Pvt. Edgar "Ed" R. Kreft      

Mil# 36865406

Enlisted:

 3rd Platoon  A. Company 643rd TD BN.

 

 

 

 

 

Info/photos received from;
Shirley Kreft and Eddy Monfort

 

 

 

 

Born: 15 April 1925    Place: Rogers City, MI

Died: 27 December 2016    Place: Hillman, MI

Buried: Memorial Park Cemetery, Rogers City, MI

 

Wife: Shirley Kreft (Meyers)   Married:  20 May 1950

Children: Richard, Kenneth, Michele and John

 

Father: Rudolph Kreft   Mother: Louise Kreft (Sterns)

Brother: Eugene

 

 

 

Awards

 

European African Middle Eastern Service Medal

Battle Stars"Ardennes-Rhineland "

 

 

Army Buddies  .... John "Jack" Bertch and Edgar ....

   

 

Email I received from Ed's wife Shirley.

I'm not sure what kind of information you would like, but will try to give you some and you can use what you like.  Personal infomation would include the fact that he resides at Medilodge of Hillman, Michigan, (a nursing home approximately 40 miles from Rogers City.)  He is now 91 years old.  He and his wife Shirley have been married for 66 years and  have four children:  Richard, Kenneth, Michele and John.  They have 4 grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Ed was 18 years old when he enlisted in the army, and had his basic training in various camps in the United States, prior to being shipped overseas.  He served in the Battle of the Bulge with the 643rd Tank Destroyer Battalion in the 3rd Platoon, Co. A.  His platoon of 28 men was sent in to replace  the US 3rd Armored Division  (consisting of at least 50 or more tanks, and many trucks loaded with troops).  The Platoon was ordered IN, while the Division passed out of the area, leaving just 28 men and 4 anti-tank guns to replace all of  those who were ordered to retreat.  The Germans were close as they went through the Crossroads and down the road, and as evening approached there was much shelling.  Many men were wounded and several were killed.  He had a lot of holes through his coat but was not injured. He was the only one of his platoon who was not injured.

The Germans called them to surrender and although they were apprehensive, they had no choice.  The wounded were in pain and needed medical attention.  He helped with the wounded and they took them to a First Aid station where they were treated and sent on.  Ed felt they were treated reasonably well by the troops who captured them (the 2nd SS Panzer Division).   They did "trade" off shoes and gloves with them!!  Treatment at the prison camps was quite different, and he has later learned that many persons who were captured with him later died of starvation, freezing, or were shot.

They were marched on foot to several different prison camps - Limberg, Bad Orb, Stalag 9B.  They had very little to eat, and were required to walk, assisting wounded who were unable to walk by themselves.  At the prison camps they were forced to work  but not given much to eat.  On the  night before Easter a battle took place near the prison camp and in the morning  all was quiet. The  German flag was gone and there were no guards around.  A few hours later they were liberated!!!!   After they had the first showers and shaves since before they were captured  (how awful that must have been!!!) they were taken to a hospital near Reims, then to Camp Lucky Strike,  and then to a ship back to the US.  At that time he weighed around 80 pounds - his normal weight had been 145 pounds!  

This is just an abbreviated version of the things which happened to him, but perhaps it will give  you a little insight as to what he went through.  There are so many other stories which he told us that we find interesting, but this is the basic information.  I hope it is what you wanted.  It has taken a while to put together this information but I was able to find copies of letters he had written to several people and it helped me to be able to get things in the right order.

I will be interested (as will my children) to see all that you have put on the website.  I have been able to get to it now, and so far have found many things of interest (and also many people who I met at the 643rd TD reunions).  Some of them I knew well, but some of them I just recognize the names, and some of them are names that I recall Ed mentioning at various times during the years.

