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Oberst Osterhold: Noble foe, good friend dies

The Checkerboard has learned that longtime friend and former foe Oberst Wilhelm Osterhold died April 3, 2002, in Germany. He had been in poor health since 1998.

Lt. Col. Stephen Rusiecki shared the information. He and your editor have spent the past few years attempting to locate Colonel (Oberst) Osterhold.

An officer and gentleman of the regular Wehrmacht, he was a man respected by his troops and opponents he met on the field of battle.

When Col. Osterhold led the initial assault on the 1st Bn/394th Infantry Regiment on Dec. 16, 1944, he did so according to the Geneva Convention Articles of War with human compassion; though war is not compassionate.

His conduct should not be compared with that of many other German officers, especially the SS atrocities of Col. Joachim Peiper of the SS First Panzer Division along the same assault route.

Col. Oshterhold met several times with veterans of the 99th during Battlefield Tours over the years.

With some trepidation he came to the first such peacetime reunion with the group at Paul Greeven's Hotel Dahmen in Bullingen, Belgium.

After walking the battlefield during the day, and spending evenings in conversation about the historic battle, Col. Osterhold wrote in the hotel's guest register at the time of leaving, "I came to meet the former enemy and left with newfound friends."

One of the best of all-time Checkerboard photos depicts the German regular army colonel and former American Staff Sergeant Del Stumpff in a warm embrace in 1997 during a reunion held at St. Vith.

Stumpff was in charge of the 81mm mortar section of D/394 which met Osterhold's regiment that fateful morning by elevating their weapons to 89 degrees. They repelled the attack and earned the respect of the commander who attacked them. Osterhold often said Stumpff and others of his unit deserved the highest recognition that the U.S. Army could bestow.

The site is the location of the 1Bn/394 bronze marker which was dedicated at the Losheimergraben Crossroads this May by 99th veterans.

Many 99'ers who learned to admire him, in spite of former differences, repeat that he was a noble opponent who became a good friend.

Following WWII, Colonel Osterhold was hired by the American Army to teach tactics at the Infantry School, Fort Benning GA.

He commanded Grenadier Regiment 48 of the 12th Volksgrenadier Division. Heinz-Georg Lemm who died in 1994 commanded Fuesilier Regiment 27. The only living regimental commander of that division is Gerhard Lemcke of Grenadier Regiment 89.

Lt. Col. Rusiecki, author of the Losheimergraben Crossroads book, will attend the 99th annual convention in July at Pittsburgh.

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