My First Prisoner

Germany, November 1944

Parley E. "Pop" Allred

Headquarters, 3rd Battalion, 415th Infantry Regiment

My outfit, Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 415th Infantry, pulled into a small town in Germany in the middle of the afternoon. Across a level open field approximately two or three miles was the adjoining town which was the front line of the German Army. After we had gotten everything set up and in operation, Sgt. Edmonds and myself started out doing our favorite thing, hunting food. This time it was eggs, of which our supply was fast becoming depleted. We looked everywhere on the main floor of the house and then went to the basement. In one end of the room we were in the bedding was piled two or three feet deep. First, Edmonds found a gas mask, then a German Army rifle. I proceeded to start and pulled the bedding apart to see what I could find. The first two or three articles were blankets under which was a small mattress. Pulling the mattress up, I spotted a German belt buckle. The only trouble was I discovered when I grabbed hold of it and pulled, was that the German soldier was still in it. I let go of the buckle and shoved the mattress back down on top of him and sat down on top of both of them. I then asked Edmonds to hand me the German rifle. Not seeing what had taken place as he had his back towards me, he said "Why?" When I replied that I was sitting on top of a German soldier who was under the mattress, he handed the gun to me.

I then pulled the mattress off of the German and motioned for him to put his hands above his head. Which he did. I then ordered him to climb out of all that bedding and stand up. Well, in order for him to get out from under all that bedding he had to put his hands down. Each time that he did, I would yell and back up went his hands. After he had tried two or three times with his hands up, Edmonds uncovered him. With the prisoner in front we started for the Battalion headquarters about a half a block down the street. As we neared the headquarters the German artillery started shooting air bursts at our positions. We both started to run. The prisoner was a bit smaller than I was and couldn’t or wouldn’t run as fast as I did. So I picked him up under my right arm and ran for the battalion headquarters building. About ten feet from the building, I fell with him. I didn’t dare stand up again so I proceeded to shove him ahead of me the remaining distance and up two or three steps into the building on our hands and knees.

After turning him over to the MPs and the air bursts had stopped, I ran back to where we had started from, and proceeded to unload the gun so that I could break it and throw it away. That is when I really had second thoughts about what I had just done. That gun didn’t have even one shell in it.


Two Pillboxes

Sgt. Vincent Kamrowski

Company C, 329th Combat Engineers

It must have been a day early in December 1944, I can’t remember, and located in a small town near the Siegfried Line. Our tanks were prepared to move out on a road winding through the wooded area of German pillboxes and they had received intelligence that antitank mines were lying exposed on the surface of the road a half mile up ahead. Engineers from our third squad, third platoon were instructed to head down the road to where our infantry units were dug in and remove the mines. The operation had to be completed before 0830 hours when our field artillery was going to lay down a barrage just prior to our combined tank and infantry attack.

It was bright morning when we started at 0730 hours. The day wasn’t very cold and we soon were approaching the described location as ten of us were spread out in a single file on the left shoulder where the road sloped downward and curved to the right. Just beyond on the right was a wide, 100 yard clearing and, partly visible through the wood on the left, were two German pillboxes. Up ahead a straight and level stretch of road was the supposed location of the mines, but there were none to be seen.

Before we even had a chance to reach the bottom of the curve a German mortar whistled in, glanced off the tree branches above us on our left and landed in our midst between Hartman’s feet. It didn’t go off but just rested half buried in the ground as those of us closest to it stared at it in disbelief. I had to be sure that there were no mines present up ahead before we returned so I sent Sery back to inform the lieutenant of the situation and to bring back any new intelligence and further orders.

A few minutes later, when we were fully exposed to the nearest pillbox, we suddenly drew shell fire from their 88’s and we dived off the road for cover on the left. In the confusion for seeking shelter under continued shell fire Worbes found some empty dugouts which gave us good protection. However, when he changed his position to a larger dugout it took a direct hit and he was killed by the intense concussion. I now waited and kept everyone in place until the time was right and then had our men crawl their way out through the woods and we made our way safely back to our unit.

Meanwhile Sery returned to where he had left us. Not finding anyone he proceeded down the straight stretch of the road until another of our group, Greenberg, who had remained in his own isolated, hidden site off the side of the road, heard his subdued calls. They both walked a little further trying to find us, even calling my name, but decided that they were now close to zero hour and withdrew without further incident. The Germans apparently assumed that their presence was a probe, or a test and not worth wasting ammunition for the major attack they momentarily were expecting.

There were two more but minor casualties from the shelling incident. These included Hartman and Alexandrowicz but also one to Hammer from a Schu mine he triggered by stepping on a fallen tree branch. It was a sad day though for our squad with the loss of our friend Worbes.


Birgel Stay

by Bob Waldoch

2nd Bn Hq, 414th Infantry

On December 24, 1944 our company moved into Birgel, relieving elements of the 83rd Division, which moved south to cover part of the northern rim of the Ardennes. We remained in this position for quite some time.

When winter arrives and snow is on the ground, the night sky star studded, the wind still, my thoughts are of Birgel. Our radio station had the best cellar in town; a sturdy brick vaulted ceiling with but one small window facing east, and a cooking stove to keep us warm. Maybe the wire section, holed up in the basement of the church down the hill a ways might be its equal. We felt very safe and secure.

