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30th Infantry Division, Old Hickory

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by Ruud, Mar 12, 2012.

  1. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Let's not let this thread die!

    Here's another old Hickory tale. This incident grew to be legendary around the 30th Division and variations on the story are numerous. Bob Frankland was the CO of the 1st Battalion (Curlew) of the 117th. The 30th arrived in Mortain on the evening of August 6th and the 117th was deployed NE of the city, with the 1st Battalion in the small village of St. Barthelmy. They took positions dug by the 1st Infantry Division with most of the Regiment arriving after dark and not being able to see what was in front of those positions.

    Frankland set up the OP in a small house at the edge of the village (see picture below). The Dog Company mortars were deployed behind a hedge in a small field next to the OP. A and C companies were on the line, with B company placed about 1000 yards behind the OP as a reserve. Some 3 inch AT guns were placed in positions established by the 1st Division - some of those positions were very good and some (when dawn came) proved to very poor.
    All of the telephone lines were cut by arriving and departing trucks and armor, so comms were entirely via radio and runners in those first hours.

    As most of you know, four German Armored Divisions hit the 30th Division in the early morning fog of 7 August.

    The story I want to tell is what happened at the Battalion OP. First I'll tell the tale as my father saw it, then give some variations as told by others. My father was in the OP as a runner, from the mortar section of Company D. He was talking to Captain David Easlick, who remained a family friend after the war. Anyway, Easlick was relaying fire directions for a column of panzers that had broken through the line - one of which was in the street right outside the OP! As they spoke, somebody knocked at the front door and it was opened to reveal a very young German officer who was holding his helmet in his hand as if making a social call. At his elbow was an enlisted man, with his rifle pointed down in a non-threatening position. The German began speaking in English to the nearest officer (not Easlick) and gesturing behind him to the panzer with its main gun pointed directly at the house. He was saying that under the circumstances, they needed to surrender and come along with him.

    Enter Colonel Bob Frankland...

    He immediately asked what was going on and when told he drew his pistol looked at the young German and said "F^&% You!" and shot him in the head. He then shot the enlisted man, turned and told everyone to go out the back. The tiny cottage was crowded with people who bailed out of every door and window. My father literally threw Dave Easlick through a window then went through himself, landing on him. They laughed about this at a dinner one night while I listened with big eyes. Easlick thanked my dad for getting him out the window, and my dad just laughed and said Easlick had been in between him and the window and throwing him through it was merely the fastest way out.
    There were German soldiers in the rear of the house as well, and they opened fire on the fleeing Americans and a number of men died before they could get to a hedge at the rear of the property. They moved a few hundred yards and set up a new OP, sending runners around to let everyone know where they were.

    The official history says the Germans came to the rear door, rather than the front. It may be that they came to both doors. There are at least two witnesses that claim that after Frankland shot the two Germans asking for a surrender he walked outside, climbed on the panzer, leaned in the hatch and shot everyone he could see inside. Frankland himself never talked about that day so it's hard to say where truth ends and myth begins. All in all, it was a very bad day for Frankland. Early on, he had asked to pull back his two rifle companies on the line to better positions behind the village and that request had been refused. By 0900, A Company had only 12 men left and C Company had 33 and those few men were still in their positions and fighting. Bob Frankland had been ordered to throw their lives away, to no real purpose. He was a pretty angry man.

    That afternoon, they received permission to pull back a few hundred yards to the positions Frankland had originally wanted and they held there for the rest of the battle. The bulk of the 1st SS Panzer Division never broke through the 117th, so they finally turned SW and broke the line and came out in Romagny, which was actually near the starting point for the 2nd SS Panzer Division - they had merely made a half circle through the US position and then back out into ground already held by the Germans. At Romagny, Jochen Peiper, commander of the Regiment, had a nervous breakdown during a Jabo attack. Peiper had a worse day than Frankland - most of his Regiment was burning piles of wreckage. A contingent of panzers did break through and got a few miles along the road west towards Juvigny Le Terte. This bunch was heavily beat up and left a trail of dead vehicles hit by AT guns and bazookas. Jabos finished off the remainder.
     

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  2. Cas

    Cas Member

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    You''re right Keith, this thread sould'nt be forgotten.

    Great story about Mortain. See the intesenity of the battle at photo below which was took just after the battle.


    [​IMG]

    Another Old Hickory anekdote is one from my out of my own family. My grandfather lived across a field hospital in Valkenburg a/d Geul, since my grandfather was the same age as most of the soldiers and he could speake resonable English, a lot of US soldiers visited his family. One day a soldier asked my great grandmother if she could do his laundry and asked her if she could wash his pants with the following questin "m'am can wash my pants ?"My great grandmother didn't speak English at all and thought he'd asked her if she could wash him... (in the dialect in Limburg the word pants (written as pens) means gut...
     

