Lt. Eric F. Wood,
From: Henri Rogister To: jschaffner
Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 19:18:49 +0100 Subject: Certificate Elliott Goldstein
Copies to: J. Gatens, J. Roberts, J. Kline, E. Goldstein
I, Major Elliott Goldstein, FA, 0 408 175, on the evening of 2 August 1945, near Hochst, Germany, certify to the following:
From January 1944 until 22 December 1944 I served as Executive Officer of the 589th FA Bn; after which date I commanded the Bn. I was present with the Bn in all of its positions during December. The following events (with particular reference to 16th and 17th December 1944) with reference to Battery “A” and 1st Lt Eric F. Wood Jr. were observed by me; or are known by me to be true:
1. On the morning of 16 December 1944, 589th FA Bn was in position SW of AUW in Germany. The AUW-BLEIALF Road ran from front to rear through the center of the Bn. Bn CP and FDC and HQ Battery were located on this road. “B” Battery was to the left flank of the CP at a distance of some 600 yds. “C” Battery was to the right (actually left, JRS) front at a distance of over 1000 yds. “A” Battery’s position was in a pine wood on a knoll, on the right flank of the Bn CP where I was stationed, and in plain view from it across a shallow valley of bare ground at a distance of about 600 yds. Accurate enemy FA fires started hitting in it at about 0630 or a bit later. It received at least 15 or 25 bursts, - many of them air bursts in the trees. Immediately afterward Eric checked for casualties, but nobody hurt. Because Eric, in the 2 or 3 days the Battery had been in position, had industriously organized shelters with over-head cover.
2. There was a house on the skyline in plain sight to right front of Battery “A”. It could have been an enemy CP, which would have explained the accuracy of the enemy fires. Eric asked for volunteers to raid that house. Five men went with him. He led them. They had small arms. 1st Sgt Coffey, Pvt (now Sgt) Casky, Pvt Cody and 2 others. They covered the house from the outside, and Eric went into it alone and thoroughly searched it. Empty.
3. Then the fire missions really came in for “A” Battery to fire. These fires, observed by Lt Fomenko, were very effective. Eric had cooks, drivers, everybody handling ammunition. They were down to “Iron Rations” (25 rds per gun), and were about to report small arms fire to me at about 1100 hours when Bn Ammo Train rolled in with more ammunition.
4. “A” Battery began to hear and receive small arms fires at about 1530 Then a column of 3 enemy “Tanks”, supported by infantry and by lots of automatic fire, appeared to the left front of the Battery. They were coming down the AUW-BLEIALF Road (from right to left across the left flank of “A” Battery) and were heading directly for the Bn Hq installations on that road. They were defiladed from “B” and “C” Btries. Casky, cannoneer of #4 piece (the left flank piece) of “A” Battery gave the alarm and the crew shot at the leading “tank” but missed. Eric with his field glasses, took post in the open under small arms fire. He called data to #4, and adjusted direct fire. His first shot was a very close “line over”. His second shot was a direct hit, setting the “tank” on fire. This “put their tails up” for his whole Battery. The men cheered. This leading “tank” was already within about 200 yds of the Bn CP and FDC. Had it not been stopped all 3 “tanks” with their supporting troops would certainly have continued into the Bn Hq and Hq Battery with disastrous results. Lt Wood followed up with 4 or 5 more rounds, all hits directly into the “tank”; and then switched fire to the other two. These withdrew, with their accompanying troops. One of them appeared to be damaged. However, they both completed their withdrawal to hull-down position. Actually the enemy vehicles were Mark IV, tracked, armored, assault guns, mounting 75mm cannon, with enemy infantry riding on them.
“A” Battery fired at them there and neutralized them. small arms fire, tearing through “A” Battery position all the while, might easily have made the men panicky. But they were reassured by Eric’s calmness, by seeing him out in front, in the open, with his glasses successfully commanding the direct fire against the enemy. Later, with fwd observation, “A” Battery adjusted on one of the two hull-down “tanks”, hit it, and destroyed it. 2d Lt O’Toole was a hell of a fine boy, team mate to Eric, his Asst Battery Exec. Battery “A” continued fire missions against enemy infantry, etc., until dark.
