Plymouth County

 

Capt. Kenneth Leo Hoffman (alt spelling Hoffmann)

 

 

Born: 04 Feb 1921
Died: 17 Jul 1986

 

 

LE MARS SOLDIERS BACK FROM IRELAND
Ken Hoffman Trains For Commission

Kenneth Hoffman, looking fit and fine, arrived in LeMars from Ireland, Sunday, to visit his parents.  Hoffman, a member of Company K, LeMars, enlisted for service early in the war.  He has been in Ireland the past year and returned to this country to enter an Army officers training camp.  Queried as to his destination he said he did not know where he would be stationed.  He said he was glad to get back to the United States, and he is not worrying about the future.  With military caution, he did not say much about his Army experience.  He said he liked Ireland, which had only one drawback, and that was it rained too much and too often.  He liked the Irish and English he met and said American soldiers were royally treated.

Jos. Kenney, another LeMars boy, accompanied him on the trip and will be here in a day or two to visit his parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Kenney.

Source:  LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, October 20, 1942

LT. KENNETH HOFFMAN TELLS HOW IT FEELS TO AWAIT ATTACK DURING LONG COLD NIGHTS
Little Gasoline Flare In Pillbox Is One of Life’s Greatest Comforts

In a remarkable letter to a member of The Globe-Post staff, Lieut. Kenneth Hoffman gives a vivid word-picture of how a GI feels and thinks as he awaits out the night in an advanced command post, guarding against a possible German attack, and how the men actually long for daybreak and resumption of the battle, to get away from the discomforts of the night.

The letter follows:

Before I came overseas this last time, I used to be kind of curious as to just how combat really was. I had spent a long time in the Army but it was all a period of training, it was the little things that I always wondered about, such as how you eat, if you ever sleep, what happens during the long hours of the night—little things like that, that are so hard to simulate in training.

Over here I learned all about it and pretty quickly too. I’d like to tell you of one of those long nights I was so curious to find out about.

We had moved up to our present position late in the afternoon. We were ordered to hold some high ground that dominated a German held town, to hold this ground until another unit could move thru us to make an attack on the town. We had been on the move continuously for many days previously and everyone kept going on sheer guts alone. Then, too, we had moved up to the position on tanks and the wind and rain drove clear through you, sitting up there on the backs of those persuaders.

The position had been organized just as dusk fell and everyone settled back to await the long night. We were fortunate enough to have a pillbox located in the center of our position, so I used it as my command post, and also as sort of a shelter for the men of the platoon who were not on guard. As complete darkness fell, several of us sat huddled in the dark dampness of our shelter, thankful for the protection that we had against the rain which continued to beat down outside.

A runner came up from the company with word that a tank had brought up a case of rations and some water.

It was difficult to pick out men to make that long trip back to the company CP and carry that weight all the way forward. Each of us was having enough trouble carrying our own weight much less another hundred pounds, but it had to be done and the men started off. The thought of getting something to eat made you feel a little better and you sort of forgot your discomfort for a few minutes.

After what seemed to be hours, men with the rations returned. The rain was running down their faces and they moved as ghosts under their heavy loads. I checked the rations to see if there was enough to go around. Everything was OK but in the dark one of the men had taken a can of gasoline intended for one of the tanks instead of water. That meant we would have to use the water in one of the small streams running close by. We opened the ration box and started to dole out the meager cans. One of the boys got the idea to pour a little gasoline in a can to give a little heat and light. It wouldn’t have to be much and we could give the rest of the can to the tanker in the morning. With raincoats covering the embrasures in the pillbox, we lit the gas.

As it flared up everyone stood there as though in a daze, staring at the flame. It seemed like you couldn’t take your eyes away from the fire. We were in a spell that was broken only by the sudden crack of our artillery sending over their regards to Adolph’s men.

As the night wore on we nibbled on our rations and listened to the wind and rain howl outside. No one thought much of going to sleep. The runner had come up a short time before with word that we wouldn’t get any blankets up tonight. Tanks were the only thing that could reach us and they didn’t want them moving around any more than necessary. Neither did the men in the line. Tanks always draw fire and we would just as soon sweat it out in the rain without cover as be shelled by that nerve racking Heinie artillery all night.

Men come and go during the night, as one set of guards relieves another. Hardly a word is spoken as the men move about. The men going to the outpost dread the thoughts of hours of standing in the wind and rain and they show it in their faces as they don their raincoats and disappear into the darkness. The men coming in out of the darkness grin to themselves at the pleasure of being in out of the wind for a little while anyway.

As time passes, several of the men stretch out on the cold cement. One or two of them manage to fall asleep and their gentle snoring breaks the silence of the night. They don’t sleep long, however. The coldness soon creeps into their bones and they have to get up to keep from getting cramps in their muscles.

All attention is focused on the little fire in the center of the room; some of us glance away occasionally to see what time it is, but each time the clock seems to be the same as the time we looked at it before. Everyone prays that the night will pass faster, yet you really don’t know why you want the night over, because in the morning the Heinies will know where you are and they will throw their mortars and artillery to try to move you back and then it will be a different kind of hell to face.

Some time during the morning the runner brings up a couple of replacements that have come up from battalion. The men look fresh but scared; they have that look of apprehension in their eyes that all new men have. You talk to them, ask them how long they have been in the Army, when they came overseas, and a few other stock questions. You try to tell them that there is nothing to combat that they didn’t experience in maneuvers, and that fighting isn’t half as bad as it is made out in the papers.

