90th Chemical Mortar Battalion
The Story of the Ninetieth In Training and In Action
1944 - 1945
A Message from the Battalion Commander
The Battalion Reorganizes The Crossing of the Roer Company C in the Bridgehead The Shift to the South The Occupation of Nuernberg
Old C Company
Headquarters Goes to War Behind the Spearhead The Move to Third Army The War Ended in Salksdorf The Long Voyage Home
What Were They Like?
Eastward Bound Into Germany and Combat The Second Month The Advance Slows Down Ruhr Pocket Transfer to Third Army No More Shooting S.O.P. in Germany
Preparation for Overseas Movement On to the Continent Committed to Action Across the Rhine Buttoning up the Pocket South to Bavaria We Turn West
ETO Bound Into Belgium and Germany First Artillery to Cross Rhine The Bridgehead Grows Ruhr Pocket Operation Battalion Goes to Third Army The War Ends Homeward Bound
The 4.2" Chemical Mortar
In MemoriamWe Dedicate this story of the Ninetieth Chemical Mortar Battalion to our friends who died in combat. They lost their lives fighting not for some lofty ideal, but to save their homes and loved ones from the dangers, which threatened on both sides.
It is for us to be humbly grateful that, by the Grace of God, we have won the victory for which they died. Their graves are forever the Ninetieth's and America's sacred ground.
PFC. ROBERT S. ABRAMSON, 563 Westmoreland Avenue, Syracuse, N. Y. Died 12 April, 1945, as a result of injuries received in the vicinity of Buschoven, Germany, on 8 March, 1945. Age 20 years, 1 month.
PVT. JAMES DALTON, Fancy Gap, Va. Killed in action on 21 February 1945, near Abenden, Germany. Age 19 years, 5 months.
CPL. RICHARD C. GRAY, Woodruff, W. Va. Killed resisting capture 3 March 1945, at Nemmenich, Germany. Age 19 years, 7 months.
SGT. CLARENCE IVY, Grand Coteau, La. Died 9 March 1945, as a result of wounds received 8 March 1945, at Nettekoven near Bonn, Germany. Age 23 years, 9 months.
A Message from the Battalion Commander
To the Men of the 90th
The battalion has done its duty. The praises and commendations given to it by higher commanders have been well and fully earned.
In training at Fort Bragg, I drove you relentlessly. There was much to be learned and learned quickly. We were not afraid to try new ideas, new methods. Through initiative, courage and hard work we established a standard of gunnery efficiency never achieved before with heavy mortars. You responded with eagerness, enthusiasm and drive that created the high state of morale which carried the battalion through all of its tough spots. The hard training at Fort Bragg enabled us to accomplish all of our missions in combat and it saved many of our lives.
Nor did I spare you in action. You were assigned critical and dangerous missions whenever the fire of our heavy mortars was needed by the infantry. In combat, the battalion proved itself to be a smoothly operating, hard-hitting, fighting machine. It was our job to kill Krauts. We did.
All of these accomplishments were made possible by one great driving factor. That was the intense loyalty of every man in the battalion to his country, to his unit and to me. You never let me down and for that I shall always be deeply grateful to you.I have no words with which I can adequately express my appreciation for all that you have done for your country and for all that my service with you has meant to me. I am very proud of you. To me, the people of the 90th Chemical Mortar Battalion are the finest troops in the world.
1 October 1945
Lt. Col. CWS
The story of the 90th Chemical Battalion (Motorized) begins at Fort Bragg, N. C., on February 10, 1944. Its cadre came in soon after activation date, non-commissioned officers from the 88th Chemical Bn at Camp Rucker, Ala., officers from various other points.
Trainees who were to comprise the bulk of the organization were slow in arriving, and it was not until April 3 that enough men had arrived for the battalion to begin basic training. By this time Maj. E. V. H. Bell, the battalion commander, had selected his staff and company commanders. Initial appointments were: Capt. R. H. Morrison, Jr., executive; Lt. Raymond Zickfeld, S-1; Lt. Leonard R. Skwarek, S-2; Capt. C. H. Colgin, S-3, and Lt. Richard Joyeusacz, S-4; Capt. Woods B. Huff, CO, Company A; Capt. Thomas V. Kelly, CO, Company B; Lt. Stanley G. Brading, CO, Company C, and Lt. Joseph C. Braxton, CO, Company D.
The battalion completed individual or basic training early in August and went immediately into unit training. Most of this phase of training was spent in the sand and pines of the ranges at Fort Bragg learning to shoot the 4.2" mortar straight. New ideas were conceived, tested and accepted - constant elevation, the 90th's own GFT, fire direction centers. Bewildering new instruments were mastered - the panoramic sight and aiming circle. The battalion was nearly ready.
