CARNAGE AT THE CROSSROADS
The Tragic Story Of Sgt. Cecil J. Cash
By: Esther M. Ziock Carroll - a.k.a. ZIOCK63664
©
2 May 2012

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Background Music:  Candle In The Wind

 

DEDICATION:
To Sgt. Cecil J. Cash, Cpl. Ray Heitmann, & all victims of Nazi cruelty
 

PROLOGUE:  This incident was considered to be the worst WAR CRIME committed against American soldiers in the western European Theatre of WWII.  Much has been published about this event but only a very few authors have included mention of my relative.  So I have written his story giving him the full recognition he deserves.  This story provides a detailed account of Sgt. Cecil J. Cash's tragic demise when he along with 80+ other disarmed American P.O.W.'s were brutally EXECUTED / MURDERED by Nazis on the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, 17 December 1944.  This is the TRUE story of  Sgt. Cash of the 197th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Automatic Weapons Battalion.  Sgt. Cash of St. Francois County, Missouri , USA , is my  posthumous step-father by way of being the first husband of my mother Pearl Martin Cash Ziock Foree of Washington County, Missouri, USA.   Sgt. Cash's military history begins at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis in 1942 & covers his two year tour of duty through five states, two continents, & six countries.  The story includes excerpts from Sgt. Cash's personal correspondence with his wife as he forges his way through France, Belgium & Luxembourg with thousands of other American soldiers liberating Europe from Hitler's evil Nazi Regime & bringing an end to the Holocaust & the Third Reich. 

 

PART I

Older men declare war.  But it is youth that must fight & die.
Herbert Hoover

MISSOURI:  Cecil James Cash was born 9 October, 1922 near Bonne Terre, St. Francois County, Missouri & was the son of Goldie DeMier & Josh Cash.  Cecil was named after his maternal uncle Cecil DeMier.  His grandparents were Eliza Roan & Albert Cash & Anna Brand & John DeMier of Irondale, Washington County, Missouri.  Cecil had an older sister, Charlotte, & two younger brothers, Jack & Vernon.  In 1930 the Josh Cash family was living in Madison County, Missouri & by 1940 they were back in St. Francois County living on Wortham Street in/near Leadwood.

In 1942 World War II was underway & Cecil was working for the Small Arms Plant in St. Louis, Missouri making .30 & .50 caliber ammunition.  This is where he met his future wife, Pearl M. Martin.  Pearl was  born Christmas day 1926 in Irondale, Washington County, Missouri & was the third oldest of eleven children born to Berdie Henderson & Guy Martin.  Pearl was the grand daughter of Margie Dicus & James Martin, long time residents of Washington County;   Also Mattie Briley & Rev. James Henderson of St. Francois County.  In the 1930's the Guy Martin family moved to the area of Farmington in St. Francois County.  Pearl ran away from home at age 15 after an altercation with her abusive, alcoholic father - it took her two days to walk from Farmington to Bonne Terre.  She slept in an unknown family's outhouse overnight.  At Bonne Terre her paternal great aunt & uncle, Stella Jarvis & John Edward Martin, took her in & she resided with them.  She later made her way to St. Louis & took a job at the Small Arms plant there making ammunition for the war.  This is where she met Cecil J. Cash - her future husband.  Many Cash & Martin descendants still reside in both Washington & St. Francois Counties, Missouri.

Cecil was inducted into the army on 15 December 1942 at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis.  He was 20 years old. His enlistment papers state that he was 5 feet 5 inches tall & weighed 136 pounds, he had a grammar school education & was a semiskilled mechanic.  His term of enlistment was "......for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law."  He was with the 197th AAA (Anti-aircraft Artillery) Automatic Weapons Battalion, Battery C. His serial number was: 37403963

TEXAS:  Cecil was sent to Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. During the summer of 1943 Pearl Martin, at age 16, took a bus from St. Louis to Texas to visit Cecil.  They were married by the Justice of the Peace in El Paso on 11 June of that year.  They were so happy & every where they went people were happy for them.  They set up house keeping in a cute two-room adobe home in Sunset Acres near the army base.  On 24 July Cecil's unit graduated with top honors after completing a lengthy & rigorous training program which focused on anti-aircraft artillery, gun drills, field exercises & long battalion hikes.  Also back-breaking digging & classes in fire control & tactics.  The graduation was celebrated with a large ceremony & parade.

VIRGINIA:  After graduation Cecil & his unit were transferred by train to Camp Pickett, Virginia to undergo basic amphibious training.  Pearl went to Camp Pickett to visit him & stayed in room 13 at the guest house on Hickory Street.  Cecil was then transferred to Camp Bradford for advanced amphibious training, assault tactics on beachheads.  They then returned to Camp Pickett.  Here they made practice voyages & assault landings.  When training was completed Col. Lawry stated that out of 40 battalions the 197th was one of the best. They then transferred to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where preparations were made to head overseas.


NEW YORK:  Cecil & the 197th finally boarded the worlds largest ship which was England's "Queen Elizabeth" at New York.  On January 2nd, 1944 15,000 American soldiers sailed passed the Statue of Liberty leaving the safety & security of  their homeland behind them while they sailed to a foreign land & a precarious & uncertain future.  Cecil's wife, Pearl, had returned to St. Louis where she shared an apartment with her younger sister Gladys Martin.  It was unbeknownst to Pearl at the time that she would never see her handsome young husband again.
 

ENGLAND:  Aboard ship it was extremely overcrowded.  Two meals a day were served.  There was only one day of rough seas but about half way to England the ship's course had to be changed due to reports of enemy subs in the area but there were no attacks.  After a six day voyage the Queen Elizabeth docked at Firth of Clyde in Scotland on January 8th.  The next day after debarkation Red Cross girls served coffee & doughnuts, candy & cigarettes to the soldiers.  That night the troops were transported by train to Upton Lovell Camp, Codford, Wiltshire, England.

