Heroes: the Army
"...We passed a dead Gl almost half standing in a forward position, his face gray. We followed the road that lead out to an open field leading up to the house that was on the edge of the orchard..."
Fred C. Sutton
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Med. Det., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC, Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Minerva, OH
The Attack on Beeck:
by Fred Sutton, 405th Med. Det.
(written in 1946)
Part #2 of 3 Parts:
Fred Sutton's Story, cont.
1st Btn. Medic litter bearer for the 405th (Story written in 1946) (He had found Tittelbaum at the top of a muddy hill, with a hole in his leg.)
He was fully conscious and had a tourniquet on his leg. Another fellow, with a wounded nose, was standing by him trying to make him comfortable in the rain and mud. I told him we would get him out as soon as possible and moved on as Harry had told me to spot casualties so that a litter bearer team could get a casualty without taking the time to find them. A lot of them were in holes and couldn't be seen.
I found a Mexican boy in a hole with a leg wound and a board on top of him. He had had no attention and I tried to put a Carlisle on him but did a bad job of it. Having no morphine I couldn't get him out of his misery and he was sobbing quietly. I left him and took off to the left and found a fellow in a tank track. I couldn't see him until I got right up to him because the track was a half foot deep and an 88 had hit him in the leg, tearing it half off. He could hardly speak, the concussion was so great. He whispered hoarsely that an 88 had hit the tank about 10 yards away and had hit him too. He managed to crawl to this tank track for a little protection and wasn't able to bind his wound.
Garman came and helped me bind him and give him some morphine. At first, I wasn't sure of the process of what to do with a wounded man. Garman taught me in a hurry; something we had not been taught in the States. If we'd had a little more of this kind of training and less drill, we might have been able to perform our job more efficiently. However, there were a lot of things that we had to learn while on the job because we had to adjust ourselves to the situation.
We found Sgt. Wylie of the 3rd platoon of Baker Co. and fixed him up and put him on a board so that he would be off the ground. Then Harry returned with more litter bearers and I helped carry Tittelbaum out. I stumbled and almost let him roll of the litter. He screamed so we got him back.
I was completely exhausted and sat sown and ate a K ration. Then I took off with Homer to get Wylie. Kraut was with us and he was wearing a big overcoat because he didn't have a raincoat. He was perspiring a lot.
My feet were completely wet and every time I took a step they would "squish". Milker, Harry and I went back and got a guy out of a dugout. He had been hit in the hip and with the help of four or five guys we got him on a litter. He had been hit early in the morning and was shivering violently. He had just a few clothes on and was cold. We got him back to the aid station and they sent him on back.
I sat down and tried to eat a K ration but only managed a fruit bar from breakfast I went over in a corner and tried to sleep. Pancho came in with a wound in the wrist, sat down and said he wished he was out there with the boys. They brought in a fellow, a Mexican, who had been hit in the foot by a sniper. He talked in Spanish to the 327th litter bearers. The telephone message center was in operation trying to make contact with the Companies but were unable to do so except once in a while. The wiremen went out to find the break in the line; it was pitch black, rainy and muddy. I finally got to sleep early in the morning for two or three hours. I awakened to learn that the relief boys, under Percival, had followed Capt. Woollseyto get some casualties but had gotten lost and a Jerry machine gun opened up on them while they were trying to make contact with somebody.
The next morning we didn't know what was going on but were told to go this way and "you will find some wounded." Krout and I with these 327th boys started out just before dawn feeling somewhat refreshed. We went up the stream gully, over our old haunts, and met Lt. Hirst and Sgt. Martin of Co. A. just beyond a little cement bridge. They told us to get out of there because the Jerries had this covered and we couldn't get up this way but should try going over the hill and down the next gully. Martin couldn't navigate at all and crawled from hole to hole on his hands and knees just to keep moving.
Some TDs had pulled into position behind us and when it was daylight enough for the Jerries to see them down the gully (from a house we now could see in the mist) at the edge of the town of Beeck. This episode is known to us of the 405th as the Battle of Beeck, our worst time in combat, the worst attack which we had encountered.
