Heroes: the Army
"...A bullet, he explained, 'has its own distinct sound when it hits a body. It's sort of like taking a stick and whacking a pumpkin'..."
Daniel S. Ebeling
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. I., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942-1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: 2nd Lt., Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Toledo,OH
REACHING OUT reprinted in part from a newspaper article written in 1987 for a Toledo, Ohio newspaper.
It was a rainy misty morning on Nov. 29, 1944 when Daniel S. Ebeling (405-I) found himself under enemy fire in a foxhole near the Roer River in Northern Germany.
Mortar and machine gun fire filled the open battlefield as Staff Sgt. Ebeling, then 23 years old, led a platoon toward the banks of the river. Many years later the memory was still a vivid one for Dan.
'That morning we were formed up in an attack group. I was a machine gun section leader, assigned to whichever platoon the company commander decided I should be with," Ebeling said.
The platoon's objective, he said, was to overtake the mist-covered field which separated them from the river. "We were getting a lot of rifle fire and machine gun fire," Ebeling recalled. "We were getting shot to pieces."
As he lay slightly protected in a long rectangular trench, he saw a medic in the open field attending to one of his wounded men. "There was mortar fire and they were shooting machine guns, Ebeling said, but the medic "stayed right there and finished bandaging the man up." When the medic was done attending to the wounded soldier, he got into the foxhole with Ebeling.
"Supposedly," Ebeling said, "nobody's supposed to shoot a medic -- and they've got arm bands and a big red cross on their helmets" to identify them.
Ebeling said the medic was about six or eight feet away from him in the trench, when he "heard the bullet hit his stomach," A bullet, he explained, "has its own distinct sound when it hits a body. It's sort of like taking a stick and whacking a pumpkin."
"I was sure he was wounded," Ebeling added. "When he loosened up his shirt to see the extent of his wounds, some of his intestines were out." The medic" knew the extent of his wounds," Ebeling said. "On an abdominal wound, you've only got an hour or two before you've bought it."
As the machine gun and mortar fire continued pounding the field, the medic asked Ebeling to take him back to an aid station -- a captured German bunker about 200 yards across the open battlefield.
"I had no idea how I'd get him back," Ebeling said. "I knew he was in bad shape, but I still didn't know what the hell I'd do to get him back to the aid station, because he was much bigger than me. He outweighed my by 10 or 15 pounds."
"I gave it some thought, and he asked me again if I'd take him back." Ebeling continued. "I had a little talk with 'The Man' up above and asked him for some help." Without hesitating a moment longer, Ebeling told the medic to get up on his back, and he began to rise out of the trench.
"My feeling then, and his too, was that as soon as we stood up, both of us would be killed," Ebeling said. "But for some reason, nothing happened, and I took off as hard as I could and managed to get him back to the bunker." Ebeling sat in the bunker for a moment, while other attended to the wounded medic. Four-foot walls protected him from mortar fire and machine gun fire.
"The hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Ebeling said, "was to get back up from the bunker and go back to where i'd just come from. To walk back from all that protection, thinking you're not going to make it, is a pretty hard thing to do.
"It was awful damn hard to go back with my men again. When I got back, there was a big shell hole in the trench and there were two men laying there. One was wounded in the thigh." Ebeling again carried an unknown soldier across the open battlefield to the aid station 200 yards away. And then again, he took to the trenches. "Two-hundred-nine men went out that morning," he said, "and only 52 came back." Securing the field and the lands beyond the Roer River would wait for another day.
Ebeling had never seen either of the two wounded men he carried through enemy fire prior to that 29th day of November in 1944. Years later, after considerable search, Ebeling was reunited with the first of the two nameless soldiers. In the winter of 1945 Ebeling discovered the wounded medic's name through a battalion surgeon. Not too much later, he saw the medic's name again pop up in a diary kept by a fellow soldier, who had recorded the events occurring near the Roer that day.
In 1982 Ebeling was able to match an address with the name of the wounded medic. He found the medic's name and a 40-year old address in the division history published by the Army. While Ebeling was fairly certain the medic "had bought the farm" that day in 1944, he said "I often wondered if the guy ever made it through." He took the 40-year-old address and sent out a letter with little hope. "I never thought it would reach him," Ebeling said, "But hell, for the price of a stamp, a piece of paper and an envelope, I thought it was worth a shot."
When the letter arrived in Kingston, NY, the nameless medic, identified as Edgar P. Elliott Jr., said "the whole family sat around the table and cried." After a year of correspondence Ebeling and his wife drove the 12 hours for a four day reunion with Elliott and his family. "We embraced like a couple of long-lost brothers, that's for sure," Ebeling said, "and it was difficult to part after a few days."
Both Dan Ebeling and Edgar Elliott are no longer with us, but we are pleased to note that Dan's wife, Alberta, is an active member of the Association. It is she who supplied us with the newspaper article quoted here.
----- Dan Ebeling
(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
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "Reaching Out", by Daneil S. Ebling, Co.I, 405th Regiment, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 51, No. 2, Jan/Mar 1999, pp. 8-9.
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 March 2004.
Story added to website on 2 April 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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