Cornelius M. Sinon

Photo of Cornelius Sinon not available

Branch: ARMY
Service Number: 42083710
Rank: Private
Unit: 3rd Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Regiment, Company "F"

Cornelius Martin Sinon, “Neal” was born on May 16, 1925 in Camden, NJ to parents Tunis and Rose (Conklin) Sinon. Both parents were originally from Northern New Jersey. Young Neal may have been named after his maternal grandfather, Cornelius B. Conklin or perhaps his paternal uncle, Cornelius Peter Sinon. He was the middle sibling of older brother Jacob Herbert Sinon, “Jake” born in August 1923 and younger sister Mary Jeanette Sinon who was born in December 1927.

15 Third Avenue
As parents, Tunis and Rose had been described as “pampering" and at times, and over-protective of their children. They were also not known to be strict disciplinarians for the most part. Tunis was employed at Camden Forge where he worked as a bricklayer and Rose was a stay at home mother. The family lived at 979 Sylvan Street in Camden, New Jersey, according to the 1930 Census and attended the Trinity Methodist Church. By 1935, the Sinon Family moved to 15 Third Avenue in Mount Ephraim, NJ. They joined the Sacred Heart Catholic Church parish and the children attended the Mt. Ephraim Public School. Neal would quit school in 1941, after completing seventh grade.

Neal’s brother Jacob was a self described "problem child,” who was known to the local law enforcement as a “tough guy.” After being arrested, a judge ultimately told Jake to either join the military or face jail time. He enlisted in the Army on April 22, 1943. Even this unfortunately did not keep him out of trouble.

Mary was also a bit of a wild child, who ran away from home on one occasion at the age of fifteen. On August 16, 1943, she and friend Anna Moore went shopping in Camden. The two were waiting for a bus to take them home late that evening at Broadway and Market Streets. Mary was said to suddenly, just walked off. While Mary went missing, her father Tunis had become very ill and eventually passed away on February 29, 1944 due to asthma and heart illness. He was only 50 years old. After an exhaustive search for almost a year, Mary was found in Philadelphia by police officers and returned home in April 1944.

Neal worked for the Radio Condenser Company on Sheridan Street in Camden, NJ, from 1941 to 1943. This company provided radio frequency tuning component parts and sub-assemblies to most of the radio manufacturers as well as the military. Here, he worked in the drill shop, removing faulty condensers from radio chassis and replacing them with functional ones. Leslie Holtzapfel (another Mount Ephraim resident who would later perish during World War II) worked here as well just prior to enlisting in the army in February 1943. Radio Condenser Company is still in operation at Copewood and Thorn Streets in Camden, but is now called "RF Products.” In June 1943, Neal would go on to a leather factory in Camden, where he was first employed as a floor boy, providing materials to the operators. He later became a handyman at this facility.

Neal was classified as fit for military service (1A) on February 22, 1944 by the Camden County Selective Service Board #3. This board covered the young men who were drafted into the armed forces from the communities of Gloucester City, Brooklawn, Mount Ephraim, and Bellmawr. Sinon went the the Gloucester City Municipal Building at Broadway and Monmouth Streets to fill out paperwork. He would go back on March 18th for a physical examination and again in June to get blood work. According to the induction report, Neal had no medical issues or criminal background.

On July 12, 1944, a group of 31 inductees including five of Mount Ephraim’s young men would stand with their right hands raised at the Gloucester City Municipal Building and be sworn into the armed forces; Edward H. Krusch of 411 Black Horse Pike, William E. Schemel of 719 Market Street, Pasquale F. Aceto of 26 Davis Avenue, Joseph L. Vilardo (my grandfather) of 32 White Avenue, and Cornelius M. Sinon of 15 Third Avenue.

1229 Reception Center, Ft. Dix
By July 21st, Neal reported to the 1229th Reception Center at Fort Dix, New Jersey for orientation. After arriving, Sinon was read the Articles of War, issued his uniform, shoes, and other necessary gear. He would then be assigned to a company and barrack to bunk in.

