Purple Heart with Oak Leaf ClusterPrivate First Class
Charles A. Syer

1924 - April 12, 1945

Detroit, Michigan- Margraten

 


Charles A. Syer was born in 1924 in Canada. He joined the Army in on 17 August 1942 in Detriot, while he was living in Wayne County, Michigan at the time. Charles volunteered for Airborne training and went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

After arriving in Europe, Charles Syer came to A Company. At this time nothing is known of Pfc Syer and his time with the 101st Airborne until the action which took his life. It is more than likely he had seen action before in the Ardennes and possibly Holland and Normandy as he has received the Purple heart three times.

On 12 April 1945, Company A, 506 101st made a company sized patrol across the Rhine River into Himmelgeist, Germany in the Ruhr Valley.


 

A company, 506 PIR

101st Airborne Division

The action in which Alfred was killed is described as follows in Rendezvous With Destiny(1), the history of the 101st Airborne Division:

At this time, the 101st was stationed on the west side of the Rhine, in the Ruhr area, just south of Düsseldorf. This was a time of relative quiet for the division.

"What fighting there was occurred when the patrols from the line regiments slipped across the river at night - the once-thought impregnable Rhine, now vulnerable to any squad with a boat- and bumped into still dangerous defenders.


Map of the operation in which Pfc Charles Syer was Killed
(map from the book Rendezvous With Destiny)

(...)The other large raid of the campaign was carried out on the night of April 11-12 by Company A of the 506th. One Hundred twenty-six members of the company and four of the 321st Artillery Battalion crossed the Rhine in sixteen assault boats just after midnight and attacked the river-bank village of Himmelgeist. They ran in to a scattering of small arms fire, killed two defenders, and entered the town. In Himmelgeist they captured seven civilians suspected of having taken part in the defense of the place and then withdrew, getting back to the far shore by 0415. The raid cost the company three killed and four wounded, mostly from small arms fire, though there was some flat-trajectory shelling during the withdrawal. Two boats capsized in midstream under enemy artillery fire and eight men were missing, believed drowned."

Ray Boscom was with the same unit. He wrote a letter to the parents of Robert Morneweck, who was also killed in this action, when he was at Berchtesgarden, about what happened :

"The raid Bob lost his life, he was loaded with extra ammunition and grenades. The raid we pulled across the Rhine. It was below Düsseldorf and about five miles from Nienenhiem.

It was at that time of the Rhine-pocket, so you see what we were up against. We started across about midnight to load in the boats, three 88's opened up and everybody instantly tried to hop into the nearest boat to where they were. As a result, four boats overturned and we lost 18 men. What few did get out said that it was impossible to swim in the current. Our boats picked up some but it was so dark that we couldn't see over 5 feet in front."


Three in this picture were killed on the April 12 river crossing: Standing: Demkowicz
(KIA), Weckesser, ? , Parrish, Wasburn, Morneweck (KIA), Barnes. Kneeling: Hanzalik,
Thaler, Caivano (KIA) (picture courtesy of Mr. Art Morneweck via Marion Chard)

Don Burgett, squad leader in A company, wrote:

"I was squad leader of the 2nd squad, 2nd platoon, A Co. at that time, 12 April 1945; the night President Roosevelt died. Alex Abercrombie died along with Syer, Santillan and Floyd Roberts by German artillery fire; all of whom were buried by the Germans in a common grave. Their bodies were recovered by a patrol led by Jack Bram a couple of days later and brought back across the Rhine River in a rowboat.

Pfc Corgan was in my squad as were two other new replacements. Corgan was seriously wounded in both arms (,by the same shell that killed the four troopers. other troopers were wounded as well). the medics bandaged him and bound his arms to his body in an attempt to stop the bleeding. (The unit held that town as ordered until the Germans shifted their reserve armor, then retired to the Allied side of the Rhine as planned.

On returning they received artillery and tank fire in the dark all the way back across the Rhine.) Corgan's boat was overturned by a close artillery round as we were returning to the American side of the Rhine from Himmelgeist. Corgan, along with several other troopers, some wounded, were drowned.

Their bodies were recovered about three days later on the river shore about two miles downstream.

I did receive two new replacements the morning of 12 April 1945 but didn't have time to get their names on our roster. Both of them also drowned as a result of overturned boats in heavy artillery fire.

Pfc Charles Syer is buried at Margraten American Cemetery, Plot N Row 15 Grave 13.


Margraten, The Netherlands

See also:
Pfc Alfred Corgan
Sgt Joseph A. Caivano
Pfc Robert E. Morneweck
T/Sgt Russel J. Bright
Sgt Nick Demkowicz
Pvt Harold E. Howard
Pvt James M. Lovett Sr

Pfc Floyd J. Roberts
Pfc Marcos S. Santillan
T5 Alex M. Abercrombie

Other casualties of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in The Netherlands

Acknowledgements:
Marion Chard of the 6th Corps Combat Engineers Website.
Mr. Don Burgett
Mr. Art Morneweck
Mr. Byron Demkowicz

Sources:
(1) Redezvous With Destiny, Leonard Rapport & Arthur Norwood, Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, CT, 2001
Written account by Ray Boscom

posted 7 March 2006

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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