On the afternoon of December 18, 1944 a heroic stand of the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment at Lausdell was annihilated after several attacking waves of panzers and infantry from the 12th SS Panzer Regiment and 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment. Defending troops run out of ammunition as well as supplies. Men were exhausted to death after 6 days of constant fighting. The 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment including Company K, parts of Company M, 9th IR and one platoon of Company A, 741st Tank Battalion were ordered to withdrawal after succesful effort to slow down German troops. The incredible defense of Lausdell crossroads is the story of individual heroism of the young men who stood against panzers. We could mention dozens of stories that occured at Lausdell but today we chose the story of Pfc. Harry Stemple that hit us the most.
In the evening of December 17, 1944 German troops attacked at Lausdell. Members of the 9th Infantry Regiment tried to fend off the enemy by all means. After destroying one of the German panzers, three members of Company A, Pfc. William L. Adams, Pfc. Harry Stemple and his buddy Pfc. Rodney M. Jennings climbed aboard destroyed German tank, Panther 127, and took over one of its machine guns. Then they turned the gun against the attacking enemy and opened fire. Pfc. William L. Adams, Pfc. Harry Stemple and Pfc. Rodney M. Jennings earned the Silver Stars for their gallantry in action!
In the morning of Decemebr 18, German troops came back and attacked with full force. American defenders of Lausdell run out of ammunition after several hours of fighting. The SS soldiers were already among positions of defenders and German tanks were blasting foxhole after foxhole. The following words of Rodney M. Jennings were publicated in his letter to Mrs. Stemple:
“Harry was my best buddy and he + a fellow by the name of Adams and I were in the same fox hole when it happened. I couldn´t sleep for a few nights after…. The next morning Germans came back in greater strength. Two 88´s (German artillery) hit almost direct on our hole wounding Harry seriously and I got a small wound and the other fellow didn´t get hit. I couldn´t get no medical aid and nothing to fix Harry up with. Germans forced us to surrender and we carried Harry quite a way. Mrs. Stemple, I am terribly sorry. Harry was a fine young man in fact one of the nicest I have ever met.” Pfc. Harry Stemple bled to death in arms of his friend Rodney M. Jennings on December 18, 1944. He was 24 years young. Harry Stemple was survived by his wife and his little daughter, two years old. When Rodney Jennings was released from the German captivity several months later, he wanted to write a letter to Harry´s wife and tell her what happened.
Our friend Rob Gill, a grandson of Harry Stemple, sent us the letter written by Rodney M. Jennings. It is one of the most emotional and sincere thing we have ever read.
When men of Company A were slowly killed in their fox holes without any means of defense against enemy, Lieutenant Truppner, Company A commander, made one of the bravest decisions. He made the last radio transmission and requested artillery fire on his own position. This action allowed other units to withdraw and stopped the German advance for a while. Company A and Company K suffered heavy losses. For example 82 members of Company A were captured, seven men were killed and only few men were able to reach American lines. Thanks to the self-sacrifice of the men at Lausdell crossroads the 2nd and the 99th Infantry Divisions gained time to be evacuated and set up a new defensive line.
Few days ago our friend Arjan Messemaker and his team visited Lausdell crossroads and placed there a special commemorative photo of Pfc. Harry Stemple. Arjan also collects stories about the Battle at Lausdell Crossroads and he is going to publish a book about this heroic stand of the 9th Infantry Regiment.
A special thanks to family of Harry Stemple, especially to his grandson Rob Gill who shared the story of his grandfather with us. Also we would like to thank Arjan Messemaker for his never-ending effort to keep the stories of men from the Lausdell crossroads alive.
In memory of Pfc. Harry Stemple and all those who held the line at all cost so others can be safe! We will never forget your sacrifice!!