Heroes: the Army
"...Our perimeter defense was nearly complete when we were hit with the anticipated counter attack. A 35-40 man German patrol, armed with automatic weapons (MG & Burp guns) partially overran our positions. When dawn eventually broke, we counted 12-13 of their dead within the company area..."
William H. Hoskins
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. B., 406th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: Capt., Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Deer Lodge, MY
Good Soldiers/Good Citizens
GOOD SOLDIERS / GOOD CITIZENS by Bill Hoskins, 406-B
During the attack on Apweiler, 17 November 1944, Company B, 406th Infantry sustained losses that included the CO, Cpt. Lindow, 1st Platoon Leader Jake Lance, and 2nd Platoon Leader Jennings Howard - all wounded in the assault. At this point in time, as executive officer, I assumed command of the Company and obtained permission from both the Btn. Commander and Regimental Commander at their Operations Post in Floverich, to hold the ground taken rather than withdraw with C Company as ordered.
While in the process of reorganization of the company position and evacuation of the wounded, a sterling silver identification bracelet belonging to Lt. Howard was handed me for safekeeping. However, he was shipped back to the States for treatment and the bracelet eventually wound up with my belongings in hopes our paths would cross again and it could be returned to him.
In 1985 Red Kimberlin of Atkins, Ark, called to say that he had seen Lt. Howard at the VA hospital in Little Rock, while there for a physical check-up. Red was a squad leader in the 3rd platoon of Co. B. He later was a P.O.W., having been captured during a night patrol of his platoon at Wurselen, near Aachen. When the 1st Btn. of the 406th was attached to the 30th lnf. Div., prior to the time the 102nd became part of the newly formed Ninth Army.
The bracelet, having travelled many miles with other mementos and subsequently kept with other memorabilia, was eventually returned to Lt. Howard in the same condition, but for normal wear & tear of storage, that it had been received that day in Germany some 41 years earlier.
Needless to say he was surprised and ever so appreciative. I heard from him frequently - Small World!!
The company became of age (combat wise) during the ensuing night. Our perimeter defense was nearly complete when we were hit with the anticipated counter attack. A 35-40 man German patrol, armed with automatic weapons (MG & Burp guns) partially overran our positions. When dawn eventually broke, we counted 12-13 of their dead within the company area with a minimal loss to ourselves. The result was a tremendous uplift of unit morale.
Two days later, following a weather delay and a P51 airstrike, the company was an attack element of the 1st Btn. 406, selected to move on Gereonsweiler.
A troop of British flame-throwing Churchill tanks accompanied our unit until we neared the enemy outposts. At this point they threw their flame and at my request, fired upon the church steeple of the town, to deter any observers or snipers housed therein. The tanks then withdrew as we moved forward.
The leading platoon entered Gereonsweiler through a farmyard at the northwest edge of town. A bazooka man and a machine gunner with them helped cut off the road to Linnich, piling up several cyclists and two half tracks, blocking the German retreat.
The second attacking platoon, with Co. HO, was moved toward the church area. There we came upon Germans retreating toward us.
Much has been said of the American soldiers' ability to accept responsibility under adverse conditions. In the battles for Apweiler, Gereonsweiler, Linnich and subsequently many others, the men of Company B were to prove to me, that as leaders fell, another could quickly take his place.
Other replacements were hard to come by, and but for Lt. Lance, who later came back to be my executive officer, we began to fill platoon leader vacancies with battlefield commissioned NCOs from within the unit.
It was my personal pleasure to pin 2nd Lieut. bars on eight (8) non-coms from Co. B, out of approximately 125 such commissions within the Division. They provided leadership for the company enroute to the Elbe and as we eventually moved back to Thuringia in southwest Germany.
In early June, 1945, I decided to leave the regiment on points accrued. Born in Wales, I had requested leave to visit relatives there. Assignments on return took me to the 76th Div. and later to the 99th for redeployment to the U.S. via Marsen Hess in September 1945.
After my decision to leave the regiment, Col. Hurless, Regimental Commander, had a formation for all departing officers. I then returned to the company to wish them good-byes. Upon reaching the company area, in bivouac, I found the unit in formation, each man standing in front of his pup tent at present arms. Escorted the length of the tents and back, tears rolled down my cheeks as I walked past each man.
Afterward, as the company sat on the hillside, I commended them for their contribution to victory in Europe. They were also asked that upon their return to civilian life, they be as fine as citizens as they had been soldiers for me. I have yet to meet one since who has not fulfilled my hope in this respect.
Thus ending my career with Co. B 406th, and the 102nd, which began upon activation in the fall of 1942. An association that has been a source of great pride over the ensuing years.
----- William H. Hoskins, Capt.
(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, "Good Soldiers/Good Citizens", by William H. "Bill" Hoskins, Capt., Co. B., 406th Regiment., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 50, No. 2, Jan/Mar. 1998, pp. 7 - 8.
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 27 March 2004.
Story added to website on 30 March 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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