19 January 1944 - "Somewhere in England - Dearest Darling Wife - Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok..............Darling there hasn't been a minute that I haven't thought of you.  I am so lonesome for you............Honey I am loving you more every day & am hoping to be home soon............"

January - "Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am thinking of you............Honey I got your letter yesterday & was sure glad to get it................. you know the picture you sent me, I took & put it in the back of the four leaf clover you sent it fit just right.  I hope I get to bring it back I have it on the chain with my dog tags...............Honey I don't see how this war can go on much longer - I will be so dam glad when it is over so we can all get back............Darling I can go to hell & back as long as you are waiting for me.............."

29 & 30 January - "Dearest Darling Wife - Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok and am thinking of you.............With a big hug & lots of kisses to my Darling Wife........Lots of Love, Cecil"

6 February -  "Somewhere in England............Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok, I hope this finds you ok to.........Honey I just got two letters from you this evening boy oh boy was I glad to get them.............Darling I have been writing I guess the mail is just held up somewhere..........With oceans of Love & lots of kisses with a big hug.........."

11 February - "Dearest Darling Wife - Darling I will drop you a line to let you know I am ok.................Darling I would sure like to see you I am hoping I can be back in a few months to stay...............With lots & lots of love to my Darling..........."

13 February - "Somewhere in England - Dearest Darling Wife..........Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am thinking of you.........Honey I just got done doing my washing it runs in to pretty much of a job.............With lots & lots of love to my Darling............."
 

On the 20th of February the 197th moved to Cornwall for more intense training & practice.  All of the soldiers were in excellent physical condition & it was stated that the 197th was one of the finest battalions the branch had ever seen. Most British were very well impressed with the American soldiers but others not so much stating that they were "Over paid, over sexed & over here."   In March the 197th moved to the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset & on the 27th of that month Germans bombed the city initiating the 197th into the war.  Then, after being bounced around again to various posts it was finally time for Operation Neptune.......

 

PART II

Victory comes on no silver platters.
WWII Newsreel

FRANCE:  By this time the Allies were finally prepared to evict the fiendish, evil dictator Adolph Hitler & his heinous Nazi Regime from Europe.  This involved a very dangerous invasion on the mainland of France & would be the greatest assault landing in history.  The planning & implementation behind this operation were unequalled & had been in the works for about two years.  Operation Neptune was the crossing of the English Channel phase of Operation Overlord & Operation Overlord was the code name given to the Allied invasion of France at Normandy 6 June 1944...........D-Day.  Commanded by Dwight D. Eisenhower it included thousands of ships & planes & over 150,000 American, British & Canadian troops landing on five beachheads.  It is one of the most famous battles of World War II & led to the liberation of Europe.



 

Omaha Beach was the largest assault area & the most intensely fought after beach as the Allies were met with heavy resistance from enemy forces.  The Germans had built dangerous defenses around Omaha which made attacking the area extremely difficult.  The waters & beach were heavily mined & cluttered with thousands of obstacles that the Germans had placed there to impede an invasion.  Out of all the beaches the battle on Omaha suffered the heaviest number of casualties estimated to be around 3,000.  One can only imagine what the apprehension must have been like for all those courageous soldiers as they approached the beach that day.  And those that survived - their lives would be forever changed.

On the morning of 6 June the 197th could observe the unbelievable spectacle unfolding on Omaha.   The day was windy & bleak & they could see the explosions & fires along the shore caused by the shelling of the battleships.  Bloodied bodies lay on the beach & floated in the water.  Blood & body parts were everywhere.  Destroyed craft & vehicles littered the water's edge & the beach.   Prior to landing many soldiers dropped to their knees & prayed.  A British Air Navigator stated about the Americans:  "There they were, marching in to die, just as if they were going to a ball gameÖ..... The Germans had hidden themselves in cliffs facing the beach and were pouring deadly mortar fire down upon the advancing Americans.  They did not have any cover except bomb-made mounds, but they pushed forward, with men falling every way you could look.   It was heart-breakingÖ............"

The 197th, who had no previous combat experience, landed early on Easy Red sector of  Omaha & began assisting the Infantry in the battle against the Nazis. Throughout the landings, German gunners on the cliffs poured deadly fire into the ranks of the 34,000 invading Americans.  Problems with army equipment & vehicles was also a deterrent.  When an axle broke on one of the halftracks T/4 Sgt. Cecil Cash & S/Sgt. Robert Spence, while under fire, ignored personal safety & immediately went to work trying to repair the vehicle.
 


 

Progress at capturing the beach was slow & many of the troops became discouraged.  General Timberlake encouraged the American soldiers by ordering them to "Go get the bastards!!" Finally the Americans managed to gain a toehold on the beach by nightfall.  By 2130 Cecil's Battery C had finally reached exit E-1 leading inland.  After a long day of intense fighting the 197th's losses were one officer & four enlisted men killed, one officer & eleven enlisted men seriously wounded.  Equipment lost consisted of six M-15 halftracks, seven M-16 halftracks, one M-2 halftrack, three jeeps & one trailer.  Many of the men lost all of their personal possessions & equipment when LCT No. 25 was hit by heavy artillery & burned.  By the next morning, 7 June, the Allies controlled all the exits from the beaches.  Efforts to defeat the Nazis & free the area continued & by D+3 there were 53,000 Anti-Aircraft Artillery soldiers in France.
 

During the next couple of months the 197th fought their way through lower Normandy - losing three more men - two in June & a medic in July.  The soldiers had to stay constantly alert as they dealt with enemy snipers, ground patrols, bombings & flak from enemy air craft.  The 197th was also assigned to guard air strips & mobile ammunition supply points.   They began bringing in enemy prisoners & by 9 August Cecil's Battery C was at Depot No. 106 in the vicinity of LeBourigny & Brecey. 

