©2003, 2009 Colin Charland, Chad Charland, and Claire Ashford
In the Great War, while serving in the 90th Division of our great, illustrious Commander General George Patton, we fought in the area and vicinity of Metz in Lorraine, a beautiful province sullied by German occupation from 1940 to 1945 and so many times in history.
As a child in grade school and high school, I had read much of the history of Alsace-Lorraine and all the blood that was shed there (mainly French blood). With all the destruction and desecration of the region, it is still a most beautiful part of France.
I never knew the day or time that I would serve in the U.S. Army in that very place I had read so much about, let alone be a part of the fighting there – strange and coincidental, the Events that happened to me. I believe St. Jean D'Arc was born there in Lorraine, but I may be wrong. Fighting there had been severe and vicious and the weather did not help to make things easier. For all of us, it was miserable, wet and damn cold. It was in the months of October and November of '44 in the Maginot line of defenses which was held by the Germans and groups of Officer Training Corps, plus some fanatical SS units firmly entrenched in their line of fortification, and it was our duty, our mission, to dislodge them. The weather was very inclement, cold and raining, together with sleet. Depressive to say the least. Fighting was constant and consistent with many patrols and small arms skirmishing many times at close quarters. There were many casualties for both us and Krauts.
I was luckier than some, although I got banged up a lot and later wounded and nearly killed. I was constantly wet and miserable. I don't think I saw the sunshine once. I was awarded the French Croix De Guerre in that area of combat. How I prayed to be wounded lightly to get the hell out of this God forsaken place. A kind of hopelessness pervaded among us, but we fought on and how we cursed the damn Germans for the war and the whole damn mess and how we were going to make them damn well pay in blood. I killed a few of these bastards before they finally got me. I had no regrets or remorse – apathy you'd call it. Although, I've got to thank them for it; they succeeded in finally getting me out of there – if you want to consider getting wounded as a gift. Considering getting it didn't hurt too much, it was worth it. After that, I never fought again – I never returned to the front lines – I had had it. Not many of the old original troopers left anyway. And, as far as I was concerned, as the Germans would say "For you the war is over" and I thank God and good Ste Jeanne D'Arc for protecting me from getting killed.
This is the farthest I fought in France – to Lorraine. It is said that if we had gotten Metz earlier, there would not have been a Battle of the Bulge. After a time in the hospital recuperating in England, I was placed non-combatant which didn't displease me at all. I spent most of the time as a POW guard over the Heinies at Compeign, the 16th Replacement Depot, before coming home in 1945 – and then they got me involved in handling displaced persons and that was some tough job. It was made real tough because of the language barriers. I speak French, but most of the DPs (displaced persons) spoke Polish, Lithuanian, Czech, Yugoslav, etc., but no English and very little French, so communicating was damn near impossible. A real thankless difficult job.