By mid-September it was generally known that days before the 90th left Fort Bragg for overseas duty were numbered, and from that time on a large section of the battalion was busy dipping weapons in cosmoline, crating and preparing them for shipment, while others were assisting in the mass of paper-work which always appears incidental to the Army's making any move.
On Sunday, October 15th, a long, solemn column, packs on backs, swung out of the barracks for the last time. Col. Bell stood straight and unsmiling to watch the 90th load on a long train for the first leg. The next afternoon, the battalion detrained Camp Kilmer, N. J. After 48 hours of processing, everyone made ready for a last fling in New York City, but the alert order which followed immediately put an end to all such ideas.
On October 21st, it was a short leg - train to Jersey City and ferry to the North River pier where the U. S. Army Transport Thomas H. Barry waited. A short haul up the gangplank and packs were tossed into bunks with sighs of relief. On Sunday, October 22nd, the last home ties dropped off; the Statue of Liberty fell astern and everyone felt the nearness of war now, as the convoy of some 40 ships formed off Sandy Hook.
After 11 days at sea, some of them stormy, the Barry docked at Southampton, and by eight o'clock at night on the 2nd of November, the 90th Battalion was off the boat and starting to load into a troop train which carried them to Beeston Castle by 4 a. m. the next morning. A short bus ride to Oulton Park, and the 90th was in its new camp.
Thanksgiving, training was in full sway again, but the men had enough time off to learn a good bit about the Cheshire section of England. Men with wanderlust took off as far south as London and as far north as Edinburgh, Scotland, on short passes.
The Battalion Reorganizes
On December 1, orders were issued reorganizing the battalion from four weapons companies and a headquarters detachment to three weapons companies and a headquarters company. In the reorganization, Company C was inactivated, and Company D was redesignated Company C. The inactivation of "Old C Company", as it soon was called, was a bitter pill for its members to swallow, but they took it in a manner worthy of the 90th and were soon holding down responsible jobs in the companies to which they were transferred.
After the disbanding of Company C, Lt. Col. Bell had the following staff: Maj. Robert H. Morrison, Jr., Executive; Lt. Raymond Zickfeld, S-1; Capt. Stanley G. Brading, S-2; Maj. Joseph C. Braxton, S-3; Lt. Douglas W. Dwyer, Asst. S-3; Capt. Ernest C. Wright, S-4 and CO of Hq. Co.; Capt. Leonard R. Skwarek, Motor O., and Lt. Leonard E. Washco, Communications O. Commanders of the mortar companies were: Capt. Jack M. Robinson, Co. A; Capt. Samuel E. Baker, Co. B, and Capt. Thurston D. Smyer, Co. C.
It soon became evident that the main reason the 90th was being kept in England so long was that materiel losses in the "Battle of the Bulge" made it impossible to equip the battalion with its organic motor transportation. However, by the latter part of January, this equipment began to come in, and the battalion left for the port of Southampton on the last day of the month.
On February 3 the battalion was together again at Camp Twenty Grand near Rouen after having traveled from Southampton in separate LST's. Three companies had landed at Le Havre, while the fourth had gone up the Seine and landed at Rouen.
After eight miserable days at Camp Twenty Grand, the battalion had drawn its ammunition and was ready to leave for the combat zone. Camp Twenty Grand was left behind on February 11, and after spending that night at Cambrai, the battalion pulled into the little Belgian town of Raeren, just outside the German border, on the night of February 12.
The companies spent the following two days in getting their equipment ready for combat while the company commanders were briefed by the units they were to work with. The battalion was assigned to the First U. S. Army and attached to the III Corps. The mortar companies were attached, Companies A and B to the First Infantry Division, and Company C to the Eighty-second Airborne Division. On February 15, the mortar companies moved out of their billets in Neudorf adjacent to Raeren and went into position. The first round in action was fired by Company B the following morning.
It soon became evident that the battalion was a part of the troops which were being assembled for the crossing of the Roer River and the drive to the Rhine. During the build-up for this operation, more and more units took up their positions.
On February 21, the battalion suffered its first combat casualty: Pvt. James Dalton, second platoon, Company C, was killed by shrapnel from a German mortar shell.
