On april 29th 2016 War history Online published a picture of Jack W. Rose on their facebookpage. A picture, which is well known by our team…
The information we had about the picture was kept to our selves for years. But because War History Online came with it, we decided to publish the story behind the picture.
War History Online added the text: “Jack W. Rose was killed by sniper fire while serving with the 83rd Infantry Division in Ottre, Belgium. A photo of the moment Jack was hit by the sniper’s bullet was taken by fellow soldier and army photographer, Tony Vaccaro.”
Of course there was a discussion going on, how dreadfull the photo was.
One guy made a comparrison with Robert Capa’s picture “Falling Soldier”, made during the Spanish civil war. There are many discussions about that picture. Many people said the Capa picture is staged…. Still it is a great war picture…
But, back to the subject!
Let’s start at the beginning.
In may 2009, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment/ 3rd Armored Division veteran Bob Kauffman asked me to investigate a massacre that supposed to have happend in Ottré, a tiny hamlet between Hebronval and Langlire. It is said that several American soldiers were brutally executed by two SS soldiers.
I agreed to investigate this matter, not knowing that this investigation was going to take many many years of research. At this moment, May 2016, we still didn’t finish it, because we want to know the story as complete as possible. (If that is possible at all…)
Why did Bob Kauffman asked me that question? Because he was in the direct area when the massacre occured and he wasn’t aware of it at that time, nor in the years after it. The massacre happend at january 10th 1945. (We even can discuss the date: most people will mention january 11th 1945…)
When I first met Bob, he was arguing at the Grandmenil panther with another veteran, wich happend to be photographer Tony Vaccaro.
From the moment Bob asked us to do the investigation, we dove right on it. Very soon we found some stories and pictures of the Ottre battles. The most famous one is “White Death, Requiem for a Dead Soldier”, said to be Pvt. Henry Irving Tannenbaum, KIA outside of Ottre.
The other one was a picture of a soldier called Jack Rose. And that was a very interesting picture. At first we only had the cut out/zoomed in version, as it was published in Vaccaro’s book “Shots of War”.
Looking at the picture, we see a soldier, jumping up and turning his face away for something. Behind him, we see part of a building.
We found the following information in an article about this picture:
Rose, then a 23-year-old Army private first class, died in action at a crossroads in Belgium 61 years ago. Vaccaro has never forgotten that scene. He couldn’t, because he is the one who took a photograph of his buddy’s dying moment, freezing it in time and in his memory. For the past six decades, the photograph Vaccaro, 84, took of Rose trying to cross that road on Jan. 11, 1945, in Ottre, Belgium, has haunted him. He snapped the frame with his 35 mm camera at the exact instant Rose was hit with German rifle fire. He died instantly. Vaccaro, at the time an Army private first class as well, moved on with his outfit, Intelligence Platoon of the 2nd Battalion, 331st Regiment, 83rd Infantry “Ohio” Division. He didn’t discover until later what happened to Rose. He only knew that he had been killed. “He was gone, of course, when we came back through that area,” Vaccaro said.”
Somewhere in 2010 I got an email from a guy called Dan Klare. He asked me to figure out where the picture was taken in Ottré. We thought that was a good idea. So, in may 2010 Marco and myself went to Ottré and tried to figure out where Jack Rose got killed. After a couple of hours we thought we had a match: we found a spot behind the church. Back at home I made a composition and sent it to Dan Klare, who reacted very enthousiastic.
On january 23rd 2011 I emailed Tony Vaccaro, asking him if he could answer a couple of questions about the massacre to help us out. I also asked him if he was interested to know where Jack Rose got killed.
Tony Vaccaro didn’t want to answer the questions and didn’t say he was interested in the location where his friend Jack Rose got killed.
About a year later, Doggreen production, who’s making a film about the war experiences of Tony Vaccaro, published the complete picture of Jack Rose’s Last Step. I kept that picture on my desktop for months. During a discussion with teammember Frans about the Ottré massacre, Frans mentionend a subject wich made our whole theory about the Rose picture collapse. That subject was…..the snow…… We mean, the lack of it…
It is well known that, during these days in january, the countryside was covered with a huge amount of snow.
