Infantry, 34th “Red Bull” Division
United States Army
The Kasserine Pass Campaign. Faid Pass.
February 17th 1943. The
34th Division’s Red Bulls... These words and the names of men
taken prisoner that day come up over and over again on the rosters of
American POWs held in Germany. They
had the dubious distinction of spending more time in greater numbers in the
camps than any other group from any other state.
And yet among them, there is no written complaint yet found that lays
blame with the Allied commanders who so badly misjudged the German position
The reality was that two German
divisions, led by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and Col. Gen. Hans von Arnim,
were on the move; facing them were fragmented units stretched too thin over
a 60-mile front. The Americans
there were the first to engage the Germans in combat, the first to fight in
the desert and the only group who had received little, if any, desert
warfare training. Some of them, in fact, had been issued so much winter
clothing that they never dreamed North Africa would be their destination.
The first week of February, under
command of the 1st Armored Division, the 34th
Division’s 168th Infantry took up positions in the vicinity of
Sidi Bou Zid near Faid Pass. The Regiment was still in these positions when
the main portion of the Division closed into Maktar and began the relief of
French troops in the sector between Pichon and El Ala. The Red Bull’s
Infantry, last element of the Division to close into the Maktar area,
had barely completed the relief of the French in the sector south from El
Ala to the Fondouk highway, when the German breakthrough at Faid was
reported. In the face of the enemy successes south of the Division they were
ordered to withdraw 30 kilometers west to a new defense line.
the meantime the 168th Infantry, engulfed in the rush of German infantry and
armor, was surrounded and cut to pieces with very heavy losses. Some of the
troops managed to infiltrate through the enemy ring and make their way to
Allied lines once more, but when the stragglers were brought together only
about half of the Regiment remained; the others, over 2000 were killed or
captured. Members of the 133rd
did not entirely escape, either.
Carl wrote his friend Jim from Stalag
II B at Hammerstein in East Prussia, the same camp where Joe Blackwell was
Stalag II B covered twenty-five acres
and was divided into compounds and sub-compounds.
Nationalities were separated. For
example, the east compound listed 10,000 Russians; and there were 16,000
Frenchmen assigned to the camp. Most
of the POWs were at the 9 work kommando rather than at the main camp.
At the end of the war, U.S. Military
Intelligence’s final report on II B claimed that treatment there was worse
than at any other camp organized before the Battle of the Bulge, and that
beatings and mistreatment were especially prevalent out at the work sites. Ten Americans, in fact, were shot to death at the work camp
Most of the American POWs at II B, over
1,200, and some from the Kommandos were moved out in late January of 1945
when the Russian troops were closing in from the east.
They endured the three-month, bitter-cold forced march across Germany
now called the “Death March.”
Carl Schneider’s sons have collected letters, photos and articles
to keep their father’s story alive. He
and his fellows in the 34th are also honored and their
experiences recorded at the Iowa Gold Star Museum in Johnston, Iowa, and in
the history of the 34th, which has been written and posted
on-line by the Division itself. The Division has held numerous reunions of its men, but at
last summer’s reunion, the numbers were dwindling—another sign of the
need to capture their stories now.
Iowa, March 9th, 1943
sent the message home with Babe a few minutes ago, with instructions to
break it gently. Did not want
to let anyone in on it until I got home this evening, but wanted address,
and in asking Babe for it, had to tell her; she came down here after done
with the shopping, and after seeing her, knew that she could not go home
without Mother suspecting something. So
hope she handles it without any after effect.
Message reads, “The Secretary of War desires me to express his
deepest regret that you Son, Private Carl Schneider, Infantry, has been
reported missing in action in North Africa Area February 17.
Additional information will be sent when received.”
Ulio, The Adjutant General. Babe
says that Alvin Volberding was in the post office this morning and said the
folks at Dike got a message to the same effect yesterday, so figure CF was
among those taken prisoner. Now
don’t let this get you down; we are hoping for the best and will keep you
posted. Mother has been playing
the “hunches,” and has guessed right on two different occasions in the
past, and this will add another to the list.
