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Paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

 
 
 

This page is dedicated to Northam H. Stolp of B company

 


Northam H. "Doc" Stolp wrote the following narrative after his company was ordered into Mook, Holland. Doc was a private at the time and a member of a bazooka team. The three team members were Anthony Antoniou, Martin Decker and N.H. 'Doc' Stolp. Anthony had been separated from the team since the jump on September 17th 1944.

 

Below is an excerpt from 'N.H."Doc" Stolp's Story'

The enemy wanted Mook in the worst way because it was the lynchpin of the perimeter and the anchor for the whole area east and south of Nijmegen. If they had been able to take it they could have driven north along the river on their "safe" left flank, all the way to Nijmegen. They would have been in the rear of the entire 82nd perimeter which stretched from Mook on the south, around and curving out east through Groesbeek and on up in an arc to tie in at the river east of Nijmegen.

My partner, Martin Decker and I, along with a shattered piece of our platoon, probably not over 20 men, were pushed up the main street of Mook at this time. We had not yet had any appreciable reinforcement and were spread out on a generally east west line, across the width of the town from the river on the west to the open fields on the east. The town was probably only two or three blocks wide in general. The fighting was terrifying. The lines were only advanced one building at a time, and lost the same way! Only to be regained by the troopers shooting their way in and through them. For a long time we had no tank support at all. Finally, one British tank made it through to where we were crawling on our stomachs along the trees lining the street every 20 or 30 yards. We were terribly exposed. We had been ordered by Col. Ekman to "get on up the street". As we had all been stopped cold by a withering fire and our raw, fully exposed positions in the road, we were making no progress. The buildings on our side of the street were mainly two-story houses and combinations with little shops in the front of the lower floor areas. They were crawling with enemy troops. Generally, one could not see whom or from where the fire was coming. In truth, we were really stopped! The boys on the other side of the road, which ran parallel to the river, were fighting their way through a huge "monastery" or some such religious building, which was probably two blocks long. It's grounds were enclosed by a high brick wall on all sides except the river bank side. The side which paralleled the street offered good cover for the men coming up that side, but left them entirely exposed to the fire coming from the houses on our side. They had the same few large elm type trees we did, similarly placed along the street. These offered cover from directly ahead, but nothing from our side. I can recall about six men working their way along that side of the street. One was coming along, from tree to tree, when he ran out of trees as he neared the point where the wall turned a right angle and went away down one side of a sort of alley, which ran to the river. There was no cover left from there on. No one could cross the alley due to the intense machine-gun fire coming up it from the riverbank area. The noise was intense and the confusion was total! I recall, in spite of the intensity of the situation and the immediacy of having to deal with someone who was firing down on us from a window directly over our heads, that the boy coming up the other side, and about 20 yards back, was without a weapon! He would crawl a few yards then stop and rise up on one knee and survey the road ahead. He seemed to be dressed in "ODs" and looked for all the world like an Air Force member in his class "A" uniform! As I was trying to figure how to tell him not to cross the alley, I saw him jolted, once, twice and yet a third time as if someone was kicking him in the chest. He fell forward, squirmed and tried to crawl ahead toward the hidden enemy positions in the houses and hedges ahead. He died there, facing an enemy, without a weapon, doing his level best to force the Germans out of his world! He was untrained in infantry fighting.... knew nothing of what he was about except that someone had told him to fight up the street! I have since identified him as the Air Force member who was found to have stowed away on the gliders in the earliest lifts and made his way to our area. Another heroic American who wanted to be part of our fight for freedom!

