Private James Andrew Hooks 33802358 US Army. He was born on July 2, 1914 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the son of William Hooks Esther Leighton McAllister. He married Marie Cecelia Hooks in 1937. He entered the US Army on November 6, 1943, at the age of 29. At the time of his enlistment, he was 5 foot 6 inches tall, weighed 118 pounds, he had blonde hair, and gray eyes and was employed by calbar paint and varnish in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was sent overseas on February 18, 1945. On March 12, 1945 he found himself assigned as a replacement in the “Forty Thieves” the nick name of 1st Platoon, Company C, 253rd Infantry, 63rd Infantry Division. He was believed by the men of C Company to have been killed in action on April 8, 1945 around the creek. It is currently unknown what happened to him that day. He was discharged on November 10, 1945.
On April 8, 1945 during the heavy fighting around Kressbach 1st platoon was all but destroyed they had 16 men Killed in action and 15 Wounded.
“Early on the morning of April 18th the village of Kressbach was retaken by the first platoon of “C” Company and on two occasions elements of “C” Company had tried to clear the open ground adjacent to the town.
In the afternoon of 8 April, the first platoon of “C” Company plus a five man machine gun squad was directed to proceed from the town through the open field to the east. This line of attack paralleled the forest line to the south and left the entire right flank of the first platoon exposed to any defending positions of the 17th SS which might be in the forest edge . “A” Company in the meantime was to attack the forest edge which extended in a southward direction from the Hardhauser Wald corner across the field from Kressbach.
There was obviously some confusion in command since no attacking unit leaves its entire flank exposed to enemy fire. The basic infantry strategy of building up a base of fire and outflanking apparently was forgotten and the result was to be a debacle for the first platoon of “C” Company.
In any event, on the cold rainy afternoon of 8 April, 1945, the Forty Thieves, as ordered, moved out into the open field and proceeded toward the east. The first squad was in the lead with scouts very far out in the lead. The squad was spread as widely as possible, with half of its members on one side of the creek and half on the other. The menacing edge of the woods was on their right.
The disciplined 17th SS troops with machine gun emplacements and a line of riflemen dug in at the forest edge watched and held their fire as the first platoon moved out in front of them. The platoon members on the south slope of the field were only 50 yards in front and moving to the east across their line of fire.
When the first squad scouts were out into the field approximately 1000 yards from the town of Kressbach with the rest of the platoon about 400 yards from town, the defensive positions of the 17th SS opened fire. Machine gun and rifle fire cut down the Forty Thieves on all sides, but return fire from the “C” Company Machine Gun Squad nullified it momentarily.
The only place which offered any protection at all was the creek which ran through the center of the field. Those who were close to the stream entered it on Sgt. Warmoth’s order to establish covering fire. Those who were any distance more than twenty yards from the stream failed to negotiate it and were wounded or killed outright. The spring-fed water in the creek was very cold in early April and at that time of the year it was about a foot to a foot and a half deep. The creek banks were same two or three feet high in the highest places and only about eight inches to a foot high in the lowest places. Those soldiers which were fortunate enough to get into the stream attempted to use the south banks protection and tried to fire back at the SS in the forest edge to protect their fallen comrades, and build the base of fire which was so badly lacking. The SS made sure that no additional Americans got into the creek to reinforce those already in the stream. Any movement of the wounded drew rapid fire from the forest edge. Cries for help could be heard from the wounded, then more rifle and machine gun fire.
Soon there were no more cries. The SS then turned their attention to those in the creek. Because the defending positions were perhaps twenty or thirty feet higher than the creek, the opposite or north bank and half of the creek was in their field of vision. Those in the creek were ordered to pull back by crawling downstream toward Kressbach. If one made the mistake of venturing toward the opposite side he was sure to be wounded. If he attempted to look over the near bank he suffered the same fate. The creek soon contained many dead and wounded also . The final results indicated that 6 died in the creek.
Members of the lead squad who had gotten back to the safety of the creek faced a trip of as much as a thousand yards through the cold water. The only chance of getting back was to stay under water as much as possible and hug the south bank closest to the edge of the forest. Where the bank was lowest it was imperative to stay under water all the way. It was possible to breathe by opening the breach of the rifle and putting the barrel in the mouth. Then by staying on one`s back and holding the rifle butt just out of the water one could get a breath.
After creeping down the stream as far as the town there was an open space of about fifty feet and then a large manure pile adjacent to a barn at the southeast corner of town. If he was able to get to the place in the stream closest to the manure pile, one had to get out and run to the pile. After two or three attempts to negotiate this route, the 17th SS defenders zeroed a machine gun in to fire at the escapees. At this point, the creek made a 90 degree turn toward town which afforded enfilading fire for the enemy.
Sgt. Warmoth called for smoke which distorted the 17th SS field of vision and allowed the escape from the creek.
One more surprise was in Store. Then wearing combat boots it is normal to tuck the pant legs into the top of the boots. During the trip down the creek, the pants filled with water and as each man would make the attempt to run to the manure pile he had perhaps two gallons of water in his legs to slosh around. This would add about 15 pounds to the weight of his legs making running almost impossible. Most fell two or three times in the fifty-foot run.
In the course of this trip it was not uncommon for a soldier to lose or leave his rifle in the stream. At the point where they started to run from the stream to the safety of the Manure pile Sgt. Warmoth directed that his men leave their weapons to reduce the weight during the run. After this skirmish was concluded, there was criticism of the first platoon and T/Sgt. Warmoth for some members who abandoned their rifles. It is assumed that the criticism came from the same people who issued or sanctioned the order to cross an open field parallel to an entrenched enemy defensive Line.”
63rd Infantry Division records
M. L. Froberg – Where the hell is hiltonfingen – 1981 book
the U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947
U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010
Pennsylvania, U.S., Veteran Compensation Application Files, WWII, 1950-1966
U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951
Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964
the 1920 United States Federal Census
the 1940 United States Federal Census
the 1950 United States Federal Census