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  3. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Well... I can think of a mistranslation of pants-pens that might have got that GI hit with a frying pan!
     
  4. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Joachim (Jochen) Peiper was a pretty interesting guy. He had two brothers, one of whom was mentally disabled and euthanized under the eugenics program. His other brother died in an "automobile accident" in Poland, after accusations of homosexuality were leveled. You get the impression that Jochen tried to out-Nazi everybody else just to keep his reputation.
    He had a nervous breakdown at Mortain, which was whitewashed as a "heart attack" and then later as "jaundice." Later, in December, after his Kampfgruppe was surrounded and destroyed at La Gleize, he had another nervous breakdown during the escape. His 800 remaining men were sneaking through the snow when Peiper suddenly became "incapacitated." All those troopers lay there in the snow for 4 hours while Peiper was taken to a cottage to get over his attack of the vapors. McCown describes this in his debrief after his escape.

    I have an interview around here someplace where Peiper describes the advance of Kampfgruppe Peiper. He is dismissive of the two American Divisions encountered on the march, breaking through them with a couple of attacks and with few delays. Then, the narrative encounters the 30th Division and becomes very sober. He describes the fighting as suddenly becoming "savage" and everything just stops - his triumphant advance becomes a series of short withdrawals into the tiny pocket around La Glieze, followed by abandoning all his vehicles and the awful foot march through the forest to escape. He doesn't mention the breakdown, and the interviewer doesn't raise the question.

    I also have some brief statements from Peiper and some excerpts from his adjutants journal describing the capture of Major McCown. Peiper is genuinely delighted to meet McCown, describing him as a "real front solder" from a "real fighting division." The adjutant (the name escapes me at the moment) is also giggly as a schoolgirl about the encounter with McCown. It's almost schizophrenic since they are being beaten to death, but are honored to meet a ranking officer of the Division that is administering the beating.
     

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  5. 36thID

    36thID Member

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  6. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I'm currently reading Jens Westemeier's biography of Peiper, but I have the Reynolds book on my list.
     
  7. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    A funny anecdote from a radioman at Stavelot:

    [FONT=&amp] Now comes the most unusual incident event; Several of us were[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]outside the rear cellar door of the CP looking across the valley toward German held[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]ground. Why? I think we were watching our artillery falling. Across our front, and below,[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]was the Ambleve River. Suddenly from right to left, a single German Plane came roaring[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]over the river (I'm guessing, 100 feet high),,,,all I really know, it was VERY low. It was a[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]single seated, single engine plane with a pointed nose. Someone told me what model it was[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]but I’m not sure anymore,,,,,ME-109 ????? Anyway, he gets just in front of our line of sight[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]as we watching a few minutes earlier, then, HE RISES UPWARD IN A SLOW ROLL, AND FALLS[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]OUT !!!!!!! Over the years, I would have gone Bonkers thinking I had imagined this had it[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]not been for a comment one of my friends made, "A Company guys will have his flight[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]suit off him before he hits the ground".[/FONT]
     
  8. Cas

    Cas Member

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    So great news for Christmas, not only did Slipdigit's book arrive, but also am the proud adopter of two more graves of Old Hickory soldiers

    Private First Class Elmer E. GORDON 117 Inf Regt / 30 Inf Division Private James H. YOUNG 117 Inf Regt / 30 Inf Division


    both burried at Henri Chapelle Cemetary
     
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  9. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Cas, what are the dates of death? I have a particularly rich collection of 117th info.
     
  10. Cas

    Cas Member

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    I know I'll mail you this weekend !
     
  11. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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  12. Cas

    Cas Member

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    So after a lot emailing back and forth with Keith, I decided to post the following story. Keith is being a great help.

    after filing a request for another grave to adopt, I was assigend the grave of pvt James H. Young 117th Inf. Reg burried at Henri Chapelle Cemetary Belgium, see my earlier post in this topic or thread

    Because this soldier was 117th Inf Reg. and Keith has a great deal of information I wrote him an email asking wether he'd had some info on the guy. I ran the name through the division roster Slipdiget posted and immediatly questions arose.

    James H Young is listed as A Co. in the roster but is mentioned as a sgt. instead of a pvt (as is mentioned on my cerificate). So I asked Keith about this. We came to a rather odd conclusion, at least for now.

    All the info James H Young Keith has, is on a sgt who survived the war and wasn't killed on October 4th. At least this is what the battalion history says, on which Keith has a bigger trust. The James H. Young I adopted has the same ASN number as Keiths sgt who survived the war.

