Heroes: the Army
"...Great excitement occurred when one small Russian patrol sneaked down along the river bank and tried to set up a machine gun to stop the flow across. It was then that we learned that a small detachment of 55 Troopers were defending the escape route. They ambushed the Russians and knocked them off with hand grenades..."
Edward L. "Ed" Souder
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. F., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC, Purple Heart
- SN: 17114499
- Birth Year: 1922
- Entered Service: Minneapolis, MN
Have You Seen This War Trophy?
Illustration of stolen Nazi war trophy from description by the former owner, Edward L. Souder. Illustration by Joe Richard.
In Need of Your Assistance!
The Stolen Autographed Nazi Flag.
On the night of September 11, 1998 (approximate date -- for it was the third day of the return trip home)a small, but important event took place in the parking lot of a small motel in Bessemer, Alabama.
This small event was a robbery that occurred when someone decided to break into their van while Mr. and Mrs John Emerich slept after a long and tiring drive from San Antonio. They had attended the 1998 Annual Convention of the 102nd Infantry Division Association.
Mr. and Mrs. Emerich were en route home to Hershey, Pennsylvania, when the family auto break-in occurred.
They notified the local Police Department and filed a report with the police.
According to information printed in the Ozark Notes, a newsletter devoted to the 102d Infantry Division, the following items were stolen during the break-in.
Some of the items stolen were: all of the Emerich's suitcases, including the one used for dirty laundry. Other items stolen included their camera. When they arrived home a few days later, it was discovered that some of the Ozark things were also stolen. These items included a box of Ozark caps, a small box of unit photos -- a total of 62 -- and some artifacts displayed at the convention were also stolen. These artifacts included TWO signed Nazi flags which were war trophies brought back by members of the 102d Division.
An additional item that was stolen during the van break-in was a WWII helmet.
According to Hope Emerich:
"...We lost in that break in an Ozark soldier's helmet in which he had been hit. The bullet entered the front of the helmet and traveled between the helmet and the liner to he back where it exited. The soldier had a head cut but fainted when he saw the helmet. He had given it to us for display at reunions. The helmet may, or may not have been wrapped in a Nazi flag in the box in which it was packed. There were other solid items in the box also (perhaps a mess kit, etc.)..."
One item in particular interest was stolen during this robbery.
The item was a treasured World War II artifact.
During the war, a member of Co. F., 405th Infantry Regiment, 102nd Division [2nd Battalion] was serving near the Dutch/German border near the outskirts of Geronsweiller. The soldier, PFC. Edward L. Souder was the company wire man (radio man) and his job was to maintain the radio lines of communications between headquarters and the men in the field.
At 1600 Hours, November 28, 1944, while returning in the rain from Geronsweiller in a jeep with four other men, nearing the top of a rise in the road, a German 88 shell exploded behind the jeep injuring the men in the jeep -- Ed receiving the most severe of the wounds.
Ed was evacuated eventually to England and then later back home, still with some shrapnel embedded in his spine within a hair's breath of his spinal cord.
His sergeant, Sergeant Thomas Brown, who was shortly thereafter wounded in an accident, was also evacuated to England. Before leaving Germany, the men of Company F. took down a flag from the largest bank in Geilenkirchen and began signing their names in the white circle containing the German swastika.
In Ed Souder's words:
"...The Nazi flag was the usual RED background with a white center and in the center of the white was a black Nazi symbol -- the Z and bar this made a place about 10 inches round that had the signatures and most of these were signed with a pen and India ink so it wouldn't fade or wash off. There were a number of bullet holes and some holes caused by shell fragments. So It was official. It had a rope running through some edge and that was cut and frayed and torn..."
A list of some of the signatures contained within the white circle that were listed by Ed Souder includes:
"...Capt. William C. Peterson, Lt. Jack Weigand, Lt. Gordy Huff, Lt. Walter Fletcher, Lt. Donald Evenson, Lt. Rabinski, Sgt. Jim Hansen, Sgt. Elton Pollack, Sgt. Michael Blyuskal, Sgt. Robert Lira, Sgt. Thomas Matuchefsky, Sgt. Smith, T-5 Thurman Large ,T-5 Clausen- T-5 Frank Wojniak, and Pfc. Bill Wright.
"...There were 2 to 4 shrapnel holes along the right hand side of the flag -- all ragged and frayed. The red part was faded and the white circle was sort of a deep white color -- from having been hung outside in all sorts of weather..."
"...This flag hung over the front of the biggest bank in Geilenkirchen, Germany and after I was wounded -- for some reason that I do not know -- all the remaining men and officers of Co. F. got together and signed the flag and gave it to Sgt. Tom Brown-- to give to me!! I wonder that Sgt Brown was able to do this as he was also a wounded man and came back via the hospitals and was discharged from the hospital in I think Daytona Beach, Fla..."
Sgt. Brown presented the flag to Ed Souder as a tribute from the men of Co. F., 405th for the work he had been doing as the company line man. The men respected Ed for his work in keeping open the lines of communication between the men in the foxholes and the command post.
Ed kept the treasured memento for many years and eventually became the Company Historian for Co. F., 405th Regiment.
In 1978, he began collecting stories from the men in F. Company about their experiences during those terrible days in Holland, Belgium and Germany. The project, which was a portion of an overall project by the 102nd Division Association, was entitled the "Kitchen Histories Project" eventually accumulated some 28 or so former members of the company returned their stories to Ed.