5. Before dark, and thereafter, the Germans kept fire whistling through “A” Battery’s positions, -small arms, heavy Mgs, burp guns, with plenty of tracers. It would have badly rattled a unit that did not have superior leadership. At dark Lt Col Kelly said “no more firing”; because no observation and because flashes would give away our exact locations for enemy counter-fires.
6. The men in the Battery knew that they were supposed to displace that night. 2nd Bn, 423d Inf, Lt Col Puett CO. recommended to Div CG that he be allowed to organize Schonberg, and there by cover a Div withdrawal. He was refused and accordingly came up forward to where we were.
7. When 106 Div went originally, it had had no Inf mortar ammunition. The Div Arty had to take over mortar missions. This required deep How pits; and necessitated taking up the gun-pit flooring that 2d Div had previously laid, in order to sufficiently depress the trails. Now, when a withdrawal under fire became necessary, it was a Herculean task to get the 105mms out in a hurry. Moreover, the German FA had blown two craters in the corduroy road leading out of “A” Battery’s position across the fields to the hard road - necessitating detour through hub-deep mud to get the prime movers and pieces out of initial positions and on the way back to the 2d positions. Eric (now commanding “A” Battery since Capt Menke had become a casualty the previous evening) and O’Toole were everywhere.
Wherever it was necessary to winch out a How, they were there. O’Toole, about 2130, (plus 6 EM) left Eric and went back with me to the next (2d) position. Eric got his pieces out, by coupling 2 and 3 trucks tandem with two ropes; all under fire and in the dark with only shell bursts and distant gun flashes to light the work. Eventually, by such means, all 4 Hows got out on the hard road. Then Eric took a detail of 6 or 7 men back into the Battery position, through which bullets were still whistling, on foot, to make sure all serviceable equipment and ammunition had been taken, and that all serviceable equipment and material had been evacuated.
8. The new Bn position was a very small goose-egg - the ex-position of “C” Battery of 74 1st FA (8” How) - which Kelly had received from Div Arty. It was an extremely difficult position to defend. If occupied, we could not cover the road leading into it from the direction of the enemy.
9. A position was designated by me in this location to Lt O’Toole (who was accompanied by several EM, including Casky) - the best on available, but hard to get into and out of. He and Casky rcn’d it and found a track (rutted farm road) into and through and out of the position. While this Rcn was going on, German machine pistols were already being fired in and through the neighboring woods. Some time around 0500 Eric arrived with “A” Battery guns and put them into position (3 of them). #2 piece was lame and plugging along near “5” Battery’s position with Sgt Alford, its prime mover having been injured while the Battery was making a cut-off through a rough corduroy road to avoid using the highway at the place we called “Dead Men’s Corner”, which was under fire and observation.
When “A” Battery’s 3 guns were in position, and ammo unloaded, (but guns not laid, on account of darkness and wire still being laid) Eric told the Section Chiefs to have their men sleep at the pieces, 1 man per section awake as a security guard. Eric placed these security guards himself and instructed them. Then he went to Maintenance position to see if his kitchen was in position. Then he came back to the road to see if he could locate his lame #2 piece. There he found Sgt Alford with that piece, which he halted and unlimbered enfilading the road back toward “5” Battery about 1000 yds S of us, as he could hear heavy firing in that direction. Then he (with Alford) came to Bn CP to report and get orders, around daylight.
10. About daylight the phone rang. There was an increased amount of small arms fire going on in the vicinity. But I had been hearing them all day and all night, and didn’t pay any particular attention to them. The phone call was Capt Cagle, “S” Battery, who said he was surrounded by enemy inf and tanks at his position. }1e was told to keep shooting at them, and that we would move Hows up to support him. (From prescribed position we could not shoot to the 5, as I have already indicated). However, Cagle called again about 2 minutes later and said he was done for and it appeared to him he had no choice, but ultimately be overrun, but that he was still fighting.
