I received some responses to my first posting about my cousin, Pfc. Raymond P. Emmer H/394, which eventually led to my corresponding and speaking with Bill Warnock, author of “The Dead of Winter.”
This excellently researched and written book reveals many of the details of Ray’s final days in the 99th Division. Warnock was quite helpful and I was able to speak with William B. Williams F/394, who was with Ray the night he was killed in action. Also, I’ve been able to speak with Bill Zimmerman, the brother of SSgt. Fred Zimmerman, Ray’s squad sergeant.
Ray Emmer grew up in St. Louis MO. His father and my grandfather were partners in a real estate company which developed part of University City in the western suburbs of St. Louis. Ray was active in scouting and became an Eagle Scout like many other members of the family.
In the early stages of WWII, Ray and my uncle Bob hitchhiked to California to visit Ray’s older brother, Bud, who was undergoing flight training at Luke Field, near Phoenix CA. They then proceeded to Camp Philmont NM, to further their scouting activities.
Later, Ray enlisted in the U.S. Army and was placed in the ASTP and was later transferred to the 99th Infantry Division at Camp Maxey when the ASTP was disbanded.
Originally assigned to F/394, Ray was reassigned to H Company, where he met William B. Williams. They became fast friends. When they shipped out for the ETO, they landed in England and later moved to LeHavre, France, where they started a fast motor trip across France and Belgium and prepared to go on the line.
Only a few weeks after landing in Europe, a letter from Ray’s mother caught up with him. It was like a hammer blow as Blanche Emmer told her younger son that his brother, aviator and double ace Bud Emmer, had been shot down. Though it was believed Bud had survived (a parachute was seen near his aircraft), Ray was convinced that his big brother was dead.
Suffering from trenchfoot and in a very troubled state of mind, Ray stepped out of his foxhole the night of Nov. 18 and lit a cigarette. Within seconds, German mortar shells rained down on their position just west of Udenbreth, just over the Belgian border and on German soil. In a flash, Ray was wounded and his buddy William pulled him back into the foxhole. Ray let out one groan, then he died. It was his brother’s birthday.
At the time of Ray’s death, his brother Bud was a prisoner of the Germans. He had been badly burned while escaping from his burning P-51 Mustang. Later, on Feb. 15, 1945, Bud died at Gulag Luft Wetzler, only weeks before the POW was liberated by the Allies. Viv and Blanche Emmer lost both of their boys. An AmVets post in St. Louis was named in their memory.
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