Were 21 massacred in B/394 during Bulge? years ago
Were 21 massacred in B/394 during Bulge?
In October 1999, Jack McElroy, Cannon Co. 394, Tyler TX, wrote to ask if I was aware that my Company B was mentioned on page 351 in Stephen Ambrose's book Citizen Soldier.
Were 21 massacred
in B/394 during Bulge?
He quotes from the book: "The SHAEF War Crime Files are stuffed with incidents; Case 6-123, Co. B, 394 Inf., near Losheim on 17 Dec 1944 the Germans surrounded a platoon. The GIs raised a white flag, but the German tanks nevertheless overran the position, covering some men with earth and firing into foxholes.
"Somehow 22 men managed to surrender. The Germans herded them into a nearby draw and gunned them down. Only the aid man escaped."
I was at first in disbelief. During the past 10 years I have corresponded with more than 20 Company B men. None had ever mentioned such a massacre.
In February my cousin, McElroy, started writing to his Texas senators and his congressman for help in getting the War Crime File. He also wrote to Dick Byers, our knowledgeable 99th history man. Dick had heard of the incident but had no details. He suggested that Jack write to Roger Foehringer. (Incidentally, Roger is mentioned three or four places in the book Citizen Soldiers). I also notice that on page 4 first issue of 1998 Checkerboard there were some mistakes pointed out. Such as one place Foehringer was from the 106th.
McElroy wrote Foehringer. He reported he was not familiar with Case 6-123 but thought it could well be because he knew of three other cases, 6-42, 6-227, and Case 6-232 in the same time frame at nearby Krinkelt. He suggested McElroy contact the National Archives. At almost the same time Congressman Hall wrote back giving McElroy the address for the National Archives.
In April, McElroy received a copy of the War Crime File 6-123. It turns out it was a S/Sgt. William H. Grimes, Company A, who witnessed and gave testimony at a hearing at Camp Carson CO in 1945. After reading the file, McElroy wrote to John Mellin and Charlie Eubanks of A/394. They remembered Grimes and said he wasn't one who would fabricate such a story. I also heard the same from them when I talked to them at the Philadelphia reunion.
Men of B/394 that I talked to at the Philadelphia reunion find it hard to believe that this many years could have gone by without them having heard about such a massacre if it actually happened. But Sgt. Ralph Gamber, B/394, in a letter to me earlier this year and again at the Philadelphia reunion said the following: On Dec. 17, the second day of the Bulge, someone ran into his area screaming, "The Germans are killing everybody." Sgt. Gamber tried to calm the man down. But the man threw down his ammunition belt and ran off into the woods. This was the same day that Sgt. Grimes of Company A said he saw the massacre of Company B men.
Besides giving you a copy of War Crime File, I gave a copy to Harry McCracken, the Archives chairman, a copy to John Mellin and Charlie Eubanks of Company A, and copies to each of the nine other men at the Philadelphia reunion who signed in for Company B.
Even if we all find it hard to entirely accept the story that 21 Company B men were massacred on Dec. 17, it has brought about an effort on my part to try and account for all of the MIAs of Company B. This spring I started sending out the roster of our MIAs to Company B men in an attempt to account for all the MIAs who survived the Bulge and thereby identify the men massacred by the Germans or perhaps account for so many MIAs who survived, that we can say the massacre never happened.
So far I have sent out MIA roster lists to about 12 Company B men. Of the 100 Company B MIAs who were MIA by Dec. 18, 1944, we have accounted for 59 that were survivors. That still leaves 41 unaccounted for. There are still some more Company B men I hope to contact and send MIA lists. But I am beginning to feel like I'm running out of time and losing hope of finding many more that were survivors.
I was very pleased with Richard Manner's presentation of the MIA remembrance at the Philadelphia reunion. It was something I've long wanted to see done for our MIAs. I was still very choked with emotion when later that evening I went over to Richard's table to thank him.
The Philadelphia reunion was only my third and probably my last. But coming for a full three days instead of my usual two made it a better experience for me.
I know you are pressed with an excess of submitted material that many would like to see printed in the Checkerboard. So I will leave it completely up to your judgment as to whether you want the massacre of 21 Company B men of the 394th in a future Checkerboard.
In closing I want to say with the Checkerboard you have made our 99th Infantry Division Association the greatest. We can never thank you enough for all the work you put into it.
John R. Tobin B/394
821 South 154th St.
Omaha NE 68154-2709