Sgt. Bryce V. Horton
Enlisted: 6 March 1942, Boston, MA
B. Company 643rd TD BN.
Born: 21 May 1911 Place: Melrose, MA
Died: 3 June 2008 Place: Roxbury Boston, MA
Buriel Place: Puritan Lawn Memorial Park, Peabody, MA
Wife: Barbara S. Horton (Shaw)
Children: Mark and Diana (Nicosia)
Father: Wendell Horton Mother: Lucy Horton (Glidden)
Bronze Star Medal
European African Middle Eastern Service Medal
Battle Stars"Ardennes-Rhineland-Central Europe"
Rescue at the Elbe
Story by Bryce Horton
3rd Platoon B-Company 643rd Tank Destroyer Battalion.
Early in the morning on 16 April 1945, the day after we had established our bridgehead across the Elbe river at Güterglück, the Germans counterattacked. An officer from the 83d Inf. Div. came bursting into the farmhouse where we were quartered, calling for Tank Destroyers. It was a foggy morning. We mounted up, and my destroyer, being number one in our section, started out after the officer. However a brass coupling from a fire hose which we had picked up the night before jammed and immobilized our destroyer. Henry Horton’s destroyer pulled around us following the officer’s jeep. The officer placed Henry’s destroyer at the end of the town. Henry got out to camouflage the destroyer and was standing beside it when a German tank opened fire. The first round killed Lawrence Killion, the driver and amputated the leg of Vic Fogelquist the gunner. Vic called for help and Henry jumped on the destroyer and with the help of Charlie Piombino, managed to get Vic out. Before Henry could get out a second shell came in, seriously wounded him. Charlie Piombino and Sal Fuca, the other two crew members, were uninjured. I am pleased to report that after Vic’s recovery, he did well and we had some good times at the reunions until he passed away a few years ago. Henry’s were so serious that he was unable to be moved from the field hospital for three weeks. The field hospital had only canvas cots, so when he got to the base hospital with real mattresses, he said it was like Heaven. In the meantime, we had managed to untangle our track and were operational again.
Capt. John B. Colt
Capt. Colt, our company commander, came by and we went out together in the back yard to survey the situation. With our field glasses , we spotted two German tanks just on the fringe of the fog which had been lifting. He ordered me to bring our destroyer into position and to knock the German tanks out. Taking advantage of the edge for cover, I brought the destroyer in. Bob Torok, our gunner, sighted one of the tanks and fired, delivering a direct hit. He then fired several more rounds to be sure that the job was complete. I had Roy Moyer, our driver, pull back out of range and out of sight. I then walked up to the hedge to observe the tank which we had hit – it was burning. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I picked up the second tank with my glasses and it was still sitting there like a “sitting duck”. I immediately ordered our destroyer into a new position at the hedge, and Bob lined the tank up and scored another direct hit. The two tanks we destroyed were Mark IV’s. It was a crime that Henry Horton’s destroyer was set up in front of two German tanks. If Henry had been deploying the destroyer in position himself, I’m sure that he would have been more cautious. However, the visibility was very poor. From the time we received our M18 tank destroyers at Neufchateau, Belgium, until the Elbe bridgehead, our two destroyers were usually deployed together. I can say that Henry’s uncanny judgment on gun positions saved our necks many times. Lt. Roddy, our platoon leader, recommended that Henry Horton be awarded the Silver Star for his unselfish bravery under fire in saving Vic Fogelquist. He never received the award. It was probably lost through channels. If anyone ever deserved the Silver Star, He did. He did receive the Purple Heart. Orders came down from the high command to halt our drive to Berlin when we were at the Elbe. We were about 40 miles from the city. I assure you that the most of us were happy with the order which would give the Russians the honor of taking Berlin. The division set up strong defensive positions, and our destroyer was deployed beside a bunker at an entrance to the town. One day we had a whole German battalion surrender through our checkpoint. The officers had come in under white flag and prearranged the surrender. For some reason, they were allowed to come in with their weapons, and pilled their guns up in front of us. We were apprehensive that some die-hard Nazi’s might open fire and it would have been a disaster. However, it went as planned with no problems. A few mornings later, just after dawn, I was manning our destroyer. There was one of our Cub observations planes flying around the area. I noticed the Cub was make a rapid descent. The next thing I knew, a German plane was strafing us. I opened fire with our .50-caliber machine gun, remembering what I had learned in gunnery school to be sure and lead the plane. I was truly surprised when the plane went down in flames. My training paid off. Several of the infantry men came running to congratulate me. One took my name and serial number so that I would get credit for it. He said my gun was the only one firing, so there was no question who hit it. Going up to breakfast that morning , I overheard a conversation. The guys were saying that some nut opened fire and shot down an observation plane. Suddenly, I felt really sick, fearing that I had shot down the wrong plane. I had given my name and serial number so I would get credit for shooting down one of our planes. Great! What a relief when we got to the wreckage and found out it was a German Messerschmidt 109. This was the end of our combat across the Elbe.
In retrospect, I believe that our destroyer must have been the last tank destroyer to destroy enemy tanks.
For the record, I would like to add here that Bob Torok was unbelievable as a gunner-cool and accurate under fire. Before this engagement across the Elbe, he had destroyed two more Mark IV tanks in a battle at Hasselweiller, Germany on the drove to the Rhine river. His combat record from the Roer River to the Elbe was four German tanks engaged, four destroyed. He holds a perfect record, four for four. I know this seems incredible but I can vouch for it. I was there and saw it happen.
Frankly, I have blocked out the most of my wartime experiences over the past 45 years except when attending the reunions. However, looking back, I feel very comfortable bragging about our tank crew. It was made up of: Bob Torok, Gunner, Stamford, CT; Rob Moyer, Driver, Lititz, PA; Dan McBride, Assistant driver, Wilmington, DE; Don Olson, Loader, Duluth, MN; and Bryce Horton, Commander, Lynnfield, MA
Story and Photo: "Reprinted with permissions from Tank Destroyer Forces WW II, Turner Publishing, pgs."
On top: Victor Fogelquist, Unknown, Bryce Horton (on gun) Lawrence Killion (standing)
Standing in front: Joe Kennedy, Unknown