Honningen: View from castle 394 vets won't forget years ago
German photojournalist and 99th friend Ralph Klodt writes from the Remagen area on the Rhine.
He is an expert on 99th action during the bridgehead breakout on the east bank of the Rhine in March of 1945.
Ralph joined the 99th Battlefield Tour when that group visited Remagen in May 2002. He is always willing to share his time and talents with 99th veterans.
He says that the last time he went to the sector, the hills just south of Linz, of the bridgehead he was attempting to collect some significant items. But, mainly, he just wanted to visit the area and was especially in interested in locating "Purple Heart Hill."
This was the hill which overlooks Honningen, the best view being from Schloss Arenfels. The courtyard of the castle is high above the town.
The 394th Infantry Regiment took high casualties in that area before taking the town of Honningen.
It's a scenic spot, nestled on the east bank of the magnificent river. One can stand in the castle courtyard and take in the expansive view, with trains and highway alongside the river.
99th GIs who saw it in '45 didn't have the same view, theirs was one of death and destruction.
The town and surrounding villages had been heavily defended by the 272nd Volkgrenadier Division, according to Klodt's research.
A veteran member of K/394 reports that 24 men were killed and more were wounded. The 1st Bn 394 lost 90 KIA in five days.
There was a great deal of mortar fire and artillery, as well as machine gun and AA directed toward the valiant 99th. They were in an awkward position, highly exposed, in the hills above Honningen.
Visitors to the castle today still see evidence of war, the walls are heavily pock marked from shellfire. Klodt says the residents (not too friendly to Americans today) are repairing the walls. He plans to shoot some photos before all the shell marks are gone.
Klodt has made many interviews with 99th veterans, like Lombardo and Bill Lake of I/394, Del Stumpff and Jesse Coulter of D/394, and Judy Vinegar's article on her father, Albert Arlinghaus of K/394.
Lt. Sam Lombardo's platoon was one of the attacking units. Read about it in his book, "O'er The Land of the Free." Lombardo describes the events in graphic detail.
During his recent visit, Klodt found what he feels is a major bonanza: Lombardo's foxholes and positions. He describes it as follows:
"There's no path in the area of the ridge where I found the holes. They were untouched. Beside one, out in the open, I found a silver identification bracelet. The chain was broken. It had been there 57 years and 14 days! What a find.
"You need to keep in mind that the troops did not spend much time in one position, here. So you won't find many items like you do in the Ardennes.
"This was my best discovery so far.
"The bracelet belongs to a Richard Marks. His Army serial number was 13156949."
Ralf found the Marks sterling silver ID bracelet in the 3rd Bn/394 area. But he does not know if Marks was in that battalion.
He'd like to know more about Marks and would enjoy hearing from anyone who knows or knew him.
The Ol' Editor can help a bit by speculating that Marks was an ASTP soldier, the serial number indicates that he enlisted (the 1) and was from the third service command (the 3).
Perhaps a member can unlock the mystery of Richard Marks. He is not listed on the 99th directory, but may be listed elsewhere. Klodt would like to visit with Marks' family.