11. I talked to Maj Parker (Actg Bn CO since Lt Col Kelley had become a casualty the night before) and recommended that we displace immediately across the OUR River, and reassemble in front of St Vith. I knew our ground and how unfavorable it was, and Parker didn’t. Parker accepted my recommendation and ordered that Btries be notified accordingly. At that moment all phone lines went out. I think the switchboard operator, listening in, had got panicky and beat it. I then went out of the Bn CP to notify the Btries personally. Immediately outside the CP I met Eric with Sgt Alford. We could heard loud small arms fire all around us. Eric asked, “What’s the score?” I said, “We are displacing, via Schonberg, to reassemble in front of St Vith. March order your Battery and get going”. Eric said, “I have my lame How in position on the road, enfilading the road back toward “5” Battery. Shall I continue it in position?” But its brakes were out and the road slippery. Moreover, with its prime mover injured, I was afraid we would lose it if it had to pull out under pressure. And “S” Battery was still covering us. So I told Eric to move his lame piece out also. Eric turned to Alford, and ordered him to continue the march, as best he could by himself on St Vith, starting immediately.
Eric then went for the rest of his Battery on the double. I, personally, never saw him again. Then I visited “B” Battery and finally Lt Wright of “C” Battery’s vacant position. Meanwhile Eric had ordered Lt Crowley to go to the Maintenance position and get the kitchens, mechanics, maintenance trucks, etc., out of position and get them rolling through Schonberg on St Vith, by vehicle.
12. Meanwhile the small arms fires were getting nosier in all directions, and bullets were spattering around from many directions. In particular, the firing from the direction of “5” Battery, about 1000 yds away air-line to our rear, was getting louder and nearer. To cap the climax, casual vehicles with panic-stricken drivers came tearing through our positions yelling alarms and warnings. For instance, a QM truck - one of those that had moved 2d Bn of 423d Inf up front during the night - came by and its driver and asst driver shouted to everybody to the effect that German Inf and tanks were “right on their tail”, that everybody had better “ beat it” instantly, etc. As a result panic conditions were beginning. But Eric kept his head, and completely allayed any panic in “A” Battery. Moreover, his men had come to have absolute confidence in him.
13. Eric sent Pvt Caskey to get the howitzers out and, fortunately, Caskey had reconnoitered a road which led out of the position to the North. He got the pieces coupled and led two of them through “B” Battery’s position onto the road. The third piece didn’t follow him but turned to go out the way it had come in, along the farm road. The driver took a wrong fork into a farm-yard or something, and mired down. During all this time Eric remained on the highway at the southernmost end of the position, where he could assure himself that everything in the Battery had been evacuated. Now he stuck with this last howitzer, with small arms fires and Germans behind him and on both sides of him - and ahead of him as it later turned out. Eventually he got it loose and with it started after the Bn. But at a long distance; a distance much of which must by that time have been under close-range small arms fire. At St Vith some time later, I found that none “B” Battery’s howitzers had come in; and that one of “A” Battery’s and Eric were missing.
13. I can add only 3 things about what happened to him later.
a. Sgt Aspinwall of HQ Battery (who eventually escaped to St Vith by himself) told me that after Eric’s gun and vehicle had been destroyed by tank cannon fire, and completely surrounded, at the western end of Schonberg, he (Sgt Aspinwall) saw Eric, alone and by himself, under heavy small arms fire running up hill towards the woods north of Schonberg.
14. This statement is based in part on my own knowledge, and in part on statements made to me by 1st Sgt George Blaizin, HQ Battery; Sgt Forrest Casky, “A” Battery; 2d Lt Barney Alford, “B” Battery; S Sgt Francis Aspinwall, HQ Battery; and S Sgt Johnny B. Jordan, “A” Battery. I checked their stories very carefully against each other and against the known physical facts and believe them to be true.
Is! ELLIOTT GOLSTEIN, ELLIOTT GOLDSTEIN, Maj, FA
General Wood had added this note:
It is to be presumed Lt O’Toole was ordered by Eric to follow on the tail of these pieces (on the tail of the Battery, less the one piece that Eric was struggling with).
