Anthony J Hitztaler

Anthony J Hitztaler

World War II · US Army

The Life Story of Pvt Anthony J. Hitztaler

    Anthony J. Hitztaler was born on 15 Jan 1917 in Sheldon, WI and died on 6 Jun 1944 in Normandy, France as the result of hostile action on D-Day in WWII. His parents were Joseph Hitztaler (1889-1975) and Mary Jered (1896-1924). His father was born in Austria. Per the 1920 Census, his father was a coal miner, his mother a housewife and the family lived in Derry, PA. Per the 1940 Census, his father was a widow and he was a laborer and they lived in Dunkard, PA. Anthony completed grammar school and he was not married. He worked at Buckeye Coal Company prior to entering the Army.

    Anthony registered for the draft on 16 Oct 1940 in Dilliner, OH and enlisted in the Army on 21 May 1942 at Pittsburgh, PA as a private in the infantry. His service number was 33267488. It is assumed he attended infantry basic training at Ft. Benning, GA where he most likely also qualified as a paratrooper, but this could not be confirmed. It is not known when he deployed to England. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82d Airborne Division. The 507th PIR was activated on 20 Jul 1942 at Fort Benning, GA. After initial training at Fort Benning, the regiment deployed to the Army air base at Alliance, NE and became part of the 1st Airborne Brigade. It is possible that Pvt Hitztaler was part of this training. The 507th PIR deployed to Northern Ireland in Dec 1943 where they were attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. In England, they trained for their eventual role in the Normandy invasion. The 507th PIR was to drop at Drop Zone T to the north of Amfreville, France, near the west bank of the Merderet River with the objective of establishing defensive positions in that area and prepare to attack westward sealing off the Cotentin Peninsula. On 29 May 1944, the soldiers were informed that the Normandy invasion was imminent and their camp was sealed off. Less than a week later, the 507th PIR was moved to 3 departure fields, one of which was Folkingham, England where they took off in C-47 aircraft to cross the English Channel. Their jumps began at 0200 6 Jun 1944 and poor visibility and bad weather caused the 507th to be dropped over a 20 mile area making it very difficult to get organized once on the ground. Some paratroopers landed in the river and drowned while others either didn’t survive the jimp or were killed by the Germans once on the ground. Pvt Hitztaler was initially reported as Missing in Action (MIA) which was later changed to “reported dead while captured” on 6 Jun 1944.

    ++The Massacre at Hemevez++

    Pvt Hitztaler survived the jump and was able to link up with 6 other paratroopers from HQ Company. They landed in an open field near the Chateau d’ Hemevez which was a command post for a German unit. The 7 moved to a forested area to await first light. At about dawn on 6 Jun 1944, the 7 paratroopers were spotted by the Germans and got into a short fire fight with them. They were taken prisoner by the Germans and moved to the chateau. The capture was witnessed by other 507th PIR paratroopers who were also later taken prisoner themselves. At the chateau, they were interrogated for about 2 hours for intelligence. They were then taken to a wooded area where at about 0800 6 Jun 1944 four were shot in the back of the head and three bludgeoned with rifle butts. Pvt Hitztaler was one of the ones shot in the head. A French farmer, a World War 1 veteran, witnessed the 7 being marched into the woods but did not witness the execution. He later discovered the bodies and clearly recognized the execution style killings. He and a small group of men buried the bodies in the Hemevez church cemetery on the evening of 6 Jun 1944. It was about 20 days later when American soldiers reached the area from Utah Beach and learned about what happened and reported it as a war crime. An investigative team came to the site where the villagers turned over the collected dog tags and personal effects to the team. The examination of the execution site in the woods and exhumation of the bodies was filmed in great detail. The bodies were transported to and buried at Temporary Cemetery #3584, Saint Mere Eglise Cemetery #1, Carentan, France. Initially Pvt Hitztaler’s family was told he was Missing in Action. After the recovery and identification of his body, the family was informed that he was Killed in Action but they were not informed of the details of the massacre. It was not until many years later that the details were uncovered about the massacre. The others massacred were:

    PFC Elsworth M. Heck PVT Andrew W. Kling

    PFC Daniel B. Tillman Pvt Delmar C. McElhaney

    Pvt Robert G. Watson Pvt Robert E. Werner

    Pvt Hitztaler’s remains were initially buried at the village church in Hemevez, France. After exhumation, his remains were buried at Saint Mere Eglise Cemetery #1, Carentan, France. His remains were eventually buried at the Normandy American Cemetery (plot B, row 10, grave 10). Pvt Hitztaler was awarded the Prisoner of War (POW) Medal and the Purple Heart. In 2004, the village of Hemevez commemorated a memorial on the spot where the 7 paratroopers were initially buried.

    References:

    ++https://armyhistory.org/the-507th++ PIR

    Find a grave

    Wikipedia

    ++http://www.pararesearchteam.com/2013/Hemevez-Normandy-France.html++

    https://www.worldwarmedia.com/2016/09/15/the-hemevez-massacre/

    This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see ++www.storiesbehindthestars.org++). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.