Lost Texas A&M Ring Returned to Family of World War II Soldier
Excerpts from Texas A&M's "The Battalion On-Line Newspaper"
A piece of Aggie history has returned to Texas A&M after being forgotten in Germany for 56 years.
Medal of Honor recipient 1st. Lt. Turney W. Leonard's Aggie ring came home in a private ceremony. The ring was presented to Turney W. Leonard's only surviving sibling, Mr. Douglas Leonard of Dallas, TX. The ring was returned by German Lt. Volker Lossner, who obtained the ring from his father-in-law, Alfred Hutmacher.
Lossner said Hutmacher found the ring after helping American forces locate the graves of Americans killed during the battle of the Hürtgen Forest and had virtually forgotten about the ring's existence until Lossner expressed an interest in the battle.
Lossner said he didn't immediately understand the significance of the ring, but knew it might be important to someone, so he contacted US Army Col. Thomas Fosnacht to arrange for the ring to be returned.
Contact was made with Texas A&M President Dr. Ray M. Bowen, who arranged to bring Lossner to Texas A&M for the presentation. It was then that Lossner heard of Turney W. Leonard's story.
1st. Lt. Turney W. Leonard was with the 893rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. His heroism in a fierce 3-day engagement near Kommerscheidt, Germany won him the Medal of Honor. He was last seen at a medical aid station and is believed to have died on November 7, 1944.
April 21, 2000
Remains of World War II Soldier Recovered in Germany
Excerpts from "Stars and Stripes"
Fifty-five years after one of World War II's bloodiest battles, the U.S. Army received the remains of an American soldier recently unearthed from a farmer's field in the Hürtgen Forest.
It was the second set of remains, both believed to be U.S. Soldiers, unearthed in the forest and turned over to the U.S. Army this month.
German ordnance teams are clearing farmer's fields in the area, allowing land to be plowed for crops instead of just used for grazing. The teams have uncovered the remains of four German soldiers, two soldiers believed to be Americans and numerous grenades, mortar rounds and ammunition, all about a foot below ground.
The first set of remains are those of an enlisted soldier from the 311th Infantry Regiment, 78th Division. The soldier was killed on Dec. 13, 1944, three days after his division began fighting in the forest. The remains were found in the Vossenack area, along with U.S. military equipment including boots, a canteen and dog tags. Two German soldiers were found nearby.
The second set of U.S. remains were unearthed in Hürtgen . Those are believed to be a soldier from the 28th Division and were found in the vicinity of two German soldiers, 25 hand grenades, mortar rounds and other ammunition.
The remains of the American soldiers will be sent to the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii. There, the lab will make a positive identification and notify next of kin, who will decide where to inter the remains.
44,200 U.S. soldiers were presumed dead and never found in Europe.
January 14, 1998
Missing American Soldier died 1944 in Kommerscheidt
Excerpts from Duren: Stadt und Land (Translated)
It was unknown for a long time what had happened to the American soldier Lemuel H. Hebert who belonged to the Allied troops who fought the German army in the fall of 1944 in the Hürtgen Forest. He was listed as missing at the Henri Chapelle Military Cemetery in Belgium.
Just a few days ago it became clear that Lemuel H. Herbert gave his life in the battle against Nazi Germany. The remains were discovered last Friday in Kommerscheidt while the property belonging to the Family Naas was searched for ammunition.
One of the workers found a dogtag 70cm underground next to a skeleton. The tag identified the soldier as Lemuel H. Hebert. The remains of the American soldier who was considered missing for over 53 years were given yesterday to the US military.
Hans Dieter Naas, his son Thomas, Ludwig Fischer and Wolfgang Held all came to the Honor Cemetery near Hurtgen to give the remains, which were in a small coffin, to David Roath who is with the American Battle Monuments Commission.
The American government is going to do some research to be certain about the identity of the soldier. They are not satisfied with just the dogtag said David Roath. He and his co-workers are going back to the area where the remains were found to try and get more evidence.
Once they are sure about the identity they will try and find relatives of the deceased. If they succeed they will decide what to do with the remains. He may be taken back to the United States or he will be buried at Henri Chapelle. All this could take up to two years.
The deceased was discovered by 12 year old Thomas Naas.
According to the looks of the helmet and the skull, the soldier died from grenade splinters in the head.
