Lieut Eric Fisher Wood, Jr

Lieut Eric Fisher Wood, Jr

Birth
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Death 17 Dec 1944 (aged 25)
Belgium
Burial Henri-Chapelle, Arrondissement de Verviers, Liège, Belgium
Plot Plot G Row 3 Grave 46
Memorial ID 56286838 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Wood, Eric Fisher, Jr.
Date of birth: January 25th, 1919 (Los Angeles/California, United States)
Date of death: January 22nd, 1945 (near Meyerode/province of Liège, Belgium)
Buried on: Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial
Nationality: American

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS (DSC)
Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Unit: Battery A, 589th Field Artillery Battalion, 106th Infantry Division "Golden Lions" U.S. Army
Action: For action performed on 17 December 1944, near Schönberg, Arrondissement of Verviers, Belgium.
Details: Posthumously awarded. Citation unavailable. War Department, General Orders No. 14 (1947).

SILVER STAR
Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Unit: Battery A, 589th Field Artillery Battalion, 106th Infantry Division "Golden Lions" U.S. Army
Details: Posthumously awarded. Citation unavailable.

Above information from the WW2 Awards.com website at: http://www.ww2awards.com/person/38412
**********************************
Eric Fisher Wood, Jr. was born on January 25th, 1919 in Los Angeles CA. His father was Brigadier General Eric Fisher Wood, Senior. He would later be assigned to the staff of General Eisenhower. Eric Jr had two brothers, Alec and Peter, and a sister Eleanor. They all grew up in Bedford, PA.

Eric was a graduate from Valley Forge Military Academy & School, member of the Class of 1937. He proved to be an outstanding cadet, as he graduated first of his class Summa Cum Laude and was a Gold-star student for his four years at the Academy. Thereafter, Eric Wood Jr. went to Princeton, where his achievements were equally distinguished. He graduated in 1942. After his time at Princeton University, Eric served in the Pennsylvania National Guard's Artillery Reserve. On the 26th of July 1941, Eric Wood married Margeret Wadsworth. Their marriage was blessed with two children, Pamela and Eric III. Eric the Third was born on December 8th, 1944. One week before the start of Hitler's last offensive in the West. Eric III never got to know his father.

1st Lieutenant Eric F Wood,Jr. was killed in action around January 22nd, 1945 in the dark woods near the Belgian hamlet of Meyerode. He now lies buried at the American War Cemetery of Henri-Chapelle.This is his story...

Eric Wood became a 1st Lieutenant in the 589th Field Artillery Battalion. He was the Executive Officer for A-Battery, which was commanded by Captain Aloyisius G Menke. The Battalion had taken up positions near the town of Herzfenn, on the Auw-Bleialf road. A-Battery lay South of this road, some 150 meters from the Battalion HQ.

When the Germans attack on December 16, Captain Menke is at the forward OP of the Battalion. Surprised by the enemy, he is captured. This makes Lt. Wood in charge of A-Battery.

Because the Cavalry retreated from the Losheim Gap, the 106th's entire North flank is wide open. German troops poured through, outflanking the infantry on the Schnee Eifel and barging into the artillery positions on the Skyline Drive. Three German Stürmgeschutze, assault guns on a tank chassis, rolled down the road to Auw. At about 1400 PM the tanks came into sight of the 589th. One of the tanks was coming directly down the road, towards the HQ building. Two others followed in the rear. Lt. Wood heard the tanks coming and ran to a small hill on the left side of A-Battery, where he had a clear view of the road. He shouted commands to his Nr. 1 piece, under command of Sgt. George Shook and with Cpl. John F Gatens Jr. manning the gunner's position. Barely seeing the enemy tank on the road, Corporal John Gatens destroyed the lead tank by direct fire, using armor-piercing ammunition. Now all 4 105mm M1 Howitzers of A-Battery opened up on the remaining tanks. Infantry support was broken up by sweeping the surrounding woods with shells. Wood's prompt handling of the situation broke up the enemy attack. But there was no time to waste.

The enemy was building up their forces in this sector. It was only time before a big push would swallow the Battalion in total. Contact with the 422nd had been lost. A daylight widrawal was out of the question. As night fell, the battalion ordered to fall back. The German Volksgrenadiers were closing in fast. Getting out was easier said than done. The 2 1/2 ton GMC trucks towing the howitzers had turned the dirt roads leading upto A-Battery into an icy paste. Shells were beginning to fall and rifle fire was sweeping the area. Wood and his men insisted and finally got the howitzers on the road, one by one. C-Battery had bigger issues. Getting the guns out of the position was an impossible task. All 4 howitzers had to be destroyed and left behind. B-Battery got out before A-Battery and the trucks speeded to the Belgian border down the Skyline Drive.