They tell us what they are doing in the States, how the people are making plans for the D-day celebrations; of the liquor that is being hoarded for drinking on that day that this end of the war comes to a close. Someone interrupts with a grunt of disgust. It is a little unfair for the men who are yet to die to hear of the celebrations that are being planned in which they will take no part.

You tell the replacements to get some rest and that you will take them to their squads in the morning and again silence falls on the little group.

After the millionth look at your watch, you notice that it will soon be daylight. The runner has just returned with the news that the plans have been changed and that we will attack the town at first light. You get your squad leaders together and brief them as to the plan. Soon the night is over and in the dim grayness of morning you leave the shelter of the pillbox to board the tanks once again.

As you stand there waiting to mount, you wonder where you will be spending this night and if it will be as comfortable as the last. Soon the tank motors start and you climb aboard; a new day has come and with it the opportunity to put the Heinies on the run once more.

Source: LeMars Globe-Post, January 8, 1945

CORRESPONDENT TELLS HOW HOFFMAN RISKED HIS LIFE
Put Out Fire in Ammo Box and Fooled German Fliers

Robert Cromie, of the Chicago Tribune press service, in writing short paragraphs of the American boys with the Third Army in Luxemburg, has the following to say about Lt. Kenneth L. Hoffman, son of Leo Hoffman of this city:

“German planes made a night strafing attack that set fire to a wooden container holding 105-mm ammunition. Fearful that the blaze would reveal the position of C company of the 10th armored infantry battalion of the 4th armored division, Lt. Kenneth L. Hoffman of LeMars, Ia., ran to the blazing box and fell on it to smother the flames before the Nazi planes had time to circle and return to the attack. Lt. Hoffman, who might have been killed if the ammunition had exploded, escaped with a badly singed overcoat.”

Source: LeMars Globe-Post, February 8, 1945

Lt. Ken Hoffmann Is Commended For Heroism In
Battle Of Bulge

It was a cold black night during the Battle of the Bulge, says an Army news bulletin. Luftwaffe craft roared over and came in on the position of C Company 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, as the 4th Armored Division prepared its move that effected the historic relief of the besieged 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne, Belgium.

Tracers streaming and cannon shells screaming, the enemy planes first run over the 4th Armored, set fire to a wood 105mm ammunition container .

Fearing the blaze would be a beacon for the fighter bombers, he heard circling back over Assenois, Belgium, for a second run on the target, First Lieutenant Kenneth L. Hoffmann, of Le Mars, Iowa, threw himself on the burning cloverleaf. The possibility of the ammunition exploding was something forgotten in the 24-year-old officer's quick decision to blackout the fire light.

The Jerry planes droned overhead and then wobbled off without renewing the attack. Lt Hoffmann picked himself up unhurt, wearing a badly singed overcoat.

Son of Leo M. Hoffmann of 19 Second Avenue SE, Le Mars, Iowa, Lt. Hoffmann, is a reinforcement officer, joined the 4th Armored Division on September 14, 1944.

Lieut. Hoffmann has since been made a captain.

Source: The LeMars Sentinel, April 3, 1945

CAPT. KENNETH HOFFMANN TELLS OF HIS WOUNDS

Leo Hoffmann received a letter this morning from his son, Capt. Kenneth Hoffmann, in which he said he was recovering from wounds received in battle. Capt. Hoffmann was shot in the thigh by a pistol and will be hospitalized in France for about 30 days.

Source: LeMars Globe-Post, April 9, 1945

CAPT. HOFFMANN REPORTS

Capt. Kenneth L. Hoffmann informs friends in LeMars that after 7 months of fighting, he is now in a hospital in France recovering from a bullet wound.  He was wounded beyond the Rhine during a night attack.  It was dark and after attacking all day everyone was tired.  He says he got a little careless and in the dim light he missed a Heinie.  The German fired and the bullet hit Capt. Hoffmann in the groin.  He dropped to the ground and started crawling after the German, but he was eliminated as far as Capt. Hoffmann knew.  One of his men shot the German and later took his pistol as a souvenir.

Source:  LeMars Globe-Post, April 23, 1945

DRUM TAPS . .  .
The war’s end

Capt. Kenneth Hoffman reached home Oct. 1, 1945, proudly displaying the combat infantryman’s badge with four battle stars, silver star, bronze star, purple heart with two clusters and the president’s citation. He thus became the most decorated soldier in the history of K Co.
But Hoffman was not the last member of K company to return home. The bodies of those killed in action would not be returned to Plymouth county for three more years.  ~by Virgil Dorweiler

Source: LeMars Daily Sentinel, February 12, 1962

Notes by researcher T.R. Graf--

My research indicates that Kenneth L. Hoffman was the Commanding Officer of Company C of the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion at the Battle of the Bulge.  He signed my father’s Bronze Star citation and his picture (attached) is among the memorabilia that I discovered upon the passing of my mother and father.  I believe that my Dad was his radio operator during the Battle of the Bulge.  I am trying to obtain more information about Dad and Captain Hoffman’s activities during the Battle of the Bulge.

The attached picture is Captain Kenneth Hoffman.  Barnett Cooperman, the former adjutant of the 10th AIB, says that the picture was probably taken in Kelheim Germany near the end of the war.  My Dad had written on the back, “Capt. Kenneth L. Hoffman, our former CO.  Just a kid but one of the grandest fellows and buddies anyone ever had.  Left for the 14th Armored about three weeks ago.  Supposed to fly home the 15th of September.”