21 August 1944 - "Some Where in France............Dearest Darling Wife.........Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok..........Honey I got a letter from you today........I was plenty glad to get it.........It sure will be one happy day when this is over so we can be together to stay.........Honey when I get back it will take six months for to get around to see all of our folks.  Honey about the first three weeks I am going to stay feeling great, does your Dadd still get to feeling great quite a bit?............I am hoping I will be home by Christmas it looks like we stand a good chance to be.........Honey I got the poem you sent that was alright, they were the good days & we didn't know it.........Honey I got rid of some of my extra weight since I came over here I feel much better now to I am a little heavier than I was when I worked at Bonne Terre I wish we were there now,  Darling them were some good days with lots of fun.............Honey write every chance you get I hope we can be together soon so we won't have to write for I can't write anything to make it sound like I want it to.........With Lots Of Love to my Darling forever........Cecil"

22 August 1944 - "Somewhere in France.........Dearest Darling Wife................Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok...........It seems like it has been ten years since I was home.........I think it won't be long until we will all be home from this side........I guess this war can't last forever though I sometimes wonder if it will ever be over.........Honey we are getting some rain here so it makes it pretty uncomfortable for us it is always cool here just about like the fall of the year there.........With all my love to my Darling.........With lots of love Cecil"

23 August - "Some Where in France - Dearst Darling Wife............I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok.......I hope this finds everything alright with you......Honey I sure wish I was there today.  If I was there to day we would go swimming, do you remember the last time we went swimming we had a darn good time.........I don't think it will be long before we can have a lot of good times again............The way things look it won't be long until the war will be over with Germany, it can't be to soon for me...............With all my love for ever........With lots of Love Cecil..........P.S. Write often....lots of Love"

The commander of the German garrison at Paris surrendered on 25 August 1944 & Paris was free once again after four years under brutal Nazi rule.  Also on August 25th Battery C moved east from the St. Sever area & set up with Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) 113 near Courbert south of Paris.  Enemy air activity was light & Cecil's unit was able to take a large number of Nazi prisoners.  It was the general consensus at the time that the war would soon be over.

4 September - "Some Where in France............Dearest Darling Wife.......Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok............I was thinking today it has been almost 14 months since I have been home..........I don't think it will be long until we will be together again.........I sure am ready to go back to the states an how........I was in Paris the other day it wasn't anything like I thought it would look like............They have all the towns here off limits to U.S. troops...........Honey I guess I will have to close for this time it is getting so dark I can't see how to write.  With Lots an Lots of Love to my Darling......Cecil........P.S. Write often.........here is a handkerchief from Gay paree"

9 September - In this letter Cecil's location was cut out by the army examiner.  "Dearest Darling Wife.........Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok, that I am thinking of you..........Honey I sure wish I was there with you this evening.  I will be one happy bird when this is over & we can be together again.........You have no idea how bad I want to see you.  I guess this war can't last forever so I can just make the best of it...........I am getting plenty tired of this army it will soon be two years........I hope I will never see two more like them...........Honey I  sent you a money order the other day......write & let me know how long it takes to get there......I am sending fifty through Bn. this pay day .........that is one thing that don't do us much good here........I will send you some of the paper that we use for money........Honey it is getting so dark I will have to close for this time.........With lots & lots of love to my Darling ...........Cecil"
 

EUROPEAN THEATRE OF OPERATIONS:  Cecil could not give his precise location in his letters due to security reasons so he began referring to his location as E.T.O.   Other sources indicate that during this E.T.O time the 197th was advancing through France & pushing into Belgium moving to the vicinity of Liege close to the German border.  Major cities in Belgium were liberated & the First Army captured Liege 8 September 1944.  Enemy air activity was light.  On 15 September the 197th lost two more men in Belgium.

15 September - "Somewhere in the E.T.O. - Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok.............Honey I got two letters from you today........I sure was glad to get them.......it makes me plenty homesick to get letters from you it makes it a heck of a lot worse when I don't get any............I wish this darn war would get over so we can be together again.......Honey I want you to write every chance you get, I will do the same thing.  There isn't much to write about here it's the same thing over every day............with lots & lots of love to my darling for ever & ever.......Love Cecil"

18 September - "Somewhere in the ETO - Dearest Darling Wife - Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok.........Honey I got two letters from you today.  Boy oh Boy was I glad to get them........I have always heard that distance makes the heart grow fonder, I think there is something to it, one thing I know is distance don't change me any, it makes me plenty home sick..........With lots and lots of love for ever........Write often as you can......Love, Love Cecil"

20 September - "Somewhere in the ETO - Dearest Darling Wife - Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok, let you know I am thinking of you.........I hope this finds everything alright with you...Honey I was setting here thinking of you an wondering what you are doing at this minit, it is nite here when its afternoon there..........I would sure love to be there with you.......Honey you have no idea how much I miss you, I always heard time changes ever thing, time hasn't changed my missing you, I would give anything to see you .........With lots an lots of Love to my Darling forever..........hoping to see you soon.......Love Love Cecil

21 September - "Somewhere in ETO - Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok an that I am thinking of you.........I hope this finds you ok.........Honey its been a nice day here to day, the nicest day we have had in several days, The mail just got here as usual I didn't get any, all I got was a card from Barbra & a paper........I think we will get mail oftoner now..........We were just getting it once a week...........Honey it has been a might long time sence I saw you, I don't think it will be long until I will be back.........Honey I gess I will have to closse for this time for it is getting dark.......With oceans of Love to my Darling for ever ........With lots an lots of kisses.......Love Love Love Cecil"

23 September - "Somewhere in the E.T.O. - Dearst Darling - I will write you a few lines to let you know ever thing is fine with me, I hope it is the same way with you.........Honey it is sort of raining here so I am writing in my pup tent, I would sure like to be there if I was I would probably be in the dog house instead of the tent.  ha! ha!........Honey I sent a German bayonet home, and a bracelet I got in Paris, I have been draging the bayonet around ever since in June.............I wish I could send myself  home it sure wouldn't take me long to get ready........I have been watching for Jim ever since I have been here but have never got to see him yet.........With lots an lots of love to my Darling, Write ever chance you get, oceans of Love.........With lot of Kisses, Love Cecil"

