Alphus was born in June 1919 to Ernest and Ethyl Arthur. They lived on North Fairfax Street and Ernest worked as a bus driver for the ABW line. Alphus attended Alexandria schools, but left after his sophomore year at GWHS to wed Lillian Avis Daniels in 1935. He took a job as a clerk at the Sanitary Grocery Co (later Safeway) at 626 King Street at the corner of Washington St. In July 1938 Avis gave birth to a son, Alphus Jr and they moved to Del Ray, renting the duplex at 303 LaVerne Avenue. He seems to have been a hard worker, putting in 48-hour weeks without a single one off in 1939, earning $1,400 that year. He worked his way up to store manager and in July 1943 Avis became pregnant again, but by this time the Army was so hard up for manpower that the draft deferment for parents was in doubt. In April Alphus was drafted at Ft Meade in Maryland and sent to Ft McClellan for training. His daughter Caroline was born in May.
By that point the Army had ceased raising new units and was concentrating solely on feeding replacements into units already in combat to keep them up to strength. Conventional wisdom among the “old hands” in such units was the the new replacements were not well prepared for the rigor and terror of infantry combat. Many even refused to befriend them, certain that they would not last long. Alphus seems to have fit into that mold. After training he was sent to Europe in September 1944, where he was assigned as a combat replacement to Company L of the 47th Infantry, part of the 9th Infantry Division.
The horrific meatgrinder that was Huertgen forest was the most brutal the US faced in the war in Europe, and possibly in the war overall. Lasting from September to December 1944 it was also the longest single battle ever fought by the US Army. The Germans had prepared their dug-in defenses with their customary care and the forest, although heavy with trees, had little undergrowth, leaving the GIs exposed as they advanced. Artillery shells burst in the tree-tops, slaughtering the standing or prone Americans with shrapnel, while doing little to the Germans in their foxholes. Into this advanced the 47th Infantry Regiment, with nine line companies, each of about 200 soldiers organized mainly into three 50-strong rifle platoons. Death and maiming were unending, and a constant stream of green, inexperienced troops had to be fed in to replace the fallen. One of those was Alphus Arthur, sent to join Company L in September and wounded almost immediately.
He was treated and returned to duty, was wounded again, and came back a second time in time for the destruction of Company L. One of the few clearings in the Huertgen was marked by the Bovenburg dairy farm, with stone and concrete buildings surrounding a courtyard. Company L, now reduced to two platoons, was assigned to take it. Fighting was bitter over the 20th and 21st of November, with the climax being described as:
Finally, the remaining members of the two platoons — one to the right and the other echeloned to the left rear — attempted to assault the dairy building. The platoon on the right actually reached the building but was repulsed by numbers of hand-grenades which the enemy dropped from second-story windows. One squad made a bayonet attack, but only one man survived it. One platoon penetrated to a small patch of woods east of the dairy, and was there cut off by fire and was unable to go either forward or rearward. A heavy smoke screen was thrown to enable the trapped platoon to get out: six men came out unscathed, dragging 15-20 wounded.