Heroes: the Army
"...The I & R platoon had been dispatched on the exact same mission as that of ours in First Platoon and they completely vanished. The mystery was disclosed in the lead story of that newspaper. Some of those men were killed and others were captured..."
Frank S. Worthington, Jr.
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. B., 406th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC., Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Alexandria, VA
by Frank Worthington, Jr., 406 B, 406 Med.
I do not remember the date but it was probably in January or February, 1945 that First Platoon of 406B was sent on a night patrol to determine the status of a bridge across the Roer River and to determine whether or not the small town of Hilfarth was occupied by Krauts. The platoon was led by Lt. White [Robert T.], a battlefield commissioned officer. Lt. White was affectionally as "Whitie" by all of us in his platoon.
The original plan as dictated by either G-2 or S-2 was to check the bridge first and then the town. The town was between us and the bridge and Whitie told them he would check the town first and the bridge after. We were not able to check the bridge because as we approached Hilfarth we were attacked by German 42 machine guns from three sides. They used the age old trick of firing tracers high and regular rounds low.
Whitie gave the order to our platoon runner to pass the word that we were pulling out. The situation dictated that we crawl as close to the ground as humanly possible. Our runner was Eddie Holzknecht, a fine young man from Louisville, KY. Eddie approached me to give me the message from Whitie. He raised his head above the small of my back to see in the complete darkness if anyone was out there who had not received the order to withdraw. He was immediately hit in the head by machine gun fire. I understand that Eddie is buried in Margraten Cemetery and I would like, some day, to visit his grave and pay my respects.
We had, I think it was three, machine guns from Weapons Company with us that night but they were knocked out the minute they opened fire. We lost several first platoon men that night also, probably seven or eight.
On June 6, 1945 the first issue of the Forosix newspaper was printed. It was issue Volume One, Number One. The headline read "Letter Solves Roer Mystery." I have a copy of that issue. The I & R platoon had been dispatched on the exact same mission as that of ours in First Platoon and they completely vanished. The mystery was disclosed in the lead story of that newspaper. Some of those men were killed and others were captured. The story included a letter from Pfc. Ken Tobin of I & R platoon to Pfc. Harry O'Neill also of I & R/. Ken Tobin was at home on a 60 day delay in route after being liberated by the British Seventh Armored Division.
This is all of the detail I can remember of our ill fated patrol. I suppose Intelligence needed to know if the bridge was wired for demolition, but it seems that the cost of lives was too great to justify the two missions. They could be sure the bridge was intact from aerial observation and my guess is that it was wired because it was in German hands.
I would certainly like to hear from anyone who was involved in this action.
(Name and address were a part of this story -- but was left out in order to insure Mr. Worthington's privacy.)
----- Frank Worthington
(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, "Night Patrol", by Frank Worthington, 406th, Co. B., 406th, Med., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 54, No. 2, Jan/March 2002, pp. 15-16.
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 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 16 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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