3500 soldiers lost their lives in Schmidt and Kommerscheidt between November 4-8, 1944.
March 27, 2001
Ex-Enemies Join on Field of Battle
By Steven Komarow
SCHMIDT, Germany -- The warning scribbled on the musty cellar wall is clearly legible in the beam of a small flashlight, 56 years later.
''Psst. . . . Feind hort mit!'' a German soldier wrote. ''Shhh. . . . The enemy can listen in.''
The enemy was the U.S. Army, which had come to blast through the ''Siegfried line'' guarding Nazi Germany's western frontier. The Germans, protected by an interlocking maze of concrete tank traps and gun emplacements woven into dense forest, hunkered down for the epic struggle. The Battle of Huertgen Forest, which lasted from September 1944 to March 1945 and cost more than 22,000 lives, is a monument to the savagery of war.
Now the writing is on the wall for the real monuments to that bloody fight.
Where once there were hundreds of bunkers, only a handful remain, buried deep in the woods. The German government plans to level them as a nuisance. Their only chance for survival is an unusual joint effort by German and American veterans and their families, former enemies who now agree that future generations should see and learn.
''One cannot overcome the dark part of Germany's past by eliminating witnesses of that period,'' says German army veteran Klaus Schulz, 74, a management consultant who started a letter-writing campaign to try to save the Huertgen Forest bunkers. ''Those structures . . . remind people to never forget the criminal acts based on the ideological insanity of a dictator.''
The Huertgen area is dotted with cemeteries and modest plaques honoring those who fought. Schulz and others argue that preserving the Nazi-built bunkers and the tank traps -- reinforced concrete projections known as ''dragon's teeth'' -- also will teach future generations.
''No picture, no movie, no written account or other documentary efforts can convey the reality of the bunker,'' writes Harvey Jorgensen, of Springfield, Mo., one of the American World War II veterans supporting the preservation effort.
But preserving war sites is viewed with suspicion here. Half a century later, the nation is still struggling to keep neo-Nazi sentiment at bay. Sparing historical artifacts is a low priority. Among the better-known cases is that of Hitler's bunker in Berlin, which survived the war but was later buried lest it become a Nazi shrine.
Although U.S. veterans of World War II are being honored in their twilight years, that's not always the case in Germany. There's deep shame over the Third Reich. The best-known memorials are to the Holocaust. Germans don't often visit battle sites the way Americans visit Civil War battlefields. It varies by region, but veterans' reunions usually are low-key affairs here.
''Quite a lot of these veterans, they keep their mouths shut, try to have their impressions and experiences just buried as well, same as the pillboxes,'' says Schulz, who was a fresh recruit when his training unit was rushed into combat in the Huertgen in September 1944.
''In France, the Maginot line is still there. But in Germany, you know we lost the war, so the Germans think they have to demolish all the bunkers,'' says Gevert Haslob, 77, a general's aide in the battle who later wrote a book based on his experience. France's Maginot line was built after World War I to block a future German invasion, but the German blitzkrieg slickly bypassed it in 1940.
Furthermore, the German government considers the bunkers a hazard. The U.S. Army destroyed most at the end of the war so that they couldn't be used again. But those that remain or were partially destroyed ''endanger the life and health of people because of deep crevices, protruding iron, dangerous heights and sharp-edged concrete,'' says the Ministry of Finance, which must approve any preservation effort. Those that can't be leveled should be sealed off except for small openings to let animals move in and out, it says.
Sociology professor E.M. Beck of the University of Georgia has visited the Huertgen and compares the German attitude to that of the American South, which has worked hard to erase all vestiges of segregation, such as ''Whites Only'' signs. In both cases, he says, some examples must be preserved because ''other generations need to understand.''
Eliminating the bunkers will make it harder to tell the story of how soldiers lived and fought there in the terrible fall and winter of 1944-45, preservationists say. Other regions of Germany have saved some examples, but the veterans say that isn't good enough.
Today, the bunkers here are largely overgrown, and the steel doors and other features have been removed. Even so, visitors can see how the bunkers were carefully placed so that each one protected the others nearby. The gunfire from the bunkers was devastating to the invading Americans.
Inside, the walls still bear the marks of the bunks where soldiers slept -- first the Germans, then sometimes the Americans who captured them. The scribbled warning in bunker 139/40 is written on a wall where a telephone once was mounted. Many American GIs were of German heritage; when they captured bunkers, they would listen in on the network.