LUXEMBOURG:  24 September:  ".Some Where in the ETO.......Dearst Darling Wife.........Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I'm ok, I hope this finds you fine, I wish I could deliver this letter in person no kidding.........I am writing this in my pup tent I think I must have it pitched up side down for all the water comes in side, I have a little german stove I keep burning to keep it dried out as much as possible...........Honey we are now in Laxinberg we were in Belgium........The people here mostly speak german, it don't make much diferance what they speak for I cant talk eather one, I do well to talk english...........With lots an lots of love, write as ofton as you can............Lots of Kisses Cecil" 

27 September - "Some Where in the ETO...........Dearst Darling Wife............Darling I will write you a few lines this morning to let you know I am ok..........I am getting plenty tired of being away from home.......Honey here is five francs in belgique, it is worth about twenty cents in our money the way they value it.............I am hoping to see you soon, With a lot of kisses Love Love Cecil"

The 197th concentrated their work on a ground defense plan for protection of the ASP's. On 29 September, by  reason of various redispositions, the 197th acquired the unique distinction of having elements operating in three different countries - Holland, Luxembourg & Belgium. Weather conditions were bad & excessive mud made field conditions very difficult for gun crews.  Luxembourg was liberated by the 1st U.S. Army in September 1944 after being under nightmarish Nazi rule since 1940. 


BELGIUM:  In the cold, winter days of 1944,  Cecil was back in Belgium near the German border.  AA action & buzz bombs increased during October with the battalion receiving considerable enemy shellfire but no casualties.   In his letters Cecil talks more & more about family, old times & how much he wants to come home to stay.  Fatigue is obviously taking its toll as his handwriting gets more difficult to read & spelling & punctuation errors increase.

4 October 1944 - Cecil writes:  "Somewhere in Belgium - Dearst Darling - I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok..........Honey I sure would like to see you.  I am getting tired of seeing these countries here & I will be plenty ready to take some time off when I get back........The first couple of months I am not going to hit a lick of work.  We won't have enough time in two months to get around to see all the folks...........Honey I got the best nights sleep last night that I have had in a long time, I had about 8 or 10 inches of straw with my blankets on it in a building, the first time last nite to sleep since I left England.........Love with a big hug and lots of Kisses........Love Love......Cecil"

 

When B Battery moved to Bourcy on 18 October, the battalion achieved a distinction not surpassed by any other unit of the First Army.  It was operating in four countries: Battery A in Holland; Battery B in Belgium, with a few fire units in Luxembourg; Battery C in Belgium; Battery D in Germany; Headquarters & Headquarters Battery in Belgium - a front of 120 miles.

 

27 October:  "Dearest Wife, Honey I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok.........Honey I got your letter......I was plenty glad to get it, your wondering if I will get home by Xmas I am beginning to wonder if I will ever get back home again .  The way they talk now they think this war will last forever.  I am sure ready to get it over & get back ........the way they have things here we can't go in any of the towns everything is off limits to us even the U.S.A.  Love for ever & ever - Cecil"

 

19 November:  "Some Where in Belgium.........Dearst Darling Wife........Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok.........I would sure like to be there today and it would be so I could stay wouldn't have to have any more to do with this army.........Honey I would love to see you it has been so long since I was at home it is hard to imagine what it will be like to get back home again.........With lots and lots of love to my Darling Write often as you can............Love Love Love"

 

23 November:  The first page of this letter was missing.  A portion of the second page reads,  "Honey I got a box of cookies from mom to nite they were in good shape - I didn't get any letters from home to nite.  I would much rather get a letter as a package that is all we have to look forward to is the letters we get.............Honey I am listening to Bing Crosby he really hits the spot with us G.I..........With Lots and Lots of Love to My Darling for ever.  With a big hug and lots of kisses  Love Love Love Cecil"

 

24 November:  "Somewhere in Belgium...........Dearst Darling Wife.........I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok............Honey we had a good dinner yesterday, we had turkey.  I just wish I could of been home to eat dinner together it would have been much better.  I hope I can be home next year by this time to stay............Honey we have a radio here listening to the news, it makes us feel a little better to know a little about what is going on I will be glad when this is over............Honey I have to go on gard at ten so I gess I will have to close for this time I wish I were there to kiss you & hold you in my arms like old times..........Honey sometimes I wonder if I will ever get back again............With Lots and Lots of Love forever and ever......Love Love Love"

 

5 December:  "Some Where in Belgium...........Dearest Darling Wife,  Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok & let you know I am thinking of you..........I wish I was with you this evening, tomorrow, the next day & forever..........If I was there to nite I would be in seventh heaven.......Darling I am going to have to close for this time.  With lots & lots of love to my Darling with a big hug & lots of kisses.  Love Love Love Cecil"   This was Cecil's last letter to his wife.....................


 

PART III

 

The world must know what happened & never forget.
Gen. Eisenhower

 

 

BATTLE OF THE BULGE:  Toward the end of 1944 Germany was losing the war on all fronts so they devised a covert & daring plan - Operation Wacht am Rhein.   It would be Germany's last determined effort for success on the Western Front by using most of its remaining reserves to launch a massive offensive in a 75 mile stretch of the dark, dense Ardennes forest which was defended only by battle exhausted American troops.  The Germans would attempt to divide the Allies & capture their primary supply port at Antwerp.  Preparations were carried out in secrecy, minimal radio traffic & moving over 200,000 troops, 1,000 tanks & other equipment under the cover of night.  On 15 December English speaking Nazis disguised as Americans managed to infiltrate American lines where they cut communications, spread rumors & false information.  Then on 16 December, nine days before Christmas, at about 5:00 a.m., the cold, early morning silence was shattered when Nazis unleashed a vicious & unexpected blitzkrieg bursting through the front with massive artillery bombardments & surprise attacks.  The "Battle of the Bulge" was on.  By nightfall there was a strong Nazi Schutzstaffel offensive in Belgium. 


