Heroes: the Army
"...We wound up with a stack of pistols, knives, daggers, hand grenades, etc. that would have easily filled the jeep trailer. We were in the process of shoving all this stuff in a nearby foxhole when a jeep load of Air Corps officers came driving up..."
Edward J. Blackburn
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: HQ Co. 2nd Btn., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC, Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1923
- Entered Service: Houston, TX
The Kraut Major
by Ed Blackburn
In late April and early May, 1945 we were in a small village on the Elbe River, and for a week or so our daily duties consisted of herding the German prisoners who were crossing the river by the thousands to surrender, back to the regimental collecting point. The team I had charge of consisted of myself driving a jeep, and two buddies to walk one at the head of the column and the other to walk at the rear of the column.
We would gather the prisoners as they came across the river and when we thought we had between five hundred and a thousand we would strike out for the Regimental collecting point. Going from memory it was about three or four miles one way. It was a common thing to pick up an extra hundred or so prisoners between the river and the Regiment.
Since none of us spoke good German, I always found a German soldier who spoke English and would make him ride in the Jeep with me to be my interpreter. One day we were taking a group back and in the bunch was a Kraut SS Major who apparently didn't like the idea of being a prisoner, and he surely didn't like the idea of an American enlisted man telling him what to do. He kept kicking up his heels and refused to listen to what I told him through the interpreter. I did finally get him to the head of the column where we could keep an eye on him.
It didn't take him too long before he was walking fast enough to get out in front of the column by about a hundred yards. We shouted at him to no avail and finally fired a round over his head to get his attention. After that we noticed he took off his hat as if to scratch his head. He put his hat back on, took a few more steps and we saw an explosion that literally drove him into the ground. The joker had pulled the pin on a hand grenade and put it in his cap. End of that particular trouble.
I drove up and down the column having the interpreter tell everyone to empty their pack of all weapons, ammo, and knives. We wound up with a stack of pistols, knives, daggers, hand grenades, etc. that would have easily filled the jeep trailer. We were in the process of shoving all this stuff in a nearby foxhole when a jeep load of Air Corps officers came driving up. They were out sight-seeing and when they saw the stack of weapons they were bug eyed. We told them to help themselves to whatever they wanted. They were like a bunch of kids turned loose in a candy store.
I have often wondered about that Kraut Major and what he could have been if he had not been so fanatical.
---- Ed Blackburn
(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 way 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.
Interested in some background information?
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The above story, "The Kraut Major", by Ed Blackburn, 407th HQ Co., 2nd Bttn., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 52, No. 2, Jan/Mar 2000, pp. 6-7.
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 19 October 2004.
Story added to website on 22 October.
September 5, 2002.
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