Heroes: the Army
"...As we regroup we see Lt. Weigand with a young prisoner carrying 2 cases of ammo with him. He has this big german dog with him. That dog could smell a german a mile away. I also remember Lt. Weigand as he exposed himself to heavy fire to bring tanks to our support..."
Joel E. Stenson
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. F., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942-1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Daisytown, PA
Joel Stenson: Forget About Home!
From: Joel Stenson, Daiseytown, Pennsylvania.
I am now 67 yars old and not in good health. I retired from the coal mines. My writing isnt too good, I only went thru the 6th grade in school before I went in the army. I didn't know that you, Ross,and Dowd were wounded on Nov. 28th 1944 untill Lt. Weigand came back and told us about it. I remember Cpl. Large very well, at times when we were on the country roads with his jeep, driving back and forth with ammo, food, and supplies. He also carried lots of officers back and forth to the front. In October of 44, we were in a staging area near Tongres, Belgium and then we went into Herleen, Holland. It was a small coal mining town. The people there hated the germans. I remember the big bath house and the steam baths. Then we moved into the Siegfred lines in Germany. I remember the german 88's hitting all around us near Geilenkirchen, and the attach on Linnich. Lots of things come back to me at times and I try to write them down before I forget them. I was sorry to learn of Capt. Evensons death. When we were under heavy pressure he tried to calm us down and he always lead us to our objective. He and Capt. Booth were the finest officers I ever had in the Army. I remember I wrote to Capt. Evenson in 1965. I asked him if he remembered the time I knocked him down in a field outside of Estedt. In about 4 weeks I got a letter back from him. He said, yes Joe, I remember that day. I think if it had not been for those tank ruts we both might have been killed or wounded. He said Capt. Booth will remember it too. About 6 months after I was discharged from the army I got a letter from Capt. Booth from Chicago, Ill. He said Joe, I've got a job for you if you want it. Its on the Border Patrol in Texas. I wrote back and told him I was a coal miner and thats all I know, but thanks anyhow. I remember that everytime I met him in the lines I called him Sir -- and he gave me HELL for doing it. As long as I'm up here with you guys, call me Capt. I was ready to say Sir -- but stopped just in time. I remember the day before we went into combat we had an officer and a 1st Sgt. who were on the D-day landings. We were being briefed about what to expect when we go up and what to do if we were captured. To only give name, rank, and serial number. They go around asking us each the same question -- he comes to me and says -- You are never going back home. I have tears in my eyes as I remember my wife and Mother at home. He said to us -- forget about home then he had me take a GI m-1 rifle and he said -- you see this baby? -- You take care of it and it will take care of you. I was only 22 years old at the time and they werr only trying to tell you to forget about home and get this damm war over with. The first day in combat we met light resistance. We were given Combat infantry badges and as the days rolled bye -- I hardly thought about home, and just lived day by day. And the more I see of this war, I did forget about home. I remember that when the boys of Co. F took a town, the first thing they did was to look for a bicycle or a motorcycle, and ride up and down the streets. Many times there were snipers in the towns we took, and I was shooting at anything that moved -- windows and doors. When we got to the end of the town we reorganized and rounded up the people and sent them back to the rear lines. There were 2 men wounded there by sniper fire. When we got in the Siegfred lines there were men fron the 2nd and 5th Armored tanks there I remember a tanker saying -- how thw hell are we going to cross those big concrete pillars, then someone in the rear said -- why dont you put a blade on the tank and let the shermans fill the ditch in. And so they made a highway right over them. No trouble at all. We were in another town at night and there were lots of flares going up. The Sgt. says dont shoot AT EVERYTHING until you are sur where the fire is coming from. So he figures where the rifle fire is coming from and when the next flare goes up we see something moving under a water tank and sure enough then we see 2 snipers there. So the Sgt gets 3 rifle grenades. The first one hits just below the top of the tank. The other hit square in the middle and the water comes down just like a river with 2 dead germans in it. The rest of the night was quiet. In the morning we move out again. I remember in a town just outside if St. Tonis, the germans [13-02] knew we were there and had planes come over and drop leaflets of propaganda by the hundreds. They said -- Boys of the 102nd Div. Drop your arms and come over on our side you will be well treated. When 2nd Battlion heard of this they had to think up something fast so the following night we had to take all our sholder patches off and put on those of the 79th. We had to repaint all the trucks and everything as were were now Co. F., 314 Inf Reg. 79th Div. I remember all the fake tanks artillery and planes on the ground to make the