Chapter 9. Other statements
There are two interviews on the Internet from André Beaumont, 83rd Infantry Division, 331th Battalion, F company. André was a replacement and assigned to F company on 23 January 1945, almost two weeks after the incident. (source: Morning reports/ 331/ F company, 23 January 1945)
We were assigned to the third platoon and they put us in a shed somewhere. Our Lieutenant and sergeant told us the platoon had gone out to attack the village of Ottré and they were ambushed and they didn’t know what to do. They were trapped in machine gun crossfire. Many were killed or wounded and they … sort of froze to the ground. Sergeant Shoemaker tried to get them, crawled back, but there was some German, apparently, who spoke English, and was yelling, “Don’t get up, don’t get up, don’t move.” … So, they confused [their orders] and, eventually, … most of them succumbed to hypothermia. I don’t know exactly the details, but I know Sergeant Shoemaker told us that these guys froze in their location and they didn’t even fire their rifles. They were so terrified and, eventually, the Germans came out and just shot them through the head. … Not a damn thing he could do. Eventually, he crawled back. He had to kill a German sentry. … He came back and rejoined the outfit, but they lost ten men.
Replacements are brought in from Foy (Hotton area) because of the many losses the unit had.
Well, I really, when I arrived there and I was, you know, issued my rifle, there were eight of us, and we were assigned to the third platoon, and I found out that — the third squad of the third platoon, and I found out that was — all that was left was the platoon sergeant. Well, he had two — three squads. But the third squad only had the squad leader, who was a sergeant, plus one or two men. And it turned out that the — we were filling in for some guys that had been literally slaughtered in some kind of an ambush two days before. And it is written up in our division history that this — they were ambushed, and most of the men were also replacements, and they didn’t know what to do. And their sergeants tried to get them to move, but they were mostly killed or wounded. And the sergeant pretended he was dead, because they actually — the Germans came out and literally killed all the guys that were wounded that were lying in the snow.
In a more personal talk I had with André in 2019 he told me:
“I arrived as a replacement a day or 2 after the Ottré massacre. We were assigned to the 3rd platoon which suffered the bulk of the casualties in this event.
We learned from Lt. Drucker* , platoon leader, that a squad from the platoon had been ambushed. The men fell in the snow but were confused because an English speaking German was yelling contradicting orders in regards to what the platoon Sergeant was yelling. Consequently, the men stayed down in the snow and somehow became paralyzed from fear and cold.
The Sergeant hid and watched as German soldiers emerged and shot each one of the squad whether they were dead or still alive.
The Sergeant escaped through the woods and in the process killed a German sentry with a knife before returning to the company.
A few days later the entire platoon was marched to a gully where we stood and listened to officers and sergeants yell in order that we could identify their voices. They also fired American weapons like the BAR, machine guns and German weapons as well.
This training, I think, kept us or made us better soldiers. I have no memory of Sergeant Shoemaker. And the story I have told and as best I can recall from a dim memory of 72 years ago.”
*2nd Lt. Drucker is reported as LWA in the Morning Reports of 12th January as of 11 January 1945, together with Harry L. Cooper, Frank J. Schooch, Russell A. Penick and Arnold W. Roskens; all men are members of F company. This might be 10 January 1945. Penick was a replacement as of 2 January 1945.
The 908th Field Artillery Battalion:
We also found a statement in the combat history of the 908th Field Artillery Battalion. The unit was attached to the 331stIR during those days:
“A platoon of doughs from F. co. jumped off at 11.30; they got over the crest of a gentle slope beyond town and all hell broke loose. The snow was waist deep – they could do nothing but press their bodies into it and take the terrible hail of fire directed at them from machine guns, 20mm ack ack pieces, mortars and tanks. Our observers had difficulty in locating good OP’s and the weather precluded the use of liaison planes for adjusting fire, so that we could not lay down the accurate covering barrage that would have allowed these men to withdraw to safety. They lay there, many of them wounded. At about 14.00 five tanks, with 20 infantrymen riding them, moved up the hill and paused on the crest to search for targets. Three were knocked out by 88’s within 30 seconds and the other two pulled back. The 27 men still lay in the snow. […] 26 men died in the snow because we could not cover their withdrawal….”
© Bob Konings
Pictured above: The PAK 43 canon that was firing in a horizontal position at US troops.
Courtesy: Eddy Monfort