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WWII ~ 2nd Division ~ Co B ~ 9th Infantry

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Pvt. Burke One Of Two Wounded In "Heartbreak Crossroads" Fight

Pvt. Harold M. Burke, husband of Mrs. Gertrude Burke of 718 - 13th street and son of S. Burke of 2825 16th street, was one of two men wounded in the heroic battle of "Heartbreak Crossroads" staged by the Second Infantry division. Pvt. Burke, who received the Purple Heart and the Infantry Combat medal for action in that battle is now in a hospital in England. He has been in the service since Jan. 28, 1943 and has been over seas about six months.
"Stars And Stripes" Account
An account of the battle, as published in "Stars and Stripes," follows: "They called it Heartbreak Crossroads. It was a 24 pillbox chunk of the Siegfried line in the Monschau sector, and for four days of bitter cold weather the Ninth infantry regiment battered against its guns and wire and steel. Thirteen doughs finally cut a path through acres of barbed wire, fought their way into a communications trench directly linking two key pillboxes and for five nightmare hours stood off both forces to help make possible the eventual capture of the position. "Twenty-four hours after the crossroads was taken the Wehrmacht began its winter offensive and the regiment had to leave its expensively-won pillboxes to help halt the breakthrough. "On the morning of Dec. 13 the Ninth jumped off against the solid belt of Siegfried fortifications. Halted by multiple-covered expanses of twisted barbed wire, the regiment sent out 10 men. They crawled through a 40-yard belt of concertina wire in two layers six feet high, under the machine gun fire and flanked by minefields. They lost one man before they scrambled into the zigzag communications trench directly under the guns of two pillboxes. Nazi Ruse Thwarted "Under cover of the first group of men, another group of six men started out to cut wire. Two were wounded (including Pvt. Burke), but two others opened a four-foot gap all across the field and joined the first group in the trench. "During the next five hours, the Yanks beat off a patrol from the pillbox on their right, thwarted a Nazi ruse to capture them through a proposed truce parley, smashed a counterattack from the woods beyond them, beat off a charge from the pillbox on their left and withstood continued fire from both pillboxes and from other supporting positions. They lost two dead and two wounded, but when darkness fell, they could go back to the regiment and report the wire cut. "After an artillery barrage of 48 hours, the regiment's assault force went through the wire and smashed the pillboxes. Hours later the German winter push started, and they left the place and called it Heartbreak Crossroads."

scanned copy of the newspaper article Heartbreak Crossroads   scanned copy of the newspaper article Heartbreak Crossroads

Click here for the article as one long piece.

