HIS LAST PASTROL.
Researching and reconstructing the battlefields has always been a passion of mine. Working closely with my friend Myra Miller has allowed me to request many service records of WWII veterans. Two years ago I requested my very first Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF). An IDPF contains information regarding an individual soldier’s death. Eugene P. Brinkman was a soldier I always wanted to research because some things in his story didn’t match up.Brinkman was a Sergeant in G Company of the 2nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division. In the book ‘A Footsoldier of Patton’ by Michael C Bilder, also a soldier in G Company, who wrote the about his memoirs. Bilder and Brinkman knew each other well. In the chapter about the Battle of the Bulge, Bilder writes the following about the early days of the 5th Division’s actions in the Battle of the Bulge (Dec 24-31):
‘It was around this time that Eugene Brinkman, the former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, received word from the Red Cross that his father had died. Brinkman was a friend of mine from years back… Brinkman was an only son and the sole means of financial support for his mother; he therefore was to receive an emergency discharge from the army and go home.
Brinkman obviously had mixed emotions. As Sergeant he often had to lead patrols, and he was assigned to take us out on the very night before he was to head back to the States. We had to move from on patch of woods to another, crossing a large open area with some small houses between the two sections of woods. … Brinkman must have been preoccupied with the thought of going home, for he proceeded to lead us right across the open ground.
A German machine gun in the first house ahead of us opened up and hit him in both legs. He went down but was still very much alive. We yelled for him to stay put as we put fire on the enemy gun. Brinkman in a state of panic began to use his arms to drag himself towards us as quickly as he could. The German on the machine gun spotted him moving and fired a line of bullets that raced across the ground over the trunk of his body, killing him instantly.’
When I started researching this story I found out that Brinkman was buried at the Luxembourg American Military Cemetery. The date on the grave: February 3rd, 1945! How was this possible? Had Bilder’s memories been affected over time? Probably the latter.
When I finally received his IDPF I was baffled! Apparently, Brinkman had been missing in action and a Luxembourg civilian found his body. On February 3rd, the Grave Registration located the body and had marked it on a map. A copy of that map was in the IDPF which means I knew the exact location of where the body was found!
To my surprise the body was found almost in the backyard of the Vianden Castle in Luxembourg. Again here it didn’t add up to the timeline in Bilder’s Memoirs, but it did add up to the story of G Company and the 2nd Regiment. Right after the Battle of the Bulge was over, the Company took up position near the town of Walsdorf on January 28, 1945. This was within hand reach of where Brinkman’s body was found. Unfortunately, he never made it home.