The Crossing of the Roer
On the 23rd of February, the VII Corps on the left of III Corps mounted their offensive and began to cross the Roer. Stiff resistance was encountered in the town of Dueren. During the operation, the 8th Infantry Division (the right division of VII Corps) asked Company B of the 90th to fire a screen for them inasmuch as their supporting weapons did not have smoke ammunition available. This screen was maintained throughout the day and 3,511 rounds of WP were used for the completion of the mission. This screen was credited as a great aid in the success of the crossing operation, and the company was commended highly for it by the supported infantry.
On February 24, General Hodges, the Commanding General of the First Army, materially changed the plan of crossing the Roer for the III and V Corps. The Infantry Divisions of the III Corps were to swing north and cross the bridges already put in by the VII Corps and then swing south again after crossing the Roer. The V Corps was to follow the same procedure with the III Corps bridges.
This new plan of attack eliminated assault crossings by the units of the III Corps, which the 90th was supporting and saved an untold number of lives. It also meant that the mortar companies could support their infantry units by firing at right angles to the infantry line of attack. Consequently the mortar companies remained in position for some time after their infantry had begun to cross.
The first units of the 1st Division crossed the Roer on February 25. Companies A and B of the 90th in support of this division crossed on February 26. Company C in support of the 9th Infantry Division (which had relieved the 82nd Airborne Division on February 18) did not begin to cross the Roer until February 28 and its last units crossed on March 1. The battalion CP moved to Grosshau just west of the Roer on February 28th and crossed the Roer on March 2.
The country to the east of the Roer River was a flat cultivated plain in contrast to the woods and mountains met in the Huertgen Forest. The Germans conducted a defense based on a series of strong points in villages and towns, and most of the 90th Battalion's mortar positions were set up in towns also in this phase of operations. By March 4, the battalion had fired over 12,300 rounds of ammunition and had supported the advance of the infantry as far as the Erft Canal, about halfway between the Roer and the Rhine. During this week, Lt. Warren Evans and an OP detail consisting of Cpl. Roy Moore, Cpl. Richard Gray, Pfc. Edward Knoud, and Pfc. George Hemphill, all of Company C, were captured. It was later learned conclusively that Cpl. Richard Gray was killed at Nemmenich; the others of this group were liberated later.
The second week in March began with a continuation of the drive to the Rhine. By the 7th of March, Companies A and B were in the suburbs of Bonn giving the 1st Division support as they cleared out the town. On March 8, Sgt. Clarence Ivy of Co. B was severely wounded near Duisdorf and died in a hospital the next day as a result of his wounds. Also on the same day eleven men in the Third Platoon of Company B were burned when 4.2 shell propellant powder caught on fire in a truck. Pfc. Robert Abramson was the most severely injured and died as a result of his injuries on April 12.
Company C was south and west of the other companies supporting the drive of the 9th Division into Bad Godesberg. It had been fully expected by all concerned that there would be another period of waiting for the larger build-up necessary for the crossing of as large a river as the Rhine. However on the morning of March 8, the news spread that the preceding day the 9th Armored Division of III Corps in a long sweep to the southeast had discovered a railroad bridge intact across the Rhine at Remagen. The armor had started to cross the bridge and already had a small bridgehead on the east bank of the Rhine.
Plans were changed quickly to take advantage of this unforeseen opportunity. By the night of March 8th, Co. C had been assembled at a point southwest of Bad Godesberg and was following the 60th Infantry of the 9th Division on the road to Remagen. Before midnight the company had crossed the Remagen Bridge and had moved south into the town of Linz. Companies A and B remained in position in the vicinity of Bonn until March 10 when the III Corps Sector was changed and Company A was attached to the 99th Infantry Division and Company B to the 78th Infantry Division.
Company C in the Bridgehead
Too much credit cannot be given to Company C for the job they did in the early hours of the Remagen bridgehead. The number of our troops on the east bank of the Rhine was small those first few days, and the Germans were determined to wipe the bridgehead out. The bridge was shelled so heavily that it took an iron nerve to run a truck across it. In many cases it was the accurate mortar fire of Company C which aided the 9th Division's infantry in its advance, or which broke up the enemy's counter-attacks and leveled his strong points.
On March 12, Companies A and B crossed the Rhine, and on the same day, battalion set up an ammunition dump and a forward CP on the east bank of the river. Company A with the 99th Infantry Division supported the infantry in a drive to the southeast to enlarge the bridgehead. Company B, although attached to the 78th Infantry Division, worked with a 9th Division Combat Team which was also attached to the 78th Division, and assisted in the drive to the northeast. The combat teams of the 9th Division to which Company C was attached were driving to the east.
