Staff Sergeant Herman W. Stuyvesant

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Dress jacket: Staff Sergeant Herman W. Stuyvesant (ASN: #33274030)

Herman W. “Herky” Stuyvesant was born in Greenville, Pennsylvania on September 21, 1921 a son of the late Raymond Clarence and Ona Mae (Knox) Stuyvesant. He was a graduate of the former Penn High School, which was the only high school for the Greenville area until 1958. He enlisted on July 24, 1942 in Erie, Pennsylvania. After his basic training, Herman went to Camp Butner in North Carolina. There he joined Company I, of the 309th Infantry Regiment in November 1942. This regiment was part of the 78th Infantry Division. Camp Butner was used as a staging area during the war, to assemble and organize prior to being deployed to the Western Front. Herman spent much of his time training, and in February 1943 he was promoted to Private First Class. Then sometime in July 1943, He was promoted to Corporal.

On September 19, 1943 Corporal Stuyvesant was transferred to the newly activated 5th Ranger Battalion, Company B. This was at Camp Forrest, Tennessee which was a U.S. Army training base and prisoner of war camp during World War II. It was an active Army post between 1941 and 1946, with a troop capacity of over 34,000 Officers and enlisted men. Ranger training began at Camp Forrest on September 14, 1943 and continued through November 3, 1943 with emphasis placed on physical training and combat training. A vigorous program of wrestling, boxing, swimming, speed marches, mass rough and tumble body contact exercises and log drill was planned. While at Camp Forrest, every Ranger learned the mechanical functioning of all weapons, fired every weapon and had to qualify in every weapon. An endless pursual of combat exercises, by squad, platoon and company was made, and rapidly brought to perfection peak. “Commando” raid and house to house fighting was learned, and the training was rounded off with compass courses, infiltration courses and training films.

With preliminary basic Ranger training completed, the battalion moved to the Amphibious Training Base at Fort Pierce, Florida, on November 5, 1943. At Fort Pierce, the Rangers went into more intensive, further specialized training in practical use and maintenance of rubber boats, coastal raids in which actual capture of towns and strongpoints were maneuvered. Tactical study and employment of Combined Naval Operations became an important part of Ranger training, as did the use of all types of amphibious landing craft. This training continued untiringly until November 20, 1943 and during all the training, the sharp eyes of experienced instructors weeded out the officers and men who were not all that was required for a Ranger to be.

On November 20, 1943 the 5th Ranger Battalion moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where it was assigned to ETOUSA and attached to the 1st U.S. Army. Preparation for movement overseas followed, with further speed marches, tactical five day problems for company and battalion, and more intensive qualification firing of all weapons. This same training was continued when on December 20, 1943 the battalion moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, Port of Embarkation. On January 8, 1944 the battalion went to the New York Port of Embarkation, and began their journey to England, where they arrived on January 17, 1944. In England, and Scotland, they continued their training. And on June 1, 1944 the Rangers boarded the HMS Prince Leopold and HMS Prince Baudouin. Five days were spent aboard ship, briefing and completing preparations for assault landings on “D” Day, at first announced to be June 5, 1944 but due to bad weather, changed to June 6, 1944.

The first wave to hit the beach consisted of half of Battalion Headquarters, Companies “A”, “B” and “E”, landing on a strip of beach designated as Omaha Dog White Beach. Actually, the landing point for these Rangers was Dog Green, but Lt. Col. Max Schneider, seeing the fabulous volume of fire that covered Dog Green Beach, ordered the commander of a small fleet to touch-down his craft east of the intended landing point. This first wave crossed the beach in good order, with few casualties, and halted temporarily in rear of the sea wall, and immediately reorganized. The second wave, consisting of half of Battalion Headquarters, Companies “C”, “D” and one platoon of “F” Company repeated the performance of the first wave. The other platoon of “F” Company had shipped too much water in its LCA and dropped out of formation, landing near the Laurent-sur-Mer Exit at 0900 hours, after being transferred to an LCT.

