Lest We Forget

8 03 2013

This is a portion of an article from the American Legion web site. Once this generation passes off the scene, who will tell these stories? Are we doomed to forget these heroes like we did those of WWI? Will they fade away as a faceless statistic? Does it matter?
Romans 13:7
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Pastor Dave

Between Dec. 19 and Dec. 21, a battle raged in and around Stoumont between the Americans and Germans. Just about the entire town was destroyed. The focal point of this battle was the sanatorium, which sits on high ground northwest of the town, a location that offers a view over the entire area.

The sanatorium is heavily constructed with thick walls. It is a small fortress. During World War II, the American combatants were the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 119th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division (Old Hickory) and elements from the 743rd Tank Battalion, 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion and 143rd Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion. The German force would consist of elements of Kampfgruppe Peiper, principally the third company of the 1st SS Armored Engineer Battalion.

The town of Stoumont would be defended by the Americans on Dec. 19, 1944, and fall later that day to the forces of Kampfgruppe Peiper. The Americans would counter-attack several times over the next two days to recapture the village. The fighting would center on the sanatorium. It would be vicious. And it would have moments of compassion.

The sanatorium had become a place of refuge during that winter for approximately 250 civilians from the area, including many children, priests and nuns. Hand-to-hand combat would occur on every floor of the sanatorium as
the Americans and Germans battled for its control. Tanks were brought up to blast holes in the walls so that the infantry could breach the walls. The Americans used a 155mm artillery piece in a direct-fire role to knock down the walls. The dead would litter the hallways and rooms.

In the cellar, as a dying American soldier was given last rites, a German soldier knelt down to give him a cigarette. The American soldier fumbled around in his jacket and gave the German a piece of chocolate. The German soldier could not eat it, he said, because it was covered in blood.

Once the Americans had finally secured the sanatorium, they proceeded to the basement were they were welcomed by the civilians. There, an American GI took out a pair of dry socks and placed them on the cold, bare feet of a little girl.

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