29 March 1945 KIAs in 2 Tanks of
Company "C" of 17th Tank Battalion
near Wermertshausen, Germany

7th Armored Division
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Overview

On 29 March 1945 at Wermertshausen, Germany, two tanks of Company "C" of 17th Tank Battalion of 7th Armored Division were knocked out. Three men in one tank and one man in the other tank were killed. (Five men comprised a tank crew.) Several accounts of this action give different but not conflicting perspectives. This web page gathers together all of the known accounts, including a late 1940's hand-drawn map.

These are the men killed:

  • Tank with three men killed - on the WERMERTSHAUSEN-ROSSBERG [WJ: German spelling: Roßberg] road about 200 meters from WERMERTSHAUSEN - surviving crew members were Sgt James Fischer (driver) and Elmer Harper (assistant driver)
    • Sgt. Raymond T. Loyd - never recovered
    • Cpl. Raymond A. Rusch - never recovered
    • Pvt. Chester H. Thompson - never recovered
  • Tank with one man killed - in the village of WERMERTSHAUSEN
Contents
  • After Action Reports
  • Personal Accounts
  • Individual Deceased Personnel Files

  • After Action Reports

    The 7th Armored Division (in III Corps of First US Army) crossed the Rhine River the night of 24-25 March 1945. The three combat commands (A, B, R) then organized their armored infantry and tank battalions into task forces that paired an infantry company and a tank company. Combat Command "A" (CCA) had 17th Tank Battalion and 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion. Company "C" of 17th Tank Battalion (C/17) paired with Company "A" of 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion (A/23) in CCA Task Force Rhea, commanded by 23 AIB commanding officer (CO) Lt. Col. Robert L. Rhea. Thus the 23 AIB After Action Report contains the most relevant account.

    After crossing the Rhine, the 7th Armored Division participated in the southern part of the double-envelopment of what came to be known as the Ruhr Pocket. Attacking on 26 March, they broke through the forward German defenses, they rapidly moved 125 miles in 5 days to complete their part of the encirclement. Thus the events of 29 March 1945, in which the two C/17 tanks were hit, was part of that operation.

    23rd Armored Infantry Battalion After Action Report

    At 1030 on 29 March TF Rhea moved from GEISSEN to the northeast to an attack assembly area in the vicinity of REDDINGSHAVEN. Enroute to REDDINGSHAVEN 200 PW's were captured. From REDDINGSHAVEN the task force moved to WERMERTSHAUSEN. An enemy road block consisting of 5 88's, 2 AT guns and several vehicles was encountered in the edge of a small woods north-west of WERMERTSHAUSEN. One of our tanks was destroyed in the fight that ensued but the road block was soon smashed and the guns destroyed. The task force continued to the town of UNT and remained there over night.

    As with many reports of the time, this account mis-spelled some of the European place names. These are places in west-central Germany. "GEISSEN" was actually GIESSEN. "REDDINGSHAVEN" was actually RUDDINGSHAUSEN, just southwest of WERMERTSHAUSEN, the only place spelled correctly.

    Click here for a Google Maps view of what may have been their route.

    Finally, note that while this account mentions only one tank knocked out, other accounts (below) report that two tanks were knocked out.

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    Personal Accounts

    Robert L. Fischer sent the following information from his father's letters home. He also sent the following introduction.

    "I am forwarding you all of the information I have on these two soldiers [Charles Wendall Fisher and Raymond Loyd] who served in the same Tank Platoon in the 7th Armor Division 17th Tank Battalion with my father Sgt. James Robert Fischer.

    "Sometime during the day on March 29, 1945 my father got orders to move his tank platoon in position to attack a farmhouse which was heavily armed with German machine guns and light artillery. Sgt. Raymond T. Loyd was in the same tank as my father. My father was the driver. Charles Fisher, who the men just referred to as Chubby, was in a separate tank attacking down a flank. For years my father said this farm house was in Belgium, but judging from his letters, I believe it was actually in western Germany probably near the Rhine. According to my father's account, when the tanks began their attack the Germans responded with a volley of hellish fire. At a given point my father told Loyd that he could hardly see out of the periscope. Dad said that Loyd said he was going to open the hatch, and look out to get a line and guide them in. When Loyd stuck his head out the hatch he was hit by fire from the Germans and fell back in the tank instantly killed. For years my father said he was haunted by the memory of that headless body in the tank.

