There were several occassions the Americans became under friendly fire. On the Internet, you will not find much about these incidents. Many will not talk about these incidents. But there is a very shocking story of Frank Maresca, 75th division, 289th regiment infantry, company F.
His story is situated south of Grandmenil direction la Fosse. Between these two villages runs a road up the hill, where a big house is hidden in the woods: Le Chalet. At the end of this road, Company F ended up in a real hell on december 26 1944
His story begins curious, if it’s not complete. I guess that he means with “haunting evidence” Le Chalet, where a German sniper has ceased. But I’m not sure.
This is his horrific story:
We marched away from the haunting evidence. But we kept looking back, until we saw it no longer.We went down to the right fork of the road and soon we were under heavy overhanging branches. We walked about 100 meters before we reached a junction of a road. Our road ended here, the other looked like a fire lane .
(This is a unwooded “path” to stop fire. BK)
Without doubt we crossed the road and climbed a slight slope of two or three feet to a semi open field. There were many trees and it was a good place to dig foxholes.
1st Lieutenant Markowitz took the first position, which had sight on the valley where Grandmenil and la Fosse lay. A hillside on the other side ran parallel to ours. A double highway lay in the valley, and committed the two villages. The road lay about 25-30 yards for us where we dug in our defensive position. (map1)
Markowitz ordered us to walk on, while we went down the slope. “Keep moving, all the way, until we tell you to stop”.
We weren’t moving down to the right to suit the XO. We were beginning to bunch-up which was an absolute no-no. On seeing this, he began to yell and curse, and to question people’s ancestry. He sent someone; I think it was Hammonds, to go down the line to our right and to get the men in the line to move further on. Dispatching whomever may have saved that man from what followed!
The combat A plan was to connect to the companies either side of us. There was confusion about the exact location of company F and H.
By trying to maneuver to tie up with “H” Company, we pinched off Company “G”. In addition, failing to link up as we did, with “H” Company, we left two gaps in the 2 nd Battalion’s Defense Line, i.e., one between Croix St Jehenne and Masta which was our real assigned area, and a 500 yard gap between “F” and “H” Companies, in the vicinity of Sur Charmont (see map for G1 and G2).
The Germans were quick to see this debacle. Taking advantage of our mistakes in field maneuvers, they infiltrated a very substantial force through the gaps. (Maresca refers to the Sadzot attack) This force later took up a strong defensive position in the Croix St Jehenne – Masta sector.
Markowitz waited a minute and then started screaming again. This time he didn’t stop and every dirty word invented by people came from him. Eventually he stopped and began to talk with the men around him.
During this short time suddenly, unannounced, all hell broke loose. A mortar whistled over our heads and hit the other side of the road (Grandmenil-Lafosse) about 100 meters from us.
Then followed a second mortar, wich hit right between the road and the trees were we hide . We immediately sought cover. We ran back to the slope and the “fire lane”, wich was the border of our defensive line.
We spread over the “fire lane” when the third mortar came in. He came between us. Immediately afterwards I heard someone call for his mother. Several men were hit. The fourth shell landed just behind me when I was looking for cover.
The force of the explosion lifted my legs and I landed with my head in a slope of snow and pine needles. I got up and ran off. I did not want to investigate whether I was wounded. The shock of what was going on and the will to survive was too big. I ran on adrenaline and instinct. I kept my head down and my eyes on the slope that led to the fire lane. I ran as hard as I could, but I doubted what I had to do: “freeze” on the ground or stand up and run!
The fifth mortar came out and hit in close. I thought the mortar went along my neck. It explode behind me on the right. I was hit by flying needles, mud, ice and rocks. Joe Gil, who carried the ammunition of the BAR, was launched on top of me. Gil Maresca became good friends during the war, but now that did not count.
I threw him off my back like a bag of horse shit, and ran away.
Soldiers were yelling and screaming when the sixth and last mortar hit in front of me. I felt as if someone hit me with a hammer on my helmet. I felt the pain from the top of my head to my toes.
The screaming and shouting had stopped. There was just moans and the wind that blew through the trees.
I was dizzy and stumbled on the slope to the fire lane. There were a few men, walking on the right of me. Sergeant Tierney was not with me! I did not wait to find out what had happened. I began to walk, walked faster and finally I ran. I ran about 100 meters when Markowitz began to scream that we had to come back.
It did not take long before we were back at the horrible site. The first man I saw was Tierney, who was on the left of the road, just before the road divided to the “fire lane”.
His legs lay in a V shape. His helmet was gone and his gun, too. He sweated heavily, and he looked at the road where he came from. He kept on screaming “these sons of bitches, these sons of bitches!”
I walked to him and put my arm on his shoulder to reassure him.
Then I saw what happenend to Tierney. His left eye was blown out of his eye socket and rested on his cheek.
A medic took over, cut the sleeve of his coat away and gave Tierney a morphine shot.
