Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Wish You All A Merry Christmas @ A New Blog

Well I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. And most of all remember our men and women in the military who are serving overseas and here at home and cannot be with their families during the holiday season.
I am having such a good time with the blog on Military History, I thought I would start another blog on Coal Region History Chronicles. It will deal with all types of coal region history. My first post will deal with the famous airliner accident that happened at Aristes in June of 1948. The Crash of United Airlines DC-6 Flight 624. The aircraft that nearly crashed into the Mid Valley Coal Breaker at Wilburton. I will be posting other stories and events that I have catalogued over the years.


The Link to this Blog is...

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Tribute to The Mules Who Served

The Army Mule The Most Inglorious Veteran of the War

I wanted to share this little article with everybody, it has nothing to due with a particular soldier from Schuylkill, but it is about something that we have held in hi esteem here in the coal fields of Schuylkill the Mule. For me it is a wonderful tribute to a creature that has paid a heavy price in serving us humans, they have worked in our coal fields since the beginning of mining and up until the 1950’s when it became illegal to use the animal in under ground work. These great animals have served our military from the Rev war on up to the use by Special Forces in Afghanistan. As a matter of fact a large percentage of the mules utilized in World War One came from the anthracite coal fields. By taking the mules from the mines it actually put a big burden on the coal production. This article was found in an old National Tribune on 3/18/1889, The Tribune was the voice of the GAR veterans from the Civil War. This tribute was written about the Army mule during the Civil War. And I for one feel the Mule is deserving of all we can give them.

The Army Mule

The unknown, unsung, unpraised, unpromoted, unbreveted, unpensioned hero of the war was the Army Mule. No one is quite too much to prosecute hostilities to the bitter end. No one said less about soldiering or compromising, no one troubled himself less about the slavery question; none gave less opposition to the arming of Negroes. He went in at the very first call and stayed through till after Appomattox. He was always present for duty, that is, except when he managed to eat his own halter. He went on every march and into every fight that his regiment went. He plodded through all the mud, sleet, and snow, and never left the line of march. He never left camp without orders, except when he could get away. He fell on every battlefield, where loyalty struggled with treason and an infinite number of other places beside. He was beaten and startled to death in a thousand circling camps. His bones bleached on every hill side, his lifeless corpse was the “Quartermasters Mile Post” where ever Union armies marched. He was hungry more often than he was well fed, and after straining all day to bring food for others, he has been compelled to make his supper of cottonwood pole, with wagon tongue for desert. It was hard to get along with him, but utterly impossible to get along without him. He had to endure more causes of insult and opprobrium than all the rest of the army put together, and yet he was never known to talk back. As to his kicking back that is another matter. He has heard himself, and all his family to the third and forth generation described in terms of burning insults, yet taken it all with sanity and meekness.
After four years of arduous service for the Union, after enduring perils and hardships beyond the power of the tongue to describe, he was disbanded and sold to a street car company to pass the evening of his days in slavish observance to the tinkle of the conductor’s bell and the lash of an underpaid tough of a driver.
The mule has never had justice done him. Without him the war could not have been carried on a day. He was the corner stone of the fame of Grant, Sherman, Thomas, Meade and Sheridan. Yet he is never mentioned in connection with then. It is only today, after the last mule that took part in the struggle has passed beyond the reach of the shinning pithead and the piercing lash that we begin to really appreciate how much we owe him.
It has been said that any army is like a snake, because it travels on its belly. That picture of the mule represents his day of army usefulness, when he was the sole means of communication over muddy mountainous roads, between the ever hungry front and the plenteous rear. It will bring a flood of recollections to the mind of the veteran on days when six mule team power could not get rations up to him, and of the days when he himself struggled with the poor animals over the awful roads with the labor and weariness of war which made the heart sad.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A One Of A Kind Soldier Letter From The Civil War

When doing military history research you always hope you come across a great find, well here is one a truly wonderful letter written by the Surgeon of 20th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Dr. Charles H. Haeseler who resided in Schuylkill County during the war and had a practice in Pottsville. Dr. Haeseler entered the service in Capt. T. S. Richards Cavalry Company on July 2, 1863. On the 10th, while his company lay at Harrisburg, he was commissioned Assistant Surgeon and assigned to the 20th Pa. Cavalry Regiment, Co; John E. Wynkoop. Dr. Haeseler had medical charge of the regiment during its six month service. His care and attention to the command as the surgeon, was highly appreciated, that the members of the regiment presented him with a fine handsome sword.

