Combat Interview:
1st Lt. Arthur A. Olson
"D" Troop, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron
Battle at Baraque de Fraiture, Belgium
("Parker's Crossroads")
December 20-23, 1944

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Hatlem Photo:  Baraque de Fraiture
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Transcription Notes

This is an interview conducted by the 4th Information and Historical Section of members of units of the 7th Armored Division’s participation in the Battle of the Bulge. The interviews are now in the National Archives (Record Group 407; Box 24097). The mis-spellings of the original have been retained.

There are a number of special considerations, which are included in the text in brackets that refer to the following:

  1. The words “Early in the afternoon” are struck out with X's at this point.
  2. The words “Later that morning” are typed above the line as an insertion in the original. “19th North flank” is written in the left margin, probably by Maj. Donald P. Boyer (S-3/38 AIB), as noted in the footnote on page 1 of the first B/87 interview. The meaning appears to be that Boyer believed this paragraph to actually have taken place on 19 December and not 18 December, based on his own knowledge and on the reading of the other combat interviews and battalion records (and probably on the personal accounts of some of the officers to Boyer after the war).
  3. The typed “19” is scratched out and “20” written above it, and in the margin to the left is written “S-3 sends msg - 1100-”. As noted in the prior note, the indication of the written entries is that the prior paragraph describes events of 19 December and that this section about to begin describes events of 20 December.
  4. Here the following words are struck out: "was placed under Division control. Lt. Olson".
  5. This crossroad near Baraque de Fraiture came to be known as “Parker’s Crossroads”, named for Maj. Arthur C. Parker III, of the 106th Infantry Division’s 589th Field Artillery Battalion.
  6. The typed “20” is scratched out and “21” written above it.
  7. The typed “20” is scratched out and “21” written above it, but the typed “th” is not changed.
  8. The typed “the” is scratched out and “our” written above it.
  9. The typed “2” is scratched out and “1” written over it, but the typed “nd” is not changed.
  10. The two different spellings (Bianche/Bianchi) are as in the original.

The Interview
Map 1
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Interviewer: Lt. R. E. Merriam, 4th I and H
Unit: 87TH RCN – D/87 – Interviewee: LT. ARTHUR A. OLSON
Date: 8 January 45

17 December
When the troop arrived in the ST VITH area it was sent to the N of the town to positions along the RR embankment about 1000 yards to the N of ST VITH.

18 December
In the morning one of the armored cars opened fire with its 37mm gun on a German tank at range of 800 yards. Two hits were scored on the enemy tank in the rear, and its crew evacuated.

[see #1 above] Later that morning [see #2 above] the Troop was ordered to BEHO to outpost the CCA CP. No activity was forthcoming at this location.

20 December [see #3 above]
At 0800 the Troop [see #4 above] reported to the commanding general who ordered him to go to SAMREE to assist in the defense of that area. The troop proceeded from VIELSALM to SALMCHATEAU and thence on the road to SAMREE. At about 1700 about one and a half miles E of SAMREE they ran into a German block of about 50 dismounted German infantry. Troop D personnel were ordered to dismount and fight the enemy who took to the woods. About 15-20 of the Germans were killed before the remainder of the enemy took off. Troop D plastered the woods with mortar and machine gun fire, and then began to move once more for SAMREE. They had gone only about a half mile further when they ran into three 2½ ton trucks across the road as a block. This block was more adequately covered with about two companies of enemy infantry. As it was getting dark Lt. Olson decided to withdraw his company slightly, dig in, post security, and await the morning. No enemy activity was forthcoming.

Meanwhile Lt. Olson did two things: first he sent the supply trucks, kitchen trucks, half tracks, and assault guns back to the main road intersection at 577852 where a block was beginning to form from the assorted units which came by the intersection. In command was a Captain from the 106th division (name unknown) [see #5 above]. He had already collected two 105mm artillery pieces and an AA multiple barrel machine gun. Secondly, he sent Lt. Joseph W. Jones back to division to obtain further information on the situation at SAMREE, and to report the enemy road block E of SAMREE.

Lt. Jones returned with the information that Troop D was to launch a coordinated attack with elements of the 3rd AD who were then in DOCHAMPS, ODEIGNE, and FREINEUX.

21 December [see #6 above]
Early in the morning of the 21th [see #7 above] Lt. Olson with two armored cars and two peeps headed for DOCHAMPS to contact the 3rd Armored units there. As he went into the town he noticed that there didn’t seem to be many soldiers around, and as he got his four vehicles into the town he suddenly discovered that it was enemy-occupied. The 3rd Armored had been forced to evacuate during the night. The enemy opened fire on his vehicles, but somehow they managed to turn around, ramming buildings as they went, and pull out of town with the loss of only one man who was wounded by the first enemy machine gun burst. Lt. Olson sent two medics then with him into the town in their peep, hoping the Germans would allow them to evacuate the wounded man. However the medics were fired upon, and the column was forced to hastily withdraw from the area.

Meanwhile at the CR where his kitchen and supply vehicles were located the enemy had attacked at about 0500. An estimated 50 enemy came up the road toward the CR. Before they could take over our [see #8 above] outpost personnel opened fire and dispersed the German column with an estimated loss of 17 killed, 7-8 wounded, and 16 prisoners.

When Lt. Olson discovered that he would be unable to get to SAMREE he decided to send his troops to the CR to assist in the defense. There the troop with a company of the 82nd division, six medium tanks, and some units of the 3rd AD set up an all-around defense of the area. Armored cars were distributed between the medium tanks, and outposts were established ahead of this ring approximately 150-200 yards. Listening posts were established on each of the roads.

21-22 December
During the three day period the unit was at the CR 12 enemy attacks were made on the position to feel out its strength. The attacks averaged from 50-100 men. However, the good visibility each time allowed the defenders to open fire in ample time to prevent an enemy penetration. No enemy armor was used until the final attack. One German 2 1/2 ton truck ran thru the CR, was burned, but continued running into REGNE where the remains of the troops in the truck were removed. On the 22nd the road to the E was cut. Up until this time there had been free communication with division, and supplies were maintained at adequate levels. However on the 21nd [see #9 above] Lt. Harold C. Bianche was sent by Lt. Olson to explain the situation to the general and attempt to get more support. Lt. Bianchi [see #10 above]rolled about 300 yards to the E of the CR with his armored car when he was hit by an anti-tank gun. He and the crew bailed out and started N and then E on foot. On the other side of this new road block they were picked up by a medical peep and taken to division. The Lt. informed the General of the situation, but the General told him he would be unable to give any support. He sent the Lt. to the 82nd Division CP to see if support could be obtained from that source. However, the same answer was received there.

23 December
In the morning the road to the rear or N of the block was cut, completing the isolation of the block. About 1700 a heavy concentration began falling on the CR, and shortly thereafter an estimated two bns of infantry and two companies of enemy tanks began coming at the block from three directions. The enemy overwhelmed the block, knocking out all of the tanks from the 3rd AD and all of the armored cars. The order was given by Lt. Olson to abandon cars and make their way as best they could to vicinity MANHAY. Almost none of the tank crews were able to get out, most of the men having been killed by the point blank firing from the enemy tanks in the woods. Many of the D/87 men were only able to get away by hand to hand and bayonet combat. For four days the men drifted into the Troop headquarters. All but 44 managed to get back. Some had been prisoners and had then escaped. One armored car which was not completely destroyed was recaptured from the Germans. The remainder were destroyed by the enemy fire.

One enemy tank was hit by bazooka fire. An estimated 300 enemy were killed.

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