Remembrances: Wes Brown--Reconnaissance

Stollberg Vicinity
April 21, 1945

I answered the challenge from the outpost, passed through my company lines, met an outward-bound patrol, and exchanged information with the patrol leader. Our company would be moving beyond the Limiting Line in the morning.

April 21 was a dull, gray day with periods of rain. Company I reinforced, with a platoon of tanks, and supported by a battery of 155s, left its position on the Limiting Line east of Ortsmundorf late morning for a reconnaissance to Stollberg. The Long Toms were already emplaced only a short distance from our foxholes.

My platoon was the company support. Several miles passed without incident before an explosion obliterated the left side of the tank ahead of me. The Panzerfaust had missed.

The Company left the road and proceeded across open fields to a town several hundred yards away. We covered much of the distance with only sporadic rifle fire. In the final moments before we reached the nearest houses, however, the ground erupted everywhere. Then we were in a ditch. To my front was a road that led out of town and across from it was a high long brick wall. I rushed for that wall. Just as I reached the base, the bullet's snap was like none before. The snap of another was even sharper. Reflexes took me over the wall. I heard rapid footsteps where I had been seconds before. First, they were in one direction and then in the opposite. Again, two rapid shots rang out and one of my men rolled over the wall. Even as he fell I sensed he had been hit. PFC Floyd Cole had a foot wound. "What took you so long?", I asked. "You knew they were firing down the road." Cole replied, "You disappeared so fast, lieutenant, I thought you had gone through a gate and I was looking for it."

We began a search of the houses in the immediate vicinity. On the second level of one I saw spent cartridges on the floor. Above them was a hole in the wall. I looked through it and saw the road and the wall my men and I had crossed.

It began to rain. I had lost contact with the company. I went around a street corner and came face to face with a band of armed Hitler Youth running for the same corner. We all stopped in our tracks; then the juveniles scattered. My lead men opened fire. I had one youth in my sights. I squeezed the trigger. The carbine was locked. I tried again. Water filled the peep sight.

Within minutes, I received a call from my company commander. "Brown," he said, " I want you to bring your platoon into town and...."I'm already in town", I interrupted. "You're not back on the road?", he asked. "No", I answered. "I was not told to stay there."

Shells from our 155s passed overhead. Moments later they exploded several hundred yards away in an open field. Upon reaching the company, I saw the body of Pvt George W. Hodges on the hood of the company jeep. He was killed attacking a machine gun position for which action he received the Silver Star. We withdrew in the late afternoon. In addition to Cole, I had lost 40 year-old Pfc John Skocier. Just where and how he was wounded I do not know. Co I had fought its last engagement, sustained its last casualties(1-KIA, 5-WIA),and found the enemy was not present in strength.