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by William T. Hatry
PFC, message code clerk, 143rd Signal Co.
Written in May, 1945

  NOTE: Bill Hatry's account below was found in 1996 by Don R. Marsh in the History of the 143rd Armored Signal Company while Marsh was researching material for the upcoming biography of Major Gen. Maurice Rose. That find subsequently appeared in the September, 1996, 3AD Association Newsletter. Hatry was one of seven soldiers riding in Gen. Rose's Command Radio Armored Car in the small convoy that would run head-on into German tanks on the evening of March 30, 1945, outside of Paderborn, Germany. It was in that convoy that Gen. Rose, riding in a jeep, would be killed.

  Hatry's own words:

Before we ran into those tanks, we were in the column that was cut off from both ends. We lay in the ditch for over an hour under intense tank fire. When they got around to trying to hit the armored car (which they never did do), the shells that missed were riccocheting off the road by our heads and finally landing in the field on the other side of us. The reason I bring this up is the fact that Jones, the boy from G-3 who was with us that day, got hit with a large piece of shrapnel which luckily only pierced his clothes and left a large burn on his skin.

As you already know we tried to get into Paderborn after it got dark. After leaving the highway and going on a back dirt road, we ran smack into one Royal [Tiger II tank] which the peeps [jeeps] had already passed. Because of our size we couldn't possibly do the same, so Steve (Pvt. James Stevenson of Hq. Co., driver of the armored car) ran right under the gun, which under those circumstances looked like the Holland Tunnel. The tank commander yelled something and they moved the big thing over. We took advantage of that and then passed him.

About 200 yards from there, we ran into two more that were sitting in the Y in the road and another in the corn field. They did open up with small arms on us, but luckily no one was hurt at that time. They threw a white flare over our heads and we must have looked like a bunch of clay pigeons. When they started to swing the 88mm's around, we all figured we had had it, so we lost no time in getting the hell out of the car. I did remember to toss my Luger overboard first though.

With a gun in my back, I was "escorted" to another Royal and put on the back of it with the rest. By the way, on total count there were four Royal's, five Mark V's and eight or nine SP guns. They were evidently trying to get out of the pocket and eventually succeeded by doubling over the route that the Division had come over - the part that was cut off from both sides. What vehicles that weren't burning along that stretch, they shot up.

One brave guy [3AD soldier] had stayed on a fifty in one of the half-tracks and opened up on the tanks we were riding on, with bullets hitting the turret a few inches over my head. They finally rode us out of the pocket and dumped us off at one of their service companies in a small town just behind the lines. They started to interrogate us, but the officer was rudely interrupted by our 155mm's landing in the street. We were loaded in a truck and went along with the whole outfit as it moved towards the rear.

The next day they worked us in an immense gas dump, which was about ten miles from the front judging by the sound of the artillery. They were trying to evacuate as much of it as possible, and brother I don't want to ever see another gas can. Later that day they took us and dumped us off in a Yugoslav work camp. We stayed there that night and were recorded and interrogated for the first time. They questioned us on an overlay of the General's map and also on the armored car. They had a pretty good idea who we were, but no one gave them a bit of satisfaction.

The next day, April 1st, we were loaded on a wood burning truck and traveled half a day to a corps headquarters where we were again interrogated that night. On the second morning of April they walked us to a railroad station and from there we went to Hanover by train. Luckily the weather was bad and we didn't get shot up. From Hanover we went north by train to a town called Fallingbostle, directly between Hanover and Bremen. By number, the camp was Stalag XI-B.

By this time I was pretty hungry and it wasn't until the fourth day in camp that I received the first Red Cross box. In one week all we had was a little bread and some watery soup they served in camp. On the fifth day in camp gunfire was audible and then they decided to put a lot of boys on the road. The Germans were particularly down on the Air Corps. Among the [3AD] men they took out were Neil and Tex (Fleischer and Ellison), and Steve and I were the only ones out of our bunch left in camp. The Colonel (Lt. Col. Wesley Sweat, Division G-3) with the rest of the officers was taken to a railroad station, but before they could get on the train the Spits and Tempests came down to strafe the station and the train. The Colonel was hit in the arm by shrapnel and his face was pretty well banged up when part of the station wall fell on him.

A few days later the German staff and most of the personnel took off [fled]. The Colonel took over the job of senior officer of the camp and a joint M.P. staff was set up with the British, Americans and the remainder of the German guards that stayed behind - 85 in all. Steve and I worked on this [as MP's] and it certainly kept us busy. We were in complete control of the camp for five days before we were liberated on April 16 by British 7th Armored Division (90% U.S. equipped). Thus ended 18 days of "seeing how the other half lives."

On April 19 we left with the Colonel and went to an airport from which we flew to Brussels in a C-47. There we were deloused, given new clothes, baths and 20 bucks (off the record) by the British Red Cross. On the 21st we went by train to Namur and for the first time were in American hands. Here we went through the same thing as in Brussels, except that the 20 bucks wasn't off the record.
From there we went by train to Le Havre to a camp called Lucky Strike, an immense tent city. We sort of missed the Colonel's company since he left for the Division at Namur after he made sure we were going home. I can hardly say enough to convey to you what a help and a friend he was to us for that month.

We stayed in Lucky Strike for nearly a week for processing and waiting for a ship. One week to the day we finally shipped aboard the George Washington, a U.S. ship. They treated us swell and the food was excellent. We stopped at Southampton to pick up wounded. We arrived in New York on the night of May 14th and three days later I was home.

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