Heroes: the Army
"...We were perfect targets in the bright sun. The Jerries could see us but we couldn't see them until too late. Hilfarth looked deserted as we approached. Tomlin was 10 yards from a MG 42 when they opened up. The machine gun got Mirman and Tomlin right away. Everyone dived for the side of the road..."
Kenneth E. Tobin, Jr.
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: HQ Co., 406th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC, Purple Heart
- Birth Year: 1923
- Entered Service: Silver Springs, MD
Letter Solves Roer Mystery
From Sat. June 16,1945 edition of" FOROSIX"
I & R Patrol nabbed in fight at Hilfarth
Shortly after the town of Brachelen was taken last January Lt. Jack Tomlin of the I & R platoon, was given a patrol. His mission was to take his men into the town of Hilfarth and reconnoiter. Hilfarth straddled the Roer river, the only town the Jerries could call their own west of the stream in the 406th sector.
The patrol moved out across the snow laden, pillbox studded ground. That was the last seen or heard of the men. They disappeared as completely as though the earth had suddenly opened up and swallowed them.
The mystery was partially cleared up when Pfc. Harry O'Neill of the I & R platoon received a letter from Pfc. Ken Tobin, a member of the patrol.
Those mentioned in the following letter are Lt. Jack Tomlin, Sgt. Joe Parayos, Cpl. Al Hansel, Cpl. "Bloody" Bloodgood, and Pfc. Alien Mirman of the 406th's I & R platoon.
There is a great deal to tell you. Right now I am home on a 60-day delay-en-route, after which I will have a 14-day vacation at a recuperation hotel in Miami Beach.
I am doing all I can to be reassigned to the 406th.
About the others in the patrol, I can tell you nothing definite. Lt, Tomlin was hit several times by a MG 42 and badly wounded. The day after we were captured, the Jerries told us that he had died in a German field hospital.
Mirman was also hit several times and badly wounded. He was put in a hospital and none of us have ever heard of him.
Bloodgood, Hansel and Parayos were untouched. I was scratched again but we were kept together and taken to the same Stalag. It was No. 11 B, at Folingbostel, which is halfway between Hannover and Bremen. We were in the same hut and slept side by side until April 13 when all non-coms were taken from the camp and marched away
The Germans wanted to hold noncoms and officers until the last. So, Joe, At, and Blood were taken away and I don't know where they are, or if they were liberated.
I was freed April 16 (80 days after capture) by the British Seventh Armored of the British Second Army. The next day we were taken by truck to the nearest Allied airfield and flown to Brussels in C47's by the RCAF. After two days we were taken by train to Namur and turned over to American hands. From there I went by train to Camp Lucky Strike, France, which is about 40 miles from Le Havre. On the first of May I got on the big Army transport, George Washington, and sailed for the States. We stopped in Southampton, England to pick up wounded and then sailed. I got off the ship May 15 in New York on exactly the same pier we left from. We were taken by ferry to the same train yards and trains for Camp Kilmer. The next day I took a train to Ft. Meade.
The following day, May 17,1 was issued new clothes and a delay-en-route home. My only wish now is that you and all the fellows were here with me.
You probably all want to know how we were captured. Only remember this: Lt. Tomlin, and for that matter, all the boys, had as much guts as I have ever seen. Even as Tomlin was being carried in, and he was going fast from loss of blood, he feebly spoke up and said to the Jerry in command: "Damn! If you can't carry me right set me down and leave me alone."
The rest of our story is the same as all other atrocity stories about prisoners. Those stories are all true. I went from 162 to 112 pounds in 80 days. Bloodgood and Hansel looked like skeletons and Parayos was damn thin.
We were perfect targets in the bright sun. The Jerries could see us but we couldn't see them until too late. Hilfarth looked deserted as we approached. Tomlin was 10 yards from a MG 42 when they opened up. The machine gun got Mirman and Tomlin right away. Everyone dived for the side of the road. Hansel and I got in one hole (they put four MG bullets through that baggy snow suit and glanced one off my helmet). Parayos and Bloodgood got in one behind us. We fought for fifteen minutes, hoping to hold off until dark and get away, but the MG 42 and mortars kept our heads down as the Jerry infantry closed in from all sides. We finally saw it was no use. Hansel raised a white flag on his carbine- It was all over. We held out as long as possible because we thought they would shoot us anyway.
Your Pal, Ken Tobin
----- Ken Tobin
(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, "Letter Solves Roer Mystery", by Kenneth F. Tobin, HQ Co., 406th, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 53, No. 3, Jan/Mar., 2001, pp. 4-5.
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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