We had a well with an operating pump in the courtyard and a good one-holer built into one side of the barn, close to the house. Unfortunately, someone in the squad must have had the "trots", and instead of sitting down to relieve himself crouched over the hole, making its further use impossible. Instead, the men had to use the attic floor for their call of nature and, since we were stationary for such a long time that there was very little unused space for one to drop their trousers and became doubly dangerous at night. Luckily for us the weather was cold so that the stench didn’t reach the cellar.

My combat boots, like so many others, were in bad shape. Where were those sno-pacs we were to get. The leather toes curled up from being constantly wet, being dried out, then wet again, and if they were ever removed were almost impossible to get back on again. Carl Bergquist and I decided, one day, to investigate the surrounding area. As the Germans only shelled the town on the hour with only four rounds, we felt quite safe moving about. My big concern was trying to find another pair of boots somewhere. Along the side of the road was a snow covered pile of discarded German equipment. I spotted the shape of a boot, reached into the pile and grabbed it, only to discover that the previous owner had left his foot in it. I quickly lost interest, and besides, it wasn’t my size anyway.

Going further up the road to the top of a hill with a beautiful view of Duren across the river. Two knocked out American tank destroyers, their silent barrels pointed towards Duren, were also sitting there, and aware that tankers and TD men often carried rations strapped to their decks, we moved over to investigate. It was evident that the TD’s had crushed some of our own men was very visible by the guts stretching between the treads. In disgust, I kicked a snow covered object on the ground and uncovered a human foot, bare, fresh looking and pink. About this time the Germans threw some at the hill and Carl and I retired, no longer interested in food or boots.

A squad of black tankers, with a white officer, had set up house across the street. The tanks had all been reconditioned and rushed to the front during the Ardennes offensive to serve as a sort of stationary artillery. One tank was moved into our courtyard, facing east, and covered with a large green camouflaged netting which would act like a bullseye for the enemy. I was sure that the tank would be manned at night and hoped we could get a good nights sleep without posting our own guard. We would relish an uninterrupted nights sleep. After dark I very slowly walked out to the tank, talking all the time, reassuring anyone posted on the tank that I was a friend and not an enemy.

Crouching down under the netting and crawling a few feet further in, talking all the while, I could see no one in the turret and wasn’t sure anyone was there or not; there was never an answer to my questions about being on guard duty and was about to leave when I saw the whites of a man’s eyes which moved in such a way I knew the man was very frightened. Still talking, I slowly backed out from under the net, holding my breath until I got back to the safety of the doorway. We didn’t post a guard that night but have often wondered if these "green" troops even knew how to fire their weapons. The next day we heard a muffled explosion and a man rushed into our cellar to ask if he could use our jeep to take a man to the hospital. The tankers across the street tried to light a fire in their stove with gasoline. Don’t know what house they moved to after the fire. Our stay in Birgel was long and boring, but occasionally something to break the monotony would happen.


The Cabbage Patch

Near Weisweiler, Germany, November 1944

George Lombardi

B Battery, 387th Field Artillery Battalion

B Battery, 387th Field Artillery Battalion was again on the road, moving up to a forward position as usual. It seemed we were forever moving up to a forward position.

As we were approaching the town of Eschweiler, we received a Fire Mission. We were directed to pull our guns into a cabbage patch and face our guns toward the front. First, Second and Third Sections made the transition without a hitch, but the Fourth Section was halfway into our turn when the tractor suddenly dropped dead and our driver, Kenneth Adams, was unable to restart it. The gun crew jumped out and positioned the gun by hand. After the mission was complete, we had to wait for assistance to get the tractor restarted. Second Section sent their tractor, driven by Boyd Allen, to give it a push. Lt. Oldfather was at the controls of the disabled tractor. Boyd Allen nudged it about a foot when suddenly there was a huge explosion. The Right Track had hit a land mine. The windshield with Lt. Oldfather behind it was blown clear off and never seen again. Lt. Oldfather came out of it with many scratches and bruises, but nothing serious. Scratch one tractor.

Ken Adams had to take it back to the rear and exchange it for another one. Meanwhile, Boyd stayed on as our temporary drive. Little did we know it, but that cabbage field was laced with mines, and here we were walking all over the place. Another close shave with only one victim…the tractor. Another victory for the good guys.


Bed Check Charley

(near Aachen, Germany, Nov. 1944)

Parley E. "Pop" Allred

Headquarters, 3rd Battalion, 415 Infantry Regiment

After we were taken out of the Canadian First army and sent to Brandt, Germany to replace the American First Infantry Division, "Bed Check Charley" from the German Air Force would fly over our position and drop anti-personnel bombs just about dark every night. The communications platoon of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 415th Infantry was staying in the basement of a large building there.

There was an outside toilet sitting behind the building about two hundred feet. Either a bomb from a plane or an artillery shell had hit just in front of the door and had blown a hole in the ground about five or six feet across. In order to use the toilet you had to jump and step on a 4X6 that formed the base of the front door and wall of the building.

One night before dark, "Bed Check Charley" paid us his regular visit. Barns came running down the basement yelling that Mruz had just fallen in the toilet. I ran upstairs and locked the door just as Mruz got to it. He pleaded with me to unlock the door cause Bed Check Charley was overhead. I said no way until he got all of that crap off of him but I would come outside and be with him until Charley left, which I did. After Charley left, I had him take off his clothes and I got a five gallon can of gas and a tub to dump them in. Then I gave him a large cloth that Barns brought me and had him wipe all the crap off of him. Well, you know how cool gas makes your skin feel when it evaporates. By the time he was clean to my satisfaction, he was beginning to turn blue.

