Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sgt. Harold Brigade Gave All For His Country

"I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the mud –rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities and in the end they are the guys that wars can’t be won without.”

Ernie Pyle
War correspondent.

This is the story of a man a hero to his country, a man who sacrificed all for the love of his country. A man who I am proud to say was my uncle. Sgt. Harold R. Brigade.

Harold was born and raised in Palo Alto,Pennsylvania he was my mother Isabel’s older brother. This is the story of how I found out what happened to my uncle. You see my mother only knew he was killed in action during the battle of the Bulge in December of 1944 and January of 1945. She only knew from a member of his unit that he was trying to help a wounded comrade and was killed in the process. My mother always talked about Harold's medals he earned the Bronze Star for actions in 1944 and the Silver Star awarded posthumously for the above mentioned action.
With my search and lust for all information that concerns the U.S. military I decided to write up a history of my grandson Nathaniel Dixons family lineage. He has someone who has served in every conflict excluding the Korean War, the United States has been in since the Revolutionary War.
In researching Harold’s story I utilized the wonders of the Internet. Harold was a member of the 86th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron 6th Armored Division. And fortunately for me there was a web site of the 86th CRS. I contacted the web master, a Mr. Charles W. Barbour and asked him in an email if anyone knew of a Sgt. Harold R. Brigade. This is how the story unfolded.

Feb.11, 2002
Mr. Richards;
Harold Brigade slept in the bunk next to me in Company C of the 86th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion when both of us were recruits in April 1942. I remember the first night we were together. He was I think 17 at the time and had enlisted because he wanted to get those Japs. I was an old man of 22 at the time. Harold really hit it of with another 17 year old from Philadelphia named Frank Dalton and they were inseparable. Both became sergeants and both were killed in action.

I remember that Harold once told me he had been nicknamed “Buckets” because he fumbled in a football game.
In September 1943 the battalion was split up and only those assigned to assault guns remained with the company, which was designated as E troop. The rest of us were scattered around the other troops. I wound up in Headquarters, Harold in B troop and Frank in Troop B.

Harold was with Troop B on January 9, 1945 when it was attached to Combat Team 9 (for 9th Infantry) commanded by Lt. Col Frank J. Britton when it was ordered to attack a deep dug in position in woods east and just south of Bastogne. Harold and eight other troopers were killed in action and another 17 wounded.

I talked with Capt. Donald L. Tillemans, the commanding officer of B troop after the war and he told me Harold came to him and told him knew he would not be coming back from this one and gave him his watch. Tillemans was convinced that his troops should never have been used in that fashion, but there was nothing he could do about it.

There are very few of us survivors left. The one we had in our last reunion in Arlington, Va in 2001 was Antony Olivo, who had been his platoon leader in Troop B.

I am sending you by snail mail an excellent picture of Harold and one of Frank Dalton together. I have treasured them down through the years but feel they more appropriately belong to his family.

C.W. Barbour

Email A. Olivo
February 13, 2002

Dear Stu;
Thanks for writing me…I will try to recap what I remember. On January 9th we were given a mission to become observers to watch the troop movements of the Germans. Our assignment was to get into the woods and watch the Germans on the road below the woods, before I left I asked the Colonel for at least a tank or two for protection, but he said, Don’t worry, there is nothing in those woods. I told my men if we encountered any enemy fore to withdraw at once and don’t wait for my command. As we approached the edge of the woods the Germans were in foxholes at the very edge of the woods and as we got closer they opened fire on us. Your Uncle was on my left flank leading a group of men and I was in the center column and another Sgt. Was on the right flank. I looked over to my left and saw your Uncle was shot and screamed to him to “Stay Down”, instead he jumped up and proceeded a few feet and was hit again and he did not get up. The thing that upset me so much was that before this action he was notified that he had just become a father to a son. This is all I can tell you I ended up in the hospital for four months. I was hit on the same day as your uncle was hit.

Tony Olivo

Bronze Star Awarded: Sgt. Harold R. Brigade (B) GO 56-44
Silver Star Awarded: *Sgt. Harold R. Brigade (B) GO 205-45

The 86TH received its share of honors for its accomplishments.
Troops A and D were awarded Distinguished Unit Citations for their gallantry at the Prum and Eder Rivers, respectively. Individually, 117 troopers received the Silver Star Medal, 401 were awarded the Bronze Star Medal, two (T5 Mark H. Doren and T5 Ralph W. Wheeler of Troop A) received the Soldier's Medal and 171 were awarded the Purple Heart. T5s Doren and Wheeler received their Soldier's Medals for entering a crashed, burning plane and removing the pilot from the wreckage. They were thwarted in their attempts to rescue a second person when the plane exploded.