    "Chubby Fischer's tank was hit by artillery fire, and began to burn. All of the crew except Fisher scrambled out to safety, and he was the last man. Before he could get out the tank burst into a ball of flames, and Charles T. (Chubby) Fisher simply burned up inside the tank. Using a combination of Armor, Infantry, and mortar fire that farm house was taken that day, but not before two dear friends had been taken by the enemy.

    "I do not know where Chubby Fisher is buried. He might be buried in Luxembourg, or the remains of his body may have be sent back to the States for burial. I am not sure whether I have a picture of him or not, however there may be a photo of Sgt. Loyd somewhere.

    "I want to quote you a few passages from my father's letters to my mother. You will see the reference to Bobbie, who was the wife of Sgt. Loyd. Chubby Fisher was probably single."

    Letters of Sgt. James Robert Fischer

    2 Feb 45 Belgium
    Dearest Hon,
    Iím just going along from day to day hoping the Russians do it to Jerry good and proper. When and if they accomplish that, it shouldnít be too long before they ship us back to the United States.
    Loyd received a letter from his little brother telling him that the baby was a boy, but so far he hasnít heard from Bobbie. He seemed awfully pleased and proud when he told me about it. Iím glad something has happened to make him happy.
    Eddie was down here for a cup of coffee last night, and we were discussing Snity. Weíve come to the conclusion that he must have joined his brother in the 5th because we surely would have seen him by this time if he was coming back here.
    Can you send me a couple of pounds (of coffee) along with a small fruitcake?

    9 March 1945 Germany
    Dearest Hon,
    Cawthorne, Loyd, and Eddie are sweating out my pkg. mail now. I told them you were sending a jug and it should arrive some time this month so now, they ask me every day if Iíve heard from home lately. I can just see them drooling when they ask. Wish you could hear the pathetic appeal in their voices, and Iím just as anxious as they are. [Robert Fischer note: "This letter was the last reference to Loyd being alive. The next time he is mentioned is in the May 29th letter."]

    8 April 1945 Germany
    Dearest Hon,
    Hon, if you want to go to Mpls. go ahead and pay them a visit. I donít mind a bit. In fact, I think it would be a good idea to quit that job and take the kids with you. Itíll give you a well earned rest and after you return you can take care of the kids yourself. And it isnít good for the kids to have you away all day anyway.
    Has Bobbie [WJ note: wife of Raymond Loyd] written to you yet? I wish there was something I could do for her but my hands are tied as long as Iím over on this side.
    P.S. Iím sending home a small saber, and some trinkets. Watch it for me will you?

    29 May 1945 Germany
    Dearest Hon,
    Hon, I sent Bobbie a negative of Loyd taken before his death, and I meant to ask her to have a print made for me and I forgot it. The next time you write her, will you ask her to do that for me? I donít have a single picture of Loyd, and I want that one badly. I could write again and explain, but I canít think of anything besides that to say, and Iím in a rather awkward position. You understand doncha?
    I got your radiogram, and also your letter. The letter was 3 days newer than the radiogram. The radiogram was dated the 17th and the letter was dated the 21st.

    7/10/45 Germany
    Dearest Hon,
    I sure had a good laugh about Jimmie getting his joint caught in your glass case. It really tickled me pink! I wish I could have seen it. I suppose it hurt him to beat hell, but it must have been a funny sight.
    Iím sending you some negatives we took at Bad Godesburg last March. Westerman has the prints, so I took the negatives. You can get the prints made, canít you?
    That snapshot of Chubby Fisher is the last he ever had made. He was killed the same afternoon as Loyd---In fact 5 minutes after Loyd, but in a different way. I canít tell you about it in a letter.
    That's all I have. I hope you can use this. I will be looking for more information, but that's the majority of it.

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    Individual Deceased Personnel Files

    An Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) was created for everyone who died while in service. For those whose remains were recovered, the IDPF followed the remains until their final burial. For those whose remains were never recovered, the IDPF sometimes contains accounts by survivors. The hope was that those accounts would either (a) help to find the remains or (b) would help to associate the remains with those of an Unknown (recorded in X-files, since each recovered Unknown was assigned an X-number associated with the temporary U.S. cemetery from which the graves regsitration team that recovered the remains was operating) or (c) would give sufficient information to know that the remains were unrecoverable, so that the case could be closed.

