I had basic training at
So they were also good because when a private entered the cavalry down there his first job was to go down and clean the stables. And when he arrived at the stables there was a sign over the door that said, “Take care of your horse, we can always get a new private.” So they learned to take care of their horses because they had to, and they did the same with the tanks. They were great tankers. We would stop and they would immediately get out and check the tracks to be sure that they were tight and they weren’t loose. They’d do all the work. They’d get the rammer staff and clean the gun out between combat actions. They were all good soldiers for being cavalrymen. And they had a good cavalry spirit, the spirit of getting through and charging.
Well that was it. Our first action
with the 9th Armor Division in Europe was during the
We arrived up there on the 14th
of December. Our commanding officers went forward to meet with the infantry
officers to plan how we would move through them and attack, but it never came
about because on the next day, the 16th of December, the Germans
attacked in force, and we were in the area of Saint Vith, which was the main
German attack, the 5th Panzer Army and the 6th along side
of them. The 5th Panzer Army attacked our area. There was a great
road map at Saint Vith and they were to go from there to the
I’d have my five tanks and I might be sent down to hold a bridge one day, protect it from Germans crossing it the next day. I might be on a ridge or the next day to hold a crossroads or something else. Missions every day and you didn’t know where you were or what you were doing. And each time they give you a mission they tell you who is on the flanks on the right or the left. I could never see any other troops on the right. Many times my tanks would be 50 to 100 yards apart and the German army could march right through at night, and they did in time and we didn’t know it. So it was a mixed up operation constantly moving. We were supporting the 106th infantry division attached to them because we were separated from our division headquarters. And the 106th [infantry division] had two regiments surrender on the second day.
We were supporting the third regiment and we convinced them to hold off. Then the 7th armored came in with CCB and we joined up with them and our commander, who was General Holk, who was senior to their newly appointed General Bruce Clark, but he said he had more armor experience than our General Holk, who was a great leader in combat. So we became part of them and together we were holding that same place, which became known as the “goose egg.” So this went on for a day and night. I might add some thing, you see in a lot of the movies and the pictures you see [it] has deep snow and it’s very dramatic to show these pictures, but there wasn’t any snow for the first seven days. The first snow we saw was on the 24th of December. It was cold as the devil. They said it was the coldest winter in fifty years. The tanks were cold.
I recall one night I got hold of Paul Fisher, a lieutenant in the next platoon. I talked to Paul to figure out what we could do that night because we didn’t know the situation and about that time a farmer came through with a wagon and I thought, “well that’s peculiar,” and so I stopped him and the back was full of straw. So I pulled back the straw and there was a thermos jug and we call them “marmite cans,” and they use them in the post to take food out to the range and they use them in combat to take out food and the only thing we could figure was that he was taking hot food to the Germans in back of us. And that was the first we knew that they had gotten through behind us and you don’t tell your troops that. You’d have a problem if you told them that. We took care of the guy and all night we could hear that horse pulling that wagon and that was the first real inkling we had that we were in deep trouble.
The night before we could get out we
were on radio silence, so we could listen but we didn’t broadcast, and the
company commander said the 82nd airborne was somewhere in the rear
of us and they’re going to try to open up a road in the morning and we’re going
to try to get out. And so I went back and alerted my tanks. I went on foot to each
tank and got them all ready and I had put my tank in a farmyard there and it
was a lot of straw, manure and muck in there and I took some tree branches and
put them to break the silhouettes of the tanks so that the gun wouldn’t show
against the stars and [I] spent the night there. The person in the house kept
going out to their barn and I finally had to take care of him because that
could have been a radio wagon. It was only then we began to learn that the army
didn’t alert us. The area we were in had formerly been part of
At any rate, when morning came I
alerted the tanks to move out and found that I was stuck in the ground, I
couldn’t move. Sergeant Wellesley, my driver, [was] the best driver in the
The supplies had been able to get to us with gasoline and ammunition through the service company men in the trucks. So we were in pretty good shape at that time really. On the way out we did lose tanks to the Germans who were zeroed in on some of those crossroads. I think in one place we lost four out of five tanks in one platoon. They were just zeroed in on that spot. But otherwise we were in pretty good shape, except I’d lost some men and tanks. Late the next month, Paul Fisher, the other lieutenant in the platoon, came to me and said, “Lets go back and see if we can find one of your tanks.” He had a photographic memory of terrain; I found that out in our desert training, maneuvering out there. So we went back, and sure enough he went right back to the place were the tank had been and there were two bodies still in the turret. They were frozen but beginning to thaw, the winter was beginning to break. It must have been early or late February by the time I got there. Surprisingly enough the ground was bare there and there was a wooden cross and it said in German “three American soldiers,” and I thought, this is unusual they didn’t burry their wounded. I can’t figure out what that meant there.
