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Civilian Massacre at Parfondruy, December 1944

 

Civilian Massacre at Parfondruy
 
On December 20th, 1944, our Reconnaissance Office (half-track), of which I was chief of section of Battery "A", 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, passed through Spa, Belgium, and then through a large gasoline storage area in a wooded area between Spa and La Gleize.  We set up a communication relay station because radio reception and visibility were very poor.
 
On December 21st we got orders to report to a task force in Stoumont, but could not get by a column of tanks, and got stuck in a stream when we tried to bypass them on a trail.  We then got a call to report to Colonel Lovelady's headquarters as Stoumont was not in our hands.  A Captain Peters told us to report to Lieutenant Edmark of "D" Company, 33rd Armored, a task force of CCB, 3rd Armored Division, in the village of Parfondruy, to give artillery support.  We were escorted part way and were told to move fast as the Germans had observation on the road.  We did move fast.  When we rounded a corner and stopped beside the first house on our right, there was a building on fire and lighting up the sky as it became dark.  Lieutenant Plummer, our new Forward Observer, said he would go ahead on foot and make contact with "D" Company and make sure it was in our hands so all of us wouldn't get captured.  Meanwhile some of the people came out of the house and asked for help as there were several wounded inside.  William Whitten, Roland McNiece, and Howard Jenkins went in and began to administer first aid, while the rest of our section stayed on the guns.  We had three .30 cal. and one .50 cal. machine gun.
 

Monique Thonon and his mother at Parfondruy.

Monique was one of several wounded.  His mother was massacred by SS Troops.

See also the story narrated by Monique at:

http://www.battleofthebulgememories.be/en/stories/us-army/59-monique-at-parfondruy-stavelot.html

 
We soon got a signal from Plummer to come on in, as he was about 1/4 mile away.  The guys were reluctant to leave when I came in to get them loaded up.  They were bandaging a woman's left arm which had a bullet wound.  They left most of our first-aid supplies and climbed over the side of the half-track, as we were only about 15 feet from the door to the side of the road.  We passed the burning building on our right and met Plummer at the first corner intersection, and then to Lieutenant Edmark's C.P., who had made room for us in a room there.  It was very cold.
 
We covered the windows and built a fire. I got out my favorite stove, a non-issue blow torch, and heated up some 10 in 1 rations.  Lieutenant Edmark came in while we were eating and gave us the lowdown, or the big picture as they used to say.  We had nine tanks, a platoon of infantry, and mortars, a few engineers and medics, and we had to hold our position.  Lieutenant Edmark had led "D" Company from Petit-Coo to take possession of Stavelot, but was stopped at the edge of Parfondruy on the Coo road by large numbers of infantry and tanks in the afternoon.  They had killed lots of Germans and knocked out several tanks and had a few prisoners.  The fighting was ending as we arrived.
 
In the night, instead of sending Bed Check Charlie, the Germans sent a couple of buzz bombs that shook us.  The next morning while scouting our position I entered a house and saw a dead elderly couple, bullet holes in their head, their throats cut, lying in their blood.  Another house had two women and a baby dead in a crib.  One of the women was nude with a bullet hole in her head and part of her left arm hacked off.  I was at a comer standing in a yard when two children appeared like out of the fog, and said: "Vive L'Amerique".  One of our soldiers stopped them and told them not to enter the house as the people were dead.  They said they were looking for their parents and relatives and went in.  I went back to our C.P. in a daze.  William Whitten and I had just pushed the 20-year age mark less than two weeks ago.  It was hard to get our minds back on the war.
 
All afternoon we could see the German troops across the railroad marching on the Stavelot road toward Trois-Ponts but could not see our artillery shells because of haze and fog.  I went upstairs in a house on a hill behind us to observe better.  There under our nose was a large German tank in some trees.  After telling Lieutenant Plummer and Lieutenant Edmark, we got artillery on it and flushed it out where one of "D" Company tanks had a clear shot at it.  And shoot it he did, but three balls of fire bounced off, and it backed away, never moving its turret.  It had to be a Mark VI Tiger.  It made us all wonder, and I know the tank gunner was shaking his head, feeling helpless, as it backed up the railroad on our left flank.  I had seen our 75's bounce off Mark V and VI tanks before, the last time near Roetgen (Germany), where they wiped out several of our tanks.
 
This tank fire started a lot of fire on us, as the Germans answered back, and some 155's of our own came in on us.  It took us a while to get this stopped.  A message came in on our radio for Lieutenant Edmark from Colonel Lovelady, as we had the only radio to reach outside.  The Coo road had been taken by the Germans and our infantry was ordered out.  We were isolated and feared the Germans would try to come through us to get our gasoline supply.  We mounted our three .30 cal. machine guns in the windows upstairs and down, and sat up all night waiting.  No one slept, but the attack never came.
 
On December 23rd, we saw a concentration of enemy infantry and tanks building up as if about to attack.  Lieutenant Edmark and Lieutenant Plummer decided to pull Edmark's tank "Dixie" beside our C.P. and use it for indirect fire on the Germans, as it had a 76 gun.  I went upstairs to my Observation Post of the day before to observe with Plummer standing on the tank.  The tank fired three times, and I could see the Germans head for cover of the woods.  They were between two to three thousand yards away.  After the third shot, a German tank, probably the one I had observed the day before, fired back either at the tank, or at Plummer or me.
 
If it was on me, his aim was good but not perfect, as the shell came through the wall of the room just to my right, knocking me down, breaking both hands and sending three pieces of shrapnel into the head. I couldn't get the door open with my hands, thinking another shell was coming, but I got help with a prayer to open it. The medics found me in the snow and helped me to the C.P., patched me up, and said they would try to get me out, as they had another wounded man.
 
I told the guys in my section that I had two bottles of Cognac in my duffel bag for Christmas.  Lieutenant Edmark came in and said good luck, and I said the same to him.  They put my P-38 [can opener] on the stretcher.  As the medic half-track went across the ridge, the Germans shot at us, with the shells landing close, but they didn't stop until we got to a roadblock of our own empty vehicles.  When the door opened I expected to see Germans, but it was our medics checking on us.
 
We arrived at a large Chateau used as an aid station on the lower left, with the upper right used as a headquarters and having a terrace.  I recognized my battery commander, Captain Paul Nelms.  I was given a shot.  The Chaplain came and said let's pray, and I said 1 had already done that, and I went to sleep.
 
Christmas day I was on a train near Paris to another hospital, and someone fed me Christmas dinner - peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I had no regrets, except I left my P-38 in the ambulance, and I didn't get any Christmas Cognac, but the memory of the massacre of Parfondruy I still have.
 

Source: Charles R. CORBIN

 

Cpl Charles R CORBIN

"A" Battery

391st Armored Field

 

Artillery Battalion

3rd Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium