The tactical situation may require a rigid defense of a fixed position. Such a defense, if voluntarily adopted, requires the highest degree of tactical skill and leadership. In the forested hills of eastern Belgium, stands the tiny hamlet of Baraque de Fraiture at the intersection of two good highways (West-East : LaRoche – St Vith and South-North : Bastogne – Liège). To see this little clutch of buildings, one would hardly think that the red tide of war had ever washed over them. Yet this now-peaceful crossroads was the scene of fierce combat, one of the most heroic that ever graced the annals of American arms. For in the winter of 1944, a skeleton headquarters and a bob-tailed, three-gun battery of light howitzers the forlorn remnant of a once potent 589-FAB (106-ID), chugged wearily up to the junction under the command of Maj Arthur C. Parker. The battalion’s mission was to organize and defend the crossroads when a great wave of Nazi armor and infantry had cracked the Allied front, reaching northwestward toward the crossings of the Meuse River and the vital port of Antwerp. A dangerous split between the British and American armies was a real possibility.
Report : Parker’s Crossroads, Baraque de Fraiture, Battle of the Bulge, Belgium, 1945, 1/Sgt Richard Raymond
For three 105-MM howitzers to hold the out-post line is not a conventional assignment for a divisional battery and deserves explanation. They represented all that was left of a 12-gun battalion in direct support to the 424-IR, a regiment of the 106-ID (Golden Lions). Their misfortune was to have been at the point of a great enemy offensive just one week after arriving from training camps in England.
The Golden Lions had moved directly into the foxholes and trenches vacated by the veteran 2-ID. Man for Man and Gun for Gun, as the orders put it. The relief went smoothly enough, but the division commander, MGen Alan W. Jones, was concerned about the exposed positions of his regiments and the extreme length of the line they were to occupy, nearly 22 miles.
Higher headquarters had called it a Ghost Front with little or no enemy activity, but Jones and his staff at once set about making the lines more secure. He had hoped to have a period of gradual workouts against the formidable West Wall (Siegfried Line) before serious operations began in the spring. But on December 16, Hitler’s tanks rolled, and the Battle of the Bulge was on.
In a three-day nightmare, Gen Jones’ green division, including his own son Lt Alan Jones (HQ 1/423), swamped and broken by powerful armor and infantry thrusts lost two of his three line regiments which were surrounded and forced to surrender. The remainder felt lucky to be able to pull back to more defensible positions around St Vith.
During the withdrawal, the 589-FAB was ambushed and cut off, and most of the battalion, including its commander, was captured. Only a handful from Headquarters Battery and the first three howitzers of A Battery escaped. These were the guns that Maj Parker, formerly battalion S-3 but then acting commander, had into position around the crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture. But he meant to make a fight of it. Parker had elected to conduct an Alamo Defense.
The Alamo Defense deserves serious study as an option for the commander of a force facing a greatly superior enemy, given a vital defensive mission and meager resources to sustain it. Though the historical precedent is obvious, this tactic is defined here as the rigid defense of a key position carried out to the utter destruction of the command with the objective of forcing the enemy to expend significant amounts of men, material and especially time, thereby enabling other friendly forces to regroup and fight elsewhere to better advantage. It’s an act of gritty self-sacrifice. This defense requires the utmost in leadership and tactical skills. It also demands rare moral courage and dazzling salesmanship to persuade other units and individuals to stay and join an underdog team, qualities Maj Parker had in abundance.
The classic example of the Alamo Defense is the heroic stand in 480 BC of Leonidas and his 300 Spartans against the Persian hosts. (In truth the fight at the Alamo might, with perfect justice, be called Thermopylae Defense, but here it seems more appropriate to relate to American military tradition.)
There are four critical elements in the Alamo Defense. First, the chosen terrain is one on which the enemy can’t readily bypass or push through the defending force. Second, this type of defense is assumed voluntarily when less drastic courses of action are available. Next, combat is maintained to the bitter end, no break out or fighting withdrawal, except, perhaps, for a few who escape during the final collapse. Last, the correctness to make the decision to make the Alamo Defense is confirmed by the outcome : other friendly forces used the time well and fought on to victory. For only the mystic, sublime faith in the rightness of their cause and the hope that their deaths will not go unavenged can infuse most rational soldiers with the spirit to carry such a black business to its conclusion.
At Thermopylae, the Spartans held a narrow cliff-side road and were immovable by the huge masses of Persians. Only when a Greek traitor informed King Darius of the existence of a goat path around the little army did a flanking column succeed in getting behind them. Perfectly sure of their fate, Leonidas and his men permitted their allies to withdraw and then fought to the last man.
In contrast to the rough terrain at Thermopylae, the Texans little fortress at the Alamo represented a psychological roadblock. Santa Anna, who boasted of being the Napoleon of the West, could not, for his very pride’s sake, simply march around San Antonio and press on toward his true objective, Sam Houston’s ragged army.
Houston could not spare the number of men necessary to mount a successful defense. Instead, he sent Col James Bowie with 30 men to remove the artillery from the Alamo and destroy the complex. Bowie was unable to transport the artillery since the Alamo garrison lacked the necessary draft animals. Col James C. Neill (Alamo Commander) soon persuaded Bowie that the location held strategic importance. In a letter to Governor Henry Smith, Bowie argued that the salvation of Texas depends in great measure on keeping Béxar out of the hands of the enemy. It serves as the frontier picquet guard, and if it were in the possession of Santa Anna, there is no stronghold from which to repel him in his march towards the Sabine. The letter to Smith ended, Col Neill and myself have come to the solemn resolution that we will rather die in these ditches than give it up to the enemy. Bowie also wrote to the provisional government, asking for men, money, rifles, and cannon powder. Few reinforcements were authorized; cavalry officer Col William B. Travis arrived in Béxar with 30 men on February 3 1836. Five days later, a small group of volunteers arrived, including the famous frontiersman and former US Congressman David Crockett of Tennessee.
Houston, coolly logical, ordered Col William Travis and Col James Bowie to abandon the Alamo and blow up the magazine. The post was militarily indefensible, and to allow a whole battalion of splendid fighters to be trapped and destroyed was folly. Travis ignored the order, answering Santa Anna’s call to surrender with a cannon shot. His men stood defiant to the end, inflicting fearful losses on Santa Anna’s best troops. Houston gained two precious weeks to discipline and train his army, and when he faced the Mexican dictator at San Jacinto, the Alamo ghosts marched with him. Travis had been right after all, and at the sight of the vengeful Texans waving knives and hatchets and shrieking Remember the Alamo, the Mexican army dissolved into a mob of terror-stricken fugitives.