Along with this kid and a bit behind him was a long, tall Texan type. He was a glider pilot/warrant officer. He had a Thompson submachine gun and a lot of guts! He moved up past the fallen Airman and got behind the last tree before the alley. He and I exchanged some idiotic "pleasantries" and returned to trying to become part of the concrete! I had become aware the arrangements of the landscape across the street and about even with my position behind my lovely tree. Civilians were digging near a basement window to deepen their protection from the battles. They had done a considerable amount of work and had piled the dirt in a pile that looked to be about 2 1/2 feet high and 15 feet long in the driveway. In those days, the Germans had begun to run out of war materials. They had taken to making backpacks out of raw leather with the fir still on it. One frequently found brown and white, mottled, cowhide packs thrown here and there. I saw one of those cow colored backpacks, going along and sticking just up above the top of the dirt pile in the driveway! It was bouncing up and down as if a man was crouched over and sneaking toward the river, which was to our west as you may recall. I knew what it meant at once and since I was unable to get a line on it, I called it to the attention of the long tall Texan glider pilot across the street. He was in almost perfect alignment with the 'bandit'. I asked him if he could see the window of the house ahead on the side facing him. He assured me he could! So I told him to site on the first 6 to 8 inches of the dirt pile just below that window and tear it up from end to end. He complied beautifully. My mind said "Gotcha!" You bastard! The pack had vanished! the height of the pile had been reduced measurably. The Warrant officer, glider pilot was smiling broadly across at me as he turned his Tommy-gun clip-pack end for end and reinserted it in his weapon. Texas done good!! Score one for our side.

About this moment, our medic, Jess Weaver, came up the middle of the street from behind us someplace, and moved to the body of a fallen trooper in the middle of the street. This man had been shot and fallen just about the same time the "Airman kid" on the other side had been hit. I was soon to find out that the same S.S. parachutist had gotten them all and I found where and how he had done it. Jess came on "all fours" creeping up the street. He kept checking ahead as he came. He would move a few feet, stop and look up as if expecting to be hit. The look on his face was pure terror. Those of you who have experienced this sort of thing will know what I mean. He had the red and white "medic cross" on his helmet and by God's grace the enemy let him come on. His luck held and he got to the alley level without any of the other unseen bullets and shrapnel's catching him up. He checked the guy in the street. He was obviously dead. Then Jess went back and over to the other side of the street to check several wounded there, checked the airman (who was dead already and beyond help), and then went somewhere tending to the wounded along that side of the street. There were several! I have never seen a braver act then that day and moment Jess Weaver crawled into suicidal fire to tend to them, he should get the Congressional Medal!! All this happened in a very few minutes.... time was stopped and it was all in almost "slow motion". It takes a long time to record each scene, but it was a long day!

