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2nd Lt. John J. Modrak, Jr.
Co C, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3AD, WWII
From University of Illinois 3AD Association Archives


Classification: SECRET

4317 US Army Hospital Plant
APO 887, U. S. Army
February 22, 1945

The incident took place at approximately 1300 hours, January 8th, 1945, about five miles from the German town of Mayhen in Malmedy-St. Vith Sector. Prior to this time I had received instructions from my commanding officer to take a platoon of five light tanks to a certain objective. Before reaching this objective, I was to contact G Company, 33rd Armored Regiment, and get information regarding the situation in the area beyond the sector held by them. The commanding officer of "G" Company informed me that the section through which we were to pass was harassed by light arms fire and he did not think it advisable for us to continue further. However, I had my orders from my commanding officer to proceed, so the five tanks containing my men and myself continued moving in the direction of the objective, with me riding in the lead tank.

After following a road for quite some distance, we reached a road branching off to the left in the direction of the town of Fraiture, and which we were to follow. My tank turned into this road first and had proceeded only a short distance until it struck a land mine. There was a terrific blast and for the next few minutes I was not conscious of my actions. The next thing I knew I was outside the tank and had dragged my driver, T/5 Joseph Garcyka, with me. In the blast Garcyka's right foot had been blown off above the ankle and was hanging by threads of skin. My assistant driver, Pfc. Willard Forsythe, and gunner, T/4 Abe Simmons, had managed to escape from the tank.

Meanwhile the enemy opened up with light arms fire and it became necessary for us to move to the protection of our disabled tank. I fired my pistol until I received a wound in my left hand, at which time I took up an M-l and started firing it. By this time the second tank in the platoon had entered the road and had come to a stop. Pvt. Baker, the gunner in the second tank, jumped out and ran over to give us assistance. In a short time all of us had become more or less seriously wounded. The first and second fingers on my right hand had been shot away and the third was badly mangled. There were also deep gashes in my right leg that I presumed were caused from shell fragments. T/5 Garcyka was bleeding badly from his amputated foot so I removed my belt and made a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood.

About this time German soldiers, some in field gray and others in black uniforms, started coming out of a woods and running and shouting across a field towards us. I saw our situation was hopeless so I ordered the second tank to turn around and leave without us. The second tank had no sooner reached the road junction than it was knocked out by heavy shell fire or a bazooka gun. Shortly thereafter the Germans were upon us and we were taken prisoner. My men were badly wounded so I begged the Germans to see that they were given medical treatment and taken to a hospital.

Instead, one of the Germans in a black uniform walked over and shot Garcyka, Simmons, and Baker as they lay helpless on the ground. One of the other German soldiers walked over to me and asked if I was an officer. I said that I was and demanded that my men be given the treatment accorded prisoners of war. Instead the Germans started looting our persons. From me they removed my wrist watch, pistol, compass and a compass case containing a large amount in German money. Besides taking our money and valuables, the Germans removed part of our clothing, exposing us to the snow and bitter cold.

Around 1600 hours Pfc. Willard Forsythe and myself were carried across the field into the woods where the Germans had their C.P. Here they laid us on the ground. Again I asked that we be given medical treatment and be carried to a hospital. Finally one of the German medics put a light dressing over my wounds, but did nothing to relieve the suffering of Forsythe.

During the next few hours it started snowing again. I noticed in the woods that the Germans had several tanks. One of the Germans in a black uniform and with the rank of corporal seemed to be in complete charge. All the enlisted men would obey his every order instantly like puppets on a string. I am sure that it was this corporal that shot Garcyka, Simmons, and Baker out in the field. Later Sergeant Joseph E. Clark, commander in charge of my second tank, was brought to the C.P., but in a little while he was carried further back and I do not know his ultimate fate.

Meanwhile a German officer came over and for a few moments looked us over casually but he did nothing to prevent his men from further stealing of money, valuables and clothing from our persons. In a short time the officer left and I never saw him again. While we were at the C.P. they removed my wallet, containing a good sized sum of French francs, photographs of my wife and baby, my arctic shoes, and had started taking my combat shoes, but for some reason did not take them. Among other things I saw them remove a field jacket from Forsythe.

Along about this time our own troops started laying down a heavy mortar fire in our immediate vicinity. I tried to crawl over to the protection of one of the German tanks but was ordered away. By now I was suffering so with my wounds that I neither cared whether I lived or died, so it did not concern me too much having to lie out in an exposed position. Forsythe all this time had been crying for medical attention. His condition was critical and he kept talking about his wife and family. At times I believe he was somewhat delirious.

Around 2100 hours the Germans' position in the woods appeared to be untenable and they showed signs of preparing to move out. Again I asked one of the medics to take us to a hospital, but he replied that we were to stay where we were. Just before leaving, the German corporal that I thought was the one that shot my other men walked over to Forsythe and shot him and then he came over to me and shot me also, the bullet passing through my groins and coming out at an angle almost severing my private parts. After that I lost consciousness and knew nothing more until around noon the next day.

When I came to I was lying in a pool of blood. I made several attempts to get to my feet, but was too weak to make it. I finally started crawling out of the woods and across the field to the road. It wasn't long after this that I saw the most welcome sight in the world when one of our own tanks came down the road. They picked me up and carried me to a hospital. I learned later that on the previous day the other three tanks in my platoon had escaped to safety.

/S/ John J. Modrak, Jr.
2nd Lt, Infantry,
Co. C., 33rd Armored Regt.
3rd Armored Division,
APO 253, U. S. Army

I certify that 2nd Lt. John J. Modrak, Jr., stated that he normally writes with his right hand and that he was injured in his right hand, and the above is his signature as executed with his left hand.

/S/ G. S. McKenzie, Jr.
G. S. MC KENZffi, JR.,

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