Maj Parker’s little band was a mixed force. In addition to his own 589-FAB, he found or was sent some half tracks with .50 caliber quad mounts, a few armored field artillery observers, a tank destroyer platoon, one parachute infantry rifle squad, a cavalry recon section and later one glider rifle company. In all, less than 300 soldiers. He clearly realized, as his higher headquarters did not, that he stood on critical terrain.
The Baraque de Fraiture stands at the crossing of the main road from Bastogne in the south then through Houffalize and up north to Liège, with a good paved road westward from Vielsalm through La Roche en Ardennes. Moreover, the Liege road was the exact boundary between the flank divisions of two corps, neither one able to hold the road in strength. Loss of the junction would permit the Germans to move either of three directions to flank or penetrate the First Army line. It could mean disaster.
Thus, at about 1600, on December 20, Parker’s force went into position following what he considered to be competent orders from a higher authority to organize a strong point and fire on approaching enemy forces. Initial supplies of rations, fuel and ammunition had been drawn at Vielsalm. Parker’s force was ready for action. So far, so good but after several successful fire missions, Parker was ordered to displace North-East to Bra-sur-Lienne. In all fairness, the junction’s importance also was initially overlooked by both, the 3-AD and the 82-Abn sharing that boundary. Only later, after much action, did it gain its tactical title of Parker’s Crossroads. The major’s decision to ignore the order, or more subtly, to delay until execution became impossible, lifts this action into the ranks of intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.
Major Parker, was ordered to withdraw from this untenable position, but he delayed doing so because he probably sensed the importance dividing up the enemy at this point. Further, he did not want to leave the people from other outfits there by themselves (he did not give me a vote!). It wasn’t long before we reached the line of no return, as we became surrounded. (My Longest Week – unpublished)
Parker knew that a powerful enemy armored and mechanized infantry force lay 6000 M west at Samrée, for he had laid observed fire on it that morning. More armor were approaching up the road from the south, and his supply route through Regné to Vielsalm, some 10.000 M east, was bare of support traffic. They were at the end of a very long limb.
The terrain around the crossroads is deceptively flat though it stands on one of the highest elevations in the Ardennes, with broad, open fields of fire in all directions. But two large stands of evergreen woods afford easily infiltrated, concealed routes of approach nearly down to the junction. Once an enemy cut the road North to Manhay, only 6000 M to the rear, the crossroads became a trap. Escape on foot through snow would have been extremely difficult and by vehicle on the road an impossibility.
On the other hand, the deep snow and trees tended to canalize enemy movements and the howitzers were laid for direct fire down the three roads : the roads to Samrée, the one to Houffalize and the one to Vielsalm. Capt Brown had rejoined the battalion at Vielsalm and was put in charge of the guns. The perimeter was dug in, howitzers and machine guns installed, mines laid in the road, observers and outposts linked to battalion headquarters in a stone barn about 100 M from the junction.
Not satisfied with this, Parker had gone to Fraiture another hamlet about a 1000 M northeast, to request help from the glider men holding the right flank of the 82-Abn’s thin line. He was given one rifle company and none too soon. The enemy were already feeling out his position and were quite aware of its basic weakness. During the next two days, two company-sized attacks were repulsed with loss, while the Germans built up their fuel and forces.
By sunrise on December 23, parties of Volks-Grenadiers had worked around both flanks and threatened the lifeline from Manhay. In the predawn darkness, an enemy patrol was hit by quad-50s, its officer and an NCO taken prisoner. They were from the 2.SS-Panzer-Division and were just coming up from Houffalize, scouting, for an attack position.
During, the previous day’s hasty attacks, Maj Parker was wounded by mortar shell fragments, lost consciousness and was evacuated. Maj Elliott Goldstein, the original battalion executive officer but actually junior to Parker, took command.
Goldstein proved himself able in holding the position as Parker had been in selecting it. Until the final, coordinated attack of two rifle battalions supported by tanks and preceded by a fierce artillery preparation, the Germans never managed to breach the perimeter.
Drastically outnumbered and unable to compensate for weakness by maneuver, the defenders of the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads had succumbed, like so many small forces at other crossroads in the Ardennes Hugh M. Cole, Ardennes : Battle of the Bulge, US Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations.
The Alamo Defense had been a splendid success, holding firm for two days against elements of an armored division whose two mechanized regiments had to make a deliberate attack on a weak patchwork force in a few stone buildings. The overstretched 82-Abn stretched some more, swung back and covered the gap. The 3-AD was given time to form another tank-infantry delaying force just south of Manhay. If more proof of the Alamo’s Defense’s success is needed, it lies in the fact that, though German armor took the Manhay’s crossroads after a bitter fight, they got no further North.
Although the 2.SS-Panzer-Division still held Grandmenil and Manhay on the morning of the December 26, it had lost much of its bite and dash. The 4.SS-Panzer-Grenadiers had lost heavily’, particular in officers, during the fight for Baraque de Fraiture.
With elements of the 75-ID, solidly in place before them the frustrated Germans turned west again in a futile lunge for the Meuse River crossings they never came close to reaching. The 589-FAB was effectively destroyed. A few officers and men fought or slipped through to friendly line, but the guns, tank destroyers, armored cars and AA half-tracks were lost. Of the 116-man glider company, only 44 rejoined their parent company. But in June 1945, the battered 106th Infantry Division reconstituted, and Parker returned to command the new 589-FAB.
To a professional readership, this account demands some conclusions. First, that there will be more such actions in the future, and this one should be studied as a classic example. After the Nazi surrender, Allied interrogators learned from defeated commanders that the prime reason for the German armored mass failing to come forward as planned was that the initial American defense had been more tenacious than anticipated; complete and rapid rupture of the defensive positions had not been achieved. And the official history adds : not only did the Germans fail to comprehend the degree of initiative that training and tradition have placed in the hands of American corps and army commanders, they also misunderstood the American doctrine, largely unwritten but universally accepted, that major formations having no pre-battle relationship, may under fluid conditions, unite on the field after the battle is joined. Nowhere is this principle more perfectly illustrated than at Parker’s Crossroads, where small units instinctively coalesced into an effective fighting force under a superlative leader.
Second, the concept is current doctrine. FM 100-5 Operations (May 1986) states : Whenever an unintentional encirclement occurs, the encircled commander must understand the mission and the higher commander’s intent and concept of operation clearly. He must judge whether the next higher commander wants the force to break out or to defend the position. If it cannot breakout, the senior commander must continue to defend, while planning for and assisting in linkup with a relieving force. Both, Parker and Goldstein, demonstrated a perfect understanding of these principles as laid down in Field Service Regulations.