We found a graves registration unit and they had been working near the Herdgin forest, where we lost a lot of men. The tree bursts were just killing the men in foxholes. They were really busy there. I asked them, “Anything unusual?” He said, “Yeah, every man has no boots on. The Germans took the boots off everyone they shot.” At any rate, they had better maps than my tactical maps. Very detailed. I took a pen and said “here there’s a tank, there’s two men in the turret, here are their names, and they still have their dog tags on,” and the only thing they took off the tank was any removal of sights that they could get off. That way we knew that they wouldn’t be missing in action and not identified. They promised me that they would go right up and get them. Later I checked after I got out of the service with the families and found [it had been] taken care of, and I was glad it turned out that way.
Triesler: What was your rank at this point in time?
At that point they decided to bring
us back to the division, which we had been separated from for several weeks by
then. Colonel Ingham said that I would lead. My radio name was “squirrel”; his
was “gopher.” He was from
I grabbed a couple of trucks with
fuel and some other lost guys. One guy had a jeep and another had a halftrack.
I said, “Gather here and we’ll move into this village.” They said, “When are we
going to leave?” I said, “When spring comes.” We didn’t really know where we
were then or where the Germans were, but we settled down there. I needed some
dental care and I found a field office and got some rations. We just moved in
with these people in this little village, I can’t remember the name of it
today. Finally we got word that we could come back and we rejoined with
division. We were on the secret list all this time. We don’t know when we were
put on. None of our actions were being covered and the units we were with
didn’t report us and the Stars and Stripes and the newspaper reporters didn’t
come around. In late December the general in command of the division wrote a
letter complaining about why we were still on [the] secret list. They didn’t
want the Germans knowing we were there. I suspect they knew we left
After the cold war we got the German records. What had happened, they were attacking at Saint Vith, and this commander was calling back to his headquarters and saying that he was attacking the 9th armored division. At Bastone we had another combat command there that lost heavily trying to defend it, and they said that they were attacking the 9th. So they gave us the name “Phantom Division.” It was known as the phantom because they didn’t believe that any division could be that far out. The fact is that we were three separate units not under division control. It was after we sent these German records to the awards branch of how they had been delayed at all these points that we got the citation. Fifty-seven years after the action it came through. The gears grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine in this case. I don’t know if we hadn’t gotten those records [if] we would never have gotten the recommendation. It took a long time. They lifted it about January 5, 1945 because I’ve got two newspaper clippings which say that the secrecy has been removed from the 9th armored and we can now report what they’re doing and so on.
Triesler: You have a patch about Ramagin on your vest there. What’s the story about the bridge at Ramagin. What was that about?
