Heroes: the Army
"...I looked up to see something and saw men lying in the fields get up and make a dash for cover. It came to me too late that they were under an artillery barrage. Just then everything went boom, the Jeep jumped to the right and stopped. Sarge and Hairless jumped out as did Ross and Dowd. I saw Ross holding his left arm with blood coming thru his fingers..."
Edward L. "Ed" Souder
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. F., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942-1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC., Purple Heart
- Birth Year: 1922
- SN: 17114499
- Entered Service: Minneapolis, MN
Edward L. Souder, standing near a U. S. Air Force T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainer, while on staff of CAP [Civil Air Patrol] Encampment at Perrin AFB, Texas in 1955. Ed possesses a Private Pilot Certificate and has logged some 700 plus hours of flight time.
Photo courtesy of Edward L. Souder.
Ed's Story: Continues
Realizing a dream, Ed Souder went back to Europe in early July of this year.
Ed had been wanting to see some of the locations that he once traveled through as a young man. The trip back in 1944 was not a family vacation. The trip was as a radio operator for Co. F., 405th Regiment, 102nd Division as the division spearheaded a push into German held territory near the Netherlands, Belgium, German border.
That time in Ed's life was a time of uncertainty and an intense awareness in his own sense of well being.
During this approach to the German border, Ed was severely wounded along with four other men riding in a jeep near a beet field on the 28th of November 1944.
Ed wanted to revisit the area and come to grips with what had happened over 60 years ago.
This trip in early July of 2005 did not come without more trials and uncertainty. Ed happened to be in the London area at the time of the terrorist attacks on July 7 of this year.
Ed had to adjust his travel plans, but was able to get in most of his planned trip back to the area where he had spent time during the war that raged in Europe.
Ed managed to obtain the services of a young teen from the Netherlands. Rick Mommers had befriended Ed via the internet and a connection with this web site. Together, along with Ricks' family, Ed was able to revisit many of the old locations where he once had walked, alongside the men of the Ozark Division.
Here is Ed's account of the trip.
In July 2005, I wanted to retrace my wanderings during World War II as I told in my story (kitchen history) back in 1944-45.
After meeting my host family in Voerendal, Holland, I went with them by auto, and began my recollection's trip at Frielenberg, Germany. This was where Co. F., of the 405th Regiment (102nd Division) first entered the front lines.
Frielenberg is a tiny town south of Geilenkirchen, Germany. Frielenberg is now a "bedroom city" with Geilenkirchen the capitol of the Wegberg as a center.
The road running into Frielenberg (out of Ubach - Palenberg) still clings to the edge of the Wurm River. The old Catholic Church to the west is now rebuilt and the street where we used to have a C. P. is still there (up the hill) or should I say the road running to the west (to Chateau Briell) has been redone into a three lane highway, now runs on to Immendorf and Puffendorf and then on to other small towns. The only turnoffs are entrances to fields and farms. So stopping for pictures was very risky.
In July 2005, every field was hip high with corn - wheat - sugar beets - and clover hay, for dairy forage.
Back in 1944, there were only sugar beets and the farm land was a muddy field.
These farm field roads are now cordoned off so it was impossible to drive on or into the farm land. The buildings toward Chateau Briell on the edge of Frielenberg, are now 12 streets west and that is the new edge of Frielenberg. These completely cover the area where Co. F., 405th had an advance C. P.
Estimating the population of Frielenberg in 1944, it was about 200 families. The population now would be 600 families or more.
We went back into Frielenberg and then north to Geilenkirchen (about 6 miles). Back in 1944 Geilenkirchen was a city devoid of persons. Today it is a city of 40,000 folks.
Of course the city is completely rebuilt and there are NO signs of the war now.
However, I did find the house that Co. F used as a supply point and across the main street is the Catholic Church, convent school and the city's best hotel (hospice) is to the left of the town's fountain. Now named Hotel JaBusch with a treed court yard and outside eating tables.
The railroad tracks still run as before and thence go on into interior Germany.
We then drove towards Immendorf, Apweiler, Prummern, Beeck and again on to Geronsweiler.
Just past Immendorf runs Highway K-24, passing outlying farms and on north to Apweiler and the outskirts of Beeck. On that rural road are still some concrete dragon's teeth (tank barriers) and a few concrete bunkers used in 1944 as check points. They are now used as chicken coops or shelter for small farm animals.