The Waffen SS was an elite combat group separate from the regular German Army & they had a savage reputation for inhuman cruelty.  By Sunday 17 December, the infamous "Kampfgruppe Peiper" led by Obersturmbannfuhrer Joachim Peiper from the 1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler" were slowly pushing their way west through Belgium. This brutal, ruthless group was considered to be the worst of all the SS units.  It  consisted of over 100 tanks, almost 150 armored personnel carriers, over 20 artillery pieces & 40 anti-aircraft guns.  Eventually problems with the muddy terrain caused them to turn north toward Baugnez also known as Five Points which was about two miles east of Malmedy.  Also on 17 December a convoy of about thirty American Army vehicles of the 285th Field Observation Battalion along with several vehicles from other units were coming from Malmedy driving east toward the Baugnez Crossroads.  At around 1:00 p.m. the 285th arrived at the Crossroads & turned right heading south toward Ligneuville.  At the same time the first Nazi tanks of Kampfgruppe Peiper popped up over the crest of a hill along a parallel highway about 900 yards east & spied the American convoy moving south.  Before the convoy spotted them the Nazis opened fire on the unsuspecting Americans.  The first blasts of 75 millimeter tank rounds & machine guns blew the wheels off of one of the lead vehicles of the convoy & another jeep was blown completely away. One of the convoy trucks went up in flames.  The Nazis continued the attack with bullets tearing into the remaining vehicles knocking several of them over.  The convoy came to a sudden halt as jeeps crashed into each other & some caught fire.  Debris was flying everywhere.  The surprised Americans returned fire but they were carrying only small arms & were tremendously outgunned.  With bullets flying past them & bouncing off the pavement around them the American soldiers abandoned their vehicles & took what refuge they could by jumping into the roadside ditch. As the Germans overtook the convoy Nazi Tiger tanks machine gunned more than two-dozen American trucks & an ambulance then squeezed the ambulance off the road where it exploded.  The Americans quickly realized that they were in a very desperate situation.  Eventually the decision was made to surrender & the American soldiers were marched back to the crossroads while other Nazis looted their vehicles & pushed the disabled ones into the ditch.

THE CARNAGE BEGINS:  In the meantime alarming reports began coming in to the First Army that Germans were in the area & it seemed very likely that the ASP might be overrun by the enemy.  As preparations were made to blow-up & evacuate ASP 126 22 year old Sgt. Cecil Cash & 22 year old Cpl. Ray Heitmann were sent to the 304th Ordnance Company in Malmedy to pick up some replacement parts for a halftrack that was having mechanical trouble.  They left in their jeep at noon & arrived at the Baugnez Crossroads around 12:30 - 1:00 p.m. just in time to get caught in the ambush on the 285th.  The Nazis also fired at Cecil & Ray's jeep causing them take refuge in the ditch on the north side of the Waimes road.  This is where they encountered Peter Lentz, a fifteen year old Belgian boy who had also taken refuge there.  Peter had been on his bicycle trying to make his way back to Malmedy when he got caught up in the attack.  Peter was frightened & wanted to get out of the ditch & run away but Cecil & Ray, concerned for the boy's safety from random bullets, told him to stay in the ditch with them. Then several enemy tanks went by.  One of them stopped.  A Nazi soldier who didn't look much older than Peter jumped out & was standing only a few feet away pointing a rifle at Cecil, Ray & Peter & ordered them out of the ditch.  Having no other choice the three of them complied with the Nazi's orders & vacated the ditch.  Cecil & Ray stood with their hands on their heads - a sign of surrender.  They were now Prisoners Of War but before they could say or do anything the young Nazi soldier wantonly shot them both in cold blood.  Cecil & Ray fell back into the ditch but they did not die instantly & as they lay there in the cold, muddy ditch wounded, helpless & bleeding more shots were fired into them.  Then a nearby German officer praised the young Nazi by commenting to him that that was the way to fight in the old SS spirit.

Cecil & Ray's last concern before dying was for the safety of a child.  And Peter was spared when he told the Nazi soldier in German, " Donít kill me, I speak German, my brother is a German soldier too."  The Nazis told Peter to leave & as he made his way to a nearby farmhouse he could see American jeeps on fire & crashed into each other.  There were many German tanks, halftracks & more Americans surrendering to the Nazis.  One American soldier, while being marched back to the Crossroads, was shot in the back for not holding his hands up high enough in the air &, as like Cecil & Ray, was also left laying by the roadside.  Over 100 soldiers were captured that day & the Americans followed the standard protocols of surrender.  The Nazis disarmed them all & some were searched & robbed of their personal possessions.    Then all were herded past the Cafe Bodarwť into an open field 200 meters southwest of where Cecil & Ray had been murdered.  The Americans thought they were waiting for German trucks to come pick them up to take them to a prison camp.  However when several Nazi halftracks & tanks lined up on the road facing the field many of the soldiers began feeling uneasy.  Suspicion & tension increased as one of the Nazis began loading his machine gun & another was attempting to site his tank's barrel on the soldiers in the field.  Then at around 2:00 p.m. a German command vehicle drove up.  The enemy soldier in this vehicle stood up & took deliberate aim at the Americans & fired several shots with a pistol dropping two American soldiers.  As if that had been a special signal the Nazis then mercilessly opened fire on the defenseless, unarmed American prisoners raking the field several times with their machine guns.  Many American soldiers fell dead instantly.  Some of the GIs bolted for the woods.  Some ran into the cafe for refuge but the Nazis set it on fire & as the soldiers ran out to flee from the deadly flames the Nazis shot them down.   Over eighty American soldiers lay dead or dying in the field.  There were horrible screams & cries of agony.  After the machine guns stopped Nazi soldiers then went through the field laughing & kicking the bodies & anyone found still alive was promptly dispatched with a  shot or rifle butt to the head.  And as the Nazis left the area the remaining column of vehicles of Kampfgrupper Pieper took pot-shots at the bodies in the field as they passed by.  A few American soldiers who fell were miraculously able to feign death or "play 'possum" through it all & escaped later after having to lay there motionless & barely breathing while listening to the Nazis killing anyone who groaned or moved.