So we were approaching under the same
command under General Hogue, and we hit what’s called “The Plains” and I was in
the lead much of that time because I had an aggressive bunch of boys, they were
great soldiers. We weren’t running into a lot of opposition, just scattered
opposition, now and then an antitank gun. On March 6, 1945 the Colonel sent for
me and he was in a little room, like a one room schoolhouse building, and the General
was there. I didn’t know him by sight but I figured that this was him. He said
to me, “Lieutenant, do you know where you are?” I said, “No sir I've run off of
my maps, I have no idea.” He said, “We’re about fifteen miles from the
So when the answer would come back they would relay it to me or I could relay it through them. I said, “If my tank gets low, I’ll take it on high ground and leave it with the crew and I’ll get on the next tank and lead you.” Just before nine we warmed up the engines. Just about five minutes to nine, Colonel Ingham called and said, “Squirrel, this is gopher, over.” I said, “Yes Gopher, go ahead.” He said, “Scrub it.” And I didn’t want to violate any orders; I wanted to make sure I understood it. So went back and I said, “Gopher did you say scrub it?” He said, “Scrub it.” I said, “What do you mean? Do you mean don’t go?” He said, “Squirrel, don’t go.” So we shut off the engines and were quite glad. Outside of that I could have been the hero in all the history books as the first one to get there.
At any rate, we were at a town called Staht Mechanine. It had been bombed to hell. We were leading the next morning, early, and there was a lot of rubble in the streets where they had been bombed, so we had to call in dozer tanks with the blade on the front to clear it out, so we were a little late getting started. It didn’t move fast enough for Colonel Ingham and he called me and said, “Go up and take the lead, they’re just not moving.”
The opposition wasn’t too great. If we ran into some infantry opposition in the woods or something, we’d call up our infantry and they’d go in and clear it out. The way we used the tanks when the mission was to get to a village, we would not enter the village because we were dead ducks in tanks. We would circle the village and let the infantry go in and clean it out house by house. Well that was the tactics we used approaching the bridge. There wasn’t too much opposition. Not like the movies that show them coming up and firing and all. Well anyway, when we arrived up there, I was on the ridge and decided it was Lieutenant Grimble; he had the new M-26 tank, and we looked down, you could see that bridge across that river and civilians and soldiers were moving across it.
He notified the Colonel that the
bridge was standing. The Colonel said, “Move down into town,” and we did, and
our orders by the corps was to go to capture Ramagin
and then go along the west bank of the Rhine River and go to the town of Senseg on the Ahr River because
Patton’s 3rd army was going to cross there. That way we would hold a
landing place for him. This was an order from the corps, which a higher head
quarters unit and way up the line. Well when Colonel Ingham radioed General
Hogue, he said, “The bridge is standing.” General
Hogue’s answer was, “Sure would be nice to have bridge.” He wouldn’t order the
change of a corps order because he’s a west pointer and a career, so he goes to
the division commander, General Leonard, and he’s a career officer too. It
wasn’t until four hours later that Ingham radioed back and said, “I’ve ordered
the infantry to cross, we’re going to cross.” Four hours later General Hogue
called back and said, “Seize the high ground and dig in.” Well that’s alright
with a soldier and infantry man particularly. What had happened was the two of
them had conferred on it, then went back to higher
head quarters to get permission to change the corps order. Surprising enough,
when it got up to Eisenhower’s staff his operations officer didn’t want to
capture the bridge, he wanted to continue with the orders that he’d devised.
But it’s a good thing we did. We were quite lucky as I mentioned, we had little
opposition on the way there. And besides that bridge was built in WWI, and the
Germans at that time, everything they did was preparing for the next war that
they were gonna have. When they
built the Autobahn, that wasn’t to help the civilians, that was to move
military traffic around. Well when they built that bridge they had
cavities in the key places to put explosives in. At the end of WWI that was
I could still picture looking down from the high hill on the west bank, I could see the engineers going out and clipping those wires. The courage those guys must have had to go on to that bridge. Just about that time two explosions went off, one on the bridge, a minor one, and one on the approach, which was designed to prevent vehicles from getting through. It was very successful; it blew a big hole in the approach to the bridge. I could see the infantry going across. We didn’t know it at the time, but the Germans had some poor explosives. This was an assignment that you don’t send your best soldiers on, to guard a bridge, you send your no-goods, so they weren’t very capable people. There were several factors in our favor, the fact that they couldn’t hide the explosives in the key parts of the bridge, the fact that it was a poor commercial type of explosive, and the fact that they wouldn’t go off. They tried desperately. So they all fled back into this tunnel. Our engineers hastily covered that hole and our first tanks started to cross. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when we first saw the bridge and started to cross.