The slag heaps near Ubach are still visible in the distance and the still operating under ground coal mine near Suggerath continues to produce coal from veins 400 feet deep underground.
We tried to find some farm roads near Beeck but all are now closed to passenger cars.
I had very much wanted to find the rural road running north out of Prummern -- that Co. F. walked in the attack on Beeck; but, that road was closed by a large barricade.
We drove then on to Geronsweiler and my young friend then got out of the car and walked to the site of the pillbox that I was in on Nov. 27, 1944. There now are many electric wind generators in that area.
A local farmer came to talk to us and told us of the many tanks and bunkers on toward the Roer River in that area. These have all been blasted away and the farm land where they once were is back in cultivation --(how well I recall them.) The farmer directed us to the "cross" of St. Hubertius in the vicinity of Roerdorf. We stopped there at the memorial. I have some pictures of it as it is NOW. On the site marker are the insignias of the divisions (the Ozark) patch and the 84th and 2nd armored and associated units.
Then we drove north to Wurm and into Beeck from the north. Beeck is now a sleepy bedroom town and there is the family cross in the town square listing the soldiers from the area lost in 1919 and again in 1944-45.
This ended our day in the area and we drove back to Maastricht.
On July 10th 2005 we again drove to the Roer River and down the steep hill road to the edge of the river. This is where Co. F., 405th crossed the Roer River in the early morning of February 23, 1945. Presently there is a foot bridge over the river and there are foot paths on both sides of the river.
My young friend and I walked down along the river (still slowly flowing to the reconstructed dam and took many pictures of the present dam which clearly shows the 10 foot gap where the river now flows slowly over the dam and in 3 drops to a river bed some 12 feet below. While I was NOT involved in the river crossing in 1945, I thought about the accounts of Lt. Jim Hanson, PFC. James Brophy, Dick Skene, Sgt. Bob Lira and many others who lost their lives in that bad operation.
There was the place that Lt. Jim Hanson earned his Silver Star and upgraded to 1st Lt. (Lt. Hanson now lives in Longview, Texas.)
In the early additions to the "Kitchen History" web pages, each contributor wrote about little and BIG things that they saw or felt.
Were they only big in that persons mind or were they big in a bigger scene?
In my kitchen history, I report that on November 7th, 1944, two others and I got a 12 hour pass off the front lines at Chateau Briell. After getting a shower in Ubach, we took the trucks back into Maastricht, Holland. There we were in contact with Dutch civilians (our first contact in the war. After buying some sweet pears and a few tarts, went into the Basilica and looked at the high alter and the organ in the rear of that beautiful building.
I had hoped to hear the organ played but that November 1944, there was no one to play the instrument and so since Dowd was catholic, we sat down in a pew while he knelt and prayed. We in our own way did the same.
In my account of that event, I wrote."...we crossed ourselves and put our weapons back on and went out of the building -- with our hearts somewhat lifted and so back we went to the front lines at Chateau Briel".
Since music was a major part of my life before entering the Army -- and in the early times of combat, was my comfort and guide -- just being in the Basilica in Maastricht, Holland, was important. I recall buying two picture post cards of that building in 1944 and mailing one back to my folks in the USA as a Christmas card. The card said, "I was here in this church today and hope this card comes to you all before Christmas 1944." It did and was passed by the Army censors.
"Lets JUMP to 2005 and on July 10th 2005 -- to again being Maastricht with the Mommers family -- walking into the Basilica and upon entering, HEARING the organ playing...
Was truly a gift!
My young friend, Rick and I walked forward to the area behind the organ council. There was a sign in Dutch, saying, "Do not enter this space!!" So I said to Rick (since I am a dumb American and can't read Dutch), "Lets cross under the rope." We got up to the organist who was playing.
Shortly the man playing the organ stopped and turned and said to Rick, "What are you doing here. Can't you read??" Then Rick said to him, "This old man was in Maastricht in 1944. He was one of the Americans who kicked the Germans out of Maastricht --he is a 'liberator'."
I showed the organist my 102nd Division cap with the Ozark insignia.
Then the organist smiled and said, "Now I understand. What can I play for you Mr. Liberator!!"
Ed Souder had NOT expected this and said,"How about the Crusader's Hymn 'Fairest Lord Jesus'."
The man set the stops and played softly most of that old hymn. He stopped before the last bars of the hymn. He then turned and said, "I cannot finish that."
