Heroes: the Army
"...I pulled the trigger of my carbine and nothing happened. It was empty. The magazine had fallen out moving up. We were the right flank attacking platoon; the second platoon was on the left and I was guiding on a wagon track straight into town..."
Sheldon H. Samuelson
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. F., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: 1st Lt., Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1912
- Entered Service: Appleton, MN
Interview with Sheldon Samuelson
as interviewed by his son Dr. Robert Samuelson, in 1974
In February 1941 a young man left Appleton, Minnesota to take part in WWII. Glimpses of his military life were seen by his friends in the Appleton Press. On March 2,1945 they read he had won the Silver Star. Later, in the June 8, 1945 edition they read that he had won the Bronze Star, both awards given for "gallantry in action."
In 1941 his Company M was activated and Sheldon was stationed on the Texas coast immediately after war broke out with Japan. His regiment was then stationed in Northern Ireland but he returned from there to Officer's Candidate School at Ft. Benning, GA from which he graduated. In April 1944 he was assigned to the 102nd Infantry Division (OZARK) and became leader of the 1st Platoon, 407-F until April, 1945. He was 29 years old.
It was during that year that 1st Lieut. Samuelson spent his time on the battlefield. He returned to Europe for the second time, landed in Cherbourg, France. The Allies were preparing the attack through and beyond the Siegfried Line to the Roer River.
"What do you recall about this first day on the front line?
"See, that is where I relieved a company of the 30th Division. The Lieutenant didn't have many more men in his company than I had in my platoon. I went up ahead and he showed me all the foxholes and a dug in mortar. I met a Tech. Sgt. who had been one of my basic trainees at Welters. We took an awful lot of artillery there. Two wounded from artillery fire there.
We got fire at straight up noon every day because we were supposed to be eating then so we ate at eleven every day and were back in our holes by noon. The Ninth Army was getting ready to make its big drive.
After the 102nd attack on Floverich, Immendorf, and Loverich carried the division to the Apweiler and Gereonsweiler area by Nov. 24, 1944 the 407th was in the Puffendorf forward assembly area preparing to attack the towns on the west bank of the Roer River.
"We relieved the 406th at Puffendorf, there I lost almost a whole squad due to artillery fire. That's when Sgt. Grant [Henry H.] was killed. "
The 2nd Battalion of the 407th moved to Ederen for an attack on Flossdorf. On the right the units were in contact with the 2nd Armored Division which was also advancing to the Roer. There was very little cover in the area, the ground around Flossdorf was featureless except for a small valley running from Welz toward Flossdorf. Opposing the 407th were units of the 10th SS Panzer Division, 240 Volksgenedier Division and the 42nd Luftwaffe Battalion. On Nov. 29, 1944 the 407th attacked the Roer towns, but for two days the Germans held Flossdorf against 2nd Btns. E and G companies. The morning of Dec. 2 Company F attacked Flossdorf from the south.
Can you tell me about your part in the Flossdorf attack?
"For two days Companies E and G were pinned down and our company was supplying them. Sgt. Funk [Preston K.] and I took a reconnaissance patrol to where we were to attack, and he and I went alone where we weregoingto he. We got up on the high ground out of the ravine and the Germans spotted us. They threw a whole mortar barrage at Frank and I, 17 rounds at us and we were lying in a dead furrow. We got out fast when it was over. Later that night we moved the whole company up and attacked at 3 in the morning.
They decided to attack before daylight because you couldn't get across that open ground. The Germans were dug in in trenches around the town. We found a sniper in a haystack. We took our first prisoners before dawn, my men ran upon a German outpost - they were shooting high. I ordered the men to commence firing and charge. I pulled the trigger of my carbine and nothing happened. It was empty. The magazine had fallen out moving up. We were the right flank attacking platoon; the second platoon was on the left and I was guiding on a wagon track straight into town. We were fairly close to Flossdorf and tied in with some men from Company G and they attacked with us. Then we ran into an artillery barrage and we kept going and first thing we got into the woods at the edge of Flossdorf. All I had left was 5 or 6 men left with me. We rushed a trench and took some prisoners. I sent Keith Carter to take the prisoners back to Battalion hut he got captured.
We stayed the rest of the morning in a big combination house and barn. We had a couple of BARs but neither one worked so a couple of the boys made one good one and put it into the attic of the barn. I caught a German outpost pulling in and caught it with the BAR; that was the only time I shot a German myself. We were in the stone barn and that was the only time I watched the American tanks attack from in front of them. I remember a boy shooting a BAR, falling to the ground, and getting up and running and firing again. Later, we found 88s dug in on the edge of town that had wiped out the tanks the previous days. We had a bunch of men missing. I took one man with me the next day and we went back out on the battlefield and it was hell of a mess. We found all our men there except Keith Carter."
Flossdorf fell to 2nd Battalion, 407th Infantry on December 2, 1944
What about Christmas of 1944?
