Belgia / Historia

​​Corporal John E. Shields fights near Mélines​




With the German offensive in the Ardennes beginning on the 16 December 1944, the German 5th Panzer Army pushed through the area around Mélines in the ​municipality of Érezée​. Their aim was to cross the River Meuse and advance onwards towards the objective of Antwerp.

​​On 20 December, around Hotton, elements of the German 116th Panzer Division and the German 560th Volksgrenadier Division advanced towards the American defences. They arrived at the outskirts of Hotton around 07:30. To counter the offensive, the Allies had began reinforcing the frontline area, with the aim of stopping the German units' advance. The US 3rd Armoured Division joined the front line around Hotton to surround the villages.

Here, they came under fire. To counter this, some US soldiers, Shields among them, were ordered to advance to the village of Werpin, passing through the village of Mélines. As they entered the village, they spoke to local inhabitants to gather intelligence on the German positions. They then quickly clashed with German soldiers.

It was here that, at 07:00, Shields was killed. He was the first American soldier to be killed in action in the village whilst trying to stop the German advance. Following the fighting in the village, he was declared missing in action.

It was not until four years later that his body was found, and relics from the battle littered local villages and towns. A villager, out walking his dog, noticed a metal fragment in the ground. Upon investigating, he saw it was an identity tag from a solider in a grave. Shield’s body was located under an abandoned German tank and was recovered and repatriated back home to the US. Today, he is buried with honour in Ripley, New York, and a memorial stands here to remember him.

​​Rue de la Culée, ​Érezée​​, 6997