Letter to Lloyd Leibnitz dated Jan. 20, 1992

Carl F. Main

Columbus, Indiana 47201

20 January 1992

 Dear Lloyd,

 Thank you very much for your letter of January 15th. I am really glad to get it. It answers several questions which I was in doubt about. And it opens up a few more, which is as I would expect after a 46—year gap in communications. I think I can fit some of the pieces together. I hope you will be patient with my conjectures, because that is what many of my conclusions really are. I’m trying to keep in mind all the information available to help place recollections where they belong.

Your letter has been reproduced in my files and a letterhead added so that I don’t get the reproduction confused with your original. That will let me mark up copies for discussion, without affecting your letter to me. It’s fairly easy for me to do this on my computer. I will send you a copy of your letter as written, in case you don’t have a copy. And, I’ll send you a copy marked up with my comments or further questions. I was particularly glad to hear your comments concerning Billie Presley, and I would appreciate any further information you may recall about him.

 Billie was with the 2nd squad of the 2nd platoon just before you joined Company B. So was Ralph Cyphers. I believe both of them were earlier, during the actions near Beeck in November, in the 1st squad. That was when Billie earned his Silver Star Medal. I don’t know whether or not they, or either one of them, left the platoon for a brief rest and recuperation period after that November action. I do know that they were with our 2nd Squad in mid—January, 1945. Ralph Cyphers stayed with the 2nd squad and earned the Silver Star Medal about the last of February 1945, just a very few days before he was killed near Krefeld. Gene Shaffer wrote me that Ralph was with him when that happened.

 Lloyd, I remember you as being with our 2nd squad at some time, although for the life of me I can’t yet figure out just when that was. I remember you as a quiet serious—minded fellow who was well—liked and fit in with the rest of us. For a while, I thought you might have been an earlier replacement for B Company than were the most of our squad and were simply returning after whatever reason for being gone for a while. Your letter clears that up. We made only one snowsuit attack, and that was on 26 January 1945 against the Randerath and Himmerich area, We jumped off at 0228, several hours earlier than planned, and were several miles toward our objective by daylight. We spent that night near the abandoned Wehrmacht barracks near Himmerich overlooking the bluff and valley of the Teich Brook to the east toward the Roer River. It was quiet that night and a small deer came up to the foxhole that Gina Oncheck and I were manning, so close that I could have touched it with my B.A.R. Our snowsuits had been issued to us only a day or two before, so you not having one must have joined B Company about the 24th or 25th of January. I’m reasonably certain that we were in Beeck, near the center of that village when the snowsuits were issued. We had earlier, about the first week in January, been in Beeck at the northern perimeter and had experienced some heavy artillery fire which hit our quarters.


 Luckily, it was not the first round of the barrage and all our guys had taken cover in the cellar. I was on guard next door in the house at the north edge of Beeck, and had heard the hit but didn’t know until I was relieved from guard duty that it had hit our quarters. Some equipment was damaged but we had no casualties. Back to your experience. I believe the other replacement who also had no "white pajamas" was likely Rubin Feldman. Does that name ring a bell? or, were you with him long enough to recognize his name if it were mentioned?

After one night at Himerich in the snowsuits, we were relieved on line, and marched back to the area near Wurm and were picked up by trucks and transported to Kerkrade for a brief rest, We had showers and I think we got to spend one night in the rest center there, which may have originally been a convent. About the 28th of January we moved into other quarters still in Kerkrade, I believe, and that is where you were when you described the bombing of the building where a movie was being shown. While you were watching from outside, if I understand correctly from your letter, I was inside watching the movie. I think it was, "Three Girls in White", or something like that. The stars included Marilyn Maxwell. The bombing didn’t cause any casualties as I recall, but it sure played hob with the picture. It was several years later that I got to see the end of the picture. It was still in Kerkrade, I think, that Steve Puskar, who was a Tech. Sergeant (Platoon Sergeant) had returned from a hospital in England after being wounded near Beeck in November, and he took the platoon on a short hike in the vicinity. I remember him reprimanding me for getting out of the mainstream and walking on a ridge parallel to the "line of march" like I was a scout or something.

 I never knew what Steve Puskar’s military job was before he left the company in November. After we crossed the Roer River, and Lt. Braswell, our platoon leader was wounded, and Captain Pinney (who was our Company commander, having replaced Captain Estes after he was killed along with the Supply Sergeant, James Rawson, and the 4th Platoon Runner, Theodore Bozarth, on your birthday), was also wounded; Sergeant Pharris took over the Company, and Steve Puskar took over the 2nd platoon, at least for one day. Steve Puskar was still alive when I was hit about 10:30 a.m. on 24 February, 1945. He was killed shortly after that - maybe the same day.

You wrote about your birthday. We were quartered in Welz, and it was to Ederen that we were transported that day, 12 February, to help the Engineers obtain broken brick rubble for repairing the roads in the area. I was on that same detail in Ederen. The Engineers did the providing by lacing blocks of T.N.T. together with cordite in the walls of the gutted buildings. After they set off the charges, we did the loading, picking up bricks and half bricks and tossing them into the trucks. It was not until we returned to Welz in the evening that we heard about the shell hitting the Company C.P. From the account that I can write now, it may seem that we were aware of all the details at that time. In fact, I did not know any of this detail until just recently, having garnered much of it from letters or telephone conversations with B Company members.