I asked, "Why?"
He said, "You must understand, this is a Catholic building, and so I can not finish the song. What else can I play for you?"
I took a BIG breath and said,"How about the BACH D minor Tocatta and Fugue."
The organist said he only knew about 28 pages of that and he would play that now.
(There are 54 pages in the full score). He opened IT UP -- and the organ SPOKE!!
The Basilica was built in 1225. Charlemaine and early German kings are buried there. It has high ceilings and tremendous reverberation and stained glass windows. The BACH D minor Tocatta was the right piece to have asked for. To hear in that setting and on that organ! Marcel Ver Heggen (the organist) really did a masterful rendition for the "liberator".
The "liberator" stood in tears and souring heart -- Bach would have been pleased with that program!!!!!.
Then Marcel turned and said he would play something more for me. Did I like something soft or medium or LOUD?? I said,"How about some of all those things -- so he played another organ piece." Then we turned and left the sanctuary.
There were other tourists in the Basilica that asked for some music. BUT Marcel refused to play for them -- He said, "I only play for a 'liberator'."
Thru the internet I have heard from Marcel and he writes he will send me another DVD of the organ and of himself - and that HIS parents lived in Maastricht during the 5 years that the Germans occupied Maastricht and so were in Maastricht in 1944 when I was first there on that 12 hour pass from the front lines.
Another small High point of this return trip. While sitting in an outside garden near Puffendorf, eating a giant ice cream sundae, I looked to the rear of the place and framed against the sky was a blasted building and a half broken barn and beams. Just as I looked there, I saw a silver flash, a high flying airliner, framed in the openings. As the setting sun hit that plane, it made me recall all the blasted buildings I had seen back in 1944 and NOW a world somewhat at Peace with American soldiers dying in Iraq.
Perhaps in 2006 I can again go (via British Airlines) to Holland and Germany and Beeck and the Roer River and Chateau Briell, and write more World War II Stories web pages -- GOD Willing.
One more recollection of the 2005 trip...
My young friend in Voerendal, Holland, who I met on the Internet thru the World War II Stories web site, was my companion this year. He and his Mother, Father and aunts and Jessie (Ricks younger Brother) and in the little town of Voerendal live many members of the Mommers family.
Ricks Father is an automobile mechanic. He works on cars in an adjoining empty space by their home.
Rick does some of the final polishing and cleaning of those vehicles. Jessie, the younger brother (aged 15) is a fisherman, and still is in academy (high school).
Rick will attend the University in Maastricht studying LAW this coming fall.
The Mommers home is a 3 bedroom house with the bedrooms on the upper level under the steep roof. The bath and shower are off the 1st floor kitchen and rear entrance -- Ricks mother, "Connie" is a fine cook and a good house keeper.
Guus -- Rick's father is a quiet spoken gentleman and a good car driver.
With so many close relatives in Voerendal, young people there living, are free to live and be good citizens with little supervision. American families could learn a great deal living in a similar city in the USA.
Travel is an education.
How Precious is the FAMILY.
Ed did indeed return once more. He did indeed get to play the organ that he had wanted so badly to play on this trip.
Here are a few photos of Ed playing the organ in the Basilica in Maastricht, Holland in June of 2006.
---- Edward L. Souder
Additional Pages Devoted to Mr. Edward L. Souder's Military Career:
Edward L. Souder: the Return
Edward L. Souder: Letters Home
Edward L. Souder: Story Before Combat & Diary
Edward L. Souder: Ed's Story (Co. F., 405th Reg.)
Edward L. Souder: Additional Exerpts from Ed's Career
Edward L. Souder: Photo Album & Scrapbook
Ed's entire story, in his own (unabashed) words can be read on the website,World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words: Army Heroes, along with 28 other stories written by members of his infantry company. I highly recommend visiting the site and reading Ed Souder's story. I found it riveting. For those of you who wish to contact Ed, he can be emailed by clicking on the image below:
A special THANK YOU is extended to Mr. Bob Marckini, "Featured Member - Ed Souder", for allowing us to use his account of Ed Souder as used on his web site -- Brotherhood of the Balloon.
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Information and photographs were generously provided to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Mr. Edward L. Souder of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The subjects of these essays are all members of Co. F., 405th Regiment.Our sincerest THANKS for allowing us to share their stories!
Original Story submitted on 6 August
Story added to website on 9 August 2005.
September 5, 2002.
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