Heroes: the Army
"...Suddenly, they dropped one back and it exploded no more than 10-12 yards from us. I still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as I realized I was going to be hit. The four of us that were hit should have received stomach, chest or head wounds, but it was a freak burst..."
Albert E. Gilpin, Jr.
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. E., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Flint, MI
The Attack on Flossdorf
by Albert Gilpin
This write-up was in a letter to John Lovell, requesting information about his uncle, Lt. Donald Lovell who was in 407-E and wounded at Flossdorf.
"I was a member of the 1st Platoon of E Company, 407th. Li. Lovell was my platoon leader. The Company Commander was Sidney Watkins, the First Sgt. was Raymond Bass (AKA) Raymond Curto who later received a battlefield commission. The Platoon Sgt. was Dane Griffith. If any of them are still alive, you might be able to get more information."
The attack on Flossdorf, on the Roer River, by the Second Battalion began on Nov. 30, 1944 with E Company on the left and F Company on the right.
For all practical purposes the village was taken on Dec. 2 after the bloodiest battle that E company had in the war. Of the 187 combat personnel in E Company who began the attack, 65 were left when it ended, according to one of the sergeants who survived. Several years ago, Ozark Notes quoted an artillery colonel as saying that 75 remained. Inaccurate record keeping may account for this disparity. Neither John Carolan nor I, for example, have ever appeared on the official lists of those receiving Purple Hearts. I am sure there were others.
On the third day of the attack, we jumped off before daylight. The word was passed along the line that the attack would begin in five minutes. We crawled out of our holes with great trepidation because the battalion had been badly bloodied and stopped cold previously.
The Lieut. shouted "First platoon, let's go." No one moved. The lieutenant started toward the village and those around him followed. The movement rippled down the line. For about 200 yards there was no opposing fire. Suddenly a flare went up from a German outpost at our left front, and the Germans began firing with machine guns and mortars. It was still dark, so they didn't know exactly where we were. They had set up their machine guns so that we would have to go through a crossfire.
They were dropping mortar shells along the line, starting at one end and progressing to the other end. Suddenly, they dropped one back and it exploded no more than 10-12 yards from us. I still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as I realized I was going to be hit. The four of us that were hit should have received stomach, chest or head wounds, but it was a freak burst.
Instead of bursting up and out as normal, most of the shrapnel burst low and out, hitting three of us in the legs. Lt. Lovell was closest to the blast, and later an aid man told me that his heel was blown off. I was to his right and slightly behind him, and was hit about halfway between the ankle and knee. The soldier behind and to the Lt's left was hit in the thigh. It was still dark so I couldn't pinpoint the spot. The one to his left had his helmet and scalp laid open.
He made it back to the aid station on his own. Lots of blood but not serious.
As the others behind us passed me, someone picked up my BAR, which left me with only a trench knife. This became important later in the day. It was very important to keep the BAR in operation, because a BAR team comprised about 50 percent of a squad's firepower.
Soon it became light and we could see shell holes. The one closest to me was about 10 yards behind me. I crawled into it, put sulfa on the wound and bandaged it. This placed me about 15-20 yards from the bunker where the German flare was fired.
The shell hole closest to the Lieut. was about 10 yards ahead of him and he crawled into it. I'm sure that he treated his wound as best he could.
This put us about 20-25 yards apart. I called to him and asked if he was all right and he waved and said something I couldn't understand. The holes were small and we both faced toward the village. I don't think he could turn around because of that.
It was early in the afternoon before help arrived. Ed Furlow, a battalion medic, and his litter bearers arrived with three litters. Every aid man except Ed had been killed or wounded and he was on his way to the village where there were many very seriously wounded soldiers who needed help immediately. He gave each of us a shot of morphine for pain. which by now had become a definite factor. He determined that my injury was the least serious of the three, and told me he would pick me up on the way back. Lt. Lovell and the other man were taken to the aid station and Furlow and the third litter went into the village where he faced so many critical injuries that it was impossible for him to get back to me.
The last time I saw Lt. Lovell was when they carried him away. He was conscious and said something that I couldn't understand because my ears were ringing badly. They are still ringing to this day.
The rest of that day was a story in itself. After two harrowing incidents, 1 was found by two men from the weapons platoon that night at about 0200. They were looking for one of their men who had been wounded. I could hear them talking so I called out to them. They took me to the aid station. From there I was taken to a small school house that had been converted to a makeshift hospital and my wound was debrided.
Two days later I was evacuated to a large tent hospital in Belgium. After a little more than a week, during which they operated again, we were put on a train (boxcars), and taken to Paris. The hospital there was a converted hotel that had been used for Luftwaffe pilots on R & R.
I mention this itinerary because I'm sure Lt. Lovell followed exactly the same route. He was probably on the same train to Paris. When we got to Paris we got the news that the Germans had attacked in the Ardennes and broken through. That may account for the speed in evacuating us. According to the maps, the Germans got to within a few miles of the hospital. The Ardennes Offensive is commonly referred to as the Battle of the Bulge.
After our arrival and settling into the routine (penicillin every three hours, morphine for pain and a new cast all the way up), I asked the orderly if he would check if John Carolan (hit on the first day of the attack) or Lt. Lovell was in this hospital. He reported that Carolan was not but that Lt. Lovell was.
I told him that I would like to see the Lieut. if he was up to it. The orderly came back to say that the Lieut. would indeed like me to come up. He brought a wheel chair and helped me get into it. Immediately, there was a flash of agonizing pain that was unbearable. He helped me back into bed and I asked that he tell the Lieut. that I would come to see him as soon as I could. That was the last communication we had. Two or three days later I was shipped out.
I did not learn of his death until about three months later. I was taken, as part of a large group, to Cherbourg, put on a British hospital ship and evacuated to Southampton. We stayed there until after Christmas, at which time we were sent by train to a hospital near Norwich.
I asked a Gray Lady to find where Carolan and the Lieut. were in England. She was very kind to do so. She found, through the Red Cross, Carolan's address, but could get no information about the Lieut. I wrote to John and he replied. He had seen several members of the platoon who had been wounded crossing the Roer River. He listed several who had been killed or wounded and said he heard that Lieut. Lovell had died in the hospital in Paris. The telegram to his parents would verify the date of his death. I would like to know the date to determine how it correlates with my itinerary.
Donald Lovell was an excellent officer and a fine man. I thought highly of him. He was able to get his men to produce without using threats or abusive language. He earned their loyalty through leadership ability. It should be a matter of pride to the members of his family that when he was hit. He was out ahead of his men leading the attack.
----- Albert Gilpin
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
12 January 2005.
A photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment, 102nd Division. This image is on a page that is dedicated to Mr. Edward Marchelitis, Sr., by his daughter Carol. Most of the men in the photo taken on December 20, 1943 are identified on the back of the image.
To view the photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment as well as other photos of Edward Marchelitis, click on the image above.
The family of Mr. Marchelitis is seeking information on his platoon.
A special Thank You is extended to the daughter of Edward Marchelitis, Sr., Carol Marchelitis Heppner.
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The above story, "The Attack on Flossdorf", by Albert Gilpin was published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 52, No. 4, July/October 2000, pp. 7-8.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 2 November 2004.
Story added to website on 4 November 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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