It must be remembered, however, that these awards are only those cited in General Orders of the 6th Armored Division, and that many others were made to individuals in hospitals. A man evacuated to the hospital who did not return to the squadron could only have gotten his award from the hospital. For instance, while only 171 troopers received the Purple Heart through division General Orders, more than twice that number had to have received the award through hospitals.

Capt. Frederick H. Eickhoff of Troop A-Headquarters, Capt. Jimmie H. Bridges, 1st Lt. Deforest Sweeney and 2nd Lt. Elroy W. Lesher of Troop D and First Sgt. Knox C. Bellingham each received an Oak Leaf Cluster to go with his Silver Star Medal.

Sgt. Anton Geiger of Troop D received the Bronze Star Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and 2nd Lt. Joseph J. Policastro of Troop B, Sgt. Charlie Cole of Troop A and T4 Robert W. Thoms and T5 John L. Craven of Troop D received two Oak Leaf Clusters with their Bronze Stars.

Overall, Headquarters Troop received nine Silver Stars and 36 Bronze Stars, Troop A received 27 and 82, Troop B received 17 and 59, Troop C received 12 and 25;4 Troop D received 22 and 119, Troop E received 14 and 54, Company F received 8 and 24 and the Medical Detachment received 8 and 8.

Nine enlisted men received battlefield commissions as second lieutenants: First Sergeant Lowell Cornelius and Staff Sergeant Casey J. Rodgers from Troop A, Staff Sergeant Joseph J. Policastro from Troop B, Staff Sergeant Roy L. Ryse from Troop C, First Sergeant William M. Johnson and Staff Sergeant Elroy W. Lesher from Troop D, Staff Sergeant Bert H. Emerson from Troop E, and Staff Sergeant Harold Weeks and Staff Sergeant William J. Speckerman from Company F.

Capt. Delaney of Troop E and Capt. Hughes of Company F firmly believe that their commands were short-changed in both recognition and awards because of the support roles to which they were relegated.

"Company F had the thankless mission to support the recon troops, usually on a piecemeal basis," Capt. Hughes said. "We were rarely mentioned in Troop After Action Reports except as an afterthought. As an example, did you know that a platoon from Company F was with Troop D when it received a unit citation?

"My comments are not written in bitterness, but with regret that so many fine, dedicated men served so well and received so little recognition."

"Because of the constant assignments and reassignments with the Troops of the 86th, the combat commands, even outside Infantry and other operations--and these fluctuated on almost a daily basis--we in Troop E, and I'm sure the same thing applies to Company F, really did not get full accreditation for things we were involved in because we were attached troops," Capt. Delaney said.

"When we did work as a unit on several occasions, especially after we started operating as Artillery, in support of whomever, I think the accreditation was fine. But it was when we were bouncing around constantly and the Task Force commander was the CO of whatever unit we were attached to that we were considered as a secondary rather than a primary part of that particular unit. Of course, this was just a simple fact of life."

Neither Capt. Delaney nor Capt. Hughes begrudges the units they supported any of the recognition they received. They just feel that their commands deserved a fair share of the credit and that when a unit received a special citation the attached troops should have been included.

The squadron also had its share of casualties. Battle casualties included eight officers and 101 enlisted men killed in action, 18 officers and 301 enlisted men wounded in action and four enlisted men missing in action. Non-battle casualties, including only men evacuated from the squadron, numbered 28 officers and 355 enlisted men. Total casualties, battle and non-battle, were 54 officers and 759 enlisted men. Of that number, 236 returned to duty and 573 were replaced by reinforcements.

On the following pages are listed the names of the 109 - 86thers killed in action, copies of the Distinguished Unit Citations awarded to Troops A and D, and squadron members who received the Silver Star Medal or the Bronze Star Medal through General Orders of the 6th Armored Division, with the GO number and year of award.

This is from the 86th Cav Recon Sqdn web site and includes the action y uncle was killed in.

Christmas Day was spent in Metz with religious services and a turkey dinner, plus an opportunity for many of the troopers to tour the fortress city and avail themselves of the hospitality of the citizens of Metz.

