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.

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3 thoughts to “Eugene Brinkman’s Last Patrol

  • Dennis Griffin

    Joe:
    I’m not sure if this reply will reach you or not. If you can let me know if it does, I will stop looking for other ways to get in touch.
    This story is of particular interest to me because my dad was in the same division, regiment and company as Eugene Brinkman and Michael Bilder. I came across Mr. Bilders book some years ago and realized that he very well may have known both men. I had contacted Mr. Bilder and his he and his dad were kind enough to send me some information. Some personal and professional matters prevented me from pursuing further. I came across your blog a couple of years ago and was very interested. My dad was wounded in Saarlautern on December 21 or 23. From a newspaper report some time later he was supposedly hit with 5 machine gun rounds while advancing on a pill box. By sheer luck he was found, supposedly received last rites twice, but eventually recovered. When I was very young I had asked him about the scars and he only said that it was shrapnel. He never spoke about the war. I wish now that I had been more inquisitive at the time. He only spoke about it one other time. We were sitting on the patio at his home and he had been diagnosed with cancer and only had a short time to live. Out of the clear blue, he looked off into space and said “There was that little town in France…”. His eyes welled up and he said nothing else. I asked him “What town, dad?” but that was all he said. I know he received a purple heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, two bronze battle stars (Northern France and Rhineland Campaign). The only other thing he told me because he thought it was kind of funny was that he was a BAR man. He thought it was funny because he was one of the smallest guys and they gave him one of the heaviest weapons. I would very much like to find out more details of his service but I’m not sure where to look. I’m semi-retired now so I have some more time. He also had 5 brothers in the service at the same time. Anyway, if you could let me know if you receive this, I would appreciate it. BTW, my dad’s name was Daniel P. Griffin and he was a PFC. Thanks. I enjoy your blog very much.

    Reply
  • john cline

    Hello,

    I like your site, and research. Good job.

    I am deep into research of my father, Hollis L. Cline, with the 422nd Field Artillery Group, VIII Corps, which controlled the 81st Field Artillery Battalion, and the 174th FA in their group, General Supporting fire for the 4th INF Division during the Bulge. He was on an Artillery Survey crew (sound registration), registering the guns of the 81st and 174th FA 155 guns (medium range) via microphones, primarily for counterbattery fire. I think the 422nd Artillery Group HQ was in Bech, Luxembourg, which would have been the fire direction center for the 81st and 174th, and perhaps other FA battalions of the 4th INF, firing artillery support during the first few days, at least, of the fights around the Berdorf, Echternach, etc area.

    Dad was 19 years old in December 1944.

    He got appendicitus (lucky timing) on December 15th or 16th, and was in the US Army hospital in Wiltz when the hospital evacuated Wiltz around Dec 18-20 1944. Dad said they were going to take the patients (those who could travel) to an airfield and fly them to England, but the Germans had bombed the airfield (don’t know if this was Leige, or ??). Dad said instead, the doctors/’nurses changed the plan, and the trucks they were loaded on, were detoured to a train station, where they put the patients on a hospital train to Paris. Pretty sure this must have been the train station in Sedan, France, as I know the nurses from Wiltz went to Sedan, where this was a direct line to Paris (it’s still a station for the Eurostar train). Dad wound up recuperating in Paris at the US Army hospital in the Sorbonne’s medical school on the left bank, or the US Army hospital in Clichy on the right bank, he said he was in the city proper, and these were the only two hospitals in the city vs. Paris suburbs. He met a guy in the hospital who had lots of black market wrist watches, and when Dad was released, he sold watches in the Paris subway stations for a few weeks while in a replacement depot, waiting to be shipped back towards the front.

    He wound up back with his 422nd Field Artillery Group, as an assistant to the 422nd Commander, his job included flying in an artillery spotter plane with the Lt. Colonel who was the Commander of his small unit (at that point with the XIX Corps – Ninth Army). During Operation Grenade on March 9, 1945, right after the XIX Corps Ruhr river crossing, Dad’s Colonel told him one morning “Go back to bed Cline, nothing going on today. I’m going to fly up for a real quick look.” Dad went back to bed, and the Lt. Colonel was shot down by US Anti-aircraft fire (friendly-fire), and both the Lt. Colonel (Harlo Higby) and the pilot were killed. Dad dodged another bullet that day.

    Anyway, just thought I would pass along a couple of Dad’s war stories (have confirmed both with various period records, after action reports, etc.) as you seem to deep interest in the personal stories of Bulge vets.

    Keep your Blog going.

    Best,

    John Cline

    Reply
    • joedemadio

      John that is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your detailed research. I highly appreciate it.

      Reply

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