"I don't remember much about it. New Years we were in Lindern with a liquor ration and we had a big artillery barrage that night. There was a name drawing and two officers from the Battalion got to go to Paris on a 72 hour pass. Joe Steel and I get to go by 2 1/2 ton truck. The first night we ate and went to the Lido; the next day Joe and I went on a guided tour, saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Napoleons tomb and the Arch. We spend most of the day on the tour. That night we went to the Follies."
What happened after Flossdorf?
"We attacked Brachelen on January 26and met light resistance. I was the company exec as well as first platoon leader then. It was a daylight attack."
"I had an idea to put a combat outpost in front of the Roer River. The second night they captured a three man German patrol. We took a patrol up to see if the bridge was still there on a line from Brachelen to Baal. The patrol was picked from the third squad. I went along. We ran into a minefield with snow on the ground I lead the patrol through the minefield. I pushed ahead with a rifle. You could see some of the mines sticking up, and the patrol followed right behind me. When we got there (to the bridge) a couple of us crept up and could see the German sentry on the bridge."
After wiping out the enemy west of the Roer River, the Division began consolidating for the crossing. The crossing of the Roer and the advance to the Rhine (Operation Grenade) was scheduled for Feb. 10 and the 407th was to cross at Linnich. However the Germans jammed the flood gates of the Roer River dams and the crossing was postponed until Feb. 23,1945 at 0333 hours.
Where did you cross the Roer?
"We crossed right at Linnich. A couple of days before we crossed I went up and looked at the river with the Colonel and other company commanders. We looked from the houses at the crossings. A bullet barely missed the Colonel there."
What was the crossing like?
"The morning of the crossing we were the reserve company. I was in charge. We were the third company to cross. The Germans were really shelling the banks. The engineers had given up and were digging in, their officers had taken off and I had to round up the engineers. I crossed on the last boat and here was the whole company lined up on the other bank - another mine field. So they followed me, the whole company, across the minefield and up the road." (Toward Glimbach).
What happened at Glimbach?
"When we (F Company) got there the Battalion commander said 'God am I glad to see you.' as the other companies had been scattered. About 5pm we made a coordinated attack with F Company leading up a hill to take Glimbach, using German prisoners to clear the minefield. It was a pretty attack, about 500 yards of marching fire. I watched and it was fantastic the way they went up that hill. About half an hour after we took Glimbach we had an attack by American P-47s - an air strike called for earlier in the day, and now we were in the town. It was demoralizing to say the least."
"The next morning we moved out of Limbach and got onto high ground and were pinned down by a platoon in a steel pill box. We had a bunch of boys wounded there. We took about 20 prisoners after outflanking it. From there we went into reserve and we moved north, rolling up the river. It was a walk-in moving north downhill and you could see the Germans retreating."
Were you ever wounded?
"Once at Glimhach the HQ group thought I was injured after I tripped over a barbed wire fence jumping it. That was the only scratch I got, from that barbed wire."
Any other things you remember?
"The buzz bombs would go over every night going to Brussels. They made a distinctive sound - you couldn't help telling it. The last battle then that we had was a Wickrath." (Feb. 28 north of Glimbach) "That is where George Mahoney's platoon got shot up so bad. We were jumping off and our Colonel just stood there when the artillery was coming in. That was something. After we had gone into Division Reserve the first big city captured by the 102nd was Krefeld, with a big Russian PW cage. We pulled in a day after the city was captured. They turned the Russians loose and they went wild robbing and looting. We were assigned to round up the Russians and put them back in their cages. They were so mad. Another couple of days and they would have torn that city down."
At that time the Ninth Army reverted for a time to a defensive role on the banks of the Rhine. Crossing began April 4, 1945 at Wesel and the 102nd's mission, along with the 84th Division on the left, was to advance from Hanover to the Elbe, mopping up after the 5th Armored. By April 17 the 102nd had established outposts along 21 miles of the Elbe River at Stendal. On April 25, 1945 "Sam" took over H Company, 407th, and finally on May 7, 1945 the war over. Sam met the Russians again and came home.
Did the 1st Platoon, F Company, 2nd Battalion 407 see action? Well, of the 42 men on the platoon roster that my father kept, there were notations of nine men killed in action or died of wounds. An additional 25 men received purple hearts. This is an 80% killed or wounded excluding non-battle casualties. There were two Silver Stars and 12 Bronze Stars awarded to this unit. One man was captured.
1. Personal interview - Sheldon "Sam" H. Samuelson - June 16, 1974
2. With the 102nd infantry Division Through Germany" Infantry Journal Pres'fe
3-AppletonPress- March 2,1945, June 8, 1945
4. Platoon Roster - 1st Platoon, F Company 407th Infantry
5. Map - titled "Julich Area, Germany"
This interview may have started out as a school project. Any grandchild could use the format to interview his Ozark grandfather. The stories should be interesting.
----- Sheldon and Dr. Robert Samuelson
(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, "Interview with Sheldon Samuelson", by his son Dr. Robert Samuelson, in 1974, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 53, No. 1, Oct/Dec. 2000, pp. 13-14.
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 2 November 2004.
Story added to website on 6 November 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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