How Parker’s Crossroads Happened

December 5 to 23, 1944

Charles F. Jacelon
October 15, 1996


After a short stay in southern England, the 106th infantry division moved into France on landing ships (tank). As we tied up side by side with another LST, I climbed over the rails to look for a friend from the 422nd infantry regiment. After a brief visit I climbed back to my ship and a few moments later the ships separated and started up the river. We bivouacked in damp conditions and the next day drove into the 2nd division positions on a long front line in Germany. Battery a, 589th FA Battalion was positioned on the south side of the road between Auw and Bliealf, in direct support of the 422nd infantry. My assignment was as forward observer sergeant, serving under lt. Willard Crowley.


Cpl. Hugh Mayes was our radio operator and Pfc. Reed was the telephone man.


We had a comfortable cabin for six. Two of the infantrymen shared our quarters. Our observation post was on the forward slope of a hill in a tree line a few hundred yards from our quarters.


Lt. Crowley and reed were on the observation post from 8:00 a.m. until noon, and Mayes and I manned the observation’ post from noon until 4:00 p.m.


For the five days that we occupied that position we saw no movement. On the 15th of December we were relieved by another forward observer team. The plan was that the several P.O. teams would rotate around several different positions to familiarize all the officers and crews with our area of operations. Lt Crowley’s team was to spend the next period in the firing battery area for jeep servicing, laundry, baths, etc. We found unoccupied bunks in the hutments in the area and went to bed.


Before dawn on the 16th of December the battery area fell under enemy artillery fire, and several V-1 buzz bombs flew over. The firing battery started firing on orders from the fire direction center.  Prum, Germany was at the maximum range of our 105 mm howitzers. 

Since I had no assigned duties on the guns, I started carrying shells to the gun positions, which fired all day. At one point two German tracked vehicles came up the road from Auw. These vehicles must be the two that Major Goldstein and his bazooka man engaged, although we had no knowledge of his actions. The gun in our left hand position was called out of the fire mission in progress and fired point blank on the tracked vehicles on the road, several hundred yards ahead. 

At one point this gun had to stop firing to allow one or two American soldiers to enter the battery area from in front. 

In the late afternoon Major Goldstein called for a jeep for a reconnaissance mission, and I said that I was available. He said that we would go after dark. We started out down a bare slope toward battalion headquarters in a farm house on the road. In the darkness I ran into some steel cable frozen into the ground. After trying to break free for 10 minutes or so, Major Goldstein switched jeeps and some time later a prime mover towed me out of the entangling cable. 

I proceeded down the hill and spent the rest of the night at battalion headquarters. 

Before dawn on the 17th the battalion evacuated that first position and moved west two or three miles into our second position in Belgium, taking over an area that had been evacuated by a unit of larger field artillery.  Lt. Crowley told us to get some rest for the uncertain day ahead. We foraged for food and for the first time I was introduced to the 10 in 1 Ration which featured lots of good things to eat.


I could not relax because I heard a German burp gun firing in the woods out in front of our position. Some of the American GI's liked to fire the ultra-fast machine pistols the German soldiers carried. I always felt that it was stupid to risk your life because Americans would fire at the sound not knowing who was holding the  Trigger.

After a short time, 10 -
15 minutes, Lt. Crowley ran into the courtyard yelling "load up and get out - enemy tank attack."  Eight  Guys jumped onto my jeep and I got on the road in a column headed for  Schonberg, I made a left turn in Schonberg heading for St. Vith. It  Was that corner in Schonberg where a few moments later our fourth gun was cut off by German tanks, some of the gun crew were wounded,  killed, captured, or escaped into the woods.  When we got to St. Vith, Major Parker chose me and my jeep for transportation.