What had happened to him was that he went out to use the toilet when Bed Check Charley caught him about half way there and he ran and jumped to get under cover of the toilet. He just didn’t jump far enough to step on the 4X6 but was able to grab it with his hands as he fell down the hole and there he hung with Charley above and crap below.


How I Choked A German Soldier

Wallis Gray

Company D, 415 Infantry Battalion

December 1944, on the plain leading to Merken, a group from Co. "D" 2nd platoon were on a scouting patrol when German mortar shells began falling around us. I hit the dirt and began crawling towards a foxhole (not mine, but one the Germans had left). The shells came closer and I rolled into that hole right on top of a German soldier.

I responded fast – grasped his throat and choked with all my might. He didn’t move and I finally realized my hands were cold and so was his throat.

I was greatly relieved when I discovered I was sharing a foxhole with a fellow that offered no resistance – he was already dead.


The Egg and I

Paul Q. Chronister

Company K, 413th Infantry Regiment

As every Europe front line Infantryman knows, an egg would make the K or C rations pretty eatable. We also knew they were few and far between and you had plenty of competition for them. You had to move quickly and have a pretty good idea where to find them to get there first.

Towards the end of the war, we were moving quite rapidly and we came into this town and we were going to spend the night there. I said to my runner, "Go and see if you can find any eggs." I hoped he might find a couple. I told him I would be held up here for about an hour until I got the platoon quartered and set up some type of defense.

In about 15 minutes he came back and said he found some eggs, but couldn’t get them. I said, "What do you mean you can’t get them." He said the hen house was locked and the owner was standing by the door and he couldn’t get in. I said I would be done pretty soon and I would go with him. So when we got finished we went and found the hen house with 150 or more hens. There stood the lady guarding the door. I said in my best German "Haven sie aire?" (do you have any eggs). She replied with "nicht versteha" (I don’t understand). After two or three more attempts to make her understand, I raised my carbine getting ready to shoot the lock and she threw up her hands and loudly shouted "versteha, versteha" (I understand). She whipped out the key, opened the door and gave the bounty to us.

The whole mortar section had 4 or 5 eggs each. I don’t remember eating any K rations that night.

I was telling this story one time and a lady asked if it bothered me to take the eggs. I said "No, we were giving our lives, they were just giving eggs."


Easter Sunday Memories

Eiler Ravnholt

Company D, 414th Infantry Regiment

Easter Sunday morning, April 1, 1945, our company, as part of Combat Command A, had been held up for a day about 25 miles south of Paderborn. Other elements of the 104th infantry and 3rd Armored Divisions were securing the flanks prior to the proposed link-up of our spearhead with the units of the 9th Army, coming down from the north to complete the encirclement of the giant Ruhr industrial region.

Before daybreak our Combat Command took off through a forest in a northwesterly direction. By 8 a.m. we had already advanced some 25 miles without opposition and entered Giessen, a town lying west of Paderborn. It was a very nice spring morning. The residents of Giessen, unaware that we were so near, were out in large numbers in their Easter finery enroute to or from early morning church services.

Our Section of the Command was halted in the center of the town for some time as a result of a firefight between the lead elements of our column and German units on the far side of Giessen. Wanting to urinate, but not wishing to offend the women and children, I entered a nearby "gast haus". There I was met by a teenage girl whom I asked, "Wo bist der wasser kloset?

"Ein moment," she said, only to disappear and return shortly with a key and pointed to a door. I unlocked the door and entered to find myself confronted by two Kraut non-coms in their underwear. They grabbed their lugers—and handed them to me. I never got my 45 out of the holster, but I had forgotten it was April Fools Day. And it wasn’t a "wasser kloset" after all.

The two Krauts, anti-aircraft unit non-coms, quickly got dressed to leave. They wanted to take their belongings with them but I said "nein", and marched them out on the street. By this time I had my 45 out. Shepherding them up the street I heard our battalion commander, Lt. Col. Robert Clark, bark, "Soldier get those Jerrie’s hands over their heads where the God damn belong."

With some embarrassment I complied and fortunately soon turned them over to Headquarters Company personnel. I then returned to the "gast haus" where, with several of my squad, we went through the soldiers’ belongings, "liberating" anything of interest, including some welcome rye bread and sausage and a snap shot of the German sergeant, which I still have. I also kept the two lugers, one of which had about an 8-inch barrel. I gave the remainder of the P.W.’s belongings to the teenage chambermaid who had arranged their capture, I’m confident, in order to avoid any problem from harboring German soldiers. They, in turn, were likely relieved to be out of the war safely, although subsequent reports of malnourishment and ill treatment of the Germans captured in the Ruhr pocket may have made that relief short lived.

We shortly resumed our offensive dash northwestward toward Lippstadt, where Combat Command A linked up with elements of the 9th U.S. Army at about 1400 hours that Easter Sunday, completing the encirclement of some 350,000 German troops.

We billeted in Lippstadt that night, in a house containing several young German females. They were soon joined by several others who requested permission to remain with us because they were frightened. I recall the girls singing Lili Marlene for our entertainment as we, without concern, again violated the U.S. Army non-fraternization policy. The following day we resumed our Eastward advance through badly burned out Paderborn toward the Weser River.