Eventually there was silence.  No more gunshots.  No more screaming.  No more praying or cries for mercy.  The Nazis had gone on their merry murderous way & the carnage at the crossroads was over.  It was snowing now & as bodies in a morgue are covered with a white sheet mother nature gently covered the mangled bodies & blood drenched field with a white blanket of snow.  For Cecil & the other 80+ men that were murdered near Malmedy that day the war was over - but it was not a happy day.  Cecil would write no more love letters to his beautiful young wife reassuring her that he was ok - because he wasn't.  And Cecil would not be coming home for Christmas (also his wife's 18th birthday) as he had hoped.
 

MISSING IN ACTION:  Two days after the massacre, on 19 December, a Battle Casualty Report from the Adjutant General's office in Washington D.C. officially declared Sgt. Cash as Missing In Action.  Cecil's family was notified of this status on 4 January 1945.
 

RETRIEVAL  OF THE BODIES:  It wasn't until 14 January, 1945, a month after the massacre that the Army Graves Registration Team retrieved the bodies.  Metal detectors had to be used to locate the corpses in the deep snow.  When the remains of the murdered American soldiers were dug out it was discovered that some of the massacre victims had been mutilated.  Either Cecil or Ray supposedly had their left hand missing.  Some of the soldiers had their skulls crushed - a few of the bodies had had their eyes gouged out - with indications that one or more may have still been alive when this occurred.   One had a sign post stabbed through his torso.  A few who had made it as far as a nearby roadway before collapsing had their entire bodies crushed probably by being run over by Nazi tanks.  All bodies were tagged for identification.  Cecil was body #82, tag #71.  Each soldier was also photographed in the positions in which they were found including Cecil's crumpled, lifeless body laying in the frozen snow.

AUTOPSY:  The bodies were sent to Malmedy for autopsies where they were photographed again after being unloaded from the trucks.  Medical personnel had great difficulty undressing the bodies for examination due to their frozen condition & had to cut the clothing off using knives & razors.  Cecil's medical diagnosis: "Examination reveals perforating wound through the right parietal region causing compound comminuted fracture of the skull.  The wound of entrance measures about one-half inch in diameter.  This patient was shot through the helmet & liner & bled profusely, the helmet liner was filled with large amounts of blood clots."   The personal effects found on Cecil were:  A pair of glasses with case, black leather wallet with social security card, soldiers pay book, 20 francs in Belgian currency, comb, two pen knives, letters, finger nail clip & two keys.  Outer clothing was a field jacket, fatigue trousers, leggings, overshoes.  Additional personal effects were mentioned in a different report that weren't listed in the autopsy report: New Testament, ETO card, pictures, receipts, cards.  Some of these items were damaged & discolored due to moisture & some were bloodstained.  His personal effects were eventually shipped to his family.
 

BURIAL: Cecil was buried in his uniform & a mattress cover on 17 January 1945 in the Henri-Chappelle American Cemetery in Belgium.  Grave #39, Row 2, Plot CCC.  He was listed as Atrocity Case #71.  Identification tags were buried with the body as well as being attached to his grave marker.  The other massacre victims were also buried there & by the end of the war almost 8,000 American soldiers were interred in this cemetery most of them having lost  their lives in the American advance into Germany.

NOTIFICATION OF FAMILY:  On the evening of 5 February 1945 in St. Louis, Missouri there was a knock on Pearl's apartment door.  It was the landlady of the rooming house where Pearl lived.  The woman had a very somber look on her face.  She said to Pearl, "This telegram came for you today."  Pearl took the telegram & read it.  As tears welled up in her eyes she went back into the privacy of her room & silently closed the door....................An obituary for Cecil appeared in a local St. Francois County news paper:  "Reported Killed In Action - Sgt. Cecil J. Cash - Mr. & Mrs. Josh Cash of Wortham, received a telegram, Saturday February 5th, stating that their son, Sgt. Cecil J. Cash, was killed in action in Belgium.........."


THE WAR IS OVER:  Four months & three weeks after the Malmedy Massacre the Bedingungslose Kapitulation der Wehrmacht or German Instrument of Surrender was signed in Reims on 7 May 1945 & ratified 8 May in Berlin.  This was the legal instrument that established the armistice ending World War II in Europe & the end of the Holocaust & Third Reich.  World War II was the most violent, deadliest,  armed conflict in all of human history with more than 100 million people serving in military units.   It killed & affected more people, damaged more property, & cost more money than any other war. The number of people killed, wounded or missing was estimated at more than 55 million.  The Battle of the Bulge (16 December - 25 January 1945) was the largest & bloodiest battle fought in World War II.  More than 1,000,000 American soldiers fought in the Battle of the Bulge making it the single largest battle ever fought by American troops.  More than 83,000 Americans were casualties of the fighting.
 

WAR CRIMES TRIAL:  The Malmedy Massacre was considered to be among the worst war crimes committed against American soldiers in the western European Theatre.  Kampfgrupper Peiper totally disregarded international law about the treatment of prisoners of war.  At the end of the war, Peiper, & 73 others were brought to trial for the Malmedy Massacre & many other atrocious war crimes.  They were charged with murdering over 700 Prisoners of War & more than 90 Belgian civilians.  Peiper admitted to leading the spearhead in the Ardennes & that his unit captured American soldiers near Malmedy that were shot but denied giving any execution orders.  The war criminals were tried at an international military court held in Dachau May - July, 1946.   After the trial a judgment was given after slightly over two hours of deliberation.   All 73 of the accused SS soldiers were convicted.  Forty three of the defendants were sentenced to death, twenty two to life imprisonment, two to twenty years, one for fifteen years and five to ten years.