The squadron marched 68 miles to Stegen, Luxembourg, on December 26 and relieved the 1Oth Armored Division's 90th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized the next day, moving the CP to Schieren, Luxembourg. Troops A and C were running patrols on the squadron front, maintaining roadblocks and observation points. Troop D was attached to CCA until December 29, when it rejoined the squadron on a move of 44 miles to Anlier, Belgium. Squadron was placed under direct control of division, but on December 30 four armored cars and three peeps from Troop D were attached to each combat command. Troop B made a route reconnaissance from Sure, Belgium, to Martilage, Belgium, where it established its CP before placing guards on five bridges in the vicinity of Sure, Chene and Rodange, Belgium.

On New Year's Day of 1945 Troop A was assigned to CCB, Troop C and one platoon of Troop D were attached to CCA and two platoons of Troop B were guarding bridges as squadron moved 14 miles to Traimont, Belgium. The remainder of Troop D plus one light tank platoon from Company F were attached to CCA on January 3 and Troop B and another light tank platoon from Company F followed on January 5. Squadron moved 12 miles to Assenois, Belgium, where it prepared for future operations through January 11. It was during this period that Troop B, assigned by CCA to Combat Team 9 (Lt. Col. Frank K. Britton), was ordered to attack a dug-in German position in the woods east and just south of Bastogne. Denied tank support, Troop B nevertheless made its attack. 1st Lt. Clifton E. Gordon, in his first major battle with the squadron, was killed along with Sgt. Harold R. Brigade, Cpl. Irving Fabricant, Pfc. Edward M. Crosier, Pfc. Arthur A. Pregosin, Pfc. Robert G. Stevens, Pvt. Albert J. Abrams, Pvt. Howard N. Cowan and Pvt. Waiter L. Ware. Another 17 enlisted men were wounded. The attack failed and it eventually took a much stronger force to drive the enemy from the woods.

The 86th was under control of CCA on January 12 when it moved five miles to Marvie, Belgium. The S2 halftrack was demolished by land mines on arrival, leaving Maj. Kennon, Capt. King, driver Norman L. McLaughlin and radio operators Walter Wesolowski and Guido Frazzoni temporarily "homeless." Troop C, supported by tank destroyers and Engineers and followed by two platoons of Troop D, attacked from the woods and reached its objective--Wardin, Belgium--taking 68 prisoners without losing a man. Company F sent a platoon of light tanks north of Bastogne in an attempt to observe enemy movement on the eastward road from Lalompre to Comonge.

The squadron (-) attached to Reserve Command on January 14, moved 2 1/2-miles back to Bastogne on the 25th and marched 27 miles to Weicherdange, Luxembourg, on the 28th. There it regained detached troops, established outposts and prepared for future operations.

On January 30 the 86th was ordered to relieve elements of the 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, and CCB and to contain and defend the sector on the line just north of Fischback-Heinerscheid-Kalborn with the 128th Field Artillery Battalion in direct support, the 696th Field Artillery Battalion in general support and one company of the 68th Tank Battalion attached for command purposes. The CP was moved to Hupperdange, eight miles away.

Maj. Brindle's summary for the period:
"This month brought forth new experiences in cavalry reconnaissance work. The squadron was broken down to cover most all task forces of the division. The majority of our strength was absorbed by CCA.

"The division changing from offensive to defensive status necessitated further breakdown of reconnaissance personnel. The troops were broken down into platoons and distributed over the entire division front to tie in, fill gaps, outpost task force fronts and continue aggressive patrolling to the front.

"The above breakdown of cavalry organizations did not greatly curtail the efficiency of the squadron. However, control by the troop CO was difficult at the best."

"This period covered winter conditions that had not been experienced before, such as icy roads, failure of vehicular engines due to extreme low temperatures, constantly living out of doors and use of winter camouflage. The troops were able to adjust themselves to winter conditions rapidly.

"In all operations during this period the high standard of proficiency in operations established by the squadron in prior monthly reports was even improved."

"Reinforcements were considered adequate both in officers and enlisted men."

1 comment:

Deb said...

As Harold's granddaughter, I really appreciate your research and writing on this. I have this page bookmarked and read through it on occasion, including today on Memorial Day. I also told my Dad (the son mentioned in your post) about it. Best wishes.