Chapter 5: The Stoy of Bob Kauffman.
The whole research started with my good friend and 36thAIR veteran Bob Kauffman.
When I first met him in 2009, he was arguing with a man at the Panther tank in Grandmenil. Later this man turned out to be Tony Vaccaro, the world famous World War 2 photographer.
Faith had brought them together at the crossroads in Grandmenil.
Bob Kauffman returned to my house the next day, however. The conversation with Tony had upset him and he asked me if I could research the events in and around Ottré, because Tony had told him that a massacre had taken place there on January 11th.
During my research I asked him a question: Why did he want to know what happened on the Ottré field?
Bob Kauffman’s answer was stunning: “Because I was there!”.
He stated: “Our 3rd rifle squad was ordered to get its gear together and we were taken to the edge of the village and ordered to dig in. Sampson (George; BK) and I, with the bazooka, were ordered to dig in right beside the road. Clark and another man dug in a few yards from us and the other team beyond them.” This was on January 9th, 1945.
Kauffman’s memory of this episode of the Battle of the Bulge was excellent. He remembered that a tank approached their position during the night. George wanted to shoot it, because they were told that if there was movement, it would be German. But listening to the engine, they were certain this was an American tank. They were right.
“Daylight did not come too soon after that night of cold and suspense. We were finally recalled and joined the rest of the unit. As we re-entered the village, we came under exceptionally heavy artillery fire. We took shelter in a shed where a number of our wounded were waiting to be evacuated to the rear.”
This was January 10th 1945.
Looking in the reports of the 83rdID and the reports of the 3rdAD, they both mention heavy artillery coming in at 09.10 hrs: “Black Blue Battalion receiving heavy artillery fire. Departure has half an hour delay.”
In 2010 I had an idea: Why didn’t I go with a part of the team to research the area where Bob Kauffman was dug in and find his foxhole back. And in this task I succeeded! I found the three foxholes at a small crossroads just outside of Ottré.
The positions have a clear view over the terrain. It is odd however that the squads of F and G company started their attack in that area, but Kauffman did not see them. He did not see a single man attacking from that position.
I think the German artillery barrage is the cause of that. Although it is stated the attack started very early in the morning, I have strong indications that it started much later. Bob Kauffman and his buddies had already left that position but did not see any troops. Furthermore, like he said, they had to run for their lives, because of incoming artillery fire. Bob stated that they left their foxholes when it was already light. We calculated that this must have been after 08.45 hrs in the morning, which corresponds with the incoming artillery fire at 09.10hrs.
So we are pretty sure the whole attack started around 09.30 hrs or later on 10 January 1945.
For a short video about Bob’s foxhole: see below.
Let’s take a look at the only survivor of the massacre: Harry E. Shoemaker.
© Bob Konings