    The remains of Charles Fisher were recovered, but Raymond Loyd, Raymond Rusch and Chester Thompson were never recovered, burned and then destroyed in the blowing up of the tank by the Germans, after the war in October 1946. I have the IDPF for only one of the four men: Chester Thompson.


    IDPF of Pvt. Chester H. Thompson

    Pvt. Chester H. Thompson was in the crew of the tank of Sgt. James Robert Fischer. Fischer and one other crewman survived. Thompson, Sgt. Raymond T. Loyd and Cpl. Raymond A. Rusch were killed and then burned in the tank. What was left of their charred remains was destroyed in the blowing up of the tank by the Germans, after the war in October 1946, possibly out of concern that the tank was booby-trapped.

    Chester Thompson's IDPF is 71 pages. The entire IDPF can be seen here in a PDF file. It contains information from survivors, as well as a summary sent to his family.

    Army Quartermaster General Letter to Family, 29 March 1949

    [Chester Thompson was] "killed in action on 29 March 1945, near Wermertshausen, Germany"
    ... "[he] and four other crew members were occupants of a tank which was struck by anti-tank fire, resulting in destruction of the vehicle. Two of the crew members escaped without injury and later returned to duty. [He] and the reamining two occupants were killed."
    ... "two American tanks were knocked out in the vicinity of Wermertshausen, on 29 March 1945. One of the tanks did not burn and was removed by American Troops the same day, while the other tank was completely demolished. ... charred remains were seen in the wreckage and remained there until a German demolition team blasted the tank some time later. All the remains and parts of the tank were scattered over a four hundred meter area by this explosion. The investigators went to the sceen of the blast and discovered that the tank was completely destroyed and no trace of human remains could be found."
    ... "one member of the Company stated that he saw the burning tank and went to render his assistance, but reached the tank too later. He further stated that the three crew members who lost their liver never left the turret of the tank. Another member of the Company stated that although he did not see the tank at the time it was hit, he did see it five or ten minutes afterwards, but due to the fire he could not get within twenty feet of the tank."

    Loyd, Thompson, Rusch - Statement of Investigation, 11 March 1949
    1. Subject decedents, members of Company C, 17th Tank Battalion, 7th Amored Division, were three crew members of a five man tank which was destroyed by enemy fire, and burned near Wermertshausen, Germany on 29 March 1945.

    2. The driver and assistant driver of the tank escaped without any injury, and eventually were returned to duty. The identifiable remains of the decedents were never recovered.

    3. According to the information submitted by Sgt. Loyce S. Westerman, Platoon Sergeant of the decedents at the time of the destruction of the tank, the subject tank was hit by three eighty-eights. The decedents never left the turret of the tank, and were incinerated inside the tank. Sgt. Westerman stated that when he saw the fire, he went to render assistance, but it was too late. (Tab "A") M/Sgt. John Dutch, a member of Company C, stated that he did not see when the tank was hit, but he saw it five or ten minutes after, and no one could get within twenty feet because of the fire. He further stated that in all his experience, the tank burned longer than any he had seen. (Tab "B")

    4. Information obtained from the OQMG Form 371 of Pvt. Chester H. Thompson gave the location of casualty as Hesseln, while that of Sgt. Raymond T. Loyd gave the location as Mermertschausen. However, the information submitted by Sgt. Westerman and M/Sgt. John Dutch placed the location as Wermertschausen [NOTE: This mis-spelling of Wermertshausen is used throughout this document.]. According to Historical Records, the 7th Armored Division had captured Kirchain and Gemunden on 29 March 1945. (Tab "C") Wermertschausen is approximately nineteen (19) miles from Gemnuden. It is evident that Mermertschausen is in error.

    5. Investigations were made by two Search Teams, one on 15 December 1947 at Hesseln, Hermershausen, and Borghalzhausen, the other on 27 April 1948 at Wermertschausen.

      • a. The first Investigation and Search Team was dispatched to Hesseln, Hemershausen, and Borgholzhausen. According to statements from the Acting Buergermeister at Hesseln and the Administrative Director of twelve (12) villages including Hesseln, no American tank was destroyed in those communities during the war. (Tabs "D" and "D1") This investigation produced negative results.