The next man I saw, was Lt. Olson of the 2nd platoon. He was standing on the middle of the road in a sort of Napoleonic pose. His helmet was behind his head and he bathed in sweat. He looked up into the trees. I saw blood where he held his hand. I walked up to him and asked him if I could help. He said that I had to worry about the others.
I turned around and saw Sergeant Al Leight, 3rd leader of the third platoon. He sat with his back against a tree. There were some men around him, a few Medics. Around them were men on stretchers. I was wondering where all the help had suddenly come from.
Al had no helmet and no material with him. He also bathed in the sweat. In contrast to the others, he was aware of his surroundings. A unlighted cigarette hung to his upper lip.
When I looked at him, I saw that one of his shoes was of. Later I understood that both his legs were blown off.
Two friends of mine were behind Al. One was injured really bad, the other was dead.
I went there. One was rolled all up and had his hands on his belly. Blood poured between his fingers. A mortar had ripped open his stomach. It was Tom Darlington of the 1st team, third platoon. He was one of the men who, in Pembrey/Wales, drank beer with the others and went back singing to the camp. He was a great guy.
A medic called to me that I should leave him alone. I got up and looked at another man who was next to Tom. His head was gone. I felt my stomach contents come up.
A man threw a canvas tent over him and a medic came up with the head. They had found the head by a tree, clamped in its deformed helmet. The medic put the head on the place where it normally should be. It rolled under the tent away and I saw that it was Bob Duffy of the 2nd team, 3rd platoon. He had become a very good friend of mine in Camp “Lousy Howzie”
I felt very empty. It was not a good feeling.
A group of men came who carried a man. The soldier moaned, choked and wept. It was PFC Calvin Cummings, Barman of the 2nd team, 3rd platoon. They asked me to help. I grabbed Calvins left arm and head. The men were all of the Company.
We laid Calvin near Leight. I still had his head hidden in my right arm when we put him down. His glasses he always wore were gone. He bled all over and he choked on his own blood. He looked at me, made a fist and knocked me twice on my chest. His eyes looked at nothing and he was dead.
The las hour, I had experienced to much: I was terrified that the sniper, hidden in the house (Le Chalet) would shoot me. Feared what would happen during the attack, the run to stay alive and seeing the wounded and ultimately seeing two dead friends.
I lost control over my emotions. I put Calvins head on the ground and began to cry. Someone put a hand on me and told that I could do nothing more. There was a black cloth placed over Calvin.
Trucks came to retrieve the dead and injured. I looked again to what was once a strong and lively man, now covered by canvas. His left arm came from under the canvas and his hand was still a fist.
As I type these words, 57 years after that nightmare, I still see Tierney, Leight, Darlington, Duffy in their death struggle. Anyway, the memory that remains for me the most is that arm, sticking out grom under the black canvas and the fist that knocked goodbye on my chest.
The massacre, collecting the dead and wounded and the removal of it only lasted a few minutes. It was unrealistic. The survivors stood there as if nothing had happened. It seemed like they had forgotten us. Nobody told us were we should be going or what we should do.
There was an order that we should go to the the place where the massacre had taken place and line up so that they could see who died and who were not.
On the basis of reports in response to actions on December 25 to December 28, 1944:
The 87th chemical mortar Battalion supported the 289th and 290th regiments of the 75th infantry division. This team was lined up on December 25 at 15.15 am in the vicinity of Sadzot. The team was armed with 4.2 inch mortars: chemical toxic smoke bombs and high explosive shells (HE’s).
The mortars had a range of 5000 yards.
On December 26 Company F of the 2nd battalion, 289th infantry, took a defensive position between Grandmenil en la Fosse. The position was parallel on the road between these two villages. Chemical Mortar Company B placed the mortar to the outside edge of Sadzot.
After Action Report for December 26:
“Company B, working together with the 289 th Infantry, 75 th Division, fired 46 (not 146) High Explosive Shells and 8 white phospor grenades. Not observed fire on suspected enemy forces gathered in the region (…) in the direction of Grandmenil.
Six of the mortars landed on Company F, who stopped by a row of trees to take a defensive position.”
On December 26, 1944 the company lost 7 soldiers and 16 wounded.
1. Where it all began. Above the intersection where the Germans attacked a motorized column of Company G (incident is unknown, or maybe Maresca meant Trou du Loup, see * on the card.)
2. A wide intersection, in front of a dark mansion. (Le Chalet)
3. Le Chalet
4. Right fork, leading to the Fire Lane and where the “friendly fire” took place.
5. Fire lane
6. Place where the shells fell.
(1a and 1b: unknown what Maresca meant)
F: location of company F
G: location of company G
H: Location of comapny H
DL: position of Maresca’s defensive team.
F L: Fire Lane
G1: G ap between Masta, and Croix st. Jehenne
G2: Gap in Sur Chamont
6: Area, where company F should took a defensive position
7: Position where the dead lay
8: Position where the victims were collected and retrieved.
X: Position of artillery (Sadzot)