Personnel of the Fifth

Major General John Murphy Willems (1901-1976)

As a colonel, first commander of the Fifth Field Artillery.

As a colonel, first commander of the Fifth Field Artillery.

Born 24 December 1901 in Kansas, he was commissioned a field artillery officer from the U.S. Military Academy in 1925. He was a member of the U.S. Olympic Riding Team in 1936. In WWII he served as the Chief-of-Staff of II Corps in the Mediterranean Theater. He was the Military Attaché to Italy (1946-49); the Division Artillery Commander for 2AD (1950-52); assigned to the Army Office of the Assistant Chief-of-Staff (1952-55); CG of 3AD (1955-56); assigned to HQ’s USAREUR (1956-59); and served as Army Assistant Chief-of-Staff (G-1) (1959-61). He retired as a Major General in 1961. His awards included the Distinguished Service Medal, two Legions of Merit, and the Bronze Star Medal. He died in San Diego, California on 14 September 1976. Grave site

Silver Star medal -  Colonel Newton W. Jones (ASN: 011928), United States Army, was awarded the Silver Star (Posthumously) for gallantry in action while serving with Combat Command B, 20th Armored Division.

Silver Star medal

Col Newton W Jones
Commander of the Fifth at the landing in North Africa. Commanding officer, 5th Field Artillery Group. Africa including Kasserine and Sicily in 1943. Commanding officer, Combat Command B, 20th Armored Division, Germany 1945. Killed in action April 29, 1945.

The 20th Armored was not in combat for very long but the battle in which Col. Jones was killed certainly played a role in ending German resistance.

Unit history
Task Force 20 was made up primarily of the 20th Armored Division’s Combat Command B, including the 20th Tank Battalion, the 65th Armored Infantry Battalion, the 220th Armored Engineer Battalion, the 220th Medical Battalion, and the 413th Armored Field Artillery. Other forces such as the 250th Field Artillery Battalion (Divisional Artillery), and the 45th Infantry Division were also involved to some extent.

Enemy strength was determined to consist of 1,500 SS troops and training school personnel, with twelve 88 mm guns and an undetermined amount of 20-mm guns. Also present in great quantities was the panzerfaust, a handheld and deadly shaped-charge anti-tank weapon. All of the troops were young, and had lived a lifetime under Nazi indoctrination. These defenders had provisions sufficient for two weeks and had pledged to die in defense of the city of Munich. Division S-2 journal entries indicate that prisoners captured at the time belonged to various units including the 79th and 212th Infantry Divisions (Volkgrenadier), the SS Hohenstaufen Division, SS Hitler Jugend, and the XIII SS Corps.

The main SS training facility north of Munich was a massive building, approximately 300 yards long and six stories tall. It was constructed of reinforced concrete, surrounded by a 1-½ foot thick, 10-foot high concrete wall and defended by two 88 mm guns.

The grounds in front of the building were an elaborate system of underground emplacements, some of them two stories deep, with concealed exits as much as 50 yards from their entrance. Many of them were tied together by covered connecting trenches and linked to the main training school building with telephone communications.

The forward side of the building, which was 1,500 yards from the woods along Highway 13 just north of Neuherberg, afforded excellent observation over the level ground. The building, dark green in color with an orange tile roof, was defended by one 88-mm gun at the edge of the surrounding wall and one to the west near several concrete bunkers.

To the east were several barracks buildings. 1,000 yards to the rear was the Wehrmacht anti-tank school that consisted of a large number of one and two story barracks, surrounded by another high concrete wall and defended by approximately eight 88-mm guns and an unknown number of 20-mm guns. Realistic tank dummies were placed in strategic locations…
The first resistance was met in the town of Lohof, and it was here that the commander of Combat Command B, Colonel Newton W. Jones (Cheyenne, Wyoming) and his driver, were killed by sniper fire. When the forces of CCB approached, two tank shells fired into the town from a hill overlooking the area brought out the white flags of surrender. All was quiet until troops reached the middle of town, then suddenly “all hell seemed to break loose.”

German machine gunners let the lead company (C) of tanks through, and opened up on the light vehicles and infantry (HQ) following. Enemy soldiers concealed in foxholes, dugouts, ditches, woods and buildings opened fire from the left side of the road with small arms, machine guns and panzerfaust. While return fire was concentrated on these positions, another group of Germans opened fire from a factory on the right.