I don’t know how long that non-fraternization policy was continued, for 10 days later I was evacuated from Company D, by then in the Harz Mountains, having come down with a case of Hepatitis A. Knowing that one’s souvenir pistols would not survive hospitalization, I left them with my buddy, Authur Douglas. I never got back to my unit, so the picture of the German sergeant is my only souvenir of my "heroic capture" of my enemy during the war.


Fish ‘N Chips

Jake C. Baboian

Company C, 414th Infantry

I was hit by shrapnel from a German ’88 on March 3, 1945 before our division entered Cologne, Germany.

I was a squad leader in an infantry rifle platoon, Co. C, 414th Regiment, 104th Infantry Division from December to March – lasting quite awhile for a staff sergeant in combat before being hit. I should be thankful.

I started out as PFC scout, graduated to assistant squad leader, and finally ended up as a squad leader. We had suffered a great many casualties. It was pretty easy to move up in rank.

After being hit, I spent a week at the tent hospital in Belgium, another week in a hospital in Paris, and finally a couple of months at the 188th General Hospital in Salisbury, England. Salisbury is not too far from Portsmouth, England.

After some time lying immobile in my hospital bed, I said to myself, I’ve got to figure out a way to move around – to perambulate.

I had been hit in about ten places. As a result, I had a long cast on my left leg up to my hip. I had a cast on my left hand which was my worst injury, and among other things, a couple of flesh wounds in my right leg near the knee, which didn’t seem to cause too much of a problem.

Well, I managed to get into one of these English wheelchairs which are lightweight, easy to manipulate, and not anywhere near as cumbersome and heavy as its American counterparts. I call the American wheelchairs "clodhoppers."

Now that I’m finally in a wheelchair, what do I do? Remember, I have casts on my left leg and left hand. I found I would move alright, but couldn’t go in a straight line. I moved as in a circle. That would just not do.

I finally figured it out. I pushed myself with my one good left backwards, and believe it or not, I traveled in a straight line! This was great! I could move now with direction!!

And in those light wheelchairs, I could move fast up and down the ramps of those hospital barracks. The English had built a maze of ramps for guys like me in wheelchairs. I went so fast that they nicknamed me "jet" for jet-propelled.

However, after about a month of this, I began to get restless. The walking wounded would come back from the small town of Salisbury after a pass, and brag about all they places they had been to…dances, church affairs, recreational activities and restaurants.

They raved about the tremendous "fish ‘n chips" they devoured in some of the fine restaurants in the small town. I’m listening to all this with great relish, since I’m somewhat of a gourmet when it comes to food.

I made up my mind. I was going to visit the town – wounds or no wounds.

In talking to some of the GI’s, they told me that they could walk to the town about a mile away from the rear of the hospital down a bumpy, narrow path the size of a very narrow road.

One day I set out to do just that, in my trusty English wheelchair, wearing pajamas and a bathrobe. There was a big grassy plain in front of the hospital leading to a narrow wooden walk bridge. I got that far, and then someone picked up my wheelchair and took it across the bridge while I hopped over on my one good leg.

Now, I was on a bumpy gravel and cinder road going down the hill. I went backwards as usual and almost tipped over at one point. It was approximately a mile to town, as I remember. The road got smoother the closer I got to town. I don’t remember seeing any houses or people – just bushes and trees. It was an unused path.

I finally got to the city limits. There was a huge, long, triangular gate at the city limits that was open. Now, I hit a paved road with occasional cars. I started seeing many homes and "lo and behold" a "fish ‘n chips" restaurant. I went in to the restaurant, and immediately was hit by many questions from the proprietors. I must have looked rather strange in my bathrobe and pajamas in the wheelchair.

"Where did I come from?" "How did I get there?"

I told them I came down the hill from the hospital. They could hardly believe it.

Well, I finally had my "fish ‘n chips." You know what it was? Fried haddock and French fries. It was delicious.

And, believe it or not, I went to pay for the meal, they wouldn’t take my money. No matter how much I insisted, they said "no way." So, there was a little box for the "English Soldier’s Fund," and I gave to that. I said, "Thank you and so long" and wheeled myself out the door. I don’t remember any steps. I was not anticipating other adventures in the town.

But, immediately afterwards, who should approach me in my wheelchair but the American M.P.’s "How did you get here?" "What are you doing here?" they immediately put my wheelchair and me into the jeep and started transporting me back to the hospital. I remember going by the huge cathedral on the way back. Frankly, this experience is all I saw or experienced of England at that time.

All I can say is "once a scout, always a scout" – especially if "fish ‘n chips" is your reward.

The Sequel

VE Day, May 8, 1995, 50 Years Later

Guess what! 50 years later in a repeat celebration of VE Day, I went AWOL again with Bernie Weisman, a fellow band member, and we retraced my steps in Salisbury, England – exactly 1 hour train ride away from our Legion Band base in Portsmouth, England. Our Waltham, Massachusetts American Legion Band had arrived in England to celebrate VE Day.

The hospital up on the hill is still there, but the six to eight Quonset huts that our military wounded occupied back in 1945 had been converted to an immense, modern hospital. There is a special burns unit at this hospital also. The English were very helpful to us. The nurses assisted us in our nostalgic search, and one orderly in particular walked with us about a mile through the long corridors to find the area we were looking for.

