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
/S/ John J. Modrak, Jr.
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.,