In the meantime, and subsequently, my partner and I were stuck behind our tree.... it was progressively being sawed off by the machine-gun fire coming down the alley across the street and the generous fire coming from ahead someplace. It was almost at ground level, affording us only about 18 inches of "safe" space over our prostrate bodies. The bits of tree were getting in our eyes and rendering seeing very difficult.... it was like being under a "buzz saw" in a saw mill! We did not dare to rise up and could hardly lift our heads to look ahead without being hit. During some short breaks in the curtain of fire we heard the shots of the guy in the house window above us. I determined to try to knock him out of there with a grenade. I didn't know how many there were up there, nor which other windows they might be occupying! I only knew there was this continual "WHAP - WHAP" right over head. A moment of quiet came. I had the grenade, pin out, and ready. I jumped up and tossed it up into the open window. I remember feeling pretty good as I saw that the trajectory and alignment was just right going in. I was expecting a blast and anticipating a lot of junk coming out when, to my horror here came my grenade! Several seconds had already elapsed.... It was timed to go off in 3 seconds, I believe. It was on its way back to me! Just moments before this, and while all the above had been going on, Sgt. Baldry and a trooper named Stoneking and another named Mount, had come up from behind us, pounding up and passed us on a dead run.They went ahead of us into the foreground of a small, sheet metal covered sort of auto-garage. It was set back about 20-30 feet as an "alcove" off the street. There was the usual apron driveway, much like any gas-station would have. The far side was limited by a very high brick wall running at right angles to the sidewalk and street. It was totally covered with heavy ivy vines. You could hardly see the bricks. It seemed a good cover. They had a 30 cal. machine gun with a tripod ground mount. Stoneking was the gunner, Mount, the ammunition bearer and assistant gunner and Sgt. Baldry the commander. They threw the gun down into place, took their best targets of opportunity. They seemed in a quite safe place having made it through the stream of machine-gun fire coming down the alley across the street and every place else! They had been ordered forward by Colonel Ekman and Lieutenant Schimpf (Stolp's platoon leader) about a block back, where we had been sent from. [Earlier] Just before that was ordered, Stoneking and Mount came to us and dove down behind a huge log of an old Elm which gave them good cover. They were in high spirits and smiling and joking some. Stoneking looked up at me and laughed as I said," I heard you were killed yesterday!", Hardly masking my astonishment. He laughed and said, "nope - they didn't get me yet!" My grenade had now landed near the house foundation. I hollered "grenade!" to all and sundry around, and stared right at the damn thing, all the while expecting it to go off and take my life! I remember realizing that I was between my gunner and the grenade and that he was reasonably safe.(You think strangely at times like that!). At that very instant, Sgt. Baldry came staggering back toward us, he was standing straight up. His tongue was purple and sticking out about 2 feet, it seemed. Blood was squirting out from under the collar of his jacket which he was desperately trying to button up, over the obviously gone neck! His eyes were rolled way back with only the whites showing and his head seemed to be falling off backwards. He lurched towards me. I screamed at him, "GET DOWN BALDRY",(he was about to step into the line of bullets coming up the alley across the street). He fell at that moment, full-length between the grenade and me. It went off. I don't remember much at that point except that I said to myself, "if he wasn't dead already, that surely would have killed him!". I felt an intense relief, it wasn't me! Then a great guilt assailed me. Another notch was cut into my already tattered nervous system! I didn't have time to think about it all. They were still shooting at us from the windows above. Why they couldn't seem to hit us, I cannot imagine! Just luck, I guess. We were surely a still and fixed target, not less than 20 feet away! I told my gunner to toss a grenade into the window. You would have had to know this guy to comprehend this next bit. He stood up, rummaged around in his pockets like a man bemused and searching, peering slowly and rather lost like, found a grenade and still standing amongst the buzz saw "WHICH WAS TEARING UP OUR TREE!!!", Pulled the pin, the handle popped off, he held it out, looked at it as if expecting a message or something from it, stepped back and lobbed it into the window. He watched it go. He had thrown it well and very hard, so it must have cleared the shooters up there and hit the back wall of the small room. It had been held so long that it went off almost immediately. We got no more attention from that window! He dropped down again and resumed trying to become part of the concrete beside me. Somewhere in this last 60 seconds or so, and right after Baldry died beside me, Mount came staggering back from the ill fated machine-gun position. He seemed to be "out of it" entirely. His face was a lead mask of horror, his gait was almost a "dream sequence", as he walked past us going to the rear. He was right on the sidewalk and walked right through the stream of fire that was barely passing over our still prone bodies behind our tree. He did not seem to be hit, just shocked out of his mind! * [see Editor's note below]

As I have described above, a British tank came up our side of the street. It was blasting away with its 50 cal. and it's cannon. It was coming on quite fast. We were damned glad to hear and see it coming (for a couple of moments) as we figured it would give us cover against the machine gun in the alley. We began to suffer from the counter-fire directed from ahead at the tank. We were forced to squeeze over, still behind our tree, by the fire coming down the sidewalk! This pushed me to have to crawl across the back of my partner, he seemed rooted to the spot. So I crawled across and lay tucked up far from the roadside as I could be, since he would not move a fraction of an inch. The tank seem to feel it's best path lay in skinning the remaining bark off the street side of our tree, it came on steadily and closing on our position. It would fire it's cannon every few yards, apparently as fast as the gunner could reload. The 50 kept up an almost constant fire. It became more deafening with each second. Soon it was almost upon me where I lay at the street side. It's cannon explosions were now lifting me and everything else off the street. Each time it fired the dirt and debris would lift, totally cleanly off the street and I with it. It made a clear space one could see through, moving the smoke and dust and all the debris that was in the air up and away for a brief second. Then it would slam all lifted objects back to earth with a tremendous force that knocked the wind out of me and dazed my eyeballs! The 50 kept hammering away and my ears were terribly painful, I could only hear the guns as the tank proceeded with this track and fire. It rolled so close to me that the extreme outer margin of its left track rolled onto the edge of the sleeve of my jacket! I felt nothing. My arm was spared somehow.

