Was over to a friends house and he was on the Internet and for the first time asked him to look up anything on the 94th. That is where I found out you wanted to know about Jack Marsden. I know Jack, but will explain the day of combat where he was gravely wounded. See Footnote. Jack was in the First Squad (SGT Terry's Squad.) I was wounded from the Third Squad and came back and put in charge of the Second Squad. "Mother had the Third Squad.
Wies was a small hamlet of fifteen or twenty houses which we won. I Company took over to relieve us, they were pushed out and we had to retake it.
First Squad had eight men and the Second had seven men. We pulled back into town at dusk and were given replacements to fill out our Squads to twelve men, full strength. We moved out and at 11 p.m. the Third Platoon Lt. Daly led off in the mine field with me leading our Platoon, next. While the Third Platoon was in the mine field all hell broke out and they put flares up that lit up the night. Because of all the machine gun fire and exploding ACK-ACK shells the fellows got scared and ran in the mine field. I watched forty-four men out of forty-seven men die. A mine would blow there foot off and they would fall on another mine and were torn apart. I could not help them in any way. Only Lt. Daly and the two Top Sergeants were left. Because the Fist Platoon had no Lieutenants and we had Lt. Morse to lead us, we became the pushers. We pulled back to a sunken road and waited for three hours for things to quiet down. Lt. Daly was wounded several times but led us through another area. (He was our mine expert.) He led, I was next with the company behind us. I was a few inches from a mine when he told me to stop, and showed me a trip wire in the tall grass, otherwise I would have lost my foot.
Now we all got into Campholt woods and chased the Germans to the next woods. It was about 9am. Now it started to rain mortars and they kept it up all day long with machine gun fire raking the woods. I could see the red tracers coming and knowing there were two other rounds between them, I dived behind a tree to same myself. The Germans had built wood (small bunkers) for two men and I placed my men on line and chase one that the Germans had left a machine gun in. Lt. Morse came by and told me to lay in a fox hole (slit trench) in back of the bunker and the Lieutenant left and I looked at the slit trench and didn't want to lay in that, so I decided to check on the Second Squad line, then the machine gun opened up again and I ducked behind a tree. When it passed, I found two Germans hiding in the grass near our line and took them to the back of the woods to the Company post. All the time the mortars were raining in. Got back to the slit trench, looked in and saw where three mortar shells had hit the trench and thanked God I didn't get in it. When the shelling eased up, First Squad got two Germans to carry a wounded man, his leg nearly off, to the rear. I went to check on the Third Squad and halfway across the woods a sniper fired at me. It sounded like a train going one hundred miles an hour going to hit me. It missed by inches. Third Squad Sergeant told me he lost (wounded) five men due to mortar fire. I started back across the woods, when mortars started coming in again. When I got across to my Squad, I dug a hole straight down for five feet and if a mortar was to get me it had to come straight down on me. This round of fire killed Barry from the First Squad who was near my hole. When people are killed they are left where they fall; when wounded they are carried off as soon as possible. We have a Medic to patch us up for the Platoon. Forty men with a Medic.
The overall picture is each squad takes care of itself. We don't know who is wounded or killed in another Squad. As close as we all work together, one does not know what is happening in the overall picture. There is too much confusion in combat and with attacking the next day Lt. Morse might have known.
I was in touch with Lt. Morse till two years ago, when he passed on. I myself had three years in the service before going into combat. I had one and a half years in Iceland before being sent to the 94th as a Sergeant to shore it up for combat.
A few weeks after Wies, Lt. Daly was killed by machine gun fire and I was wounded for the third time, such is war.
I hope this letter explains something in what you are looking for. As I stated, the mortars were like rain with not much letup all day long.
Footnote: Jack is Alive and living in Freeport, NY. Jack is currently recuperation from a broken hip and is in his 6th month of recover. back
by Bill Montgomery
My first cousin, Jack Marsden served in the second platoon of "K" company, third Battalion, 376 Infantry regiment, 94th Infantry Division in the European theater of operations in WWII. He received the purple heart for wounds received in combat. What follows is a brief history of Jack's wartime service.