The territory in the Remagen bridgehead was mortar country. It was mountainous, and in many places heavily wooded. It is believed that the 90th Battalion gave its most effective mortar support between March 8, when Company C crossed the river, and March 25 when III Corps armor broke out of the bridgehead area and set up the situation for another rapid advance eastward. During this period, the battalion fired over 11,300 rounds of ammunition broken down as follows: Company A, 3,243, Company B, 3,883, and Company C, 4,197. It is surprising that during this period the only casualties with one exception were not sustained at mortar positions, but at company rear installations in Linz. These casualties resulted from air bombs, which Jerry dropped on the town in his efforts to knock out the Ludendorff Bridge.
The breakthrough from the Remagen bridgehead gathered such speed that it was commonly referred to as a "rat race" by those who took part in it. During the week of March 26-April 1, the units of the battalion averaged a road distance advance to the east of 120 miles. Most of the distance was covered in the first five days of this week. During the whole week there were practically no calls for mortar fire, and the whole battalion fired only 20 rounds.
By April 3, the 90th, which was in an assembly area north of Marburg, had received copies of III Corps' next operational move. This was a reversal of direction in a drive to the northwest to wipe out the Ruhr Pocket which had been formed by the Ninth Army on the north and the First Army on the south and east. The companies moved into position on April 4. Companies A and B were attached to the 99th Infantry Division, and Company C to the 9th Infantry Division. The terrain in III Corps' sector was similar to that in the Remagen bridgehead, consisting for the most part of heavily wooded mountains with few villages and fewer towns.
Operations in the Ruhr Pocket took approximately two weeks. During this period the battalion fired 3,330 rounds of 4.2" ammunition. Well over a third of this total was fired during the first week by Company C in support of the 9th Division. The main German attack to break out of the pocket came in this sector, and the mortar fire of Company C was very effective in breaking up German troop formations and counter attacks.
During operations in the Ruhr Pocket there were no battle casualties. This is remarkable in view of the fact that the companies encountered artillery and sniper fire in many positions. During the second week of the Ruhr Pocket engagement, Company B was in support of the 5th Infantry Division, and Company C was attached to the 5th Division for the last three days of the second week after the 9th Infantry had finished mopping up in its zone of action.
The Shift to the South
At the conclusion of the Ruhr Pocket operation, the battalion was assembled in an area southeast of Meschede to prepare for its next mission. On April 17, information was received that the III Corps had been transferred from the First to the Third Army, and that its attached troops, including the 90th Mortar Battalion, would move south into the Third Army sector. The move began on the night of April 18th. During the 19th, the battalion passed through Frankfurt-on-Main and Wuerzburg, and marveled at the terrific damage inflicted by the Air Force on these large towns.
The battalion's new assembly area was about 35 kilometers west of Nuremberg. All companies remained in this assembly area the rest of the week. At the end of the week, Company A had been attached to the 86th Infantry Division, which had joined III Corps, and Companies B and C had been attached to the 99th Infantry Division. By April 29, the end of the first week in combat with the Third Army, the battalion had moved an average distance of 135 miles to the southeast and the mortar companies had crossed the Danube River.
In the mortar firing incident to the Danube River crossing, three men in Company C were wounded, the last casualties the battalion sustained in combat. The Danube crossing proved the easiest the battalion had participated in for there was no concerted prepared resistance by the Germans on the east bank of the river. However, because of the location of the 99th Division bridge across the Danube, the approaches became so muddy that traffic was held up for extended periods, and for those men of the mortar companies who shivered through most of the night of April 28-29 in their jeeps and awaited their turn to cross the river, the crossing was far from enjoyable.
Once on the east bank of the Danube, it was mainly a problem of accepting the surrender of large numbers of German prisoners who wanted to give themselves up, and there was not much call for mortar firing. The battalion fired its last operational mission on April 30th, although it was not known for several days that this would be the last mission, as the companies did not revert to battalion control until May 2.
On May 2 when the battalion began to reassemble in the vicinity of Salksdorf, a little town about ten miles south of Landshut, no one knew the reason why III Corps' drive to the south suddenly had been stopped by Army order. Some said it was because the direction of corps' advance had been changed. Others said the Germans were surrendering. The 90th was informed n Saturday, May 5, that the III Corps and its attached troops would have no more operational duty in the European Theater, and that the corps would soon be moving to the vicinity of Nuremberg to take up military government duties. It was not until Monday, May 7, however, that official news reached the battalion of the German unconditional surrender terms taking effect on May 8. By that time the battalion had received orders to move to Nuremberg on May 8.