Later that day Colonel Ingham called me. We were being fired on from the west bank where we had come from by guns who were firing down on us. Colonel Ingham said, “Go neutralize those guns.” Kent Hecker has this in his book but not in detail. So I took my tanks around, my five tanks. I thought, “If I go up that hill we expose the belly of the tank which is very thin and they’ll knock us off.” So I had them all dismount and tankers don’t like to dismount. I left the drivers in the tanks. I sent two crews around the side, with five men in each. I said, “We’ll keep in touch and I’ll signal you.” So when we got to the top I watched to see if there were gunners there. So I stood up and started up. I had a carbine at the time, and they just surrendered that quickly. When I got there I found out that they were Hungarians. I had to figure from their language. So they naturally surrendered immediately. We couldn’t take prisoners as a tank outfit. So we just said, “Put your hands up and go back that way.” So they all quickly did.
I had some thermite
grenades, which I put in the gun tubes, which melted the inside of the gun
barrels. I got the platoon together and we went back down. I said to Sergeant
Taylor, “Come with me. I can’t reach the Colonel to report. The guns are
silenced.” All Heckler says in his book is that Lieutenant Parrish was sent to
silence the guns up on the ridge near the church. The rest of the story never
got in the records. What happened was I took Sergeant Taylor. By then it was
dark. They were still firing in Ramagin. There were
still a few snipers and dedicated soldiers still in there. I said, “You walk on
the other side of the street in about 20-30 feet in the back so we don’t get
hit by the same fire.” So we started down the street and suddenly we came under
fire from a sniper or something, and I hit the pavement. There was a truck
there, a two and a half ton truck. I rolled under the truck and who was under
there. The company’s First Sergeant. This was our mess truck. They were a great
bunch of guys. They were always with us fixing hot food. We’d be in combat and
they send up word to send somebody back because they had hot food. So I’d send
back one crew at a time to get hot food. Wonderful! Now they do it commercially
I found the Colonel and I said, “The
guns are silenced. They won’t be firing any more.” He said, “Good. Now you go
to the edge of town. When this word gets back they’re going to send everyone
they can to hold this bridge. The town will be so packed with trucks and
stuff.” They have narrow streets in those little towns. He said, “Stop everybody
and have them dismount.” So I took my crew back out to the coast. Sure enough,
almost immediately they started arriving in convoys. I would go up and say, “Who’s in charge of this convoy or serial?” They called them
serials, different parts of the convoy. Serial one, serial
two. Who’s in charge? It might be a captain. It might be a colonel or
somebody. I was a lieutenant then. I’d go up and say, “You’ve got to stop now.
Dismount.” “Why are we here?” They didn’t really know. They’d been pulled out of
the line or a rest camp somewhere. They thought they were going to a rest camp
some of them. I said, “We just got a bridge across the
Triesler: I have a few more questions for you if you have time. Did anything ever happen with Patton’s Bridge? Remember the order got changed. Did you have to go up to that bridge also?
Triesler: Sir, your name is P-A-R-I-S. Just like the city.
Triesler: Were you named after anybody in particular that you know of?
Triesler: I was taking a few notes. You know, if you watch the movies. When you watch…I don’t know if you watch any of those Band of Brothers or anything like that…
Triesler: When the guys are moving in the movies. You know if you’re trying to get to a machinegun nest or something, and they split up, you see them do things like certain signals you know with their hands. Did you all have certain hand signals that you were trained to use?
That night I could hear them moaning and groaning and I could hear the soldiers coming out to get their wounded. I called my troops and said, “Don’t fire. Just stay silent.” Through most of the night they were picking up their bodies out there and taking them back. It’s a good example of how good communications sometimes work instantly so you don’t need signals. When we were with infantry we were usually close enough to them so that I could talk to them.
