Willard P Sheridan

Jane Cardi was only two months old when her dad left the house and went to Europe. “He only held me a couple of times and I never saw him back again.”

willard-p-sheridan

Willard P. Sheridan

In January we were contacted by our tourguide collegue Reg Jans. He asked me if we could guide around a couple from the US, who’s father was in the 83rd infantry division.
It was Jane Cardi and her husband Vince. She wanted to know what happend to her father, Willard P. Sheridan and where he was killed.
For 7 years we are studying on the Ottré case and I thought we could help her further.
We had contact by email for the lodging in our guesthouse and I asked her if she could sent me some information about the situation her dad was in, so we could prepare for the coming tour.

We started this story with practically nothing. We thought Willard was with the 330th regiment, company A. He was wounded in action on january 9th 1945 in Bihain and he died of his wounds on january 11th 1945.
I contacted one of the best researchers in this area, Eddy Monfort, who knows all about the whereabouts of the 83rd ID in the Ardennes. Comparing the stories Jane gave us, Eddy saw a match with one of his own interviews with an 83rd veteran. It was the story of Clifford W. Snyder.
And, Eddy found out that Willard was from HeadQuartes  of the 1st batalion.

 

Lets take a look at the story of Clifton Snyder first:
Around january the 7th 1945: A reconaissance patrol discovers that the road junction, leading into Bihain and crossing the bridge (see map), is not defended by the Germans. The Germans use this route as an escape route and must be held open at all cost for retreating German troops.
The 83rd ID  is highly interested in capturing this road. C-company  had to cross the River and secure the bridge. D comp would stay on the roadjunction, and support the companies with mortarfire. Right after C, A and B company  attack. During the approach, allready 15 Germans were taken POW.
C company sents a message to HQ, saying they secured the bridge. But….the messenger comes back saying that company A and B aren’t ready yet to make the attack. So the attack is stalled….

Let’s focus on january 9th 1945:

map-by-clifford-snyder

Map with the Bihain situation

10.00 hrs, a German patrol passes by that roadjunction.  The Americans open fire directly, killing 8 germans.   2 Germans escaped. 1 American got killed and 2 are lightly wounded. From this point, the Germans realise that the Americans took over the position around the bridge, closing that vital road for their retreating troops.

13.00 hours: A german panzer tank shows up in order to break open the road again. It is accompanied by infantry. The tank starts shooting at the 1st and 2nd squad. (see map) It takes a lot of cassulaties on German side. The 60mm mortars make sure that the germans retreat to the rear.
On American side there are 2 deads and 4 wounded. Lt Phillipsen sents Sgt Battershell to the rear with the wounded and ask for re-enforcements. HQ gives the word to hold the position and sents 6 men with munition and K rations.
His story ends here. We think Willard P. Sheridan was one of the 6 men who were sent out.

Jane gave us an articel, wich stated:
In continuing the attack on Bihain, Belgium, Captain Sheridan left his command post to personally lead a carrying party to his assault platoons, to supply them with much needed ammunition. The group advanced to within about 75 yards when Captain Sheridan was hit in the shoulder. Disgarding his painful wound, he continue don until he was again hit, recieving a piercing wound in the chest and abdomen. Although unable to rise, het tried to do so until he collapsed. Captain Sheridan refused aid, and orderd his men to continue on their mission of delivering ammunition. The mission was completed and the town was captured jan 10, 1944 (mistake form the journalist: should be 1945 of course).
Captain Willard P. Sheridan was brought to the aid station in Hebronval  where died of his wounds on january 11th 1945.
He later was awarded with the silver star medal for gallantry in action. He also was awarded the purple heart and the bronze star.

bihain-bridge

The bridge of Bihain

We went to Bihain on march 12th 2016 to see where Jane’s father got killed. She saw the roadjunction and the bridge, the small creek and the terrain. Somewhere here her father got heavely wounded and died of it two days later.
It was hard to stand there with Jane, knowing that she grew up without (knowing) her father.
One can only imagine what his last thoughts could have been, back then in early 1945.

When Willard passed away he was temporarely buried on one of the former cemeteries. But….we did not know wich one. So, we went to Henri Chapelle and asked superintendent Bobby O’Bell if he could help us. It was his assistant Emilie Duflo who looked into the papers of the former graveyards. But Willard Sheridan was not in it. And, Henri Chapelle does not have the papers of the former graveyard.
We didn’t get a 100% match on this one, wich left us all disapointed. We stopped by the Grave of one of the guys who got killed in Bihain too, Albert Kimball Junior.

Jane and Vince went on to France for their holiday, with my promiss that I would sort things out for  them.
That evening I was working for this website and I was looking for some additional information and old pictures of Henry Chapelle.
My blood frooze. I was looking at a picture one never ever could have expected. The photographer shot a picture of a chaplain, while he was willard-p-sheridanpraying at one of the thousands graves of Henri Chapelle.
The picture was made at the old cemetery. During that time the crosses were made out of wood. And they just wrote the name of the diseased soldier on it.
I looked again. It read “Willard P. Sheridan”. We now knew that he was buried first at Henri Chapelle.
Captain Sheridan was brought back to the United States and buried at Zanesville, Muskingum County, Ohio, USA.

May he rest in peace

 

Used sources:
– Materials provide by Jane Cardi
83rd infantry docs
– De la Neige et du Sang, by Eddy Monfort
Find a Grave

 

bihain

Bihain, right after the battles