Of course, the grassy plain is no longer there. That area is now occupied by the new hospital. Our friendly orderly dropped us off in the area where he believed my cinder path started.

The foot bridge was no longer there, but we found a couple of wooden slats that could have been the remnants of a foot bridge. They were exactly the correct size as I remembered.

We walked at least a mile through the cinder path, but we went in the wrong direction – to the right instead of to the path on the left, but it gave us an exact indication as to what the cinder paths looked like. It brought back memories. It was so bumpy at times that I can understand now why I almost tipped over in my wheelchair as I was pushing myself backwards with my one good left on that original journey.

When we took the wrong path, we went a couple of miles out of our way. I have to give Bernie credit for putting up with me in our search. His bum leg, I know, caused him some pain.

I thank the Lord that Bernie was with me. We both helped each other in this long search. My wife, Ruby, who did not come on this trip, had given Bernie strict orders to stick with me before we left Waltham, Mass.

Our cinder path dropped off onto a heavily traveled road which I did not recognize. We walked a mile back towards the town after we got off the cinder path and by accident we found the "fish ‘n chips" restaurant. We were so thirsty that we decided to get a cold beer at a restaurant and pub in the area we had just walked to.

Strange as it may seem, Bernie said, "Wouldn’t it be great if this were the restaurant you were looking for?"

I said, "Impossible, this is the wrong side of the street."

The time was 3:30 p.m., and unfortunately but maybe fortunately, the owner and workers were closing the restaurant and pub. They said we could come back at 5 p.m. when they could re-open.

Bernie told them about our nostalgic search. They were flabbergasted! They said, "This is the place! Walk around to the rear of the restaurant, and you’ll see the old restaurant, and you’ll see the area and the street that was originally the front of the old restaurant."

They had enlarged it 10 times, and were relatively new owners. Sure enough, when I walked around to the rear, I recognized the narrow street where the M.P.’s in the military jeep had picked me up in my original AWOL experience.

It was an unforgettable experience. Immediately afterwards we all returned to the restaurant and…we ordered "fish ‘n chips!"

I especially want to thank Bernie for putting up with me in my persistent search which finally came to a fruitful conclusion.

Believe me when I say that my replacing my steps in the town of Salisbury 50 years later was a thrilling, thought-provoking, unforgettable, nostalgic experience for me.


Holland Memories

Edward Jackson

Company K, 413th Infantry

I have read, with interest, the "war stories" which have been published lately in THE HOWL. These tales are quite nostalgic though for some of us, many of these are incidents that might have been but weren’t.

According to the History of the 413th Infantry, our regiment had 673 battle casualties in Holland. I was one of them. So while the 104th went on to Germany, crossed the Rhine and met up with the Russians, some us traveled other paths.

I was wounded on the way into Noordhoek, November 4, 1944, the last day of fighting for our unit in Holland. By that evening, I had been taken to the 100th Evacuation Hospital which was located somewhere north of Antwerp. It was right on the "main line" of the V-1’s on their way into Antwerp. These "buzz-bombs" were slow enough that there was a fair chance they could be shot down. There was a British anti-aircraft unit located right outside the hospital that would shoot at these as they came over. When they would hit one there would be a cheer all over the hospital. They hit one about midnight that night while I was being operated on (local anesthetic).

After a couple of days, I was transferred to the 12th Field Hospital in Hasselt, Belgium. We had buzz-bombs there, too, although I don’t know what their target was. Three more transfers and I was in England and ultimately ended up in a General Hospital in the States. (The high point of that was the trip home on the Queen Mary – a 4-day trip. Contrast that with the 11-day trip our convoy took going over.) I received a medical discharge from Camp Upton Convalescent Hospital just before V-J day and happened to be in New York City, on my way home, the night the war ended.

In 1971, we were visiting friends in Holland and I was able to pretty much retrace my steps from Loenhout, Belgium up to Noordhoek. Much of it had changed very little. The little church in Zundert which a number of us attended while we were in reserve was still there. The two towers of Seppe that we stared at over the trees for a couple of days still dominated the scene. The sugar beet factory was still there. (However, the area around Noordhoek now has an expressway going through it!) Through our hosts, we were able to converse with people along the way who had been there when were there during the war. When we asked a woman in Standdaarbuiten if she had been there during the Mark River crossing, she said, "Was I! We spent most of the night in our cellar wondering if the shelling should ever stop."


Story Of A Holocaust Liberator

Tillie Zipper, wife of Seymour Zipper

329th Medical Detachment

Grown men wept, others cursed and some quietly stepped to the side of the road and retched. A deadly silence was combined with a deathly stench. The scene was one from Hell. The location – Nordhausen Concentration Camp in Germany.

This was but one of the ghastly concentration camps set up by the Germans during World War II.

Seymour Zipper, a corporal in the Medics of the 104th Infantry Division, told us the story.

" The 104th Timberwolf Division had seen much action by the time we arrived at Nordhausen, but no one knew of the existence of concentration camps. When we walked through those gates, we could see that the buildings had been bombed, roofs were half gone, and rubble was all over the place. But what startled us and made us think we were in Hell were the stacks of bodies! Some stacks were three and four people high, some nude and some in tattered garments. Even hardened soldiers looked about them in bewilderment at this terrible scene."

"In a corner, three men huddled about a low fire, and next to them was the head of a decayed and rotting horse which evidently they used for food. Maggots and flies were also making a meal from these leftovers and more than one person gagged as they saw and smelled this repugnant horror."

