Currently viewing the tag: "D-Day"

Richard D. L. Fulton

(Adapted from ‘Nazis’ in Gettysburg:  World War II Comes to a Civil War Battlefield by Richard D. L. Fulton, pending publication.)

It seemed like just another routine and ordinary morning in 1944 in tranquil Frederick and Adams counties to the casual observer, but something was about to occur which would be beyond the routine and the ordinary – perhaps even horrifying – in these rural counties.

As Mason-Dixon residents went about their normal business, perhaps starting their day at their kitchen tables having cups of coffee or enjoying their breakfasts and reading over their local newspaper on the events transpiring in a far-away war relegated in faraway places most Mason-Dixon residents would likely never see.

America was only a few months away from D-Day and the invasion of Normandy, but as many rural area farmers and their families went about their routine chores, a few of them might have noticed a disruption in the nearby tree lines, unusual activities in a distant field, or something not quite right about vehicles rumbling their way down a little-used dirt road.

Suddenly it became clear, as events began to transpire within more reasonable fields of vision, that the individuals who could be identified appeared to be armed men in uniforms – German Wehrmacht uniforms.  At first a few individual German soldiers appeared, as if scouting, then squads and platoons began to walk out of the woods. 

Before residents could decipher any meaning to it all, German armored vehicles could be seen rumbling along the rural roads.  As the vehicles progressed closer, observers could observe the readily distinguishable and distinct Balkan crosses on the fronts and sides.  Even more disturbing, two war planes – also bearing Balkan crosses on their wings and sides – could be seen flying low over the fields, as if scouting ahead of the converging enemy.

Slowly, as the unbelievable seemed to be unfolding before those who were observing the remarkable events, the sole reason behind it all could only suggest one thing – the unthinkable.  The Germans were on the move, not in Europe, but in Maryland…in Frederick County, and making their way northward along the rural dirt byways, apparently, for all intents and purposes, completely undetected by any military authorities or local law enforcement.

How could this be?  There had been no warning.  Some of the local inhabitants might have been a little surprised, at least initially.  There were, after all, several hundred members of the famed German Afrika Korps “encamped” just outside Gettysburg.  Sure, they were just prisoners of war (referred to as PWs in that period of time) housed in the Gettysburg battlefield compound, but had the Wehrmacht launched a surprise raid on American soil to liberate them?

Several of the advancing Germans were “captured” by local farmers, who thought they could also be escaped prisoners of war and held them until they could be turned over to the military or police, but to their chagrin, their patriotic effort would ultimately have been as being proven to have been for naught.  The farmers could make little sense of what their prisoners were trying to say – their captives, not surprisingly, could only speak German.

Certainly, to whatever local farmers and residents who might have been witnessing this seemingly unanticipated “invasion,” there must have been somewhat of a sigh of relief when groups of American GIs began to appear on the scene to essentially “save the day.”

Finally, after more than a week of apparent hit-and-run tactics having been employed by the Germans, triggering similar responses by the American troops at hand, the sounds of warfare began to taper off, until the only thing anyone within hearing distance might have heard were demands that the German forces surrender, being made by the Americans, spoken in German, and being broadcast from loudspeakers. 

The American broadcasts announced to the Germans proclaimed that the Germans were surrounded, that resistance was futile, and that there was no sense dying when they could surrender and be treated in full accordance with the Geneva Convention.

 As the invasion slowly began to grind to a halt as more groups of American troops began rounding up surrendering Germans and removing them from the scene—as well as liberating members of the enemy who had been taken into custody by shotgun-wielding locals.

Why had the infamous and renowned German Wehrmacht given up so easily? Perhaps the main reason was because this German “invasion” had not been plotted and orchestrated in Berlin. The planning for this “attack” on American soil began just outside of Gettysburg within a forested area of the old Gettysburg battlefield known as McMillan Woods, at a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp which had recently been re-dubbed by the military as “Camp George H. Sharpe” (see The Ritchie Boys” From Antietam to Gettysburg in the November issue of The Catoctin Banner).

