By Jim Harris

The Ozark 102nd Infantry Division was activated Sept. 13, 1942 at Camp Maxey, Texas to take part in WW2. At that time the war was not going well for us. The German troops were advancing in Stalingrad, Rommels tanks were on the move in Africa, our mighty carrier Wasp was sinking in the waters of the Solomon Islands where the Japanese had reinforced Guadalcanal; so time was short for training the Ozarks. They were needed now. However, not all of the Ozarks went to war. .Replacements were needed for men lost in the fighting and many were taken from the Ozark Div. to replace those men.

 The remaining were sure they were now safe. Back to the everyday routine of chow lines, beer at the PX, inspections, hurry-up-and-wait, endless salutes, drill, long lines at the movies, and read about the war. Safe in Texas.

 At this same period of time the ASTP (boys) were happy to sit out the war in college. They trained with slide-rules as they went to class and read about the war in the papers. Sit down meals and clean warm beds. Then the bubble burst, the ASTP program was curtailed and the young college kids were on their way to Texas and the Infantry.

 The Ozark Division suddenly discovered that their ranks were to be filled with young college kids all with high IQs. The remnants of the 102nd Div. moved quickly to fill all vacant positions of noncoms and prepared to teach those young college kids about the real soldiers of the Infantry. When the young college kids arrived there were 3,250 from all across the country and all were privates in march 1943.

 Fun and games for the old timers, but after a quick refresher of a couple of months, they became a real Ozark Division and were prepared for war. In June the Ozarks shipped out for the departure for the war. A short stay to fight the battle of the street cars in Philadelphia and a short visit to see the sights of New York City then onto the ships for a nice ocean cruise to Normandy but no war yet. Patton has broken through the German lines and all our trucks are needed to haul gasoline and supplies, so we pitch our tents in the hedgerows and wait. Try a little cognac and see the local sights. Nice weather also, but no war. We hear it is going our way now and there is some talk of home by Christmas.

 Finally in October we say good bye to Cherbourg as we pack into 40 and 8 boxcars and the rail road trip takes a few days to get us into Holland near the German border. The land of windmills and wooden shoes, then the sight seeing is over as we move into the front lines, foxholes prepared by the 29th Division. Now we are very close to the war. We settle in and wait. A few patrols into German lines but few casualties.

 November 1944 brings a bit cooler weather. K 407 safely in our foxholes at Teveran as the Ozarks defend a line from Kreuzrath through Birgden, Hatterath, Gillrath, Teveren, Briel to Waureichen. Our only real action is a few patrols into German lines .For about two weeks the Ozark units are regrouped as they are shifted a bit to the southeast and finally we get the word that we are going into action and attack the German lines. Now the real war comes.

 The small towns of Apweiler, Immendorf Geilenkirchen, Beeck, Welz, Geronsweiler, Roerdorf, Flossdorf, and Linnich were our objective as we advanced to the Roer River. The Germans were determined to stop us and blood flowed freely as the roar and whistle of artillery, mortars, machine guns and bullets filled the air and many good men fell. Smoke filled the air and when we finally reached the Roer we realized what real war was all about. When we finally dug in we had time to think and realized what had happened to us. Almost every front line unit had lost half or more of their men and suddenly Berlin seemed a long long way off. To most of us on the front the question was no longer would it be over by Christmas. Most of us believed it was just a matter of time until we were hit, now we just hoped it would only be a simple wound and only serious enough to get us out of the war.

 It was many years later before most of us realized who our German opponents were. This was the 10th SS Panzer Division, one of best divisions in the German army. All of us down at the bottom at the level of privates and non commissioned soldiers were never given information on the enemy opposing us. This information was for the top brass only, and all too often even they did not know. This was evident at the start of the Ardennes offensive which became known as the Battle of the Bulge. We did know that we had severe casualties and we still had the Roer to cross. I certainly do remember how all of us dreaded crossing the Roer for another blood bath like we had in November. I am sure you all remember that.

You, the survivors, know the rest of the Ozark story as we went all the way to the Elbe river and final victory. When I was discharged I wanted to get on with my life, and did so. Never joined the VFW, Legion, or the Ozark assn. I did exchange notes with a few at Christmas and that was all. Time went by and in 1975 someone sent me a notice of a planned two week tour of Europe that included a couple of days visiting our former war areas and also visits to Paris, Switzerland, etc. I joined the Ozark Assn. and we went on the tour. Fantastic it was.

 Although Welz was not included in the tour, I asked to stop there. Hal Ryder of Galaxy tours was with us and said “no!” Jim Limbaugh spoke up and said he also wanted to stop at Welz so we did. Jacob Rainer who owned the brewery treated us all to beer and now this is a regular stop on all tours. Here is where I heard about the 10th SS and became interested.

     I then met General Heinz Harmel who was the commanding General of the 10th SS during the war and became friends. We have exchanged letters and I began to learn about the war from his side. I also met Hans Kramp who was a member of the 8th Kavallerie Division der Waffen SS who lives in Linnich. Kramp wrote the book RURFRONT 1944/45 and has the German side of the battle for Linnich. Harmel lived in Krefeld until his death in Sept. 2000. I have learned a bit about the 10th SS and have promised John Emerich that I would write a little about this for those who are interested in hearing that story.

 I asked Harmel where he learned to speak such good English, his wife also speaks good English. Harmel's reply was that he was the guest of the King of England for two years after the war and did not have too much else to do so he learned English. Since Harmel was an SS officer he remained a POW until it was apparent that he was not involved in any war crimes. Harmel explained that the SS had two main branches; the Waffen SS who were in the war as elite combat soldiers and the Political SS who were the ones who operated the concentration and extermination camps.


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