Plymouth County

Photograph published:
June 1945, published quarterly
Pfc. Merton "Stubs" L. Jessen


From Merrill Service Men's News

Merton L. Jessen, Pvt., is a radio operator in a tank. “Stub” moved from Pine Camp, N.Y. to Camp McCoy, Wis., then went overseer in the big February convoy. He was crippled for awhile at Camp McCoy when a 500 lb. tank door fell on his foot. He qualified as an expert rifleman. He was home in November.

Source: The LeMars Sentinel, Friday, April 14, 1944


Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Jessen of Merrill have been notified that their son, Pfc. Merton (Stubs) L. Jessen has been missing in action in Germany since December 16. He was a radio operator with an armored division. The Jessens have another son in the service, T/S Donald M. Jessen, who is in the field artillery and is overseas.

Source: LeMars Sentinel, Jan. 19, 1945

Had Previously Been Reported Missing In Action

Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Jessen of Merrill received a card Monday morning from their son, Cpl. Merton (Stubs) Jessen, who had been reported as missing in action. The Jessens received a telegram from the War Department January 16 reporting their son, “Stub”, had been missing in action in Luxembourg since December 19. They received no other word concerning their son until the card came on Monday.

Cpl. Jessen wrote, “Dear Mom and Dad: I am now a prisoner of war. The Red Cross is doing good by us. I’m getting along fine, so don’t worry. Tell all my good friends hello. See the Red Cross about sending me tobacco, socks and underclothes. I have not been wounded. Write soon and often.”

Cpl. Jessen was a radio man with the 707th Tank Battalion in the First Army. He enlisted in November, 1942, and was sent across in February, 1944.

Mr. and Mrs. Jessen have one other son in the service, Cpl. Donald M. Jessen, who is in the field artillery with the First Army in Germany.

Source: LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, April 3, 1945


Merrill, Ia.—Special:  Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Jessen of Merrill have received word from their son, Cpl. Merton Jessen, reported missing in action, that he is a prisoner of war of the Germans.  They received a telegram from the War Department January 16 reporting that Cpl. Jessen was missing in action in Luxembourg since December 19.  He wrote that he had not been wounded and asked that the Red Cross send him tobacco, socks and underclothing.  He was a radio man with the 707th tank battalion of the First army.  He entered the army in November, 1942, and was sent across in February, 1944.

Mr. and Mrs. Jessen have another son in service, Cpl. Donald M. Jessen, who is in the field artillery with the First army in Germany.  He went into service in November, 1943, and went overseas in October, 1944. His wife and son, Richard, are living in Sioux City.  He formerly was employed by the Chesterman Co.

Source:  The Sioux City Journal, April 6, 1945


Corporal Merton Jessen, who was captured by the Germans in their December “break through” and a prisoner for four long months before being liberated by the American 9th Armor Division, arrived home June. 21.

After 15 months training, “Stub” went to England in February 1944, then to France in September. He was then a radio operator and assistant gunner on a Sherman tank crew of Co. B, 707 Tank Battalion. After further training in Belgium, his unite which was part of the First Army, went into action about November 8, in the Hurtgen Forest offense. After three weeks of fighting in one of the toughest battles of the war, they were relieved and went to Luxembourg to what was considered a quiet sector, for a rest period.

While in the Hurtgen battle, Stub says the tankmen had good chow. They had to take their tanks back to the supply dump once a day for fuel and ammunition and always got a good hot meal while there.  The artillery took over at night and the tanks did little night fighting so they were usually able to get a good sleep either in the tank or tents. During the Hurtgen Battle he was made a gunner which carries the rank of Corporal.

During the maneuvers, a tank battalion is split up so that each tank company supports a regiment of infantry. Stub’s Company B was assigned with the 110 Infantry of the 28 Division. Being a quiet sector the infantry regiment was billeted in little towns along the so-called front line while his tank company was in town in their rear.

As it was a rest period, the men were billeted in homes, 3 or 4 to each home. They got their meals at the Company mess but usually got their land lady to do their laundry for a piece of soap. They had been making repairs on their tanks and equipment for about two weeks and had them pretty well taken apart when their “rest” period was abruptly ended.

Stub was on guard duty the night of December 16, when he heard artillery fire. He called the sergeant of the guard who notified Headquarters. They were all alerted and worked all night reassembling their tanks hoping to meet the Germans head on. About 10:00 a.m. on the 17th, before his unit was fully ready, some German half tracks carrying infantry appeared, but hastily retired when they saw our tanks. Soon the big Mark VI Tiger tanks appeared and didn’t retire. Stub says the 75 mm guns in our Sherman tanks couldn’t hurt a Mark VI unless they hit its tracks. He was acting as gunner of a different crew that day and they were up to an outpost to stop a unit of about 50 German infantry reported to be there. Their orders were to hold there unless they heard a siren signal, then to retire. If there ever was a signal they missed it. Soon they found themselves surrounded by Germans and decided to dismount their tank, so the Germans couldn’t use it, and try to get back to the Yank lines on foot. For two days they hid during the day and walked at night but at daylight on the 20th, they were so hungry, wet, sleepy and discouraged that they gave themselves up voluntarily. (Stub’s regular tank crew had a similar experience except that they hailed an American tank manned by men in American uniforms only to learn that they were Germans.)

The Germans gave them a good meal the first day, then no water or food for three days. There were walked for fifteen days, stopped at a camp for two days, during which Stub wrote to his folks, then walked on to Stalag 8A about 125 miles south east of Berlin and nearly 400 miles from where they were captured. They stayed there three weeks until the Russians approached, then started marching again first towards Berlin then circled to Brunswick 125 miles west of Berlin, where they were liberated on April 12.

Stub says he was on the march 70 days of the 112 days he was a prisoner for a total of 850 miles. Their only food was one seventh of a loaf of black bread and a pat of margarine per day per man, plus a piece of cheese once a week, a little meat twice a month and some jam once a month. He never got a Red Cross food package until his last week as a prisoner. The boys were allowed to trade such things as soap, watches, etc., to the guards and sometimes to civilians for food. Stub had ten pieces of soap to start with so fared better than most. They were unable to forage and he saw boys killed for trying to steal food. He was once beaten up by a guard for begging food from a civilian. They always slept in barns or some shelter. In some towns people threw rocks at them, in others they were more friendly. In spite of being wet and cold much of the time Stub caught no cold until back in the hospital after liberation.

There were 1800 non-commissioned Americans in Stalag 8A, but only 900 were left on April 12. Stub’s weight dropped from 163 to 119 pounds. His gums were sore and on the day of liberation blisters on his feet were so bad he had been recommended for hospitalization by their medical officer, a British captain. (Stub thinks the Germans respected the British more than they did the Americans.) He with several others, mostly with sore feet or swollen limbs, were left behind that morning when the march started so were liberated first.

They had accurate information on events via secret radios so were expecting to be liberated. About 8:00 a.m. some American tanks appeared and in about two hours Stub was eating his first real meal in nearly four months. He reached England on April 21, sailed for home May 29, wired home from Camp Kilmor June 8, got to Shick General Hospital at Clinton, June 14, and arrived in Merrill, Iowa, the 21st of June. He is due to report back to the hospital, July 12, for a check up after which he will get a sixty-day furlough. He now weighs 159 pounds.

Source: Service Men's News, June 1945, Merrill, Iowa