Highland News Leader

Highland’s Paul Siegrist praised for valiant efforts during Battle of the Bulge

Paul Siegrist
Paul Siegrist

Sgt. Paul Siegrist (1925-1945) and Pvt. Clarence Siever (1924-1945), both served during the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. We will start with Paul Siegrist of Highland and next week, Pvt. Clarence R. Siever, formerly of the Millersburg area, will be featured.

Paul Siegrist was in active battle starting Dec. 11, 1944. He was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge when he stepped on a land mine. Paul was taken to a field hospital and then died March 2, 1945. The following is the initial information from the telegram received from the War Department by Paul’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Siegrist, of 908 13th St. in Highland. The telegram stated that their son, Sgt. Paul Siegrist, had died at a hospital in France on March 2, 1945, as a result of his wounds. The telegram stated that a letter would follow with more details as to the cause of his death.

The news of his death was a great shock to his parents, brother Fred and many young friends here in Highland. The parents received a letter only last week Thursday from Paul which stated that he had been wounded in the foot but not to worry, as the wound was not serious. They also knew that previously his feet had been frozen. He was hospitalized when he wrote that letter. Paul Siegrist was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Epinal, France.

The Siegrist family received many letters from Paul’s friends but the one they cherished the most was from Paul’s platoon chief, Tech-Sgt. Glen C. Maltizke. It was received about a month after World War II was over and told about Paul before he was wounded, the details follow: “Sgt. Paul Siegrist and our platoon, on Jan. 5, 1945, were battling the Germans, on our way to Giemshime. We were in a heavy attack and under constant fire all morning long and Paul with his B.A.R. was guarding the six wounded and four dead men of our platoon, until the medics could come up and get them out. It was not his job to stay there, but he stood pat in his refusal to return to our platoon. It took a lot to do what he did and only God knows how many Germans were only a few yards away. After failing in my attempt to bring Paul back with me, I gave him all the information I could that would guide him back to our platoon. With a pat on the back, I left him. About midnight, Paul found his way back to our new position and reported that the wounded were safely removed. I cannot find words to express my admiration for Paul at that time.

“The morning of Jan. 6, 1945, found our unit in a dawn attack. We were under constant fire all morning long but continued to push into Giemshime. About noon, we were battling in the center of the town. The (Germans) were bringing up fresh armor (Tiger Tanks) and tended to drive us back. Up to this time of day, that morning, no members of our platoon had been killed. Orders came down to withdraw from our positions as things were developing at that point.

“During the withdrawal operations, it is customary to keep the automatic rifle teams on line until the very last in order to make up for the fire power lost by the riflemen pulling off of the line. It so happens that I kept Paul with me until the very last. I had reasons, with Paul there with me, I felt relaxed and was able to conduct a safe withdrawal of all the platoon. Next to leave the line was Paul. This time before Paul left, he gave me a pat on the back. That was the last time that I saw Paul. I waited until Paul reached the woods, to our rear and was out of sight.

“It wasn’t but a few seconds later, that the German tanks shelled my position and concussion rendered me helpless. I had only received small shrapnel wounds in my left hand but concussion did the rest. I was taken prisoner. In climaxing this account, I am at a loss for words in expressing my sincere feelings of gratefulness that I have in my heart in having had Paul as my buddy and friend. He truly was a real man.” Signed, TECH-SGT. GLEN C. MALTIZKE.

Paul was born here in Highland on Jan. 16, 1925, and was just past 20 years of age. Paul attended Highland Public School and High School, graduating as salutatorian of the Class of 1943. Paul received his Army training at Fort McClellan, Ala.; Fargo, N.D.; and Camp Gruber, Okla. Paul was home on furlough in November 1944 and landed in France on Dec. 11, 1944.

“Paul was survived by his parents, Louis A. Siegrist and Florence A. Sickman Siegrist, one brother Fred Siegrist, who was also in the service and his grandmother, Mrs. Mary Siegrist, also of Highland. Paul was a nice young fellow with a cheerful and sunny disposition and it has caused deep grief to his many friends, that he is the one who had to make the great sacrifice.”

My aunt Viola Harris taught fourth or fifth grade first at the old Highland Public School on the Square, then in Sept. 15, 1936, at the new Lindenthal Campus. Viola boarded with her friend Florence Siegrist, Paul’s mother, until 1946, when she began teaching in Mount Vernon. One of Aunt Viola’s girlfriends of the Marine area was Amy Tabor, who was a first lieutenant in the Army Nurses Corps stationed in France at the time Paul Siegrist was killed and buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery in Epinal, France. I have a photo from Aunt Viola showing Amy Tabor kneeling down beside Paul’s grave shortly before she returned to the States, after the war in Germany was over.

Paul Siegrist and I were good friends and classmates in the Class of 1943 and Paul was the first member of our class to be killed in service. My wife, Lorna Ritt, was also a good friend of Paul, as they had the same group of friends and Paul worked at the Lory Theatre. Paul occasionally would get to walk her home after the movie. Our son, Paul Arthur Harris, was born in 1953 and was named for Paul Siegrist and Arthur Ritt, Lorna’s father. Jim Gindler was the valedictorian of the Class of 1943 and a great friend of Paul Siegrist, their oldest son is also named Paul, in honor of Paul Siegrist.

I have a 3” x 5” booklet of photos, that were taken in 1965 by our classmate, the late Jim Gindler. Jim Gindler and his family visited the U.S. Military Cemetery in Epinal, France, in 1965. Jim took a closeup of Paul’s tombstone, showing his grave and name, another photo of Jim and his son, Paul Gindler, looking at the grave and tombstone, plus others showing the entry, chapel and rows of tombstones. Jim wrote on the back of one photo that he and Marion Alch of Highland both had visited the cemetery before they returned from their service in World War II.

Paul Siegrist’s parents never were able to fully recover from the death of Paul. They thought maybe a change of scenery would help. So, her husband, Louis, took early retirement, from the Madison County unemployment agency in Edwardsville and they moved to Sarasota, Fla. Louis Siegrist worked and was night manager, for the Mayflower Moving & Storage of Sarasota. Lorna and I and our family would visit the Siegrist’s every time we were in Sarasota, visiting Lorna’s sister, Ellen Ritt (Mrs. Walter) Bellm, who had the Bellm Cars and Music of Yesterday of Sarasota after Walt and his brother, Cyril Bellm, had sold Bellm Freight Line of Highland, St. Louis, Springfield and other mid-Illinois cities.

Paul’s mother, Florence, began ceramic classes and this helped her very much. We could see a big improvement but she said she was tired of making ceramic cups. We suggested doing different birds and small animals that were doing something. The next year we were visiting, again and she had followed our advice. She was making useful items from Mother Nature. Florence gave Lorna a ceramic green frog with a wide open mouth to be used as a tooth pick holder. We still have the frog, with his mouth full of toothpicks, sitting in our kitchen cabinet, reminding us of a true friend, Paul Siegrist and his family.

This information and photo will be filed under the World War II under “S” in the three ring binders and under “S” in the War Veterans Cabinet, which will be dedicated on Nov. 10 or 11 at the Highland Home Museum.

Lorna’s sister, Ellen Ritt Bellm formerly of Highland, on Monday, Sept. 16 fell in the laundry room of her apartment complex and broke her hip. Would you say some prayers for her speedy recovery? Thanks.

Hope to see you at the War Veterans Cabinet dedication, which will include an honor guard, 21-gun salute and bugler of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars in November.