Third, both senior and subordinate commanders, aware of the possibilities, should plan for the worst. The key issue is the voluntary assumption of a last-ditch stand, even against orders. Only the most urgent and vital considerations would justify this if the junior commander survives, he might face court-martial and disgrace. Nevertheless having made the decision the Alamo force commander must carry it through. Parker committed himself and his men to victory or death, probably the latter, and he must lead by personal example. A little band of strong men, resolved to die with sword in hand can be an extremely thorny twig to grasp, and an enemy trying to meet a tight schedule may well hesitate. All the better for the Alamo force-it’s just what they want. And the higher commander should prepare himself for the loss of valuable combat power, perhaps one-third of his command, if his junior commander decides on an Alamo Defense. Both should ensure that no neglect or omission of support will suggest this desperate action and, with prudent foresight, avoid the necessity.
Fourth, it appears that Parker and his men went largely unrewarded for their valor. Parker received a Silver Star, Goldstein a Bronze Star with V device. Several NCOs and soldiers got individual decorations. The Belgian government granted the battalion a Croix de Guerre with Silver Gilt Star, but no unit decoration was authorized from their own government. For a Medal of Honor performance by Parker that seems a bit thin. Lapse of time and current regulations prohibit any further mark of recognition for an action that may very well have saved two divisions.
Filth, we may speculate that somewhere in today’s Army walks another Maj Parker perhaps wearing a lieutenant’s bar or sergeants stripes. If it were possible the Army should find that man and cherish him, for one day it will need him very badly down some cold, perilous road he will see a great adversity rolling toward him. Then he will become ‘Major Parker’ and fight like a wild cat.
But now the Major’s battle is over, and he sleeps among warriors. And in a grassy plot near the crossroads of the two Belgian highways stands a carved granite boulder that proclaims it Parker’s Crossroad, where Major Arthur C. Parker breathed spirit into his GI’s and all acquitted themselves most honorably against enormous odds.
Finally, one does think that, had Leonidas of Sparta had a ‘Major Parker’ to hold that fatal footpath, the Persians never would have turned his flank at Thermopylae.
Thanks to the following 589-FAB veterans for contributions of personal history : Sgt Barney M. Altord, Chief 2nd Section Battery A; Cpl John Galen, Chief-Gunner Section Battery A; Maj Elliot Goldstein, Officer in command after Maj Parker was WIA; Sgt Charles F Jacelon, Forward Observer under Lt Crowley Battery A; Pfc Harold J. Kuizema, Wireman Battery B; Prime Mover Eldon E. Miedema, Battery A; Pierson Randolph, Forward Observer and Cpl John R. Schaffner, Battery B.
Cpl John Schaffner : On December 19, in the afternoon, what was remaining of the 589-FAB arrived at the crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture to establish some kind of blocking force against the German advance. There were approximately 100 men and 3 105-MM howitzers to set up the defense at this time. The weather was cold wet and foggy with some snow already on the ground. Visibility was variable, clearing from maybe fifty yards to two or three hundred on occasion. I didn’t know who was in charge of the ragtag group that I was with until I saw Maj Elliot Goldstein out in the open, verbally bombasting the enemy (where ever they were) with all the curse words he could think of and at the top of his booming voice.
I thought at the moment that he won’t be around too long if there are any Germans out there to hear him. Apparently there were none, he drew no fire. I was taking cover behind the rear wheel of one of our trucks at the time and felt rather naked. The 3 105 were ordered into position to defend the crossroad and I was told to go out there, dig in and look for an attack from that direction, still having no idea of the situation. Most of the night we spent in the foxhole. All was quiet on the front line.
When I was relieved during the night to get some rest I tried to find a dry place in the stone barn to lay down. The floor was deep in mud, but the hay rack on the wall were full of dry hay so I accepted that as a good place to sleep. Pushing the cows aside I climbed into the hay. I guess that the cows just didn’t understand, because they kept pulling the hay out from under me until I became the next course on their menu. Anyway it wasn’t long until I was outside in another hole in the ground.
Randolph C. Pierson : December 19 1944 ! What a way to spend my 21st birthday ! We are headed north to fight Panzers again ! That’s great ! Maj Arthur C. Parker, now commanding, received orders to split the reduced battalion into two elements : one element to move west and establish a defensive road block at a village I never heard of, and the second element to move north to the crossroads located at Baraque de Fraiture, Belgium, to repel an expected Panzer attack.
I was assigned to the advance party of the second element and arrived at Baraque de Fraiture about 1400. My responsibility was to help establish the Command Post, the Fire Direction Center, the Message Center, and a local communications network. To order an already beat-up Artillery unit to fight Panzers was really stupid ! We were not trained as infantry nor tank destroyers. What were we supposed to do ? I could not comprehend why Panzers would attack here. Before we arrived there was nothing to attack but three or four empty buildings and a few milk cows. Why would the German army fight for this bleak, windswept, cold, snow-covered, open spot in the Ardennes Forest ? This terrain is worth nothing ! We had not seen our commanding officer, LCol T. Paine Kelly, in three days now. This bothered me ! What had happened to him ?
Pfc Harold J. Kuizema : There was snow on the ground, it was cold and so foggy it was impossible to see more than 100 feet. Soon the order came to move to the crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture. We took over some of the larger family homes there. The home we took over had an attached barn with cows and hay to feed the cows. The elderly gentleman whose home we took over had taken the time to milk the cows before he left. As he left, he offered me some milk which I refused. I’m not sure why since that was the last time we saw fresh milk for some time.
The picture of the old man walking off with his little pushcart with his belongings is still vivid in my mind. This house was later used as our Command Post. We all found a variety of places to sleep in this house. There was always someone who pulled guard. My memory would say we were on guard two hours and then off for four hours. I don’t recall sleeping much there. My buddy Bernard Strohmier remembers sleeping on the hay. The cows kept eating and so by morning, Bernie was wedged in the trough that the cows had eaten from.
Cpl John Schaffner : The weather remained miserable, cold wet and foggy with a little more snow for good measure. If the enemy was around he was keeping it a secret. The day went very slowly. This kind of time is usually spent getting your hole just a bit deeper, you never know how deep is going to be deep enough. Now and then one of our guys would pop off a few rounds at something, real or imagined. We were joined by some AAA people with a towed trailer mounted with four .50 cal MG’s and a 37-MM cannon. I thought at the time, I’d hate to be in front of that thing when it went off. I only saw the one unit then but the books reporting the action mention that there were four of these units there from the 203-AAA-AW Battalion from the 7-AD. This weapon was positioned to fire directly down the road to Houffalize. Frank Aspinwall also reports that we were joined by a platoon of the 87-CRS.
