A Girl Named "Marie"

The border regions of Alsace and Lorraine are inhabited by a population that is ethnically German, and many of the men of the region served in the German Armed Forces -- on both voluntary and involuntary bases. Border residents of Alsace and eastern Lorraine speak a dialect that is more German than French, and in January, 1945, anyone between the ages of 27 and 75 who was born in either of these provinces had been born a German citizen!

Nevertheless, even in the towns hard by the frontiers, such as Rimling, there were residents who felt a greater allegiance to France. During the bitter, touch and go combat against the 17th SS-Panzer-Grenadier Division in the first nine days of 1945, "Marie," an attractive 20-year old Rimling resident, clearly demonstrated to which side her heart belonged.

Most directly, Marie helped a forward observation (FO) party that was directing fires from the church in Rimling. There were five men adjusting fires onto the Waffen-SS attackers: Lieutenant Murry Abrams, observer for 2d/397th's 81mm mortar platoon; Corporal (later Lieutenant) Robert Senser, FO for Cannon Company, 397th; Lieutenant James Bailey, FO for B/374th FA; Lieutenant Mike Seniuk, FO for the Heavy Mortar Platoon (81mm) of 3d/397th, and his radio operator, Corporal Don Emery. Between missions, they took shelter in Marie's home, where her father helped barricade the doors and windows to keep out German grenades flung in their direction. Before each foray back to their steeple OP, Marie insisted that the soldiers allow her to walk up and down the street to determine the proximity of the SS panzer grenadiers; only when she had determined that it was safe for the men to dash across the street to their OP would she allow them to briefly expose themselves to danger.

Corporal Senser was ultimately awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his dogged defense of Marie's house and for the bravery he demonstrated in continuing to direct a hail of fire onto attacking German armor. Beyond that, 3d Battalion (and Company H) were awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for their stubborn defense of the town. Nevertheless, in the words of Lieutenant Seniuk, Marie and her family, "were brave beyond words. Much braver than we."

-- From the Century Sentinel, 17 March 1945.