Pasela, Stanley F. – 811th TD Bn

Born in 1907, probably in the Central Falls area of Rhode Island, USA.

Killed in action on December 29, 1944 in the Sibret – Villeroux area, Belgium.

Army Service Number: 32264510.

Photo: tankdestroyer.net

 

Assigned to First Platoon, B Company, of the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

Buried at the American Military Cemetery, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium (Plot E, Row 13, Grave 55).

This photo has always been credited as the M18 Hellcat TD being of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion which was involved in the defense of Bastogne.

Is it?

The photo was taken near Sibret, that is correct.
And the date was either December 29 or 30, 1944, that is (probably) correct too, although that was the date the M18 was hit and knocked out.

But here is the error.

At that time, Sibret was occupied by German forces.
It had been overrun by elements of the 5. Fallschirmjäger Division who were on the heels of the 28th Infantry Division earlier in the Ardennes Offensive.
German units in the area at that time (December 29/30, 1944); elements of the Führer-Begleit-Brigade and the 3. Panzergrenadier Division.

Sibret was taken end of December (29/30), 1944 by Task Force Collins of the 9th Armored Division. This Task Force consisted of the 60th Armored Infantry Battalion, the 9th Tank Battalion, supported by B Company, 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The vehicles used in the 811th TD Bn; the M18 Hellcat (!).

No evidence was found that the 705th TD Bn lost an M18 Hellcat near Sibret (they were not even in the immediate area), but the 811th TD Bn lost at least one in the area around that time.

Below the excerpt from the 811th Tank Destroyer History (tankdestroyer.net):

Could the knocked out Hellcat in the photo be the one of Sergeant William J. Apadoca (sic) and his crew of B Company, 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion? All evidence seems to point to that direction. His name is misspelled; it should be Apodaca.

The rest of the crew:

Corporal Pink Winchester who was the gunner (Born in 1913, wounded in action 30.12.1944). Army Service Number: 35450548.

Private First Class Stanley F. Pasela who might have been the driver of the M18 tank destroyer (Born in 1907, Rhode Island, USA, killed in action 30.12.1944). Army Service Number: 32264510.

No information on the assistant driver and loader.

Some sources state that the M18 was knocked out by artillery. If so, where are the craters? To me, the M18 looks to have had a hit to the front right corner and the right side of the vehicle and burned. The M18 seems to have been turning around (see track marks) … trying to get away from its exposed position?

This M15 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Halftrack that can be seen in the background, might have been from the 482nd AAA AW Bn (SP). It is not knocked out (contrary to some sources). Most likely the vehicle was positioned there some time after December 30, 1944.

(Update 11/03/2022) The history of the 482nd AAA AW Bn confirms that the unit was positioned there from December 29, 1944 to January 4, 1945. After that date, they were detached from CCA, 9th Armored Division and prepared for movement to France (to re-organize and re-equip). This also explains the “craters” which are in fact dugouts or foxholes for the crew of the M15. At least, they had a little bit of protection from the icy wind blowing over this exposed position.

As for location …
Probably just next to the former N15 (now N85) leading from Neufchâteau to Bastogne. Between Sibret and Villeroux, in fact slightly more towards Villeroux.

The photo was also published in the book “Battle of the Bulge, then and now” by Jean-Paul Pallud.

Although the location is correct, the unit was again misidentified. The 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion (4th Armored Division) was not in the area at that time. The nearest company being near Remoiville.

(Research: Ronald Stassen and Erwin Verholen.)

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