In ten days, it will be June 6th and we will remember D-Day, the Allied invasion of
Europe as we commemorate its 75th anniversary.
The invasion of Normandy in 1944 was a colossal military achievement…and a
terrible sacrifice of American, British, and Canadian fighting men. All of the
planning and all of the loss made it possible for the Allies to kick in the proverbial
door to Western Europe and to begin the liberation of the European people.
The fighting was intense over few months following D-Day, as the Allies pushed the
German forces back. In fact, things were going so well, the American media began
publishing articles that the war might be over by that Christmas of 1944.
The Nazi high command had other plans though. They had developed a blueprint
for a massive counteroffensive. They marshalled forces and equipment and had
planned to throw everything at the Allies, who found themselves spread thin and
with resupply issues because of a tactical blunder known as Operation Market
Garden, which had occurred in the fall of 1944.
The goal of the German offensive was to drive a wedge between the Allied army
groups in France and the Low Countries of Belgium and Holland and recapture the
port of Antwerp in order to close off Allied use of the port facilities.
The Germans initiated Operation Autumn Mist and attacked in mid-
It has been said by those who were there that “the heavens opened up and all hell
The Battle of the Bulge had begun….
Lasting from December 16, 1944 to January 16, 1945, the Battle of the Bulge, also
known as the Ardennes Offensive, was the largest battle fought on the Western Front
in Europe during World War II; it is also the largest battle ever fought by the United
The initial German attack force consisted of more than 200,000 men and around
1,000 tanks including the new and fearsome 70-ton Tiger II tanks.
The Nazis also had 1,900 artillery pieces in support and had 2,000 aircraft on
standby, including the new jet-powered Messerschmitt Me-262.
In the opening phases of the battle, the Germans would be facing only around 80,000
Allied troops, less than 250 pieces of armor, and about 400 artillery guns. All in all,
the Allies were outgunned and outnumbered by more than 3 to 1.
Many of the American troops were inexperienced replacements and had been
incorporated into the predominantly light airborne units after Operation Market
The German forces included battle-hardened veterans from the tough fighting on the
Eastern Front, but they, too, had replacement units filled with boys and with men
who normally would have been considered too young or too old for military service.
Operation Autumn Mist managed to create a bulge in the American lines 50 miles
wide and 70 miles deep, which gave the struggle its alliterative name: the Battle of
The Ardennes Offensive was a massive gamble on the part of Nazi dictator Adolf
Hitler and the rest of his high command. Early on, it appeared as if the German
gambit might succeed. The element of surprise combined with poor weather that all
but eliminated the Allies’ superior air power appeared to give the German Army the
The Allies scrambled to mobilize every possible unit and send it to the bulge to
relieve embattled and, in some case, encircled forces.
About two years earlier, a young 19-year-old East Liberty boy joined the United
Francis Marion Rosebrook was born December 9, 1923 near East Liberty. Going by
Marion, he was the son of Chester “Chet” Rosebrook and Mary Rosebrook. He had
a sister, Emma “Laverne” Rosebrook Current Welch, and a brother Willis Lee
Rosebrook. And several nephews and nieces, some of whom are with us today. The
Rosebrooks lived near Yankee Town and, Marion’s father Chet was well known for
his sawmill operation and for operating a threshing machine around the farms in the
community. Helping in the family business, young Marion was known by many as
kind of a workaholic. When shaking his hand, people would often comment on how
calloused they were.
On January 9, 1943 he was sworn into the Army. He was assigned to the Tank Corps
at Camp Rucker, Alabama and then at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He attached to the
736th Tank Battalion and sent to England in May 1944, just days before D-Day.
A few months later in August, Corporal Rosebrook was sent to mainland Europe
through Utah Beach. His battalion would move through France before being
attached to General Patton’s 3rd Army Group and sent to the Battle of the Bulge’s
frontlines in January as part of the Allies’ scramble to reinforce those trapped in the
bulge. Ending up in Holland, Rosebrook and his tank crew stayed in the home of
local named Collella Toyen. They shared their rations with the family and became
Around 10 years ago, Collella’s granddaughter Nicole Sproncken reconnected with
the Rosebrook family and shared the following….
“There is one story I will never forget….my mom has told me a thousand times and
she will keep telling it till the day she dies. At a certain point in time the soldiers
staying at my grandparents’ house had to go to the Ardennes to fight. They were
expected to return to my grandparents’ house on a particular day. My grandmother
made a big pot of hot cocoa and they waited for the soldiers to return….Only two of
them did. My grandmother was devastated and cried a lot. Every time she told this
story to her children and grandchildren she cried. And my mom also tells her
children and grandchildren…with tears in her eyes.”
Corporal Rosebrook’s father received the following shortly thereafter:
“It is with humiliating sense of regret and sorrow that I offer my condolences on the
death of your son, Francis M. Rosebrook. He was killed in action in Germany on
31st of January 1945, while engaging the enemy in his tank. During the time Francis
was with me, he won the highest respect and admiration of both officers and men. I
realize that no act, word or deed can compensate you for your irreparable loss, but
ask that you derive some comfort from the fact that your son excelled in his duties
as a soldier of the army of the United States. Signed, Captain Leo J. McCarthy”
This year’s Hometown Hero, Corporal Francis Marion Rosebrook, was buried in an
American military cemetery in Holland in early 1945.
After the Battle of the Bulge, the Nazi forces were effectively defeated. The Allies
had successfully reinforced the frontlines and the skies had opened up, which
allowed the Army Air Corps to reestablish air superiority.
During the month-long battle, around 500,000 German, 600,000 American and
55,000 British troops became involved.
The Germans lost nearly 100,000 men killed, wounded or missing, 700 tanks and
1,600 aircraft. These were losses of equipment and manpower the Germans had no
hope or capacity to replace.
Allied losses—the majority of them incurred during the first week of the battle—
included casualties of 90,000 men, 300 tanks and 300 aircraft. The Allied war effort
was such by this point in the war that replacing the tanks and equipment was much
faster. In fact, the Battle of the Bulge was such a turning point that the German
Army would surrender a little more than three months after the end of the battle.
On January 2nd, 1949 his body was moved from the Netherlands and sent back to
here…to his home…East Liberty. And he is buried right over there where the flags
Corporal Rosebrook’s sacrifice and legacy lives on in many ways. Our local
American Legion remembered Rosebrook by naming its post after him and Lt.
William R. Wood. The Wood-Rosebrook Post is named for the first two World War
II veterans from East Liberty to give of themselves the most that men could give:
Here on Memorial Day, we also recall that sacrifice and legacy, and those who have
given of themselves in defense of freedom.
General Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather,
we should thank God that such men lived.”
Today, we adhere to General Patton’s words by thanking God for the lives of those
veterans who have served, but today most of all for the life of Corporal Francis
Marion Rosebrook, an East Liberty Hometown Hero.
Speech by Tyler Hall