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Tragedy at the Seminary

Discussion in 'History of America during World War II' started by Jim, Sep 3, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    [​IMG]

    The regimental Command Post of the 501 PIR during the Bastogne campaign was in the seminary across from the church, at the east end of town. On 5 January, 1945, a truck loaded with landmines exploded in the seminary courtyard, killing 12 members of the H&H Demolitions platoon, 501 PIR, and another trooper, who was a driver assigned from Service Company. The photo above, taken by Jimmy Duggins, shows what remained of the truck after the massive explosion.

    According to Charlie Vess of Service Co. 501, there was a sizeable mine dump beside the truck before the explosion, consisting of over 300 additional land mines, which we piled in front of the seminary wall. To this day, nobody knows if a direct hit from a mortar or artillery shell set off the lethal cargo in that truck, or if the mines exploded from the weight created by stacking them atop each other. Some of the mines had already been laid once in the Bastogne perimeter, and were frozen and some were missing safety clips. They had been picked-up and were about to be re-laid in another sector.

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    In addition to Pvt Walter Craley, ASN: 32837774, 501st Demolitions, pictured above, the victim list includes:
    S/Sgt Leon W."Pappy"Brown ASN: 19073730, 501st Demolitions
    Pvt Frank Baer ASN: 36695174 501st Demolitions
    Pvt Michael Balducci ASN: 33610655, 501st Demolitions
    Pvt Harold Brisco ASN: 38508635, 501st Demolitions
    Cpl Bonnie Caroon ASN: 6379505, 501st Demolitions
    Pvt Latcher Coney ASN: 38493384, 501st Demolitions
    Pvt Wallace Diefenbach ASN:16006826, 501st Demolitions
    Pvt James A. Keel ASN: 34663498, 501st Demolitions
    Pfc Sam A. Lappin ASN: 33273212, 501st Demolitions
    Cpl William B. Maue ASN: 15336388, 501st Demolitions
    Pvt Earl F. Smith ASN: 13175240, 501st Demolitions
    Pvt Robert L Rutherford ASN: 32772538, of Service Co. 501 PIR.

    After WW2 a small marker was erected near the triangular repaired hole in the north seminary wall, listing the names of the known victims. Medic R. Edward O'Brien of G Co. visited the place in the late 1980's, and found the marker was crumbling from age and neglect, and that the list of names thereon was incomplete. A project was started within the 501 PIRA to raise funds and create a permanent marker to place at that repaired wall. In May, 1999, two 501st veterans, Len Cinquanta and Julius Schrader, traveled to Bastogne and placed the new marker bearing the names, ranks and serial numbers shown above. Both men passed away less than a year after placing those markers.
    The Explosion and the Aftermath
    Dick Thorne of regimental S-2 told me that he left the perimeter on the evening of January 4, 1945, and ventured into town, looking for something warm to eat. He was sick of cold rations. He got a meal in the seminary, then went into the basement and crawled under a 3' stage, where he joined other troopers and went to sleep. That night, during a Luftwaffe airraid, a 500 lb German bomb crashed through the ceiling of the seminary and came through to the basement, but failed to explode.

    After daylight Thorne went to the doorway facing the courtyard and was leaning against the wall when a truck pulled in and stopped.

    Out from the front passenger seat, jumped Lt Roy F. Waring, who was in charge of the mine laying detail. Lt Waring was short and balding, and wore glasses. He recognized Thorne and paused to speak with him before entering the building. The lieutenant stated that he had 12 demolitions men aboard, along with 150 landmines, and that they were enroute to lay the mines in the perimeter.

    Lt Waring entered the building, then came back out after a few minutes. He started toward the truck, then paused and stated "I forgot something", turned around, and re-entered the building. At that moment, a horrible explosion rocked the area. Thorne was pushed backwards against the wall and a piece of flesh struck him in the face. (Witnesses have stated they later saw flesh splattered all over the seminary and courtyard walls.)

    In the 1980's, Thorne visited the Republic Bank, Greenville, TX, where Roy Waring was bank vice president. When Thorne mentioned the truck explosion, Waring broke down right in his office, and it was evident that he had experienced tremendous 'survivor guilt' since WW2. On Thorne's next visit, he learned that Waring had passed away on 12 January, 1983. "I don't see any reason why he should have felt responsible for what happened", says Thorne. The photo of Walter Craley shown above, was provided by his good buddy, John Primerano, who took the photo on the 'Island' in Holland, October, 1944.
     
  2. CC.twiceasbrave

    CC.twiceasbrave New Member

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    Attn Family or Friends of Walter Craley

    I have pictures of Pvt Walter Craley 501 Demo taken during the war! If he was my relative, I would appreciate having them.
    I will be posting them here shortly.
    Blessings,
    Cailin Casey
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Look forward to seeing them Cailin ... :thumb:
     

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