REPATRIATION PROJECT:  On 27 July 1947 a special ceremony was held at Henri-Chappelle Cemetery for the beginning of a repatriation program where American soldiers were disinterred to be returned to the United States for permanent burial.  Cecil was disinterred on 26 September 1947.  Examination of his disarticulated body revealed an abdominal gunshot wound that was not mentioned in the autopsy report.  His remains were prepared, placed in a casket & sealed.  Cecil was then transported by truck to Liege.  Here he was placed on the barge "Justine"  & taken to Pier 140 at Antwerp.  He was then put on the ship United States Army Transport "Robert F. Burns" which sailed to New York.


 

SGT. CASH COMES HOME:  After Cecil arrived in the United States he was transported by train to Memphis, Tennessee.  Cecil's father had requested that the Army deliver his son's remains to Mineral Point, Washington County, Missouri.  Cecil, escorted by S/Sgt. Raymond B. Gray, arrived there by train on 5 December 1947.   Bert L. Boyer of J.S. Boyer & Son Funeral Home signed for Cecil's remains.  The Cash family requested that the escort stay for the funeral & Cecil was permanently laid to rest in the Adams Cemetery, Wortham Road, Frankclay, St. Francois County, Missouri, United States of America.

 

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
When they come I will stand my ground
Stand my ground Iíll not be afraid
Thoughts of home take away my fear
Sweat & blood hide my veil of tears

Cecil was finally home to stay.

Once a year say a prayer for me
Close your eyes & remember me
Never more shall I see the sun
For I fell to a German's gun
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone

The above poem is from "We Were Soldiers" -- Author: Joseph Kilna MacKenzie
 

And when he gets to Heaven to St. Peter he will tell
"Just another soldier reporting, Sir - I've served my time in Hell"
Author:  Unknown
 

COMMENDATIONS:  At the time of Cecil's untimely demise he had acquired an Expert Marksmanship Medal (4 bars);  Driver's Medal;  One Service Ribbon (Good Conduct & ETO);  He is listed on the WWII Honor Roll & is included in the album "Men of D-Day" & the album "Men of Malmedy".  He would also be eligible for:  Purple Heart, American Campaign, WWII Victory Medal, European-African medal with 2 stars, Rhineland, & Honorable Service Lapel Button (Ruptured Duck).

UNIT HISTORY OF THE 197th
By: Lt. Col. C.T. McEniry

DEDICATION: Respectfully, Humbly & Gratefully, this book is dedicated to those of our Comrades who fell fighting for Freedom.  Their memory is enshrined in the heart of a grateful nation......[there are 13 names on this list including T/4 Cecil J. Cash & T/5 Cpl. Ray Heitmann]

Page 15:  "C Battery was set up at ASP No. 126 near Waimes when Von Rundstedt crashed through on his way to Antwerp on 16 December.  So on the next day, when German patrols began infiltrating, the ASP company blew up much of its stores & withdrew..............C Battery sent a couple of boys to an ordnance company in Malmedy.  They never came back.  But their bodies were found a month later in the roadside snow, where they had been shot by the Germans.

Page 19:  "On 7 May [1945] at 1120 hours, the message of unconditional surrender of the Germans was received at [197th] battalion headquarters, the surrender to be effective at 0001 hours on the 9th.   All offensive operations were ceased immediately..................10 May on the following day............It was the end of combat for the battalion.  The end of 339 operational days on the continent;  the end of a road 1200 miles long from Omaha Beach to Weimar, Germany.  In that time & in those travels, the 197th had had 106 engagements with enemy aircraft.  It had emerged with 23 1/2 confirmed claims for craft shot down or damaged ---13 1/2Category I's & 10 Category II's, or an average of 22.2 per cent "Kills" per engagement...................It [the 197th] came over 6000 miles & worked for two & a half years to do a job.  In the doing of that job, many brave men fell.  But the job was done!  Magnificently!  Gloriously!.....................Deactivation of the 197th AA AW Bn. (S.P.) took place on 12 April 1946, at Camp Kilmer, N.J., [USA]."  197th was awarded D-Day assault landing credit - The 197th could also claim the Campaign Streamers of:  Normandy (with arrowhead), Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe.  Also decorations of:  French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, World War II, Streamer embroidered NORMANY BEACHHEAD (197th cited for action on 6 June 1944, DAGO 43, 1950) - From: Antiaircraft Artillery Battalions of the U.S. Army, Vol. 1
 

EPILOGUE:  There was much controversy over the Malmedy Massacre investigation & also prosecution of the case which dragged on  for years.  There were accusations of maltreatment of the prisoners in order to coerce confessions & that preliminary investigations were not in compliance with legal standards.  Subsequently death sentences were commuted in 1951 & none of the SS Nazis were ever executed.  By 1956 all of the war criminals had been released from prison.  In 1976 Nazi hunters finally tracked Joachim Peiper down in France & killed him in a fire bomb attack on his home.


EL PASO, TEXAS:  During the 1960's on one of our many trips to Mexico - one year my parents decided to cross the border at El Paso.  Daddy suggested that we stop & see if the adobe home that mom & Cecil lived in was still there.  It was but was vacant & neglected.  We walked around looking at the area for a few minutes then daddy went back over to the truck.  Mom & I went into the house.  We had to go down steps to go through the door way as the two room home was half below ground.  Mom choked back tears as she & I looked around inside.  When we came back out she stood there looking at it for a few more minutes with tears still in her eyes.  Then we went back to the truck where daddy was & left for the Mexican border.  I wish we would've taken pictures of the home because I doubt it exists anymore.
 

WAR MONUMENT DEDICATED:  November, 1988 - St. Francois County war dead were honored with the dedication of a monument bearing the names of 208 county men killed in WWI, WWII, Korea & Vietnam.  This monument, which includes Cecil's name (on left section of monument), is located in front of the courthouse in Farmington, Missouri.  I wanted to attend the dedication but wasn't feeling well & didn't get to go.

