Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Germans surrender to Long Creek man as WWII winds up

In the final days of World War II in Europe, as the charred body of Adolf Hitler was dug out of his secret bunker, a Long Creek man took part in a raid on German territory in June 1945 that garnered the surrender of more than 2,000 Nazis, including six generals.

Second Lt. Harold Willingham of Long Creek was part of the Signal Corps attached to the U.S. Third Infantry Division, Seventh Army that was searching for a German command post near Bernau, Austria. Headed by Lt. Col. George Fezell, a group of three wire trucks and a reconnaissance car rolled into Bernau in early June but retreated due to small arms fire. Fezell turned his men loose with a 37mm gun that convinced the bourgomeister of the town to surrender. The headman was also directed by Fezell to call three adjacent towns with orders to give up to the advancing Third Division.

One of the surrendered towns contained the command post Fezell and his men were searching for. Four generals and 300 men at the post were ordered to pile into whatever transportation they could find and report immediately to Bernau, where they surrendered to 2nd Lt. Willingham and 1st Lt. Gilbert of the signal company.

Also bagged in the raid was a nearby airfield, though one pilot jumped into a plane and made his getaway. Following the surrender, Lt. Col. Fezell and his men went to work setting up an advance command post for division headquarters.

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