The Jerries let go at these TDs, 25 yards behind us, with their 88s in a barrage, lasting half an hour -- it seemed like an eternity to us -- shooting point blank at us. We cowered in a ditch as low as possible and sweated out that barrage. The Mexican fellow got down on his hands and knees in the water, leaving just part of his body above the surface. He was calm and composed but really scared. Kraut looked like he was going to a picnic, calm and collected although keeping down.
They hit one TD twice and I think hit another fellow or two. The 771 st TD Battalion retreated out of range as soon as things let up a bit. We saw two British tankers which had been on the extreme left flank and gotten lost from their outfit. They walked down the ridge and the Jerries followed them with some mortars, getting close several times but the Limeys walked on in comparative security although ducking occasionally when a close one came in.
I told the fellows to return down the stream to the little bridge and then we would cut across the hill to the other gully past the abandoned tank in the mud. Krout and I took off across the field, panting before we had gone 25 yards. We got into some holes at the top of the hill with some dead men and Sanchez, from Charlie Co., with two fellows who had gotten lost from their company in the dark last night. We asked them if they had seen any wounded or if they knew where the company was at the time, but they didn't know. I asked Krout to wait and I would try to get the best way to the general position of the company.
I went along the ridge where just yesterday I had seen a tank get a direct hit from an 88 and burn up. I ran into the 81 mm mortar platoon of Dog Co. and asked them if they knew where the line outfits were and they pointed in the general direction. I saw Hardesty and he was doing OK. This platoon had had one killed early that morning and asked if I couldn't take him. I got a little angry and said that there were too many wounded to do a thing like that since he was beyond help and misery.
I started up the ridge and soon heard a shot ring out across the valley and a bullet whiz past me. I got out of there and back to the foxhole, waited a few minutes and then went on back to Krout and the others. I told them we could cut to the right and follow up a hill, on the right hand side of the second stream. We couldn't be seen and could make better time. So I took off and the others followed, at intervals, across a plowed field and into a clump of trees. We gathered together and I led them up the valley. I asked a Guadacanal veteran, holed up in the side of the hill, where the Company was but he didn't know. He had joined up a Swift; we had talked to him several times about combat; he had been a BAR man, had been wounded and sent back to combat with us so he was in no mood to fight and had holed up here and was taking it easy.
We went on up past a dugout and started up a road over a little stone bridge again and the Jerries started to throw in mortars. I hit the dirt and waited for the rest to come in. We took off for the protection of the hill and yelled to the others to come there when they didn't hear any whine, so they did. I told them to dig in if they had shovels and only one fellow had one so they spread out behind the crest of the hill. We waited half an hour and nothing happened so we took off again.
It so happened some of the fellows of Dog Co. were coming across the field so we all got shelled again. The fellows with the heavy mortars having to run to foxholes had a tough time of it. We got out of there when things let up and went back around the curve of the hill and waited. I told the fellows we couldn't do any good for a little while so we holed up and tried to keep dry. We attempted to find a dugout to stay in while waiting and stopped in Dungess' where he had set up an advance aid station for the 3rd Battalion. He was doing a good job and this was where Harry and Stanley Kaufman had holed up the night before. A few more boys stopped in and he chased us all out because he had wounded from the 3rd Btn. coming in.
We went back to another dugout on the crest of the hill but only a few fellows got in there. So Krout and I went back to the dugout artillery position and sat down in the rain and the mud and ate a part of a Breakfast ration which I had in my pocket.
We split it with two infantry men who were on their way back for food and water. We sat and talked and the sergeant said he was ready to settle for any kind of peace. They moved on and we went back up again and Lt. McKenna, Warfield and Dugan were wading through the mud up the road and the sniper was cracking away every once in a while in our general direction. The Jerries started to throw artillery so we returned and sat outside Dingess' place wrapped in blankets.