New positions were put up near the spot where the 589th's Service Battery lay. A field on the right side of the road right over the border into Belgium. Baker Battery went in first along with three of A-Battery's Howitzers which Wood had succeeded in saving. He had put the last one in the middle of the road as a road block. Its tow truck had been crippled. The Germans launched a massive attack the next morning. They were pushing through Andler from the north, coming down the Our valley. From the south, a big force was coming down the road from Bleialf. Major Arthur Parker III, acting battalion commander, did not hesitate and gave the order to move out. Push through Schönberg and move up to St Vith. Wood ordered two of his three remaining guns to move out on the double, as the third one was stuck. He stayed behind with the guncrew, to help getting the howitzer moving again. Time was running out. B-Battery was being overrun. The guns were abandoned. At last, Wood and the crew got the howitzer moving again. The lead vehicles of the column were well through Schönberg by now. Wood and his men were far behind. B-Battery, or what remained of it, was in hot persuit. When they came down the hill into Schönberg, they found that the Germans were all over the place. Three howitzers out of the original 12 were on their way to St Vith by now. A German tank ambushed Wood and the 11 men in the truck. The truck skidded to a stop. Wood and his men piled out the back.

PFC Campagna was armed with an M1 Bazooka, the rest of the men had their .30 carbines. The tank drove away into town. Carefully approaching, Scannapico and Campagna found it next to a house. Scannapico fired his carbine and Campagna had a near miss with his bazooka. The tank ran again. T/5 Kenneth Knoll, the truckdriver, slowed down to let Scannapico in, but he was mowed down by machinegun fire. The truck drove over the bridge in the center of town, but then it was encountered by yet another kraut tank. Wood reacted and threw himself and his men out of the truck. The tank put a high explosive shell right in the engine compartiment. Wood and his men dove into the ditch. With them were a few black artillerymen from the 333rd. The Germans were everywhere, fire was coming down on the men. Feeling all was lost, the men of the group were starting to surrender. Wood would not. He rose to his feet and sprinted across the road, up a hill with enemy bullets coming down all around him. He made it to the woods and disappeared. Meanwhile, B-Battery had also made it to Schönberg. They too found themselves in the enemy's backyard. Some got away but many of the men were captured. Captain Arthur Brown, B-Battery CO, was among them. He managed to escape the next day and would get back to the 589th for the battle of Parker's Crossroads.

For what happened next with Lt. Eric Fisher Wood, Jr. is a legend. Some say it is true, others say its not. One thing is certain, he is remembered by his men as a fine man and commander. His character and his story is to remember. One should not mess with that. In the town of Meyerode, Lt. Wood is a myth, a legend. What follows here is the tale of Lt. Woods lonely war in the dark woods of the Ardennes.

Snow is falling gently when Eva Maraite's father, Peter, is wandering through the woods of Meyerode, looking for a suitable Christmas three to put in his home. War or peace, Maraite will have a tree up for Christmas. He roams the foggy woods for about a mile. When he forces some low-hanging snow covered braches out of his way, he suddenly finds himself eye to eye with two, frostbitten American soldiers. One man is a tall officer and the other is a small doughboy. Both men are freezing. Maraite notices from the appearence of their uniforms, the two men are not Germans. He has only one problem: he can't speak a word of English. Living in the Eastern part of Belgium, Maraite only knows how to speak German. This arrouses suspition with the two GI's. Maraite tries to tell the two men they needn't fear him. Eventually he convinces the two Americans to go home with him. They don't stand a chance if they are exhausted and freezing. The woods around Meyerode are swarming with Germans by now and snow is falling. Peter Maraite takes no risk and is aware of the danger he and his family will be in if the Americans are caught by the Germans. Finally, in the relative safety of the Maraite home, Wood tells his story. Peter Maraite brought his neighbour Johann Schröder as an interpreter.

Eric recollects how he and his men were ambushed at Schönberg and how he escaped. He tells Peter that they are making their way to St Vith. Maraite informs Wood and the unknown GI that the road to St Vith is hazardous. There are many Germans in and around the town, looking for lone,lost Americans that are separated from their unit. But Eric Wood was determined as he said he would either fight his way back to the 589th or start his own personal guerrilla war in the woods, collecting stragglers. He asked Peter and Johann about the Germans. Afterwards they all ate and drank. Wood made jokes to the children and was very optimistic. Both men cleaned their weapons and slept in the Maraite family bed while their clothes dried by the stove. A sound sleep, as they didn't move an inch, even when a V1 crashed near Meyerode with a huge explosion.