For the next couple of nights we traveled with an  AAA group, which was heading for France.  After that Major Parker reported to division headquarters, in Vielsalm.  He was told to bring the battalion to Vielsalm the next day. We returned to the battalion  On the road between Sal château and the crossroads at Baraque-de­Fraiture. We proceeded to the crossroads - past the crossroads a  Few hundred yards to a large open field on the left, west side, of the  Road. We bivouacked there. (this is the road to Samree).  Early the next morning we started out for Vielsalm. I was  Driving the lead jeep with Major parker in the passenger seat, as  we entered the point where the two roads actually cross, a 2 1/2 ton  Army truck came speeding toward us from the direction of Houffalize.  Major parker yelled whoa and I stopped the jeep. The Major got out  And asked the driver of the truck where he was speeding to. The driver  Said that a German tank attack was heading our way from Houffalize. By  This time Major Goldstein had walked up from his jeep which was the  second vehicle, and he said “you know, we came over here to fight a war  And this looks like a good place to start”. Major parker said, “I was  thinking the same thing, Major", (Goldstein) set up for the defense of this crossroad.  Major Goldstein said, “I am going to ask my big  friend here (a tracked vehicle with a dozer blade) to dig me some gun  pits”.


This is the true - verbatim - conversation that led to the story  Of Parker’s Crossroads, ask Major Goldstein.  I believe that initially Major parker entered the building that  became Capt. Beans command post the building had a bar, and while Major parker  Was doing his planning and map work by flashlight, someone handed him a  Bottle of beer that had been found in the basement. Major parker drank  Half, then handed it to me, saying, “here driver I want you to have some  of this”.


A young woman resident rushed in to get something from a drawer  or cabinet and Major parker said to her “you do not have to leave, we will  protect you.,’ her reply was, “boche come, I go.” And she left. The guns were emplaced, and a sentry, John Schaffner, in a foxhole,  was in front of the howitzer and the quad 50 cal. machine guns in a turret  on a half track. In the middle of the night the sentry reported that a  German patrol on bicycles was examining the “daisy chain”, a string of  Antitank mines tied together in a line so that it could be pulled into  place across a road in front of the lead enemy vehicle. At that time  The howitzer and the four 50 cal. guns fired blindly, and when the volley  ended our sentry ran back to the command post. When the mist and the  night lifted we found dead and wounded Germans.  I did not know of Major Parker's wounding, or of the death of the  Sergeant reportedly conversing with Capt. Bean. I remember a G.I. truck  on fire speeding through the crossroads from Samree toward Vielsaim. I  Remember, that on the evening of Dec. 22, Major Goldstein told me to take  a forward observer sergeant to his unit in Manhay about ten miles away.  We had a pleasant ride, found Manhay completely deserted, and as we  returned to the crossroads the German tanks (which overran our position the next day) were blasting an American tank that was bombed  out in the first action a month or two before. When the German tanks  stopped firing I drove to the crossroad, turned left and drove the  hundred yards or so to the CP and turned into the yard. That night  There was sporadic firing around the perimeter, and during the 23rd  We fired carbines and rifles which was all we had left, at the tanks  and soldiers too far away to be hit.  Late in the afternoon the tanks moved across the field between the  Vielsalm and Houffalize roads. As our CP started to burn down around  us I could see no alternative to surrender, so with several others  We walked past the head of the tank column into captivity.  The story of subsequent events is large enough to fill several pages, but that is another story. I would like to make two points regarding the above.  


First! An experienced soldier might be safer in a combat situation, but not necessarily. Except for the German patrol that our  guns shot up, I did not see any woundings or killings at the crossroad.  While a sergeant talking to Capt. Bean was killed on the spot, the  conclusions being that those of us who were not killed or wounded  were, above all else - very lucky.  


Second:    the award of the P.O.W. medal. A person who becomes a  P.O.W. had to be in close proximity with the enemy, the medal would  prove that. I do not believe that a man should be decorated for  surrendering to the enemy, on the other hand I feel no stigma for becoming a P.O.W. It was the only thing to do under the circumstances.  The other facet of this P.O.W. business is the terrible situation  That occurred just a few miles from Baraque de Fraiture at Malmedy, at  the same time, where several Americans were overrun by the enemy and  surrendered. They were herded into a field and were machine gunned and killed after being rendered defenseless.  


