During WW II, Robert J. Rose of New Brighton, PA served as a cannoneer with Battery “A” of the 574th AAA Auto Weapons Battalion, 13th Armored Division. Patton’s Army. After landing in France, he and his unit moved across Europe towards a particularly stubborn German entrenchment known as The Bulge. Mr. Rose’s job was to take out enemy aircraft by engaging the swooping threats from his M16 Halftrack–those peculiar looking war vehicles, much like the front of a commercial cargo truck welded to a tank. Atop the halftrack are swiveling machine guns–exposed and without little armor, but capable of striking the enemy at 7,000 yards.
And there sat Robert Rose on April 12, 1945, feeding four, red-hot .50 caliber machine guns during an ambush at Urbach, in the Ruhr Valley of Southern Germany.
ACK ACK ACK ACK! ACK ACK ACK! ACK ACK ACK!
The guns roared, sweeping the surroundings, striking at everything and anything flashing around them. And then a hot piece of well-aimed German steel knocked Robert to the ground. “I’m shot” he cried out. Seventy years later, Hank Phillips still remembers the moment. He was on the halftrack, too, next to Robert Rose and gunner Ernie Lubimskas, shot through the back.
Robert Rose contacted us for an interview as we were setting up our first Beaver County community recording project. He met with us on a cloudy but warm December day in 2012, accompanied by his daughter Robin and an armful of photographs, documents, and other war-era memorabilia–including civilian rationing stamps and his old garrison cap.
“If you don’t mind,” Mr. Rose asked politely before we turned on the cameras, “can I talk a little bit about myself before the war?” Of course, we agreed. “Too many of the veterans I see on tv just talk about their war experiences, as though we were only soldiers and not human beings. I’d like to talk about myself as a human being before I went to the war,” he said.
In My Own Words
Robert Rose entered the Army during WW II and thought he was going to the tropical Pacific. Instead, he found himself fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during the harsh winter of 1944. In this audio short story, Robert talks about fighting two wars in Europe—one against the Germans and the other against the deadly cold.
Stories from the Veterans Breakfast Club
Beaver County Times: ‘You’re still my angel’: WWII buddies connect for first time since battlefield
About six months after posting Robert Rose’s story, John Phillips of Spokane, Washington contacted us. John’s father, Lloyd “Hank” Phillips, served with the 574th AAA and Mr. Rose during 1945. In fact, Hank was with Robert Rose when he was wounded at Urbach. This experience, among many others, is chronicled on a website devoted to Mr. Phillips.
For an incredible account of Robert Rose’s wounding, read Hank Phillips’ Ambushed at Urbach: As experienced by PFC Hank Phillips.
April 12, 1945
We were rolling along rather slowly as we approached Urbach, in the Ruhr Valley of Southern Germany. PFC Robert J. Rose and I were cannoneers (ammunition loaders) on our M16 half-track. Gunner Ernie Lubimskas, a man born in Lithuania, was in the gun turret. Our squad leader, corporal Ted Osik, and our driver, Ushury (Usery?), were protected in the steel cab.
We watched 2 trucks suddenly crash out of control at the same time as Rose yelled, “I’m shot!”. He was standing up to move an ammo box and had been shot in the knee, which caused him to fall out the back of the halftrack. Our convoy stopped almost immediately as other trucks up ahead also crashed. The Lt who was leading the convoy in a jeep was shot too. I yelled at Lubimskas but he did not answer as he was almost dead, if not already dead, from being shot in his back. I could not pull him out of the gun turret so I leaned over him to try and fire the guns but they had somehow jammed. I grabbed my M1 rifle and joined Corporal Osik and Ushury underneath the half-track just as our trailer exploded. It had been hit by a German 88 artillery shell and all of our extra ammunition, C and K rations, extra clothes and personal belongings were lost. We had to wear the same clothes for the next 6-8 weeks.
We were still being shot at under the halftrack but had to wait as our spare ammunition finished exploding just a few feet from us. I looked up the road to the first house and saw what looked like an American uniform. Carrying my M1 rifle in front of me, I climbed out from under the half-track and headed for the house, which was 75-100 feet away. A bullet hit my rifle, shattering the stock and embedding my hands with slivers of wood. Another bullet scraped my left jaw and hit the bottom of my earlobe, and a 3rd bullet somehow went through my helmet. I arrived at the house and jumped in through the window. The three Americans said they were prisoners and told me the Commandant was in the next room. I glanced to my left and in the next room was a German officer holding a pistol. Without slowing down, I took a couple of very fast dodging steps, probably covering the 12 feet in just 2 or 3 steps. I don’t know why he didn’t shoot. He was probably in disbelief that I didn’t slow down even though he had a gun pointed at me. I didn’t think my rifle would work so I swung what was left of it at the officer’s head and knocked him down. He tried to get up so I swung at him again with my rifle butt and killed him. I took his .32 Walther pistol, a fancy officers gun.
Corporal Kahn, squad leader of the other half-track, came into the house and told me to take his 6 hand grenades and go up the street and throw them in the upper windows of the next building where some of the shooting was coming from. There was still a lot of shooting going on and I didn’t think I’d make it back. By the time I returned 10-15 minutes later they had brought several wounded into the house. I crawled down the street to get Rose who was still laying where he had fallen out of the half-track 2 or 3 hours earlier. He was about 90 to 100 feet from the house. He wrapped his arms around my neck and I carried him to safety. He survived and wrote me after the war thanking me for going after him. There were still 3 foxholes full of Germans near the house and we couldn’t get at them. By then the tanks came back and started blasting them with big ammunition causing the remaining Germans (about 80-150) to surrender. We were an hour or so behind the tanks in the original convoy. After the tanks went by the Germans had turned the sign around so we took the wrong road and headed right into their ambush. The tanks were radioed right away when the ambush started but it took them 2 or 3 hours to come back and find us.