The week-long invasion had been orchestrated as a training exercise for the approximately 800-man 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Mobile Radio Broadcasting companies, who would be responsible -upon deployment on D-Day – for attempting to coerce enemy troops into surrendering or retreating, and to spread factual information from behind enemy lines to the allies and generate “fake news” broadcasts to the enemy.

Because of the secretive nature of the exercises, the residents could not have been notified by the military in-advance, as it could have potentially jeopardized the covert nature of the operations emanating out of Camp Sharpe.  The civilian population would not learn of the truth behind the invasion until after the close of the war.

As to the column of German vehicles, George Mandler recorded in Interesting Times: An Encounter With the 20th Century 1924 – that the shells of simulated German tanks were also constructed of plywood and mounted on Jeeps.  Other types of German vehicles were nothing more than cardboard shells mounted on various other vehicles. 

And as to the two German “Messerschmitt” fighters seen overhead during the engagement, The Baltimore Sun reporter Bready wrote that the simulated aircraft strafing was being recreated by two “Cub trainers, based at the Waynesboro airport.”  Some of the German soldiers were actually German prisoners of war who had volunteered to participate in the maneuvers rather than just sit in PW camps.

But what about the distinct sounds of battle heard?  The (Frederick) News reported in 1945, “speakers had been planted in strategic locations and used to broadcast actual combat noises.”

Making mention of the few German troops captured by local farmers, Hanna and Walter Kohner wrote in Hanna… Walter: A Love Story, “The German front was so carefully duplicated that some of the soldiers dressed in German uniforms not only were captured by our own units and interrogated, but also by some Gettysburg farmers, who took them for escaped POWs.” 

Reporter Bready, jokingly referring to the farmer-captured Germans, stated, “Fun might be had counting up, in the hospital records at Ritchie, that cryptic entry, ‘Wound, buttocks, buckshot.”

Remnants of the “Nazi” Mason-Dixon Invasion still exist in the fields and woods of the affected woods and fields to this day.  “The hills and forests surrounding the camp will be giving up souvenirs for years to come,” The (Frederick) News reported in 1945, a statement recently reinforced with the discovery of German World War II equipage and medals recovered by relic hunters at an undeveloped parcel of land off East Route 30, near Gettysburg. 

Likewise, Sun reporter Bready wrote, “Long after the Jeep tracks and hoofprints are gone, the surrounding hills and forests will store up for future ages such memorials as C-ration cans, spent cartridges, and forsaken tent-pins.”

For additional information, see documentary “The Ritchie Boys”, Menemsha Films (

Two German soldiers with rifles.

Source: Unpublished German photograph: Personal collection R. D. L. Fulton

Cartoon Source: The Baltimore Sun, December 16, 1945

by Phyllis Clark

“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…” All of us­, no matter our age, are people who love our country. And all of us in this beautiful area know how to celebrate being free!

Although we’ve been busy thinking of graduations, weddings, or carnivals, we especially remembered those who nobly served our country.

In June, we proudly showed our spirit by flying the Stars and Stripes on Flag Day and on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. The community came together at the end of June as we celebrated our independence on the founding of our great country with games, races, good food, a parade, and a beautiful display of fireworks!

A Veterans Recognition Day will be held on Wednesday, July 10, from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., at the Frederick Senior Center, located at 1440 Taney Avenue. Colonel Laureen Barone, USA, Retired, will be the Keynote Speaker. We hope all of you special men and women will join us, but please call to register at either the Emmitsburg Center (301-600-6350} or Frederick Center (300-600-1048) before Friday, July 5. A contribution of $5.00 is suggested for lunch. It will be a full program and we hope to see you there.

The Senior Center does not take a vacation during these hot, humid days of summer, and there is still a lot to do (thank goodness for air conditioning)! Our hours are 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. There is only a donation for lunch. Come in for a glass of iced tea (or hot coffee) and join in some of our activities. Our programs are always interesting, as well as informative. Games, puzzles, and cards are nice cool things to do every day, and if there’s nothing else you want to do, we can always talk about the weather!

