Heroes: the Army
"...Each boat could carry 12 men with their equipment. However, when we reached the bank, some were damaged and we had to take additional weight. We ended up with 12 men and their equipment, and each one then carried extra ammo..."
Stanley J. "Stan" Pero
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. F., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942-1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Iron River, WI
Stan Pero: Letter - dated 7 March 1989:
From: Stan Pero, Madison, Wisconson.
I don't recall when or where I joined the Co. F., 405th, but before that, I left the USA the end of Dec. 1944 sailing from Boston and arriving in LeHarve in mid -- January 1945. After that we were trucked to Givet, France and then on to near Liege, Belgium then on to Neuenhagen, Holland which was near Maastricht. There we were quartered with a Dutch Batt.and to whom we demonstrated the use of the back -- pack flame throwers. This lasted a few days and then I found myself, I believe along the Maas River, assigned to a group responsible for keepng many rubber (decoy) of tanks, trucks, artillery pieces etc inflated. I may then have been in the 102 Div at that time. We worked most of the time at night, keeping these monsters inflated. It was at dawn that this was most important -- keeping the gun barrels all stiff so when German aircraft flew over, the all looked like the real thing. I finally was assigned to the weapons platoon in Co. F. I recall trudging thru the remains of some pillboxes and bunkers prior to the Roer River Xing. That was my first real combat. The wait for the real crossing was nerve wracking. We made many practice runs while waiting for the actual crossing. We carried the boats about 1/4 mile each time toward the river bank and then carried them back to the rear. Then the Germans flooded the river by opening the dams upstream and so we waited some more. Feb. 23rd, 1945 was the day of the crossing. We carried the boat to the river bank. Each boat could carry 12 men with their equipment. However, when we reached the bank, some were damaged and we had to take additional weight. We ended up with 12 men and their equipment, and each one then carried extra ammo, boxes of MG ammo, or mortar shells. Our boat was shipping water from the weight. The current was swift and a lot wider than announced.
We made it safely across but due to the current and the extra weight, we did not land where we were scheduled, but a lot further North. After landing we proceeded along the bank and the dikes, attempting to rejoin our own units. We were not the only boat in that possition. Soon we encountered a number of German soldiers and after a brief exchange of fire, Sgt. Ed Heflin was hit in the hip and buttocks. We evacuated him and he returned to the lines in 3 weeks. Next I think we went to Krefeld and after Krefeld fell our platoon was housed in a 3 floor hotel or Apt. house. We got 3 weeks rest. It was quite nice. We could clean up and have hot meals. In the basement of the building were small storage places and in those we kept chickens. This provided us with fresh eggs and the non-layers ended up as fried chicken. To this menu we added lard and potatoes from the mess hall. I suppose I should add that the chickens were fed with garbage from the mess hall, and the refuse was just dumped in the pens. We had to leave then and went North past Duisburg and crossed the Rhine River at Wesel, then made a mad dash to the Wesser River. The company headed North and not far from Kassel we met the British 2nd Army. This was a welcome sight, those huge tanks with the roller -- like contraptions in front with flogging chains for clearing mine fields.
The company turned North toward Hanover where I recall a very cautious approach along the streets and some house - to - house searches. Braunshweig was a similar situation. Some resistance and plenty of MUD. We were plodding thru the sugar beet fields and the mud was a mire. At one point were were directed to remove our overshoes for easier walking. They were dumped in piles and brought forward later by truck. We continued mopping -- up operations to Gardelegen where we found several hundred Polish displaced persons who had been hurded into a barn before it was set afire by retreating Germans. Co. F, and several other were assigned to guarding the barn until the mess was cleaned up. Once, photographers from LIFE magazine came to take pictures of it. The Mil. Govt. arranged for the townsfolk, including the Burgemeister to dig mass graves and properly bury the remains. It was a horrible sight.
After a couple of days we continued our trek to Stendal on the Elbe. I recall very little resistance except in the small wooded areas which dotted the area. There were some German stragglers, some fire from civilians, and an occasional German tank.
In Stendal, we were assigned the job of guarding many multi -- story warehouses filled with canned food stuffs and other supplies. The canned food consisted of Norweigan and Danish fish, some vegatables and fruits. Permission was given to us and we ate pretty good thereafter. There were also some weapons (Hand guns), and stored ammo. Many of us acquired a 7.65 mm Walther pistol. The weapons were greasy packed in a composition like cosmolene. It made a nice trophy, one of which I still have.
The US Military Gov't. finally took charge of the warehouses and allowed the Polish displaced people to remove the foodstuffs to feed their people. We were guarding the loading periods and also at the refugee camps. This was a pleasant surprise as the Poles were friendly and the girls, pretty.
All good things come to an end. We left Stendal for Magdeburg, Gotha and Erfurt. We were now in occupation status. We did have a chance to visit Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther spent much of his time writing. This was near Eisennach. In June, 45 we were in Molsdorf and in July in Gross Moringen and Arnstadt where we guarded some stocks of captured V-2 rockets. We ended up in Bischofgrun, where we set up roadblocks to check documents for the hoards of Germans moving from one area to another. Our exact mission was not clear to me. We finally ended up along the Inn River, and at Pocking, we guarded a German POW camp. The occupation was easy living and an experience I was glad to have witnessed.
----- Stan Pero
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
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 19 September 2002.
Story added to website on 26 September 2002.
September 5, 2002.
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