Will hold this open and let Babe add a line or two as to how Mother
went to pieces at first, but when I left, she had controlled herself quite a
bit. Had me write Liz, sending
them special, also had me call 87 – he was going to go down.
M. Stammlager 11 B
Dec. 5, 1943
Received your letter and glad to hear
from you. Knowing that my
friends still think of me helps to make this life here a lot easier.
Still remember our days spent there in the store.
If something went wrong, we would just pass the blame from one to the
other, just to make the customer feel right.
When they caught us both together, we would pass it on to Les.
Those were the days. Hope
to see you soon. So long,
from letters received the past ten days from Carl. F. Schneider, U.S.
Prisoner of War in Germany”
A new month has arrived and here I am
still a POW. Living like this
for so long a time will make quite a difference in a person.
I will have to learn how to live like a civilian all over again.
Received your package dated Jan-March.
Thanks a lot for everything. That
popcorn sure was a treat. We
made some as soon as we noticed it was there
. . . It was the first that has been received here.
Took a doubleheader ball game today. I think we finally found the right set up for both teams.
Usually it was all one sided, but now the scores have been small and
close . . .
Think about Walt a lot.
Keep wondering what he has gone through and how he will make out.
I realize he is in a different spot than I was in, but there is still
something else to watch out for, although not quite so bad.
As God has protected me, so will He be with Walt.
Had more letters and cards from home
this week, also your package dated March-May came through okay.
Thanks for everything.
Don’t forget to thank the Schmidt
family for me – socks always come in handy . . . let Stirlers and Cohens
know that I received their cards. Sure
appreciate hearing from friends back there.
Glad to hear my letters are reaching you
. . . My hopes are pretty high for getting home in the near future .
Another Sunday has rolled around and
have a chance to write a few lines. More of your letters came last week . .
. Always anxious to hear from all of you . . . Received a letter from Jim
O’Brien and one from Rev. Koch . . . The one from Rev. Koch was written
April 17th, about two weeks before he died.
He mentioned in it that he was anxious to get out in the garden to
get some much-needed exercise . . .
Have done a little washing today . . . Had my hair cut (I still have hair to cut.)
Played a little ball and a few other little things that had to be
The Red Cross has furnished us with
five or six mouth organs, “sweet potatoes,” a trombone, guitar, checker
boards, cards, ping-pong set, a soft ball, boxing gloves, and a few other
items I can’t think of right now. We
also got a few old horseshoes that we found lying around and play that when
we feel like it and have the time. It
think we will make it all right as long as we keep on as we have and things
don’t get any worse . . .
Received some more of your welcome
letters and always waiting for more to come.
I want to keep up with the news back there so when I come home I will
know a little about what’s going on.
You folks mentioned about being relieved when you heard I made it
through the winter. You don’t
have to worry about me as I think I have seen the worst of it, and it
shouldn’t be so long any more. Boy,
is it ever going to be a great day when I can be with you all again.
I probably won’t know how to act in civilian life again . . . Was
sure glad to get Walt’s letter. Sure
hope he continues to get along as good as he has.
Always like to receive letters,
pictures, cutouts, etc., that the children send.
Then I know that they have not forgotten me
. . . All for this time and here’s hoping I don’t have to write
many more of these . . .
was I ever surprised yesterday to receive those Airmail letters.
Two dated in June and one in July.
That sure is getting good. You
folks seem a little closer now . . . The fall of the year is rolling around
again, and I sure hope it brings brighter days for us.
I believe that is my favorite season, and it sure takes me back to
the days when I was home. I believe I think more of being home than at any other
time. Don’t get the idea that
I’m homesick because I’m not .
.. . it would really be bad if a fellow got that way over here, where
nothing could be done about it. Am
well and getting along okay. I
sure hope everyone back there is in good health.