germans think they were real. The germans were stunned to find out that the 102nd wasn't there. In another attack we are in a woods and Co. F is lined up along an open field. The 4th platooon is on the right, and the 3 -- 2 & 1st on the left. There are two 2nd armored tanks at the top of the ridge giving us support we are all using marching fire to keep the germans pinned down in the woods. I am beside Capt. Evenson and 1st Sgt. George Smith is in the middle of the company. I see s a medic helping someone down on the left of us. Im loading my M-1 as fast as I can and the barrell is hot from shooting it so much. We encounter machine gun fire about 10 yards ahead -- hitting the dirt. I quickly jump on Capt, Evenson and our helmets fly off and we are lyinge in a ditch. Capt. Evnson asks me -- what the hell you do that for? I told him and he had not seen the machine gun fire at us. I told him I was sorry, Sir. If it was not for those tank ruts we both might have been dead. He later thanked me for my action. As we reached the edge of the woods a young german ran out and was shot in the head by our Sgt. Later, just above the woods I see PFC Brito running up a small grade in the wooded area. He throws a hand grenade in a german command post and kills both of the 2 germans in that hole. As we regroup we see Lt. Weigand with a young prisoner carrying 2 cases of ammo with him. He has this big german dog with him. That dog could smell a german a mile away. I also remember Lt. Weigand as he exposed himself to heavy fire to bring tanks to our support. After we got settled someone said go up and pick up Lt. Walt Fletcher and the rest of those that are hit. I later learn that Lt. Walt was trying to save 2 wounded men but he himself was killed. I don't know how many men we lost that day as we regrouped and moved into Gardelegan as our next objective. When I got home, I wrote to Lt. Fletcher's wife a letter telling what a brave man he was. I said I was not there when he got killed butt was when they brought him back to our lines. I was very lucky not to been hit and I guess the good Lord was with me all thru the war. In Gardelegen we were posted 25 yards apart and about 25 feet from those barns was a awful smell around to make you sick. I kept telling my buddy I can't wait til morning to get away from this place. We could not leave until relieved. When we were, we went over to the barns and they were full of straw and along the side of the door was a water trough with a tin cup on a chain. Then we went into the barns and I was sick for about 3 days. Charred bodies were laying all over the placeand under the bottom of the door was a mans head with a bullet hole in it. He was trying to escapee when the germans shot him. A couple of the prisoners did escape and came to our officers and told them what had hppened. They were herded into the barn when the german troops heard we were in the area they filled the barn with gasolene and lit a match to it. Those that were near the doors they shot with machine guns. They said it was a 16 year old boy who lit the match to the barn. I thought that Co. F was the first to find this place but it was really G Co. as they over to the left of our company. This was on April 17, 1945. We were there on the 18th. I picked up a camera a few weeks before and took a picture of it. I send it for the scrap book. Ive been watching a lot of TV and I never see this on TV and wonder why. I think people should know about this place. I think it is one of the forgotten things in the war. About 1016 prisoners perished and as the years go by, I can't forget this place. The next day we moved toward Stendal and other outfits buried the people. When we left there we were on our way to the Elbe river and we met light oposition as the Russians were on the Elbe. Actually E and G Co. met the Russians. We had parades in Stendal and soon the British came and we moved down to Bayreauth on our [14-03] way home. I left the Div. on Dec. 17, 1945 and got home Jan. 5, 1946. As near as I can recall we lost the following men from Co. F.
Capt. Win. Peterson, Lt. Walt. Fletcher, Sgts. Isbell, Herman Richards, John Stivali, Pfc's Paul Beck, Edward Burg, Oscar Bustas, Richard Coudira, Stanley Drab, Walter Hernandez, Walter Gercervich, Alejandro Gonzales, Clarence Hurst, Robt. Kettrndorf, Norman Lapensohn, Nik Mezaway, Alvin Miller, Remico Molina, Lyle Munger, Danny Neukam, Leonard Nolen, Martin Perez, David Russell, Carlos Siqueiros, Jack Slone, Anthony Vitti, Monroe Wilcox, Frank Wojniak, Linwood Wyatt, Moses Michael, Robt. Dreirer. These brave men will always be remembered as long as I live, and also all my Officers and men who have died after the war was over. May God bless them for it is men like these that gave their lives for freedom that we so much enjoy today. After being out of service for 22 years -- I finally got my Bronze Star medal from the Army, in 1967.
----- Joel Stenson
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
Information and photographs were generously provided to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Mr. Edward L. Souder of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The subjects of these essays are all members of Co. F., 405th Regiment.Our sincerest THANKS for allowing us to share their stories!
Original Story submitted on 19 September 2002.
Story added to website on 26 September 2002.
September 5, 2002.
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