Some infantrymen stopped and talked to us, asking what was going on and we said we couldn't get up to the fellows. Just then, the Jerries started to shell us again, one landing about 20 yards to my left and about cracking my ears. We sat there sweating them out hoping that there weren't many. However, several more came in and Krout ran for the ditch across the fence. One hit in the ditch just back of him. Twenty or more shells fell and then Lieut. Rapp came up with the Mexican from the 327th and told us that Col. Robinson had been hit and was dying. I told him that we had been trying all day to get up there but couldn't. So he and the Mexican took off with a litter and returned in about half an hour saying that they couldn't get up there either. They had been seen and were shelled, so they went on back to the aid station.
Ernsdorffer of the mortar platoon of Charlie Co. had a Red Cross band and he went up after some of the fellows of Charley Co. who had been hit. Lt. Whitlook, a young, brazen fellow went up with some fellows from Headquarters with litters. We waited a few minutes and nothing happened so I got the fellows together and we took off. I was leading and was certainly ready to take to the ditch at any moment. We met a Gl returning with a wounded Gl, carried by two Jerries, on a coat. I gave them a litter and told the Gl to prod those Jerries and keep them moving. We passed a dead Gl almost half standing in a forward position, his face gray. We followed the road that lead out to an open field leading up to the house that was on the edge of the orchard. This was at the edge of Beeck and we found Charlie dug in on the protected side of the hill. I found a wounded guy who was shaking from cold and shock and he told us to get the other fellows who were wounded worse. I went up the hill and found Evans and Salas with several wounded and told them to take them off and get out of there as fast as possible.
The litter haul was about a thousand yards back to Dingess' dugout, an old artillery position. A daring fellow in a jeep came up with water and food and returned with two of the wounded. They carried Col. Robinson out, white as a sheet. Major Meyers had been hit in the arm and several walking wounded took off when there seemed to be a break in the general shelling. Everything was quiet for an hour or so and we hauled several fellows, exhausted as we were, by putting the litter on our shoulders and having it cut almost to the bone before we could put it down and change shoulders and take off again, moving as fast as possible. One Mexican from the 327th was a game fellow; he only weighed about 120 pounds but he kept up with the rest of us.
I went back up again and we returned with an old Army man, Tech Sgt. Daves of Charlie Co. He had a gut wound. He was semiconscious, trembling and suffering from shock, having been wounded almost 12 hours before in the dawn attack. He kept mumbling that a Jerry had popped up out of his hole and knocked his carbine out of his hand, and had hit him on the arm and stomach. He then became unconscious. I kept telling him that we just had a little further to go when we would get to a jeep. Every few minutes he would ask how much farther we had to go and he also kept asking for water. My canteen had been empty since early morning and I was spitting cotton myself. We continued to slop through the mud and at last got him back to the dump.
All of us collected 10 or 12 wounded and, having no more litters, waited for the jeep. A man from Baker Co., I think, came grinding through the mud in a jeep and when he got to us he put off his water and put on two wounded fellows at a time; we selected the more seriously wounded and sent them back.
The Sgt. kept asking for water and Ernsdorffer said "no" when I started to give him some. Ernsdorffer knew more about first aid than I did so I wet the sergeant's lips and he was thankful. We got some wood and different things to cover the wounded so the rain wouldn't hit them in the face. This driver returned and took two more wounded and I think one fellow died while we were standing there. I found one more litter and asked Krout if he wanted to go with me as I was going back up to see if there were any more. He said he would stay with the fellows.
I walked up to Charlie Co. and asked if there were any more fellows wounded and Salas didn't know of any. Then the Jerries started to shell again so I got into a hole and sat down, sweating out the most intense artillery barrage that I had hitherto encountered.
It lasted almost an hour and was continuous.
Previously I had ventured up to the crest of the hill and the fellows told me to keep my head down because the sniper could see me. They had us spotted and the fellows had orders to hold the position They sat there and I prayed several times after each shell that came in. I couldn't sit comfortably having to keep as low as possible below the surface of the ground. A shell struck 15 yards from me and a piece of shrapnel whizzed past my left and hit the edge of the hole in back of me. I began to get the shakes and started to shiver all over and could not control myself. Every shell that came in I said to myself "well, here goes". It sounded like they were in the close vicinity.
