Battle Relic # 5             

Item Description: Captain Harwick's Silver Bars

Introduction: Subject of discussion is why Captain John Kiley of 3rd Bn./506th was picked by the sniper that shot him. In George Koskimaki's Hell's Highway, we read the view of Lt. Santasiero of "I" Company: “Capt. John Kiley came up to me, looking like an officer – bars, map case and binocs in full view. (Kiley was a close friend and I was concerned.) I said ‘God damn, Kiley! What in hell are you doing up here? You shine like a f---ing officer. You know the Krauts are waiting to kill officers. Please get your ass to the rear.’ As can be read in Case File # 1, Kiley was killed shortly after this happened. Others were aware that their officer accoutrements made them likely targets. This is how the badge of authority of one officer in the 506th found its way into a Dutch silver-cabinet.

The Story: This is a story about Captain Robert F. Harwick.

 

Captain Harwick during paratrooper

training in the United States in 1942

 

This commander of "H" Company on D-Day, spent a short time as a Prisoner of War in Normandy. This is what Mark Bando wrote about Captain Harwick on page 61 of his book "Avenging Eagles: “The men in Company H were well aware that their C.O. was trapped in an unhappy marriage. While in England, this captain was romancing a certain Red Cross girl, and every man in the company knew about it. There was no moral condemnation of the captain in the view of his troops, because they knew of his marital discord. What few of them realized was that this dame captain was also the love object of a certain Lady of aristocratic standing in Ramsbury. She would offer to divorce her husband, if Captain H- would have her on a full-time basis. This proposal was rejected and the captain in question did return to his wife at war’s end. However, his unhappy domestic life may have contributed to his sudden death by cardiac arrest, only fifteen years after the war ended.

 

The author Mark Bando read this Battle Relic File and on October 25th, 2007, he wrote to Battle Detective.com:

 

"When the Bulge started, Harwick was on leave to Paris and he drove up to Bastogne a little behind the main columns. He went to Noville for some reason, (I'm not sure if he was already assigned to 1st Bn or not). When a tank retriever parked in front of the house which was LTC LaPrade's 1st Bn 506th C.P., a German shell came in the 2nd flr window, killed LaPrade and seriously wounded Maj. Desobry from the 10th AD. When this happened, Harwick was in the room next door-at that time he moved over and took command of 1st Bn 506th, as acting C.O.-a position he held until the 9th day of January, 1945, when he was seriously wounded and evacuated. If you read my latest book, you'll find Harwick's account of 1st Bn's sweep through the woods between Luzery and the Halt station-same battle Burgett describes in 'Seven Rds to Hell'. This makes perfect sense, because Harwick was commander of Burgett's (1st) Bn at the time."

 

Major Harwick

 

After the fighting in the towns along Hell's Highway was over, Harwick wrote to his Red Cross Girl in England: "By early afternoon, the city was ours and we truly entered as conquerors and liberators. Those receptions are a thing to beggar description. If you can imagine all the spectators at an inaugural parade to suddenly swarm into, under and over the ranks – carrying fruit, pitchers of beer, sandwiches of dark bread or just waving Dutch flags or bits of orange cloth or just running, trying to touch you, everyone happily yelling at the tops of their lungs, begging for a souvenir – the flag armband, the eagle insignia, a bar or badge or anything

(Page 127 of Hell's Highway)

On page 33 of Jan van Hout's collection of "Memories of September 1944" we read Jos Klerkx's recollections of what happened on September 18th 1944. Jos was 12 years old at the time: “An American showed us chewing gum ["Kauwgum" in Dutch] and we had to repeat after him in English: ‘chewing gum’. We just couldn’t, which he enjoyed.

 

Cartoon from "The Epic of the 101st Airborne"

proves that Jos's trouble with the English

language wasn't uncommon among Dutch kids.

 

We also got our first souvenirs. I got bullets which a soldier took from a machine gun belt, with the message ‘souvenir for Hitler’. Also we got armbands with the American flag which they wore, etcetera and chocolate.

 

Invasion Armbands

 

Jos wasn't the only Eindhoven boy who got

a souvenir American flag invasion brassard.

This kid is photographed at the Texaco service station on Wal.

 

 By the way, not all the discarded invasion armbands ended up as souvenirs, as this photograph shows.

Note the US flag armband tied in the jeep's grill:

 

(click on the image to enlarge)

This photograph was taken in Veghel when elements of the British 30th Corps sped through town.

This jeep belonged to Regimental Headquarters Company of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Also note the anti-decapitation device, welded on the bumper.

It was meant to protect the jeep's occupants against wires strung across roads.

In Veghel the bar caught some of the paper party ribbons thrown at Allied vehicles by the cheerful Dutch citizens.

 

Finally, this photograph, taken from the September 29th 1944 issue of YANK Magazine, pictures

Staff Sergeant Red Kimbrough with his own flag to show the enemy where he's from:

 

 

Jos continues:

One moment during a lull in the fighting a soldier with an, as it appeared later, American captain's badge, sat on a chair which was put out for that purpose. I wanted to know what it was, but he took the silver pin from his collar en said something like this is for you. I have carefully kept this pin to this day. Much later I also read the story of captain Robert F. Harwick in the book of the Hell’s Highway in which is described, how he lost his captains badge. From another soldier I got a dagger which he carried on his ankles. My Mother made me return it.

Battledetective.com started an investigation and made a close study of a photograph taken of Captain Harwick in the center of Eindhoven on that 18th of September 1944 on Demer. This street is a few miles south of Vlokhovense Weg and therefore must have been taken on a later moment in time then his encounter with Jos Klerkx. This picture is also in our Now&Then-section.

 

According to U.S. Army uniform regulations, effective since August 1942, this is how Harwick should have worn his captain's bars:

 

 

In the picture taken on Demer, however.....

...the bars are missing! Harwick does have captain's bars painted on his steel paratrooper helmet. His shirt collar sticks out of his M43 combat jacket. And although according to the Order of Battle for the 506th regiment for Market Garden, the regiment counted about 15 captains (including the chaplain), this makes Jos Klerkx's story convincing. It is very likely that it was Captain Harwick who gave him the bar.

 

Battledetective found Jos Klerkx and visited him and his wife in their home in North Brabant. Over a very important ingredient for good detective work - a nice, hot cup of coffee - Jos proudly showed the silver captain's bars he kept for over 62 years.

 

These are the bars:

      

(click on the pictures to enlarge)

 

One of the reasons that the renowned author Mark Bando wrote us is, that earlier we had posted a different photograph of a man which, we assumed, showed Captain Harwick.

 

This is the complete photograph and we thought that Harwick was the man on the right:

Mark Bando wrote us:

"Officers in the 506th were frequently moved from one battalion to another and another example is Major Oliver Horton, who started at Toccoa with 2nd Bn, (Dick Winters, Nixon, Strayer, and the rest).  After Normandy, Horton was put in command of 3rd Bn 506th in time to lead them into Holland.

 

The photo you show of an officer walking thru Eindhoven on 18 September, 1944, with his head inclined to the side (showing his helmet stencil), is not Bob Harwick, it is Ollie Horton. Horton, who was later KIA 5-October, 1944 at Opheusden near the RR station), was 3/506th commander, at the time that photo was made in Eindhoven. Captain Harwick was probably XO of 3/506th at the time that photo was made.
I assume you have the complete photo in question? There is another officer standing on the left side of the photo, facing directly at the camera and smiling. That man was Robert Harwick
.
 

So if an officer gave someone in Eindhoven his captain's bars on 18 September, it was not Ollie Horton, because he was a Major (gold leaf rank insignia), at the time.

It could have been Bob Harwick, but it could also have been any other 506th captain who entered Eindhoven that day.  [...]  It appears that Ollie might have given his major's leaf to someone as well."

 

(click on the image to enlarge)

Rank Insignia, Major U.S. Army

 

Thanks, Mark Bando, for sharing this much appreciated additional information!

It made this portrait of Capt. Harwick more accurate and detailed!

 

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