Sklar, Fred – 4th Armored Division

Captain, ASN O-397469, Troop commander of B Troop, 25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 4th Armored Division.

Awarded: Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star and Silver Star.

Born August 13, 1919 in Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana (USA).

Family: Sam Sklar (father), Ida (Siegel) Sklar (mother), Betty Sklar (sister), Albert Sklar (brother).

Of Jewish faith.

1m80 (5’ 10”) / 78 kg (172 lbs.).

December 24, 1944.

After getting hit hard by elements of the 5. Fallschirmjäger Division, supported by assault guns of Fallschirmjäger Sturmgeschütz Brigade 11, Combat Command B (CCB) pulled back behind the hill overlooking Chaumont. This American force had advanced towards Chaumont, coming from Burnon. The combat command being one of three of the 4th Armored Division which was heading towards Bastogne.

CCB consisted of the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion (Colonel Harold Cohen), the 8th Tank Battalion (Major Albin Irzyk), elements of the 25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, B Company/704th Tank Destroyer Battalion (on guard duty) and the 22nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion.

Since their arrival at the blown bridge near Burnon, this force had  been harassed by fire coming from the wooded areas on their flanks. Elements of Fallschirmjäger Regiment 14 of the 5. Fallschirmjäger Division (Generalmajor Ludwig Heilmann) supported by “sturmgeschütze” (assault guns) of Fallschirmjäger Sturmgeschütz Brigade 11 (Oberstleutnant Georg Hollunder) made progress slow and dangerous.

This was also the case in the area of the Lambaichenet Woods, just south of Chaumont. Eventhough the German paratroopers had been chased out of these woods a day earlier, they managed to infiltrate back into them and started firing at the assembled American force.

At one point, Captain Fred Sklar of the 25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron took two other men (one being Technical Sergeant Stephen Burdohan) and moved into the southwest corner of the woods. His aim was to eliminate the constant threat on the flanks of his unit. As the American patrol entered about 75 yards into the woods, a fire fight broke out. Capt. Sklar was hit in the head and fell down. The two other men were forced out of the woods and returned to their unit (as seen by Sergeant Salvatore P. Scalzo). Capt. Sklar did not.

Two platoons of B Troop (25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron), a company of the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, supported by a platoon of tanks of D Company, 8th Tank Battalion went into these woods in order to relief the pressure on the flanks and to try and retrieve the missing officer. All they found was an American helmet with a bullet hole and blood. Captain Sklar was missing in action.

Later that day, a captured German medical aid man declared that an American officer had been captured and evacuated to nearby Hollange. The officer had a severe head wound.

Further research discovered that from Hollange (where he probably received some first aid), Capt. Sklar was sent,  together with other captured and wounded GIs, to Oberwampach, Luxembourg, as confirmed by a local priest (name unknown) in Hollange.

From Oberwampach, he was then sent to the German medical aid station at Niederwampach, Luxembourg. There, several wounded Americans were treated, next to the German wounded.

Sadly a day later, on December 25, 1944, Capt. Sklar succumbed to his wounds and died at the German medical aid station in Niederwampach. He was buried at the temporary cemetery near the aid station. Two other soldiers buried there were Pvt. Joseph B Spencer of A Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, 10th Armored Division; part of Team Cherry in grave 5 (died of wounds at the Niederwampach German aid station) and Private First Class Harry F. Gray of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in grave 7 (died of wounds at the Niederwampach German aid station). Both GIs would be transferred to the Luxembourg American Military Cemetery (Hamm, Luxembourg) in the Fall of 1945. A re-burial record should be available for these two GIs.

In June 1945, Luxembourg collaborators dismantled the smaller temporary (German) cemeteries and buried the recovered remains on three larger temporary cemeteries; Allerborn, Brachtenbach and Niederwampach. All located in Luxembourg. When the remains were moved to this bigger cemetery, a list was compiled with names and other information found on the crosses. Only one cross only had a date of death; December 25, 1944 (the day Capt. Sklar died of his wounds). Apparently, Capt. Sklar was buried as an unknown, with only the date of his death on the wooden cross. Every other cross bore the name of the deceased soldier.    That list was given to the Town Hall of Oberwampach. However, the list was not at that Town Hall and was handed over to the German Military Cemetery of Sandweiler (investigation by Roland Gaul from the Diekirch Museum).

The “bigger cemetery” was in fact nothing but a mass grave. The remains were unceremoniously dumped into a large pit and covered with lime. This pit contained about 80 German soldiers.

However, some time before August 2, 1945, remains of a soldier wrapped in a German “Zeltbahn” (tent shelter half) showed up at the Luxembourg American Military Cemetery (Hamm, Luxembourg) coming from Niederwampach. As apparently it was discovered the remains to be American (if German, they would have been sent to the German cemetery at Sandweiler, Luxembourg) and designated “X-189 Hamm”. Since no other remains came from Niederwampach and all other GIs had been buried under their own name (ergo not as “unknown”), there is a high probability that these remains were in fact of Captain Fred Sklar, still officially missing in action since 24.12.1944.

Sadly, investigation in 1947 proved to be inconclusive, but no follow-up was made.

His name is now on the Tablet of the Missing at the Luxembourg American Military Cemetery (Hamm, Luxembourg).

Sources:

After Action Report, 25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron

Correspondence with Roland Gaul (Diekirch Museum and Jerry Streitz (Wiltz Museum)

Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency

Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge

Bundesarchiv

PoW Record National Archives

Individual Deceased Personnel File, National Archives via David Graham

American Battlefield Monuments Commission

US Army Human Resource Command

www.ancestry.com, -1930/1940 Census

www.wwiimemorial.com

www.fieldsofhonor-database.com

www.drk-suchdienst.de

Thanks to (in no particular order): Bill Adams, Ivan Steenkiste, Patrik Droesbeke, George Hemcher, David Graham.

Photos: Erwin Verholen, Ivan Steenkiste (license A1/A3).

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