From: Henri Rogister To: jschaffner Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 19:24:44 +0100 Subject: Abstracts from an affidavit copies to J. Kline E. Goldstein J. Roberts E. Goldstein
Abstracts from an affidavit (of which there are no copies available) by Philippe L. Berube, a Private in the 1st Gun Section of Battery “A”, 5 89th FA Bn, made after his return from being a POW in Germany:
“About dawn on the 17th enemy attacks were renewed upon us in our new position. Our Bn was ordered to displace again immediately. Lt Wood gave Battery “A” march order, and directed that we move, by vehicle, through Schonberg to St Vith (over a road with which our drivers were familiar). “The 3rd and 4th Sections and the other vehicles of our Battery were able to move out with reasonable promptness. I presume that Lt O’Toole followed their tail. But our section was much delayed.
“Lt Wood was a swell guy to the Battery he partly commanded and no one of us thought of him and Lt O’Toole the same as we commonly felt of average officers. We regarded them as men who were concerned with our welfare in preference to their own.
From: Henri Rogister To: jschaffner Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 19:35:59 +0100 Subject: Interview
Copies to: E. Goldstein J. Kline J. Roberts J. Gatens
Interview 17 June 1945 near Nachtsheim, Germany, with the following officers, all of them participants of the actions of 16-17 December 1944, and all of them members of 5 89th FA Bn, except Lt Col Hagman (of Div Arty Staff). Alford, Barney M Jr 2d Lt, Kiendi, Theodore Jr. 1st Lt, Brimer Jas. 2d Lt, Leach, Ambrose R. 1st Lt, Cassibry, Graham H. 1st Lt, Miller, Delbert L.2d Lt, Cocke, Joseph W. Capt , Parker, Arthur C HI Major, Huxel, George F. Major, Scott, Earl A. 1st Lt, Hagman Ben J. Lt Col
1. The above officers read and confirmed all statements in the interrogation of 2 May 1945 at Moosburg, except as to the following relatively minor points:
a. par 4, line 3: Enemy FA Fires began at 0605 on 16 Dec, instead of “about 0630”. b. par 4, line 6: A & C Btries received enemy automatic small arms fires during the daytime also. C Battery from about 1100, A Battery from about noon or 1300. These fires were at times heavy.
c. par 5, line 9: B Battery extricated the piece referred to. It was, however, later abandoned with the other 3 B Battery pieces at the second position. It was not a piece, but B Battery’s kitchen truck, that was abandoned on the “cut-off’ road.
d. par 5, line 13: B Battery’s second position was only about 400 yds beyond (N) of A Battery’s second position, instead of “about 1 mi road distance”.
e. par5, line 15: B Battery occupied new (second) position with 4 pieces, instead of with “only 3 pieces”.
See sub-par c, above.
f par 5, line 17: The first warning was delivered by a QM truck, probably a Div truck, coming back from the rear guard position, not by “an A Battery prime mover”. Several subsequent warnings were received, including one from MP’s in a jeep. So that A and B Btries were currently and continuously aware of the critical nature of their situation. g. par 7, line 3: “Ninth Army” should read 9th Armd Div.2.
2. Additional information:
a. Lt Alford stated that, at the second position, he was present with Lt Wood when the latter received orders from Bn at Bn CP (which was located about midway between positions of A and B Btries, or about 200 yds from either) to the effect that A Battery was to withdraw immediately by vehicle via Schonberg to St Vith.
3.a. No information was available as to what happened after Lt Wood’s prime mover was hit by cannon fire at the west exit to Schonberg. This truck was A Battery’s No.8, pulling No.1 piece. Of the ten members of the gun crew (driver included) none have been heard from since. Except the Section Chief, Sgt Scannapico, and the driver, TI5 Knoll, whose bodies were among the six later (in February) found “Killed in Action.
b. It appears that no other officer was on this truck with Lt Wood. Of the officers who might have been with him, all are otherwise accounted for. Lts Crowley and O’Toole were elsewhere in a jeep. Lt Euler was last seen on foot, S of Schonberg, by the last of B Battery’s withdrawing vehicles.
c. The 3 pieces that were extricated from the second position by Lt Wood on 17 December constituted the supporting FA at the “Road Block Fight” of 23 December. It is doubtful if that fight could have been the success it was without the presence of these pieces - the only surviving ones of 5 89th FA Bn.
4. We certify that the above statements are true and correct to the best of our knowledge and belief
(signed by all officers listed)
Eddy Riedijk, Kapelle, The Netherlands
Courtesy of Hugh B. Roberts, Valley Forge Military Academy & College
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