St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis, Missouri, Friday, April 13, 1945
BY RICHARD L. STOKES Of the Washington Bureau of the Post-Dispatch. now representing this newspaper on the Western Front as an accredited war correspondent.
WITH THE SIXTH ARMORED DIVISION. April 10 (by wireless)(delayed)
This correspondent today learned the story of how eight American officers and enlisted men. five of them from Missouri, charged in three jeeps into a German town milling with enemy soldiers and vehicles and emerged with 157 prisoners, six military vans and a truckload of cognac.
The incident occurred in the village of Burkhardsfelder March 29. The officers involved were Lt.Col. Thomas R. Bruce Jr. of Mexico. Mo., commander of the 128th Armored Field Artillery Battalion; Capt. Guy R. Shelton of Jefferson City. operations officer of the battalion. and Lt. Maurice R. Lopez of Brooklyn, N. Y.. who belongs to an antiaircraft outfit.
Bruce and Shelton each are 30 years old and Lopez is 26. Before the war Bruce was an insurance man. Shelton an athletic coach who was saving money to study law, and Lopez a saxophone player in professional swing bands. Riding with Bruce in the lead jeep driver was his driver, Pvt. William G. White of Savannah, Mo., and his boydguard, Pvt. Donald D. Steele of Albany, Mo. Shelton's driver was Cpl. Elmo Earixson. of Albany, and with them was Sgt. Norman Anderson of Winter Park. Fla. Lopez's driver was Cpl. Anthony Cardinale of Fort Edward, N. Y.
Lt. Col. Thomas R. Bruce Jr., commander of the 128th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
Took a Short Cut.
The party was armed with tommy guns. carbine: and pistols. Bruce was headed for a conference with Co1. Harry S. Hanson commander of the Sixth Armored Division's Combat Command B, who had set up a command post several miles ahead. Bruce decided to try a short cut across country. At 9 a. m., as he approached Burkhardsfelder,he saw a German soldier with a rifle talking with a farmer beside a cemetery. Bruce covered the German with his pistol, forced him to turn over his weapons and mount the hood of Bruce's jeep.
As the little cavalcade swung into the main street, it came face to face with what seemed to be a regiment of Nazi rifles, machine guns and a whole caravan of trucks. “It suddenly dawned on me," Bruce said, "that we had barged into an unliherated town." But without a moment's hesitation he ordered his party to advance.“If we had stopped to think," said Shelton, “we would have been lost. No, we weren’t brave-just crazy." Several bullets came whining past, but the Nazis were taken so by surprise that they mostly stood starring as if paralyzed. The Americans covered them with weapons and ordered them to throw down their arms.The Germans obeyed frantically. Among the prisoners was a German officer who spoke some English. Bruce ordered him to line up the Nazis and march them into a nearby barn, and then went to keep his conference appointment with Col. Hanson, leaving the enemy troops under the guard of Sgt. Anderson and some Sixth Armored infantrymen who came straggling in. The captives all were evacuated to the rear that night.
Fires at One, 30 Give Up.
On the morning of March 26 Bruce and Lt. Fred W. Sumner of San Antonio, Tex, were the first officers to enters the town of Laden, both in jeeps. Bruce was accompanied as usual by Pvt. White and Pvt. Steele. Sumner's driver was a staff sergeant named Franzenberg from Pennsylvania. At the edge of the village they saw a German running across a yard. White fired at him with a tommy-gun and Steele with a carbine, whereupon 30 German soldiers rushed out of the house and threw up their hands. The Americans lined them up, searched them for weapons, then ordered them to take a. white flag and start marching rearward. They obeyed, although unguarded.
On the night of March 21 Bruce, riding a light tank in a column moving in a blackout, was approaching the town of Rosenkopf. With him was the tank driver, Cpl. Keith C. Parman of Albany, Mo, and machine gunner Master Sgt. Donald B. Miller of Maryviiie. Col. Hanson was just ahead in another tank.
Through the glow of fires burning in Rosenkopf, Bruce saw the silhouettes of six German soldiers running along the crest of a ridge Eabout 50 yards away. He pulled out his .45 caliber pistol and empitied the clip at them. The first Nazi fell. Men of the 128th still speak of this as a pretty piece of marksmanship, considering the distance, the nature of the weapon, the faint light and racing target. and the fact that Bruce stood on a jolting tank. Other Germans rushed down the road and surrendered. One officer, from an S.S. panzer division, jumped on the hood of Col. Hanson's tank.
At 11 p. m. Hanson and Bruce stood in the blazing town of Rosenkopf, which apparently had been deserted by the enemy, checking our column as we passed.
The Nazi officer, who had been told that the Yanks executed all S.S. troops, was trembling with terror and expected to be shot any minute. Our tank crews heard a noise by the side of the road and fired carhines. Up came a German soldier who stammered that he had an American prisoner and if permitted to would go and fetch him. Hanson sent three Yanks with him under orders to shoot it the German had lied. They not only returned with an American infantryman of the Sixty-fifth Division, but with 34 other Germans eager to give up.
The American said he knew where there was a stack of German pistols. He was sent for them and was unable to find them, but did come back with 30 Frenchmen who had been prisoners of war.
Crossed Siegfried Line Twice.Since
I was compelled by an attack of influenza to leave the division in January, before the town of Trois Vierges in Luxembourg, the Sixth Armored has had an eventful career. Incidents in its log mention two artillery battalions with a nucleus of Missouri National Guardsmen the 128th, with batteries from St. Louis, Mexico, Maryville, Burlington Junction and Albany, and the 23lst, drawn from Sedalia, Clinton and Boonville. The Sixth Armored is one of few if not the only American division to cross the Siegfried line twice. It captured Trois Vierges on Jan. 24, proceeded to Hupperdange Feb. 6, and started firing into the Siegfried line over the Our River. It moved across the Our into Germany on Feb. 22. The 128th, the first artillery battalion to fire into German soil in the Saar campaign, also was the first artillery unit of the division to enter the Reich under its own power.
The Sixth Armored made the first crossing of the Siegfried defenses, emerging at Schoenecken, on the Nims River, March 2.
On March 4 the division moved out of the line into reserve for a rest the first since July 27. It had undergone 221 consecutive days of combat, beginning with the Cherbourg peninsula and including Countances, Avranches, Brest, Lorient, Nancy, Saarbrucken and the Ardennes bulge.
The division on March 9 was temporarily detached from the Third Army and sent south to join the Seventh Army of the Sixth Army Group to SUpport the Third and Forty-fifth Infantry divisions in an effort to crack the Siegfried Line at Zweibrucken. It followed those units through the first belt of defenses in a week of fighting which the veteran Third Infantry declared was tougher than that at Anzio beach.
The Sixth Armored proceeded then alone through a second belt of defenses which, contrary to expectations, was feebly defended, and arrived at their objective the storied city of Wurms-on March 22. On the way they fought two considerable engagements, at Martinshohe and Homborg. Returning to the Third Army. the division crossed the Rhine March 25, with the Fifteenth Tank and Ninth Infantry Battalions under Lt. Col. Embry “Simon" Lagrew seizing a bridgehead which enabled the Fifth Infantry Division to capture Frankfurt. The Sixth Armored crossed the River Main March 28 at Muehlheim and rolled on eastward in a swift drive on Muehlhausen. The 128th reached Oberdorla March 4, where terrific bombardment by its guns enabled a combat team under Lt. Col. Charles E. Brown to make a lightning surprise dash into the city.