Heroes: the Army
"...We carried the stretchers with three wounded men in our care into the drainage ditch, placing the handles of the stretcher on either side of the ditch just above the water level. We ducked the head of the kid with the stomach wound under the water for a moment..."
Wallace J. Katz
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: 3rd Bn. HQ, 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Brooklyn, NY
Letter Dated 3 January 1989.
As remembered by Wallace Katz, 3rd Btn. HQ, 405th. This was written in response to the Historian's request in the Notes for more information to share with Ken Ford, English author, whose book 'The Battle For Geilenkirchen" appeared in 1989.
Wallace J. Katz: Letter - dated 3 January 1989:
From: Wallace J. Katz, Saylorsberg, Pennsylvania.
I am afraid I don't deserve the honor of being a man from F Co, 405th Inf. but I was attached to it for a short while in November of 1944. I was a part of 3rd Batt. anti-tank platoon from early 1944 at Camp Swift TX. thru the end of 1946 when I had enough points to go home. Actually I was on the battlefield with the lst and 2nd Batt. of the 405th on Thanksgiving Day, 1944 at Beeck, Germany, and was plucked from my platoon early in the morning to serve as a litter bearer for the above cited units. We were able to evacuate a severely wounded Batt. Commander and a forward observer with a bad head wound. There were 3 other wounded enlisted men who we picked up in a drainage ditch after the remnants of the 2 Battalions were evacuated from the battlefield in a skirmish line. When the Germans started to shell the area a half hour after an attack seemed immanent I thought it prudent to follow. I didn't want to be there when they arrived, so I elected to follow the withdrawal of the other men. The following night I served as a member of a platoon of combat, size that probed the same area to see if the Germans had occupied it. They had not. The platoon returned safely. I have often wondered what happened to the 3 man and the medic who remained behind with them, knowing that capture meant captivity or worse.
Has your kitchen history ever turned this up?? How were the lst and 2nd Batt. constituted? I know your casualty rates were very high and I know that you were soon able to again attack and push the Germans out of Linnich. Another day that intrigues me was the day before Linnich fell. My Platoon had to relieve the remnants of a rifle company that had relieved another rifle company the night before. They had blundered into German lines and were bunched up and were fired upon by the same unit they were supposed to be relieving, and were mistaken for a German unit. Thinking they were they were yelling that they were Americans and this alerted every German rifleman and machine gunner on the line. Following this, and the attack on Linnich, my platoon had to serve as a clean -- up detail on the battlefield, [evacuate the dead]. It was a gruesome task, so many American boys died there. I'm not sure what Battalion they came from.
This additional material sent by Wallace Katz, gives background material not usually found as to the situation in October, 1944 when Co. F went into the lines outside of Frielenberg.
Units of the 3rd Batt. 405th, assisting the 2nd Armored Div. occupied positions along the Wauricken-Immendorf road to block any movement of German troops and armor south from Geilenkirchen. Prior to this move, at 1145 PM , 1204 US and 1188 British bombers hit the German front lines. At 1245 PM, without artillery preparation, Task force 1 of CC2 armored Div., attacked to take Loverich and Puffendorf. Task force 2 attacked to take Floverich and assist in the capture of Apweilar. Task force X attacked to take Immendorf and block any reinforcements coming south from Geilenkirchen. The 29th Div. was to take Setterich. 8 minutes and 1200 yards after the attack started, US tanks reached the orchard east of Loverich and the Germans began surrendering en -- mass. 20 minutes after the attack began Loverich was secured. Task farce 1 then turned toward Puffendorf, bypassing Floverich, and by 1130 had surrounded and secured it. Task force 1 then tried to take hill 102.6, north of Puffendorf. Heavy fire fell on them and kept them off the ridge but the tanks commanded the crest by fire from the south. There they dug in for the night. Task force 2 took Floverich and in 2 hours after consolidating moved toward Apweiler. Push 500 yards east of Floverich they ran into retreating Germans on a hill and captured them. After consolidating their gains they continued toward Apweiler and were hit by anti -- tank gunfire at 300 yard range destroying three and immobilizing 4 more tanks. They retreated and established a defensive line along the highway 800 yards east of Floverich. After dark the Germans moved armor up to their front. Task force X, which included the 2nd Batt. 405th inf. attacked at 1245 pm from Wauricken and by 150 PM had moved 2000 yards to take Immendorf. By 330 PM they had secured the town. The reserve company was committed to the breach in the line when task force 2 had retreated. The days advance had created a salient into the German line which was drawing fire from 3 directions. Ammo and fuel were running low and resupply did not arrive in sufficient quantities. Had the Germans counterattacked on hill 102.6, all gains would have been lost.
