World War II Stories:
The Hand of God?

Myron Eberle

This incident took place about the 18th of January, 1945, in a wooded area about one mile outside of a small Belgian Village named "Petit Thier". I had taken command of "C" Company a few days earlier, on the road from Vielsalm to Petit Thier, when Captain Walsh was severely wounded by mortar fire. Petit Thier was, and is, a small village with a sizable road running parallel to a ridge which was occupied by Germans, and we were assigned to move to the village and meet a tank outfit, which we would support, or vice versa!

We did arrive after dark, after having taken some casualties from the enemy fire, as we traversed the road directly in front of them, at a distance of probably one thousand yards.

The company consisted of three officers and about sixty men at that point. As we left the village the next morning, at right angles to the road, and went off into the forest along a small road, or trail, without the benefit of the tanks, the forest, which we soon entered, was dense, and the snow was so deep, that instead of attacking in a front, we were forced to move in single file, and have the lead man break the path through the snow. This was so tiring that the lead man was rotated to the rear of the company after about 50 yards of forcing his way through the snow which was nearly three feet deep in the woods. The progress was slowed by occasional enemy fire, which resulted in everyone hitting the ground, and then moving forward after being prodded. This went on for the day in question until we reached a clearing in the woods. A firebreak was laid out somewhat like a street corner, since we had a clearing in front of us, and a clearing on our right, and we were in the northwest corner, with the Germans occupying the northwest corner, and who knew what in the other two corners. We had no support on our left flank, and did not know if any other of our sister companies were across the clearing to the southeast.

Directly in front of our position was a small haystack, and perhaps three or four at the most, cows eating from the stack. We had a nice wooden bunker built by the Germans on our side of the clearing, and they had another one on the other side, in which they had mounted a machine gun which would fire at targets of opportunity. We were going to have to attack this situation, and since it was almost dusk, I decided to wait until dark and see if we could cross the clearing on our right, then move across the clearing toward the southwest corner, and come up on the flank of the Germans. It always seemed easier to me to avoid head-on attacks, if possible, and so after dark, I started out with a patrol to see if we could cross and find another outfit. Radio contact, we did not have, so we did not know that about ten yards into this clearing was a small shack, perhaps a pump house, set on a stone base, and we got this far along, when I rolled over on my side and called out to someone still in the woods, at which time the German machine gun ripped out a burst and slammed me on my back from a sideways position, looking at my arm I could see where the bullet had gone through my sleeve, and while no pain accompanied the hit, this was typical since shock made the initial trauma area numb. I concluded that what I had was a nice million dollar wound, and crawled back to our woods, calling off the patrol.

Getting into the bunker, I tried to turn the company over to another officer, and told him it was a good hit for me, and here are the maps, "You take over". He wanted to see how much damage was done, and with some light in the bunker we started pulling off clothes. The bullet hole in the outer field jacket was almost exactly center on my arm, but the wool sweater had a shorter mark, and the wool shirt even less, finally, my wool underwear had perhaps a one inch mark, and on my skin there was a red mark, it had not even broken the skin! So I put all of the clothes back on, feeling gypped out of a good million dollar bullet hole. (Any wound which was not incapacitating, was considered a good deal, back to the rear for a little rest, and in the vernacular, a $1,000,000 wound!)

The next day the machine gun was still there, and they had mortars which would occasionally throw a round into our area. As a consequence, I ordered an attack to be made directly across the perhaps 50 yard wide area, with Joe Colcord starting from a position down the line which would not be directly in front of the gun, and the bunker, and started another platoon directly at the bunker. They were almost immediately pinned down, and were trying to hide behind the haystack, and the cows, so that I decided to get out there and get the attack moving, and moved out to the stack, possibly 15 yards from our woods.

At this time, while ordering some actions to take place, the Germans started to shell the haystack with mortar rounds, not a big explosive shell, but deadly enough. The next described sequence remains one of the most vivid of my entire life. While issuing orders, the thought popped into my mind with no preliminary warning, that "I was going to die, right now!" My response was not spoken, but it was none the less a response, and it was "Well, all right God, if it is time", and with my response came over me the most peaceful, serene, joyous feeling that everything was going to be wonderful and death was going to be a marvelous experience!! Almost at the same time, this inner conversation had taken place, a mortar shell landed on the back of the cow I was trying to hide under, and the cow fell over, away from me, and was dead!

It is my belief that God, our Father, Gave to me the opportunity to know that my time was up, and based upon my response, decided to give me some additional time on earth, for his own reasons, of course.

I heard no voices in my ear, saw no visions, but received a message that now was the time, and my consequent beliefs are that death will not be very frightening when we actually get there, God does indeed want us for his own, and will give to everyone the same loving thoughts to comfort them through.

I have never been able to tell this story without becoming very emotional, and writing it is the same, through my tears, which must be tears of joy, the remembrance of that moment of light, and love, in the middle of one of my worst experiences is still present, and leads me to believe that we need not fear, as we have been told many times in Christ's own words.

I have absolutely no remembrance of what transpired the rest of that day, except that we did not finish the attack, but pulled back to our side, and the following day when we were to launch an all-out attack, the Germans had vanished into the night.

"Gloria in Excelcis Deo," we are to remember that He loves everyone, not just those from one side, or the other, and I am sure that He does not love any war, no matter how just!

Copyright © 1997 - Myron Eberle. Used by permission.