Charles H. Haeseler Surgeon 20th Pennsylvania Cavalry…6 Months

Springfield, West Virginia
December 16, 1863

Dear Journal; I have always liked you, but never realized your sterling worth as much as now, that your weekly visits bring me tidings from the community I love so well. In one of your late numbers I have read Mr. Torrey’s beautiful little poem mid associations that added a peculiar charm to it. Imagine a dilapidated Virginia log house, whose sash less windows closed over with thick canvass, admitting daylight of a kind only whose spectral solemnity almost frightens me. But now it is night and my quarters is illuminated partly by the dim flames of a candle, and chiefly by the burning logs in a huge hearth, for stones are fabulous productions hereabouts. On the floor by my side are lying, in sublime disregard of all taste and sobriety, my associate Assistant Surgeon, the Hospital Steward, and several nurses-male nurses, if you please sleeping, perchance dreaming of the devoted wives, “heroic maids” they left in goodly homes. Implements of war are scattered all around, and my eyes in glancing along the logged walls that modestly surround me light upon sabers, pistols, carbines, saddles, bridles, boots, blankets and all the garniture of cavalry warfare in indiscriminate profusion. A military blanket box is the table on which I am writing and a cracker box my chair. Thus it was when I read that “God is with the right” And then I drew my seat before the blazing fire in the hearth, solemnly smoked a cigar, and watched the flame with its beautiful ultramarine base, ascending in sig zag turrets of bright ochre from the scarlet embers of the burning pine. With this before me and the poetry in my soul, I thought of home. The home whose peaceful inmates were happily wrapped in quiet slumber-and the poetry whose author was imbibing inspiration from dreams of other visions. Do you know dear Journal, I think that all of the comfort that soldiers have, thus scattered from their homes and friends, aside from that derived from the consciousness of doing their whole duty-is in these quiet reveries; these solitary musings of the soul with the spirit abroad of those we love. But a truce to the sentimentalism! Yet if I do not bolster my letter plentifully with thoughts from the army, it will be but a small production, for important news are scarce in this vicinity.
Our regiment was ordered to this place from Sir John’s Run about two weeks ago. Our march was over a tract of the enemy’s country, a distance of about sixty miles. This Springfield is a small nest of unscrupulous rebels, in whom I could excite no charitable feeling for the suffering sick under my charge; but had to accommodate them as best I could in this miserable hut, without any of the little attentions and delicacies which I see in the Journal, the good ladies of Pottsville lavish so kindly on the soldiers here. Indeed it fills my heart with joy whenever I read of their benevolent actions, and I feel proud to call attention of everybody to them. God bless the ladies everywhere, who are thus devoted to the soldiers. In centuries to come their deeds will be alluded to as the most sacred of all the associations of the infamous rebellion. We are engaged here in scouting about the country, as we say, “in the front”. This morning a hundred of our men led by the gallant youth Capt. Singheiser, returned from five days scout. In which they marched about ninety miles in the interior, destroyed an important furnace to the rebels, captured eight mules, some horses, and at least of all, about a dozen lean, miserable, hungry looking Butternuts. The furnaces destroyed was the Columbia furnace which the soldiers of our army had no time reached heretofore.
In about two weeks our term of service will expire though there seems to be a strong disposition with a large portion of the regiment to reenlist for three years. A remarkable fact, and one much worthy of mention, is that though the regiment has had quite a number wounded in guerilla fights; was exposed last summer to undergo forced marches during the very wet weather that we had after the battle of Gettysburg, followed by a protracted heated term in July and august, during which the men suffered greatly form dysentery and diarrhea; though they were encamped during the entire Fall on the banks of the upper Potomac, a country much infected with malariuos minsums, causing an abundance of intermittent and other fevers; though we never had less than a hundred and fifty sick to report at the end of each month, yet we had not had a single death to mare the pleasures of our friends at home. I don not think there is another regiment in the service, that had served six months and can say the same itself. And as one of its medical officers. I feel an indescribable joy and satisfaction at this fortunate result.