"Each medical corpsman was assigned a building to check. Inside, bedracks were stacked one on top of the other and living were together with the dead, too weak to crawl away. Those alive could barely speak, their eyes were shrunken in their heads, bones protruded from matchstick thin arms and legs, and only a groan or whimper made us realize that they were still alive."

"The officer in charge commandeered some Germans to empty homes and three blocks of buildings were evacuated as we started moving the living-dead into them. As some were pleading for water, we gave them some, only to realize that sometimes they could die or get very ill from that! In their starved condition, we could only give them very small sips, or feed the intravenously."

"Later, we were told that this camp held not only Jews, but political prisoners, as well as an American airman that had been shot down. These people had been used for forced labor at the V-2 rocket assembly plants and had been given a loaf of bread a week for six men!"

Mr. Zipper continued to tell of inhumane conditions: Tears were in his eyes and his voice trembled.

"Even the Chaplain – who I had never heard say a curse word during all our days of battle – cursed those responsible for this unbelievable cruelty."

"But," he said, "To get back to our going thru bunks. As I walked through, I saw a man with a "J" on his uniform and spoke to him in Yiddish since I presumed he was Jewish. This man fell to his knees crying, and kissing my hands. I always get so emotional when I talk of this ‘Joe Gelber’. There but for the Grace of God would I be as a Jew!"

"I gave Joe all my rations and took his picture and promised to give it to his Aunt, as he told me he had a relative in the Bronx."

"As we moved people into the homes that had been made available, we did what best we could to keep them alive. But even as we gave them small sips of liquid, some would die."

"The 104th had to move out after two days."

"This was towards the end of the War, and shortly after I returned to the United States I found the picture of Joe Gelber in my knapsack and went to the Bronx to give it to Joe’s Aunt. When we arrived there was a man in the house…and it was Joe! His Aunt on learning that he was alive, had sent for him and his wife, who had miraculously survived by working as a seamstress in a work camp. I hardly recognized him as of course, he had gained back his weight. It was a joyous reunion."

"Many years passes and we lost touch with them. However, just recently my wife saw an article in the "Jewish Journal" that the Holocaust organization was looking for liberators, and I sent them an article she had written regarding this episode in my life."

"Within a week I received a phone call."

"It was from the organization that had been interviewing survivors and liberators. They told me that they had just interviewed Joe Gelber and he mentioned my name as the man who had been part of the rescue party! He was living in Miami Beach, a scant 30 minutes from my house."

To this day, Mr. Zipper is very bitter about Nordhausen.

"I cannot forget the sight of hundreds of innocent people that were killed so callously and died horribly at the whim of the Devil himself."

If there is a moral to this story, it is that we must protect everyone from such hatred. Hitler was disposing of political enemies, Jews, Gypsies and other who displeased him. Who would have been next, had he been successful?


A Platoon Sergeant’s Last 12 Hours in Combat

Lloyd Holyer

Company K, 413th Infantry Regiment

Just a tiny bit of background to place my saga into the larger picture of T/Sgt. Lloyd Lee Holyer, WW-II. I started my service with ASTP at Camp Fannin, Texas…17 months of grueling infantry basic under a hot Texas sun. Later transferred to Cadet training at Sheppard Field in Texas. While still "unassigned" and having infantry background, Ike called me back to the 104th for service in the ETO. I joined K-Co on the Mojave Desert in California just prior to their arrival in Camp Carson, Colorado.

Overseas, approx. D plus 90, Private Holyer fought through Belgium, Holland, and on into Germany where we relieved the Big Red One near Aachen. The ranks of my platoon depleted rapidly through the "trenchfoot/stage fright syndrome," not to discount the number of actual battle casualties that took place. I rapidly advanced to squad leader, thence to platoon sergeant in 21 days of combat.

My platoon sat in a factory on the Roer River awaiting the last big offensive that led the Timberwolves to Berlin. On or about February 22, we set out to cross the raging Roer. We had been briefed not to let these big Engineer corps boats loose after we disembarked for fear that they would be swiftly propelled down the river and knock out some other outfit’s pontoon bridges.

I’ll never know but I have always believed my platoon was scheduled to be the first unit to cross the Roer. I and about ten other of our men picked up an engineer boat and headed for the bank. Someone stepped on a personnel mine and left us with not enough GI’s to carry the boat so I went back to the company commander and told him of our plight. He said, "Stay with us!" I don’t know who "Us" was but I do know that they were mostly officers – part of the company command staff. We set off another personnel mine on "our" side of the river but it did not scrub our mission. When we got to the enemy bank, P. P. Tucker and I stood in the water, trying to secure the boat to keep it from going downstream. We were trying to carry out the orders given at the pre-crossing orientation. In the meantime, "they" ran up the river bank and set off another mine. I took two pieces of shrapnel in my right leg. One below the knee and one above. Tucker had some gravel and/or something blasted into his face. The rest of the boatload continued on to carry out our mission and Tucker stayed with me. I couldn’t walk so Tucker hollowed out a cove in the bank to shelter me. Enemy fire was not heavy but intermittently present. I kept punching my walkie-talkie to code 81 to summon medical aid to no avail. "P. P." left me to seek help. Neither he nor any assistance ever came.

