Heroes: the Army
"...We were immediately pinned down by machine gun and flat trajectory artillery coming from the East. Laying flat in the field, my own personal dilemma became acute by an urgency created by the GIs..."
John D. Emerich
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. I., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC., Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Hershey, PA
the late John "RIP" Emerich in an image taken in 1995
Nov. 30, 1944 from the eyes of...
John D. Emerich, 407-I
I recall rather hazily of being moved up to the Roer Front from the Divisional Reserve under cover of darkness and without any orientation as to destination. As we moved into the little town of Ederen, Co. I was in battalion reserve with K & L companies on line. Our platoon was billeted in a furniture store which, to the writer's delight, was also the hiding place for some German's private wine stock. My immediate objective was to establish a bar, complete with linen tablecloth and fine glassware offering a wide variety of unknown nectars to the remainder of the platoon as well as visitors who appeared.
Under the circumstances the accommodations could be described as luxurious since the storeroom also contained mattresses and stuffed furniture for all the comforts of home. This bonanza was not all that it appeared, however, as we were to draw all types of details such as patrols and outpost duty, leaving the mattresses for the most part unoccupied.
I was one of three assigned to an outpost duty on the north side of town situated in a hay mound approximately 300 yards into a turnip field. Leaving at dusk, the three of us passed through the edge of town which was protected by tanks. Evidently our purpose was to protect the tanks from surprise attack during the night. This must have been appreciated by the tankers as they readily swapped their more reliable Thompson Machine guns for our grease guns. Upon reaching the hay mound, we proceeded to burrow in. Then we alternated watch during the night while eating raw turnips to stay awake. We experienced no incidents except an occasional mortar barrage, with one shell hitting the mound with a thud but failing to explode. Just before dawn we moved back into town on the date of Nov. 30.
We had heard rumors of an attack to be staged after dawn, so it was no surprise to hear confirmation of the rumor in the form of heavy artillery. Instead of settling down in our Beautyrests, we were ordered to stand on ready. It must have been nearly noon until orders were received to do a flanking move going through the same field where we had spent the previous night.
We were immediately pinned down by machine gun and flat trajectory artillery coming from the East. Laying flat in the field, my own personal dilemma became acute by an urgency created by the GIs. With full pack, I managed to roll on my back and relieve myself without getting more than 14 inches off the ground.
Before too long the overhead fire had eased so we made haste to move east into Welz. In crossing the main and probably only street we passed a large bomb crater with a Kraut at the bottom with his leg dangling at the knee. He was begging for someone to "schutsen mich" but no one was willing to expend the ammunition. To our left was a large building which we later learned to our disgust was the brewery.
Our eschelon moved east over a meadow adjoining an orchard with the 3rd Squad of the 3rd platoon on point. Our scouts, Cohen and Blaustine were first, followed by me and the asst-BAR man, Roy Sooter. We moved down the slope and came to a small stream approximately 3'to 4'wide and of deep appearance. Not feeling I could jump across with the weight of full regalia, I fell across and pulled myself up on the east side. We then approached a wooded area with a steep incline upward to a defined ridge. Lt. Ford, our platoon leader, ordered us to move up the slope to the ridge and stop.
Cohen [Hyman] and Blaustine [Stanley] moved stealthily, expecting to hit resistance at any time but none appeared. When we reached the ridge we faced a flat open field and Lt. Ford ordered us to dig in after placing me and my assistant at the point on our right flank which bordered a large gully running down the same slope we had just climbed. The third platoon dug in at the edge of the field and woods and the second platoon dug in along the edge of the gully to protect the right flank. Roy Sooter and I hastily dug our foxhole to the depth of approximately 4 1/2 feet and then dragged several nearby logs over the back of the hole and covered them with dirt. This was to prove a wise decision as it protected us from tree bursts when artillery hit the trees to our immediate rear.
From our foxhole our frontal view consisted only of the open field with a distant tree line of the Roer River and the church steeple of Rohrdorf. To our right was the gully with a knoll on the far side from which the ridge continued in a southerly direction where the German emplacements were dug in on the western slope. As we entered our holes, darkness was approaching and the fireworks were soon coming, as our welcoming party consisted of numerous salvos of artillery interspersed with mortar and small arms fire from the east. This party was later explained as a counter attack, although we saw nothing.
This welcoming party lasted all night and the next day with a spectacle of noise and concussions from shells going in both directions. The next day following a particularly savage barrage, Roy and I saw smoke coming out of the foxhole to our left which was housing our two brave scouts. Roy was preparing to jump out of the hole to render assistance when the figure of Lieut. Ford appeared from the woods and jumped down into their hole. He reappeared in a moment and informed us that help was useless and he disappeared back into the woods. When he returned to his hole which he had covered with his poncho, he found it in tatters from tree bursts during his absence. Needless to say we no longer enjoyed the services of our two scouts, but our brave platoon leader was still riding high on his charmed life.
I heard later that a war correspondent who was in the area described the battle for Weiz as one of the most ferocious artillery battles he had yet witnessed.
----- John Emerich
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, "Nov. 30, 1944 from the eyes...", by John Emerich, 405th, Co. I., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 52, No. 4, July/Oct., 2000, pp. 11-12.
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 3 November 2004.
Story added to website on 6 November 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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