I was gunner on a tank commanded by Sgt. Frank Rogowicz (whom
we called "Rogy") in Lt. Yale Simons' platoon in "H"
Company, 32nd AR, part of "Task Force Richardson."
We started the drive on Paderborn well back in the column which
was being led by 83rd Recon. During the day we were sent off
the main route, clearing out villages on our flanks. We captured
a few prisoners, but had met little resistance.
Late in the afternoon we reached Brilon which was the largest
town we had passed through. We halted outside a large warehouse
and factory. The infantrymen who had been riding our tank went
inside and returned with large bundles of women's stockings.
That was what the factory manufactured. We took turns going over
and helping ourselves to the large bundles of stockings. These
bundles were as large as stacks of newspapers. We stored the
loot inside and outside of the tank.
Our platoon was next sent to clear a village. We had bedded
down for the night when we received orders to move out and rejoin
the main column. When we rejoined the command we halted and slept
where we were in column on the road. The next morning we moved
out early and hadn't gone far when the column halted. "H"
Company was ordered to bypass all vehicles and come to the head
of the column. When we arrived we found that Recon had lost a
couple of vehicles, and we were ordered to take over the lead.
Our Platoon had the point, and "Rogy's" tank was
in the lead. We began to enter a built-up area with houses about
10/15 yards apart. The infantry started clearing the houses,
which were occupied with "Krauts." When the infantry
encountered resistance we would put a round of H.E. into the
I remember that a Medic armed with a German "Luger"
would lead the attack on each house and when it was cleared he
would return to again mount the front of our tank to ride to
the next house. Finally, he ran up to a house well ahead of the
rest of the infantry. There he was met by a burst of fire that
spun him around like a top. When we asked why he had been doing
this, we were told that his best friend had been killed and that
he wanted revenge.
As we proceeded, the road turned and the houses were now closer
together. We also started to get bazooka fire, and we were pouring
fire into each house. 76mm and .30 caliber from our machine guns.
We continued on the road and came to open ground. The road went
down a hill and to a small bridge over a stream. To our front
was a towering ridge with a road that ran along its base. There
was a built-up area to the left of the bridge. To the right of
the ridge there was a church, and there were three tall brick
houses well up the ridge. We had gone about 20 yds. down the
hill when bullets began rattling off our tank like hail. Several
infantrymen were hit by this fire. As was also wounded, our platoon
commander Lt. Simons (who had been dismounted with the infantry).
The wounded took cover between our tank and a high bank to the
left of the road.
I spotted "Krauts" on top of the ridge, and took
them under fire. While searching for targets I came to the three
houses at the end of the ridge. A "Tiger" tank appeared
at the corner of one of the houses with its 88mm gun pointed
right at us. As if by the numbers, another and then another German
tank appeared by each of the houses. I told "Rogy"
to take a look at the houses on the ridge. He observed the houses
carefully as machine gun fire was still hitting our tank. I said
"What are we going to do?" I knew they were out of
our range and with only their heavily armored fronts exposed.
"Rogy" replied, "It's up to the Lord." We
were at the mercy of these German tanks as we couldn't move because
of the wounded who were sheltered behind us. Then as suddenly
and as magically as they appeared, the "Tigers" backed
off one by one and were gone.
At this time our artillery began to pound the ridge and the
enemy machine gun fire ceased. This allowed evacuation of the
wounded, and we were ordered to resume the attack.
The plan was for Lt. Miklos' Platoon of "H" Company
to move down the road and cross the bridge to occupy the town
which was called Kirchborchen. This he did with infantry following
behind each of his tanks. There was a stone Quarry at the base
of the ridge and the attacking force regrouped there before continuing
up the road, which split and curved up the ridge with the towering
houses on top. We spent the night where we were. The next morning
we were ordered to take our tank along with that of Sgt. Nick
Skorich and report to Lt. Miklos on top of the ridge. When we
reached Lt. Miklos' position, we found that he had lost two tanks
to Bazooka fire during the night. Our orders were to go 30 yds.
beyond the last house to open ground. We did this with "Rogy's"
tank on the road and Skorich's tank on a little elevation a few
yards to the right. Heavy undergrowth and a thickly wooded area
were to the left of the road. Across the open ground to our front
there were houses in the distance.
While we were sitting there, two explosions erupted on either
side of our tank. Smoke rising from the woods to our left gave
away the enemy's position. Turning our turret, we opened up with
.30 caliber machine gun fire. This machine gun fire chopped down
many of the bushes, and seemed to clear the enemy out of the
undergrowth. However, it was then that a German (apparently an
officer from the braided cap he wore) began to stalk us with
a Bazooka. He dodged from cover to cover with his Bazooka on
his shoulder, and would only appear for second or two and then
disappear again. We could not get a clear shot at him.