W have among us a character so decidedly unique and original, that – as he may not have another opportunity to shine in public print, I will give him the benefit of a big notice. Old Pete is the only name that our regimental Farrier is known by. He is a German by birth, and sixty seven years of age. He arrived in this country about the time of the Florida War; joined our army then and has been in ever since-a period of about twenty one years. He was in the Texan and afterwards in the Mexican War; serving in the latter regiment commanded by Jeff Davis. He has been through the whole Peninsula campaign in Virginia during the rebellion. He was wounded at least a dozen different times. Once at the Battle of Buena Vista, a Mexican shell took a portion of his skull away leaving a cavity in his head into which I have laid the ends of two fingers. At one time in Florida, an Indian rushed upon him with uplifted tomahawk, and struck for his head; but missing that descended upon his left hand while Pete was charging bayonet on him, cutting the hand almost in twain. I asked Pete how he got rid of the Indian. “Got rid of him?” said he with broad accent, “Why I did run the copper colored rascal through mit mine bayonet, dats how I got rid of him.” At another time a Mexican was lying on the ground feigning death during one of the battles. Pete gave him a kick and passed on; but had not progressed far when a shot from the Mexicans musket grazed his leg. He immediately turned around upon the enemy, and did not give up the pursuit till he had dispatched him too. He served in the battles before Richmond as a gunner under General Doubleday, who thought a great deal of him. But poor Pete’s mind is at times a little weak, from the effects of that injury to his brain at Buena Vista, though his general health is as good as ever. He was never married, and probably never will be, as he likes the soldier’s life for its own sake. It has become his business his trade, and he would be the unhappy fellow outside the army. At night he lies down on the ground, no matter what kind of weather, wrapped up in his overcoat, without any other shelter. He said to me one day, when I asked him about his heath, “Oh, I feels always good when I drinks no whiskey. Mine head is a little weak, but I knows everything what I dos when I drinks plenty cold water; aver when I drinks shuts one leetle whiskey, den I bees right away one damn fool.”
Unfortunately, however, Pete is just weak minded enough not to resist the temptations at al times and occasionally gets very top heavy. Aside from this he is as great a hero as many a one who are exploits are recorded on the pages of history. The other day I was pained indeed, to find this old man after all the service he rendered to our country; after all the honorable scars he had received in its defense had been ruthlessly thrust in a common guard house, for trespassing on the exclusive privilege of commissioned officers-the privilege of getting ,”tight”.
Another quaint genius among us is Bellford, the one armed private. He lost left arm in one of the battles of the rebellion, and was discharged. His home is in Virginia, some twenty miles from here. He asked to be taken into the regiment as a guide, and as he was said to be well acquainted with all the country hereabouts, he was accepted. He does not appear to have the remotest idea of any such thing as fear, for he frequently rides out by himself beyond the outpost of pickets, and scouts about the country infested with guerrillas and bushwhackers with perfect abandon. His ear is as quick as a hawk’s and any noise he hears, or the remotest glimmer of a light he sees, he will drop his horses bridle and take his pistol instead, letting the horse go quietly along; guided only by his knees, until he discovers the source of his alarm. Every now and then he comes back with several prisoners. A few days ago he alone – this one armed man, brought in six armed rebels as prisoners of war. When he came across them, after having ascertained their number he immediately advanced on them calling back to an imaginary force behind him to “Charge !” The Rebs hearing this command, at once there down their arms and gave themselves up, and he marched them in front of him into our camp with the greatest imaginable nonchalance.
After all there is a great deal in this soldier life that is very attractive; and although its tediousness and monotony grow heavy on a person at times yet how many thousands are there who after having returned from it to civil life, soon become anxious and impatient to don again the uniform they were so eager to put off. And they grow square shouldered and fat withal. Do you know, my dear Journal, that I am just finding out what a scientific thing this soldier’s fare is? The men who invented it ought to have a patent, a leather medal, and the everlasting gratitude of mankind. Coffee and “Hard Tack”, bacon and bean soup. “I doff my sandals as I tread before you!” You see, we grease the lining of our stomach with a piece of fat bacon and that fortifies it against the sharp edges of the hard tack. Well, after we drink the coffee, these angular pieces will keep floating and dodging about on it making the old stomach believe it doesn’t want anything more. Then at noon we feast on bean soup, the thin portion of which being generally absorbed by evening, we drink more coffee; this swells the remaining beans up again, and fools the stomach with the idea of being satisfied till morning. Now I appeal to the good sense of everybody, whether this isn’t a capital invention. So simple too, withal, and so perfectly consistent with much of this dear world of ours by observing a system of such splendid deception.
Another discovery that I have made in this my military life, is tin relation to sleeping on the floor instead of a bed, and here are the arguments in its favor. In the forst place, you cannot fall out of bed and break a limb; secondarly, no evil minded person can hide under the bed by day and come out at night to steal your purse; thirdly, no possible emergency can make the slats break or the rope tear, fourthly and lastily, you are always ready to take up yur bed and walk. Now, if I have not convinced you the utility of a a soft floor for a bed, and your elbow for a pillow, then I will incontinently knock under.
Charles H. Haeseler