    In the Cannon County websites there is a mention of a pvt James H. Young with the same ASN number as on my certificate, on the list of inhabitants of Cannon County who were killed in WWII. I even wrote to Cannon County Newspaper asking if they can be of any assistance.

    Keith thinks there could be a mix up with another casualty Alvin H. Young, also A Co, as there was a terrible Artillery Barrage on October the 4th.

    I (and Keith with me) am doing research on this matter, I requested the IDPF on James H. Young, but that takes time.

    So if anyone could help, please feel free to contact me or keith. If there was a mix up, I think the right name should be on the grave.

    So the following questions have arissen:

    Does anyone have some info on this Alvin H. Young ?
    Could it be there was another James H. Young of Cannon County Tennesse in the 117th IR ?
    How is it possible there probably was a mix up, as the identification of (unknown) casualties was done thoroughly ?
    Should I contact the superintendent of Henri Chapelle Cemetary to see if the old burrial rosters are available or put this matter to his notice ?

    Anyone ?
     
  13. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Cas,

    Sorry, I didn't see the bump in this thread and wasn't aware you'd brought this in.

    Attached is a photo of the two entries in the Battalion roster. As you can see, James H. Young was wounded and didn't return to the company until after the Siegfried Line battles and according to this, survived the war. Alvin H. Young died on October 11th, but this entry may just reflect when his body was found.

    So, who is in the grave marked James H. Young?

    View attachment 18143
     

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  14. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Here is the listing for Pvt. James H. Young at the ABMC:

    View attachment 18147

    What's interesting is that when I searched that ASN in the Enlistment database, it gave a result with an unintelligible name. Since the place of residence was indicated as Cannon County in Tennessee, I checked the WWII Army Casualty list for Cannon County and found a James H. Young with that ASN.

    View attachment 18148

    One possibility is that his unit is misidentified. The IDPF will hopefully shed some light on that. I was researching a member of the 99th Infantry Bn (Separate) who was killed on 18 Oct 44 and discovered from his IDPF that they had originally indicated that he was with the 119th and that he was KIA in November, which is when I presume his remains were found.

    I hope this helps.
     

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  15. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I hope we find the answer to this. Every GI who died needs his story told somewhere.

    Consider the fury of the battle at that time and place: the 30th broke through the Siegfried Line on October 2nd and were in constant battle for over two weeks. Every time they advanced the Germans fed in more reinforcements, finally hitting the 30th Division with the entire 1st SS Panzer Corps which included elements of Liebstandarte, the 116th Panzer Division and the 101st Heavy Panzer (King Tiger) Battalion along with the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division. And during this entire period, the 30th GI's were under the most intense artillery fire of the war with all the normal German artillery, plus a number of German rail guns which were throwing 240mm "freight cars" at them.

    It's after this battle that the German propaganda machine began labeling them as "Roosevelt's SS."

    It's entirely possible that James H. Young was a replacement who never even made it to A company, thus isn't on the Battalion roster but is still listed on the Division roster as KIA.
     
  16. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I couldn't agree more, KB.

    That is also a possibility. The IDPF should give some clues if not a definitive answer. Without that, we're just making educated guesses.
     
  17. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    I've been following the thread and just thought of something that may help. Try contacting the folks at;

    Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office

    This is the official US POW/MIA department and I believe the information you have would be of interest to them.
     
  18. Cas

    Cas Member

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    I requested the IDPF's but this can take as long as half a year to reach me.

    @TD-Tommy, I also found it strange the way James H. Young is listed in the NARA records. I found the Cannon County KIA list also and that was the main reason I contacted Keith (KB) because on the County KIA list James H. Young is listed as a pvt and in Division and Battalion roster is listed as Sgt, the strange thing is that the ASN on the adoption cerificate and thus the grave are equal to the ones metioned in the rosters.
     
  19. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    That's why I suggested that perhaps the unit is misidentified. He could be a Pvt James H. Young with some other unit. The name is not at all uncommon. As I said, the IDPF should be a great help. Six months seems like a long time. Do you have them provide a digital download of the IDPF? That's what I have done and it works great.
     
  20. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Today, I'm thinking he was possibly in the 117th, just not in Company A (or 1st battalion at all). If you were a graves registration clerk looking for a name in a regiment you'd probably start with the 1st battalion and "bingo" there he is (James H. Young) in the 1st company ("A") of the 1st battalion. I imagine such clerks were rather over-worked during that period. Unfortunately, I only have the 1st battalion history so I can't check the other two battalions.

    There is a James H. Young listed as deceased in the regimental history, but that roster does not include the company. And of course, that regimental history could have been drawn from the same error...

    Sorry, just thinking out loud. I hope Cas finds him.
     

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