William Merriken

This is William Merriken of B Battery, of
the 285th.Field Artillery Observation Battalion.
Field Artillery Company. Bill Survived being shot
in the killing field on December 17, 1944. He has
visited me twice and brought me pictures and
document to help in my research about the killing
of the four men of the 32nd. Recon. He told me he
was standing within 6 ft. of McGee and McDermott.

     My name is William Merriken of the 285th, Field Artillery Battalion. On December 16, 1944 we were in Schevenhutte, Germany. Our Company Commander had received orders to move from our Seventh Corps sector to proceed to St. Vith, which was in the Eight Corps sector. We spent a good bit of time that day and night preparing to move. In the morning of the Dec. 17th, there were approximately 30 vehicles an140 men that left Schevenhutte. We proceeded to Eupen and South toward St. Vith. We came to Malmedy and there was a lot of traffic moving about and there seem to be a lot of commotion and excitement and we didn't know what was going on. I was in the second vehicle of the convoy with the driver and machine gunner. In the lead vehicle were Captain Mills and Lt. Larry. Col. David Pergrin of the 291st Engineers Battalion told that there had been a German breakthrough and advised them it would be better to go to St. Vith by the way of Stavelot. but they decided against that mostly because of loosing there place on route N32.
     We proceeded through Geromont and to Five Points or the Baugnez crossroads and made a right turn past the Café Bodarwe on the road to Ligneuville. Just before we reached the left curve in the road we spotted a shell falling in the field to the right of us. After we got passed the curve the Column came to a halt on the right side of the road, and we got out and got in the ditch. About that time a jeep came down the road from Ligneuville with an Officer and driver. We stopped them and told them to go to Malmedy and get help as we were under attack. and they took off like hell. I heard later they got through.

     Then a mortal shell hit the third or fourth vehicle in the back of me. And a few more back got hit by a tank shell as it knocked the vehicle over. I could hear a tank coming down the road and spotted it as it made the turn. It was firing at random in the ditches with a machine gun, and as he approached he raised his arms and said Auk,Auk, and at the same time he motioned us back to the rear. I raised my hands and walked back and as I passed a German standing up in a vehicle and looked at me and said, "It's a long way to Tipperary". I wondered why he said this as continued down the road. At this time the German column continued to move by. When I got to the field where the rest of the men were. I was searched and told to go in the field with the other men. We stood around in several groups expecting some trucks to come, pick us up and take us back to a POW camp. There was a half-track and two tanks on the road that appeared to guard us.

     Then I saw a Kraut in the half-track stand up and point his pistol, and shoot an American soldier then another and a third. Then the two tanks started raking us with machine gun fire and I fell to the ground without being hit, face down. They kept firing for some time and I could head the bullets hitting the bodies and the ground near me. Then a column of vehicles passed by and they shot at us also, and then a pause and another group of vehicles came by and they did the same. After that there was another pause. Then I could hear two Germans talking and approaching in my direction and they came and stood right over me. There was a man's body lying on my leg. He moved and one of them shot him with a pistol. The bullet finished him off and went into my knee, but I did not move.

     Some time later, maybe half an hour, after the sound of vehicles was gone I could hear some talking nearby and a voice said, "Let's make a break". I looked up and saw ten or fifteen American soldiers come by me, heading for the woods on both sides of the field. I got up and hobbled across the field and saw a house #7 across the road and headed for it. I could see that the Café was on fire. As I approached the fence, an SS Officer came down the road. He pointed his pistol at me and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not go off. The Officer kept running up the road to head off more of the men who had escaped. Then I managed to get over the fence and get to a wood shed. A few minutes later I was looking through the slits and saw a GI crawling across the road and he came in the wood shed with me.

     Next morning we crawled across the Malmedy road and went into a field and went through the field toward Geromont. We hid in a thicket and later a farmer came and toward us and stood over us and motion with his head for him to follow him. Later near dark with the help of my comrade, as I could hardly stand. We crossed the road and went inside the house. His wife cleaned my wound and gave us some potato soup. Then they helped me upstairs and put me on a bed. The next morning the lady took a note to the American forces in Malmedy. In the after noon an ambulance came up to the house fast, and two medic came and picked me up and put me in side the ambulance quickly, with my friend Chuck and carried me to their aid station in Malmedy, and later to the 44th. Evac. Hospital, and later a series of hospitals back to the States.