A Silver Star Story and Award by John Hebert
This letter is in response to the article that General Finley had in the Dec. 77 Rolling W
suggesting that it would be interesting to the members if some of us who had a story to tell
about our experience with the 89th Div. during WWII would write to you about it.
Well, as a sniper, aid a jet-Scout and later on a PFC Squad Leader of Co. 'F, 353d Inf. Regt,
I have many stories that I could tall but for now, I would like to tell you about what happened on
March 20, 1945 somewhere near Kirschroth, Germany. I was preceding my platoon as 1st Scout and noticed
a number of enemy soldiers on a hill just ahead of me. I signaled back that the enemy was in sight
and where and within a few seconds our platoon leader, 1st LT Oot and Platoon SGT Markley were all on their way up
to size up our situation but before they got to me, all hell broke loose. Although we did not
know it at that very moment, we soon found out that we had run head on into a very heavy fortified
enemy position armed with artillery, anti aircraft guns, machine guns and small arms with snipers
that had 10 power scopes. They opened up on us with everything they had and at that time, I did not
think that many of us would survive but we somehow got our fire power turned on and were laying in
some very accurate fire under the direction of LT Ott and SGT Markley.
As I recall, our artillery fire was delayed because they were on the road and had to set up when we
called for support fire but once they did get set up, their fire was very much on target. We then tried
to assault their position but their fire was so heavy that we had to hit the ground and about five, of
us were caught in the open with no means of concealment. Along with me were Kenneth Haines and
Rudy Triviso but I don't recall the others. The fire at this point was very heavy including anti
aircraft shells bursting overhead. Ken Rainea and I were almost shoulder-to-shoulder when we hit the ground
and there was a German machine gun firing at us. Haines opened up on the machine gun with his M1
rifle that had 8 rounds of tracers in the clip. I know that he knocked out that machine gun but
right, after be fired the last round, a German sniper shot him right between the eyes and killed Haines
instantly. The sniper then started to zero in on me and just missed my head and shot off a piece
of the heel from my combat boot. We then made a bee line dash for some bushes to the left of our
position and from there, I knocked out a machine gun and two snipers and it was from this position that I
saw my buddy, Fred Kirk, who was the oldest man in our company but could keep up with all of us, get
hit and I knew it was bad. The medic could not get to him so I crawled out and dragged him back
to where the medic could tend to him but he was shot up very bad with small arms and shrapnel and
died shortly afterward.
A short distance away on my left was Earl Nordin, who was the youngest man in the company. He
also was killed by enemy fire. I don't know how many of our men were killed or wounded that day but it
could have been much worse when you consider what we ran into.
I then noticed German soldiers coming toward our positions so I circled around to the left -and came up
behind them and captured six of them who were trying to feel out our positions. If my memory serves me,
we then called for air support and one or more P-47 or P-1 fighters came over and dropped a few bombs.
As time went on, our firepower was building up; and our artillery fire was very effective and soon
thereafter the Germans were waving the white flag. As 1st Scout, it was up to me to make contact with the
Germans but as I got up and started to walk toward them, one or more of our men on the far left in the
woods and over a hill continued to fire and as we later found out, they could not hear us yelling to cease
fire. The Germans went back into their holes and opened fire on us but we did not return the fire so they
must have realized what had happened. Again they waved the white flag and I went out and made contact with them.
When the rest of the company came up, we looked over the German positions and found that they were constructed
so well that even bombs could not knock them out. All things considered, we were very lucky that things turned
out the way they did. For my part in this battle and in other encounters, I was awarded the Silver Star. I feel today as
I felt then, that a lot more of our men should have been decorated for their actions, including LT Oot and
SGT Markley, who were outstanding.
I hope that this article, along with others that will be sent to you, will be seen by the families
of the men who were killed in action or died from their wounds so that they might know how their
loved ones died while serving with the 89th Infantry Division in W.W. II.
Silver Star-WWII version
Here is the citation for John's Silver Star:
CITATION FOR SILVER STAR
Private First, Class JOHN A. Hebert 11058178; Infantry, United States Army,
distinguished, himself by gallantry in action as a scout of Company "F", 353d
Infantry on two occasions in Germany. When his platoon was held by severe enemy
artillery, machine gun and sniper fire near Kirschroth on 20 March 1945, Private
First Class Hebert on his own initiative daringly advanced to a vantage point and
killed two snipers. Then, seeing a wounded comrade, he crossed through heavy machine
gun fire to him, administered. first aid under fire, and. moved the man 75 yards to a
place of safety. Continuing in the attack, he captured six enemy riflemen and thereby
enabled his platoon to take its objective. On 14 April he was preceding his platoon near the
Saale River when he observed German soldiers near the buildings of a concentration carp.
By boldly rushing forward firing his rifle, Private First Class HEBERT captured 39 enemy
officers and men without a fight. His daring, bravery, determination, and devotion to duty
aided. greatly in the combat effectiveness of his platoon and were in keeping with the best
traditions of the armed forces of the United. States. Entered the military service from Massachusetts.