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Where Do We Get Such Men Part 3

The Vosges Mountains are located in the northeast portion of France. Heavy fighting took place there in August and September of 1944. The fighting there would terminate the foot hold German troops had on France. Fighting in this area was the famous 3rd Infantry Division. Because of their fierce fighting methods the Germans still held a portion of the Belfort Gap in the Vosges. On the 15th of September the 3rd ID was on the move marching north toward the French town of Faucogney.

Fighting with the 3rd ID was Schuylkill Countian Sgt. Harold O. Messerschmidt born in Grier City, Schuylkill County. Sgt. Messerschmidt enlisted in the U.S. Army at Chester, Pa. On the 17th of September Messerschmidt’s unit, Company L 30th Infantry Regt. was in the process of trying to capture a small village west of Faucogney named Raddon. Company L had just taken a heavily forested ridge that dominated an important and strategic road. About mid day a heavy tank and artillery fire swept the ridge immediately followed by advancing German infantry over 200 strong. One member of the unit stated” They rushed into our fire in an insane manner, as if they had been given liquor or drugs.” For six hours Sgt. Messerschmidt and the men of his squad held the right flank of the company and resisted wave after wave of the fanatical German troops. Sgt. Messerschmidt ran out of ammunition and was the only member of his squad still standing, he used his Tommy gun as a club to kill as many Germans as he could. A last ditch charge by the enemy came rushing up the slope and caught Sgt. Messerschmidt still wielding his empty weapon were upon he was killed. At the end of this engagement Company L was down to only four squads and very nearly out of ammunition, but they held the ridge.

Sgt. Harold Messerschmidt was awarded the Medal Of Honor posthumously on 17 July 1946.

The Citation:

Sergeant Messerschmidt, Harold O. Army
Medal of Honor


Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company L, 30th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Radden, France, 17 September 1944. Entered service at: Chester, Pa. Birth: Grier City, Pa. G.O. No.: 71, 17 July 1946.

Citation: He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. Braving machinegun, machine pistol, and rifle fire, he moved fearlessly and calmly from man to man along his 40-yard squad front, encouraging each to hold against the overwhelming assault of a fanatical foe surging up the hillside. Knocked to the ground by a burst from an enemy automatic weapon, he immediately jumped to his feet, and ignoring his grave wounds, fired his submachine gun at the enemy that was now upon them, killing 5 and wounding many others before his ammunition was spent. Virtually surrounded by a frenzied foe and all of his squad now casualties, he elected to fight alone, using his empty submachine gun as a bludgeon against his assailants. Spotting 1 of the enemy about to kill a wounded comrade, he felled the German with a blow of his weapon. Seeing friendly reinforcements running up the hill, he continued furiously to wield his empty gun against the foe in a new attack, and it was thus that he made the supreme sacrifice. Sgt. Messerschmidt's sustained heroism in hand-to-hand combat with superior enemy forces was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service .

Sgt. Harold O. Messershmidt is buried in the:
Christ Lutheran Church Cemetery
Schuylkill County

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."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Where Do We Get Such Men Part 1

While watching TV the other day and one of my favorite movies was playing the phrase "Where do we get such men?" was said, a very lamentable phrase it is actually the closing line in the movie, The Bridges of Toko-ri made from the novel of the same name by James Michener. A senior naval officer says it in wonder at the self-sacrificial heroism of several naval aviators, killed fighting in rice paddies of Korea after their aircraft went down. I think on this phrase alot of times when I read about the heroism of the men and women from Schuylkill County who have sacrificed so much. Below find the stories of two of our Medal of Honor holders who served in World War ll. Capt. Robert Roeder and Corporal Anthony Damato

