Purple Heart Staff Sergeant
Bernard J. Lojko

January 5, 1945

Leavenworth County, Kansas - Baerenthal

 

 

Bernard J. Lojko was from Leavenworth County, Kansas. He joined the 70th Infantry Division in the States and was a Staff Sergeant with G Company, 275th Infantry Regiment.

Late December 1944, the division found itself in Northern France. The Germans had launched their Ardennes offensive on December 16, 1944 and the division was to be in the thick of the fighting very soon. The 275th Infantry Regiment was attached to the 45th Infantry Division and on January 1 they were ordered to relieve units of task Force Huddleson of the 14th Armored Division in the vicinity of the town of Baerenthal near the French-German border.

 

 

275th Infantry Regiment

70th Infantry Division

Also on 1 January 1945, the German launched Operation Nordwind. this operation was in support of the already fledging Ardennes offensive. While the 3rd battalion of the 275th took over the line from the 1st Battalion of the 62nd Armored Infantry Brigade, the Germans had already overrun C company of the 62nd. 2nd Battalion, with G company and S/Sgt Lojko, took up positions south of Baerenthal.

The 275th felt the pressure from the German offensive the moment they took over the line. G company was shelled and attacked by infantry. The Germans managed to infiltrate Baerenthal several times due to aggressive patrolling. The fighting continued on the 2nd and 3rd. The 2nd Battalion near Baerenthal expected the 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division to retreat through their lines. The 313th was involved in heavy fighting since the German launched their attack, but their retreat was delayed.

On the 4th of January, the 313th had still not filtered through the lines of the 2nd Battalion. Now the lines were under attack of German artillery as well as continued pressure by what now turned out two battalions of SS troops. The Germans continued their infiltration tactics, harassing raids and counter-attacks in battalion strength, trying to exploit a gap on the battalion's left flank. This greatly increased the possibility that the battalion would be encircled. Large German patrols infiltrated through the right flank of "G" Companies position.


S/Sgt Lojko stands behind William Manser, who gets a haircut, in this picture from Ft. Leonard Wood in
Missouri, September 1944. William Manser was killed near Baerenthal on January 11th, 1945.
(Picture courtesy and (c) Ordeal in the Vosges)

The next day, January 5th, another German patrol was reported in the area and S/Sgt Lojko, the platoon sergeant of 1st platoon, G Company, let his platoon looking for them.

Privates Jacob Tveter and James Phillips, also in this platoon, had been sent back to haul water for the platoon. In ORDEAL IN THE VOSGES, Pvt. Tveter remembers: "Arriving back at the platoon CP, Philips and I learned that our platoon was off looking for an enemy patrol, and we went after them to help out. When we caught up, we found our guys engaged in a firefight. The Germans seemed to have the advantage of position and could see Philips and me as we moved to join the others."

A soldier named McCoy takes on the story from here: "Lojko and Tveter took off to find a spot from which they could observe and fire into the enemy, whom we could not see at all from where we were. The two men were ambushed. A German machinegun opened up, and Tveter was wounded. Lojko tried to get back to the platoon but was cut down and killed instantly. We could not give covering fire because we could not see the machinegun and were afraid of hitting Tveter, who seemed to be only a few yards away from it. We finally drove the Germans away so we could get to Tveter."

The engagement had taken place around noon, but it took until late in the afternoon before the wounded private Tveter could be brought back. Pvt Phillips, who caught up with his platoon to help out, was killed a few days later.

The exact date of S/Sgt Lojko's death is still not certain. Different sources state 4, 5 and 7 January, but the 5th seems the most likely.

S/Sgt Lojko is buried at Margraten American Military Cemetery, Plot J Row 13 Grave 15.



(picture by Robert Duijkers)

Margraten, The Netherlands

See also:
Other casualties of the 70th Infantry Division buried in The Netherlands

Sources:
Eugene Petersen and Donald Pence, Ordeal In The Vosges, Transition Press, Sanford 1981
After Action Report, 275th Infantry Regiment, January 1945

Acknowledgements:
Mr. Eugene Petersen for permission to use the picture and quotes from his book
Mrs. Diane Kessler
Mr. Steve Dixon, Webmaster 70th Infantry Division Association for permission to use the image of the patch


Directions to Margraten American Military Cemetery

If you have any suggestions, comments or additional information, please contact me.

This website is dedicated to the men and women who died and/or are buried in The Netherlands during World War II.

 

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