Only a few came close enough to make my ears ring and gasp for breath from the concussion. I prayed that if I were going to get killed that it come instantly and no lingering. Later, it was rumored that some of those shells were our own and so they were. The artillery didn't know the position and was shelling where they thought the Jerries were. At the time we had no means of communication with the artillery.
I saw Leonard Zdara, a boy who had been in the same units with me since we had been in the Army. He was in A Co. and was trying to find battalion headquarters. I waved to him as he moved on and shells came to our front and he kept moving on.
I could see he was a cool fellow and a good man in the field.
Cautiously, I got out of my hole and went up the hill to where Salas was located. He asked me if I had any supplies and I threw him my first aid kit full of Carlisles. He had one fellow with a slight wound in his leg. He told me that Evans had been scratched in the back and was evacuated the next day for that plus trench foot. While I was unfastening my first aid kit, a wounded fellow crawled out of his hole and came towards me and a guy called me to get up there and help him.
I said to take it easy and then threw Salas my aid kit and waved to Moe. Moe had done a good job with the machine guns, attached to C Co. The wounded fellow threw his arm around my shoulder and I half carried and half dragged him down the steep hill, but left the litter behind. I was tired out and when we had gone a few yards we stopped and he sat down in the mud until I got my breath.
After starting out again, another fellow got on the other shoulder and helped me back around the corner. The wounded man could not go any further so I decided that I had better get him to some shelter. We turned off the road to a hole and it wasn't big enough. The other fellow said "Let's get him someplace, and in a hurry" and he pointed to a dugout up the side of the hill. We took off and got him inside and then sat down and rested. It had been a Jerry dugout with rough double deckers. I found Leo Weiner with Sgt. Hammac, and George and Rodrigues, a Mexican from the States, and as I remember, a good Joe and he proved to be one of the best fellows in the C Co. Lt. Hoffman, a tall, lanky intelligent fellow from A Co., was shell happy and Leo was trying to take care of him. Sgt. Hammac shook when trying to load a machine pistol. Leo gave my wounded a shot of morphine and laid him down.
Another fellow popped in and told us that the sniper was seeing everything we were doing and that we couldn't move out of there before dark. An ASTP Charlie Co. fellow was the only one there who was taking it calmly and he tried to soothe the others and help Leo and me. Every few minutes we could hear the sniper pop away in our general direction and I sat down and tried to collect myself and thought "so this is war". I could see no heroism, no honor, no glory in the entire thing. It was so insane, so crazy, so wasteful, especially in human lives that I began to question my entire philosophy of life, asking why was all this necessary -- but I haven't fully answered that question yet.
I asked the lieutenants if they wanted to get out of there tonight and said that the best time would be just after dusk after the Jerries had thrown their evening shells. I assigned two men to each lieutenant and told them that when we took off to follow the road until after you crossed the little bridge, then turn across the stream and go into the dugout there for a breather, cross the hill and back to the aid station. About five o'clock Dog Co. took off running along with part of Charlie Co., back down the valley and out of there. I do not know whether they had orders or not but I think they had. It was pitiful to see those poor fellows, burdened down with guns and equipment, sliding and slipping, sometimes falling on their faces, while they got out of there in a hurry.
(to be continued)
----- Fred Sutton
(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, "The Attack on Beech", by Fred Sutton, 405th, Med. Det., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes",
Part #1:Vol. 51, No. 4, July / Sept., 1999, pp. 10 - 13.
Part #2:Vol. 52, No. 1, Oct./ Dec., 1999, pp. 7 - 10.
Part #3:Vol. 52, No. 2, Jan./ March, 2000, pp. 8 - 11.
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 October 2004.
Story added to website on 12 October 2004.
September 5, 2002.
Would YOU be interested in adding YOUR story --
or a loved-one's story? We have made it very
easy for you to do so.
By clicking on the link below, you will be sent
to our "Veterans Survey Form" page where a survey form
has been set up to conviently record your story.
It is fast -- convenient and easy to fill out --
Just fill in the blanks!
We would love to tell your story on
World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words.
WW II Stories: Veterans Survey Form
© Copyright 2001-2012
World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words
All Rights Reserved
Updated on 17 January 2012...0832:05 CST
Please Sign Our Guestbook...