Welcome. This page contains a unique document of the Second World War. Written shortly after the fighting ended in Europe, it is the journal of an Infantry officer who saw combat from the River Seine in France to the Elbe River in Germany. In August 1944 1st Lieutenant David Knox was assigned as Executive Officer, "L" Company, 119th Infantry Regiment of the US 30th Infantry Division. As second-in-command he observed most events and personalities within the company and carried out his duties with courage and dedication that earned him the respect of the men and his follow officers.
This version of the David Knox Journal has been edited to correct place names and clarify meaning. It has also been modified so the outcome of the story is not revealed before the events take place. Scans of the orginal document are available here: Old Hickory Reports
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon, the 20th of August. My name was called and I would leave that night for the Thirtieth Division. I was no longer a member of a replacement pool. I rolled up my bed roll, and drew ammunition for the first time. Of course the number of the division did not mean too much to me at that time, but I was on my way, with ammunition. We all said, "This is it," the phrase we had been hearing since we boarded the ship in New York.
I spent the next four nights sleeping in my pup tent in an open field. It rained most of the time. This was the spot called "division rear." We straightened our records, heard lots of wild rumors about combat, and received a "welcome talk" from a colonel. The division we were with broke the Hindenberg Line in the last war and had a good record in this one. At Mortain it had stopped the German counter-offensive to split the First and Third Armies. We were in an outfit of which to be proud, and we must maintain that record.
During this time we first heard of the landings in Southern France and the liberation of Paris. We even heard a rumor that was "straight dope"--The war would be over tomorrow. Like every replacement, we still had hopes that the war would be over before we ever saw combat.
On the morning of the 24th, division rear moved about sixty miles. We moved with them. That afternoon they sent us to regimental forward. We were delivered in due style. Someone said, "Here are six replacement officers." A captain looked out the door of the mansion they were in and said, "Oh Hell!" I suppose we were a nuisance at that time of the day, but we couldn’t help it. "I guess you are all rifle platoon leaders," he said, and in five minutes he told us which battalion we would join. Lt. Carrico and I were to go to the 3rd Battalion. Lt. Hughes, the battalion liaison officer, took us to the battalion Command Post(CP). He led us up a winding stairway to Lieutenant Colonel Brown’s room. Col. Brown, the battalion commander, was busy on the telephone talking to someone at regiment about the order for the following day. A member of the Free French was trying to tell him in broken English what he knew about the situation.
Col. Brown was very pleasant to us when we were introduced to him. He wasted no time asking us what we had done in the army. He introduced us to Major Rogerson, the battalion executive officer, and Captain Schiegel, the battalion surgeon. A few minutes later he assigned us. I was to go to Company "L", and Lt. Carrico to Company "I". Col. Brown pulled a notebook out of his pocket and told us the exact strength of each company and the names of all the platoon leaders. Thinks I, "These people are really on the ball."
It was finally about ten o’clock [2000 hrs] when I arrived at "L" Company. I found the commanding officer and introduced myself as a new officer. He was leaving for battalion to get the order for the next day. He introduced me to Lt. Rhodes, the heavy machine-gun platoon leader from "M" Company, and told me to make myself at home. The commanding officer, "Stan", as I soon found out he was called, was Lt. Stanford. I visited for an hour or so before Stan returned from receiving the order. He told me that each platoon had an officer except the fourth platoon; Sgt. Hendricks was platoon leader of that platoon, and a very able one. I would stay with company headquarters as executive officer. He told me to travel with the company CP group the next day, and try to get some rest because breakfast would be at five o’clock. I did.