Later in the evening, Capt Brown sent me with another B Battery GI, Ken Sewell, to a foxhole in the ditch at the side of the road to Houffalize, about a couple hundred yards out from the crossroads. We were the outpost and had a field telephone hookup to Capt Brown’s CP. Capt Brown told us to just sit tight and report any movement we observed. There was a daisy chain of mines strung across the road a few yards ahead of our position to stop any vehicles. The darkness was made even deeper by the thick fog that night, with a silence to match. Now and then a pine tree would drop some snow or make a noise. I think my eyelids and ears were set on ‘Full Open’.
There we sat in this hole in the ground just waiting and watching, until about midnight when we could hear strange noises in the fog. It was very dark and our visibility was extremely limited but we were able to discern what was making the strange noise as about a dozen Germans came into view on bicycles. They stopped in the road when they came on the mines. Being unaware of our presence, not 10 yards away, they stood there in front of us in the middle of the road – probably talking over what to do next. We could hear the language was not English and they were wearing square helmets. Sewell and I were in big trouble. This was a first for us to be this close to the enemy.
Thinking that there was too many for us to take on with a carbines I took the telephone and whispered our situation to Capt Brown. His orders were as follow : Keep your head down and when you hear me fire my 45 the first time we will sweep the road with the AAA quad 50’s. When that stops I’ll fire my .45 again and then we will hold fire while you two come out of your hole and return to the Command Post. Make it quick !
And that’s the way it happened. That German patrol never knew what hit them. On hearing the 45 the second time Ken and I left our hole and keeping low, ran back toward our perimeter. I was running so hard that my helmet bounced off my head and went rolling out into the darkness. I thought, to hell with it and never slowed down to retrieve it. I lost sight of Ken and honestly don’t remember ever seeing him again. I heard many years later that he was captured along with Bernard Strohmier and others after the Germans took the crossroads.
By calling out the password, Coleman, I got safely past our perimeter defense and was then shot at and missed by somebody at the howitzer position as I approached it. After a blast of good old American obscenities they allowed me through and I reported to Capt Brown. (The official book ways that there was an eighty man patrol from the 560.Volks-Grenadier-Division and the 2.SS-Panzer-Division out there that night. Maybe the rest were back in the fog somewhere.)
Randolph Pierson : December 20 1944 : It is cold, almost 20 degrees below freezing. The north wind is brisk. I was glad I got to spent the night in the security of the root cellar under the stone Command Post building. During the night, and early this morning, Maj Parker had persuaded stragglers to stand and fight with us. They were : one light tank and crew from the 87-CRS; four 3 inch HVAT guns and crews from the 643-TDB, and four AAA half-tracks from the 203-AAA-AW Bn, 3 mounting Quad-50s, one mounting a 37-MM AA gun.
We received our first fire mission at approximately 1500, target : enemy infantry entering into Samrée. This is strange, our defenses are facing East and North, Samrée is to our West. We successfully completed the mission with the report : cease fire, enemy infantry withdrawing from Samrée. Where in the hell is the enemy ? Another typical situation. No one knows anything.
SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fouled Up). Our second activity occurred about 2300 on the same day. Enemy infantry reported approaching our positions from the East. Alerted the quad-50s half-track covering that sector delivered devastating fire, which I watched from the road in front of the CP. It was beautiful, looked like four lines of giant fire flies chasing each other.
I could not relate this beautiful sight to the carriage being created on the enemy end. A combat patrol is dispatched to mop up enemy survivors. The patrol found only one wounded German, many dead bodies, and scattered, mangled bicycles. The main question is, what was this patrol doing ? Why is it here ? We could only guess. The wounded man died without speaking. We will never know.
Pfc Harold J. Kuizema : December 20 1944 : Weather conditions were the same – Cold – Snowy – Foggy. Today we positioned ourselves around the house. My buddies were busy laying land mines across the road. Others had set up the machine guns. We placed our trucks which were weapon carriers, and used them for hiding or defense. We lay right underneath the trucks. That day, the Germans made their first attack. I fired my carbine from behind a truck wheel. Many Germans were wounded and would call out, ‘Comrade, Comrade’. One dead German soldier that lay approximately 50 feet from us was a very young soldier – perhaps a sixteen year old. Maj Parker wanted us to round up those who had been taken prisoner. He asked me to accompany him with the prisoners as we directed them to the Command Post for interrogation.
Cpl John Schaffner : December 21 1944 : I was sent forward to have a look around and found several dead German soldiers in the snow. I was not at all comfortable with that and was happy to have not found any live ones. The enemy had apparently pulled back after we had cut down their advance group the night before. All that day was spent digging and improving our defensive perimeter. We were given some warming time off and on inside the stone building being used as a CP. At one point I was detailed to guard two German prisoners that were brought in. I never learned the circumstances of their capture. One, an officer, spoke good English and warned us that the German Army was coming through us and would kill anyone in the way and push the rest into the English Channel, so we could save everybody a lot of trouble by surrendering to him right then and there. At one point a Sherman tank came along and was set up in front of our CP and fired a few rounds across the field and into the forest at some distant soldiers running from tree to tree for cover.
That night, after the initial attack, I recall being in my foxhole waiting for the Germans to come at us again. The realization came to me that I was involved in a real risky business. The area was lighted by the flames of a store of fuel drums bumming throughout most of the rest of the night and reflecting eerily on the snow covered ground.
The only sounds were that of the fire and the crying for help from the wounded enemy who were laying out there just out of view. I stayed in the foxhole all night and never did discover what finally happened to them, apparently their people abandoned them. Later I heard that one of our medics went out and checked on them and did what he could.
Over the years I continue to feel some responsibility for their fate, since it was me who called for the fire on them when they first approached the crossroads. Responsible : yes. Sorry : no. It was them or me. A lot of things go through your mind when you think that it is your time to die and I can clearly remember laying in that cold hole in the ground that could shortly be my grave thinking that I had not even experienced being in love yet. I definitely did not want to die in this strange place. I prayed to God, Jesus and every other deity that I could think of, for help. In later years I heard the expression that, there were no atheists in foxholes. You can believe that.
Randolph Pierson : December 21 1944 : Maj Parker looks bad, really tired. He hasn’t had much rest or sleep in five days. We all are getting fatigued. It shows in the eyes. At 0530, our first serious attack began. About two platoons of enemy infantry in the forest East of the perimeter, supported by light mortar fire, seemed to be testing our defense capability. By daylight, our 105-MM and heavy automatic weapons fire had forced the enemy to withdraw. Only a single mortar continues to deliver interdiction fire into our positions.