 Back to the movie place. I think we were in Kerkrade for a rest only two or three days. From there we moved to Geilenkirchen, which by then, was well behind the front. I recall us being quartered in a house near the northern edge of Geilenkirchen, which had a stove in it.


After cleaning the crap out of the rooms, left by the 84th Divigion G.I's I believe, we lived on the ground floor level. That house may have had a low iron fence around the front yard. I recall a wide area in the street (perhaps where a "Y" was formed from two roads leading out of the town toward the north) where a ceremony was held to award medals to some of the Company. I remember walking down to the center of town (south and then east) to see what had been there. It was all in ruins of course, but Geilenkirchen had been a prominent town in the area. There were the remains of a "kegelbahn" or bowling alley, where they bowled with small balls at nine pins in a diamond formation. (I’m putting all this in here to see if any of it triggers your memories.)

 We were in Geilenkirchen for four or five days - from about January 30th through February 3rd. Then we moved to Baesweiler for four or five days. I remember at Baesweiler we had an elegant latrine. It had a bottomless cane—bottom chair to straddle the trench. I was sitting out there when an old woman - a civilian - walked by a few yards away. She was the only civilian I remember seeing over there. Neither of us were very impressed with the situation, and she continued on her way without paying much attention. While at Baesweiler, when the weather was nice, we sometimes played tag football, or at least tossed the ball around a little. It was at Baesweiler, I think, that we were issued shoe—pacs, knee—high boots with thick felt liners which were good to keep your feet warm, so long as you didn’t get them full of water. And we had new full— length socks to go with them. I could be wrong on this. We may have had the shoe-pacs earlier, but I do remember the new socks.

 Around the 8th of February, at night, we made about an eight—mile march to Welz. We were moving up in anticipation of crossing the Roer River then. The sunshiny days had thawed the ground some and the road was a big mudhole. Those shoe—pacs which were designed to keep your feet dry and warm were no good for marching in the mud. I wore great big holes in those new socks in just that one march. We had no sooner arrived in Welz than the Germans wedged open the flood gates at the big Schwamanuel Reservoir upstream (south) of Julich, and the river quickly flooded until it was on average about 400 yards wide. That was the reason the crossing was delayed and we were put to work to help improve the roads in the area. On the 13th of February we were transported back to Baesweiler to wait for the river to recede.

We stayed in Baesweiler until the 22nd of February; then moved back to Ederen. It is at this point that the account in the Division History starting on page 133, by Howard K. Smith, CBS correspondent begins. (Also my account of the Roer River crossing; and now, yours.) There are a couple of things that I’d like to get straight, Lloyd, that are not quite clear to me. When I talked to Eddie Leonelli, recently, he said he was hit almost immediately after we had made the far bank of the river. Were you hit near the river bank? Or, had you moved on past the place where we waded through that Malefink Brook, which was chest or neck deep, depending on how tall you were or how low you were dragging. We had already come through that brook and were in some scrubby timber when Dominic decided to go back and guide the litter bearers to our more recent casualties. That’s where we were when Gizza oncheck and I were hit in the meat can pouches of our haversacks by machine—gun fire. (Gizza didn’t know about that until later that afternoon, but I did.) Did you get that far? And did "Big Joe" get that far?


You mentioned a new replacement getting hit on the way down to the river while we were still on the west side of the river. I’m guessing that would likely be James S. Hallsen. The mid—February roster made by Tony DeBellis shows an addition of a James E. Hallsen, I think about that time. The name is marked out and it reappears again on the opposite page which would be consistent with a slight wound causing a man to leave and be treated and quickly returned to duty.

One other item puzzles me. Early in your letter you mentioned going to Eschweiler in November. Also the part about the British tanks and the Bagpipers. Eschweiler is east of Aachen about halfway to Duren, in the U.S. First Army zone, and I’m not sure it was in Allied hands at that time. The British were to our north, and about that time the 405th Infantry Regiment was attached to the U.S. 2nd Armored Division which was adjacent to the British in the area just east of Geilenkirchen. Could it have been Baesweiler rather than Eschweiler? That would seem consistent with your being in Heerlen for a few days. It sounds to me as though you were assigned to the 405th Infantry for about two months before you were assigned to Company B of the 405th. Its not for me to tell you in 1992 where you were in 1944 and 1945. Does this trigger any more recollections? It would also fit if somehow you were assigned to the 84th Infantry Division for a couple of months before joining Company B, 405th at Beeck about January 24th or 25th, but that wouldn’t seem to be usual.

 Lloyd, this letter is long and the happenings are out of sequence, but I do want to thank you again for your letter. It helps me a great deal, and the answers to the questions at the bottom of the previous page will help me even further. I only hope that these ramblings make some sense to you, and perhaps help to recall additional long—forgotten experiences. I’ve got more to write and these ramblings help me to get things in a better sequence and into better focus. I’ll forward your dues to the 102d Infantry Division Association.


Carl F. Main



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