Day two, he and the rest of the recruits would be up bright and early at 5:45 A.M. for reveille formation. Afterwards they would return to clean up the barracks, shower, shave and report to the mess hall for breakfast at 7 A.M. By 7:30, they were called to detail and each man underwent a detailed physical examination and administered a variety of vaccination shots. Here were some of Neal’s basic attributes at the time: Height: 64 3/4 inches, Weight: 123 pounds., Eyes: Brown with 20/20 vision, Hair: Brown, Complexion: Ruddy.

Following the exam, the men returned to the mess hall for lunch. The afternoon was spent marching and formation drills. By 3:30 P.M., the Company was dismissed and returned to the barracks to organize their belongings and report back for dinner at 6:30 P.M. Unfortunate souls would catch the much dreaded “KP” (kitchen patrol) duty. From 7 to 11 P.M., recruits were free to unwind.

Soldiers catching the train at Ft. Dix
The routine for day three was much like the previous day. Up at the crack of dawn, and fall into formation. Getting ready for the Army life. After breakfast, the recruits took an IQ test and an interview to determine what job classification each man would be assigned to. They would also sign up for the G.I. life insurance policy which provided $10,000 to a soldier’s beneficiary if the applicant was killed in action. He arranged for part of his pay to be sent back to his family. By July 29th, Neal boarded a train at Fort Dix with other recruits having absolutely no idea of their next destination. This was just another thing these men would learn about being in the Army.

After two days of travel, the train finally stopped in Macon, Georgia. Neal stepped off and was transported to nearby Camp Wheeler to begin basic training. Camp Wheeler was an infantry replacement training center, where new recruits spent 17 weeks learning how to be a soldier.

Private Sinon was officially assigned to Company “D” of the 11th Infantry Training Battalion on August 2nd. He spent the first five weeks listening to lectures about military courtesy, sex hygiene, mines, booby traps, first aid for soldiers, map reading, marksmanship and other Army fundamentals. Neal also learned the disassembly, cleaning and re-assembly of the M-1 Garand rifle, which he qualified as a marksman.

On September 11th, Neal complained of pain on the right side of his groin. doctors diagnosed him with an inguinal hernia and was admitted to hospital the next day. Sinon had a surgical procedure to repair the hernia on the 15th and would spend almost two months convalescing.

Soon after his release from the hospital on November 11th, Sinon was reassigned to Company “B” of the 15th Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Wheeler. He gradually got back up to speed with his training, and prepared to take his testing on the firing range. He qualified on the use and care of the M-1 carbine a week later. He later would do the same with the Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R). He trained on the .30 caliber machine gun in mid-December, however, he failed to qualify to use it. On December 23rd, Neal was treated for a sprained right thumb but returned to his training.

Training at Camp Wheeler
In the new year, Sinon briefly trained with the 60mm mortar, dropping a few rounds in the “stovepipe” to become familiar with it should the occasion ever arise when he would need to use one. The men of the battalion continued their training into the winter with various tactical operational courses on overhead artillery fire training, village fighting, bayonet instruction, and infiltration course where all infantry weapons were loaded with live ammunition.

Neal had completed his basic training at Camp Wheeler by February 3, 1945. He traveled via train to the Army Ground Force Replacement Depot #1 at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. This was one of only two Army installations in the country where soldiers gathered to be shipped overseas as replacements for men who had been either killed, wounded, reassigned or discharged. Here, the officers made sure these soldiers were adequately prepared for war. The men were kept active to maintain their mental and physical conditioning. Additional training, weapon proficiency checks, physical examinations, and inoculations were all performed to make sure the troops were fit for overseas duty. 

 Soldiers would not be granted liberty from the base as their date of embarkation was imminent. In fact, they could not have visitors, make telephone calls, or send letters to family and friends until they got to their next destination. Large movement of troops towards ports had to be conducted in secrecy to prevent alerting foreign agents and possible sabotage acts. Private Sinon spent about two weeks at Fort Meade before boarding a train once again on February 18th and heading up to the New York Port of Embarkation.

Boarding troop ship
The train arrived in the New York City area and the men were temporarily staged at either Camp Kilmer near New Brunswick, NJ or Camp Shanks in Orangeburg, New York for final processing. On February 24th, the soldiers were transported by rail to Jersey City, New Jersey and then ferried across the Hudson River to a pier in Brooklyn, where their troop ship was moored. He and the replacement soldiers would board the ship and sailed off later that day. Just as in the early days of his training, Neal was not told the destination of the transport.