Next morning, when it is still dark, Maraite wakes Wood and the other American. An hour later they begin their planned move to St Vith. It is the last Maraite would ever see of them. A few days later, the townsfolk of Meyerode hear, for the first time, riflefire and explosions coming from the woods around the town. They are confused, as the frontlines have moved several miles to the West. Maraite suspects that the sounds have something to do with the two men he took in his home. The villagers noticed even stranger things, the rifles only sound when small groups of German soldiers enter the woods. They never occur when there are big columns of soldiers. More and more wounded Germans return from the Meyerode woods. The townspeople hear lots of complaints about "damned saboteurs and resistancefighters in the woods". German snowploughs which have the important task of keeping the trails in the woods clear for supply convoys, are reinforced with heavily armed guards to protect them against attacks from their unknown assailants. The dreaded SS General "Sepp" Dietrich, who has made his HQ at Meyerode, keeps talking and complaining about "those scoundrels and bandits". To Peter Maraite, things are clear. Eric Wood has kept his promise.

The fighting in the woods goes on untill mid January. Then things settle down in the dark forests around Meyerode.

At the end of January, the Battle of the Bulge is nearing its final stage and the Germans are again in the retreat. On January 23rd, 1945 Meyerode is liberated for the second time in less than a year. Now that the Germans are gone, the people of the town want to know what has been going on in those woods for all that time. Mayor Jean Pauels sends two woodsmen to scout the area, his cousin August Pauels and Servatius Maraite. It is Servatius Maraite (no relations with Peter Maraite) who finds the frozen body of an American soldier, on a hill in the woods, a mile outside of town. Around the dead American are the frozen corpses of seven killed German soldiers. The next day, Servatius takes his brother Pierre to the spot where he found the American. Since the day before nothing has changed, except for the fact that the wrist watch had been stolen of the wrist of the GI. A Graves Registration unit of the 424th Regiment came to collect the body of the killed American. Army doctors who examine the body, find that the man had been killed around January 22nd. This was one day before the Germans fled from Meyerode. The man also has a name: he is positively identified as 1st Lieutenant Eric Fisher Wood, Junior of Bedford Pennsylvania. He had been reported missing in action since December 17th, 1944.

In May 1945 the war in Europe finally ended. In that month, the Maraites had a special guest at their home. The man introduced himself as General Eric Fisher Wood Senior and he wished to ask Peter and his daughter Eva some questions. He shows both some pictures of soldiers and asks them if they recognise any of the men in the pictures. After a while they both pick out the same photograph, whom they recognise as the man who spent the night at their home on December 17th, 1944. General Wood tells the Maraites that the man in the picture was his son, Eric Jr.

What exactly happened in the woods around Meyerode will remain a mystery forever. The Graves Registration unit that collected Eric Woods body eventually brought some 200 dead Germans out of those woods. Some where buried in shallow graves, others were stripped of their equipment. The Americans also found burned out supply trucks. German eyewitnesses of the fighting around Meyerode told stories after the war that there was a small fighting unit of Americans that roamed those woods. They all give the same detail: their commander was a tall, young officer.

To many Americans and Belgians, Wood has become a true hero. One small detail is very important to his story. When Servatius Maraite found the body of Eric Wood Jr, he had a wallet in his breast pocket which contained some 4000 Belgian Francs. To the Americans, this could only mean one thing. No German soldier had survived the confrontation with Eric Wood. Because what soldier would be so stupid to leave such a loot untouched?

After the war, General Wood and the people of Meyerode dedicated a cross in honor of his son, it stands on the place where Eric Woods body was found in 1945. In gratitude for the Maraites hospitality, General Wood donated a challus to the Church of Meyerode.
Eric Jr was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

He is also the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the Purple Heart Medal.
*********************************
All of the above information and pictures from the 106th Infantry Division website: The Lonely War of Eric F Wood, Jr. (589/A) at http://www.freewebs.com/106thinfantry-part2/ericfwoodjr.htm


Family Members

Parents
Siblings

Advertisement

Advertisement

  • Maintained by: Greg Raike
  • Originally Created by: War Graves
  • Added: 6 Aug 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial 56286838
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lieut Eric Fisher Wood, Jr (25 Jan 1919–17 Dec 1944), Find a Grave Memorial no. 56286838, citing Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Henri-Chapelle, Arrondissement de Verviers, Liège, Belgium ; Maintained by Greg Raike (contributor 47016957) .