On Nov. 18, 1944, at 800 AM Task force 1 was to take the high ground south of Geronsweiler while task force 2 and task force X were to capture Apweiler. All 3 were then to combine and take Geronsweiler. At 800 AM, 2 armored Battalions moved into the open to start their attack on Geronsweiler and they were hit by 20 German tanks supported by infantry and artillery. The US armoured Battalions were out maneuvered and out gunned by the Germans and retreated into Puffendorf. The Germans did not push their advantage. In the 6 hour attack, task force l lost the equivalent of a tank battalion. Task force 2 and task force X launched counter attacks against Apweiler at 0800 and ware stopped COLD. By 1800 hrs., the Germans began a heavy counter attack against Immendorf. They broke thru the US defenders but were finally driven back. Task force 1 of the CCA, 2nd Armored Div. arrived in Puffendorf and attacked NE to take Ederen. It then headed east from Puffendorf and encountered a tank ditch with 15 German tanks on the other side. During the day the US lost 25 tanks and 28 other tanks were put out of commission. By 1400 hrs a battalion of infantry supported by a Co. of tanks working their way thru the draws were trying to reach a small knoll SE of Immendorf attacked toward Apweiler. By 1530 Apweiler was captured and by 1400 hrs, it was secured by the lst Battalion, 406th Inf. At 1600 hrs the high ground east of Floverich was attacked and secured by dark. Late in the day CCA took Settarich. Further to the west the lst and 2nd Battalions of the 334 Inf., 84th Div. attacked toward Loherhot, which was east of Geilenkirchen and southwest of Prummern.  Nov. 19, 1944, CCB beat off German counterattacks. During the night the 406th infantry patrols reached the outskirts of Geronsweiler which was to be the next day's objective. The XIX Corp [2nd Armored, 29th Div. and 30th Inf. Div along with the attached 406th Inf.] attacked in the direction of Ederen and Frialdenhoven. They beat back German counter attacks but were hindered by anti -- tank ditches. By nightfall they were still 1000 yards from Frialdenhoven. The 333rd infantry of the 84th attacked toward Prummeran, from Waurichen, kicking off the XII corps offensive of which the l02div was to take part. The record of the XIII corps is not available to me, and very little of it is available in the Division history.
Nov. 20, 1944, In a driving rain, the XIX corps resumed its attack to capture Frialdenhoven, Edern and Geronsweiler, During the battle the Germans counterattacked and 60 -- 80 tiger and panther tanks were repulsed. Task force B of the CCA attacked thru a minefield and by night had occupied and cleared Frialdenhoven. Task force A attacked toward Edern at 1000. They surprised the Germans by attacking north from Friedenhoven and approaching Edern from the SW. By 1330 they were in position to attack and by 1730 they occupied the town and prepared for defense. At 0900 Task force 1, CCB, attacked north and NE to capture hill 106.6, Task force 2, which was to attack and capture the southern half of Geronweiler ran into heavy fire. Task force X, attacking at the same time got fire from Beeck and Prummeren. Despite heavy losses, by 1400 Geronsweiler was occupied and prepared for defense.
Nov. 21, 1944 The 3rd Bn., 405th atacked from Apweiler taking a blocking position on high ground to protect the right flank of the lst and 2nd Battlions, 405th, which were to jump off the next day as a part of the coordinated attack with the 84th Div and a British unit. I think the 2nd and 3rd Battalion was to be the right wing of a pincer and the british unit was to be the left wing, intended to trap german units defending Geilankirchen. The 84th was to take Geilenkirchen and clear the pocket.
Nov. 22nd, 1944. The 2nd Battlion on the left and the lst Battalion on the right attacked toward Beeck. The division history tells what happened to the 2nd Battalion somewhat. Apparently the lst Battalion which took the high ground SE of Beeck was left alone on the ridge, a finger sticking out into the german lines. They did not get ammo or rations and many of the wounded were unattended. The 84th were being held up by stiff resistance and I don't know what happened to the british units.
Nov. 23, 1944. [Thanksgiving Day], I and 3 other members of the 3rd Battalion, anti -- tank platoon were sent out to the area where the lst and 2nd Batt. had attacked the day before, as stretcher bearers. We were taken up to Bn. aid station in a wooded area and in a wooden shed located in a pit below ground level. The Bn. surgeon was apparently unaware that the 2nd Bn. had bean withdrawn because he directed us to go up to where the lst and 2nd batt.were,to evacuate the wounded.
The rest of my experiences have already been noted then. One other note of value --
General Harmon, Commander of the 2nd Armored Div. described the campaign as the most costly one that his division had faced during the entire war's battles which included North Africa, France, Belgium, Holland, and the subsequent battles. His division lost 203 dead, 1104 wounded and 198 missing, plus 80 tanks lost of which 41 were totaled during the 12 day battle. The casualties for the 4O5th were staggering.
I hope this will fill in some of the missing information for you "Kitchen History" project.
----- Wallace J. Katz
An additional stories by Wallace J. Katz's experiences in the 102nd Division can be read at the following link that is part of the "Those Damn Doggies in F" section of this web site:
Wallace J. Katz Letter
Wallace J. Katz: November 19 - 27, 1944
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 Dated 3 January 1989", by Wallace J. Katz, PFC., Hq. Co., 405th, was forwarded to us by a fellow member of the same squad and good friend of Mr. Katz, Mr. Tom O'Conner.
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 9 July 2009.
Story added to website on 21 July 2009.
September 5, 2002.
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