2nd Platoon, Company "A", 746th Tank Battalion
Attack on Frenzerburg Castle
I just learned that an old soldier that I never met, but that we shared some traumatic experiences with, died October 31 of 2007. His name was Chester Jordan and he was First Lieutenant in "K" Co. of the 9th Infantry division.
Early in July of 1944 our 746th tank Battalion was permanently assigned to support the 9th Division and we did so for the rest of WWII.
The most traumatic experience for both of us occurred at the Frenzerburg Castle in Germany.
(Main buildings of the castle were demolished in 1964)
Jordans unit, "K" Company of the 47th Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division advanced toward the Frenzerburg Castle on November 26th, 1944. The Castle was held by over 100 German Paratroopers and after a fierce fight they captured the stables which were a part of the Castle complex on the South. The castle at one time had been encircled by a moat but at this time the moat only contained water on the South and East side.
I was in the second platoon as a bow gunner in the platoon Sergeants tank. We had been engaged in combat with a bunch of Tiger Tanks in trying to capture the small village of Weisweiler which was separated from the Castle by a large beet field. Late in the evening of the 26th we succeeded in doing so.
We spent the night in some ovens at a brick manufacturing facility. During the early part of the evening we heard a lone 88 MM shell come screaming in. It hit the roof of the plants office where some of our and the infantry's officers were gathered around a table planning the next days operation. The best officer that it was my privilege to know was killed. His name was Clyde Tanner. He died of concussion and no other person was even wounded. Makes you wonder. I call it the "Fickle Finger Of Fate" as I can relate to you several similar events that make no sense.
I was primarily a tank mechanic but when the need arose I was called to serve in one of our tanks in "A& company. I did just that in early July, shortly after D-day. Our battalion got a respite from combat at the end of June for the purpose of maintenance of the tanks and replacement of our combat losses. I was laying on the ground reading a comic book and my best friend James Baxter was asleep near by. Lieutenant Tanner came by and asked me which of us was Baxter. I pointed to my buddy Jim Baxter and then he asked my name. I told him and then he said, Fortner come with me and bring that comic book, I need a cannoneer in my tank. Tanner was "the old man". He was about 24 at that time and I was 19. Baxter was chosen to go into a tank as cannoneer in the second platoon. A couple of days later we were on the way back up to the front in support of the 79th Infantry Division. On the way up I told Tanner that I had never loaded the 75MM cannon. He suggested that it would be a good idea to try. I did and easily loaded and ejected two rounds. The third round I loaded knocked out a machine gun nest. The rest of the day was a disaster for our company of tanks. Our platoon lost 3 of the 5 tanks in the platoon. The second platoon lost all 5 tanks and Baxter was killed. There's another incident of "The Fickle Finger Of Fate". The month of July was a total disaster for our Battalion as we lost 44 of the 45 medium tanks which we had.
But back to the Frenzerberg castle. We were told that the infantry in the stables were in dire shape because they were outnumbered more than three to one by the Germans. Long before daylight on the morning of the 27th We were ordered to proceed to the Castle and do what we could to support our troops. We only had three tanks in our platoon at that time so we started to cross the large beet field with the platoon leader in the lead. His name was Lieutenant Jones. About half way across the muddy field Jones tank ran over a mine which disabled his tank. He sent his crew back to Weishweiler and told us to proceed with our two remaining tanks to the castle. He also said that he would goto the castle and make contact with our infantry. Unfortunatly he went to the wrong part of the castle and was captured by the Germans in the castle.
We proceeded past the disabled tank with us in the lead with out incident. Our tank approached the castle to a point within a few yards of the wall that surrounded the castle and became mired down in the soft muddy ground in the filled in moat. This was just prior to daylight. The second tank was fortunate to see our infantry in the stables and pulled their tank close to the stables. Our tank commander said that he was leaving our tank to go to our infantry to determine the overall situation. He never returned because daylight opened and a German fired a Panzer Faust out of a window in the castle that exploded on the gear on back slope plate of the tank. The crew bailed out leaving the tank engine running at idle and it ran for several hours before running out of gas. So there we were, just the four of us stuck within less than a hundred yards from over a hundred Germans with no chance of escape.
