The Massacre at Ottre

"White Death--Photo Requiem of a Dead Soldier" courtesy of Tony Vaccaro and Sam Tannenbaum. (Verse by Dave Curry.)

The massacre at Ottre near Bihain, Belgium was one of the terrible tragedies of war for the 83rd Division. On 11 January 1945, as the 331st Infantry was driving toward the town of Langlir, two assault squads of F Company made a dawn attack into the forest. They had gone 100 yards when they were pinned down by heavy machine gun crossfire. The entire slope was raked continuously for several minutes. When the fire lifted, platoon sergeant Harry Shoemaker raised his head and looked around. Many of his men were dead, most of the others wounded. He saw two SS troopers coming down the slope from the ridge and he dropped his head and watched from the corner of his eye. They began searching the clothing of the dead soldiers. A man groaned and a rifle shot rang out. Blood trickled from the man's temple. Another groan was heard followed by more shots. Everyone of the wounded was riddled and their clothes searched. Shoemaker was the only one who escaped to tell the story.

Photograph shows the body of Pvt. Henry I. Tannenbaum lying in the snow. Taken by Tony Vaccaro, the picture has been acclaimed by many as the outstanding photograph of WWII. Tony's photo is a powerful emotional image--doubly so for me, because Henry Tannenbaum and my father served together in the same rifle company. The verse represents the feelings I experienced when I first saw the photograph.

Both Sam Tannenbaum (Henry Tannenbaum's son) and myself are members of AWON (American World War II Orphans Network), and we both undertook the journey to discover our fathers. You can find more about Sam's journey at his page on the AWON website. Also see the AWON Memorial Page about the massacre at Ottre.

A monument in memory of Pvt. Tannenbaum was dedicated by the Luxembourg Friends of American Veterans Association this past June (2002). The monument is located at the exact spot in the field where Tannenbaum was killed in action.

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