For a number of years, Ed held onto the treasured memento that his war buddies had presented to him. Later, about 1980, the then Regimental Historian, John Emerich asked Ed if he would consider allowing the Division to retain possession of the treasured war artifact so that it could be brought to the annual conventions for all of the surviving men and their families to see and appreciate. Ed agreed, for he felt that this indeed was an excellent way in which his flag could be appreciated by many more folks who had experienced many of the same horrors of war that he had.
This autographed Nazi flag was among the items that was so carelessly stolen during that night that the Emerich's car sat in that poorly lighted motel parking lot.
In early 1999, John Emerich talked to a Bessemer, Alabama detective. They had not located anything with regards to auto break-in. The local police had even checked out a local gun fair held the following week-end after the break-in, in the hopes of the stolen Nazi flags and other items taken in the break-in might show up. They did not show up.
The flag to this date is still listed as: MISSING.
It is hoped that someone reading this account and history of this priceless war artifact, might have some deep rooted feelings of considering the option of "doing the right thing" and come forth and return the missing Nazi flag to it's rightful owner or at the very least pass on information that might lead to it's recovery.
Ed Souder is currently in his mid 80's and his health is still hanging in there. He has expressed a desire to once again hold the precious memento given to him so very long ago by his closest buddies of a company of men that fought and bled together in nameless fields and forgotten towns in Europe some 59 years ago.
Anyone, that might have information to the whereabouts of this treasured World War II memento can contact Edward L. Souder through this website.
Originally, when the flag and other items were stolen, a reward was offered for the return of these items by the 102d Infantry Division Association. It may or may not still be a good offer.
Ed thanks you for any information with regards to this lost war artifact.
------- Joe Richard, web master
Back in early 1999, the Ozark Notes (the official publication of the 102d Infantry Divsion Association) ran the following article on the front page of their newsletter...
TOO SOON OLD, TOO LATE SMART
That's a Pennsylvania Dutch expression which has a good bit of merit. The historian's wife even uses the last part as her license plate &emdash;2L8 SMRT.
So why did the historian and his wife get so dumb on their way home from the San Antonio reunion? We'll never know. However, we do know that we woke up the third morning of our trip home to find that person or persons unknown had broken the driver's window on our van and hit the release button on the dash which unlocked the rear tailgate. That accomplished, they proceeded to help themselves to all our suitcases, including the one we were using for dirty laundry! Shoes, coats, and the historian's briefcase were still there but our camera was not, and it wasn't until we got home and unpacked the van that we realized that some of the Ozark things were no longer with us.
First we discovered there was a box of Ozark caps missing; then we found that the smaller box with unit photos was gone (62 of them) and finally we realized that some of the artifacts we've displayed were missing as well.
We called Ralph, our treasurer, and he gave his blessing to offering a reward for the unit photos and artifacts. The Bessimer, AL detective bureau advertised that on their local radio, and even had someone check a gun fair the following weekend since two signed Nazi flags were among the missing items. So far, no luck, but when called recently they said they would keep trying. It was all we could ask.
For obvious reasons, a box of unmarked WWII snapshots that had been in the History Room for others to identify had been dropped among the broken glass beside the car which came from the broken window. There doesn't seem to be much resale value to 55 year old black and whites.
Obviously, those Ozarks who left their name on a now missing unit photo will not be getting their copy right away. We need replacements for those we have lost. There is a list included on page two of the photos we need. If you have such a photo, we recommend that you take it to your local copying store and have them copy it on their colored copier. A copy made of a black and white photo on a colored copier comes out almost &emdash; sometimes exactly &emdash; as good at the original. You can send us the copy in a mailing tube and we will mat and shrink wrap it for Cherry Hill and those reunions beyond that. We are mainly interested in replacing those photographs taken at Maxey, Swift or Fort Dix of the individual units.
Since our camera was among the items taken from our van, we will be delighted to receive copies from those shutterbugs who were at the reunion. Several people who knew of our loss have already sent copies of everything they took. That is no longer necessary, but we would be particularly interested in group photos taken of members of a special unit or battery who gathered at San Antonio. And for those who have sent us copies of all you took, bless you for your thoughtfulness.
Oh, yes, the historian's wife bought a new van complete with an alarm if someone breaks a window! And from now on we will insist on a room at the front of the motel. Enough is enough!
----- John Emerich
Additional Pages Devoted to Mr. Edward L. Souder's Military Career:
Edward L. Souder: Ed's War Story
Edward L. Souder: Letters Home
Edward L. Souder: Story Before Combat & Diary
Edward L. Souder: Ed's Story (Co. F., 405th Reg.)
Edward L. Souder: Additional Exerpts from Ed's Career
Edward L. Souder: Photo Album & Scrapbook
Ed's entire story, in his own (unabashed) words can be read on the website,World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words: Army Heroes, along with 28 other stories written by members of his infantry company. I highly recommend visiting the site and reading Ed Souder's story. I found it riveting. For those of you who wish to contact Ed, he can be emailed by clicking on the image below:
A special THANK YOU is extended to Mr. Bob Marckini, "Featured Member - Ed Souder", for allowing us to use his account of Ed Souder as used on his web site -- Brotherhood of the Balloon.
- Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
The above article, "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart", by John & Hope Emerich, 407th, Co. I., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 51, No. 2, Jan. / March, 1999, pp. 1.
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.
Original Story submitted on 10 July 2003.
Story added to website on 10 July 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words
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Updated on 17 February 2012...1351:05 CST