Since Jonah’s sister Beulah died in 2014, his great nephew Dack Patrick has spent a lot of time documenting as much history as he can about his Uncle Eddie (as the family calls him). Dack was able to travel to Kesternich in search of the place where Jonah ran his last steps as well as to meet with local historians. Dack wanted to see and feel the cold ground Ed walked and slept on, as well as take as many pictures as possible to share with the world and keep his uncles history alive.
It all started with an email. After searching the internet for history on the 78th Lightning Division and his uncle Eddie, Dack found a series of email addresses to numerous men discussing stories of his great uncle on the History.com website. Though the men he found in the forum lived in Belgium & Germany, it was worth a try to send out a mass email to each person in order to for Dack to visit Kesternich as well as find out more information on his great uncles life and death.
After a few days he was able to connect with a local German historian (and all around awesome guy!) named Gerhard (of Roetgen), Germany. Gerhard had an abundance of information on the history of WWII in his local community as well as documentation on the 78th Lightning Division and the Battles for Kesternich. Without Gerhard’s help, none of these stories could ever come to light or be shared with the world. Here was Dack’s first email as well as Gerhard’s response:
Good evening Gerhard,
My great uncle is Jonah Edward Kelley, the Medal Of Honor awardee from the Second Battle of Kesternich, January 31, 1945. I am currently in the US Navy and will be going to Kesternich shortly for a self-guided tour. I am trying to find specifically the house/area where uncle died in hopes of capturing finalizing his story. I am also excited to find out more about the city & battle through stories I have found in books & online.
I have lots of pictures of the Medal of Honor (its in my possession) and would love to hear any stories that you might have. Thank you for any help.
24 hours later, here was Gerhard’s response. He also attached the following pictures, Dack couldn’t have been more excited than to know he already on the right path.
Thank you very much for your mail about your visit to Kesternich. I’m highly interested to meet you. It is no problem for me to show you around in Kesternich and the Huertgen Forest.
I’m a retired customs officer and I do live in Roetgen (home of the command post 78th Inf Div Dec 7th, 1944 to February 6th, 1945). Attached please find a photograph showing me on a spot you might know very well. I’m a member of the local Historical Society and I do work on the local (Huerten Forest) history of the 78th Infantry Division.
In connection with the Historical Society Kesternich we do plan a lecture in Kesternich on February 3rd, 2015 telling the story of the Battles for Kesternich and showing all pictures available for the subject. Your uncle will be part of that lecture. I’ve not yet found the house in Kesternich where your uncle was KIA, but I’ll search for it shortly and with the help of the Historical Society Kesternich we might find it.
We do not have very good photograph’s about your uncle and we do not have a photograph of his Medal Of Honor. On a trip with my son to the States last summer on May 20th we passed by in Keyser WV and I went to the Queens Point Cemetery to go to your uncles grave.
Please let me know when you are planning to come to Kesternich and how long you are going to stay in the area. How are you going to travel in Germany? We can meet at my house in Roetgen and we can go to Kesternich and the Huertgen Forest in my car, it will be no problem.
Best Regards Gerhard
How amazing for Gerhard to respond, is great that he is still preserving history and keeping these things still alive today. As people search the world for answers to their past — its people like Gerhard that create the answers.
Pre-Planning & The Monograph
To get the ball rolling, Dack asked Gerhard if he could help place the exact location/yard that Ed was killed. Dack had little information on the town of Kesternich and it being such a small town, Dack really didn’t know where to search for details. Gerhard reached out to the major of Kesternich who gave us some amazing documentation.
In the mean time, Dack found a document called a monograph. A monograph is a collection of personal experience and student papers describing combat operations, actions and campaigns of some of the fiercist fighting fought in Ardennes, Normandy, Rhineland, the Philippine Islands. The content does not represent an official view or publication but only the opinions of the authors who wrote them. Here is the official monograph written by US Army Captain John H. Barner. Only thing missing from this was the map — the map would tell us the exact location of the home where Ed was killed.
Here was Gerhard’s next email:
I made some studies and worked on the subject and I think I found the house using the machinegun-emplacement with the help of the Mayor of Kesternich (who is a good friend of the 78th [Lightning] Division) You can see it in the attached photograph, I’ll contact the people in the house to find out more [for you].
If you look at Google Map -Kesternich – you will notice the main street (Bundesstrasse 266) leading from west to east through the village. The 1st Platoon/E-Comp/311. InfRegt was to attack eastward on the south side of the main street. The 3rd Platoon attacked in the same direction on the north side of the street. Of the end of Jan 31st, 1945 1st Platoon/ E-Comp. reached the area in front of house no. 87 after they attacked the houses from no. 90 down the main street to house no. 88.