Thank you for asking for the information.  Shirley Kreft

 

Picture of Edgar (90 Years, Summer 2015)

 

Letter that Edgar wrote to Eddy Montfort in 1993, about his experience on Baraque de Fraiture (Dec'44)

 

Dear Mr. Monfort

I received  your letter of March 21, 1993 . It was nice to hear from someone from the Ardennes area. I thought it was very beautiful there when I went through and still hope sometime yet to

get back there.

I will try to remember as much as I can about the events that I took part in during the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944 near Manhay, but that was a long time ago and I hope my memories accurate.

I was 19 years old when I was captured by the Germans on the morning of December 23, 1944 . At that time, I was a member of the 3rd Platoon, Co. A, 643rd Tank Destroyer Battalion . I will start my story from the time our  unit was ordered to the Belgian front from France.

First, I guess I should explain that in 1944 most tank destroyer units had self-propelled tank destroyers that looked very similar to a tank, but for some reason when we arrived in Normandy, we were given the old type consisting of half-tracks with which we towed three inch anti-tank guns, This type of armament was obsolete and had very heavy casualties when used against German tanks.

On December 21st, we were ordered to the Ardennes to help hold back the German attack. We were on the road all day and into the night and were almost to our destination when we were stopped by Military policemen who told us that we were to go back to Rheims, France, which we did. When we arrived there, we were told that the Military Police that had directed us to Rheims must have been German paratroopers disguised as American M.P. and we were sent back to the Ardennes .

Everything was in a state of confusion. It seemed as if no one knew what was going on. On our way back to the Ardennes region, we stopped by the side of the road and made a small fire to heat some rations because we were very hungry and cold. We had just made the fire and it was going good when a jeep with three military policemen stopped and kicked out the fire telling us that German paratroopers were in the area. These M.P.s then got into their jeep and went on down the road. They only got about 1/2 mile and their jeep was blown to pieces by land mines and all were killed. If we hadn't stopped to eat we would have been blown up. The German paratroopers must have mined the road.

We arrived in the Manhay area on the afternoon of December 22nd, very tired, cold and hungry as we had been travelling for two days and one night. As we came near to the crossroads of Baraque de Fraiture we had to wait while the U.S. 3rd Armored Division tanks (at least 50 or more, and many trucks loaded with troops retreating from the front) went past us to the rear. This took about two hours, and then we (one platoon with 28 men and 4 anti-tank guns) went into take their place!

When we arrived at the Crossroads we had to stop because the Germans were shelling them. While we were waiting, a couple of soldiers from the 3rd Armored Division were coming along the road. As they passed, I recognized one of them as a fellow from my hometown. I called to him and he came over and talked with us. He said that he could not believe that one platoon was going in to face the Germans when their whole division had moved out. He also informed us that he had just been told on his radio that they should try to walk out because they were probably already surrounded, because many of the roads behind us were already in German hands. He also said that there was nobody between us and the Germans. He and his friends then left us to try to get back to their Division.

We waited until there was a pause in the shelling and then proceeded down the hill through the Crossroads and down the road, through the woods, about 1/2 mile, until we came to the edge of the swamp. Ahead of us was an open field and then another woods. The Germans were in this woods. We could hear them shouting and hear their tanks moving around.

It was now about 6 p.m. We placed our guns in position to shoot across the field toward where we could hear the German tanks . It was cold and snowing. We had left France without receiving our winter boots, so all we had were leather shoes with smooth soles, which made it very slippery and our feet were always cold and wet.

It is very hard for me to understand why we were sent into this area. We were only one platoon sent in to take the place of the more than 50 tanks and hundreds of Infantrymen that were retreating from this area. We were very apprehensive when we found that we were up there all by ourselves. We could hear many German tanks clanking around in front of us just across a field, and we could also hear what sounded like a large number of German infantry (they were very noisy - much yelling and commotion). The fact that we had no infantry to protect our flanks, no medics for our wounded, and no officers with us made us wonder what we were doing up there all alone! I guess we were just sent up there to hold the Germans back for a few hours to let the 3rd Armored Division escape. I don't think anyone expected us to get back.

