The Discovery of two more heroes of the
112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division.
Above: Staff Sergeant John J Farrell Jr. ASN: 11099534
The 26th of September 2008, and just another ordinary day in the small German town of Schmidt. Situated beyond the steep sided Kall River valley this town, along with its twin, Kommerscheidt was familiar with it's historic past and the violent events it had witnessed some 65 years before.
Ever wary of the danger of WW2 ordnance local building contractors routinely ask for the German Ordnance Teams to sweep potential building sites for "unwelcome surprises". On this day however there was more than the normal WW2 debris. The Volksbund Kriegsgräberfürsorge are called and under the experienced leadership of Herr Volker Schneider the story of two more lost souls is uncovered...
The night of the 3rd/4th November 1944 found the men of the Third Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment in buoyant mood. They had successfully crossed the Kall River, using the Kall Trail as their main axis of advance, they had entered Schmidt after passing through Kommerscheidt, having received only desultory fire from some snipers in the un-cleared parts of the town. The men settle down as best they can among the shattered buildings of Schmidt.
Company L deployed it's 3rd Platoon astride the Hasenfeld Road to the SE of Schmidt, with the 2nd Platoon to the left and the 1st Platoon on the left of the 2nd at the Harscheidt Road to the NE. Contact patrols operated between these fanned our rifle platoons to ensure the ground was secure.
Company I, consisting of two rifle Platoons and a Light MG Section dug in along the North of Schmidt. The Third Battalion was now deployed in all round defence of Schmidt.
In one of the many foxholes dug alongside the track leading from Schmidt out to Kommerscheidt were huddled two Sergeants. At 22 years of age Staff Sergeant John Farrell Jr did not look like a veteran, but having been in the Army for nearly 2 years, survived France and now in Germany he must have felt like one!
He shared his hole with another Sergeant, Edward T. Jones of Vermont, USA. He was 5 years older than Farrell and had enlisted in March 1941, perhaps having seen that America was bound to come into the war in Europe in the near future. He wasn't a College boy like Farrell but had 3 years at High School behind him and now in full time employment. The war had brought them together.
As the inky darkness fell and the temperature also both men now doubt whispered words of encouragement to their fellow riflemen.
The Sun came up at 07.32 on the morning of 4th November, but the men of the 112th were already awake and alert. German artillery fire had startled those who had managed to sleep. Shells began to fall all over the town, from the NE, E and SE. Those that survived recall the shelling appeared to come from all points of the compass at once.
Above: As the VDK team carefully went about it's task items came to light that reminded them of the human cost of the fighting in this now tranquil part of the world. An Army wrist compass belonging to one of the Americans.
Below: A shattered M1 helmet and Garand rifle. The helmet still plainly sporting the red keystone insignia of the 28th Infantry Division.
Soon thereafter the enemy infantry came on. At first apparently in an uncoordinated assault, but then in greater numbers. Soon Schmidt was being assaulted from almost every direction save from the North. Now German tanks entered the fray, at least ten coming towards Jones, Farrell and their comrades. The tanks were merciless, firing into individual foxholes, the concussion killing those whom the rain of jagged steel failed to claim.
The survivors of this vision of hell broke to the SE, away from Schmidt, a town they had occupied almost without a shot being fired shortly before now being left hurriedly as it erupted in fire and steel.
One of the team holds up an American canteen, it's cup still attached to it's bottom.
Unclaimed for so many years, a wallet, holding coins, keys and lucky talisman as well as personal ID documents. among other items found with Farrell and Jones were grenades, rifle ammunition, a pen, some water purification tablets.
The VDK having completed their solemn task the remains of the two men were placed in caskets and awaited their journey home for formal identification. Despite both men being discovered with their identity discs and other personal items the team from JPAC worked for over a year to confirm the identity of both men.
Above: A identity disc once worn by Edward Jones, helped to ensure that these two heroes of that greatest generation could earn their rite to come home once more.
On 30th April 2010 the mortal remains of John Farrell Jr were conveyed to their final resting place in a family plot at Norwood, Massachusetts. For more that half a century this plot, with a granite marker, had contained one empty grave, for a son and brother missing since officially being assumed killed from November 9th, 1944.
For his two surviving sisters John Farrells return brought many mixed emotions, for an elder brother who had given his siblings rides upon his bike. The family were able to identify personal items, such as the Waterman fountain pen that had belonged to John.
Equally the family of the other returning hero, Edward Jones must have felt the same elation, and sadness. A chapter in two family histories completed yet poignant for two families.
© 2010 Above text and photographs are copyright of Lerenfort.
No reproduction of text and images is allowed without prior permission of the author.
Source: WWII Battle Field Relics http://www.lerenfort.fsnet.co.uk/index.htm
Re-posted here by kind permission of Simon Harrold.
Many thanks Simon.