...Try, Try Again

Steel-reinforced concrete walls, retractable armored gun turrets, minefields, and thick belts of barbed wire "tanglefoot" obstacles all made the assault on Fort Schiesseck, just northwest of Bitche, an extremely difficult and dangerous operation. Shells from even the heaviest field pieces, including 240mm howitzers and 8" rifles, had little or no physical effect on these fortifications that had rebuffed the German assault in 1940. Satchel charges, bangalore torpedoes, and TNT had to be augmented by bayonets and submachineguns in "up-close and personal" duels with tenacious German defenders. Few sane men would want to advance against such formidable structures once -- but Private Jim Dunphy, Battery C, 375th Field Artillery Battalion, attacked the same pillbox four times!

During the attack on an pillbox guarding the approach to the main fortress, Private Dunphy was supporting Company I, 398th Infantry as part of a forward observation party. After an engineer placed a TNT charge designed to knock out an armored mortar position, he set a fuse which failed to detonate the explosive. Dunphy volunteered to creep forward, penetrate 15 feet of barbed wire, descend a 12-foot ladder, and check the charge. Finding no fuse with the dynamite, he removed the blocks and replaced them in a firing slit of the pillbox, then returned to fire a bazooka at the stacked TNT.

The 2.36" rocket blew the blocks of explosive all over the place, but failed to detonate them.

Next, after procuring more TNT and some pull-fuses, Dunphy crawled forward with Lieutenant Williams, acting CO of Item Company. Together, they crammed the explosive charges into the hole, yanked the fuse to one of them, and rapidly high-crawled to cover. Again, the charges failed to go off.

Not knowing whether the charges would detonate when he returned, and covered by Sergeant Rosenberg, Private Dunphy again scrabbled forward, and ignited yet another fuse. Rapidly returning to cover, he and the others covered their ears, awaiting the resounding crash that would signal the end of German resistance at the pillbox.

Nothing happened. The second fuse also failed to detonate the explosives.

Out of fuses, and not wanting to waste further bazooka rounds or blocks of TNT, Private Dunphy and Lieutenant Williams crawled forward one more time. This time, Dunphy split the fibers of the remaining unburned fuse, and Lieutenant Williams lit them with a match. With less than a minute's worth of fuse attached to the dynamite, Private Dunphy and Lieutenant Williams made it back to cover in record time -- and were rewarded with an enormous explosion that marked the end of German resistance in the pillbox.

-- From the Century Sentinel, 13 January 1945.

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