picture of the purple heart medal   picture of the infantry combat badge
 

Note: Of special interest. Pvt. Burke was wounded on December 16, 1944. It was also when The Battle of the Bulge began. Pvt. Burke (daddy) was honorably discharged November 3, 1945. See Pvt. Burke page 3 for that information. My father's youngest sister, Gloria, said these guys uniforms were frozen and they nearly froze from the cold and the snow. I researched and found that it was the coldest weather in Germany as of the date I was researching the weather which was in 2005. She also said daddy had frost bite besides being wounded so close to his heart they could not remove the shrapnel. It was two days before daddy was found. He was sent to a hospital in England. What torment to be that severely wounded and left to die. It is also my understanding that the men did not have radio contact with their outfit. It's a miracle that he survived. Al Costillo, author of "Keep Up The Fire," validated the information. Heartbreak Crossroads is rarely mentioned in movies about The Battle of the Bulge but this is when it began. There is a YouTube video that shows a lot of what the circumstances were at the time of Heartbreak Crossroad. Click on the title. HeartbreakCrossroad compiled by Hans Heerink. Toward the end of the video the Stars and Stripes article about daddy Burke is there. The following information is in my notes but I need to search and find where I acquired. Please note toward the end of these paragraphs, it is noted they took out 7 pill boxes and 77 prisoners. I separated these sentences into several paragraphs for clarity. This is a quote but please I need to find where I acquired it. "On December 13, 1944 our regiment jumped off in an attack through the Monschau Forest toward Dreiborn to seize the road network called Wehlerscheid which became known to us as Heartbreak Crossroads. When we jumped off this attack we went through our own 99 Infantry Division in a driving snowstorm. We proceeded with moderate resistance 'til we reached a point west of Rockarath and the Wehlerscheid Road where we ran into a lot of enemy obstacles; wire and anti-personal mines with trip wires were criss-crossed everywhere. We were out of the forest and into the open now and we began to draw intense fire from the pillboxes ahead. The machine gun fire and artillery fire was so intense on the roads that we took to the fields. The pillboxes here were 30 to 50 yards apart. Being unable to move forward we waited till dark and then taking bangalore charges we blasted our way into the pillbox area. Shortly before midnight we were ordered to break off the attack and wait for daylight. The rest of that night was a miserable one. We were all wet from snow. We nearly froze. Our clothes were frozen. It was a relief when daylight came and we renewed the attack on the pillboxes using beehive explosives to blow the steel doors open on 7 pillboxes and taking 77 prisoners. Heartbreak Crossroad To most men of the Second, the Wehlersheid Offensive became known as the battle of Heartbreak Crossroad -- and with good reason. It was a savage, costly four-day battle in freezing weather, which ended with the fruits of victory being snatched away under circumstances utterly beyond the control of the men who fought there. The battle of Heartbreak Crossroad was a battle for the Roer River dams. The Second had the mission of capturing the dams if possible, or to force the enemy to blow the dams and eliminate the threat of the floodwaters wrecking the river crossings planned along the river. From Gemund, the river ran North several hundred miles and was a dangerous threat to the Allied advance as long as the enemy controlled the dams. The division's mission was an important one. Roads into Germany had proved to be scarce and heavily defended. There was only one good one leading to the dams in the division's zone." There are pictures one of which includes the road signs. I was able to identify the names on the road signs. but until I can locate where I acquired the information, this is it. As I find more information about Heartbreak Crossroad, I will add it but perhaps on a new page. I will upload a photo of the bible that surely helped to save his life. My aunt Naomi and uncle Bill gave it to daddy before he left for war. The front cover of the book is made of metal. It's a small pocket bible that maybe was carried in a front pocket of his uniform, perhaps the left chest pocket!? Daddy Burke was a real war hero. He went to his grave with shrapnel still near his heart. Can you imagine the pain he had to endure his entire lifetime? He died at age 59 of a heart attack. I was about seven or eight years of age when mother divorced daddy Burke. Continue through these pages for his Memorial page. My brother, Ronnie, and I consider ourselves fortunate to have had two fathers: Charlie Bigler and Harold Burke. Visit Charlie's pages too please. My brother, Ronnie, sent me this email. I cried when I read it. It still brings tears to my eyes.

Gertrude (Mother) Carolyn (me) Harold (Daddy) Ronnie (brother) picture of mother, me, daddy in uniform and Ronnie

 
 

"Can't add much at this time without some research. I can say that everyone needs to read the Stars and Stripes essay of the circumstances and bravery of the 16 men that were sent to cut the wire and make it possible for the events to unfold. Two killed, two wounded but able to make it back and report the fence line had been severed. Our Dad Harold being one of the wounded and able to return could only make Camp Fannin proud to have had a part in preparing him for what was ahead.
He was a member of without a doubt the Greatest generation.
He always chose to do whatever was better for the people in his life even if it was at a great sacrifice for himself. Not a movie star, not a sports star just one of the thousands of true American heroes that did what they were sent to do to protect the rights and freedom of generations to come. He lives on thru his son, daughter, grandsons and grand daughters that, because of the wounds received made his life difficult to be normal, he chose a way to make their lives better."

The book: "Keep Up The Fire" by Al Castillo" the link no longer works. The Battle of the Bulge Certificate Battle of the Bulge began Dec. 16, 1944. Camp Fannin Website Scroll to the picture of 54, daddy's group. I provided the photo. Click on the photo and it will enlarge. You can then download it. Camp Fannin Battalions-51-57 Brief Camp Fannin History Texas State History-Camp Fannin Camp Fannin Video Archives - Military Records Headquarters of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad Visit Peter Dunn's terrific WWII website. We are distant ebuddies. A quote from his website: “WWII Historians have stated that the "Australia @ War" web site is a better source for covering WWII Military activities on the Home Front than the Official Histories.” Australia at War Friends of 2nd Infantry Division WWII has a Yahoo group. You have to do a search for it and join to be able to view and post.

Click here to return to the WWII entry page.

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