On Sept. 13, 1944, members of the U.S. First Infantry Division breached Hitler’s Siegfried Line, become the first American soldiers during World War II to tread in battle on German soil. Among those soldiers was First Lieutenant Frank Kolb.
Kolb passed away in 1970 but was remembered over the Memorial Day weekend by Kentucky Forward guest columnist Berry Craig. At the time, all of the newspapers got Kolb’s last name wrong, spelling it as Kalb. Here’s how that mistake happened:
When Kolb and his men breached the Siegfried Line, a Stars and Stripes reporter interviewed the young lieutenant. He got the story right, but not Kolb’s name.
‘After ten years of talk about the Siegfried Line, 21-year-old 1/Lt. Bob Kalb, of Paducah, Ky., took his company through it without a casualty,’ the reporter wrote. ‘Since Kalb and his men forced the first opening, the armored unit working with this crack infantry division has been pouring through the gap.’ Lt. “Kalb” told the reporter, ‘We knocked out about 15 or 20 pillboxes, I guess.’
Kolb kept a clipping of the Stars and Stripes story. The reporter was a famous journalist after the war, but on national network TV. He was Andy Rooney of CBS’s 60 Minutes.
Some soldiers from the Third Armored Division tank units may in fact have beaten Kolb’s group to that German soil, something Kolb acknowledged in a book about The Battle of Aachen published in 1962. Kolb passed away in 1970.
In the column, Craig also shares a cool detail about how Kolb could pick up the BBC radio signal on his Army walkie-talkie, provided he was at a high enough elevation, and how that capability played a key role at another point during the soldier’s highly decorated efforts. And, to read more about how writing for Stars and Stripes helped shape Rooney as an observer and reporter, go here.
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