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WWII ~ 2nd Division ~ Co B ~ 9th Infantry
Pvt. Burke One Of Two Wounded
In "Heartbreak Crossroads" Fight
Pvt. Harold M. Burke, husband of Mrs. Gertrude Burke of 718 - 13th street
and son of S. Burke of 2825 16th street, was one of two men wounded in
the heroic battle of "Heartbreak Crossroads" staged by the Second Infantry
division. Pvt. Burke, who received the Purple Heart and the Infantry Combat
medal for action in that battle is now in a hospital in England. He has
been in the service since Jan. 28, 1943 and has been over seas about six
"Stars And Stripes" Account
An account of the battle, as published in "Stars and Stripes," follows:
"They called it Heartbreak Crossroads. It was a 24 pillbox chunk of the
Siegfried line in the Monschau sector, and for four days of bitter cold
weather the Ninth infantry regiment battered against its guns and wire
and steel. Thirteen doughs finally cut a path through acres of barbed wire,
fought their way into a communications trench directly linking two key
pillboxes and for five nightmare hours stood off both forces to help make
possible the eventual capture of the position.
"Twenty-four hours after the crossroads was taken the Wehrmacht began its
winter offensive and the regiment had to leave its expensively-won
pillboxes to help halt the breakthrough.
"On the morning of Dec. 13 the Ninth jumped off against the solid belt of
Siegfried fortifications. Halted by multiple-covered expanses of twisted
barbed wire, the regiment sent out 10 men. They crawled through a 40-yard
belt of concertina wire in two layers six feet high, under the machine gun
fire and flanked by minefields. They lost one man before they scrambled
into the zigzag communications trench directly under the guns of two
Nazi Ruse Thwarted
"Under cover of the first group of men, another group of six men started
out to cut wire. Two were wounded (including Pvt. Burke), but two others
opened a four-foot gap all across the field and joined the first group in
the trench. "During the next five hours, the Yanks beat off a patrol from
the pillbox on their right, thwarted a Nazi ruse to capture them through a
proposed truce parley, smashed a counterattack from the woods beyond them,
beat off a charge from the pillbox on their left and withstood continued
fire from both pillboxes and from other supporting positions. They lost two
dead and two wounded, but when darkness fell, they could go back to the
regiment and report the wire cut.
"After an artillery barrage of 48 hours, the regiment's assault force went
through the wire and smashed the pillboxes. Hours later the German winter
push started, and they left the place and called it Heartbreak Crossroads."
Click here for the article as one long piece.
Note: Of special interest. Pvt. Burke was wounded on December
16, 1944. It was also when The Battle of the Bulge began.
Pvt. Burke (daddy) was honorably discharged November 3, 1945.
See Pvt. Burke page 3 for that information.
My father's youngest sister, Gloria, said these guys uniforms were
frozen and they nearly froze from the cold and the snow. I researched
and found that it was the coldest weather in Germany as of the date
I was researching the weather which was in 2005.
She also said daddy had frost bite besides being wounded so close
to his heart they could not remove the shrapnel. It was two days
before daddy was found. He was sent to a hospital in England. What
torment to be that severely wounded and left to die. It is also my
understanding that the men did not have radio contact with their
outfit. It's a miracle that he survived. Al Costillo, author of "Keep Up
The Fire," validated the information.
Heartbreak Crossroads is rarely mentioned in movies about The
Battle of the Bulge but this is when it began.
There is a YouTube video that shows a lot of what the circumstances
were at the time of Heartbreak Crossroads. Click on the title.
HeartbreakCrossroads compiled by Hans Heerink. Toward the end of
the video the Stars and Stripes article about daddy Burke is there.
The following information is in my notes but I need to search and
find where I acquired. Please note toward the end of these paragraphs,
it is noted they took out 7 pill boxes and 77 prisoners.
I separated these sentences into several paragraphs for clarity.
This is a quote but please I need to find where I acquired it.