The Occupation of Nuremberg
The convoy to Nuremberg, May 8, was far different from most of the operational moves the companies had made since February. The move was toward the rear and most men felt they could sit back and enjoy the ride more than at any time since they had gone into action. By the afternoon of the following day, the battalion was settled in Nuremberg in billets taken over from the occupying forces of the Fourth Division, which the 90th Battalion relieved.
Everyone was soon settled back in garrison life. The only incident, which marred an otherwise peaceful tour of duty, happened on May 17 when two small German boys got into a stock of 4.2" mortar ammunition in Company C's area and accidentally set it on fire. The ammunition exploded and in the process damaged a large part of Company C motor and mortar equipment. The German boys were killed in the explosion, and the company was exonerated of blame.
Later in the month of May, the 90th received word that it was to be redeployed to the Pacific. It seemed definite that the redeployment would take place through the United States, and men began to speak of what they were planning to do on that furlough back in the United States. Rumor for once became fact, and the battalion began to turn in equipment and to prepare for the long motor trip to the French coast. The company serials left Nuremberg on the 15th of June and arrived at Camp Lucky Strike on the French coast on the evening of June 17th.
Days of rumors followed, when all hands wondered when they would be assigned to a boat. Finally the advance party left on June 26th, and the battalion loaded on the S. S. Wakefield on June 28th. This time the main body landed in Boston, and by July 6th, the battalion was ashore again and ready to start on its thirty days at home.
The battalion had not finished reassembling at Fort Jackson, S. C., before the news of peace with Japan came on August 14. Then the question of "When do we sail again?" soon became, "When do we go home for good?" At this point, late in September, it appears that the high point men will soon be returned home while the fate of the battalion, as a whole is indefinite.
There were many units in the European Theater of Operations who served a much longer period of time than did the 90th Mortar Battalion, and many more who were in combat longer. But every man in the battalion believes that few, if any, 4.2" mortar battalions gave the infantry better support in action than the 90th. The written commendations published elsewhere in this book are but a small part of the whole. Many a "well done" has been given to the members of the battalion verbally. But the highest compliment of all to those who served the 4.2" mortars in the 90th was the respect accorded them by the doughs of such veteran units as the 1st Infantry and 9th Infantry and 82nd Airborne Divisions.
Old C CompanyNo story of the 90th Chemical Mortar Battalion would be complete without mentioning the original Company C. It has always been referred to as "Old C Company" to differentiate it from the C Company of the present battalion organization.
The 90th Chemical Battalion (Motorized), as it was originally called consisted of four mortar companies and a Headquarters Detachment. Under this arrangement the battalion did all its training at Fort Bragg and arrived at Oulton Park Camp in Cheshire, England. After the 90th had been in England for about a month, orders were received to reorganize under a new table of organization which had been printed just as the battalion was leaving the United States for overseas.
The fact that the name was changed to the 90th Chemical Mortar Battalion was the least part of it. Under the new table of organization, the Headquarters Detachment was enlarged to form a Headquarters Company, and the number of mortar companies was reduced from four to three.
After long deliberation, the battalion commander decided that Company C of the old organization was the unit to be split up among the other three companies. The news hit C Company like a bomb-shell. They had built up a fine unit spirit and now it looked as if it had all been for nothing. Delegations representing everyone from the privates to the officers waylaid Col. Bell, but all of them knew that one company had to go. They were deeply disappointed that such a well-knit fighting team should have to be broken up and naturally felt that the elimination of another company would have been more fitting. With the pride they had in their company they could not have thought anything else.
However, once they had been transferred to the remaining units, the "Old C Company" men settled down and went to work in their new companies. Even before the 90th left England some of them had won back the jobs in their new outfits, which they had held in "Old C Company". There was not a unit in the battalion which was not greatly strengthened by the addition of the spirit and the ability of the men received in the deactivation of Company C.
The old company is long since officially dead, but any of the men in this picture will argue at the drop of a hat that there never was a finer outfit than Capt. Brading's C Company.
While the battalion was in training at Fort Bragg, and during part of the stay at Oulton Park, administrative functions and supervision of specialized training were carried on by a small group of EM and officers known officially as Headquarters Detachment. Training at Fort Bragg passed without notable event. In the detachment, as elsewhere, the phrase most often heard was, "This outfit will never go overseas." Later that became, "This outfit always moves on Sunday!" and move they did, from Bragg to Kilmer, the Barry, and Oulton Park, carrying on normal, routine functions, sometimes with their typewriters in their laps.
At Oulton Park, the detachment was dealt its deathblow and absorbed into the new Hq & Hq Company when the battalion was reorganized. The purpose of the change was to make a company that would be self-sufficient, and a large ammunition section was added to supply the line companies in combat.
