History in Focus: Gilbert Immenschuh — Silver Star in Germany

James Neton/For Craig Press
James Neton
Courtesy photo

In the mid 1930s, Gilbert Immenschuh came to Moffat County for about five years of his early adulthood before he was summoned to fight Nazism in March 1942. Due to his short time in our neck of the desert west, it was a difficult task to research and write the story of his life.

Immenschuh’s connection to Moffat County starts in Pottawatomie, a small town in Northeast Kansas. Born on a farm in 1916, he moved to Moffat County during the hard times of the Great Depression to help his uncle and aunt, Leo and Annie White, on their homestead. Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado and wizard of local history and research, pinpointed the White homestead just south of Craig, along modern day Moffat County Road 35.

Only a few small snippets of Immenschuh’s five years in Moffat County were recorded in the local newspapers. His labor was needed on the White’s 247-acre property.

“Gilbert Immenschuh is helping Leo White with his hay,” reported the Craig Empire-Courier in the High Mesa report of Aug. 5, 1936. Earlier in 1936, his uncle was charged with operating a coal mine south of Craig without a state license, so we might assume Gilbert was helping dig coal. Finally, in July 9, 1941, the Empire-Courier reported “Mr. and Mrs. Leo White and nephew got a load of wheat from Ellgens Wednesday.”

By March 1942, Immenschuh was back in Kansas and inducted into the Army. He was trained as a tank driver and assigned to Company B, 40th tank battalion of the 7th Armored division. Immenschuh was part of the great allied wave that swept across France, endured the Battle of the Bulge and pushed into Germany. Through March, the fast-moving 40th quickly moved through towns and villages in central Germany as Nazi resistance began to collapse.

On April 9, Immenschuh was killed in action and earned a Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry” in action against the enemy. Even with a Silver Star, various histories and records are inconclusive regarding the exact whereabouts of his death. One record indicates he was somewhere near Neurenrade, Germany. After-action reports for the 40th tank battalion posted on the 7th Armored Division site provide some clues.

Immenschuh’s Task Force Wolf (a grouping of a variety of tank and infantry companies) moved forward to capture Heminghausen. Mined roadblocks were dismantled along the way. Suddenly, the two lead tanks of the column (presumably one driven by Immenschuh) were fired upon by a concealed enemy tank under a railroad underpass from 200 yards.

“The crews of these tanks suffered high casualties because of the mortar and small arms fire,” the report stated. No names of the soldiers were provided. Quickly, the infantry moved in, wiped out the small force of Germans, captured 27 prisoners and secured the town.

On May 2, 1945, a two paragraph article in the Empire-Courier noted Immenschuh’s death with the headline, “Youth, Well Known Here, Is Killed in Action in Germany.” Less than a month after Immenschuh’s tank was destroyed in a last-ditch effort by fanatical Nazis, the war in Europe ended on May 8.

Immenschuh’s short five years in Craig allows Moffat County to claim him as one of ours. However, his life and death deserves more than is provided in this vignette. If anyone knows more about Immenschuh, contact Davidson at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. With grateful thanks, his name is inscribed on the World War II Memorial in Veteran’s Park, just behind the local VFW.

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