The final comment I would like to make on this subject. My wife  With her nine months old son was notified in January that I was missing  In action. The first solid information that she received on my status  Was a V-mail letter she received one morning early in April, delivered  By the landlord, Mr. Klinck, while she was talking to her friend on  the phone. When she read the letter she shouted to Mr. Klinck and  to her friend “it's from Charlie. He is alive in a hospital in England.”  Everything else was anti-climatic.


Charles f. Jocelyn 27 Copperfield drive Cream ridge, NJ 08514

87th Cavalry Recon SQ DI-Pin-DUI-Crest 7th Arm Div

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This is an interview conducted by the 4th Information and Historical Section of members of units of the 7th Armored Division’s participation in the Battle of the Bulge. The interviews are now in the National Archives (Record Group 407; Box 24097). The mis-spellings of the original have been retained. There are a number of special considerations, which are included in the text in brackets that refer to the following: The words “Early in the afternoon” are struck out with X's at this point. The words “Later that morning” are typed above the line as an insertion in the original. “19th North flank” is written in the left margin, probably by Maj. Donald P. Boyer (S-3/38 AIB), as noted in the footnote on page 1 of the first B/87 interview. The meaning appears to be that Boyer believed this paragraph to actually have taken place on 19 December and not 18 December, based on his own knowledge and on the reading of the other combat interviews and battalion records (and probably on the personal accounts of some of the officers to Boyer after the war). The typed “19” is scratched out and “20” written above it, and in the margin to the left is written “S-3 sends msg - 1100-”. As noted in the prior note, the indication of the written entries is that the prior paragraph describes events of 19 December and that this section about to begin describes events of 20 December. Here the following words are struck out: "was placed under Division control. Lt. Olson". This crossroad near Baraque de Fraiture came to be known as “Parker’s Crossroads”, named for Maj. Arthur C. Parker III, of the 106th Infantry Division’s 589th Field Artillery Battalion. The typed “20” is scratched out and “21” written above it. The typed “20” is scratched out and “21” written above it, but the typed “th” is not changed. The typed “the” is scratched out and “our” written above it. The typed “2” is scratched out and “1” written over it, but the typed “nd” is not changed. The two different spellings (Bianche/Bianchi) are as in the original.

The Interview Click on map for a larger image. Interviewer: Lt. R. E. Merriam, 4th I and H Unit: 87TH RCN – D/87 – Interviewee: LT. ARTHUR A. OLSON Date: 8 January 45.

