top of page

Heroes Who Paid the Ultimate Price

Lt. Eric Fisher Wood, Executive Officer, A Battery, 589th Field Artillery

Lt. Wood's remarkable story continues to cause controversy among both his fellow veterans and military historians. It's the stuff of Hollywood. Even the investigations were put into question. But the evidence is strong enough in my opinion to conclude that it's true.

On the morning of the 17th of December 1944, while leading his men through Schonberg, his column was ambushed and destroyed. While his men began surrendering, he made a dash uphill for the safety of the Ardennes forest. It was the last time any of his men saw him. After being helped by a local family, Wood and another unidentified GI trekked back into the forest. That's where the legend begins. Gunfire and explosions were heard all around of the village of Meyerode. Rumors ran rampant. W0unded German soldiers were seen being carried from the woods. Then by the end of the January, the shooting stopped. When the Americans retook the area, villagers led them to the bodies of Lt. Wood and several others. What happened? No one will ever truly know.  

Captain John Pitts, Commander, A Battery, 590th Field Artillery

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Captain Pitts was an instructor for the first few years of the war until he volunteered for overseas duty. He was assigned to the ill-fated 590th Field Artillery Battalion and lead A Battery to the Ardennes. His brother was also in the Army and his sister was nearby working as a Red Cross volunteer. When the shelling started on the morning of the 16th, the Battalion was hit hard. Late in the morning, another bombardment struck the battery, blasting the gun line and several buildings, killing Pitts. His sister had arrived at Division HQ that morning to visit her brother, only to be informed of his death.   

 Captain Pitts is buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery.

Lt. John Losh, A Battery, 590th Field Artillery

Canadian-born Losh was living in Queens, NY prior to the war. His parents had moved down from Canada after immigrating from England. Losh survived the first four days of the battle until captured on December 19th. Like Lt. Creel, he ended up Hammelburg (Oflag XIIIB). During Patton's raid on the camp, the POWs were temporarily freed only to be captured again. The Germans decided to move most of the Americans to other locations. While being held at a Nuremburg rail yard, RAF bombers hit the area, killing several POWs, including Losh. They were the final victims of Patton's gamble. John Losh was 28.

Survivors included his wife Isabella, daughter Mary Alice, his sister Barbara, and parents, Thomas and Frances. His wife stayed active in the Gold Star Wives Organization, even visiting the White House in 1953, meeting with Mamie Eisenhower.

Lt. Losh is buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France.

Captain James L. Manning, Cannon Company, 423rd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division

A native of Latta, South Carolina, Captain Manning graduated from The Citadel, class of 1942. He led the company overseas. Cannon Company had one of the Division's most exposed positions in Bleialf, Germany. Everyone knew that in the event of an attack by the Germans, the village would be one of the first areas hit. So not only was cannon company defending the village with M3 105mm howitzers, but an anti-tank platoon, along with infantry were located there as well.

So on the morning on December 16, Bleialf was immediately under fire. The Germans rushed the village from three directions, intermingling with groups of GIs defending the houses. Manning had his headquarters in a local school, but knowing his men would be fighting as infantry this morning, led a group over to the village's main dairy building. The Germans had already captured most of it. A group of American prisoners were being held upstairs, but fighting continued. As Manning entered the building, and reached the staircase, a shot rang out. Manning was dead. One of the Germans guarding the GIs had shot him. He then turned to his prisoners and said in broken English, "I think I just shot one of your officers." Manning had just turned 23 on December 3. 

Captain Manning is buried at the Henri Chappelle American Cemetery in Belgium. He was survived by his wife , Grace, parents Albert and Minnie as well as a sister, Florence.  

Lt. Albert Martin, HQ Battalion, 590th Field Artillery Battalion, 106th Infantry Division

On December 21, Belgian-born Lt. Albert C. Martin, the Battalion Operations officer, who had been temporarily assigned to DivArty that first week and avoided capture, was directing traffic through an intersection in the vicinity of Poteau. Not all of the Divisional HQ battery had shown up yet at the crossing. Concerned, he and his driver, Private Koka, drove eastward to try and find them. As they passed just over the crest of a small hill, a German patrol opened fire on the two men. Martin was hit and fell out of the jeep. Wounded but still alert, he frantically waved at Koka to turn around and get help. The last sight of Martin was him engaging the enemy with his carbine. The Lieutenant’s body was found days later surrounded by enemy dead. After the battle, his body was buried at a temporary American cemetery.

Martin’s story had added tragedy. He was an only child and his mother was unable to cope with the tragedy. Helen Martin would die in 1952 at a psychiatric hospital. Albert was the result of a union between Helen and a Belgian man she had met while working as a volunteer after World War I. They soon divorced and Helen came back to the states, where she met Mac Martin. Mac was a prominent businessman in Minneapolis, who was also childless. So he adopted Albert when he married his mother. In 1947, Mr. Martin, worried about the state of his son’s body, requested his remains be cremated. Albert’s ashes are now interred at the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium (plot G, row 9, grave 30).  

bottom of page