In September of 1944, during the Second World War, a small miracle occurred on the Loire River near Beaugency, France. Twenty-four Americans from the 7th Army patrolled the southern banks of the Loire, while 20,000 Germans of the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht were on the northern banks of the river.
They had come from the Spanish borders attempting to slip through a gap at Belfort. The 7th Army had closed the gap from the south and the 3rd Army from the west and the north. Believing they were cut off and surrounded by large numbers of Americans, the German commander, Erich Elster, began to seek a method of surrender on September 8, 1944.
That same day Lt. Samuel Magill, the leader of the intelligence and reconnaissance patrol on the southern bank of the Loire River, sent two of his 24 soldiers to the German side of the river. The other 22 military policemen were split into smaller groups to patrol 40 miles north and south and almost 30 miles east and west on the southern bank.
Later, two maquis, local freedom fighters, approached Magill to tell him the German commander was willing to discuss peace. Magill met Elster, who wanted two battalions of Americans to cross the Loire and fake a battle to preserve his honor. Magill refused, but did contact the 9th Air Force, requesting large numbers of planes to fly over the area while negotiations continued. If an agreement was reached, he would display a white patch on his vehicle and a yellow patch if there was not an agreement. Elster was impressed by the air power and agreed to discuss terms.
On September 10, Magill, his driver, Pfc. Ralph Anderson, a Belgian offit:er, and Elster and his aide drove through Chateauneuf sur-Cher, which was still under German control. People were confused to see an American flag and a German officer. The officers went on to Essaudan, and an agreement was reached.
Elster was to bring his army in three columns to the river and lay down all arms in the formal surrender. Since it would take several days to process the 20,000 Germans as they crossed the river, they would be allowed to keep small weapons to defend themselves against roving maquis who might not know about the arrangements.
On September 17, 1944, the German commander turned over his pistol to Robert Macon, the 83rd Division commander.
Since the bridge had been blown out, the Germans had to cross the river in columns of two. Four gates had been set up to search, disarm and count the 20,000 Germans. John Cress and Sgt. Robert
Sickman were on the main gate. From 7 a.m. until dusk, 18,000 Germans were processed. Cress and Sickman processed 5,925.
I can't imagine what must have gone through the minds of those 24 combat MPs, or the courage it took to stand between 20,000 Germans and open ground. I'm just proud that one of those 24 Americans was my father.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.