The fantastic part of Headquarters' history, the out-of-this-world feeling, began later - in France, perhaps, where it was really a "foreign country." Where the English cities had been bombed, the rubble had been policed up pretty neatly, but the harbor and the waterfront at Le Havre, the Seine and the cities along the river, and finally Rouen were in frank and horrifying ruin. Camp Twenty Grand was a foretaste of what combat conditions were said to be, tents and ankle-deep mud, and the Headquarters men took a deep breath. Across northern France and Belgium the highway was lined with the carcasses of German vehicles, strafed, wrecked and abandoned in the retreat of the previous summer. At Cambrai the men slept in their vehicles or on the floor, in a military institute that had been used by the German army. There were constant reminders that the enemy had passed that way, and in eastern Belgium where the convoy drove blackout in rain and pitchy blackness, the enemy seemed very near.
The town of Neudorf, Belgium, near the Siegfried Line was a complete surprise then. The men were quartered in comfort beyond their wildest dreams in civilian homes. The villagers spoke German and were as hospitable and obliging as old friends. A few days there and the letter companies moved into action in the Huertgen Forest. The medics were broken up and assigned to the companies as aid men. The ammo men suddenly had a lot of work to do, and they had a hard time of it until the sections were filled up with replacements. S/Sgt. "Pop" Grenier with number one section went with Charlie Company, S/Sgt. Steve Yonek with Baker, and S/Sgt. Ralph Hodge with Able. T/Sgt. Kitts and his communication section were kept busy running back and forth between Verviers and the front with wire and other vital communication supplies, and T/Sgt. Seward and his boys had their hands full getting a lot of stuff to make the men up front a little more comfortable.
Headquarters Goes to War
Then Hq. Co. moved too. On the other side of the shattered Huertgen Forest, Grosshau was like the abandoned set for a war movie. There was a church, its walls filled with the rubble of beams and roof, organ pipes, painted woodcarvings, tattered draperies and vestments. The CP was in the house next door; one whole corner and most of the front were blown away, and water-soaked mattresses, broken furniture and the contents of bureau drawers spilled down the sloping floors. Inside the CP, rugs were tacked over the windows and the cracks in the walls. The rest of Headquarters were huddled in cellars or wherever a corner sheltered them from the rain. Mud was hub-deep in the roads and ankle-deep everywhere. The latrine was a slit trench in the middle of a garden where cabbage stalks rotted in the rain.
Vettweiss was a little better - still broken houses, but not quite so exposed. The kitchen crew and medics had a rather fine house belonging to the parish priest, and there were a few civilians around, stunned and sullen, caring for their cattle. Wichterich was comparatively untouched, its neat, low, little houses spattered with mud by the stream of traffic through the town.
Carweiler was a little town on a hill off the main road to the resort city of Bad Neuenahr, memorable for a crude, native apple brandy that doubled for lighter fluid.
An advance CP moved across the Rhine on March thirteenth to set up with C Company in the Weinstock Hotel in Linz and the rear section crossed on the nineteenth. The Weinstock was all gilt and red plush from the ground up, and there were good French wines, cognacs, rum and gin in the cellar. There were beds enough for all, but the upper floors were pretty far from the Luftschutzkeller, and the ack-ack popped at intervals all day and night, the flak rattling on the roof tiles.
Third Corps evicted the company from the Weinstock, making it necessary to set up temporarily in a cement factory just outside the city. Company C, just after the first crossing, had fired on a concentration of German troops in the factory, and the shape it was in was a credit to their accuracy and power.
Behind the Spearhead
Then the break-through and the crash into Germany proper. The sections would set up in billets, stay the night, perhaps, and then pack up again. An advance party left almost every day with Col. Bell or Maj. Morrison, a couple of trucks of ammo to set up an advance dump, a radio crew, and an interpreter to clear billets. On March twenty- seventh the company left the cement factory to set up in Jungfernhof, leaving the next morning for Hintermuehlen. Usually the CP was set up in small farming communities, which had been by-passed without a fight. This frequently meant that there were German soldiers hiding in the woods around the town or in civilian clothing with the townspeople, and at Hintermuehlen the Headquarters men had the thrill of taking their first prisoners: eight lousy, half-starved German non-coms and a young officer, who'd been left without transportation in the retreat and had taken to the woods.