During World War ll, Mt. Battaglia in Italy located near the Po Valley was a very strategic point. From the 27th of September to the 3rd of October 1944, the 2nd Battalion of the 350th Infantry Regiment 88th Division was assigned the duty of holding this strong point. The Germans also knowing the value of such a strategic point also wanted this peak. For seven days the Germans made numerous deadly counter attacks. The attacks would start with heavy artillery and mortar barrages, followed by squad level infantry attacks using small arms to include hand to hand and grenade attacks. Each and every attack on this peak was beaten back by the men of the 2/350th. The weather during these attacks was terrible low hanging clouds made the visibility nearly zero, the terrain was rough and rocky. Pack mules were needed to bring the supplies to the battalion. At times the ammunition was so low the men resorted to throwing rocks at the advancing Germans. The evacuation of the wounded proved to be a serious matter because of the weather and the terrain and the incessant artillery bombardment by the Germans. For their outstanding fighting and courage displayed by the men of the 2/350th the regiment was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.
Fighting with G Company of the 350th was a Schuylkill County native born in Summit Station, on July 25, 1917. Captain Robert Roeder. According to information published in the Pottsville Journal Captain Roeder was once rejected for service in the U.S. Navy because of a punctured eardrum. This was back in 1936, a week before he enlisted in the Army. He served two enlistments in the Regular Army and was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in 1942. Upon graduation, he was assigned to a rifle platoon in Company G, 350th Regiment, subsequently becoming executive officer and company commander. Prior to the fighting on Mt. Battaglia Roeder was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for fearless and aggressive leadership in leading an assault on hill 316 in southern Italy on the morning of the 12th of May, 1944 , on Hill 316 the hill was taken, at 1320 hours thus completing the action by the 350th.
Captain Rober Roeder is a true hero of Schuylkill County, he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions on top of Mt. Battaglia in September of 1944. Captain Roeder was with company G 350th who’s assignment on this day was to hold the summit of Mt. Battaglia. The first enemy attack came 35 minutes after the company was in position, but was repulsed along with five others in the ensuing 34 hours on the mountain. After the seventh attack made by the Germans using artillery and flame throwers, Captain Roeder gallantly lead his company in a hand to hand fight. An exploding shell rendered him unconscious and he was carried by his me to the command post. Following his Captain Roeder’s Citation for Bravery and being awarded the MOH.
Rank and Organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Company G, 350th Infantry, 88th Infantry Division. Place and Date Mt. Battaglia, Italy, 27-28 September 1944. Entered Service at: Summit Station, Pa. Birth: Summit Station, Pa. G.O. No.: 31, 17 April 1945.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Roeder commanded his company in defense of the strategic Mount Battaglia. Shortly after the company had occupied the hill, the Germans launched the first of a series of determined counterattacks to regain this dominating height. Completely exposed to ceaseless enemy artillery and small-arms fire, Capt. Roeder constantly circulated among his men, encouraging them and directing their defense against the persistent enemy. During the sixth counterattack, the enemy, by using flamethrowers and taking advantage of the fog, succeeded in overrunning the position Capt. Roeder led his men in a fierce battle at close quarters, to repulse the attack with heavy losses to the Germans. The following morning, while the company was engaged in repulsing an enemy counterattack in force, Capt. Roeder was seriously wounded and rendered unconscious by shell fragments. He was carried to the company command post, where he regained consciousness. Refusing medical treatment, he insisted on rejoining his men although in a weakened condition, Capt. Roeder dragged himself to the door of the command post and, picking up a rifle, braced himself in a sitting position. He began firing his weapon, shouted words of encouragement, and issued orders to his men. He personally killed 2 Germans before he himself was killed instantly by an exploding shell. Through Capt. Roeder's able and intrepid leadership his men held Mount Battaglia against the aggressive and fanatical enemy attempts to retake this important and strategic height. His valorous performance is exemplary of the fighting spirit of the U.S. Army.
Captain Roeder is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Section 12