The ship arrived in the United Kingdom on March 5th and the troops disembarked. Neal was detailed to a stockage depot for a day where he and his fellow soldiers felt they were handled like a herd of cattle. He would then be shuffled off to a “package” area to be placed into a smaller group of replacement soldiers. The next day, this group was taken across the English Channel by ship to France and then transported to Thaon, where they were assigned to the Second Replacement Depot of the Ground Forces Reinforcement Command. Neal would stay there until March 12th when he was moved once more to Detachment #71, in a forward depot located just to the rear of the forward troops. The life of a replacement soldier would be one of anxiousness and depression. He could hear the gunfire and artillery exploding in the distance. The war was getting closer and closer for Private Sinon. All he could do was read field manuals for replacement soldiers and await his turn on the front line.

7th Inf. Reg. Patch
March 21, 1945, Neal was assigned as a rifleman to Company “F,” Second Battalion of the 7th Infantry Regiment. Also known as the “Cotton Balers,” the 7th Regiment were part of the 3rd Infantry Division, which in turn were attached to the U.S. Seventh Army. The 3rd Infantry was one of the few divisions of the U.S. Army during World War II that fought the Axis in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Germany and later Austria. They were among the first American combat units to engage in offensive group combat operation and fought for 531 consecutive days.

Just days prior to Sinon’s arrival, the 7th Infantry Regiment had just broken through the Siegfried Line. With that action, their Second Battalion suffered a great many casualties. They had conducted a night attack on March 15th with 640 officers and soldiers. Within the span of several hours, the number of men was reduced to 184. “Fox” ("F") Company had just sustained the greatest loss from within the battalion. At the end of the evening, they reported having only two able-bodied enlisted men and no surviving officers. The number of those wounded did not even outweigh those killed. In addition, 83 members of the company were taken prisoner by the enemy.

On the day of Private Sinon's assignment, the 7th Infantry Regiment had been in an assembly area at Conwig, Germany by the late afternoon of the 21st. Later that day, they marched in reserve to the vicinity of Weselberg. Two days later, the regiment was ordered to move to an assembly area near Carlsberg. The next morning, the troops attended church services. They were still holding tight in the assembly area. The soldiers spent the rest of the day cleaning and preparing their equipment while the officers worked out the plans for crossing the Rhine River. By late evening, the team advanced along the Reichsautobahn under cover of darkness to the town of Frankenthal, located on the west bank of the Rhine. The men immediately began rehearsing boat drills and prepared for the river crossing.

The following is an except taken from the book: "From Fedala to Berchtesgaden” by Nathan William White.

It was the third time in World War II that the Seventh Infantry had reached the Rhine River. On the first two occasions at Strasbourg and east of Colmar orders were not forthcoming for a jump across the water barrier but this time the "Cotton Balers" had received the nod and were ready to add the Rhine to the long list of creeks, streams and rivers crossed by men of the Regiment in this great conflict.

In the closing days of March 1945 the enemy knew the river was to be crossed north of Mannheim. At 2040 on the 25th two large explosions on the east side of the river were heard. One machine gun on the enemy side of the river fired spasmodically. The boat carrying parties dragged the storm and assault boats to the crossing sites. At 2220 the enemy started laying in artillery and mortar fire on the Seventh Infantry crossing sites and assembly areas. The engineers suffered nine casualties as some of the boats were hit and destroyed. Smoke was laid-in around Sandhofen and the American artillery opened up counter-battery fire.

The foot troops moved out and at midnight the First Battalion troops closed into their final assembly area. The Third Battalion troops were assembled in their area at 0100. The Second Battalion passed through Morsch at 0145 and at 0223 was closed into the final assembly area.

The Third Division Artillery, with the 250th and 693rd Field Artillery Battalions opened up with their pre-H-Hour concentrations at 0152. It was a terrific barrage that the supporting arm laid down. Other weapons joined fire. In the short period of 38 minutes to H-Hour 10,000 rounds of high explosive ammunition were fired. One would think that such a terrific barrage would silence all enemy weapons, but not so. Enemy mortars and self-propelled guns continued to fire and with deadly accuracy. The enemy hit a barn with an incendiary shell, in the vicinity of an observation post used by the Commanding Officer and set it afire. The burning barn, and flares shot into the sky by the enemy, lit up the area, silhouetted the men and boats and made them excellent targets for the enemy who poured in deadly machine gun, mortar and SP fire.

