Heroes: the Army
"...After it got dark the British turned on their search lights and the beams shone off the clouds, lighting up the battle fieid a little so that the wounded could be evacuated..."
Elton G. Oltjenbruns
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. A., 327th Medical Btn.,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: T/5, Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Holyoke, CO
Thanksgiving Day 1944
by Elton Oltjebruns
Co. A., 327 Med Btn.
How well I remember that day. It started out with a drizzle or light rain falling. As an ambulance driver of Co. A 327 Med. Btn. I was assigned to the 2nd Bn. Aid Station of the 405th Infantry. Captain Wise, Battalion Surgeon, was in charge and the jeep driver was Ingwald Mendenhall of Montana.
On the way up to the front we went through Prummern. I was following the aid station jeep and the infantrymen were single file on both sides of the narrow street. Suddenly a Kraut soldier ran out of the church and started running towards the rear. He was taken prisoner right next to me. Some one said he had been a sniper up in the church steeple.
The aid station was set up on the edge of Premmern. It was a day of many casualties. Charlie Teague of Fort Worth was also assigned to help evacuate the wounded. His assistant was George Spisak from Pittsburgh, PA. My assistant was William Tebo from New York. There were litter bearers there from Co. A 327 Med. Co. and we collected, cared for and evacuated the casualties of the 405th Regiment.
After it got dark the British turned on their search lights and the beams shone off the clouds, lighting up the battle fieid a little so that the wounded could be evacuated. It was sometime in the middle of the night before we got all of the casualties evacuated.
I've often wondered why the attack was ordered to take place on a day when the weather was what it was. When the weather cleared up and the Air Force could have been out with their P47s and the artillery, with their Piper Cubs could have been up, the capture of Beeck could have taken place with far less loss of men.
One event I remember was when the aid station jeep got run over by a tank one night. And Dr. Richard LaForce of D Co. 327th Med. remembers when his jeep was hit by a round of artillery fire at Geilenkirchen. He was not in it at the time, fortunately.
Dr. LaForce, now retired, became an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist at Sterling, CO, about 50 miles from my home in Holyoke. My local doctor sent me to him to remove some dirt from one of my eyes, and he recognized me and we talked of old times.
I joined the 102nd on November 13,1942 and was with them to meet the Russians on the Elbe. Sometime after that I developed appendicitis and was shipped to a hospital in Belgium. I never got back to the 102nd after that and was eventually discharged from Ft. Levenworth, KS on Nov. 11, 1945
----- Elton G. Oltjenbruns
(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
The above story, "Thanksgiving Day 1944 - Beeck, Germany", by Elton Oltjenburns, Co. A., 327th Med. Btn., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 46, No. 2, Jan/March. 1994, pp. 9-10.
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 24 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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Updated on 17 February 2012...1351:05 CST