Jan was not even born when she lost her father. Her mother was three months pregnant when her husband got killed, far away from home, in an area of an unknown hamlet called Grandmenil.
His name was Earl. Earl George Naumann.
In december 2010, Jan Griffin contacted me by email. She had read the story about Trou de Loup and recognised it from the letters her mom recieved from veterans, shortly after the war.
She wanted to know that place, where her father got killed on december 25 1944.
“ It has been my wish for many years to visit the place where he died. My mother was only 3 months pregnant with me when he was killed and since I was never able to know him, I want to know about him. I do know that he was originally buried in Liege but his body was transported back to Fort Snelling, Boomington, MN in 1949. His name was Earl G Naumann.”
Jan arrived mid june 2011 in our bed and breakfast, accompanied by her husband and a distant cousin and his daughter from Germany. (Later it turned out they weren’t related at all, but became close friends!)
During a two day journey and thanks to all the material, Jan brought with her, we found out what happend to her father.
Captain M. McLaughlin, captain of the 289th regiment wrote on august 16, 1945:
Company K was holding a position (Trou de Loup, BK) on some highground north of Grandmenil, Belgium. On december 25, the company was attacked by a group of enemy tanks and fierce fight developed. The battle took place at 01.00 AM (according to us, the attack took place around 2.30, B.K) and was the company’s first encounter with the enemy since arriving overseas. During the first phase of the fighting, Earl was struck by shrapnel from an artillery shell and killed almost instantly. He was laid to rest in Fosse cemetery #1, Belgium, grave no 111, row 6, plot 1.”
Another soldier, Gustav Fristad had more specific information.
On february 27th 1945, Gustav spoke with a guy who arrived with a hospital ship in England and who was in the 289th regiment, company K.
” However he did not know Earl. This boy went over in october with the 289th. He did give me some information, wich may be interesting. He was injured on december 26th, losing one eye and still unable to see with the other eye. His company was going in to take a town called Grandmenil. During the night of december 24th they were subjected German artillery fire, with a few (….). Then, on the 25th seven German Tiger tanks (Panther tanks, B.K) came down the road Co. K was on and completely overran the vehicles on the road, such as the jeeps. Crushing them and even a couple of drivers were killed that way. Most of the men hid in the woods, but a large number of those along the road side were killed. The next day the whole battalion came up and took the town.” (This is incorrect. B.K)
On March 2, 1945, Gustav wrote another letter.
He had talked to 1st Sergeant of Company K, Robert Evans, who knew Earl pretty well. Evans was in the hospital when Gustav talked to him.
“He was hit at eight AM on Xmas day and Earl was right by his side then. However, he did not regain in consciousness until the 27th so did not know about Earl until I talked to him. Some shell or explosion near him got the ergeant, the concussion of it. It is very likely that Earl was knocked out by it also. They were in the road that the tigers came up on. These tanks shelled everything in the road. Hardly anyone had a chance to get out as it was a narrow road cut through a hill. Many of the men were run over and crushed. The sgt. said he had been fortunate as the tank straddled him when it went over it. This he was told by those who picked him up later. He believes that Earl was killed either by a shell explosion, or run over by the tanks after being knocked out by the concussion.”
In all the stories, we found about Trou de Loup, we’ve never heard before that these German tanks ran over the bodies. A horrific detail.
On november 30th 1945, veteran James “Jim” Cuthbertson wrote a testimony to the mother of Jan. According to us, it’s the most trustable one. The letter James wrote is a long one. We only will take out the piece about Trou de Loup.
“ After a 2 day ride in 40×8 cars, we took up defensive positions and set up road blocks about 20 miles behind our retreating lines. We lived in a large house for about 3 days without any action before moving up on the 24th of December. We walked most of that afternoon. Then after a 2 hour rest went by truck until within 3 miles of the front. We were to go to the top of a hill overlooking the Belgium town of Grandmenil, (south of Liege), dig in till daylight, then attack the town. We followed the road to the top of the hill and were all sitting along the road waiting for our officers to tell us where they wanted us to dig in. Up the road came two of our tanks. They were passing Earl and I when someone yelled we could hear Germans talking in them. One boy (Cpl. Richard F. Wiegand; B.K) shot at the lead tank with his bazooka, then all hell broke out. Berkin, Wilner, Earl, another boy and myself crawled up a ditch when a 3rd German tank fired his machine guns right over the ditch. We crawled about 100 yards to an opening. There we could hear German tanks all around us and our own artillery started dropping in on us. I said I would try to make some heavy woods and if I did for them to follow. I just hit the woods when a rifle was shoved into my stomach. It turned out to be one of our officers. But before I could tell him who I was and what was happening the boys thought I had been captured and went the other way. That was about 5:00 am Christmas morning. I led about 20 men through the ring of tanks and back aways until daylight. Then we started back to the top of the hill reaching there about noon. Berkin told me that they had just turned away from watching me when shells started to fall real close so they just hit the ground. He said one hit just a few feet away and hurt his head from the concussion so he asked if anyone was hurt. Earl didn’t answer. After the shelling let up, they rolled him over but couldn’t find where he was hit any place.
The shell had hit about 8 feet from Earl so he absorbed the full shock of the concussion. The boy who was right next to Earl said, “He never made a sound” and he should know as they were all laying touching one another.
They took me to the spot after I dug a foxhole. The GI’s had already picked him up and I couldn’t find any blood so it was most likely the concussion that killed him, however it might have been a heart attack.
I was hit the 2nd of Feb and still will be in the hospital for some time. I get home almost every weekend, but I don’t expect a 30 day furlough until after the 1st of next year.
If you have any questions that I haven’t answered please feel free to write or come and visit my wife and I at any time.
Jim James Cuthbertson”
The next day, Jan, her husband Larry and I drove to the place.
We found a large impact in the inner circle of Trou de Loup. There was no other crater, so it had to be the place where Earl got hit.
It was a rainy day and we all felt sad. Here, after a long journey overseas, far away from his parents and his wife and kid, Earl got killed by a concussion. And nearly 70 years later his daughter, whom he’d never had seen, was standing on the same place as where Richard Wiegand made his so called “Lucky Shot”. One could only wish he made that shot just a bit earlier, hoping the tanks would retreat, leaving Earl behind, alive.
But you can’t change history and we have to accept the facts as they were written down on that moment, on monday around 3.30 hrs, december 25th 1944, Christmasday.
Jan came back in august 2014, accompanied by her husband Larry and their son Jay and daughter in law Gina. We visited the places where Earl was and we toasted on him in the evening.
Earl never fired a single shot.
May he rest in peace.