Undaunted by the enemy opposition the "Cotton Balers" of the First and Third Battalions climbed into the boats and shoved off from the western bank. All hell broke loose as the enemy increased their fire. Some of the boats were hit, some were capsized. Other boats developed motor trouble and floundered around on the river. But others succeeded during the confusion and roar of the guns and crossed with their assaulting troops to return for more human cargo. On the far bank more fire from enemy mortars and self-propelled guns was received but the troops pushed on.

At 0340 all the assault troops of both the First and Third Battalions were across the river and closing in on their objectives. Enemy troops occupying a final protective line before Sandhofen opened up on the advancing "Cotton Balers" with fire from automatic weapons and tanks.

By 0500 the First Battalion overcame all resistance before Sandhofen and entered the town to become engaged in a bitter house-to-house battle that raged all day. The Third Battalion on the left encountered less opposition and moved rapidly that morning.

7th Infantry Crossing the Rhine River
Meanwhile the Second Battalion, which had closed into its forward assembly area and waited for orders to cross the river, had to endure the deadly enemy fire which inflicted casualties of killed and wounded. At 0600 Company "F" started the Second Battalion movement across the river with whatever boats were on hand. Of the first three to start out two were hit by enemy fire and capsized. Several of the men were killed. The boat shuttling continued amid the rain of hostile shells and it was not until 0800 that "Fox" Company was completely across the river. At 1100 the White Battalion troops were all on the east side and moved to the vicinity of the dyke before Sandhofen.”

It was during this operation that Private Cornelius M. Sinon and Private William D. Murray were first reported missing in action. Neal’s commanding officer, 1st Sergeant Gordon Lindert wrote on the missing soldier report,”On 26 March 1945 at about 0400 hours, Company was attempting to cross the Rhine River. A terrific enemy artillery barrage came in and around the vicinity where company was assembled just prior to crossing the river. it is not known whether Pvt. Murray and Pvt. Sinon were drowned while crossing the river or wounded before loading the assault boats.” The regiment would lose 24 men that day. After the Cotton Balers crossed the Rhine into Germany, they took part in the seizing of Munich before heading into Austria, reaching the Salzburg area in the waning days of the war. It is said that elements of the regiment had the honor of capturing Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden.

The War Department sent a telegram dated April 12, 1945 to Rose Sinon stating that her son was missing in action. Rose read this and broke down in tears. She became emotionally unstable and developed stomach troubles as well as a nervous condition. In a later letter, The Adjutant General assured Rose that in the event additional information is received, it would be relayed to her without delay.

A body was discovered floating in the Rhine River about one mile east of Hamm am Rhein, Germany on May 22, 1945. The deceased was recovered, tagged and brought to Bensheim to be identified and buried. These remains were later positively found to be that of Private Cornelius M. Sinon. The cause of death was determined to be drowning. He had floated down the river a distance of 16 miles.

The War Department now had confirmation of Neal’s death. They sent another telegram to Rose on July 23rd, updating her with the news that her son had been killed. A letter followed up the telegram two days later from the Adjutant General expressing his deep regret for the sorrow this news brought. An additional letter would arrive from Chaplain Marvin Utter of the 3rd Infantry Division who wrote to Mrs. Sinon explaining what had happened on March 26, 1945 and that her son was buried in "the beautiful U.S. Military Cemetery at Bensheim, Germany: Plot T, Row 29 and Grave 2785.” He continued, “I know that the loss of this son is keenly felt by you and that there now is a vacant spot in our life. However, we may rely on the promises of our Lord that He will comfort us and sustain us in the hour of our greatest need."

Cornelius Sinon Grave Marker

Neal was survived by his mother Rose, brother Jacob, and sister Mary (who was then married to Thomas J. Finn). Private Sinon was transferred after the war to Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France. He is buried at Plot D Row 47 Grave 17. Neal was posthumously awarded the the Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

May their sacrifice never be forgotten.


Popular posts from this blog

James W. Dye Jr.

Leslie A. Holtzapfel

Delbert K. Sandt