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US Army

The Bulge, First Casualties

 

The Bulge, First Casualties
 
Our first casualties happened before the 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead) was committed in the Bulge!  This has been ascertained due to research by John Bauserman of Sterling, Virginia and obtaining first hand accounts from survivors of the event called the Malmedy Massacre, but which actually took place at Baugnez, a crossroads four kilometers south of Malmedy by Peiper's 1st SS, the most vicious enemy group encountered by anyone in the Bulge.
 
Affected were men from the reconnaissance company of the 32nd Armored Regiment, commanded by Colonel Leander L. Doan and they could only have made the reconnaissance on December 17th – the day after the beginning – on his command and with the knowledge of General Doyle O. Hickey of Combat Command "B".
 
Henry R. Zach of Danbury, Wisconsin, relates that the reconnaissance company was stationed near Breinig, Germanyat the time and had been used as military government police.  On December 17th they, 11 men in four jeeps according to Walter J. Wendt of Appelton, Wisconsin, left early in the morning, went back through the dragon's teeth to Eupen, Belgium, and thence south, in medium to heavy fog, when they ran into a German column and were captured.
 
Only the two officers, 1st Lieutenant Thomas E. McDermott of Yeadon, Pennsylvania and 2nd Lieutenant Lloyd A. James knew what their mission was. Zach, the platoon sergeant, did not.
 
On capture their questioning was brief; they were waved into the German column and started cross country.  Walter Wendt's jeep got stuck in the mud and the guard threatened to kill him.  He was the only one with some command of German.
 
Zack's jeep containing him and the two lieutenants stripped its transmission and they were put on a lead tank until they came up with another German task force at a café (Baugnez) with the new column having "a whole bunch of captured Americans."
 
Wendt says, of their approach to Baugnez, "As we were moving, the tanks in front were shooting at our supply trucks a distance away.  Then to our left I noticed a column of American trucks and other vehicles.  I heard later it was an artillery unit of some kind.  They had no heavy guns.  They were also taken prisoner."
 
The prisoners, estimated by Walter Wendt at 125, were then herded into a field and, he says: "A German halftrack with a howitzer mounted on it was trying to line up the barrel with us prisoners.  I guess he couldn't get the barrel low enough to blow us up, so then a German car pulled up with a couple of officers.  They were smoking Camel cigarettes.  Then the officer stood up, reached into his holster, pulled out his pistol and started firing.  Four or five men dropped.  Then the tanks started moving and as they passed they turned their machine guns and fired.  I dropped before I was hit.  A second later several bodies fell over me.  I was hit in my left elbow."
 
Then German guards, on foot, came by, shooting survivors.  Walter Wendt played possum, one of whom was Zach, shot the second time by a guard, in his left thigh, the guard kicking to see who was dead.
 
Walter Wendt escaped with several others, toward a garage type structure, to find a German tank behind it.  They passed within ten feet of a surprised tank crew, into a creek covered with a small amount of ice and eventual recovery and evacuation to England.  Zach was rescued on the 18th after having crawled under tin roof slabs at the café.
 
Killed in action were the two lieutenants, John Klukavy and James G. Mc Gee, all buried at Henri Chapelle except Lieutenant McDermott whose body was returned toYeadon,Virginia.

N° 50 Pfc John Klukavy - N° 63 2nd Lieutenant Lloyd A. Iames
 
Survivors were: Vernon Anderson of My Pleasant, Pennsylvania, taken prisoner; William E. Barron, Menphis, Tennessee, Edward J. Bojarski, a corporal, of Menasha, Wisconsin; J. I. Cummings, Bakersfield, California; Marvin J. Lewis, Walter Wendt and Henry Zach.
* * * * * * * *

6 June 1945

A_F_F_I_D_A_V_I_T
 
Before me, qualified to administer oaths in cases of this nature, personally appeared one Sergeant Marvin J. Lewis, ASN 35102084, Reconnaissance Company, 32nd Armored Regiment, Third Armored Division, who after being duly sworn, deposed as follows:
 
"On 17 December 1944, the first platoon of Reconnaissance Company, 32nd Armored Regiment, left Stolberg, Germany, to make a route reconnaissance not pertaining to the enemy but to see if it was possible for a task force to move up into an assembly area.  This platoon consisted of two officers and nine enlisted men as follow; Lieutenant McDermott, Lieutenant Lloyd James, Sergeant Henry Zach, T/3 James McGee, Sergeant Anderson, Corporal Walter Wendt, Corporal Edward Bojarsky, Corporal J. I. Cummings, Pfc John Klukavy, Pvt William Barron and myself.  We took off about 8h30 that morning for the objective which was evidently in the vicinity of Malmedy.  We were riding in four Jeeps and we were nearly there when we ran head on into the enemy before we ever saw them.  The Germans dismounted with their guns and made us dismount.  They stripped us down and took our guns and also stripped our soldier in the vehicle with the two officers and placed us in their column with a German tank leading the column.
 
They cut across a field and came out on a highway about 700 yards above a crossroad where they had some reconnaissance cars guarding the road.  When we got there they already had out a supply column and they made us dismount and lined us all up with the personnel of this supply train and put us in a field right near the road.  Then they started moving out our vehicles.  As soon as our vehicles had all moved out, their column started to come through.  The first vehicle in their column was an armored car, and when this first vehicle group alongside of us the officer in charge stood up and took his revolver and shot two men in the front row.  Then he moved out and a halftrack pulled in behind him and put two machine guns up on the side and just sprayed the field and moved us down.
 
I got wounded in the leg and we all hit the ground and they kept firing until no one moved.  When any of the boys who were wounded started hollering, the Germans dismounted and want amongst us and just hit them on the head with their rifle butts and then shot them.  After they had gone all through us and no one moved anymore, they mounted back up and started moving out.  Every time a halftrack would pass they would let a burst of machine gun fire go at us.  We all laid there for about two hours until the column passed and then I seeped up and hollered "anyone able to go, let's go."  About eight of us out of an approximate 150 men made the break.
 
They opened up with machine gun again from a tank on the crossroad, and those that could run took off and the rest of us hit the ground and laid there until darkness and then got up and made our way back to our lines where I was picked up by a patrol and carried to a first aid station.  The German troop involved in this shooting wore a black uniform with a flying eagle insignia on it."
 
Marvin J. Lewis, Sgt., #35102084
N° 38 - 1st Lieutenant Thomas McDermott - N° 40 T/3 James McGee.
 
Source: Haynes Dugan, letter to the webmaster, August 24, 1988

By Major Haynes W DUGAN

Assistant G-2

Public Relation

3rd Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium