Heroes: the Army
"And if a traveler may come along and take a rest under the old lime trees, the wind may play in their leaves and tell him the story of the battles of 1444 and 1944 and the young soldiers who lost their lives in the surrounding fields. That it may happen like this, that is the hope and desire of the men of the St. Hubertus Cross Association and their foreign friends."
David G. Parshall
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. I., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Pontiac, MI
THE ST. HUBERTUS CROSS
as visited by David Parshall, 405-I
"Oh Ja. I know of the St. Hubertus Cross. Wait! I have a friend who can help you. He knows about this. Please wait, I will be right back" Our young innkeeper seemed to be quite excited as he rushed off. I felt quite apprehensive. I had been here in Linnich, Germany twice before, the first time in 1944 when, as a member of Co. I of the 405th Regiment of the 102nd Infantry Division, we had fought our way yard by yard through the famous Siegfried Line of fortifications in the Roer valley, along the border of Germany. The fighting had been fierce with many casualties on both sides. We had crossed the Roer River at the little river town of Linnich, which had been almost demolished in the process.
My second trip to Germany was twenty years after the war in 1965 and I became so emotional and upset that I had to leave. Now, thirty years later, in 1995, I was trying again. My wife, Joanne, and I were visiting Germany to see if we could find the
Memorial called the St. Hubertus Cross. At our Division reunion i had contributed to the Memorial and also for a "Peace Window" in the Linnich church. I wanted to see the Memorial, but I didn't want to get too involved. I didn't want a repeat of my previous fiasco.
Joanne and I found the Peace Window in the Saint Martin's Church in Linnich. When we went to the church it was clear that some renovating was going on and the area of the Peace Window was roped off, but when the workmen discovered that we were Americans, they graciously invited us to come in and see the window.
The window was beautiful and artistic and its theme was peace among nations. We thanked the people in the church and then looked and asked around town for the St. Hubertus Cross, but found no sign of it. When we were escorted to our rooms at the Linicea Hotel by the young innkeeper, a big blond Nordic, we asked him about it. That's when he got excited and left.
Our host came back shortly and asked us to come with him down the street to the local Rathskeller. There the President of the St. Hubertus Society would meet us. The innkeeper marched us quickly through the streets of Linnich to the tavern.
When we entered we were introduced to several former German soldiers who were very friendly and immediately supplied us with some good German beer. But before we could drink it, in came the president. He was Doctor Franz Gorres, a dark haired young Medical Doctor, dressed in a suit and tie and looking like he had just left his office. He wanted to take us to the Memorial at once since the hour was late and the light would be fading.
So we hurried into his spiffy Mercedes and he drove out into the country side about two miles from town and there stood an old broken stone cross, the St. Hubertus Cross, it stands in a neat little park under some old linden trees. Doctor Gorres explained to us that the Cross was intended to be a sign of peace and reconciliation between the antagonists who had fought two battles in this valley.
The first one took place in November, 1444 and the second one was fought in November, 1945; exactly five hundred years apart. Duke Gerhard Von Julich defeated Egmond von Geldern in the first battle on St. Hubertus day. It was probably fought between knights on horseback. The original cross was made of wood and the Linnich St. Hubertus Schutzengesellschaft erected it. That is the name of the society of which Dr. Gorres is the current president (1995) and it had been organized after the first battle in 1444.
They had recently celebrated their 550th anniversary. Over the centuries the Cross had been replaced several times. The stone one had been knocked down and broken during the battles of 1944 and the Society had re-erected it in a broken condition intentionally to show that the spirit of peace and reconciliation had been damaged but not destroyed.
Near the Cross a large stone Monument has been provided with a plaque for each of the divisions that had fought here in 1944. There were twenty-one plaques representing ten American divisions, ten German divisions, and one British. The plaques were arranged in rows on the side of the Monument, with the American and German Divisions alternating. Dr. Gorres told us that 25,000 people, soldiers and civilians, had been killed in the fighting in 1944.
The Memorial was located at a crossroads out in the country. Surrounding fields of wheat, barley and beets simmered in the afternoon sunshine. The scene could not have looked more tranquil and peaceful. Gone were the pillboxes, dragons' teeth, barbed wire; snow and mud, terror and hatred that had been present here before. The shell holes trenches, and fox holes had all been filled in and repaired.
We went back to the Rathskeller to finish our beer and by this time some more former German soldiers had come to get acquainted. One of them was the current caretaker of the little Memorial park. It was his duty to cut the grass and keep the place orderly. Some of the old soldiers could speak fairly good English and they told stories about the war from the German side. One got so excited that he lapsed into German and we had to stop him and remind him to speak English.
One of the stories was of the village children who were enlisted to help dig trenches during the defense of Linnich. A group of young boys were lined up to get their rations after hours of digging. A shell came in and killed nineteen of them. This and other stories were told without rancor as the hours passed and the beer flowed. These were warm and friendly conversations shared not by enemies but by survivors of dreadful, sad and tragic events. We shared profound regrets of the past and hopes for a better future and we parted friends.
A former German soldier wrote this about the Hubertus Cross: "And if a traveler may come along and take a rest under the old lime trees, the wind may play in their leaves and tell him the story of the battles of 1444 and 1944 and the young soldiers who lost their lives in the surrounding fields. That it may happen like this, that is the hope and desire of the men of the St. Hubertus Cross Association and their foreign friends."
And this traveler did come and rest under the old lime trees and I did think about the many young men who died here. And E feel very thankful to my new German friends for their efforts in helping to heal some of my painful memories and to help bring peace and reconciliation between our nations.
----- Parshall, David
(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
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "The St. Hubertus Cross", by David Parshall, Co. I., 405th, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 53, No. 3, Jan/Mar., 2001, pp. 15-16.
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 25 March 2005.
Story added to website on 26 March 2005.
September 5, 2002.
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