Triesler: Did you ever have any tank battles where you had to go up against another tank?
Triesler: Did you use your tank ever to rescue men? I’ve been told there was a trap door on the lower part of some tanks or many tanks.
Triesler: Did you ever get to see General Patton?
We were put on a different guy who
tried to micromanage everything. He said, “I want a tank company and this
infantry together.” I lost men and we all lost under his command. Hogue was
well liked. In the end Patton got his wish. He got us under his command in the
3rd army. We thought we were through. We had met with the Russians.
We didn’t mix with them. We were ordered not to mingle with them. I can’t
remember the river, but the Russians were on the other side of the river. We
thought, “Well the war’s over for us. We’ve done our part.” Instead of that
they sent us down into
Triesler: When you were leading with the tanks, what was your position on the tank? Were you standing upright?
Triesler: What would you do with the shell once it cooled off a little bit? How would you get rid of it?
Paris: Oh later when things got quieter you’d just through them out, or you might even back up if you thought you might be overcome or you backed behind a ridge or something, you’d toss ‘em out.
Triesler: You mentioned that your driver had saved your life a couple of times by his driving. I just wondered if you could give any more detail.
I called the platoon and said, “Withdraw immediately. Withdraw. Don’t get off the road,” because I knew it was muddy on the side. They began doing that. I started firing down there at this point. The platoon behind me didn’t do it. They pulled off and got stuck in the mud. Several of them got killed right there because they had guns up in the barn. Lieutenant Coplan had the mortar platoon. He apparently was listening in somehow and he called the commander and he said, “Squirrel’s in bad trouble, let me fire down there.” They said, “No, that’s in our hands.” He said, “The hell it is. They’re firing on Squirrel, he’s in trouble.” I didn’t hear this because he was calling directly for permission to fire. Suddenly I began seeing explosions down there. He was the kind of guy that would ignore officers above him if he didn’t believe in it. He was a very strong willed guy. I’d been with him many times. He was one of my buddies.
I knew then that he was firing toward
that house. I saw all my tanks were out; I said to
Well, ahhhh. I got him out and the company commander said, “Lets send him to aid in the back of the hospital.” I said, “The guy will go out of his mind if the last thing he saw was that. Lets keep him.” He said, “Alright.” I had a bottle of brandy I’d been hiding in my gear on the back of the tank. So I got a bottle of brandy and went over and said, “Corporal, here’s something to drink to sooth you down, bud.” Well, he began drinking and he got drunk. I went back and I said, “You’re drunk, Corporal, we’re still on alert. I’m going to bust you to private.” He said, “Ok, Lieutenant, I can understand,” but he was with his buddies. When he sobered up I said, “You are now a corporal again.” I think that that’s what saved him. His buddies were around him and he wasn’t in a hospital with that in his mind.
My best friend, Lieutenant Tryar, was killed. He was one of them who pulled his tank
off and got stuck in the mud. He had just come back. He was wounded in the
Triesler: What kind of gun do you think the Germans had that they were firing at you [with]? Could you tell?
Triesler: You just mentioned the
Triesler: When’s your birthday?
Triesler: July 12th. What year?
Let me tell you a couple things about ordinance, because this is pretty important. There was a guy named Christie, who designed tanks, and he couldn’t get along with ordinance. He’s submit his design and they’d say “Change A, B and C.” He’d say, “The hell with you,” and he’d go change X, Y, and Z. They couldn’t get along together. He invented a suspension system that was better than the loot spring system. We called it the loot spring system. Ours was like this, you know? He took it to them and they turned it down. The British adopted it, the Russians adopted it, the French adopted it, the Germans adopted it, and everybody adopted it. At the end of the war, the last tanks we got was the M24 and the M26. They finally put the Christie system on it. That was toward the last 5 months of the war.