About 0800, Maj Parker dispatched the 87-CRS light tank to find and neutralize the mortar position. In a short time the tank returned to the CP. The noncom tank commander reported to the Major that the mortar had been neutralized. He then produced 5 German Soldiers Books to identify the enemy unit attacking us and as proof of his kill. This second fire fight proved to the enemy that we were here, and planning to stay. So far, so good. No American casualties ! At 2000 the Major asked me to man an observation post for the remainder of the night. He expected an enemy build-up during the night and needed a forward observer to adjust harassing fire. The walk to the Observation Post was dark and frightening. The Observation Post I manned was 800 or 900 yards East of our perimeter. I was alone except for my EE-8A field telephone, my .45 caliber pistol, and my freshly-sharpened boot knife. I wished I was back at the CP.
Pfc Harold J Kuizema : December 21 1944 : Fog, Snow and Cold persisted. The next few days we were busy trying to dig our foxholes as deep and we could. We dug them around the house. Weather conditions being what they were, the ground did not cooperate with our efforts very easily. There were two of us in each foxhole and we lined them with an army blanket. Sad, but true, I do not remember who I shared my foxhole with. We were mainly concerned with surviving at that time. One of us was always on guard and so it was not a very social time. Keeping alert was crucial to survival. The feeling were ones of constant fear. Prior to my army experience I was firmly established in my belief in God. I cannot say I thought about that a great deal. We were kept very busy with an attack occurring twice every day – one attack in the morning and another in the afternoon. The truck, just behind us, a half track with a machine gun mounted on it, was intermittently spraying the area with machine gun fire to flush out any snipers who might be in the area. Fulfilling our duties, surviving and keeping warm were high priority. I know the prayers of my family and church followed me.
Cpl John Schaffner : December 22 1944 : Very early, in the dark, in the morning, the Germans attacked again and we were subjected to small arms and mortar fire off and on all day. At one point mortar rounds were landing real close to my hole and I was feeling very exposed with no helmet to crawl into. I could hear the mortar fragments smacking into the ground around my foxhole. Most of the rounds were falling farther in toward the buildings. I saw one hit the roof of Capt Brown’s CP. It must have been during this time that Maj Parker was wounded by a fragment. I’m not sure about that. I didn’t witness it. There was a GI in a foxhole next to mine who would not fire his weapon. When I called to him to fire he just looked at me. I didn’t know him and don’t know his fate either, I could not understand why he was not willing to help himself and the rest of us. I have read since that this is not an unusual occurrence. There are always a certain number who will not squeeze that trigger, even when their life is threatened.
Late in the afternoon several tanks were heard approaching our position. Thankfully they were ours. They rolled out in the open and fired their big guns into the German positions and I thought, no problem now with all this help the day is saved. It got quiet again. And then the tanks left. Looked like we would be hung out to dry but it did stop the enemy attack for a while. Thanks, tankers. Too bad you couldn’t stay for dinner. After dark I was moved in closer to the CP and dug another hole along with a GI named Randy Pierson.
One of our guys made a run from hole to hole tossing everybody something to eat. I caught a box of wet-or-dry cereal and ate it dry. The two of us spent the night in the hole. One of us would sleep an hour and the other keep watch and then we would alternate. This was the only kind of rest that anybody got. We had dug our hole reasonable deep and then further fortified it with some fence rails that we crisscrossed in front of it. I was sure that we would be attacked that night. I had 30 rounds of carbine ammunition remaining and a knife that I placed on the ground where I could reach it. I prayed that it would not be necessary. It got very cold that night and the enemy did not attack. Another very long night. At the time the weather was our worst enemy but then in the morning things changed and weather took second place.
Randolph Pierson : December 22 1944 : The most horrifying time of my life started at 0230 when I detected vehicles moving some 2000 M East of me. We fired a heavy artillery concentration into what seemed to be an infantry assembly area. This fire mission caused both vehicles and infantry to move in my direction. To counter this movement, we fired 4 or 5 more concentrations, each one walking about 400 M closer to me. Finally my Observation Post area was crawling with enemy infantry, moving furiously to stay ahead of the exploding shells. To my dismay, this walking barrage was soon delivering ground-shaking tree bursts directly over my head. I was not detected by the preoccupied enemy infantry as they passed me, but my EE-8A was blown to bits. I lost contact with Battalion Headquarters ! Direct fire from our 105-MM howitzers, the 3-inch anti-tank guns, coupled with automatic weapons and small arms fire caused the German infantry to withdraw about one hour later. It was still dark. This time the enemy infantry passed over my position while in retreat. Fortunately, I, again, was not detected.
Later, when I felt somewhat secure, I decided to try to return to the perimeter without getting killed. As I was about to leave my hole, I heard a noise. Then a German helmet fell into the hole, followed by a sweaty-smelling, heavy-breathing body. With my adrenaline flowing, I frantically stabbed and sliced until there was no movement. Exhausted, I remained under the warm, bleeding body for quite some time. Desperation finally drove me to work my way back to our perimeter. I thanked God that I was not shot by, either friend or foe during the journey. My arrival at the perimeter was about 0600, only minutes before the start of the second German attack. This attack lasted almost one hour and I was pressed into service as an ammunition handler for a .50 caliber machine gun position. Another unnerving experience ! Upon my arrival at the CP at about 0800, I was warmly greeted. The guys thought their barrage or the enemy had killed me. When they noticed my bloody uniform, they thought I had been wounded. Reports from the perimeter advised Maj Parker the perimeter was secure, but we had sustained WIAs. At 1155, Maj Parker received permission from Division to disengage and withdraw the 589-FAB troops to Manhay to draw new supplies from the 3-AD. The Major declined to leave, although the scarcity of ammunition concerned him. During the afternoon, Maj Parker sustained serious wounds, shell fragments in the chest. That night, over his objections, he was evacuated in a half-track.
Cpl John Schaffner : December 23 1944 : It seems that the Germans had come closer. Each time our perimeter got smaller, and were ready to end it. The fog would roll in and out giving us limited visibility. I would fire at anything I saw moving around in range of my hole. This weather was tough on use but I think it was to our advantage from a defensive point of view. I am sure our enemy was not able to determine exactly what he had to overcome to take the crossroads. Whenever he came into view we would drive him back into the fog. Our ammunition was running out.
I had one clip of carbine rounds and could find no more. Word had come around that when the ammo ran out and the Germans came it would be every man for himself to escape if you could otherwise a surrender was prudent. We were apparently surrounded but the Germans were taking the easiest route, the hard surface roads. That left the fields open. Late afternoon, probably after 1600 the final assault came. Mortars, small arms and fire from tanks. I was in the stone building, sitting on the floor with my back to the wall. Harold Kuizema was with me. This room must have been a kitchen at one time because I recall a wood bumming cook stove and a GI who I didn’t know trying to heat something at it.
