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Apr 4, 2021

A wrecked house, Heimboldshausen, Germany, April 3, 1945

April 3, 1945 was a tragic day in the history of the 712th Tank Battalion. A Company had just occupied the village of Heimboldshausen, Germany, and established its command post in the basement of a house facing a small railroad siding. Several rail cars were parked at the siding, on the other side of which was a wide open field. Unkbeknownst to the tankers, one rail car was filled with bags of black powder for propelling artillery; two others were empty, but fume-filled, gasoline tanker cars.

At about 6 p.m. a German fighter plane, a Messerschmitt 109, flew in low over the open field, firing at the rail cars, while numerous soldiers in the village fired back at the plane. Suddenly there was a huge explosion. Veterans of A Company recalled the blast as being caused by a lone bomb dropped by the fighter plane on the carload of black powder. In actuality, bullets, either from the plane or the village, struck one of the gasoline tanker cars causing an explosion similar to the blast that destroyed TWA Flight 800, which was determined to be caused by a spark that ignited an empty center fuel tank.

Railroad tracks at Heimboldshausen, April 3, 1945

Charles Vorhees, of Hopedale, Ohio, was wounded in the explosion, which claimed the lives of five members of A Company. In this interview, he gives a vivid description of the events leading up to the blast.

War As My Father's Tank Battalion Knew It is a podcast about the 712th Tank Battalion in particular and World War II in general. I'm Aaron Elson. Thank you for listening.

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World War II Oral History

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