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Memorial Day - Letter From WWII Soldier

The following letter was sent to me by someone who was the cousin of Sergeant William Erikson.

St. Louis, MO. March 1st 1947

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Erickson:

This letter will probably come as a surprise, but the notation of the date will explain. Maybe it is not the thing to do, perhaps open old wounds. Yet I feel sure that you recognize, as I do, that our loved ones live on in the impression they have made upon others.

March 1, 1945, I was awakened at 5:30 A.M. by Sgt. Erickson. We were sleeping side by side between the tracks under the tank we loved. He was William to you, but to us, he was Sergeant Eickson, the man we will ever be proud to say we knew. The sun came up shortly and the ground was covered with snow, much as today. We ate breakfast together, for I stuck close to the Sgt. I knew that big things had been cut out for us that day, and I was scared. He explained to me that after a man saw what had to be done he somehow received the courage to do it. I didn't understand exactly what he meant until several weeks later.

We moved out at 8:30 and soon passed all of the light artillery and finally got up to where there was only infantry. These moved rapidly from place to place, or stayed low on the ground, or behind walls. As we cautiously advanced, elements of the division and battalion kept pulling to the side until we, alone were in the lead. We were the lead of the lead platoon of the lead company of the lead battalion of our division and our chances were very slight. As Sgt. Erickson put it, "Well, somebody has to be out here, and I guess it's us."

We stopped within the protective walls of Berg, Germany and got out of the tank and took a smoke. Lt. Wheeler told the Sgt. to take the platoon lead and gave him the information which he sadly relayed to us, "The 78th Infantry Division has opened a drive to Cologne, and has been stopped at the hill for two days." It was heavily protected by anti-tank guns, tank destroyers and the Infantry. Over it lay Wollersheim, key city to the defense of Cologne and the Remagen Bridge (but we did not know it at the time).

By this time, I was really scared and the Sgt. said, "Zeirs, just keep your eyes and ears open and do as I have shown you and you'll come out on top." Those were his last (personal) words to me, and they are as true today as then, two years ago.

We climbed into our tank and started off when all Hell broke loose. Just before it happened, Sgt. Erickson's voice came over the wire, "Prugh, you had better close your hatch, I smell trouble." His last words were typical, his thoughtfulness of others. There are many who will never forget him.

Charles Ziers

William M. Erickson, Jr., age 34, Staff Sergeant with Company C of the 19th Tank Battalion of Combat Command A of the 9th Armored Division. Having survived the Battle of the Budge, he lost his life in March 1945 when his tank was hit by artillery fire in an attack on Wollersheim, Germany, on the 9th's "drive to the Rhine."