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Edgar E. "Ed" Bredbenner, Jr.

Company B, 318th Regiment

 

In the 318th Regimental Combat Team's attack on Ettelbruck, the first tank into the town was knocked out.  Sgt. La Fortune of "B" Company, 702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils, commanded this tank.  Charles Wein was the tank's Gunner.  Jim Hardy was the tank's Driver.  According to Jim Hardy, in an after-war conversation, the tank was hit hard, and the crew abandoned her.  Evidently, according to what they were taught, the crew escaped through the bottom hatch of the tank.  In an effort to get over a barbed-wire fence in his escape, Charles Wein paused.  In a flash, Jim Hardy came flying right over Charles' back, clearing the man and fence in a single bound. 

 

Once safe, they realized that their Tank Commander was still in the crippled tank.  The tank was under intense fire, taking a total of fourteen anti-tank hits.  Sgt. La Fortune, though mortally wounded in the leg, continued to man his post, loading, aiming and firing the cannon at the overwhelming German force all by himself.  Two medics tried to get to the tank, in an effort to rescue the wounded La Fortune, and were killed for their bravery.  Finally, Jim Hardy and Bill Patnaude made their way back to the tank.  The two men got Sgt. La Fortune out of the tank, and back to some medics.  Feeling that their sergeant was now safe, the men worked their way back to the tank, this time to retrieve their liquor cache.  While they were gone, the medics abandoned Sgt. La Fortune in the road, on a stretcher, for reasons known only to them.  Some doughboys, going to the rear, spotted the wounded Sgt. La Fortune, and carried him back to an aid station.  Sgt. La Fortune later died, from blood loss, from a wounded leg.

 

From Edgar E. "Ed" Bredbenner, Jr., Company B, 318th Regiment, Past National Commander of the 80th Infantry Division Association, in regards to an event mentioned about Sgt. La Fortune being left by two Medics at the side of the road from Ettelbruck, Luxembourg on a stretcher, only to die later.  Had he been evacuated to an aid station earlier, it has been speculated that he could have lived.  In the words of "Ed" Bredbenner;  "Sergeant La Fortune was left at the edge of Ettelbruck on a stretcher.  I was the last person out of Ettelbruck, early on the morning of 24 December when we evacuated the town, after the Germans had set fire to the town.  Two of us were a rear guard to stay in the edge of town to protect the rear of the column.  Then we were to proceed a few minutes after the column, back to Colmar-Berg.

 

We did not have much time since we knew that the American artillery was due to blast the town in a few minutes.  We had had enough of American artillery at different times, so we did not wait long.  We heard a muffled cry from the edge of town, and after a few minutes found Sgt. LaFortune covered with blankets on the stretcher.  We carried him back about four to five miles, stopping every few minutes to change ends and hands.  We did not have any support straps, and the sergeant seemed like a big man and very heavy!  We just cleared town when we heard the whistle of incoming shells, and hit the ground since the hit the edge of the town first.

 

We arrived after a few hours near the battalion aid station in Colmar-Berg.  We did not know the password, since we had been trapped in Ettelbruck for a few days.  We heard the click of gun safeties being released as we neared the American lines.  We hit the ground fast, just in case.  Having been on patrol many times, I was used to it, but Bob Wait, who was with me, just about went crazy and thought that he was going to end the war right there, shot by his own men!

 

I had been in contact with Jim Hardy (702nd Tank Battalion Red Devil's Association Secretary/Treasurer) on this, since I had wondered for many years what had happened to the man we carried back to the aid station.  We were sorry to hear that the sergeant died a few days later.  I still do not know how he was left there for so long.  Medical jeeps were sneaking in and out at different times, and when we evacuated the town, there was room on some jeeps for any wounded!

 

He was hit on December 22nd, the day we entered Ettelbruck.  I know that during the night, some weapons and ammo came up during the night, and wounded were taken back.  The first day in Ettelbruck, the company lost all of their automatic weapons, B.A.R.'s and light .30 caliber machine guns.  The Germans were after all of the automatic weapons, and got all of them on the first day.  We made use of some of the German equipment we found on their dead, and in the streets.  I know that neither side could move on the narrow streets, with the river on one side and the hills on the other.

 

I did not know that a U.S. tank had made it into the center of town, in our area.  It was no place for man, nor beast or tank in that area.  When we went in, they said that there were just a few Germans there!  I guess that there was a German corps headquarters there with many men.  We were lucky that any of us got out alive.  Company "B", 318th took a beating there and lost many men.  By the time we got back from Bastogne, after working with the 4th Armored Division, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 318th were not much of a fighting unit.

 

We were way over strength after coming off of Corps Reserve in France, and had 220 men going into the village of Ettelbruck.  When the company returned to Ettelbruck on December 28th, only twenty men were left in Company "B".  Most of the guys had been hit, some in the village, including myself (but not bad).  On Christmas Day, I got hit on the way to Bastogne, but came back for more seventy days later."

 

 

 

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