17 December When the troop arrived in the ST VITH area it was sent to the N of the town to positions along the RR embankment about 1000 yards to the N of ST VITH. 18 December In the morning one of the armored cars opened fire with its 37mm gun on a German tank at range of 800 yards. Two hits were scored on the enemy tank in the rear, and its crew evacuated. [see #1 above] Later that morning [see #2 above] the Troop was ordered to BEHO to outpost the CCA CP. No activity was forthcoming at this location. 20 December [see #3 above] At 0800 the Troop [see #4 above] reported to the commanding general who ordered him to go to SAMREE to assist in the defense of that area. The troop proceeded from VIELSALM to SALMCHATEAU and thence on the road to SAMREE. At about 1700 about one and a half miles E of SAMREE they ran into a German block of about 50 dismounted German infantry. Troop D personnel were ordered to dismount and fight the enemy who took to the woods. About 15-20 of the Germans were killed before the remainder of the enemy took off. Troop D plastered the woods with mortar and machine gun fire, and then began to move once more for SAMREE. They had gone only about a half mile further when they ran into three 2½ ton trucks across the road as a block. This block was more adequately covered with about two companies of enemy infantry. As it was getting dark Lt. Olson decided to withdraw his company slightly, dig in, post security, and await the morning. No enemy activity 2-D/87 was forthcoming. Meanwhile Lt. Olson did two things: first he sent the supply trucks, kitchen trucks, half tracks, and assault guns back to the main road intersection at 577852 where a block was beginning to form from the assorted units which came by the intersection. In command was a Captain from the 106th division (name unknown) [see #5 above]. He had already collected two 105mm artillery pieces and an AA multiple barrel machine gun. Secondly, he sent Lt. Joseph W. Jones back to division to obtain further information on the situation at SAMREE, and to report the enemy road block E of SAMREE. Lt. Jones returned with the information that Troop D was to launch a coordinated attack with elements of the 3rd AD who were then in DOCHAMPS, ODEIGNE, and FREINEUX. 21 December [see #6 above] Early in the morning of the 21th [see #7 above] Lt. Olson with two armored cars and two peeps headed for DOCHAMPS to contact the 3rd Armored units there. As he went into the town he noticed that there didn’t seem to be many soldiers around, and as he got his four vehicles into the town he suddenly discovered that it was enemy-occupied. The 3rd Armored had been forced to evacuate during the night. The enemy opened fire on his vehicles, but somehow they managed to turn around, ramming buildings as they went, and pull out of town with the loss of only one man who was wounded by the first enemy machine gun burst. Lt. Olson sent two medics then with him into the town in their peep, hoping the Germans would allow them to evacuate the wounded man. However the medics were fired upon, and the column was forced to hastily 3-D/87 withdraw from the area. Meanwhile at the CR where his kitchen and supply vehicles were located the enemy had attacked at about 0500. An estimated 50 enemy came up the road toward the CR. Before they could take over our [see #8 above] outpost personnel opened fire and dispersed the German column with an estimated loss of 17 killed, 7-8 wounded, and 16 prisoners. When Lt. Olson discovered that he would be unable to get to SAMREE he decided to send his troops to the CR to assist in the defense. There the troop with a company of the 82nd division, six medium tanks, and some units of the 3rd AD set up an all-around defense of the area. Armored cars were distributed between the medium tanks, and outposts were established ahead of this ring approximately 150-200 yards. Listening posts were established on each of the roads. 21-22 December During the three day period the unit was at the CR 12 enemy attacks were made on the position to feel out its strength. The attacks averaged from 50-100 men. However, the good visibility each time allowed the defenders to open fire in ample time to prevent an enemy penetration. No enemy armor was used until the final attack. One German 2 1/2 ton truck ran thru the CR, was burned, but continued running into REGNE where the remains of the troops in the truck were removed. On the 22nd the road to the E was cut. Up until this time there had been free communication with division, and supplies were maintained at adequate levels. However on the 21nd [see #9 above] Lt. Harold C. Bianche was sent by Lt. Olson to explain the situation to the general and attempt to get more support. Lt. Bianchi [see #10 above]rolled 4-D/87 about 300 yards to the E of the CR with his armored car when he was hit by an anti-tank gun. He and the crew bailed out and started N and then E on foot. On the other side of this new road block they were picked up by a medical peep and taken to division. The Lt. informed the General of the situation, but the General told him he would be unable to give any support. He sent the Lt. to the 82nd Division CP to see if support could be obtained from that source. However, the same answer was received there. 23 December In the morning the road to the rear or N of the block was cut, completing the isolation of the block. About 1700 a heavy concentration began falling on the CR, and shortly thereafter an estimated two bns of infantry and two companies of enemy tanks began coming at the block from three directions. The enemy overwhelmed the block, knocking out all of the tanks from the 3rd AD and all of the armored cars. The order was given by Lt. Olson to abandon cars and make their way as best they could to vicinity MANHAY. Almost none of the tank crews were able to get out, most of the men having been killed by the point blank firing from the enemy tanks in the woods. Many of the D/87 men were only able to get away by hand to hand and bayonet combat. For four days the men drifted into the Troop headquarters. All but 44 managed to get back. Some had been prisoners and had then escaped. One armored car which was not completely destroyed was recaptured from the Germans. The remainder were destroyed by the enemy fire. One enemy tank was hit by bazooka fire. An estimated 300 enemy were killed.

Pin sold on eBay 12/2008.
Page last revised 09/15/2016
James D. West