When the shooting started, Colonel Jones was standing in a jeep being driven by Corporal (T/5) William L.O. Maronde. The Colonel, who was fresh off admonishing some of his men for ‘liberating’ some colorful calfskin vests, was struck in the head and killed instantly. His driver crawled beneath the jeep for cover and was hit by sniper fire multiple times. Despite the urging of men who had dismounted and wanted Maronde to join them in the safety of a ditch, he was unable to move and died later of his wounds. The building from which the firing had come was viciously attacked and burned to the ground – all military occupants were killed.

Grave site

Col. Raymond C. Conder

The Mauthausen Trial, War Crimes Branch, Post Dachau/Germany. March-May, 1946. Members of the court: left to right, Col. Carl Martin, Col. Lyman D. Judson, Maj. Gen. Fay B. Prickett, Col. A.H. Rosenfeld, Col. John B. Smith, and Col. Raymond C. Conder.

The Mauthausen Trial, War Crimes Branch, Post Dachau/Germany. March-May, 1946. Members of the court: left to right, Col. Carl Martin, Col. Lyman D. Judson, Maj. Gen. Fay B. Prickett, Col. A.H. Rosenfeld, Col. John B. Smith, and Col. Raymond C. Conder.

Chicago Tribune March 17, 1951:
Col. Raymond C. Conder, 53, of 1219 E. Hyde Park blvd., chief of the service division of the 5th army’s supply section, died yesterday in Great Lakes naval hospital. He was graduated from West Point in 1925, and served in Europe in World War II. He had been awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and the French Croix de Guerre. Surviving are his widow, Katherine; a daughter, Mrs. Stewart Williams, and a son, Raymond Jr., West Point cadet.

Col. Raymond C. Conder was a member of the military government court at Dachau, which tried the Malmedy case. He also participated in other war crimes trials.

Maj. Gen. John E. Theimer

Last commander of the Fifth

Last commander of the Fifth

Colonel John E. Theimer during WWII in Europe

Colonel John E. Theimer, last commander of the Fifth in WWII

West Point Association of Graduates

There, he had the good fortune to serve under MG (later LTG) Raymond S. McLain and MG (later GEN) James A. Van Fleet. Johnny commanded the 5 th Armored Field Artillery Group in the Saar-Moselle Triangle. The 5th Group supported several armored divisions and a number of Infantry divisions during the spring and summer of 1945, crossing the Rhein at Mainz, to Kassel, Chemnitz, and back around to Regensburg in Bavaria, and then to Rosenheim after VE Day. Johnny was awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and other decorations for his actions during that period.

Graduated United States Military Academy at West Point 1929
Assumed command Fifth Field Artillery Group 12 December 1944
Commanded 25th Infantry Division 1958-1960
Commanded Office of Civil Affairs 27 July 1961-14 May 1962

San Francisco Chronicle
June 15, 2001

Services will be held Monday at Presidio National Cemetery for retired U. S. Army Maj. Gen. John E. Theimer, whose distinguished military career included three years as a commander at the Presidio. Gen. Theimer died May 31 of natural causes at his San Francisco home. He was 93.

An accomplished horseman who was set to participate in the 1940 Olympics before they were canceled, Gen. Theimer was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star by the Army. He became a successful stock broker in San Francisco after his military career.

Gen. Theimer was born and raised in Minnesota. He entered the U.S. Military Academy and graduated in 1929. He was commissioned in field artillery and served at Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Riley, Kan.; and in the Philippines before World War II.

He became an accomplished horseman during his early years in the Army, participating in horse shows and polo. He was assigned to the Army’s horse show team that would have participated in the 1940 Olympics. The games were canceled when Germany invaded Poland.

During the war, Gen. Theimer commanded the 695th Armored Artillery Battalion in France and Germany. The battalion was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation. He also commanded the 5th Armored Artillery Group.

After the war he was stationed at the Pentagon and later graduated from the National War College. He commanded the 9th Division Artillery in West Germany and the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Gen. Theimer’s final tour was as commander of the XV Corps and as deputy commander of the Sixth Army, both at the Presidio. He retired in 1965.


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