On signal of the Battalion Commander, the leading troops scrambled over the wall, blew gaps in the protective barbed wire, and protected by the rising smoke, advanced to a point near the top of the hill, where the smoke had cleared and the hill was being swept by enemy automatic fire. First Lieutenant Francis W. Dawson of Company “D”, led his platoon over the top and eliminated an enemy strongpoint, enabling the entire battalion to advance. Here they found many minefields, and the battalion had to change into a column formation, winding in and out of those formidable, hidden defenses. Herman Stuyvesant with Company “B”, the leading unit, reached the Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer and Vierville-sur-Mer road at a point approximately one kilometer East of Vierville-sur-Mer. In the course of this advance, many Germans, well concealed in weapons pits constructed in the hedgerows, were killed. The Battalion advanced toward Vierville-sur-Mer, Company “B” leading and receiving heavy sniper and machine gun fire. All pressure was exerted to take Vierville-sur-Mer, and after overcoming considerable sniper fire, the battalion advanced through the town to its western outskirts where heavy resistance was encountered. Dusk was all too quickly turning into darkness, and the battalion, together with three companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, part of the 1st Battalion of 116th Infantry and 743rd Tank Battalion set up a perimeter defense for the night.

“D” Day, June 6, 1944 was over, and the Rangers took count; 100 prisoners of war taken, 150 enemy killed and approximately 60 Rangers killed or wounded. The next day, Company “B” was attacking South West toward Vierville-sur-Mer, and knocked out several machine gun nests and numerous snipers. Another 150 prisoners of war were taken that day, and about 80 enemy killed. However, not without losses, 40 more Rangers were added to the list of killed and wounded. About 8 days later, when Company “B” was at Bois Du Molay, Corporal Stuyvesant got promoted to Staff Sergeant. He must have certainly distinguished himself during the first days in combat.

The next few weeks that followed the Invasion Operations, proved to be a temporary relief. The movements of the Battalion took it to Foucarville, where the Rangers took charge of a prisoners of war cage. Then to Flamanville, France, where the Rangers had the mission of guarding the beach against possible counter-invasion by the Germans who were on Jersey and Guernsey Islands. These weeks were also used for acquiring and training replacements. Movements again, and this time to St. Martin Bonfosse, Bauis, St. Germain, Mayenne and finally Tragarantec, where the Rangers were supplied and prepared for the coming campaign, “Brest”.

On September 3, Company “B” was attached to the 29th Infantry Division with a mission “to straighten out the lines”. Heavy fighting erupted the following day when the battalion attacked Fort Toulbrouch, the first of many forts defending Brest that were captured by the 5th Rangers. Fighting was so violent that the battalion reserve had to be committed to stop a counterattack and Headquarters Company had to be reorganized into a Ranger Company and placed in reserve.

The attack on the fort continued the next day with artillery and air support. “B” Company following 20 yards behind the strafing P-47s ricocheting bullets, captured the fort in 6 minutes after the last P-47 strafing pass. The next day was notable when the battalion attacked another fort south of Kernie. Headquarters Company and Company “D” made the final assault, taking more than 300 prisoners. Heavy fighting continued as the battalion moved to the Le Conquet Peninsula, west of Brest. On September 17, Lieutenant Green led an “E” Company patrol to attack a pillbox that had resisted many attempts to capture it. One hundred thirty pounds of C-2 were placed against the pill box and lit the skies for 40 minutes. Brest surrendered the next day and many believe Greene’s patrol did the trick.

With “Fortress Brest” having toppled, the Rangers went on the move again. After pausing temporarily in Plouneventer and Landerneau, France, the Rangers climbed aboard the old French “40 and 8” box cars (each boxcar carried 40 men or 8 horses, and draws its origin from World War I), and they were travelling for four days.

On October 2, 1944, the Rangers arrived at the French Border town of Longuyon, from where they travelled by trucks to a bivouac area outside Arlon, Belgium. After ten days, they moved to Differt, Belgium, six kilometers outside of Arlon, into a Seminary. Their mission at Differt, was to provide security for 12th Army Group Headquarters, by keeping two companies on the alert at all times, ready to protect the Headquarters in case of an enemy attack. Just before the Rangers left the Seminary, the little village of Differt celebrated its liberation. First, Mass was held in the little chapel in Differt, for all Americans who died to liberate the French and Belgians. Then the celebration started, and every home had two or three Rangers at the dinner table, where they ate home cooked meals and forgot the War for a few weeks. For the first time since the Rangers left the States, they ate ice cream, pies and pastries and had good beer. At the Seminary, there was a movie every night, and the Rangers enjoyed their well-earned recreation. There were soccer ball games between the Rangers and the civilians, in the afternoon, and at night, there was dancing at the village café. The Rangers had never received a finer reception than they had in Belgium, and on November 7, when they left the Seminary, neither Rangers nor civilians were very happy about the parting.