We regrouped and took what trucks were left and the 2 half-tracks and took off. Our radiator had been shot and was leaking. Corporal Osik put me on on the fender to pour water into the radiator from a 5-gallon can. I was so mad at him. He wasn’t hurt at all and I had been nicked two or three times. I was cold, sore and bloody. When we arrived at our destination a short time later they worked on the radiator and machine guns and put me in a field hospital (a tent with 2 rows of beds). They cleaned up my hands and bandaged my ear and sent me back to my squad the next day. I was promoted to Corporal and made gunner to replace Lubimskas.
Twenty five soldiers entered the ambush, 13 left to fight again.
Editor’s Note: John Phillips passed away on May 12, 2015.
Henry “Lloyd” Phillips, age 91, died at home in the Spokane Valley on May 12th, after a short illness. He was privileged to die in the same home he grew up in. Lloyd was born January 21, 1924, at Spokane’s Deaconess Hospital, to Henry and Elizabeth Phillips. Lloyd’s older brother Ifor died in 1927. Lloyd grew up on the family farm in the Valley, near Chester. He graduated from West Valley High School in 1941. He then worked in various jobs and helped on the farm while also attending a local business college. In 1943, he volunteered for the U.S. Army. He proudly served as a cannoneer, then gunner, in the 574th Anti-Aircraft Battalion. The 574th fought under General Patton during the crossing of the Rhine River in March, 1945, and then was involved in the heavy fighting to reduce the Ruhr Pocket in April, 1945. Lloyd was wounded during the Ruhr fighting. Due to a mix-up, he didn’t receive his Purple Heart until April, 2014, when it was awarded in a ceremony at his home. After the war, Lloyd returned to his business studies, then after graduation, he began working in the accounting department at Brown Trailers. In 1951, when his mother could no longer manage the family farm, Lloyd decided to return to farming. He planned to dairy for 1-2 years, to raise money for wheat farming, but wound up dairying until 1973. After selling the dairy, Lloyd turned to raising cattle and wheat farming. He had a retirement party in 1994, at age 70, and finally retired for good in 2004, at age 80. Lloyd was also active in land development. He developed much of the land that is now the Ponderosa. While dairying, Lloyd was very active in local dairy organizations and the 4-H. In later years, he enjoyed being active in the Green Acres Christian Fellowship Church. He is survived by his fourth wife, Faith; daughters Liz (Eric) and Pepi (Gale); and sons Steve (Soontharee), Ty (Vicki), Bill (Cheryl), John (Debbie) and Andrew (Shannon); 17 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. An infant son preceded Lloyd in death.
The Final Story
On this day, December 23, 2017, God chose one of the greatest men on earth to live with him forever in heaven. Our dad, our pap, our hero, was born May 19, 1925, and we were so blessed to have him in our lives for 92 wonderful years.
He was the son of the late Alfie and Olive Pearl Schmidt Rose, and was born in New Brighton. All who knew him will sadly miss his incomparable wit, his amazing stories and will cherish forever his deep love for family, friends and country.
At the age of 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight for our freedom during World War II. He proudly served with the Battery A-574th Anti-Aircraft Armored Battalion as a machine gun crewman. He fought in France and Belgium in the Battles of Rhineland, the Ardennes Central Europe and Battle of the Bulge. He received the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign medal, Good Conduct medal, World War II Victory medal, and the Purple Heart, for being wounded in combat in April 1945. After the war, he returned to marry the love of his life, Mary Elizabeth Howard, on December 22, 1946. They shared 54 wonderful years until her passing on June 23, 2002. He was employed by B&W Tubular Products Division as a time clerk for 30 years. After retirement, mom and dad spent 21 winters in Florida and then returned to spend the summers with their children and grandchildren. Robert was a member of the Northside Community Church, East Liverpool, Ohio.
He is survived by a daughter, Robin Marsilio, and her husband, Tom, Chippewa Township; two sons, Pastor Larry Rose and his wife, Marge, Calcutta, Ohio, and Robert Rose and his wife, Carol, Ohioville; one daughter-in-law, Linda Rose, Wichita, Kans., one brother and sister-in-law, Norman and Delores, in Texas; 11 grandchildren and their spouses, Matthew and his wife, Cortney; Chad and his wife, Jodie; Jared Marsilio and his wife, Ashley; Denise Karmie and her husband, Ken; Yvonne Rose, Jennifer Dotson and her husband, Mike; Stacy Gaiser and her husband, Matt; Justin and his wife, Gen; David and his wife, Christie; Jordan and his wife, Lanisha, and Mark Rose and his wife, Erika. Great-grandchildren are Alannah, Lauren, Hunter, Sawyer, Cecilia, Lucia, Sophia, Lilly, Brittany, Bethany, Corey, Ashley, Alex, Josh, Justice, Rachael, Brooke, Bailey, Clay, Mallory, Olivia, Alicia, Bradley, Riley, Bentley, Kayley, Scarlet, Cyan, Steel, Harper, and Indie; three great-great-grandchildren, Carter, Liberty and Kaden.
In addition to his wife, Mary, a son, Ron, and four brothers and four sisters also preceded him in death.
The Beaver County Special Unit will provide full military honors in Sylvania Hills Memorial Park.