While I lay there (still dark, about 3 hours after I was hit) a squad of soldiers came single file down the bank to my left. They weren’t talking so I could not determine if they were enemy or our boys. I had my Tommy gun (traded from a tanker) lying across my chest. If they spoke English I would quickly warn them of the many mines still intact along the shoreline. If they were Germans – I might have to engage in gunfire to protect myself. They spoke English and almost simultaneously they set off a personnel mine. None of that shrapnel hit me but I heard the leader of the patrol holler, "My leg’s blowed off." Later, when daylight came, he looked up where I was laying and asked, "Whose foot is that?" I said I didn’t know – it was right under my arm – I picked it up and threw it in the river.

The first medical team that showed up tended to the man with the bloody stump. I said to the team, "Take him first…my wounds seem to be minor." The other GI’s of that group were able to walk away from the scene, so I was left alone again.

A short while later a squad of what I presumed to be battalion or regimental MP's came by with four German prisoners. Two were about 55, the other two, maybe 15 or 16. The MP’s were ticked off because there was yet no way established for them to get back across the river. They had the PW’s lay face down on the bank and indicated they were going to shoot them. I told the MP’s, "Don’t worry about them…I’ll watch ‘em!" They posed no threat to me as I had my Tommy gun "at ready" and was perfectly at ease with "the enemy" nearby. None of the four had a complete uniform and I supposed they were very happy to be alive – guarded by a wounded American GI.

When the next team of medics came on the scene they tended to my immediate needs and loaded me on a stretcher. The four Germans carried me, ever so gently, upstream about 200 yards where the American forces had set up a tow rope/row boat ferry system.

My first stop, about noon, was a tent field station. Next was a convent building converted into an Allied hospital. I stayed there about five days until the medics decided that amputation was the only option. Then a brief stay in a Paris hospital and onward to Brigham City Army General for about a year.

There are a lot of ramifications to the above recitation that I have pondered with some theories but no affirmations. My "war story" has caused me no emotional scars or sorrow for my sacrifice. My Father in Heaven watched over me on that battlefield and through all the intervening years. His Son has provided for me an Eternal Home where "there’ll be nor more wars" (Isaiah 2:4) and I’ll have all new parts; that is, a heavenly, new body. World War II will be no more than a twinkling of an eye on God’s eternal time table. I have no regrets now and someday WWII will be erased from my memory forever.


Letter Written By Sgt. J. Fink, 415 C

To Sister of Bill Hanson, Killed February 23, 1945

September 9, 1945

Dear Mrs. Neeld,

I’ve received both your letters a few days ago but I didn’t wish to write immediately for I wanted to give myself time to think of what and how to write you.

The story I’m to tell you now is authentic and I think I’m the one who should righteously tell you. Now don’t jump to any harsh conclusions for there’s still a good chance that "Hanse" is still alive.

Your brother was a good buddy of mine and oft times he spoke to me of you and how much he cared for you.

Now here’s the story. It was the morning of Feb. 23, at 3 A.M. that we crossed the Roer River in Germany. We were the first ones to cross the river and by some stroke of good luck we made it O.K. We were to advance about a mile to take a certain town. I was leading the squad and "Hanse" was directly in back of me. Wire entanglements were terrific but I managed to cut my way through all of them with no opposition from the enemy at all. Then I remember that I stepped over a wire about a foot above the ground and then I went about 7 more yards and I stepped on a land mine. Well I was pretty shaken up but in the excitement "Hanse" stepped on one too. He laid about ten yards away from me. A medic was nearby and he took care of "Hanse". He fixed up his left leg which was pretty well torn up and he was bleeding profusely. To say he was wounded slightly by the War Dept. is a lie. His left leg and foot were badly torn apart. He was given a shot of morphine by the medic and we were told that litter bearers would come to pick us up in about an hour or so. Everything was O.K. and both "Hanse" and I were quite happy about the whole thing for we knew if we ever got out of this the war would be over for us. Two, three, four hours passed and no help came. Then we began to despair. We started to pray and pray we did. For fifteen (15) long hours we prayed and hoped but none came.

In the mean time three other fellows stepped on mines about one hundred yards away from where "Hanse" and I were lying in a shell hole. Neither of us could move.

In front of us were a few German pill boxes upon which our forces were firing upon all day long. They were shooting directly over our heads all day long. I think this was the reason for our staying out in the mine field so long.

Well anyways at about 6:30 or 7 o’clock that night after lying there about 15 hours some German medics came waving a big red cross banner. These medics were guarded by American rifleman though.

The other three were taken to a place of safety first and then they came over to "Hanse" and I. They told me to come up for we had a long way to go back for all the bridges and boats were blown up. They thought it better if they came back later when conditions were more favorable to take Hanson back. They didn’t have litters with them and this was the reason why they thought "Hanse" would be better off to come back later on a litter and over a much shorter and more favorable route. This is where I last saw "Hanse" and at this time he was still in pretty good shape.

I then went through the usual process of hospitalization and came back to this hospital on March 7.

Since I’ve been back I’ve written time and again to the fellers in my company asking of Hanson’s condition or whereabouts. They all gave me the same answer. No one seems to know anything about him.

The 104th recently came back to the states and I’ve met some of the boys in the squad who all knew "Hanse" very well. They know nothing concerning "Hanse".

This is all I know Mrs. Neeld. I hope along with you that in the very near future you may receive some good news concerning your brother. If so be the case notify me immediately.