Suddenly, there was another explosion to our rear, and Skorich's
tank was hit in the side. We were ordered to back up to the houses.
As we did, we could see that Skorich was laying beside his tank
waving his arms. "Rogy" said, "Cover me. I'm going
to get him." Dismounting, he called to Lt. Miklos, "Help
me get him." Lt. Miklos joined "Rogy," and taking
a stretcher from a nearby doorway they crawled down a small ditch
beside the road. Reaching Skorich, they put him on the stretcher
and crept back to our position. "Rogy" came back to
the tank and told us that Skorich's leg was hanging by only a
few strands of flesh and that he would probably lose it.
Everything was quiet now, as both our tanks had been firing
down the road and into the woods. "Rogy" took a look
out of the turret hatch and we heard a "ping" and he
fell backwards bleeding from his eye. Calling on the radio for
medics, we were told that he would have to go back on his own
if he could walk. That's what he did after we had bandaged him
I took command of our tank. I moved our loader, McCoy, to
gunner, and the bow gunner, "Pop" Merritt, to loader.
Thus, with myself as commander and Porter our driver, we continued
with a four man crew for the rest of the battle.
Bazooka fire was coming in from all angles now. From the high
ground the Germans were trying to fire over the houses and hit
us on the road. Skorich's tank, already hit once and now abandoned
by its crew, was hit again. This time it burst into flames. We
heard another explosion behind us, and looking back down the
hill we saw two "Tiger" tanks as they flew by one of
our tanks at the bridge. They knocked it out, and left it burning
with its entire crew trapped inside. These German tanks then
went down the road towards the Church. There was a lot of firing,
and we heard over the radio that our TD's had knocked out both
of the "Tigers."
"H" Company was involved in clearing the rest of
the town of Kirchborchen. This included the business section,
where we lost a few more tanks in the process. We remained where
we were until the next morning. Then we were told to move down
the road to the edge of town. This we did, and met the infantry,
who were already there. We went to the last house and took up
a position there. As soon as we had taken up this position, immediately
another Task Force came down the road. Passing us very rapidly,
they soon disappeared over a hill in the distance.
Looking around our new position, I found a mass grave dug
by the Germans. I was able to count nine bodies that they hadn't
had time to cover up. Later we were ordered to move to the part
of the town near the Church. There we passed a cemetery in which
the German dead had been laid out in long rows. They lay in many
long rows that stretched the entire length of the cemetery. These
were the bodies of the men we had been fighting, that had been
collected from the town. We had been up against the cadets and
instructors from the SS Panzer Officers Training Center at Paderborn.
They were mostly young and fanatical Nazi's. We had taken a few
prisoners, but most of them had been wiped out. As we passed
these bodies with their green SS uniforms splattered with blood,
I felt no sorrow or pity for these members of the so-called "Master
Continuing on past the cemetery we came to the houses on the
ridge where the three German "Tiger" tanks had been.
There I remembered "Rogy's" words: "It's up to
the Lord." Indeed it had been up to the Lord. I now believe
that the reason that those German tanks had withdrawn so suddenly,
was that they had been ordered to go after bigger game. These
were the tanks that attacked the column that General Rose was
following. They probably were the very tanks that captured and
killed the General when they cut the column he was travelling
with. I only know that for some reason we were spared and he
was lost shortly after that. It had been up to the Lord.
Shortly after the war I received a telephone call at my home
in Detroit, Michigan. It was from Nick Skorich. He was on leave
from Percy Jones VA Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan. There
he had been fitted with an artificial leg. We got together and
looked up another local member of "H" Co., Paul Sweda,
and our old platoon commander, Lt. Yale Simons. (Then a well-known
car dealer in Detroit.) We had a fine reunion all of our own.
Skorich had lost his leg below the knee. ("Rogy" lost
his eye.) In talking over our experiences at Kirchborchen, we
all agreed that those three "Tigers" had ignored us
because they had gotten information about the other column, and
they wanted to cut it off.
After the fighting at Kirchborchen, which took place between
Good Friday and Easter Sunday, 1945, "H" Co. went the
rest of the war with only nine tanks. We were reinforced by the
assault gun platoon from Headquarters Company. We used the bundles
of stockings from Brilon to finance trips while on leave. (Sorry
about your share "Rogy".) We never saw those infantrymen
again, so we had their stockings too. I became good friends with
Lt. Miklos, who left us at Sangerhausen to join the U.S. First
Army Hqs. as an interpreter. He was of Slavic descent and spoke
The men of "H" Co. were very close to one another
after having been together for four years. I lost many good friends
that I will never forget, and who should not be forgotten by