The slamming effect of the cannon continued. The tank chose this spot to grind to a halt! My sleeve was still under the tread. I was about knocked out. I received the jolt of my life [when] a "Panzerfaust" rocket type grenade impacted the right far side of the tank. It blew up the tank and everything went with it. I found myself in the front, "store" portion, of the house we had recently grenaded. I was erect as I recall and brushing glass shards off my jacket. I had my malfunctioning, folding stock carbine... a couple of bazooka rounds in their cases stuck in my belt somehow, and precious little else! I do not to this day know how I got there. Anyway, as long as I had somehow crossed the intersecting lines of fire and was in one piece in a house with the upper floors burning (and hopefully all dead enemies upstairs) I figured I had best continue and clean out the house. I charged (stupidly, but bravely) through the doorway from the store part into the living quarters in the back. I recall there was something or someone just leaving. I felt, almost rather than saw, a jacket tail or something, zip past the back door to the outside. At that moment my attention was drawn to a little can (like a tuna can) on the table, and some other clutter that looked as though someone had just hurriedly left-off eating! I delayed my patrol to try the contents of the can. It was horrible stuff. I ate it. Probably, fortunately for me, there was only a very little left. I then went out the back door following the ghost that had zipped out as I came in. There was no one in sight.

[As a result of private Stolp being blown across the street and clearing the house, he was about to learn how Sgt Baldry, Stoneking and Mount were killed in that seemingly safe gas station alcove with the brick wall.]

I had cleaned out the house and gone around the back through the back door to the right and around the south side, the brick wall ahead bordering the driveway, had beneath its intense ivy foliage, a small window hole in it. It was about eyeball level for an average man and had a neat little hinge door on it. This door swung to the enemy side when open, revealing a total view of everything coming up the street on either side! It made an opening about ten inches by ten inches and was completely hidden there. When Stoneking and Mount and Baldry ran up and set up the machine gun in the "gas station" area, Stoneking on the gun was apparently "sighting" with it. The kraut behind the little vine covered brick wall (window) waited till he had his eye right up to the sight and poured a full burst of "Schmeiser" machine pistol right into his forehead. This totally hollowed out his skull, face etc, and all, and his head dropped right down on and over the handle of the gun.... it was totally inside his head! This guy had us all covered and could have stopped the whole drive right there. He wouldn't have been discovered till I had come around the house! It would probably have been the end of me right there.... He had us cold! I believe he had killed all those who died there, by himself! He then took Baldry next then Mount. He couldn't hit me or my gunner because of the tree. He could, and did, hit everything else! We were totally unaware of his presence and therefore could not have eliminated him. How I have always regretted that we did not detect him. What a target it would have made for our bazooka! [see artist's rendering of gas station below]

I had somehow collected my gunner-partner, and the few remaining men of our platoon had pretty well checked out the immediate area and cleaned out the buildings. The rest of our attacking force to our west had reamed out the religious institution, crossed the damn alley and silenced the endless fire that had been keeping us pinned down at our side of town. The enemy force ahead of us had given some ground and pulled back a bit. We now found ourselves on the west river side of the street. [Private Stolp and the remaining men in his platoon were then gathered up and sent into a nearby apple orchard.]

