There are at least three stories to be told of German POWs in the Holzheim, Belgium. One is that of Sgt. Leonard Funk and the reversal of their fortunes when a group of Germans overcame their G.I. guards. That story has become well known, even famous, as Sgt. Funk was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics that day. Two other related stories are less well known but definitely worth the telling.
While attending the 1995 508th reunion in Cody, Wyoming, Worster Morgan, Hq Hq, submitted a copy of a letter from Tom Angress written from Berlin, Germany. Worster had been the Platoon Sgt. and later Lieutenant in charge of S-2 (Intelligence) Section of Hq Hq.
The question had been asked, "Who spoke to the German prisoners at Holzheim, Belgium, before they were led away to the rear?" Worster believed the speaker was Tom Angress.
[The readers] know the story of Sgt. Leonard Funk's heroics at Holzheim, who when we went to check on the prisoners, found a German officer in charge [instead of their American captors who had been overcome] demanding that Funk give up his weapon. Funk responded by giving the German officer his Thompson submachine gun firing full blast. Thus Funk was able to subdue the rebellion and secure the prisoners.
The next day six troopers were selected to march the prisoners back to the rear. By this time the group of prisoners had increased to about 300 -- so it was said. The POWs had already overcome their guards once, therefore, the command was issued, "Shoot to kill if an escape is attempted."
Before the Germans were led away, a small German-speaking American paratrooper lectured the prisoners. Whatever he said made the Germans laugh. The speech and the humor must have been effective -- for the troopers had no problems taking the prisoners to the rear. Among that guards that cold fearful night were Hq Hq men: Howard Brooks, Leon Israel Mason, Chris Christensen and Zig Boroughs.
Fifty-two years later, Tom Angress wrote, "I am virtually certain that the 'small trooper' at Holzheim was I. It had been a rough 72 hours with virtually no food, the regiment was cut off, and nobody [had] any idea what we were facing."
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Don Hardwick, Hq Hq, was involved in another incident related to the same German POWs from Holzheim.
Lt. Hardwick was the officer in charge of taking the prisoners to the rear. The German officer POWs were in the front of the column.
When Hardwick heard a Tommie gun fire several rounds, he hurried to determine the cause of the firing. As he approached the head of the column, Hardwick noticed the German enlisted POWs enjoying a big laugh as they watched their officers pushing an American Jeep out of a snow drift.
When the column came upon the Jeep, one of the guards, "Bugs" Cehrobec, ordered the lead POWs to push the jeep. They refused, saying, "We are officers."
A few rounds fired near the officers' toes quickly downgraded their officer status -- to the delight of the enlisted German prisoners.
[These two article appeared in the Summer and Fall 1996 editions of the 508th newsletter. At the 508th St. Louis reunion held in the Fall of 1996, Joe Ricci said that he, Fred Taylor and Fritz Nitschke, all of Hq Hq, were also on that guard detail in Holzheim.]
Still another article appeared in the Summer 1999 edition of the newsletter as a memorial to Sgt. Leonard Funk had been dedicated at Camp Blanding on June 19th of that year. In that dedication ceremony it was said:
The Medal of Honor citation mentioned the number of Germans Funk killed at Holzheim (twenty-one), but Leonard Funk did not gloat over killing so many of the enemy. His C Co. buddies described him as grieving that day over the loss of his good friend Co. Clerk Edward W. Wild who was killed that very same day.
He was also observed by a member of C Co. after the killing, comforting a German soldier, who died while in Leonard Funk's arms.