ADDENDA: Cecilís military records at the Personnel Records Center in St. Louis were destroyed the big fire of 1973. My mother never knew any details about Cecil's death other than he was Killed In Action somewhere in Belgium.  When my mother passed away 13 December 2007 I inherited all the letters he wrote to her & the keepsakes he sent her.  It was my mother's dying wish that it all be donated to a military museum.  On 2 May, 2012 I got a message from a retired military officer, Tim Krebs, through Ancestry.com informing me of a newly published book, Fatal Crossroads by Danny Parker, that gave some of the details of Cecil's death.  So I purchased the book.  With this new information, sources cited in the book & information from the 197th AAA unit history I was able to conduct extensive research & gradually piece together a military biography for Cecil J. Cash.  Through this research I discovered the Baugnez44 Historical Center which is a museum at the Baugnez Crossroads where the Malmedy Massacre took place & where Cecil died.  I now knew where I wanted to send the items & I could finally fulfill my mother's wish.  The Baugnez44 Historical Center gladly accepted my offer to donate the keepsakes/artifacts/letters that my mother kept all those years stating that "There is always a place in our Historical Center for the items of the soldiers who died here!!!"  Those items are now permanently housed there in a special display in remembrance of Sgt. Cecil J. Cash.  The Baugnez Historical Center, which opened in 2007, receives hundreds of visitors every year.  They will now be able to view an additional display Ė that of T/4 Sgt. Cecil J. Cash.  And he will never be forgotten.

 


 


 

A BIG THANK YOU TO MATHIEU STEFFENS
OF THE BAUGNEZ44 HISTORICAL CENTER FOR THE PICTURES BELOW:
 


 

 

 


 

Close Up Of Cecil's Name

 


 

 

 


 

Unanswered Questions

Documents & Battle Maps

Additional Pictures


 

Recommended Videos

Cash Family History

About The Author

 

 

 


"CARNAGE AT THE CROSSROADS"
has been published in "The Independent Journal" newspaper.
It has also been featured at:  "Fatal Crossroads";  Baugnez44 Historical Center War History On Line;

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:  THANK YOU to everyone who assisted in any way with this article.  I have listed all sources/names below & hope I haven't inadvertently left anyone out:   Pearl Martin Cash Ziock - 30+ cards/letters that Cecil Cash sent to his wife Pearl Martin Cash;  United States Army declassified secret/confidential/restricted documents1944 Interrogation statement of Peter Lentz;  1992 statement of Peter Lentz to Henri Rogister;  statement of Peter Lentz January 2013 - Brigitte Parriere of Belguim, liaison for Peter Lentz/Esther Ziock Carroll;  Autopsy Report;  I.D.P.F. for Cecil J. Cash;  Burial File of Cecil J. Cash;  WWII Prisoners of War 1941-1946; Guy Nasuti of U.S. Army Human Resources Command;  U.S. Army Military History Institute;  Unit History of the 197th AA AW Bn. by Lt. Col. C.T. McEniry;  Jeff Burcham of Department of Veterans Affairs-St. Louis Regional Office;  Caroline Oliver, Cemetery Associate - Henri Chappelle Cemetery, Belgium;  U. S. Army Headstone Application;  Mike Smeets of the Netherlands;  Mathieu Steffen of Baugnez44 Historical Center - Malmedy, Belgium;   Antiaircraft Command;  U.S. Army Center of Military HistoryAmerican Veterans Center;  Military.com;  WWII Enlistment Records;  WWII Honor ListNational Archives Factual TVAmerican War Memorials OverseasWar History On-Line - statement of Ted Paluch, Malmedy Massacre survivor;  Men of Malmedy by Tim Krebs;  Fatal Crossroads by Danny S. Parker;  Fatal Crossroads - Facebook;   Personal Correspondence with Danny Parker;  Malmedy Massacre by Richard Gallagher;  The Malmedy Massacre by John M. Bauserman;  Personal Correspondence with John Bausermann;   Wikipedia;  Wikipedia Commons;  Encyclopedia Britannica;    The History Learning Site;  The University of Texas;  C.R.I.B.A.;    Normandy Invasion - The Assault Force;  World Atlas;  The Hammer of HellThe First Hours of D-Day on Omaha Beach;  D-DayD-Day by Col. E. Paul SemmensThe Unknown Dead (Pg. 36 & 37);    France Travel SecretsAnswers.com;     Ancestry.comMassacres & Atrocities of WWIIDocumenting Reality;     Stars & Stripes ~ European Edition;  Luxembourg In WWIIHow Stuff Works: The Battle of the BulgeThe Malmedy MassacreAllthelyricsJewish Virtual LibraryThe Democratic UndergroundThe Gettysburg Daily;  Historynet.com;   The Trail Of Kampfgruppe Peiper;  Battle of the Bulge;  Dieselpunks;   Dachau Trials;  WWII;   Hub PagesMalmedy OverviewWWII DatabaseHenri-Chappelle Cemetery;   YouTube Documentaries - The Malmedy Massacre & The Trial of Joachim Peiper;  Small Arms Plant WWII St. Louis, Mo.;  Ligneuville MassacreWWII Troop ShipsWaffen SS - History DocumentaryMassacre At Malmedy by Charles Whiting;  Was Wirklich Geschah by Gerd J. Gust Cuppens;  Francesca Pitaro archivist of the Associated Press;  Washington Post;  Daily Boston Globe;  United States Army Center of Military History;  Army.mil;  histomil.com Veterans Of The Battle Of The BulgeIn The Bucket by Patrick B. Lewis;  Gene Carroll - Potosi, Mo. - Executive Assistant;  Morgan Warren - Irondale, Mo - You-Tube research assistant;   Gary Mitchell - Belgrade, Mo.- munitions consultant;  Mackley Genealogy ObituariesBarbara Briley - Caretaker of Adams Cemetery
 


 

Cecil


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