Brookline War Memorial
Robert M. Fehring

Pvt. Robert M. Fehring
United States Army (1943-1945)

United States Army (1775-present)

Robert Marshall Fehring was born on October 16, 1922, the youngest of seven children of Wilhelmina (Minnie) C. and William F. Fehring. He had one brother, William, and five sisters, Margaret, Marie, Thelma, Pearl and Lillian. The Fehring family lived at 322 Fernhill Avenue and were members of St. Mark's Lutheran Church. Robert went to West Liberty Elementary and graduated from South Hills High School.

Robert was drafted into the U.S. Army on March 23, 1943 and inducted one week later on March 30 at Camp Meade, Maryland. After boot camp, he was trained as a combat engineer at Camp Carson, Colorado, assigned to Company A of the newly formed 168th Combat Engineer Battalion.

Combat Engineer Pin

Private Fehring's responsibilities included a variety of construction and demolition tasks under combat conditions. His goals involved facilitating movement and support of friendly forces while impeding those of the enemy. He would be called upon to build, repair and maintain buildings, roads and power supplies. He would employ explosives for construction and demolition projects, and clear minefields using specialized equipment or vehicles.

These tasks would typically include constructing and breaching trenches, tank traps and other fortifications, bunker construction, bridge and road construction or destruction, laying or clearing land mines, and other physical combat-related work on the battlefield. Private Fehring was also trained as an infantryman.

                 

The 168th Combat Engineer Battalion left the New York Port of Embarkation on May 3, 1944 and arrived in England on May 15. The Battalion was assigned to Combat Command B, 7th Armored Division. After further training, the Battalion landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, France with General George S. Patton's Third Army in mid-July 1944.

Between August 1944 and March 1945, the 168th Engineers fought in France, Belgium, and Germany, transferring between the Third, Ninth, and First Armies. They fought alongside the 7th and 11th Armored Divisions, and the 29th, 106th, 4th, 89th, and 2nd Infantry Divisions. Among their many wartime accomplishments, perhaps the most significant was the combat action during the early days of the German Ardennes Offensive.

THE BATTLE OF ST. VITH

During the Battle of Bulge, between December 16 and 23, 1944, the 168th Engineers reorganized as infantry and were charged with the defense of St. Vith, Belgium, a small town in the heart of the Ardennes that was close to the boundary between General Hasso von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzer Army and General Sepp Dietrich’s 6th SS Panzer Army.

When the German offensive began on December 16, the 168th were part of the US First Army’s VIII Corps reserve and were engaged in duties around St Vith. In the confusion of that first day, the 168th became the main defenders of this crucial crossroads town, establishing roadblocks to block traffic advancing from the east towards the town.

The Battle for St. Vith and Manlay

By the morning of the 17th, however, the extent of German intent became much clearer and unit after unit of the US forces found itself in retreat or cut-off. At 10:30 that morning the 168th Engineers were placed under the command of the 106th Division.

Their three companies, together with forty men from the 81st Combat Engineers Battalion HQ and its A Company, plus a platoon of infantry, were ordered to take up defensive positions at Heum (five miles east of St Vith and a mile from Schoenburg) and to hold at all costs. With reconnaissance reporting Heum already captured by the Germans, the unit quickly dug in on the eastern slope of Prumerberg, the first high ground east of St Vith.

By 1:00pm, having convinced some retreating units to provide support while defensive positions were finished, the 168th was entrenched on both sides of the Schoenburg–St Vith road. Within a very short time, Private Fehring and his fellow engineers faced the first probing attacks of the German advance.

Engineers preparing positions near St. Vith    Combat Engineers manning an anti-tank gun.
Engineers preparing defensive positions (left) and manning an anti-tank gun outside St. Vith.

Along with a squadron of Greyhound Armored Cars that arrived an hour later. The men of the 168th and their companions, using bazookas, mines, machine guns and small arms, along with individual dash and daring, managed to destroy two Tiger tanks and some artillery pieces, as well as repelling several attacks. The Germans actually retreated a quarter of a mile, causing a jam of vehicles that fell easy prey to four passing P47 Thunderbolts that strafed the column and caused considerable chaos amongst the enemy.

Throughout the 18th and 19th of December, the positions that held so courageously were reinforced with infantry from the 38th Armoured Infantry Battalion, which brought much needed mortar support and two 76mm Shermans. The gallant troops rose from their foxholes and fought in fierce hand-to-hand combat to stop the enemy penetrations and inflict heavy losses on the numerically superior foe.

As German forces continued their onslaught, men from the 168th Engineers not only defended their own positions but provided reinforcements to plug gaps in the line. Helped by forward observers from the 275th Field Artillery who volunteered to stay behind, the 168th and its reinforcements managed to destroy two Panther tanks and two Stug III assault guns.

Troops moving into positions outside St. Vith    7th Armored Division Shermans outside St. Vith
Engineers moving into positions (left) and 7th Armored Division Shermans on the defensive outside St. Vith.

Early on December 19, infantry patrols found the Germans had withdrawn from their attacking positions. For the rest of that day, and the next, the defenders came under increasing artillery fire. The barrage intensified at 3:00pm on December 21 as the Germans once again sought to breakthrough into St Vith and the country beyond.

By this time the friendly forces were depleted well below half strength, suffering from rapidly dwindling supplies and broken lines of communications, and unlikely to hold off the concerted assault they all knew was coming.

At 10:00pm the inevitable attack came, effectively surrounding and cutting off the defenders. Sherman tanks sent forward from the town were destroyed or forced to retreat. By midnight it was clear the position was untenable. Despite the odds, the men of the 168th Engineers held fast and remained the only unit not to have its lines breached.

Engineers of the 168th Battalion withdrawing through St. Vith
Combat engineers of the 168th Battalion withdrawing through the ruins of St. Vith.

