Heroes: the Army
"...We started across and got most of the way when we lost control because of the swift water. The engineers had stretched a rope across but we were so heavy loaded until we were losing the boat. I knew we had too many people aboard and I said so but what did a soldier like me know. The engineers were in charge..."
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. I., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: T/Sgt., Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Provencial, LA
The Roer River
by Milton McDonald, 407-I
I was drafted out of high school. Took my training in Camp Swift, Texas. We had the best training anyone could have. We went to Fort Dix N. J., and then to camp Kilmer where we departed and 12 days later we were in Cherbourg, France. In about a month we were on the front line on edge of Holland and Germany. We fought our way to about 35 miles of Berlin where we stopped and let the Russians go in. What a mistake. Served in occupation and came home in March 1946. The rest is history.
France, Holland, Belgium and Germany
Before we crossed the Roer River, I was involved in night patrols across into Gerry land to harress and bring back prisoners to interrogate and find out what lies ahead. It was so cold at this time.
I remember one night in December , the Captain told a group of us he wanted us to go across and take a look so the 327th Engineers were to get us to the other side. We started across and got most of the way when we lost control because of the swift water. The engineers had stretched a rope across but we were so heavy loaded until we were losing the boat. I knew we had too many people aboard and I said so but what did a soldier like me know. The engineers were in charge. I jumped out on one side and someone the other and we got the boat to the bank, but we were all wet and freezing. LT said we would scrap this one so we proceeded to return. We decided to let half the guys go and have them come back for the rest. When we got about half way the boat started going crazy in the swift current and was sinking so we had to abandon ship. The last thing I heard LT say was, "Help Help I cant swim." Well it was so bad until we threw all we had in the river and swam a little to save ourselves.
You see the Germans controlled a dam up above and they thought we were going to make the big push and would let a lot of water go. The river would rise as much a four feet. We went to the CP where we pulled our clothes off and got in bed while they dried our clothes.
The next night we went back across and accomplished our mission. The Krauts sure did know we were on their side. But we lost three more men. I still shiver when I think of that time on the ROER.
Thanks for listening.
This was hell on earth for us but I am happy to have served for my country, as well as the other guys. We came home, got a job and today which is 1-16-04, I am happy.
(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 Roer River", by Milton McDonald, 407th, I. Co., was contributed by Mr. McDonald on January 16, 2004.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of Mr. Milton McDonald of Natchitoches, Louisiana. Our sincerest THANKS is extended to Mr. McDonald for allowing us to share his story.
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 16 January 2004.
Story added to website on 19 January 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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