Capt. Russell A. Freas
It has taken some piecing together but I think I have put together what happened with Capt Freas. The story is not complete and his death may never be fully explained but I am still pursuing leads. I also hope to find the General Orders for the Silver Star, but recently came across an article in the Chester Times [PA] (May 9, 1946) which contained a portion of the Citation.
The Service Company Freas commanded was re-organized as a rifle company. They were then ordered to counter attack the Germans in the town of Bleialf. Freas personally led his men into many of the town’s buildings and captured numerous German prisoners himself. His actions pushed the Germans out of the zone of his responsibility. After three days of arduous combat, two regiments of the 106th Division, the 422nd and the 423rd, were surrounded. While both regiments continued to fight, supplies of ammunition and food ran low. On December 18, the regiments counter-attached in hopes of breaking through the German lines. This bold action was blocked by sheer weight of German numbers. Both regiments surrendered.
The Germans marched 985 captured men of the 106th for four days until they reached Stalag XIIA near Limburg, Germany. The Americans never entered the camp, but were packed into boxcars, 60 men to a boxcar, and transported to Stalag 9-B, considered to be one of the worst POW camps in Germany. During the trip to Stalag 9-B, eight men attempted to escape and were killed by an exploding land mine. The German sergeant in charge was enraged and began shooting. Although the sergeant knew that every boxcar was densely packed, he fired a round through the door of a car, killing an American soldier.
In 1946, Freas was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry.
I appreciate your assistance and hope this information is helpful. Of course if you see something that needs correction, please let me know.
Ronald Romanowicz '68 #481
PMC Remembrance Project