We seemed to be pinned down and ordered to stay put. I only recall that something very serious must have happened beyond the fight of the day and the shelling and mortaring we were getting. That general intensity of the firing was enough and we were told to sit tight in the orchard and expect a terrible onslaught to come! It had grown quite dark and now the entire town was ablaze. Virtually every house was a fire! The orange glow was undulating and a nauseating smell, something like that fondly remembered smell of the burning leaves in the fall (and it was fall) began to permeate the entire area. But it wasn't pleasant like my memories of fall burnings always had been. There was something else in it and it subconsciously raised the hair on our necks. We were in total shock at this point, bracing ourselves for each salvo of artillery shells which announce themselves unnervingly. The realization and the memories of the killing of our men during the day, as well as the shock of the continued death's and woundings, was draining us all. The fire in the town was growing larger, sending great showers of burning debris and sparks with each additional salvo of shell . The constant small arms fire containing tracers seem to be horizontal sparks. At least he's kept us aware of just where the stream of bullets was! The brick wall on the south of the monastery (or whatever it was) was being crumpled by the impacting machine gun fire. It was freezing cold and the fires did nothing to warm us. In our general starvation and state of shocked exhaustion we were rapidly losing our hold on reality. Certainly any remaining ability we had, which we would hope to carry us through whatever evil was about to descend upon us, was going swiftly down the drain. We were a sorry and beat out lot! I didn't dare reach up to pick the apple dangling just arms length overhead.( It was far too dangerous. One lone apple wasn't worth my arm!) I suppose it must have been somewhere between 10 PM and perhaps midnight or 1 a.m. when we were laying there in our stupor and the situation suddenly became electric! Whatever there was left in our innate subconscious, alerted us to something different happening, even before our work reality-sensing minds came awake to it. The adrenaline was pumping great gobs! We were awake and alert and terrified! Natures preparation over, the millennia past, to "fight or flight", came instantly into play. It only made us weaker at that moment. I doubt any of us could have done either very well. Whatever it was out there, was coming! It was felt almost more than seen, nor did it register anywhere in the mind that it was in any way familiar amongst all the horrors we had so recently experience and filed away in our memories. What in the HELL was that!?? All at once "IT" seemed to increase a level we all recognize as being more than imminent! Whatever it was, was almost upon us and it was coming out of the wall of the flame-storm ahead of us! All at once we knew what we were sensing. It was a blood chilling sound! A sound the likes of which none of us has heard before or since(thank God!). It was totally mind stopping! A sort of numbing, hysteria and feeling of panic was setting in. At that moment most of the shelling and firing stopped. The almost silence was even more eerie and it pressed in upon our stimulated stupor such as to make us worse than during the dreaded shelling. It was coming out of the wall of flames to our right front. From the little passageway on the unseen grassy trail to our right front, came a " CLOT of humanity" such as you have never seen! It was a formless mass, undulating, screaming, moaning in pure terror! People were staggering, falling, trying to run.... their clothing was in some places a fire, they were carrying anything you can imagine. There were babies in the arms of many. Many were men, many were little children, girls and boys of every age. Mothers carrying little babies and blankets...as smaller children clung to their dresses and were dragged, screaming and crying, along. All were screaming and groaning and hollering at the top of their lungs! Those with fire on them fell and rolled about in agony, then got up to run toward us again. We were virtually out of our minds! What a horror! And now we begin to realize what the burning smell was. Many people had delayed trying to leave the battle and taken refuge in the holes they had dug in their basements. They were literally being cremated in their own homes!! I still have trouble in the fall when the leaves are burned and the smoke pall hangs heavy in light fog of a fall evening. You get no medals or "Purple Heart" for such wounds!

We took Mook [with the help of company A] and a few days later were relieved by the newly landed 325th glider boys. We were only too glad to leave. We had to come back and do it over later. I remember very little about the return trip, or the why of it. We were moved about to plug various "holes" in the division's perimeter.

* (Editor's note; I was to find out 45 years later at a 505 PIR B-company reunion, that Mount (William L.) had indeed been hit moments before, along with Baldry and Stoneking. He had received several wounds to his abdomen and he was pretty badly shot up. I never saw him again! He did survive his wounds and attends some of the reunions.)

 


 

                    Private First Class Northam H. Stolp

 Pfc. Northham H. "Doc" Stolp  B company



 


 

Rendering of street scene (Mook, Holland)Mook street scene



 


 

Mook, Holland after the fire 1944



 


 

Martin Decker - N.H."Doc" Stolp - Anthony Antoniu, B company bazooka team at 505 reunion.
Martin Decker - N.H."Doc" Stolp - Anthony Antoniu  B company bazooka team



 


 

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