"On December 13, 1944 our regiment jumped off in an attack through
the Monschau Forest toward Dreiborn to seize the road network
called Wehlerscheid which became known to us as Heartbreak
Crossroads. When we jumped off this attack we went through our
own 99 Infantry Division in a driving snowstorm.
We proceeded with moderate resistance 'til we reached a point
west of Rockarath and the Wehlerscheid Road where we ran into
a lot of enemy obstacles; wire and anti-personal mines with
trip wires were criss-crossed everywhere. We were out of the
forest and into the open now and we began to draw intense fire
from the pillboxes ahead. The machine gun fire and artillery
fire was so intense on the roads that we took to the fields.
The pillboxes here were 30 to 50 yards apart. Being unable to
move forward we waited till dark and then taking bangalore
charges we blasted our way into the pillbox area. Shortly
before midnight we were ordered to break off the attack and
wait for daylight. The rest of that night was a miserable one.
We were all wet from snow. We nearly froze. Our clothes were
frozen. It was a relief when daylight came and we renewed the
attack on the pillboxes using beehive explosives to blow the
steel doors open on 7 pillboxes and taking 77 prisoners.
To most men of the Second, the Wehlersheid Offensive became
known as the battle of Heartbreak Crossroads -- and with good
reason. It was a savage, costly four-day battle in freezing
weather, which ended with the fruits of victory being snatched
away under circumstances utterly beyond the control of the men
who fought there.
The battle of Heartbreak Crossroads was a battle for the Roer
River dams. The Second had the mission of capturing the dams if
possible, or to force the enemy to blow the dams and eliminate
the threat of the floodwaters wrecking the river crossings planned
along the river. From Gemund, the river ran North several hundred
miles and was a dangerous threat to the Allied advance as long
as the enemy controlled the dams. The division's mission was an
Roads into Germany had proved to be scarce and heavily defended.
There was only one good one leading to the dams in the division's
There are pictures one of which includes the road signs. I was
able to identify the names on the road signs. but until I can
locate where I acquired the information, this is it.
As I find more information about Heartbreak Crossroads, I will add
it but perhaps on a new page.
I will upload a photo of the bible that surely helped to save his
life. My aunt Naomi and uncle Bill gave it to daddy before he left
for war. The front cover of the book is made of metal. It's a small
pocket bible that maybe was carried in a front pocket of his uniform,
perhaps the left chest pocket!?
Daddy Burke was a real war hero. He went to his grave with shrapnel
still near his heart. Can you imagine the pain he had to endure his
entire lifetime? He died at age 59 of a heart attack. I was about
seven or eight years of age when mother divorced daddy Burke.
Continue through these pages for his Memorial page.
My brother, Ronnie, and I consider ourselves fortunate to have had
two fathers: Harold Burke and Charlie Bigler. Visit Charlie's pages
My brother, Ronnie, sent me this email. I cried when I read it.
It still brings tears to my eyes.
"Can't add much at this time without some research.
I can say that everyone needs to read the Stars and
Stripes essay of the circumstances and bravery of
the 10 men that were sent to cut the wire and make
it possible for the events to unfold. Two killed, two
wounded but able to make it back and report the fence
line had been severed. Our Dad Harold being one of
the wounded and able to return could only make Camp
Fannin proud to have had a part in preparing him for
what was ahead.
He was a member of without a doubt
the Greatest generation.
He always chose to do whatever was better for the people
in his life even if it was at a great sacrifice for
himself. Not a movie star, not a sports star just one
of the thousands of true American heroes that did what
they were sent to do to protect the rights and freedom
of generations to come. He lives on thru his son,
daughter, grandsons and grand daughters that, because
of the wounds received made his life difficult to be
normal, he chose a way to make their lives better."
My added note: It was reported to me by Al Castillo
that it was two days before daddy Burke was found.
Daddy was unable to return back to his outfit to report
their success. Eight guys were killed. They did not have
radio contact with their outfit.
Click here to return to the WWII entry page.
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