The remaining days of November were spent in Toul and Nancy, France, where training continued and new men were taught to be Rangers. For their next mission, the Rangers became a part of General Patton’s Third U. S. Army, and were further attached to the Sixth Cavalry Group for operations. First to Toul, then Nancy, with minor patrol actions. Back into high casualty combat during the first week of December, with heavy fighting erupting in the L’Hopital, Carling, Aspenhubel and Ludweiler areas. On December 3, Company “B” repulsed a company sized counterattack at 0830 hours inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. On this day, Herman Stuyvesant got wounded in action. He also broke a bone of his middle finger, as a result from shell fragments. This resulted in the evacuation of S/Sgt Stuyvesant to a hospital, for further treatment. He was not able to join his unit for the Ardennes-Alsace campaign. On February 15, 1945 he rejoined the company from the 53rd replacement depot.

In February 1945, the battalion was located in Germany, and was attached to the 94th Infantry Division. Heavy fighting ensued as the battalion fought through Wehingen, Oberleuken, Hellendorf, and Weiten. At Weiten, the battalion received a new 48-hour mission to seize high ground behind the German lines near Zerf, this to prevent the enemy from using the road network around Zerf to counter-attack the 10th Armored Division as it crossed the Saar. By this time, February 22, replacements had brought the battalion up to a strength of 398, still 108 below TOE strength.

The following night, on February 23, under cover of darkness, the battalion crossed the Saar River on a footbridge. Just prior to midnight, the battalion passing through elements of the 302nd Infantry Regiment and began to move in two columns into enemy territory. Night movement by compass azimuth was difficult over the rugged, heavily wooded terrain. The columns were constantly harassed by enemy artillery fire and infantry firefights. Many prisoners were taken and these soon became a severe burden, but the advance kept on through thick woods that obscured any terrain features. Reaching the edge of the woods, the real fighting began. Pill boxes and buildings were captured. More prisoners taken. Enemy infantry blundering upon the Rangers attacked violently, but still the German command did not seem to realize the Rangers were behind their lines. Unfortunately, escaping prisoners brought artillery fire on the battalion. The battalion continued to move toward its objective throughout the night.

By 0800 hours on February 25, advanced elements of the battalion reached the objective with the rest of the battalion closing soon after. German counter-attacks began immediately. Rockets, artillery, and infantry smashed at the battalion positions. Ammunition, water, food, and medical supplies ran low. Aerial re-supply efforts managed to drop some supplies within the perimeter. On February 28, during a lull in the enemy attacks, the battalion fought its way to a better defensive position, higher ground to the south. And the Germans counter-attacked again and again. Finally, on March 3 it was over. The two-day mission had taken nine days and bled the battalion dry.

On March 6, the battalion moved to Schwebsingen, Luxembourg to rebuild with 191 replacements and a nucleus of the 180 who survived the Irsch-Zerf action. Two weeks later, the 5th Rangers entered into a new profession, that of Military Government, at first for Freidberg and then for Erfurt, Gotha, Apolda, Weimaar, and Jena. On April 21, 1945, the Rangers started out on their last mission. Companies “C”, “E” and “B” under Colonel Sullivan, were attached to the Third Cavalry Squadron of Third Cavalry Group, for operations, and joined the Cavalry at Hersbruck. The mission of the Rangers was to operate with the Cavalry, to ride all of the back roads and fields to capture bridges across the Danube River and allow the 71st Infantry Division to cross. The column progressed rapidly, meeting only minor resistance and receiving a small amount of enemy artillery and small arms fire. The Rangers were perched precariously on the tanks, and in a rush of speed on the final stretch to the objective, one good bridge was captured intact. However, all of the other bridges had long since been blown. Minor casualties were suffered by the Ranger battalion.

With the mission completed, the Rangers were relieved from duty with the Third Cavalry Group and assembled in Wenzenbach. On May 6, 1945, the Battalion moved to Pocking, Germany, and on the next day, the long awaited news was announced, “Germany has surrendered”. With the end of fighting in Europe, the Rangers assembled in Ried, Austria. On October 21, 1945 the 5th Ranger Battalion arrived at the Boston Port of Embarkation. The unit was de-activated the next day. Only a couple days later, on October 27, Herman Stuyvesant got honorably discharged from the Army.

Herman Stuyvesant received the Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart, the Good Conduct medal, the distinguished unit citation with 2 oak leaf clusters, The European-African-Middle Eastern campaign medal with 4 battle stars and one Invasion arrowhead. During his time in service he had served in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. After the war, on April 16, 1946 Herman married Dorothy Mae “Rusty” DeBruler who passed away on April 4, 2004. Herman had been employed for many years with the former Chicago Bridge and Iron of Greenville where he began his career as an oxyacetylene burner and retired as a fork lift operator.

Herman Stuyvesant passed away on June 17, 2007 in Greenville, Pennsylvania at the age of 85.