      • b. The second Investigation and Search Team obtained information from the Buergermeister at Wermerschausen who states that two American tanks were knocked out in his community on 29 March 1945. One of the tanks did not burn and was removed by American Troops the same day, while the other was knocked out on the Wermerschausen-Rossberg Road (Tab "E" [Click here for map.]) and burned completely out. Burnt human bones were seen in the wreckage and remained there until October 1946 when a German demolition team blasted said tank. All the bones and parts of the tank were scattered within four hundred meters by the explosion. (Tabs "F" and "F1")

    [The remaining paragraphs all relate to administrative aspects of finding the remains of the three men non-recoverable.]

    Quotation from Sgt. Raymond Loyd Detail Citation for Posthumous Award of Oak-Lear Cluster (Bronze Star Medal)

    [I do not have this detail citation. The summary citation is in section VII of 7th Armored Division Headquarters General Orders #81 (18 May 1945). The quotation is on page 29 of Thompson's IDPF PDF file.]

    ... "on 29 March 1945 Sgt. Loyd commanded the lead tank of the Task Force as it drove on Mermertschausen, Germany. When strong anti-tank fire was encountered, Sgt. Loyd deployed the other vehicles of his platoon and moved boldly forward in his own tank."

    Translation of Wermertshausen Bürgermeister Statement, 29 April 1948

    On 29 March 1945 two (2) American tanks were knocked out in the community of WERMERTSHAUSEN.

    One (1) tank was knocked out right in the village. this vehicle did not burn out and it was taken away by American troops on the same day. One (1) crew member [WJ: Charles Fisher] of this tank was killed in action when his tank was hit. The deceased was taken away by American troops at once.

    The second (2) tank was knocked out on the road WERMERTSHAUSEN-ROSSBERG [WJ: German spelling Roßberg], about 200 meters from WERMERTSHAUSEN. This tank burnt completely out. I do not know whether or not any surviving left this tank because the local population was not allowed to enter the streets at that time. Due to the fact that some burnt bones were found in the tank wreckage later on I know that some crew members were killed in action when the tank was hit. I saw several American ambulances riding to the scene of accident after the tank was knocked out. I presumed the deceased or surviving crew members of this tank were recovered, however I do not know anything about it. About two (2) months later the tank was moved to the road-side by Americans so that the road was free for the through traffic.

    In about October 1946 a German demolition team came from GIESSEN and blasted the above mentioned tank, in which some bones of crew members had been. By the explosion parts of the tank were scattered within a circle of about 400 meters. I do not know any names of members of this demolition team. No Americans were present when the tank was blasted.

    7th Armd Div Patch
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    Sgt. Loyce S. Westerman Letter to Army, 15 February 1949

    Fullertion Calif.
    Feb/15/49

    Dear Mr. Metz:

    Received your letter pertaining to Raymond Loyd, Chester Thompson, and Raymod A. Rusch; and there is very little information of their "Death" I can give you.

    It is true they were in my platoon and the time and place of their unfortunate accidents happened Mar. 29/45, and were faced wtih the enemy at Wermerthausere Germany.

    I have tried to find Maps of the Area in which the Battle took place, but I have had no luck. Therefore I cannot give you a Geographical location of where they were hit.

    About the only helpful information I can give you is that they were incinerated in the Tank. I can't seem to recall who were Loyd's Driver and Asst. driver. We were getting replacements all along, and it was hard to keep up with all the men.

    I can't say whether the remains of the boys were picked up or not. The Grave Registration took care of all the deceased.

    In Loyd's tank there were 6 men. The driver and Asst. driver escaped without injury. Loyd, Rusch, and Thompson never lift the Turret of the Tank. I can truthfully swear that they were burned inside the Tank. The Tank was hit with three 88's right through the front of the Turret. I left my tank, when I noticed Loyd's tank was on fire and went back to see if there was anything that could be done, but it was too late. So that is about all the information I can give you. I only hope that what I have is helpful in your investigation and in the meantime I will try to find out more information on the Area of "Wermerthausere Germany" and try to send you a map of where the scene of the Battle occured.

    M/Sgt. John Dutch Letter to Army, 20 January 1949

    Fort Knox, Kentucky
    20 January 1949

    Department of the Army
    Office of the Quartermaster General
    Washington 25, D. C.
    (Attention: Lt. Col. T H Metz)

    In reply to your leter of 7 January 1949 reference QMGMU World War II Unrecoverables regarding Sgt Raymond T Loyd ASN 36312940, Cpl Raymond A Rusch, ASN 37681421 and Pvt Chester H Thompson ASN 37366876, all of Company C, 17th Tank Battalion, 7th Armored Division.

