He volunteered for service in 1942 after Pearl Harbor with the 28th Infantry Division, nicknamed “The Keystone” Division, years later this would change to a more macabre but fitting name, The Bucket of Blood. After training at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania his unit shipped out to Southampton, England, 8 Oct 1943. He was 27, the exact age I was entering combat my first time. As fate would have it, I was deployed to Ar Ramadi, Iraq seemingly worlds away from anything connected to him. However, the first day I was there I found that the 28th Infantry Division was deployed to Camp Ramadi and I served side by side with the division of my father.
After ten months of training in England, the 28th Division landed in Normandy 22 July 1944 and began the fierce hedgerow fighting in western France in towns such as Percy, Gathemo and Montbray. The 28th fought mightily and with fury earning the nickname, “The Bucket of Blood” by the German Army. They advanced quickly toward the Seine and soon succeeded in trapping the remnant of the German 7th Army and pushing on towards Paris to join its liberation. He marched through the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysees as proud as could be, enjoying the moment of history he was a part of. Soon, following that parade, the 28th would be moving on to fight some of the bloodiest battles of the war. A war that changed him forever, something that would bond us at the very twilight of his life.
September 1944, my father and his unit averaged 17 miles a day battling resistance of German “battle groups” pushing through Arlon, Belgium then on to Luxembourg. On September 11, 1944, 57 years before the event, that moved me to join the calling of my family line, my father entered Germany and the 28th claimed the distinction of being the first American unit to enter the Fatherland. After a brief but hard-earned rest, my father fought through Vossenack, Kommerscheidt, and Schmidt his division sustaining heavy losses, most of his friends buried in that very forest to this day, he took these memories to the grave in July of this year. Attacks in the Huertgen Forest began November 2 and by the 10th, his division began moving south where it held a 25-mile sector of the front line along the Our River. It was winter in the Ardennes and Hitler had unleashed his last-ditch Blitzkrieg offensive. My father was in the forest, in his foxhole cleaning his weapon when five full Axis divisions stormed across the Our River that first day. The next day four more divisions raced across the river to join this effort to push through the lines and cut off the Allied march forward. Overwhelmed by the weight of enemy armor and personnel, the tired and injured 28th maintained its defense of the line, held it strong enough to throw Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt’s assault off schedule and allow a counterattack we all know as the “Battle of the Bulge”.
The division sustained heavy casualties, 15,000 and were forced to withdraw to refortify. Three weeks later, they were on the move again serving with the French 1st Army. By the spring of 1945, he had pushed to the Rhine and took up occupation duties north of Aachen and by early July 1945, they were headed home.
What a story, what a campaign, such sacrifice. That was my father’s life; he gave up so others could have. As he got older and had children he worked at time, 3 jobs to sustain his family of 5 working late into the night and getting up early in the morning. He wasn’t rich by this world’s standards, his life may even have been thought of as ordinary but to me, his blood grandchild, but truly his son he was extraordinary. He was my father when I mine abandoned me. He was my teacher, my mentor and as I grew into a man, he became my confident, my friend. His memory will always live on through those he sacrificed for. Death took his body, but nothing could ever take his legacy.
I love you dad.
Jaeson "Doc" Parsons (Sieger)