Where Do We Get Such Men Part 2

Corporal Anthony Damato Hero

During the Marine advancements in the Pacific theatre of World War ll, And the rapid seizure of Kwajalein Atoll led Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean the date for Operation Catchpole, the invasion of Eniwetok Atoll, was set for 17 February 1944. On the morning of 17 February 1944, the task force of the V Amphibious Corps made up of the Army 106th Infantry regiment and the 22nd Marines landed in the Eniwetok lagoon and began coordinated operations. The next day 18 February 1944, the Marines landed on Engebi Island, supported by naval gunfire and by shore-based artillery placed on three adjacent islets the day before. After ferocious fighting with ill-prepared defenders, Engebi was secured the same day, including the airfield. One Marine veteran claimed that the fire the Japanese put forth was the heaviest he ever came under. The next day, 19 February, the 106th Infantry faced heavier resistance on Eniwetok Island, but after two days of fighting reinforced by 3rd Bn, 22nd Marines, Eniwetok was taken on 20 February. The Marines' attack on Parry Island on 22 February, followed by landings on smaller islands, eliminated the Japanese resistance and the entire Eniwetok atoll was in U.S. control by the evening of 23 February.
Operation Catchpole cost Marine casualties 254 killed, 555 wounded and Army casualties of 94 killed and 311 wounded. About 3,400 Japanese died and 66 were taken prisoner.
Landing on Engebi Island with the 22nd Marines was Marine Corporal Anthony Damato born and raised in Shenandoah Schuylkill County, Pa. He was born on March 28, 1922 and went to school in Shenandoah, prior to his enlistment in the Marine Corps Anthony worked as a truck driver. On January 8, 1942 Anthony Damato enlisted in the Marine Corps. After boot camp and initial training he was posted to Londonderry, Northern Ireland in May of 1942.
During the planning stages of Operation Torch, (The Invasion of North Africa) It was determined that weapons training was needed for U.S. Navy boat crewmen who would be involved in the Algerian portion of the landing as part of the Eastern Task Force. In September 1942, Marine Corps instructors were brought in from Londonderry and London to establish a three-week training camp at the naval base in Rosneath, Scotland.
Marines trained four Army infantry divisions in assault from the sea tactics prior to the North African landings. Leading the way during Operation Torch, the November 1942 North African
invasion, Marines went ashore at Arzeu, Algeria, and moved overland to the port of Oran, where they occupied the strategic Spanish fortress at the northern tip of the harbor.
While with the Marine units during Operation Torch Damato distinguished himself, volunteering for special duty with a select invasion party that took part in the landings. He was later advanced in rank for especially meritorious service in action while serving aboard a U.S. Naval ship during the landings at Arzeau, Algeria. On November 8, 1942 he landed with an assault force entering the port from the seaward and assisted in boarding and seizing vessels in the harbor as well as the port itself.
In March of 1943 Corporal Damato returned to the United States. Three months later he sailed for the South Pacific. And on the night of February 19-20, 1944 after fighting to secure the Engebi Island Corporal Damato was in a fox hole with two fellow Marines, the Japanese using small unit tactics continually attacked the Marine force. While on his companies defensive perimeter which was thinned out due to the withdrawal of nearly half of the company. Creeping up on the Marines an enemy soldier approached Damato’s foxhole undetected and threw in a grenade, desperately grabbing for the grenade in the dark and not being able to get rid of fast enough Corporal Anthony Damato threw himself on top of the grenade taking the full force effect of the explosion and was instantly killed, and saving the life of his two fellow Marines.
On April 9, 1945 the town of Shenandoah turned out for the presentation of the Medal of Honor. The presentation was made in Damato’s high school in Shenandoah. Presenting the award was Brigadier General M.C. Gregory, USMC who presented the medal to his Mother Mrs. Francis Damato a widowed mother of eight.
Corporal Damato was initially buried in the American Cemetery on Kirrian Island in the Marshall Islands. And was later interred in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Corporal Anthony Damato Medal of Honor Citation Reads.
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 28 March 1922, Shenandoah, Pa. Accredited to: Pennsylvania.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with an assault company in action against enemy Japanese forces on Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, on the night of 1920 February 1944. Highly vulnerable to sudden attack by small, fanatical groups of Japanese still at large despite the efficient and determined efforts of our forces to clear the area, Cpl. Damato lay with 2 comrades in a large foxhole in his company's defense perimeter which had been dangerously thinned by the forced withdrawal of nearly half of the available men. When 1 of the enemy approached the foxhole undetected and threw in a hand grenade, Cpl. Damato desperately groped for it in the darkness. Realizing the imminent peril to all 3 and fully aware of the consequences of his act, he unhesitatingly flung himself on the grenade and, although instantly killed as his body absorbed the explosion, saved the lives of his 2 companions. Cpl. Damato's splendid initiative, fearless conduct and valiant sacrifice reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.
Seven months after Mrs. Damato accepted the Medal of Honor for here son, she was invited to New York Harbor to be part of the ceremony that christened a new destroyer named in honor of her son Marine Corporal Anthony P. Damato.
The USS Damato was a 2,400 ton destroyer and launched on November 21, 1945 and Commissioned DD-871 on the 27, April 1946. This vessel was decommissioned in December 1980 and given to the Government of Pakistan.