Something big hit that wall and exploded it right over our heads into the room. It must have hit high or it would have gotten the both of use. As it was it filled the room with debris and dust. That was all the motivation we needed to leave there. To wait for another one never crossed my mind. We, Harold and me, went to the front door. They were coming and we were going. It was that simple. Some of our people were going to the cellar. I didn’t like that idea. So once out-side, I crawled to the road and the ditch. There were some cattle milling about on the road, and much smoke so I got up and ran through the cattle to the ditch on the far side and once again dropped down to avoid the German fire.
On this side of the road was a snow covered fields very open, but it was away from the attack so that’s the direction that I took. Not far into the field Harold went down. As I got to him I saw two GI’s approaching from the other direction. It was apparent that Harold was not going any farther on his own so between the three of us we moved him the remaining distance to the shelter of the woods and into the company of a patrol of infantrymen from the 82-Abn.
When we reached the shelter of the woods and I looked back at the crossroads the whole sky seemed to be lighted by the flames from the burning building and vehicles. Our wounded man was evacuated and I received permission to tag along with these 82-Abn GI’s which I did until late sometime the next day (24) when I was able to locate some 106-ID people.
There were some vehicles from the 589-FAB with this group that were not with us at the crossroads and one was loaded with duffel bags. Mine was even with them. Another miracle, clean underwear and socks.
Randolph Pierson : December 23 1944 : The first round of the pre-dawn German Artillery preparation landed at 0430. It was from a German 88-MM gun. The enemy had moved artillery within range of the crossroads. We had no capability to return fire. We could only hunker down, curse, and wait for the inevitable. Automatic arms fire was coming from the North and South flanks of the perimeter for the first time. The German infantry had moved through the forest in an effort to flank us.
This forced a corresponding change in our defense lines and weapons emplacements. This turned out to be a determined attack. It lasted until about 0945, almost 5 hours. Five hours under direct fire is an eternity in close combat ! We took casualties, both KIAs and WIAs ! Why do we continue to fight ? Why do the guys in the other units continue to fight ? They are getting killed too ! It doesn’t make sense ! It’s like everyone has a death wish. We all know what the outcome will be, yet we don’t quit !
At 1600 the third attack of the day started. The Artillery preparation was more vicious and gut wrenching than before. This experience is impossible for me to describe. It affects people differently. Some break and run, only to be cut down by shell fragments or small arms fire. Others, like me, dig in and mentally try to block out the mayhem which surrounds us.
Advance elements of the 2.SS-Panzer-Division and 9.SS-Panzer-Division were using armor to exert tremendous pressure on our defenses from both the south and east. Our heavy weapons were their prime targets. They are losing Panzers, but we are losing the battle of attrition. The entire top floor of the CP building had been shot away by the time darkness fell. Only a fragment of the sturdy stone east wall still stands. Several of us took refuge in the undamaged root cellar.
By 1700, enemy infantry probes were coming fast and furious from all points of the compass. We were finally surrounded ! Completely surrounded ! It is the beginning of the end. About 2 hours after the final attack started, Capt George Huxel, the only remaining officer, entered the root cellar.
His message is brief and to the point : We can no longer deny the enemy access to the crossroads. We have more than fulfilled our mission. We must now make a decision, based on 3 choices : 1. Stay, fight, and die, and accomplish nothing; 2. Lay down our arms, and wait to be captured or killed; 3. Risk death or capture by trying to withdraw and fight another day. He advised us he could not make the decision for us, each man must make his own.
When asked what he was going to do, he advised us he would try to make his way through the enemy lines at dusk. Then move northward hoping to find the territory occupied by the 82-Abn. The Captain then offered to lead anyone who wished to follow, however, there were no takers. He concluded, it has been an honor to serve with you. I hope we will all survive and serve together again. He then left.
This information triggered much discussion among the eight or nine GIs in the cellar. There is no consensus of opinion. The top floor of the building is on fire. I made my decision; I gathered my gear and left. The trip across the open ground, stumbling, falling, and being exposed to enemy fire was another nightmare. The four hundred yards from the CP to the tree line of the forest seemed like miles. Without any idea what awaited me in the distant tree line, I continued to crouch and run, determined to reach cover. Winded and wounded I finally made it ! In the dense forest, under the cover of night, I turned in the direction I thought was north. Limping from the pain of White Phosphorous burns and struggling against the deep snow, I fought my way deeper into the forest. I never once looked back !
Pfc Harold J. Kuizema : December 23 1944 : Somehow that afternoon a piece of stray shrapnel from one of the shells hit my thumb while I was in my foxhole. The wound was jagged and bleeding, but comparatively minor. I went to the CP for First Aid and there saw men with faces blown off and pulling teeth out of their mouths. I also observed a German prisoner being interrogated by one of our officers (he was using one of our group as an interpreter). While in the CP a group from the 82-Abn joined our group. They had come on foot and their eagerness to get into battle impressed me. Where are the bazookas ?, they said. They were gun ho to get into action. Action came in the form of some direct hits to the house and a fire started ! I ran out of the house and started across the nearby field. I was flat on my stomach trying to get under a fence when I was wounded in my left thigh by a nearby shell that exploded. My left leg was numb. I tried crawling beyond the fence, but realized I would need help. A medic nearby gave me some First Aid using my First Aid kit. Dusk was upon us and night was drawing near.
John Schaffner came to my aid and with another person I do not know helped me across the field into a wooded area – it seemed like miles. While in the woods we met up with some troops from the 82-Abn who met us with 30 caliber machine guns. They halted us and we shouted ‘AMERICAN’. They then directed us to the aid station. There a jeep was ready to take other wounded on stretchers out to a Field Hospital and since I could sit up they got me in the front seat and included me in their load.
Pfc Harold J. Kuizema : December 25 1944 : The Field Hospital was like a large garage. We were lined up on the floor and the only treatment I received for two days was a dressing change for my wounds. The wounded were cared for according to the severity of their injuries. Many were much more seriously injured than I was. The Germans as well as Americans were cared for here. Some staff found it very difficult to care for the Germans. It was an unusual Christmas for all of us. December 26 1944 : : From the Field Hospital I was transferred to a Castle that was converted into a hospital in Liège, Belgium. Next was a train ride to a newly set up hospital in Paris, France where I stayed for one week. My next stop was a hospital in England. The ambulance that transported me to the Paris Airport went by the Eifel Tower and I was able to see it from a window in the ambulance. I was transported by a C-47 to the hospital where I stayed for four months for treatment for my leg wound as well as a bad case of frozen feet.