The 94th Division landed at Normandy - 94 days after the "D" day invasion - September 8, 1944.
For the first 106 days of combat the 94th was involved in a holding action around St Nazaire and Lorient called "The forgotten front". The purpose of the action was to contain a pocket containing of 32,000 German troops - bypassed by the allied armies as they swept through France in their race toward Germany. The pocket of German soldiers - though cut off was none the less dangerous. The actions of that 106 day period consisted of reconnaissance and combat patrols rather than large scale assaults. Most of the combat occurred in an area around the Brest-Nantes canal west of Blain and Bouvron called the "Spider" - formed by ten roads that radiated out from a hub. The 376th received its first casualty in the town of Blain on September 17, 1944 when the Germans sent a railway car loaded with explosives hurtling into the town. The car jumped the tracks and kept rolling. John T. Miller walked toward the car, just as it exploded. A flying piece of sheet metal killed him. Men of the 376 Infantry Regiment were billeted in groups of three to five men in earthen bunkers buttressed by sandbags with a roof of corrugated metal covered with earth. Rifle ports faced out in three directions towards the German lines. These dugouts were spaced about a quarter of a mile apart and were capable of withstanding the blast of all but a direct hit from a 240 mm Howitzer. Jack found a 30 Cal. light machine gun in an abandoned half track that he propped up in one of the rifle ports aimed at the enemy lines.
"K" company was involved in a combat patrol on a drizzly cold morning on November 11, 1944 when the first platoon was sent into Bouvron to assess the German strength. The object was to engage the enemy then withdraw hoping that the Germans would follow.
The third platoon was guarding the flank hoping to catch the Germans in a crossfire. After an intense firefight the patrol withdrew with a single casualty - PFC John Mac Donald was killed. It is worth noting that a number of the Free French forces joined the 376th Regiment on November 14, 1944. Fighting in all French units attached to the 94th or simply as ordinary Dough boys serving with the 94th without pay!
On January 1, 1945 the 376th was relieved. On January 2nd the Battalion marched 7 miles to Vigneaux then boarded trucks and proceeded to Chateaubriant. On January 5th, after a three day encampment in a large open field, dotted with leafless trees the men shuffled into boxcars. Each cramped boxcar held 27 men with packs and weapons. For three freezing days the train alternately sped then crawled toward its final destination Uckange - due south of Thionville France - near Luxembourg and Germany. The objective of the 376th was the "Siegfried Switch Line" a row of concrete pillboxes protecting the vital communication link in Trier - five miles north.
Two separate incidents decided the fate of the 94th Infantry Division. The 90th Infantry Division was deployed in anticipation of an attack on the "Switch" but the 90th broke off the attack when it was ordered north to help repel the breakthrough during the Battle of the Bulge. The Division that was chosen to replace the 90th was the 66th Division but one of the troop ships carrying elements of the 66th Division was torpedoed crossing the channel with a significant loss of life(800 men). So it was decreed that the 94th would be called up from the St. Nazaire "Pocket" to take up positions in the captured towns of Besch, Wochern and Borg - due south of their objective. On January 14th "A" and C" companies of the First Battalion left Wochern at 7:30 A.M. and proceeded in a northeast direction toward their objective - Tettingen.
Surprise was complete and the town fell forty five minutes later.
