Heroes: the Army


"...It wasn't long after that that we received a heavy barrage of 88s. Luckily, the 88s pinpointed the source of light as their target, so all the incoming went over our position and landed at the nearby edge of town..."



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 Freeman O. Cunningham

  • Branch of Service: Army
  • Unit: Co. A., 405th Regiment,
    102nd Infantry Division
  • Dates: 1942-1945
  • Location: European Theater
  • Rank: PFC
  • Birth Year: 1925
  • Entered Service: Ridgewood, NJ



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"A Guiding Light"

by "Zeke" Cunningham, 405-A


     I was in the weapons platoon of Co. A, 405th. My assignment was with the LMG (light machine gun) crew. Not long after we were up on the line (I believe it was in October)) we moved into Baesweiler to relieve an armored unit that had dug positions on the edge of town. Our squad leader chose a position overlooking a large field with woods and the town of Puffendorf in the distance, then retreated to the safety of some cellar at our rear that had been chosen as our Company CR.

     It was dark, but our crew of three took turns at "improving" and deepening the foxhole for our machine gun position. The town of Puffendorf was occupied by the Germans. Just beyond the woods a church tower peeked over the tree line, so we could assume we could be observed from that point. We had to use caution in digging our new home. It was dark and we took advantage of that by going back to the nearby buildings and bringing a door and some shutters to cover our foxhole. After our "home improvement" efforts we set up our machine gun so as to get a good field of fire; then covered it with nearby branches for camouflage.

     Since there were three of us, we were able to set up a schedule of two hours on watch and four hours of sleep. At this point I must mention that we were on the edge of town looking at the enemy. The 60 mm mortar crew decided to hunker down in the safety and comfort of the CP, which was in a concrete reinforced cellar of one of the buildings. Our gun position looked out over a large field with good visibility in the daytime, but right now we looked out into darkness. Our one comfort was that the armored unit had strung a barrier of barbed wire about 25 yards to our front. We improved our margin of safety by crawling out and hangine some C ration cans on the wire as an alarm if it was disturbed.

     Sometime during the night whoever was on watch heard some noises to our front, out in the field somewhere. We had a sound-powered phone so we called back to the CP for the mortar squad to send up a flare and illuminate the area forward of our position.

     Seemed like a long wait, but we finally heard the "thump" of the mortar being fired. Unfortunately, the mortar squad had been more interested in their creature comforts than G-2ing their location. When they fired the flare it caught on some overhead wires which ran between buildings. It hung there, swinging from the wires, illuminating the area like a street light.

     It wasn't long after that that we received a heavy barrage of 88s. Luckily, the 88s pinpointed the source of light as their target, so all the incoming went over our position and landed at the nearby edge of town. Incidently, it was then that we noted that the 88s were fired in groups of three rounds, and out of the three one or two were duds. Found out later that this was probably due to sabotage by the prisoners and forced labor in the munitions factories.

     Can't remember if we received any casualties from this incident, but if any members of the weapons platoon are out there, I would sure like to hear from you.

     Best wishes to all, F "Zeke" Cunningham


----- F. "Zeke" Cunningham


(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.)


Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...

United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division

102 Infantry Division

History of the 102nd Infantry Division

Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944

Gardelegen War Crime

image of NEWGardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn

American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll

National World War II Memorial


The above story, "A Guiding Light", contributed by "Zeke" Cunningham, Co. A., 405th., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 54, No. 1, Oct/Dec. 2001, pp. 12.

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 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 28 November 2003.


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