Let me give you another example. The top of the tanks that you see has a 50-caliber machine gun. It’s right in back of the commander. You can lock it in an upright position with the barrel pointing up, but then it’s not usable. If you suddenly come up on a guy in a foxhole with a bazooka, a panzerfaust, or infantrymen, you can’t unlock it in time to use it. If you unlock it and are trying to get it ready you have to reach back here and it’s awkward. The worst thing is that every time the tank lurches that thing hits you on the side of the head and you get a minor concussion. So after you have five or six concussions you say, “The hell with this.” So what we did, we got the mechanics, we got a settling torch, and we got the thing off and moved it in the front where we could use it.
The Browning machine gun, Browning
sold that gun all over
Triesler: Did you have a good respect for the Germans during the war, or just dislike? What was your feeling when you were up against them?
Triesler: Metal detector.
So how you felt when you hear something like that? You, well. One day one of the civilians came up to me and said, “There’s two Germans in your chow line there.” “What?” “Yeah, they’re in American uniforms.” So we pulled them out and I turned them in to the MPs. I don’t know whether they were or not. Whenever they did find them they usually shot them. They don’t write this up in the books. If you’re caught in the enemies uniform you’re shot right there.
Triesler: Well you’re a spy then, right?
Triesler: How did you deal with mine fields? Did you come across any? What did you have to do about approaching potential mines?
This is one reason why you’re out of the tank, one day we were riding along in a pretty open area and here’s two trees and I think, “Uh oh, what a place to put a wire.” There was two reasons for that. One of them is, you’re riding along in a tank and you don’t see it, that’s why we don’t like moving at night, that wire catches you on here, man you’re dead. The other thing is, it might be attached to a mine. One time I saw these two traps and stopped the driver and said, “Let me examine it.” So I’m looking it over and a twelve-year-old kid came up out of a foxhole and fired a panzerfaust at me, it like a bazooka, the German version of the bazooka, panzerfaust. It skipped across the front and didn’t go off. You had to know where they were likely to put trip wires and stuff like that. Then one time after the war they sent me down to occupy a castle that held a lot of German naval records in it. The Senior Admirals of the navy, one who accepted the surrender of the Germans. I can’t think of his name.
Triesler: Doenitz? Was that it?
Another time they sent me down to guard Theresa Newman. I said to the Colonel, “Who’s Theresa Newman?” He said, “Well she’s being threatened by the Germans.” I said, “Well Colonel, I don’t like this assignment.” He said, “Neither do I, but it came from up above.” I went down to this village down there and got some of the civilian men there and said, “Any German troops here?” They said, “There were but they pulled out.” I said, “Where?” They said, “They went through the forest over there.” So I named them as outlooks for me and said, “If one man gets a scratch on him you’re all going to die, do you understand that?” They said they did. So then I pulled out my gun and thought, “These people know nothing but cruelty, nothing but power.” So I hit one of them right in the middle of his face. I said, “Do you now understand?” “Ja wul, ja wul. Yes sir.” They understood. I said, “You don’t walk on the sidewalks, you walk in the street.” Used to be the blacks, you know, but I didn’t say that. At any rate, so I had them posted on guard. I put one tank on each side of the town.
We had new tanks. You had to run them constantly to keep the batteries up. The generator didn’t kick in until you were at 1800 RPMs. We didn’t want dead batteries. So I went back to the Colonel to get some telephone lines strung in for that town so I could have a connection. When I got back the Colonel said, “I’ll get you some telephone wire strung in.” I said, “I can’t keep my radios on.” As I went back, for the first time I noticed in the field, “Beware Minein.” Both sides of the road were mined. So how lucky we were, because if they fired one round at us what you’d do, two tanks pull to the right and you form a line and fire back. You don’t stay in a column because they’d block the road if you stay in a column see. If they would have had one gun that they left just to fire one round, we’d have been stuck in a mine field. In later years I learned who ordered us down there. My division commander was a strong Catholic, and his son told me that. He said, “My old man was the one that ordered you down there.”