Our platoon commander was Lt. John Orlando, who sent us up there but was not with us during the night or the attack in the morning. I talked with him a couple of years ago and at that time I asked why he had sent us up there. He said that he was ordered to do so by some Colonel in the Manhay area, who seemed to be in charge, but after determining that we were in a very bad position, he went back to protest but he could not find that Colonel. He said he then sent two different soldiers with messages for us ta return, but they never made it because of the heavy firing.

 

 

My gun crew was the first in line facing the Germans. Sgt. Giordano was our gun commander. The next gun crew behind us was Sgt. Martinelli's crew. The other two guns and crews were further back on the other side of the road. All night long we thought we could hear German patrols in the woods, and a couple of times some of us were sent into the woods to intercept them. That was scary, but we never sighted any. About 4 a.m. they started shelling us with 88s and mortars. This lasted until about 6 . They wounded several of us and my friend, Jack Bertch, and I had a close one that lifted us off the ground and covered us with mud and snow. Shortly after 6 the Germans attacked across the field with much yelling and shouting, then it seemed like they went back in the woods and the shelling started again, knocking out our gun and burning the half-track. Then we were attacked from both sides, but not from the front. We couldn't see our attackers as they were in the woods around us. One of our men was sent back to Martinelli's gun, but came back and said that the Germans were already there and had captured the gun and crew. We were then attacked from all sides, and also the rear. More wounded and several men killed. We were finally pinned down in a little depression where they evidently could not see us unless we attempted to move. When someone did move, it drew rifle fire. Finally, by about 8 a.m., everyone in our gun crew was killed or wounded except me, and I had a lot of holes through my coat but wasn't touched. (I later found out that Cataldo had escaped by hiding under a stump - he told me this a few years ago when I met him at a Tank Destroyer Battalion reunion). Since we couldn't move , we didn't think that we would ever get out of there, but then the Germans called for us to surrender. After discussion we decided that we had no chance of getting out alive and even though the Germans had been shooting prisoners (Malmedy) it was still a chance that we should take. This was about 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. and we had many wounded who were in much pain.

Having decided to surrender, we called to the Germans and they said to stand up. Since I was the only one not wounded , I stood up - fully expecting to be shot! Nothing happened. Then the Germans came over and took our wounded. I helped with their wounded, and we took all of them to a First Aid station where they were treated and sent out. We were treated reasonably well by the troops that captured us. I think that they were from the 2nd SS Panzer Division. They did "trade" shoes and gloves with us though. Things did not go as well when we reached the r ear echelon troops. They took most everything of value that we had. Many of those persons who were captured with me died later of starvation, freezing, or were shot, but that's another story. I was liberated in April of 1945 at Bad Orb, near Frankfort am Main. I only weighed 87 pounds, but recovered quite rapidly.

Prisoner of War Ribbon

 

On 23 December 1944 in The Battle of the Bulge, Edgar was captured by the Germans (Baraque de Fraiture) close to the German/Belgium border. He and other prisoners were transported to Stalag IX B at Bad Orb, Germany. The camp was liberated by a task force comprising the 2nd Battalion, 114th Regiment, US. 44th Infantry Division, reinforced with light tanks and armored cars from the 106th Cavalry Group and 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion. On 2 April 1945 the task force broke through the German lines and drove north over 37 Miles through enemy held territory to Bad Orb and liberated Stalag IX-B

 

Camp Stalag IX-B

 

I hope these recollections will be of some use to you. Each year it is harder to remember all the details, but I think that I am reasonably accurate. I am including a sketch showing our positions. I will also include a picture of a half-track and a three inch towed gun which we were using, and a copy of our tank destroyer insignia.

I wish you good luck on your book,. I am sure it will be very interesting and if you get it published I would really like to purchase a copy. If we ever do get to Belgium I would enjoy meeting you, and I know I would certainly like to re-visit the area of the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads. If there is anything else that I can help you with, please let me know.

Sincerely,

Edgar R. Kreft

 

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