Heroes: the Army
"...As soon as the white handkerchiefs went up the Germans were on us in a flash. They came up barking orders to us. One of our guys who understood German was relaying their orders to us in English. They became very angry and belted him with a rifle butt. They accused him of being German and therefore a traitor..."
Dominick A. Plescia
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. C., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Lodi, NJ
A photo of Dominick Plescia on His Return Home After War
Left to Right --1st Row Standing
Frank Ferrara (Uncle to Edith)
Dominick (Family Called Him Dick)
Bart Plescia (Uncle to Edith)
Left to Right -- Seated
Frances Plescia (Grandmother) Holding Older Sister Fran
Natalie Ferrara - Aunt (Dick's Older Sister Married Frank)
Helen Plescia (Edith's Mom) -- Holding Edith
Frank Plescia (Grandfather) Holding Cousin Louis Ferrara (Natalies Son)
Photo Courtesy of Edith Plescia Calandro
The Capture and Liberation of "C" - 407:
by Dominick Plescia
My most memorable experience while in the 102nd Division was near the end of the war. After fighting from the Roer River to the Rhine and from the Rhine to the Elbe, we were captured by the Germans 40 miles from Berlin.
We reached the Elbe at Tangermunde. It was rumored that the 2nd Battalion commander said the correct combination of red and green flares had been observed from the far side of the Elbe. This meant the Russians were somewhere nearby. Company C was ordered to cross the Elbe to make contact with the Russian army. After dark we boarded large rafts built by the Pioneer companies. We had one jeep on board. We landed in a very small village on the far side of the Elbe. There was no enemy fire during our approach or in our occupation of the village. Guards were posted that night and we bedded down.
The next morning, April 29,1945, we were ordered to probe inland and make contact with the Russian Army. We started down the road away from the Elbe, proceeding east towards Berlin. On our march we were taking Germans out of the houses en route. We even took a couple of SS men in tow. They knew something we didn't know. All in all, in about three hours, we had 50 or 60 Germans traipsing behind us.
At about 1 pm we came upon a crossroad in a farm area with a small wooded area to our left. To our right at about 1,000 yards was the entrance to a good sized town called "Genithin" some 10 or 15 miles before Brandenberg. The company commander was in the jeep at the head of the column. Oh yes, we had a Piper Cub flying cover for us, but about this time he ran out of gas and had to return to our lines.
The company commander decided to turn right and approach this town.(Genithin). As his jeep approached a stone bridge just at the entrance to Genithin, the Germans blew it up. Then the orders came down the line to go back and proceed in the previous direction. I was a platoon runner of my platoon. Now the weapons platoon was at the head of the column. As we started up this road Cenithin was now on our left and the wooded area on our right.
Up ahead of us were the usual logs standing upright, held by logs in vertical layers. As we got within 100 yards of this potential roadblock, the Germans blew it up so it created an actual roadblock as the logs fell across the roadway. At this time, small arms fire from the buildings in Genithin began at a fierce rate. We were forced to seek shelter by diving into the ditches on the side of the road. As I did so the aerial on my walkie-talkie snapped and the radio became useless. My platoon sergeant, who was nearby, ordered me to find the captain to request further orders of action. By this time we were receiving artillery fire from "one man tanks" that were lined up behind us. I guess they were of the 20mm variety.
I stood up, made a sign of the cross, and then ran as fast as I could through the wooded area, but parallel to the road we had been moving on. As I neared the end of this wooded area I spotted the jeep. I cut to my left and dove into the ditch next to the jeep. There was the captain sitting in the ditch next to his jeep. "What the hell are you doing?" he yelled. I told him I had been sent by my sergeant to find out what we should do. "We are giving up, that's what we're doing", he said. "Pass the word down the line to bury and or break up all the equipment." He also ordered us to put out white handkerchiefs if we had them. I buried a nice wristwatch that I treasured.
As soon as the white handkerchiefs went up the Germans were on us in a flash. They came up barking orders to us. One of our guys who understood German was relaying their orders to us in English. They became very angry and belted him with a rifle butt. They accused him of being German and therefore a traitor.