Why not try “Walk with Ease” on Monday mornings, beginning at 10:00 a.m.? This class is especially beneficial for those who have either a little or a lot of arthritic pain. The art class is taking time off until September.

Tuesdays begin with strength training, which can be done with ease at your own pace. No pressure and no competition. We’ll be talking about current events and happenings on July 2 at 11:00 a.m. Bring a dollar gift for Bingo after lunch on July 9. Nurse Steve doesn’t take a vacation, so he will be here on July 16 for blood pressure checks and to talk to us about: “How Do Our Senses Change with Age?” (Not sure I want to “hear” this.)

Be sure to put this activity on your calendar for July 23: we’re going to make a 3-foot banana split after lunch! Bring your favorite topping. Can’t wait to “see” and “taste” this! Finally, on July 30, we’ll have our Memory Cafe for special friends and their caregivers, beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Come to the Emmitsburg Senior Center for chair exercise on Wednesday, July 3, at 10:00 a.m., with a “Trip Down Memory Lane” at 11:00 a.m.

Chair Exercise will begin at 9:00 a.m. on July 17, because we’ll be leaving at 10:00 a.m. on a surprise  shopping trip with a stop for  lunch. Call Linda for  more details on this one.

Chair exercise again on July 24. More food and fun on Wednesday, July 31: we’re having a pizza party at 1:00 p.m., and Linda’s bringing the salad. Please call to register for this event.

The Emmitsburg Senior Center will be closed on Thursday, July 4, to have more time to celebrate. We will be closed again on Thursday, July 25, for a staff in-service day.

With all this good food in our future, we need to start coming to the strength training class at 10:00 a.m. on the other two Thursdays in July. Canasta will be at noon, and tai chi at 1:00 p.m. in the gym.

We close down the week on Fridays with hoop shoot in the gym at 10:00 a.m., canasta at noon, and tai chi at 1:00 p.m. in the gym.

 The Frederick County Senior Services Division is offering a number of trips for July, August, and September. Registration is in-person at one of the County’s Senior Centers or online at Call the Frederick Senior Center for more information, but don’t wait to register. The trips are: July 12—The Pride of the Susquehanna cruise, $45 per person; July 26—The Christmas Haus & Hofbrauhaus, $25 per person, plus lunch on your own; August 9—Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, $25 per person; August 29—“Wrong Turn at Lungfish11 at the Totem Pole Playhouse, $60per person; September 13—Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, $50 per person; and September 20—Quiet Waters Park & Art Galleries, $30 per person.

A special note: The Groceries for Seniors Program is available to eligible seniors. Food may be picked up at 1:00 p.m. the first Friday of the month at the Frederick Senior Center. We ask that you call Linda Umbel at 301-600-6350 for more information and to register.

Our last thought: “…there ain’t no doubt, I love this land, God bless the USA!” (Thank you, Lee Greenwood).

by Jim Houck, Jr.

U.S. Army

Private Alfred Woodrow Clark

102 Years Young

Born June 13, 1913, in Washington, D.C., to Henry and Edith Clark, was a boy they named Alfred Woodrow. Alfred’s family had a tradition of giving newborns of the family a nickname. His family was together nine days after he was born at their home in Takoma, Maryland, and his one aunt said, “Well, I am going to call him Boogie.” His mother confirmed it, and Alfred was stuck with that nickname from that point on.

Alfred had twelve brothers and sisters; he said several of them passed away when they were young. He stated that if they were born today, they probably could have been saved, but they just didn’t have the medical knowledge back then that they have today.

Alfred went to elementary school in Takoma Park and dropped out in the fourth grade, as many did back then. He took care of the huge family vegetable garden, along with his siblings and mother and father.

Alfred stated that at one time he was a heavy drinker. One day, he was in a beer joint; when he came out, this old man was right behind him and asked him which way he was going. Alfred asked the man which way he wanted to go. The old man told Alfred where he wanted to go, and Alfred said he would take him home. When he pulled up in front of the man’s house, the old man said, “Come on in and meet the folks.”