Randolph C. Pierson : Two days after leaving the crossroads, I was captured, asleep in a hay stack, by an intelligence patrol of the 82-Abn. At that time American troops in this area were very paranoid about German saboteurs, dressed in American uniforms, infiltrating their lines. I was suspected of being a German spy and hospitalized for burns and frost bite in a medical facility for German POWs.
Subsequent investigation proved me to be an American T/4 from the 589-FAB. Early in January 1945, I was released to the 106-ID and then assigned as an enlisted man Forward Observer for XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery in the 592-FAB. On January 24, me and two close friends, T/4 Delbert Miller and Sgt Barney Alford, from the 589-FAB, traveled to Stavelot, Belgium to receive direct promotions to Second Lieutenant. As an officer, I returned, in late January, to serve as an Artillery Forward Observer with the same Parachute Infantry Regiment (82-Abn) that had captured me in the haystack after I left the Crossroads. In April 1945, I rejoined the 106-ID which was being reformed in France. In June 1945, when the 106-ID was returned to the States, I transferred to the 9-FAB, 3-ID and served with that unit until June 1946 in the European Army of Occupation.
Barney Alford, Resume : I was at Parker’s Crossroads with my gun crew from the beginning to the very end. My gun was covering the road to Houffalize and we took part in the skirmishes and the final battle. We were ordered to man our gun constantly and to be ready to fire at any enemy units that came into our field of fire. As you know there was only occasional intense action and we were involved in it all.
When it became apparent that we were going to be overrun by the enemy, Capt Brown came by our gun and told us we would be on our own, but to hold as long as possible. We did hold, but it became very obvious that it was be killed or captured. I urged my gun crew to follow me. Some did and a few stayed. During the final barrage the enemy was firing smoke shells (probably phosphorous) that produced smoke mixed with the fog. Taking advantage of this cover and protective cover such as equipment, farm sheds, and road ditches I was able to cross two roads and make my way into the forest. On the way we passed some buildings where some of the men decided to take cover. I never saw any of them again.
As I made my way through the woods I ran into other GI’s that knew where the 82-Abn lines were. When we got close enough to be challenged, we were, but they seemed to know we were American and didn’t give us a hard time. After being questioned by an officer, he asked what he could do for us. We all asked for food. He said he could take care of that, and led us to the rear area where we saw a big GI garbage can on a stove – it was full of C rations. We all said this was the best C ration that we had ever eaten. After we ate they led us to a barn filled with soft hay and told us to get some rest as we would be moving out early the next morning. The officer said we would be fighting with them until Headquarters got things straightened out, then we would be assigned to other units. The sleep we got that night was the best we had for many days. We were told the next morning that we had slept through a barrage that had lasted for hours. We guessed that we had been softening up the enemy to move forward the next morning. We did move out with the 82-Abn and stayed with them for a few days.
The confusion associated with the last days at Parker’s Crossroads and the intensity of the firing, the dense smoke and fog really had a lasting impression on all of us. Since we were surrounded we hardly knew which direction the enemy would come from. I still do not know how any of us came out of that battle alive. I know I must have had a guardian angel that protected me and led me the to my safety. The sad fact is that many did not make it. For those of us that did make it, we were able to gain pleasure in helping pinch off the Bulge. We then helped kill Hitler’s dream. Later, I was called to a ceremony, during a lull in the fighting, and received a battlefield commission, Second Lieutenant and a Silver Star. I did not think I did anything to deserve it. I was just doing what we were taught to do. During the commissioning ceremony, T/4 Randy Pierson and T/4 Delbert Miller received battlefield commissions to 2nd Lieutenant. These two men also received the Star awards, recommended as Silver, but graded down to Bronze for reasons unknown. Pierson sent me a copy of his award – it shows Silver inked out and changed to Bronze. You all deserved more than that !
Eldon Miedema : Resume : The battle at Parker’s Crossroads was very confusing. The weather was cold and foggy. It was difficult to tell what was happening. I was disturbed by Maj Goldstein because he kept shooting off a German machine pistol. I thought he should not have used it for it could have gotten us killed by our own men, but it didn’t. I helped shoot up a German bicycle patrol one night. They were all killed, except for a German medic. I took him prisoner and was reprimanded by Lt Jefferson. I shot two Germans that were in the back of my prime mover going through the barracks bags. I remember Maj Goldstein taking Jim English (I helped carry him to the half-track) and other wounded Americans, along with two German Prisoners of War on the half-track. I never saw Maj Goldstein after that.
As the Germans closed in an 82-Abn and I went into a barn to release livestock and then jumped out a window to head out. I went in the wrong direction and ran into the Germans. I was taken prisoner. After being taken prisoner, I, along with 12-14 other Americans were marched all night and questioned by German officers. The next day we were marched to Houffalize, then to Prüm, Gerolstein, and eventually ended up at Stalag I 2-A, Limburg.
Charles F. Jacelon, Resume : (Excerpts from his ‘How Parker’s Cross Roads Happened’ December 5 through December 23, 1944). December 19, for the next couple of nights we traveled with an AAA group which was heading for France. After that Maj Parker reported to division headquarters, in Vielsalm. He was told to bring the battalion to Vielsalm the next day. We returned to the battalion on the road between Salmchateau and the crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture. We proceeded to the crossroads, past the crossroads a few hundred yards, to a large open field on the left, west side of the road and bivouacked there. This was the road to Samrée.
Early the next morning we started out for Vielsalm. I was driving the lead jeep with Maj Parker in the passenger seat, as we entered the point where the two roads actually cross. A Dodge army truck came speeding toward us from the direction of Houffalize. Maj Parker yelled ‘whoa’ and I stopped the jeep. The Major got out and asked the driver of the truck where he was speeding to. The driver said that a German tank attack was heading our way from Houffalize. By this time Maj Goldstein had walked up from his jeep which was the second vehicle, and he said ‘You know, we came over here to fight a war and this looks like a good place to start’. Maj Parker said ‘I was thinking the same thing, Major, set up for the defense ! of this crossroad’ Goldstein said, ‘I am going to ask my big friend here with a tracked vehicle and a dozer blade, to dig me some gun pits’. This is the true – verbatim – conversation that led to the story of the crossroads.
I believe that initially Maj Parker entered the building that became Capt Beans CP. This building had a bar, and while Maj Parker was doing his planning and map work by flashlight, someone handed him a bottle of beer that had been found in the basement. Maj Parker drank half, then handed it to me, saying, ‘here driver, I want you to have some of this’. A young woman resident rushed in to get something from a drawer or cabinet and Maj Parker said to her ‘You do not have to leave, we will protect you’, her reply was, ‘Boches come, I go’ (Krauts back – I leave), and she left.