Take a look at the picture of Jack Rose: There is not one flake of snow visible.
I felt we were getting in trouble: If there is no snow on the picture, then the picture was not made in Ottré. If the picture was not made in Ottré, then it is not Jack Rose who is on that picture…..
And we found 100% proof of it during the years of investigation.
We have been wondering for years what we should do with this information. We spoke about it many times in the team, we spoke with others about it. Friends from the US, friends from the Netherlands, Belgium and France. There was no main opinion about it. Some said we always were looking for the truth, so we should publish our results. Others said we should have respect for the veterans opinion, because we weren’t there in the battles.
Why publish the story? Because the discussion was on History Online anyway. And, we have a very serious reason to set this record straight. We think we owe it to the families who lost a loved one. They have the right to know the truth about these heroic men.
As said before on this website: our goal is to research for the truth and we condemn made up stories in honor of those who were killed for our freedom. Several people asked me to forget about this story, because it is the story of a highly respected World war II veteran.
We share the respect for the veteran. But we also have the greatest respect for the deceased soldiers.
What happend to Jack W. Rose?
Well, we are pretty sure that Jack got killed in that field, just outside of Ottré. Killed by enemy gunfire or killed by two SS soldiers who entered the field around 23.00 hrs on january 10th 1945.
If we take a look at the after action reports we see his name appear on january 11th 1945, reported as KIA. During our research we contacted a researcher of the National Archives (NARA) and requested the morning reports of F company. It took a couple of weeks, but he found the names we were looking for, including Jack Rose. We found him in the morning report of january 17th 1945: he was reported KIA on the date of january 11th 1945.
So, Jack Rose got killed in or near Ottré. Because he was in F company and named with other guys, like Clarence D. Self, Henry Tannenbaum and Arthur Mayberry, it is most likely that he was killed during the massacre.
But…. who’s the guy in the picture?
That question has been bothering us for a long time. If that wasn’t Jack Rose, who was it? And….where was it?
If you wanne know more about the great men of the 83rd infantry division, you should visit the website of Thijs Hodiamont. He is doing a great job, creating a huge database.
We searched his website and by accident we found the same picture. But…with complete other information.
We found the picture in the TTF newspaper of february 24 1945. The information added says: “A company C doughboy flinches slightly at the sound of an exploding Shell.”
The 331th regiment of the 83rd ID was in Belgium until the 24th of february, according to the After Action Reports. They were practicing all kinds of tactics in Berneau/ Belgium, like attacks in open terrain, attacks on tanks and attacks on villages.
Look again at the Jack Rose picture: The company C doughboy flinches slightly for….a smoke grenade? Are we looking at a soldier who is practising an assault situation?
And: The maker of the picture apparently already knew in february 1945 that the pictured guy was company C doughboy and not Jack Rose. On page 2 of that specific TTF we found the photographer: Pfc. Michael Vaccaro.
But….. What conclusion can you make?!
Let’s keep things more simple. Let’s call it a slip of the mind. We are sure Jack died on that spot outside of Ottré, wich is a subject for our most disturbing and longlasting research. We are pretty sure Tony Vaccaro knew Jack. The dead of this young soldier must have been devastating, like the dead of all fellow soldiers who died during these horrible days.
But, we simply can’t give an answer why Tony Vaccaro is keeping up the above story, untill this day.
We just don’t know.
We are aware that this article might give some discussion. And we are willing to have that discussion and place your (reasonable) comments if they are a positive contribution to the discussion. You can sent your comnments to our mail adres
Jack William Rose was born on May 22th 1922 in Knox County, Tennesse. He was enlisted in 1942 in Ft. Oglethorpe Georgia.
May he rest in peace.
Many thanks to teammembers Marco, Michel, Marc, Frans and Jan. And thanks to Donald for some additional advice.
– Fallen Soldier by Robert Capa
– Newspaper article “Trapped by time, wwII vet now able to leave photo’s memory to history” by Fred Brown (olive.knoxnews.com; no link available anymore)
– 83rd ID website
– Find a Grave
Note: The original pictures are hyperlinked from other websites!
This to avoid problems with Copyright.
Story written on May 22th 2016