They sat Alfred down around this big round table, and this girl was sitting right across from him. They started talking; the rest of them got up and left. He sat there talking to her for just as long as he could, and then he asked her for a date. The girl told Alfred to come down next Sunday and they will go to a meeting. If Alfred had known it was church, he wouldn’t have gone. Alfred thought that if you broke a commandment, you were done for, and he didn’t know there was any way back. So, that Sunday, they went to the meeting, and the man preached on the five kings: the mineral kingdom, the vegetation kingdom, the animal kingdom, man’s kingdom, and God’s kingdom. Alfred explained that what the preacher said woke him up. Alfred said it was 1936, and he got saved. He married his wife a little over a year later on May 29, 1937. He started into construction work at a young age and, other than the two years he was in the army, made it his life-long career.

Alfred joined the U.S. Army on January 4, 1944, and landed overseas eight days after D-Day; he was all over Europe for the next eighteen months.

When Alfred came home from the army, he went back to work as a construction carpenter for a man named Clark (no relation to Alfred). Clark had come to Alfred’s home and asked him to come to work for him right away. Alfred bought a truck from the man for $200.00; not long after that he was asked to pick up supplies for the construction jobs and wasn’t receiving any pay for his time or the use of his truck. Clark had also wanted Alfred to work extra time after hauling his supplies and not pay him for it. He didn’t stay with that outfit very long; Alfred had just gotten out of the service and needed to be paid.

Alfred got a job as a superintendent carpenter with a construction outfit in Takoma Park for a couple of years before he and his boss had a falling out, and he left that job. That was when Alfred went to work for Poretsky Management and started making kitchen cabinets.

Alfred had his own way of doing heads on cabinets that would only take him two minutes. He remembers his boss telling him to do the cabinet heads, and when his boss came back after an hour and a half and saw Albert just standing there, his boss said, “I thought I told you to do those cabinet heads.” Albert told him that they were built. The boss told Albert that it takes everyone all day to do the heads, so he walked down and looked and said, “I’ll be darned, they are done.” Albert said the boss was very happy and paid him good wages; he stayed with him from 1949-1975. His back and hip were giving him trouble, and his doctor said that if he didn’t retire, his back would retire him. He was old enough to retire, and the doctor wrote a letter to the company explaining it to them. He retired after twenty-six years; the company gave him a big send-off with a check for $1,700 (a nice sum for that time; you could buy a new Chevy Impala) and a plaque with a golden hammer on it with the words “Boogie” Clark, Poretsky Management, 1949 -1975, The Maintenance Crew. He has the plaque on his wall in his room. Alfred said he did more work after he retired than he did before retirement. He sold firewood and said when someone bought a cord of wood from him they got a good cord. Alfred was living in Burkittsville, Maryland, and he and his wife had a daughter, Gwen, and a son, Jerry. Gwen and Vernon Troxell have four boys and are living in Thurmont and Jerry Clark and wife have two girls and are living in Burkittsville, where Jerry has a garage. Alfred has so many great and great-great grandchildren that he said he could not count nor even begin to name them. Alfred said that when you get up there in age, names just don’t stick with you. Alfred has a picture of a dove that had a nest on his back porch; he said the dove used to eat out of his hand, being the only one who could get close to her.

Alfred lost his wife in 2002, after sixty-nine years of marriage; she was just short of 91 years of age. Alfred said, “We got along well; she would say jump, and I would say how high.” Shortly thereafter, Alfred went to live with his daughter Gwen in Thurmont. Gwen pulled her arm out of socket while taking care of Albert and could no longer give him the care he needed, so he is now living at Village of Laurel Run Nursing Home at Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. Alfred said there is no place like home, but he likes it there and the staff is very nice, the food is good, his room is kept clean, and, most of all, he has all the assistance he needs.

