hay.
“Fresh cut hay has got the same odor as mustard gas,” he said.
Schupp and his company made their way through Normandy, Northern France and Belgium.
On Dec. 8, 1944, near St. Vith, Belgium, they joined Headquarters Company of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion.
During this time, he assisted with the .30-caliber heavy machine gun. He carried the actual gun, while another man carried the tripod and was in charge of the firing. Schupp was responsible for making sure the gun wouldn’t jam up. All of the men carried ammunition with them.
“Our mission was to give overhead fire for the infantry... shoot over them to try kill the Germans down so they could move up closer,” Schupp said.
His company was caught the first night in the Battle of the Bulge.
“They captured the battalion commander, company commander and three of our lieutenants that first night, so we were off to the side. We were pretty well isolated,” he said.
He was stuck there for 10 days and lived off K and C rations. One night a soldier jumped into Schupp’s foxhole in the dark of night.
“I didn’t know if he was a Germany or an American,” Schupp said. He tried to fix his bayonet, just in case he needed it. He was thankful the soldier turned out to be an American.
The men were required to carry a bottle of purification pills for water.
“I’d take my canteen and get my water from a running stream there in Belgium and put a pill in it. I don’t know how many dead Germans or soldiers were laying in that same stream,” he said.
Though they had their share of close calls, they didn’t lose too many men from their company.
“Where we were dug in, an artillery shell landed one night in front of our dugout. My rifle was sitting up, shrapnel caught part of it and my buddy I was with, he had his steel helmet off laying on the ridge. A piece of shrapnel went right through it too,” he said.
On Christmas day, he remembers hearing the Germans singing about a quarter mile over the hillside.
After the Battle of the Bulge, he was sent back to Metz, France, for rest and to get replacements before going back to the front line in late February 1945. He was sent to Horsheim, Germany.
Schupp, a private first class, received the Bronze Star for heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy on March 4, 1945, in Germany. As his company was advancing on the enemy-held town of Horsheim, they were suddenly subjected to intense flak fire from an exposed flank and the attack was in danger of being pinned down.
According to his medal citation, “Observing this unexpected fire, Pfc. Schupp, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, immediately moved his machine gun through the hail of enemy fire to a forward position. Assisted by a comrade, he then directed accurate fire on the hostile position. Although subjected to direct fire from the enemy force, he persisted in his efforts and succeeded in pinning the enemy to the ground, thereby enabling his company to continue their attack and complete the capture of the town.”
He didn’t know he had even received this honor, because it was sent directly home and not awarded on the field. He also received the combat infantry badge.
After this, they were sent to Remagen, Germany, to seize the Ludendorff Bridge, the only bridge intact across the Rhine River. Schupp and his men crossed the bridge 10 minutes before it was blown up by the Germans.
With other members of the 27th, Schupp went across the railroad bridge and set up his machine gun on the east side of the river about 60 feet from the water.
“We had no sleep that night,” he said.
Enduring all of this chaos, Schupp didn’t foresee losing a loved one during his service. While he was away from home, his father became ill.
“He required none of my kinfolk write to let me know he had cancer. He figured I had enough worries trying to stay alive without worrying about him,” Schupp said.
Though he received a letter from his father stating “this will probably be the last letter I write you”, he didn’t have a clue he’d lose him.
He eventually received a letter from his mother stating his father had died at the age of 49. They notified the Red Cross, but they didn’t catch up to Schupp until about three weeks after it happened.
PROUD TO SERVE
Even though Schupp was drafted, he felt like it was his duty to service his country.
“Everybody else was leaving and going too,” he said.
Schupp was honorably discharged on Oct. 21, 1945. During his time, he served in five campaigns — Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardenne and Central Europe.
He will be 89 years old in May.