It was decided that while the element of surprise was on their side the
attackers should move swiftly to the northeast and take the small hamlet
of Butzdorf - two hundred yards away. After a 7 minute smoke barrage
"A"company, commanded by Capt Carl Shetler jumped off across the flat open
terrain toward Butzdorf. German mortars on high ground - to the east began
bombarding the attackers - trapped in the flat open terrain. Artillery
fire opened up on the German mortar squad but not before they had inflicted
numerous casualties on the men of Company "A." Capt. Shetler was
one of the men killed by a shell fragment. 1st Lt. Dave Stafford
took over and led the remnants of the company into Butzdorf. The engagement
of January 14th defined the 94th Infantry Divisions new role in the waning
days of the war. Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Benjamin "Bloodthurston"
Thurston ordered the capture of three small towns situated on the mud flats
of the Moselle river. Nennig, Berg and Wies. Nennig was a town
comprised of fifty stone buildings - historically significant as the site
of an ancient Roman villa on a promontory overlooking the Moselle river,
Wies was somewhat smaller with close to thirty buildings and Berg was the
smallest town with but twenty buildings. At 3:00 A.M., on the morning of
January 15th the 319th engineers began sweeping a path through the minefield
- marking the route with phosphorescent tabs. The temperature was
a numbing 17 below zero, the ground covered with ice and snow, the footing
treacherous. At 5:15 A.M. Company "K" commanded by, Capt. Julian
M. Way - affectionately called "Big Foot" - because of his size 13 shoes
- lined up in the street in Besch and began a 1500 yard march to the northwest
between the Moselle river and the R.R. tracks.
At 7:45 A.M. "K" company moved out in a west to east direction under the cover of chemical smoke laid down by artillery. The smoke barrage was so prolonged and so intense - due to the delay - that it totally obscured the morning light. Jack's second platoon commanded by Lt. Dwight Morse - called "Moose" was on the left flank. The first platoon was on the right and the third platoon - commanded by Lt. James McCoy was held in reserve. Disoriented by the heavy smoke, Capt. Way was alarmed to see open fields ahead of him instead of the buildings of Nennig. Capt. Way was more concerned to see that Lt. Morse had strayed farther north and blundered into the town of Wies instead of Nennig. Capt. Way realized that it was impossible to contact the second platoon so he called up his third platoon - held in reserve, to join the first platoon in the assault of Nennig. Lt. Morse's second platoon entered the town of Wies - accompanied by Tech. SGT Leo Philbins machine gun platoon - a section of 81 mm mortars commanded by Lt. King and a light machine gun section commanded by Tech. SGT Emmett Brown. The fifty man German garrison put up stiff resistance in house to house fighting. The platoon was also caught in a murderous crossfire from machine guns located in the buildings of Schloss Bubingen - three hundred yards north of the town. The fighting became more intense. Just south of the Sinz-Bubingen road Lt. Morse was wounded. Jack's best friend, Pvt. Robert P. Kennedy was cut down as they crossed the open field and approached the heavily defended town of Wies. As Kennedy grabbed his stomach and pitched head first into the snow Jack and the remaining members of the second platoon dove for cover to avoid being shot by the Germans that fired at anything that moved. It was barely 8:00 A.M. At about 3:00 P.M., Lt. King's mortar platoon started dropping smoke shells to cover a withdrawal but the chill wind blew the smoke away exposing the forms of the men of the second platoon. Jack, nearly frozen after nearly seven hours laying in the sub zero weather got up to make a break when a bullet from a Mauser '98 tore through his back, exited through his stomach before shattering his left forearm. Jack said it felt as though he had been hit with the force of a baseball bat accompanied by sharp burning pain. As Jack lay in the snow - in a state of shock he looked at the Deerskin gloves his mother had sent him for Christmas - all he could think of was how his nice new leather gloves were ruined - stained by his own blood. At 3:15 P.M. Jack was rescued by two Corpsmen who risked their lives to save him. At 3:30 P.M. the Germans captured the survivors of the second platoon. Years later Jack remembered that as he waited at the line of departure for the order to move out an officer came over to Lt. James Mc Coy - third platoon leader - and said "Good Luck Jim." Mc Coy said, "I don't need it, I'm in reserve - "Moose" (Lt. Morse) needs the luck." Lt. Mc Coy was wrong, he was killed when Capt. Way called up Mc Coy's third platoon when the second platoon strayed north. Wies fell to the Americans at 4:30 p.m. The Regimental record of the days events consisted of these terse lines"...Total cost of the days operation ... four killed ... seventeen wounded."