I very much enjoyed my interview with Alfred and enjoyed the hospitality he showed me. I found him to be a most interesting man who became an army veteran at thirty-one years of age and already had a wife and children, but loved his country and proudly served. Alfred has had a full life, and I hope he continues to for many years to come.

God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.

1280px-Approaching_OmahaDonald Lewis stood crammed among a group of friends and fellow soldiers, trying not to lose his balance. The landing craft they were on was pushing toward its destination on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France. A strong current threatened to pull them away from their destination.

Lewis was a long way from his hometown of Thurmont, but he, along with millions of other young men, had been drafted to serve in the armed forces during World War II. Though he had entered the army as a private, he had risen to the rank of staff sergeant.

Lewis stood at the front of the landing craft hanging onto the edge of the wall. Around him, he could hear the explosion of artillery and see the explosions on the water and beach. Things seemed a mass of confusion, but it was all part of the largest seaborne invasion ever undertaken: the coordinated D-Day attack on German forces at Normandy, France. The invasion involved 156,000 Allied troops. Amphibious landings along fifty miles of the Normandy Coast were supported by naval and air assaults.

Lewis’ job in the invasion seemed simple. He was to go ashore first and mark safe paths across the irrigation ditches that crossed the beach.

However, the landing craft couldn’t make it to the beach. It grounded on a sandbar.

Lewis and the other men were still expected to take the beach, though. The front ramp of the landing craft was lowered and Lewis ran into the water. He suddenly found himself in water over his head, weighed down by a heavy backpack.

“I just had to hold my breath and walk part of the way underwater until my head was above water,” Lewis said. Though amazingly he was not wounded during that invasion, he was later wounded in the leg during an artillery barrage. His wound was near his groin, barely missing his groin. Lewis remembers laying in a hospital in England waiting to be taken into surgery.

“A big, ol’ English nurse comes walking up and she pulls back the sheet and looks at the wound,” recalls Lewis. “Then she says to me, ‘Almost got your pride and joy, didn’t they?’”

Another time, Lewis barely escaped being killed. He and other soldiers were up in trees along a road, waiting to ambush the Germans. However, the Germans were being careful that day.

“A sniper must have spotted me up there,” Lewis said. “I knew he hit my helmet. I started down that tree as fast as I could, grabbing limbs and dropping.”

When he got to the ground, he took off his helmet and saw that there was a hole through the front of it and a matching one through the back of it. Only the fact that his helmet had been sitting high on his head saved his life.

“People wondered why I didn’t bring the helmet home as a souvenir, but I didn’t want anything to do with it,” said Lewis.

Perhaps his most-pleasant memory from the war was when he was discharged from the Army. He was in line with other soldiers being discharged after the end of the war. The soldier at the front of the line would walk up to the officer at the front of the room, receive his discharge papers, salute, and walk away.

“When I got my papers, I let out a war whoop and woke that place up,” Lewis said.

Once back in Thurmont, Lewis went to work on the family farm. He met his wife, Freda, who was a farm girl, also from Thurmont, and they married in a double ceremony with a couple they were friends with.

Donald LewisLewis also had a political career. He served two terms as Mayor of Thurmont and one term as a Frederick County Commissioner. He said a group of people tried to talk him into running for governor, but he turned them down, saying, “I’m too honest for that.”

Lewis and his wife ran a sporting goods store and greeting card store on the Thurmont square for many years. He is now ninety-six years old and still living on his own. “I want to live to be one hundred,” he said. “After that, I’ll take what I can get.”

Veterans Day is on November 11. Make sure to thank any Veterans you know for their service, and attend one of the special Veterans Day activities going on in the area.

The Germans started firing on the beach and the landing craft. Lewis focused on his job and began marking the paths where troops could cross.

“When I looked back, men were laying everywhere,” Lewis said. “Just about everyone on the boat was dead.”

After the war, when he was invited back to Normandy for the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Lewis always turned down the invitations. Now ninety-six years old, he has never returned to Omaha Beach.

“I’ve seen all I wanted to,” he said.