I think that the machinegun-emplacement in question was located in or in front of the house no. 89, the first house at the corner main street-Mittelstrasse. The next house to the west was house no. 90 and 109. The German machinegun-emplacement had a good field of fire to the west and south west in direction to house no. 107 and 93. Therefore I do think that the house in question in Kesternich is the first house of the houses no. 89 on the 78th Division plan for the attack on Kesternich.
I’ll discuss that with the Mayor of Kesternich in one of the next days. Have a look at the attached photograph’s and the map with the numbered houses on. The photograph Kesternich houses No. 89 with the two GI’s (attacking in the wrong direction ) is made after the battle but it shows the houses no. 89. In front of the houses you do see two German “Hetzers” TD’s knocked out. I think that was the reason the machinegun-emplacement could not be neutralized by supporting tanks and Sgt Kelley was ordered to do the job.
I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.
Machinegun Emplacement Found
Good news, Gerhard followed through and took pictures. Two weeks of solid research and time paid off, here is the message and pictures.
I’ve had a walk in Kesternich yesterday and I’ve had a look for the spot of the machinegun-emplacement in question. I think that the machinegun-emplacement was just next to the first house no. 89 (4 house complex). I have not talked to the people in the house yet, I’ll do this after I’ve talked to the Mayor of Kesternich.
Attached please find the photographs of the house no. 89 and the area of the machinegun-emplacement in the Mittelstrasse. From there you have had a good field of fire in 1945. The houses on the aerial photograph marked by an X were not there in 1945. I think that the Mittelstrasse was a good German strong point in the middle of Kesternich. If you knock out that strong point, like your Great Uncle did on January 31st, 1945, your way is almost free down to the triangle and the end of Kesternich.
Best Regards Gerhard
Amazing, we now have the building and placement of the German machineguns nest that took out Jonah Edward Kelley. Thanks to the Major of Kesternich & Gerhard, now everyone can see this sacred spot of land. In the coming month, Dack would soon travel overseas to visit Kesternich as well as the US Army Base, Kelley Barracks.
Dack arrived in Germany and met directly with Gerhard. After breakfast at his house in Roetgen, the two of them traveled to the Hürtgen Forest where Ed participated in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. The over-all cost of the Siegfried Line Campaign in American personnel was close to 140,000, here are some amazing pictures from this visit.
There are some amazing stories of Ed during this time, here is a story from the book “Medal of Honor” that shares a great story of Ed while in the Hürtgen Forest.
He knew I had been on the line most of the time and was not one to sit around and wait while patrols were going out. I told him I’d been filling my canteen from a water hole up near the Third Platoon area when a German sniper had fired at me. I was pretty sure he’d fired from under an empty hayrack about a hundred and seventy-five yards away. These hayracks were like a building; they had four long poles and a movable roof. When they were empty the roofs rested on the ground. Kelley said: “Let’s go get him.” I asked him where the rest of the patrol was, and he said: ”We’re it. If we can’t find him, we’ll penetrate deeper into enemy lines, and besides, we don’t want a lot of commotion.”
Then we crawled on hands and knees past our front lines until we came to within forty yards of the hayrack. Kelley, who was in the lead, stopped and motioned for me to join him. When I reached him he said: “Give me your rifle, Kinney … and take my Thompson. You stay here; I’m going in. If they open up on me, you fire through me and then get the hell out of here.” I moved into position to cover him, and he went in. In a few moments he had disappeared. I waited for what seemed a long time when I finally saw some movement to one side of the hayrack. Then Kelley came out holding a prisoner by the back of the neck and dragging him along. When they got to where I lay concealed, he stood the prisoner up on his feet and we proceeded back toward OU’!’ own lines. Suddenly he stopped and said: “You go in first. If one of those trigger-happy machine gunners of ours sees this prisoner, they’ll blast all of us.”
While we were stopped we could hear two other Germans sawing wood and talking. They were near a farm house across a hedgerow from us. Our prisoner opened his mouth to call uut, but I stuck the muzzle of my weapon in his face and he closed his mouth fast. We came back through my own platoon area, so I dropped off into my foxhole while Kelley took the prisoner into the nearby CP. I saw Ed Kelley many times after that. Once, when we had a few moments to talk, I asked him what he wanted to do when the war was over. He gave me an odd look and said’: “It’s a long way to Berlin. I’ll think about it then.” — Ben Kinney of Oxford, New Jersey
The final resting place. You can see in the images below that open yard where Ed was running. He fell about 25 yards short of his target, a machineguns nest sitting on the gravel driveway shown below. It was said in his Medal of Honor citation, “He was hit several times and fell to his knees when within 25 yards of his objective; but he summoned his waning strength and emptied his rifle into the machinegun nest, silencing the weapon before he died.”
“In a bold frontal assault Sergeant Kelly was able to kill four and wound one of the Germane in the emplacement, This was accomplished after he had been hit and knocked to the ground where he died as a result of his wounds. Sergeant Kelly was awarded the Medal of Honor for this action which permitted his squad to advance.” — CPT John H. Barner, Fort Benning, GA