The Jerries then marched us through Genithin and billeted us in an old warehouse. The local population jeered at us and threw things and spit at us on this march to the warehouse. We were given a seventh of a loaf of bread, a thick slice of salami, and a piece of sweet margarine, accompanied by a cup of ersatz coffee.
The next morning we were ordered out into the street. We all thought to ourselves that we would be subjected to one of those long marches that the captives of the Bulge had experienced. We had observed many of those men when we were rushing through central Germany. It was not a pleasant sight to see young men in such a deplorable physical state. Well, Lo and Behold, when we got out on the street the Germans had buses waiting for us. The buses were fueled by wood burning contraptions, set up on trailers. We were driven about 80 miles in something like 14 hours. The wood burners needed to be refueled and watered every 10 or 12 miles.
We eventually arrived in the wee hours in a town called Ludwigslust. We were billeted there in what seemed to be a stable, maybe a cavalry stable. It was quite large. The very next night we heard many horses and horse-drawn vehicles riding through the streets outside. We were told by our guard that it was the Hungarian Cavalry leaving town.
At Ludwigslust we were given a little better fare. We were escorted into a schoolhouse cafeteria for one of our meals. Here we had hot bean soup, and better black bread with some margarine. We were given coffee at the stable each morning and also the famous salami and black bread. We stayed in Ludwigslust for three days.
Many of us while captive reminisced about the battle of Genithin and how many of our guys were killed or wounded. We estimated that about 70 or 80 men were killed or wounded. How ridiculous it had been that a company of two hundred men were sent into an area where there were thousands of enemy troops, Panzers, SS, Grenadiers, and Regular German Army. All this just eight days before the war was to be over.
The fourth day we were ordered out on the street in Ludwigslust. There were no buses this time. The orders were to march north toward Schwerin. One hour out of two we were given a ten-minute break (this was the same a US Army practice). We were resting near a big grassy field. Our guys who could speak German began to talk to the one guard assigned to us an old soldier. They tried to urge him to release us because we all knew the war was coming to an end. Our ten minute break stretched in to half an hour and then to an hour.
At about this time we sighted Russian planes with red stars on their wings. We worried that they might mistake up for German troops and start strafing us. We quickly formed a large U.S. by sitting in the field and putting white handkerchiefs out in front of each of us. We believed they saw us because one pilot wobbled his wings and sped off.
Shortly after the scare with the Russian aircraft, there were suddenly hordes of people running on foot, with bicycles, horse and wagons, cars, etc. out of Ludwigslust in a hurry. We asked the guard what was going on. After a few seconds of talk with the people running, he told us the British Army was in Ludwigslust. We immediately surrounded our guard, urging him to let us go, and threatening him that if the Russians came we would tell them that he had mistreated us. We made gestures with our hands across our throats. Another hour went by and then we started to hear the crackle of rifle fire nearby, up ahead of us. We really began to get nervous.
Suddenly all the people that had been running away from Ludwigslust were coming back at a double-time pace. They were crying and screaming to our guard that the Russians were 500 yards up the road. We really got nervous now. Here we could really see the war coming to an end and we would be caught between two on-rushing armies who might mistake us for the enemy. We would be killed and the war would be over. We felt we would be the victims of a military error and we had no way out.
Only minutes after people ran back to Ludwigslust, there appeared on the road several trucks with large white stars on their bodies. They were coming from Ludwigslust. It was the 82nd Airborne Division, not the British, who had overrun Ludwigslust. We left the guard standing, smoking his pipe and with his rifle slung on his shoulder. We scrambled on to the trucks.
I never did get to see a Russian soldier. We were delighted that we didn't.
----- Dominick Plescia
(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 Capture and Liberation of "C"-407", by Dominick Plescia, 407th, Co. C., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 52, No. 2, Jan. / March, 2000, pp. 4 - 5.
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 7 July 2003.
Story added to website on 7 July 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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