The next day it was a little town called Ulm. The CP was set up in girls' academy that had lately quartered troops and in a few of the houses of the town. In such places the mixed reaction of the German civilians began to show itself. Here the infantry had passed through, hardly stopping, and the Headquarters men were met by people whose reaction varied from grim and sullen hostility, through hysterics, to a frenzied anxiety to accommodate and placate. One woman in Ulm even offered to put clean sheets on the beds.
A night at Ulm and it was "load up" again for Fellingshausen, quarters in a good-sized schoolhouse and the houses nearby. There was a caravan of gypsies there and a good stock of wine - a bottle for every two men - and a crate of cigars. Hunting in the woods was good for the two days the CP remained there and a party of huntsmen bagged a couple of deer.
The encirclement of the Ruhr had slowed the chase for a time and Third Corps was assigned to helping clear the pocket. The CP was set up in another schoolhouse and the teachers' apartments above it. Somebody, gathering eggs in a nearby barn, stepped on a German soldier, a radio operator, whose wife was one of the schoolteachers, and there was an elaborate radio sending set in the attic of the school. For some, Schoenstadt was memorable as "the place where Friedman took a bath." The mail clerk came out looking as if he'd been dunked in a flour barrel. Baths with water-heaters, like electric lights and toilets that flushed, were as welcome a find as a real bed or a wine cellar, a productive hen house or a can of lard.
Here, as everywhere since the Rhine crossing, there was the problem of the DP's. In every town one found Poles, Russians, Frenchmen and Belgians, all just released, all enjoying their new freedom and any other delicacies they could lay hands on. All of them wanted to move, and along with the Germans evacuated from cities like Aachen and Cologne who were anxious to get home too, they filed along the roadsides, sometimes constituting a real traffic hazard with their bicycles, knapsacks or high-piled wagons.
On the fifth of April, Headquarters Company moved on to Hesborn and set up for about a week. An order came down requiring the screening of the entire male civilian population for German deserters or soldiers in hiding. After examining the papers, deformities, and excuses of something over two hundred men, the net result was two wounded German soldiers, one of them a baker, home on convalescent furlough.
The Move to the Third Army
Almost another week was spent at Niedersorpe awaiting orders, and finally, after one false start, the CP moved to Ramsbeck, a small factory town, to make ready for a big move with III Corps. Movement started on the eighteenth of April and Headquarters Company moved into a cluster of farmhouses and a hotel in Frankenfeld, near Neustadtauf-dem-Aisch. The country becam increasingly picturesque as the troops moved across Thuringia and Bavaria in the dash to the Redoubt. There were onion-shaped steeples on the churches; the houses were plaster and timber, painted in bright colors, and often had carved wood balconies across the front. Many were furnished with the famous, huge Nuremberg stoves.
With Unterreichenbach, after the brief rest at Frankenfeld, the daily displacements began again, but they were not to last long. At Eckersmuehlen the sections set up at noon and moved on to Hausen before evening. Hausen was two huge farmhouses and a mill, and there was a little amusement in watching the farmers and Nuremberg evacuees from the nearby farms go to work with every sort of implement to take out a roadblock the German Army had made them construct a short time before.
The next move was to Sollern, a town of eight or nine dirty, cramped, little houses, a fine, big church and the large house of the priest. There was something zany about Sollern. First, the priest's household of well-dressed refugees from one of the large cities; then a circus troupe, complete with painted gypsy wagons, horses, acrobats, goats and shrieking children. They put on a performance for the boys. There was the little wave of horror when somebody first discovered the old European custom of digging up all the bones when the graveyard gets full, brushing them off, and storing them in neat piles, sorted as to size, in vaults. The first impression was that there had been a massacre of a grim orderliness, as efficient as Buchenwald. But perhaps the most astounding thing in town was Katy. Katy was a Russian gal, stacked like a section hand. She'd shoveled manure on German farms for three or four years; she was free; she loved the Americans, and she was going to bring fat little Alexander, her son by a French soldier she'd met working in France, to America. She was the happiest person in Germany. She wanted to hug everybody and she hugged with the grip of a Rocky Mountain grizzly. She wanted to dance and she danced like an organ grinder's monkey. She wanted to sing and her song was one word, Amerika. She crooned it to Alexander and shrieked it to the whole town, including the cows, goats, and manure piles.
The next stop was Pfeffenhausen, a good-sized town, where Captain Skwarek had the extraordinary experience of finding his aunt and three young cousins among the Polish slave laborers. The whole company contributed to making up to them for some of the hardships they had gone through.