The guns were emplaced and a sentry, John Schaffner, in a foxhole, was in front of the howitzer and the quad-50s local machine guns in a turret on a half track. In the middle of the night the sentry reported that a German patrol on bicycles was examining the daisy chain, a string of antitank mines tied together in a line so that it could be pulled into place across a road in front of the lead enemy vehicle. At that time the howitzer and the quad-50s guns fired blindly, and when the volley ended our sentry ran back to the command post. When the mist and the night lifted we found dead and wounded Germans.
I did not know of Maj Parkers’s wounding, or of the death of the Sgt reportedly conversing with Capt Bean. I remember a GI truck on fire speeding through the crossroads from Samrée toward Vielsalm. I remember that on the evening of December 22, Maj Goldstein told me to take a forward observer sergeant to his unit in Manhay about ten miles away. We had a pleasant ride, found Manhay completely deserted and as we returned to the crossroads the German tanks (which overran our position the next day) were blasting an American tank that was bombed out in the first action a month or two before.
When the German tanks stopped firing I drove to the crossroad, turned left and drove the hundred yards or so to the CP and turned into the yard. That night there was sporadic firing around the perimeter, and during December 23 we fired carbines and rifles which was all we had left at the tanks and soldiers too far away to be hit. Late in the afternoon the tanks moved across the field between the Vielsalm and the Houffalize roads. As our CP started to burn down around us I could see no alternative to surrender, so with several others we walked past the head of the tank column into captivity.
John Gatens, Resume : The main theme in all the stories about Parker’s Crossroads has been about the three Howitzers. I feel by now that everyone knows that there are actually four Howitzer’s to a firing battery. In the article, ‘The Incredible Valor of Eric Fisher Wood’, Section Chief, Sgt Scannapico’s Section No. 3 is mentioned in the Saturday Evening article. It is unfortunate that he was KIA. Also Section Chief Sgt Barney Alford’s, Section No. 2 is mentioned. In our own history St Vith : Lion in the Way, page 188, Section Chief Sgt Johnnie B. Jordan’s Section No. 4 is mentioned in the Saturday Evening Post article.
There are also other references to these sections. Nowhere, including the story about Parker’s Crossroads is the name of the Section Chief named for Section 1.
For the record I would like to get into the record Section Chief Sgt George Shook, and Gunner Cpl John Gatens, and tell you my story about Section No. 1. In the story ‘The Incredible Valor of Eric Wood’, it states that Section No. 4, which in reality was Section No. 1, was the only piece in the entire battalion which could reach the oncoming tanks. In a direct fire situation of a 105-MM Howitzer, the gunner like me, has complete control of the firing, because it is he that has to set all elevations and traversing actions. In the case of the tank mentioned in that story I had traversed and set elevation to my satisfaction.
I missed on the first shot. Sgt Shook, standing behind me, hollered I was a little high. I lowered the elevation and gave the command to fire. It was a direct hit. We fired another round for effect and scratched one German tank. Truly a deed that warranted recognition for the No. 1 Section.
When march orders were given by Lt Eric F. Wood, Sgt Shook was no where to be found. This left me as second in command with a double duty as Section Chief and Gunner. Now to Parker’s Crossroads, where we ended up on Lt Eric Wood’s march order. Unfortunately he disappeared and that story has been well publicized. We ended up at the Crossroads without and officer in command of my section. Another error that has been compounded over the years is the placement of Section No 1 gun site at the Crossroads. In St Vith : Lion in the Way, page 185, it shows my gun in the comer of the crossroads of the To Regné, To Houffalize quadrant pointing toward the Manhay-Samrée quadrant.
The error is that my gun was actually directly across the road, in the corner of the Manhay-Samrée quadrant, with the Howitzer facing towards the Regné-Houffalize quadrant, exactly across the road from the tank and the two buildings. That tank of the 3-AD, shown in front of the buildings, came to that point the second day we were there. We were happy to see a tank in our area. As they pulled up one of the crew jumped out, walked to the comer and looked down the road towards Regné. He suddenly hit the ground with a bullet hole in his head, put there by a German sniper. Unfortunately he was wearing only the soft tanker’s hat. We fired a few rounds into the woods along the Regné road and never heard anymore from that direction.
Maj Parker visited my position at least three times. He was always in good spirits and giving encouragement. He would leave saying, ‘don’t worry, we will be leaving here soon’. Little did we know that he had ignored the order to displace northward toward Bra-sur-Lienne, as described in the story, The Alamo Defense Loss of this crossroads junction would have given the Germans freedom to move in all directions, to flank or penetrate the 1-A line. The most unusual fire mission I received was from Maj Parker. At the time I had no idea what he was doing. The story The Alamo Defense’ explains that Maj Parker knew a powerful enemy Armored Infantry force lay four miles west of Samrée. Maj Parker told me to turn my Howitzer around, approximately 180 degrees. That was done with difficulty since we were dug in.
In that direction there was a house. He gave me the elevation and then said, I want you to come as close to the peak of that house as you can, without hitting it, and we will fire. I looked through the sight, as well as the tube, and asked my No. 1 man to confirm, which he did. I told Maj Parker we were ready at which time he gave the order to fire. We fired four rounds.
There is another accounting of this action on page 186 of St Vith : Lion in the Way. We also had a few encounters we acted as Infantrymen. Capt Brown (another courageous man and great leader) cautioned us that there was a group of Germans on bicycles near a daisy chain of anti-tank mines that had been placed on the road. He told us when the order to fire was given that we should fire down the road. Boy, when those quad mounted 50’s opened up, so did we. The roar was deafening. The order was given to stop, then all night long you could hear men in pain, calling for help.
As much as I knew that they were the enemy, I had to feel sorry for them. Around mid-afternoon on December 23, we started to receive an artillery barrage. It was light at first, then got heavier. Capt Brown warned of an Infantry attack after it lifted. With that order I ran across the street to the building where the crew were trying to get warm. Before I got to the door the shells were falling all around us. The house was hit and burning. The shelling stopped. The German infantry were all around and a German tank had it’s gun stuck through the door. A German officer ordered us out or the tank would fire. That was the end forme and the collapse of a great stand known as Parker’s Crossroads.
Sgt Scannapico section No. 3 was dead, Sgt Barney Alford (later to become a Lt) and Sgt Jordan section No. 4 escaped and were able to give their accounting of the battle. Section No. 1 was captured and was not able to give their accounting. So we became to be the three guns in any and all articles. This is my story as I lived and remembered it. I hope it is of interest to those that may read it.
For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be
Thank You for your support !
(NB : Published for Good – July 2019)