Dad is a war hero. The news spread fast. In 1960 Joe Murphy, his war time buddy, visited us in our small home town Clatskanie, Oregon. Joe told all that Dad had Audie Murphy like, saved his life in Germany. Embarrassed, Dad called it ‘B S ’ with the blanks filled in. Time passed and this hero story was soon forgotten. In 2003 just before Dad’s passing on, the story came up again. As before Dad called it BS, a lie. I believe him, the story was a fabrication. Dad was the most honest man I have known. If it held some basis of truth, he would have resorted to the understatement instead of denial. Dad was both honest and modest and detested haughtiness.
After his funeral, I sought to learn more about Dad's experience as a medic and a German interpreter with Company B, 119th Medical Battalion. Dad shared little about the war other than he was never in danger and of his deep respect for the infantryman of the 44th. In his words, "They suffered." Walter Patrylick, his war time squad member and lifelong friend, had no insight about the Joe Murphy hero claim. Walter did relate their personal experience during the battle for Buchen Busch Woods. Dad’s claim to never be in harms way it turns out was an understatement.
Paul Jolma is the soldier without the top-hat.
The American attack at Buchen Busch Woods of February 15, 1945, employed all three regiments on the line, the 324th Infantry Regiment on the right, the 71st Infantry Regiment in the center and the 114th Infantry Regiment on the left. Waiting on the other side were the 17th Waffen SS Division's 37th Panzer Grenadier Regiment and the 17th SS Reconnaissance Battalion. The 17th German SS Division "Götz von Berlichingen", an outstanding combat division, was a mobile well armed outfit and desperate at this stage of the war. Once again the men of the Waffen SS "Götz von Berlichingen" and of the 44th battled and died.
The map show the woods the two medics spent the night.
Company B, of the 119th Medical Battalion was assigned to provide the battlefield medical support for the 114th Regiment. The 114th held the left wing of the attack, part of which included the Blies-Bruchener Weld or woods. It was here that my father Paul Jolma and his fellow medic became lost and separated from the infantry. Disoriented, once night fell, these two medics hunkered down in a depression in the forest and hid. Walter was
trained as an infantry man. Dad was not. Neither had weapons. Desperate small unit fighting raged in close proximity around them. The Blies-Bruchener forest was checkered with mixed up and confused small groups of GIs and Waffen SS soldiers shooting and fighting and dying in the dark fog that cold night. No front line existed. Just confusion. The German combatants in the woods that night earned our fear and our contempt. Excellent soldiers yet the Waffen SS were capable of criminal ruthlessness, demonstrated by the infamous Malmedy massacre that enraged the GIs just a month earlier during the Battle of the Bulge. Dad and Walter had good reason to fear for their lives. Any number of events could have resulted in tragedy.
The next morning the two tired but happy to be unharmed medics returned to their units. And to rich post war lives.