Exhausted from six days of fighting, the defenders of Prumerberg began a game of cat and mouse as they withdrew in small groups south and west. While many were captured a few were able to rejoin the rest of 7th Armoured Division as it too retreated, under orders, away from St. Vith.

During this crucial period of the German offensive, the 168th Engineers and the other units defending St. Vith were attacked by enemy forces estimated at eight divisions, among them the elite 9th SS "Hohenstaufen" Panzer Division and the Fuhrer Begleit Brigade, both seasoned, veteran units transfered from the Eastern Front.

Presidential Unit Citation

The 168th Engineer Battalion, and the 7th Armored Division, inflicted crippling losses and imposed great delay upon the enemy by a masterful and grimly determined defense in keeping with the highest traditions of the Army of the United States. Their performance in the battle earned them the Presidential Unit Citation, the Army's highest unit award.

After St. Vith, the men of the 168th fought on, making another gallant stand at Manhay against units of the 2nd SS "Das Reich" Panzer Division. At the end of December, they were relieved and sent back to the rear for rest and reorganization.

The combat engineers of the 168th Battalion had suffered significant losses and needed to be brought back up to strength. After a much-needed rest, the men returned to positions near St. Vith, attacked, and re-captured the town on January 23, 1945.

...
A monument to the 7th Armored Division
outside the town of St. Vith.

In February the 168th Engineers spent most of their time in Belgium repairing the road network in the Ardennes. In mid-March they were brought forward across the Rhine River into the Remagen bridgehead to participate in the upcoming offensive to surround the German armies defending the Ruhr. On the first day of the Allied attack, March 26, 1945, Private Robert Marshall Fehring was killed in action.

Word of Robert's fate reached the Fehring family in early April. The Pittsburgh Press reported his death on April 19. While his mother Minnie, her daughters (father William and brother William had both passed years before) and the community of Brookline mourned Robert's loss, a Gold Star replace the Blue Service Star in the window of the Fehring home at 322 Fernhill Avenue.

Robert M. Fehring was temporarily buried in Belgium. It was not until October 1948 that his remains were brought back to the United States. He was permanently interred at Saint John's Lutheran Cemetery in Spring Hill.

* Written by Clint Burton: May 21, 2018 *




The Brookline War Memorial

The Brookline Veteran's Memorial.

Listed below are many of the sons of Brookline who gave their
lives to preserve freedom and contain aggression during
World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
General George S. Patton
 

United States Army (1775-present)  United States Army Air Services (1917-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)
United States Coast Guards (1790-present)  United States Air Force (1947-present)  United States Merchant Marine (1775-present)

World War I (1917-1919)

Percy Digby

Digby, David P.
Mayville Avenue
Army

Details

Raymond P. Cronin

Cronin, Raymond P.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC

Details

Charles Luppe

Luppe, Charles
Ferncliffe Avenue
Army

Details

WW1 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War I Memorial - Washington D.C.

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World War II (1941-1945)


Alm William H.
Pioneer Avenue
Army

Details


Arensberg, Roy T.
Fernhill Avenue
Army

Details


Brickley, Edward G.
Woodward Avenue
Army

Details


Bruni, Lawrence A.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Capogreca, James J.
Merrick Avenue
Navy

Details


Copeland, Clarence R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Cullison, Thomas J.
Birtley Avenue
Army

Details


Dempsey, Howard F.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Dempsey, Walter F.
Milan Avenue
Navy

Details


Diegelman, Edward R. Jr
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Dornetto, Frank P.
Jacob Street
Navy

Details


Fagan, Gerald B.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Falk, Harold E.
Pioneer Avenue
Army

Details


Fehring, Robert M.
Fernhill Avenue
Army

Details


Hynes, Richard E.
Waddington Avenue
Army

Details


Jackson, Robert E.
Brookline
Army

 


Kestler, Paul C.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Ketters, Robert C.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Mahoney, Michael J.
Oakridge Street
Army

Details


Majestic, Arthur B.
Starkamp Avenue
Army

Details


Mayberry, Alexander G.
Breining Street
Army

Details


Mazza, John
Alwyn Street
Army

Details


McCann, Robert F.
Edgebrook Avenue
Navy

Details


McFarland, Hugh R.
McNeilly Road
Army

Details


Miller, William J.
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Napier, Edward J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Nicholson, John D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


O'Day, John R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Orient, Andrew D.
Fordham Avenue
Army

Details


Pisiecki, Raymond A.
Wolford Avenue
Army

Details


Reeves, Alfred M.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Reitmeyer, John P.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy

Details


Rhing, Vern M.
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Shannon, Harry C.
Midland Street
Army

Details


Shannon, Jack E.
Midland Street
USMC

Details


Simpson, James D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Spack, Harry
Linial Avenue
Army

Details


Vierling, Howard F.
Fordham Avenue
Army

Details


Wagner, Ralph G.
Shawhan Avenue
Army

Details


Wentz, Walter L. Jr
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Zeiler, Harold V.
West Liberty Avenue
Army

Details

WW2 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War II Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Korean War (1950-1953)

Patrick Gallagher

Gallagher, Patrick J.
Bodkin Street
Army

Details

James Gormley

Gormley, James W.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details

Gerald Hilliard

Hilliard, Gerald G.
Edgebrook Avenue
Army

Details

James McKenna

McKenna, James E.
Bellaire Place
Army

Details

Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Vietnam War (1965-1973)

James Robert Bodish

Bodish, James R.
Plainview Avenue
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Gilbert Collins

Collins, James G.
Dunster Street
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Charles Wonn

Wonn, James C.
Mayville Avenue
Navy

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.




The Brookline Monument - The Cannon

Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

<Brookline War Memorial> <> <Brookline History>