Paul H. Espig
Biography: Paul Heinz Espig was born on November 25, 1920, in Gelenau, Germany. He was the son of Ernst Paul Espig and Amalie Paula Boehm. He and the family traveled extensively to see realitives in Europe as well as in states within the U.S. He and his family lived in Berks County, Pennsylvania and he attended Mohnton High School where he was very active in sports, participating in basketball, track, soccer and baseball. He wasn’t only sports minded but was involved in the operetta group and the class play as well as student government, holding the position of class President his 9th grade year and Vice President his senior year.
Paul graduated in 1939, and he then went to work for the Fairmont Foundry in Philadelphia, PA. On June 27, 1942, he married a former high school classmate, Mildred Arlene Eckenroth, who was born in Mohnton and was the daugther of Charles H. Eckenroth and Edna A. Lebo. The new couple made their home in Philadelphia. His enlistment record indicates his occupation as “Skilled molders”.
Service Time: Paul entered the Army on August 4, 1943, at Allentown, PA. He joined the 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts and was assigned to Company C. The unit shipped out from the Boston port on February 15, 1944, landing in England on February 22nd. They boarded transports and landed at Utah Beach, beginning on August 8th, equipped with M10 tank destroyers. They raced across France that same month and participated in the fighting around Metz in September. They then moved to the Peel Marshes in Holland at the end of the month. In October, the unit began re-equipping with M36 tank destroyers and then supported the Ninth Army’s drive toward the Roer River in November. They next moved with the 7th Armored Division to the Ardennes on December 17th and participated in the defense of St. Vith, Belgium.
On December 23, 1944, the 2nd Platoon (with 4 tank destroyers) of Company C was ordered to cover the withdrawal of all troops from Krombach, Belgium. Two of the TD’s were facing east when two German tanks approached from the north. Both were destroyed but the #2 TD was knocked out in the engagement. The column continued the withdrawal, moving SW to Commanster, BE. There, enemy tanks again attacked and the #3 TD (Unit #C-22) destroyed one enemy tank but was in turn hit. All of the crew except the assistant gunner were able to get out. It is believed that PFC Espig was the crewman killed in this action. He was listed as Missing In Action (MIA) in the unit Morning Reports. Due to heavy enemy action at this location, his body could not be recovered.
On March 28, 1945, the 610th Quartermaster Graves Registration Co. was notified of a report received by higher headquarters indicating an isolated grave of an American soldier was located about 1/3 of a mile ENE of Commanster, Belgium. Personnel of the unit visited the site on May 4th and disinterred a body which was moved to the morgue at the U.S. Military Cemetery #1, Foy, Belgium. The unknown soldier was identified as “Unknown X-127″ and later buried at that cemetery. After an almost four year investigation, Paul’s parents were notified that these remains had been identified as their son. They eventually requested that he be buried overseas.
Private First Class Paul H. Espig was buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, Plot C, Row 1, Grave 1 at Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium. We would like to thank Pfc. Espig for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
We would also like to thank 7th Armored Historian, Wesley Johnston, for providing official documentation concerning Paul and to Dominique Potier for the use of the grave marker photo. Finally, thank you to E-Yearbook.com for the photo of Paul, while a student at the Mohnton High School. The photo is used by permission of Digital Data Online, Inc.
Additional information can be found on the 7th Armored Division Association website.