This is Charles Corbin in Parfondruy June 1998
MEMORIES OF PARFONDRUY, BELGIUM December, l944
Charles R. Corbin
April 23, l988
On Dec.20, 1944 our R.O. (Reconnaissance Office) half-track, of which I was chief of section from A Battery, 391st. Armored Artillery 3rd. Armored Division. passed through Spa, Belgium, and then through a large gasoline storage area in a wooded area. We sat up a communication relay station because of radio reception and visibility was very poor.
On the 21st. we got orders to report to a task force in Stoumont, but could not get by a column of tanks, and got stuck in a stream when we tried to bypass them on a trail. We then got a call to report to Col. Lovelady' s headquarters, as Stoumont was not in our hands. A Captain Peters toll us to report to Lt. Edmark of D/33, a small task force of Col. Lovelady's in the village of Parfondruy, to give artillery support. We were escorted part way and were told to move fast as the Germans had observation on the road. We did move fast and when we rounded a corner and stopped beside the first house on our right, The Villa Epilogue as there was a building on fire lighting up the sky as it became dark. Lt. Plummer our new F.O. said he would go ahead on foot and make contact with D Co. and make sure it was in our hands and all of us wouldn't get captured.
Meanwhile some of the people came out of the villa and asked for help, as there were several wounded inside. William Whitten, Roland Mniece, and Howard Jenkins went in and begin to administer first aid, while the rest of our section stayed on the guns. We had 3-30-cal. and one 50 -cal. machine guns. We soon got a signal from Plummer to come on in as he was about a mile away. The guys were reluctant to leave when I came in to get them loaded up. They were bandaging a woman's left arm which had a bullet wound. They left most of our first aid supplies and climbed over the side of the half-track, as we were only about 15 ft. from the door to the side of the road.
We passed the burning building on our right and met Plummer at the first corner intersection and then to Lt. Edmark's C.P. who had made room for us in a room there. There was about six inches of snow and it was very cold. We covered the windows and built a fire. I got out my favorite stove, a non issue blowtorch, and heated up some 10 in 1 rations. Lt. Edmark came in while we were were eating and gave us the lowdown or the big picture as they use to say. We had nine tanks, a platoon of infantry, and mortars, a few engineers and medics, and we had to hold our position. Lt. Edmark had led D. Co. from Petit Coo to take possession of Stavelot, but was stopped at the edge of Parfondruy on the Coo road by large number of infantry and tanks, in the afternoon. They had killed lots of Germans and knocked out several tanks and had a few prisoners. The fighting was ending as we arrived.
In the night, instead of sending Bed Check Charlie, the Germans sent a couple of buzz bombs that shook us. The next morning while scouting our position I enter a house and saw a dead elderly couple, bullet holes in their head, their throats cut, lying in their blood. Another house had two men and a baby dead in a crib, one of the women was nude with a bullet hole in her head and part of her left arm hacked off. Another house in a large closet was about six children shot, some with heads smashed.
I was at a corner standing in a yard when two children appeared like out of the fog, and said "Vive La Americk". One of our soldiers stopped them and told them not to enter the house, as the people were dead. They said they were looking for their parents and relatives and went in. I went back to our C.P. in a daze. William Whitten and I had just push the 20-year mark less than two weeks ago. It was hard to get our minds back on the war.
Several SS troops were captured early morning of 22nd and were shot while trying to escape . All afternoon we could see the German troops across the railroad marching on the Stavelot road toward Trois Ponts but could not see our artillery shells because of haze and fog. and slow communications. I went upstairs in a house on a hill behind us to observe better. There under our nose was a large German tank in some trees. After telling Plummer and Edmark we got artillery on it and flushed it out where one of D's Co. tanks had a clear shot at it. and shoot it he did but three balls of fire bounced off of it and it backed away never moving its turret. It had to be a Mark VI Tiger. It made us all wonder and I know the tank gunner was shaking his head, feeling helpless, as it backed up the railroad on our left flank. I had seen our 75's bounce off Mark V tanks before, the last time near Roetgen where they wiped out several our tank. This tank fire started a lot of fire on us as the Germans answered back and some 155's of our own came in on us. It took us a while to get this stopped. A message came in on our radio for Edmark from Lovelady as we had the only radio to reach outside. The Germans had taken the Coo road and our infantry were ordered out. We were isolated and feared the Germans would try to come through us to get to our gasoline supply. We mounted our three thirty cal. machine guns in the windows upstairs and down and sat up all night waiting. No one slept, but the attack never came.
On Dec. 23, we saw a concentration of enemy infantry and tanks building up as if about to attack. Edmark and Plummer decided to pull Edmark's tank "Dixie" beside our C.P.and use it for indirect fire on the Germans, and it had a 76 –mm gun. I went upstairs in my op. of the day before to observe with Plummer standing on the tank. The tank fired three times and I could see the Germans head for cover of the woods. They were between two to three thousand yards. After the third shot a German tank, probable the one I had observed the day before fired back either at the tank, Plummer or me. If me his aim was good but not perfect as the shell exploded through the wall of the room just to my right, knocking me down, breaking both hands and three pieces of shrapnel in the head. I couldn't get the door open with my hands and knowing if another shell came; I got help with a prayer to open it. The medics found me in the snow and helped me to the CP. and patched me up and said they would try to get me out as they had another wounded man. I told the guys in my section I had two bottle of cognac in my duffel bag for Christmas. Edmark came in and said good luck and I said the same to him. Sgt. Taggart put my P-38 on the stretcher and the medic half-track went across the ridge and the Germans shot at us, with the shells landing close, but they didn't stop until we got to a road block of our own empty vehicles. When the door opened I expected to see the Germans, but it was our medics checking on us. We arrived at a large Chateau used as an aid station on the lower left with the upper right as a headquarters and having a terrace, as I recognized my battery commander Capt. Paul Nelns. I was given a shot and the Chaplain came and said lets pray, and I said I had already done that, as I went to sleep.
Christmas day I was on a train near Paris to another hospital, and a Nurse fed me my Christmas dinner, a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich. I had no regrets, except I left my P- 38 in the ambulance, and I didn't get any of the Christmas cognac, and the memory of the massacre of Parfondruy.
T F Edmark endured the attack on the 23rd. of December and another on the 24th. They held their position until the 30 Infantry broke through to them late Christmas Eve. They celebrated Christmas in Parfondruy a little early toasting me with my cognac. There were 24 Civilian atrocities in Parfondruy. I had seen almost half of them. William Whitten remembers a baby in a crib and applying first aid. Monique Thonon survived with three bullet holes in her thighs. She had been found under her dead mother after the German SS had hearld 15-16 people in a barn and machine gunned them. She is now married, has two children and one grandchild. The little boy I met was Paul Klein. I have met them both many times since.
This is the end of Phase one of "Ardennes The Ordeal". on the Northern Shoulder. Phase 2 will follow shortly.
Charles R. Corbin
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