    To the best of my knowledge, I last saw Sgt Loyd and his tank crew and talked to them in Giessen, Germany just before the Company pulled out Giessen Germany. We were in contact with the enemy advancing through six (6) or eight (8) small towns and I do not recall seeing any of the crew or having talked to any of them after leaving Giessen, I did see the tank as we advanced along the route. The tank was knocked out near Wertshausen, Germany. I did not see the tank get hit but did see the tank about five or ten minutes after it was hit and the tank was on fire. No one could get within twenty feet of the tank while we were in that area. I would say that area over an hour. I questioned some men who were there when the tank was hit and two Enlisted Men that got out of the tank. They stated that the three men mentioned did not get out of the tank.

    I do not remember the other two crew members names. It is my personell belief that there were no remains to be found. I have seen tanks burn for five or six hours and that tank was still burning when the Company left the area. I believe that Staff Sgt Loyce S Westerman, who was Platoon Sergent at that time, saw the tank get hit. His last known address is Rt. 1 Box 304, Fullerton Calif.

    James L. Sparling Letter to Army, 10 November 1948

    [Sparling's could remember no names or details of the event, but he did have a paragraph that is useful for the names of men in C/17 at the time. Sparling had been contacted because he commanded C/17, but he assumed command after 29 March 1945, so that he was not in command on that date.]

    I would like to aid you somewhat as to who to seek out as the commanding officer of these men at the time of the action above referred to. However, I do not remember the names of the officers we relieved when two fellow officers and I took over Co "C" 17th Tk Bn. I might aid you to some extent by informing you that when your peruse the records of said Co "C", such officers as Capt Roy Nelson and Lts. Deutscher, Goldie and myself cannot aid you since we were tranferred from the 40th Tank Bn of the same 7th Armd Division quite sometime after hostilities ceased, in fact after the 7th Armd Div was classified as a "4" division (one destined for dissolution after it returned to the States.) You might check "C" Co records for a Lt Patton -- now that I think of it -- since I faintly remember seeing his name somewhere in said records. There was also a Staff Sgt Seifert who was one of the very few original Co "C" men who made the trip home with the outfit.

    S/Sgt Francis J. Seifert Resonse to Army Letter of 23 November 1948

    [Seifert was apparently contacted after Sparling's letter (above) suggested him. He did not write a letter in response but wrote margin notations on the Army's letter for 3 of the 4 questions he was asked. The fact that he was wrong about "Campbell" -- since we know from James Fischer's letters (Personal Accounts section above) that he was the driver -- probably does not make his other answers any more dubious. In the following, the Army's question is in normal text, and Seifert's response is in italics. Some of his writing is faint, so that the following transcription may have errors. See the original image in the IDPF PDF file if there is any question.]

    a. What other men comprised the crew of the tank in which the three (3) men were killed? (1) Elmer H. Harper; 1920 Linden Ave; Knoxville, Tenn. (2) Campbell; address unknown

    b. Can you place the location where the tank was knocked out? [Seifert did not respond to this question.]

    c. Can you provide the name of the tank, the number, and unit symbols? 11-4R-Sherman and (either C-4 or 5 Company number) [AND] 7 Δ 17-C-4 or 5

    d. Can you suggest a witness to the disaster, or anyone else who might have this and other information? M/Sgt John Deutch 6890618; Co A 10th Med Tank Br TAS; Fort Knox, Ky

    Elmer Harper Resonse to Army Letter of 7 January of 1949

    [Harper was apparently contacted after Seifert's response (above) said Harper was a surviving crew member. He did not write a letter in response but wrote margin notations on the Army's letter for the 5 questions he was asked. In the following, the Army's question is in normal text, and Harper's response is in italics. Some of his writing is faint, so that the following transcription may have errors. See the original image in the IDPF PDF file if there is any question.]

    b. Can you place the location where the tank was knocked out? Left of the barrel of the gun

    b. Can you provide the name of the tank, the number, and unit symbols? A medium Ford tank don't remember the unit symbols

    c. Were the remains of the deceased removed by other tankmen, and if so, what final disposition was made of the remains? I never did see the boys no more after I got out. But the tank burnt up.

    d. If the remains were not removed from the tank, what was the condition of the remains (incinerated, dismembered, etc.)? I don't know I had to keep moving on.

    e. How many comprised the tank crew, and how many survived? 3 got killed in the tank and nme and one more boy got out.

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