I hope you get well in the very near future and maybe I’ll come to visit you for I’m getting out of the Army shortly.

I’ve told you everything Mrs. Neeld and now I’ll close hoping God will bestow His Blessings on you.

Sincerely,

(Signed) Sgt. J. Fink, 415C


Four Times Across the Mark River

Eugene P. Traiteler

Company A, 415th Infantry Regiment

Even if you weren’t there, by this time everyone has at least heard something about the Mark River Crossing in Holland. We all know that in the infantry each foxhole had one or two guys fighting their own private war regardless of what the Division historians had to say. I am writing of my own small private war at the Mark River not only to record how I remember it, but to pay tribute to and salute a guy in my squad that made that crossing not once but four times, three times under fire: William J. (Bill) Huck.

Did you know what was supposed to happen that morning of 31 October 1944? I didn’t either! But if you read the 415th Regimental History they imply that First Battalion was to lead the assault and Second was to follow. However, seemed like the assault boat my squad was carrying was the only one around; but I’m getting ahead of the story.

There we were that morning in all our mud encrusted glory, the First Squad, Second Platoon of "A" Company; probably around 200 yards south of the River; later it seemed more like a mile. It was dark, rainy (what else), muddy and cold. Where those assault boats came from I don’t know, but suddenly there they were. Sgt. Ferguson says, "pick ‘em up and let’s go and be quiet." I heard other Sergeants give the same message in more forceful language, but Fergie seldom cussed.

In any case we picked up our boat which was a special craft designated for the First Squad. Made from the wood of an Ironwood tree; not just heavy but magnetic. Kept attracting our rifles. One slip in the mud and your rifle was drawn right to the side of that boat with a crash that was sure to wake up anyone around. In our small area of activity there appeared at first to be little opposition as we headed toward the river. Lots of activity down away on our left flank where I later found out there was a small bridge over the river. About 100 yards from the river we were held up while a machine-gun nest on the dike was cleared out. And that was it on the south side; not much trouble as far as I could see. It was broad daylight when we got the boat in the water, but paddles appeared from somewhere and across we went with some small arms fire from the North Dike. I believe our squad all made it safely across. About halfway up the North Dike things changed for the worse and as we crossed the top of the dike a machine gun in the house to our left opened up. Some guys started going down and not getting up, me included. Our medic came by a few noisy minutes later bandaged me up and disappeared to the north with the rest.

At this point I must begin to include some details that Bill Huck provided when I next met him at a Timberwolf Reunion about 45 years later.

As you can read in the Division and Regimental Histories, only a small group from the 415th Regiment got across the river: Lt. E.D. Fox of "A" Co., Lt. George Squier of "B" Co. (later Capts) and about 65-70 men of the First Battalion. Those that could, moved north of the dike about 1000 yards, dug in, were cut off by tanks and were not relieved until three days later.

But back to that first day. As the men started to dig in north of the dike, Lt. Fox got to wondering where all the rest of the Company was and sent Bill Huck and another man back to find out. They headed back across that open field crossed back to the south side of the river, found no one around and crossed back again to the north. It was on his third trip across the river that Bill found me, still on top of the dike, grabbed my arm and started to drag me north back to where everyone was dug in. Still a little drugged and not being a real hero, I used some unkind words to Bill about his dragging me in the wrong direction. In any case he got me out of that exposed position on top of the dike and took off back to the war.

That night just before dark a couple Engineers scouting for casualties and ducking the incoming shells got me back across the river to the aid station. The rest of the guys were finally rescued three days later by the Second Battalion.

As I said before, I didn’t meet Bill Huck again until some 45 years later at which time he accepted my apology for the words I used concerning his poor sense of direction. He was an "Infantryman" and a good friend.


Mark River

by Gene Traiteler

Company A, 415th Infantry

Remember those noiseless assault boats? Sounded like a drum every time a rifle slipped and hit the side? Anyway, there I was resting quietly on top of the dike after we crossed the Mark River. After some time, hard to say how long ‘cause a passing Medic had left me in a morphine cloud; in any case, out of the River and passing into my cloud came these two fuzzy characters. One grabbed me by the arm and started dragging me toward the north away from the River and off the dike. At the end of my other arm was my rifle and a pair of binoculars I had found. Funny the things you hold precious. But, to go on, this guy and I had a few words about a machine gun on the dike down on the left flank and something conerening the proper direction to be dragging a guy. (Any sane man knew that north was the wrong direction.) Well after we got off the dike some semi-violent words continued and he said something to the effect "Well the same to you!" and disappeared out of my private cloud.

So 44 years later I made contact agin with my old buddy Bill Huck and found it was he who didn’t have a good sense of direction. But, he did have the distinciton of being one of the few guys that crossed the Mark River twice on October 31, 1944.

Seems that after everyone settled down into the mud after the initial crossing, Lt. Fox (he was still a Lt. Then, I think) got to wondering where the hell eveyrone else was. So he sent Bill and another guy back to get the rest of the Cmpany up. So Bill and whoever the other guy was went back across the river (on a bridge that Ferguson never told me about until a couple years ago) and not being able to locate anyone went back across the river again (on that same secret bridge of Ferguson’s). And that’s when Bill tripped over me and tried so hard to get at least one guy up to show Lt. Fox.


return to archive index

 

This page last updated: 27 June, 1999
1999 National Timberwolf Association
Questions? Comments? Email the Webmaster