Heroes: the Army
"...A Nazi patrol was on the prowl a few streets away and raising a little cain. Without disturbing the floor show, Lt. Clark ticked off a dozen men to welcome the intruders..."
Gerald M. Norris
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. A., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Brooklyn, NY
K Co's Beer Party
On the Banks of the Rhine
(This was sent to us by Barbara Abrams, daughter of Gerald M. Norris of 407-A. It was undoubtedly first printed in "Yank" or "Stars and Stripes" from the looks of our copy. The author was Frank Connff.)
A year ago late March, the American 9th Army sprawled along the River Rhine, coiling its strength for the final lunge against the shrunken core of Germany. It was a time of waiting, of preparation. The weather was soft and warm. Soldiers relaxed with the casual pursuits that might have embellished a Springtime at home.
Like the beer party staged by K Company of the 406th Regiment just a year ago tonight in Uerdingen-on-the-Rhine, within easy range of the Nazi guns across the river.
The town was blacked-out, of course; shells wheezed into its lonely reaches regularly. You got to the party by walking stealthily along the deserted streets and whispering the password to the guards. One moment you were treading through ominous darkness; a few steps more and the impact of a full-blown party wrapped you in a welter of noise and brightness.
Almost 200, men were jammed into the musty hofbrau. GI waiters hopped nimbly among the tables, dispensing a dark fluid that everyone pretended was beer. The Nazis, perhaps caught by the spirit of the soiree, obligingly provided sound effects. Shells plopped into Uerdingen on a clock-like schedule, some close, others muted and far away.
It was a tempting concentration of men, but K Company was unworried. In fact, the incoming mail furnished the cue for some sparkling wit from Private Jackie Massaro, know to Broadway nightclub audiences as comedian Jackie Richards. Private Massaro-Richards was emceeing the floor show. He ignored most of the flying metal or fluffed it off with curt disdain.
"Don't mind that one," he'd say. "Some Kraut's trying to hit his relatives in Uerdingen." But at one point a concentration of heavy stuff landed dangerously close and called a sharp halt to the merriment. Emcee Richards leaped into the breach with what must be one of the best adlibs of the war. "Pay no attention to them," he shouted. "You'll make them think they're important."
Midway in the evening a messenger edged his way to the table of acting company commander, Lt. Robert Clark, of Pittsburgh, PA. The news he whispered wasn't pleasant. A Nazi patrol was on the prowl a few streets away and raising a little cain. Without disturbing the floor show, Lt. Clark ticked off a dozen men to welcome the intruders. Hardly anybody in the hofbrau realized they had departed. You had a tight feeling in your stomach knowing that a fire-fight might be shaping up a few blocks from the scene of gayety.
Anyway, the party whirled on to its appointed end with no untoward incidents, unless you count the slight tactical mistake of Lt. Pat Lynch, of the Bronx. Lt. Lynch, battlefield commissioned for bravery just a few weeks before, volunteered to guide me back to our quarters. He was positive in his directions &emdash; you simply walk straight down this street and your house is the third from the corner.
We trudged trustingly along until I noticed something silvery gleaming in the moonlight. I tugged Lt. Lynch's arm and pointed. "Why, declare," he said. "I do believe that is the Rhine. We must have been going in the wrong direction."
The lieutenant had the right idea, but was just a bit premature. Five nights later, two companies from the 30th Division and two from the 79th eased their way down to the river's edge and nudged storm-boats into the water. In something less than two minutes, they splintered a barrier behind which Der Fuerer hoped the Wehrmacht could hold out forever.
----- Gerald Norris
(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, "K Co's Beer Party On the Banks of the Rhine", contributed by Gerald M. Norris, Co. A., 407th., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 53, No. 4, July/Sept. 2001, 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 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 26 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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