Among those supporting the preservation effort is Douglas Cahow, whose older brother, Pfc. Robert Cahow, was listed as missing in action for 56 years until his remains were found in the Huertgen last year.
''Those brave German and Allied soldiers were only doing their duty,'' and evidence of their fight will help ''future generations to see the futility and mass destruction of wars,'' Cahow says in his letter of support for preservation.
MIAs still on battlefield
Robert Cahow's body was discovered in the woods during work on a logging road. A metal detector was triggered by grenades he was wearing when he fell, apparently while on a mission to retrieve injured comrades. This month, the bodies of two German soldiers were found in the forest. That it took so many years to find these bodies is no surprise to those who have studied the battle.
The GIs, who eventually prevailed, rarely knew where they were because of the thick pine woods, U.S. Army Col. French MacLean says. ''The names they gave to the terrain -- ''Purple Heart Hollow and Death Valley -- give us some indication of the nature of the fighting where casualties were numbered not by the mile, but by the yard,'' he says.
Artillery shells exploded in treetops, sending down a shower of mulch with deadly flak. ''If you were dead, you'd get covered by several successive layers of tree branches,'' says Lt. Col. Doug Nash, a U.S. Army officer who is writing a book on a German unit that fought in the Huertgen.
To this day, German teams are still clearing live ordnance from the forest.
Worldwide, there are 78,000 Americans unaccounted for from World War II. No one knows how many of them lie undiscovered in the Huertgen.
Despite the carnage -- at least 12,000 Americans dead and nearly as many Germans -- the Huertgen Forest is not one of the better-known battles of World War II. Historians still marvel over why so much force was applied, and so much horror endured, when the forest could have been bypassed in the drive into Germany. There have been several books about the Huertgen, and a made-for-TV movie. But because the battle was not pivotal, it is slipping from common memory.
''Sometimes I imagine that in another 50 years people will start digging around,'' says Ron van Ryt, an amateur historian who lives in the Netherlands about 45 minutes from the Huertgen. ''Suddenly they will find the remains of the bunkers and dragon's teeth, and nobody will know what it was.''
May 17, 2001
HEIDELBERG, GE - Three U.S. World War II soldiers, whose remains were
recovered earlier this week from field graves near Monschau, Germany, will
be honored with a Fallen Soldier Ceremony conducted by 1st Infantry
Division troops from V Corps on May 18, 2001, at noon at the Huertgen War
The soldiers have been tentatively identified as part of the 395th
Infantry Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division, at that time assigned to
V Corps, based on identification tags found with the remains. Positive
identification is yet to be determined.
The discovery comes after 12 years of research by nine researchers from
the 99th Infantry Division Association's Missing In Action project. The
soldiers are believed to have been killed in action between December
15-16, 1944, in support of the attack to secure the crossroads at
Wahlerscheid, the first objective in the offensive to secure the Roer
dams. Officials from the German War Graves Commission and mortuary
affairs representatives from the U.S. Army's 21st Theater Support Command
assisted with the recovery.
The ceremony will mark the German War Graves Commission's release of the
remains into U.S. custody for transport to the Landstuhl Regional Medical
Center for further processing.
April 7, 2002
Email note from Doug Cahow.
Doug Cahow, whose brother Robert Cahow's remains were just found in 2000 (See USA Today story below), sends the following information:
"Sergeant Major Felt of the U S Army Rangers is helping me with a belated Memorial Day MIA-KIA ceremony at 11am on June 3, 2002 at the site of PFC Robert Cahow's Commemorative Plaque.
This not a service for PFC Cahow, but the service will be held there because we know exactly where Robert was recovered and the Cahows want it to be a symbolic spot for All MIAs. As you know a Bronze Plaque has been erected to commeorate all MIAs near Robert's grave-site.
The program will consist of a color guard, chaplain, wreath ceremony, a few chosen words, maybe a poem, probably 3 national anthems(American, Dutch, & German), Sgt Felt's Dutch-German Officer Candidates(15-20 minimum), stone pebble tribute to all MIAs, and Taps. The program should last about 45 minutes. Afterwards we will get together at Simonskall for lunch.
You can also view the Clear Lake, Wisconsin Veterans' Memorial web page at: