The Tragic Story Of Sgt. Cecil J. Cash
By: Esther M. Ziock Carroll
This incident was considered to be the worst WAR CRIME committed against American soldiers in the western European Theatre of WWII. Much has been written & published about this event but only a very few authors have included mention of my relative. So I have written his story so he will have the full recognition he deserves.
This story provides a detailed account of T/4 Sgt.Cecil J.Cash’s tragic demise when he along with 80+ other American soldiers/POW’s were brutally murdered by Nazis on the second day of the Battle of the Bulge. This is the TRUE story of Sgt. Cash of the 197th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Automatic Weapons Battalion.
Sgt. Cash of St. Francois County, Missouri, USA, is my step-father by way of being the first husband of my mother Pearl Martin Cash Ziock Foree of Washington County, Missouri. Sgt. Cash’s military history begins at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis & covers his two year tour of duty through five states, two continents, & six countries.
The story includes excerpts from Sgt. Cash’s personal correspondence with his wife as he forges his way through France, Belgium & Luxembourg with thousands of other American soldiers liberating Europe from Hitler’s evil Nazi Regime & bringing an end to the Holocaust & the Third Reich.
Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight & die – Herbert Hoover
MISSOURI: Cecil James Cash was born 9 October, 1922 near Bonne Terre, St. Francois County, Missouri & was the son of Goldie DeMier & Josh Cash. Cecil was named after his maternal uncle Cecil DeMier. His grandparents were Eliza Roan & Albert Cash & Anna Brand & John DeMier of Irondale, Washington County, Missouri. Cecil had an older sister, Charlotte, & two younger brothers, Jack & Vernon. In 1930 the Josh Cash family was living in Madison County, Missouri & by 1940 they were back in St. Francois County living on Wortham Street in/near Leadwood.
In 1942 World War II was underway & Cecil was working for the Small Arms Plant in St. Louis, Missouri making .30 & .50 caliber ammunition. This is where he met his future wife, Pearl M. Martin. Pearl was born Christmas day 1926 in Irondale, Washington County, Missouri & was the third oldest of eleven children born to Berdie Henderson & Guy Martin.
Pearl was the grand daughter of Margie Dicus & James Martin, long time residents of Washington County; Also Mattie Briley & Rev. James Henderson of St. Francois County.
In the 1930’s the Guy Martin family moved to the area of Farmington in St. Francois County. Pearl ran away from home at age 15 after an altercation with her abusive, alcoholic father – it took her two days to walk from Farmington to Bonne Terre. She slept in an unknown family’s outhouse overnight.
At Bonne Terre her paternal great aunt & uncle, Stella Jarvis & John Edward Martin, took her in & she resided with them. She later made her way to St. Louis & took a job at the Small Arms plant there making ammunition for the war. This is where she met Cecil J. Cash – her future husband. Many Cash & Martin descendants still reside in both Washington & St. Francois Counties, Missouri.
Cecil was inducted into the army on 15 December 1942 at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis. He was 20 years old. His enlistment papers state that he was 5 feet 5 inches tall & weighed 136 pounds, he had a grammar school education & was a semiskilled mechanic.
His term of enlistment was “……for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.” He was with the 197th AAA (Anti-aircraft Artillery) Automatic Weapons Battalion, Battery C. His serial number was: 37403963
TEXAS: Cecil was sent to Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. During the summer of 1943 Pearl Martin, at age 16, took a bus from St. Louis to Texas to visit Cecil. They were married by the Justice of the Peace in El Paso on 11 June of that year.
They were so happy & every where they went people were happy for them. They set up house keeping in a cute two-room adobe home in Sunset Acres near the army base. On 24 July Cecil’s unit graduated with top honors after completing a lengthy & rigorous training program which focused on anti-aircraft artillery, gun drills, field exercises & long battalion hikes. Also back-breaking digging & classes in fire control & tactics. The graduation was celebrated with a large ceremony & parade.
VIRGINIA: After graduation Cecil & his unit were transferred by train to Camp Pickett, Virginia to undergo basic amphibious training. Pearl went to Camp Pickett to visit him & stayed in room 13 at the guest house on Hickory Street. Cecil was then transferred to Camp Bradford for advanced amphibious training, assault tactics on beachheads. They then returned to Camp Pickett. Here they made practice voyages & assault landings.
When training was completed Col. Lawry stated that out of 40 battalions the 197th was one of the best. They then transferred to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where preparations were made to head overseas.
NEW YORK: Cecil & the 197th finally boarded the worlds largest ship which was England’s “Queen Elizabeth” at New York. On January 2nd, 1944 15,000 American soldiers sailed passed the Statue of Liberty leaving the safety & security of their homeland behind them while they sailed to a foreign land & a precarious & uncertain future.
Cecil’s wife, Pearl, had returned to St. Louis where she shared an apartment with her younger sister Gladys Martin. It was unbeknownst to Pearl at the time that she would never see her handsome young husband again.
ENGLAND: Aboard ship it was extremely overcrowded. Two meals a day were served. There was only one day of rough seas but about half way to England the ship’s course had to be changed due to reports of enemy subs in the area but there were no attacks. After a six day voyage the Queen Elizabeth docked at Firth of Clyde in Scotland on January 8th. The next day after debarkation Red Cross girls served coffee & doughnuts, candy & cigarettes to the soldiers. That night the troops were transported by train to Upton Lovell Camp, Codford, Wiltshire, England.
19 January 1944 – “Somewhere in England – Dearest Darling Wife – Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok…………..Darling there hasn’t been a minute that I haven’t thought of you. I am so lonesome for you…………Honey I am loving you more every day & am hoping to be home soon…………”
January – “Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am thinking of you…………Honey I got your letter yesterday & was sure glad to get it…………….. you know the picture you sent me, I took & put it in the back of the four leaf clover you sent it fit just right. I hope I get to bring it back I have it on the chain with my dog tags……………Honey I don’t see how this war can go on much longer – I will be so dam glad when it is over so we can all get back…………Darling I can go to hell & back as long as you are waiting for me…………..”
29 & 30 January – “Dearest Darling Wife – Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok and am thinking of you………….With a big hug & lots of kisses to my Darling Wife……..Lots of Love, Cecil”
6 February – “Somewhere in England…………Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am ok, I hope this finds you ok to………Honey I just got two letters from you this evening boy oh boy was I glad to get them………….Darling I have been writing I guess the mail is just held up somewhere……….With oceans of Love & lots of kisses with a big hug……….”
11 February – “Dearest Darling Wife – Darling I will drop you a line to let you know I am ok……………..Darling I would sure like to see you I am hoping I can be back in a few months to stay……………With lots & lots of love to my Darling………..”
13 February – “Somewhere in England – Dearest Darling Wife……….Darling I will write you a few lines to let you know I am thinking of you………Honey I just got done doing my washing it runs in to pretty much of a job………….With lots & lots of love to my Darling………….”
On the 20th of February the 197th moved to Cornwall for more intense training & practice. All of the soldiers were in excellent physical condition & it was stated that the 197th was one of the finest battalions the branch had ever seen. Most British were very well impressed with the American soldiers but others not so much stating that they were “Over paid, over sexed & over here.” In March the 197th moved to the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset & on the 27th of that month Germans bombed the city initiating the 197th into the war. Then, after being bounced around again to various posts it was finally time for Operation Neptune…….