The castle wall was about 10 foot tall and the main building in front of us was four stories tall with 9 windows visible to us. We still did not know that our guys held the stables and that the Germans occupied the castle itself. We soon learned because a Panzerfaust was launched at our tank from the top left window. It missed our tank by a few inches passing directly in front of my position. We fired a few rounds of 76MM ammo into the window and adjacent ones from which the bazooka had been launched. At that time I realized that the Germans could stand back inside the room with the window and we would not be able to see them and they could fire at any time. So I began to fire a short burst of 30 Cal. ammo at each of the nine windows in turn. That kept them from firing more for quite along time. Then they realized that they had the opportunity to safely fire out of a window that I had recently fired into and they did. Again this round barely missed passing just in front of my position. When that occurred I realized the implications and said I would put a stop to that doo doo, so thereafter fired randomly at the nine windows and it did stop that doo doo.
Late in the afternoon our infantry yelled over to us that the Germans had asked for a truce so that they could move some of their wounded out of harms way since the castle was on fire. We were asked to hold our fire for 15 minutes and we did so. I neglected to state that much earlier the two guys in the turret had said that they could see some Germans in the woods to the north of a couple of hundred yards but we said that we had enough problems directly in our front to keep us busy. Just keep an eye on them. I also neglected to say that much earlier the guys in the turret said that something was moving in a guard tower that was to our left less than a hundred feet. I rotated my periscope in that direction and was horrified to see the front end of a Panzerfaust being aimed at us. I quickly swerved my gun in that direction and started firing. I had difficulty in picking up the tracers so that I could adjust my fire because of the slant of the tank due to the right track being buried. But the gunner quickly traversed the 76 over and put a round through the window in the tower. If that bastard had not left immediately after I started firing we ruined his day. Also I forgot to mention that at least twice during that long day some idiot threw a hand grenade over the wall at us. That didn't make sense to me since the most damage that could happen to a tank from one of those is a blown out periscope and paint chipping. We always responded by firing a armor piercing round through the wall in the area from which the grenade was thrown. The idea being that the shrapnel from the bricks would do some serious damage to the bastard.
The guys in the turret forgot about the Germans in the woods to our left (north) so during the latter part of the truce a panzerfaust was fired from that direction and hit high the turret near the position of the cannoneer, a guy named Miram Laporouse. The gunner in the turret was Kellis and after I recovered my senses from the explosive impact I looked back and up. They were both dead and still sitting in their seats. Their clothes were shredded by the hot shrapnel. I said to the driver that we had to abandon the tank immediately and for him to go and I would cover him. He said Hell No. You go first. So I quickly opened the hatch over my head and bailed out. I lost my steel helmet when I slipped in the mud, tried to pick it up, missed and said to hell with it and took off running. I was not fired upon and made it to the stables where I was helped inside through a shell hole. The driver saw that I made it and followed. He also was not fired upon. This occurred about an hour before dark. Shortly after entering the stables I heard an artillery officer and spotter say that at dark that there would be a bunch of reinforcements arriving through the woods where the guys in the turret had seen the Germans earlier and from whence the Panzerfaust came that knocked out our tank. I informed him of that info and he called in a barrage of 105 artillery. When I heard them coming I peeked out of the shell hole and witnessed the barrage land on target. I hope that the bastard that did the dirty deed was killed by that barrage. After it got dark we tankers (8 of us) decided to leave and return to what was left of our unit in Weishweiler. The infantry guys had two badly injured GIs and asked us to take them with us. Both of them had shattered legs caused by machine gun fire the previous day and they were concerned that they needed medical attention not available in their current situation. We did and in doing so had to pass by a burning hay stack that was close at hand. I have no doubt that we could be seen by any body watching from the castle but we were not fired upon. We had to pass by the tank which we lost to a mine earlier and stopped to rest at that point. The other guys on the other stretcher left before we did so when we reached the road edge at Eshweiler we were met by four medics from the 9th and relieved of our burden.
I have related this because Lt. Chester Jordan was the guy in charge of the infantry at the castle and died recently. After the war he became a Professor of Architecture at LSU. After his retirement he wrote a monthly letter which he called Jordan's Journal in which he related the things that he had experienced in the past month. I received a copy of it each month. I sent him numerous E-mails each month, mostly of Jokes or clever sayings or interesting facts so in his letter he usually related some of those which he thought appropriate. He mailed the journal mostly to his family and close associates. I will miss him.
~~~ Gene Fortner~~~
Jan. 15, 1925 - † Oct. 11, 2008
Source: Wild Bill Guarnere Community