PFC Samuel Eelman
– B Company, 39th Infantry Regiment –
Private First Class Samuel Eelman was born on February 8 1925 to Dutch immigrants. He spent the majority of his childhood in rural Greenbrook, New Jersey. Sam was a very active youth engaging in various activities such as skiing, hiking, and fishing. He helped his father run a chicken farm and also assisted with their other business, running a gas station off Route 22.
Into the U.S. Army
Sam’s introduction to the Army came July 17th, 1943 between his junior and senior year of high school. His Selective Service Number had been selected. He had been drafted. Sam left home August of 1943, headed for Camp Davis in North Carolina for his basic training and occupancy training as an Anti-Aircraft Artilleryman. His first unit was the 329th Searchlight Battalion where he trained on the M16 Quad .50cal AA gun, colloquially known as the Meat Chopper.
With the 584th AAAW Battalion
By the beginning of 1944 Private Eelman had been assigned to the 584th Anti-Aircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion. Here he transitioned to training with the Bofors 40mm AA gun. The 584th AAAAW BN conducted live fire training all over coastal NC including Fort Fisher, Wilmington, and Holly Ridge. By the end of the summer of 1944 Sam was a newly minted Private First Class and his unit had moved to Long Island to conduct security operations around NYC to protect against potential German V2 attacks, as the new weapons capabilities were unknown. They spent several months there.
Into the European Theater of Operations
PFC Eelman’s army career changed suddenly by December of that year. The heavy losses encountered during the Battle of the Bulge necessitated the mass expansion of the infantry forces. Sam was sent to Fort Maxey in Texas to be hastily retrained as a basic Infantryman, much to his chagrin. Sam transitioned well as he trained harder than ever before, going on 20-30 mile humps, infiltration course training, and advanced weapons training. His training as an Infantryman lasted a mere 5 weeks, a reflection of the urgency to man the Infantry forces
The first week of March 1945 saw PFC Eelman on a large transport vessel, a cruise of sorts to his combat crucible. He arrived in the European Theater of Operations on March 18, 1945. Just a few days after the infamous crossing and collapse of the Remagen Bridge. This must have been a disorienting time as thousands of men were processed through “cigarette” camps all over France in preparation for their assignment to an operating unit in the field. Sam ended up in a replacement pool and found himself attached to the prestigious Ninth Infantry Division, nicknamed “The Old Reliables“. He was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. A hard charging group of men known as Paddy’s Gang, a tribute to their fallen and beloved Commander, Paddy Flint. During their time in Sicily in 1943, the men in the 39th Infantry Regiment were instructed by Paddy Flint to mark their helmets with the letters
AAAO , meaning “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere, bar none!” The men were still wearing the slogan on their helmets, and Sam also wore the helmet with the markings proudly.
Sam joined just as the 9th Division was finishing up a period of rest. His first experience with combat was in the Harz Mountains, in north central Germany. Sam was lucky in that he only experienced a few short, but agonizing weeks of combat. Fighting was sporadic but German resistance at times was fierce as the 39th Infantry Regiment rolled through towns such as Nedersfeld, Wippra, Pansfeld, and Dessau clearing out the last remnants of the German Wehrmacht.
By the end of April 1945 the 39th Infantry was to hold seized territory up the Mulde River. This strategic location was the demarcation point between Allied Forces and Soviet Forces. In fact Sam met with Russian forces near the river, an experience shared by quite a few GI’s up and down the Mulde.
June 1945 saw the 9th ID assigned to Patton’s 3rd Army and subsequent Occupation Duty. As Sam wrote home to his mother “we are keeping an eye on the Herrenvolk (master race)“. Occupation Duty was at times mundane and boring, but an air of anxiety hung over as the men continued to train for possible deployment to Asia to fight the Japanese. There was training on the 9th ID rifle range and guard duty of German POW’s. Thankfully Victory over Japan came by the middle of August.
Men with over 60 points were beginning to get discharged, but PFC Eelman was very low on that list. His unit moved to Hitler’s backyard, Bavaria. It was here in towns of Wendlestein, Oberaudorf, and Rosenheim that Sam got to experience the fun side of the Army. He skiied at famous resorts, took classes in German and Physical Science, and spent time “fraternizing” with the locals.
Of course Army life did not take a back seat as there was plenty of guard duty on the Austrian border and the occasional raid searching for run away SS members. Sam’s time was winding down in the Army but before his discharge he was lucky enough to take a 10 day furlough to Italy and Switzerland. Sam spent these easy days exploring beautiful towns, having fun with his Army buddies, and taking in the local activities.
By April of 1945 Sam was back in the US and Honorably Discharged May 8, 1946. Exactly one year after Victory over Germany, PFC Eelman had seen his time in the Army come to an end.
With the Army in his rearview mirror Sam took advantage of the explosion of post-war opportunity and started his own successful woodworking machinery business. He married a beautiful young Dutch immigrant in 1958 and by 1963 had two sons, Robert and Brian. Sam was considered by many to be a social butterfly, the kind of guy who is the life of a party. Aside from a successful business and prosperous social life, he also volunteered as a Fireman, skiied, played tennis, and raised dogs. He transitioned into a new role as grandfather, spending countless hours with his grandchildren Keith, Neil, and Laura. He maintained his vigor and youthfulness until the very end.
On May 13th, 2020 Samuel Eelman passed away at home peacefully, succumbing to kidney cancer. His memory and service to this great Nation will forever be cherished.
We will never forget Samuel Eelman.