On May first the 99th Division got across the Isar and Headquarters followed the companies across at Landshut on the next day to set up in Salksdorf, near Giessenhausen. There'd been a freak snowstorm and travelling was a mess. Salksdorf is memorable for the men of Headquarters Company as the town where the war ended. Salksdorf was a typical Bavarian rural settlement, in sight of the Alps. There were no shops, only nine large, clean, plaster-and-timber houses, each set as one side of a rectangle formed with its own great barns. There was a group of French soldiers, slave laborers, quartered in one of the houses, and several times American or British boys who'd been POW's showed up to tell their stories and share a meal.
The War Ended in Salksdorf
The war in Europe was all but over and everybody knew it. The much-vaunted "Redoubt" had not materialized. Then on the seventh of May, about ten in the morning, one of the liaison officers brought news of the surrender, effective the next morning. The cessation of hostilities was cause for wild celebration, but no one could go wild in Salksdorf. With the end of fighting every man turned his thoughts homeward. In contrast to the excitement of rapid movement and danger, there was now the mixed emotion of relief and uncertainty for the future.
V-E Day morning found the battalion in convoy, destination: Nuremberg, for special guard and military government duties. The whole unit spent the night in a German army camp outside the city, and Headquarters Company moved into town on the evening of the ninth to offices in the Nuremberg Finanzamt Nord and living quarters in the adjacent apartment house. They were fine buildings, and even had most of their roofing tiles and window glass. Between the two buildings was a little improvised cemetery enclosed in a picket fence, the five graves of an SS man, an air raid warden, a paratrooper and a couple of common soldiers. Every morning conspicuously weeping women brought fresh flowers for the graves. The helmets of the dead men were hung on the wooden crosses.
There were all the civilian problems encountered in combat there and more. All the Germans wanted something. The lush maedchens paraded past. Every morning the passers-by policed up all the cigarette butts. Some came to denounce their neighbors, others to ask protection from the "plundering, marauding, raping barbarians," the freed Russian, Polish and French slaves. Some wanted the privilege of carting off the garbage for their pigs, some for themselves. It was hard to discover that German discipline and obedience to authority in the Nurembergers. Nuremberg had been the Nazi prize city where their great celebrations were held annually. But where one might have looked for, and even respected, perhaps, the dignified resistance of a proud people, the Germans seemed set either on collaborating or squeezing around the rules laid down for their conduct. They broke curfew; they encouraged fraternization; their children were always underfoot and stealing anything they could get their hands on, including hand grenades which killed one ten-year old and severely wounded another in the Headquarters motor pool area. They looted from the bomb-wrecked houses of their neighbors and blamed it on the Russians. All of this seemed to indicate a large-scale demoralization rather than a planned program of resistance or a proud national character. The worst they seemed able to do was to get in the way, and the fact that they were accustomed to asking permission for doing the slightest thing did make them a nuisance. They would whip out their identification papers at the lift of an eyebrow.
In ceremonies staged in Kobergerstrasse Col. Bell, S/Sgt. Grenier, and 1st Sgt. Woodard were awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
The garrison life had its comforts. A mess hall was set up. The buildings had been well furnished and there was space to breathe. A softball league was organized, and there were movies almost every night, regular religious services, and shows at the Opera House or the Stadium. Erlangen had some luxurious baths and there was a pool in Nuremberg where Olympic preliminaries were once held. There was a certain amount of sightseeing, besides the only-too-sightly fraeulein sort, in the ruins of the historic Old City where Duerer painted and the Meister-singers sang, and in the jerry-built monuments of the Two Thousand Year Reich outside the city.
The Long Voyage Home
But no one could regret the order to leave when it finally came. The American soldier was satisfied with being a victor, but he really had no spirit for playing the conqueror. The memory of misery, both his own and that of the unfortunates he'd seen, faded in the summer sun. The angry Russians became a pest; the full-bosomed girls were a forbidden enticement. Besides, he didn't give a damn - he wanted to go home.
The morning of June fifteenth found Headquarters Company lined up in trucks and jeeps along Kobergerstrasse. By evening they had passed through Heidelberg and Frankfurt and reached Kaiserslautern. Just outside the city the Battalion bivouacked in a pine woods, repaired its tires, heated its rations and curled up on the soft ground. The next morning it crossed the border and the convoy proceeded through the French countryside, bright with roses and poppies, past some of the great battlefields of World War I, to Soissons. Here the bivouac area was a large field on the outskirts of town. By late afternoon Sunday the convoy reached Camp Lucky Strike, a landing strip and tent camp on a clay plain near St. Valery on the Channel.
It was a week of impatience, long chow lines, heat and hard work for the Supply and Personnel sections. At last movement orders came, and on June twenty-eighth the Battalion staggered into trucks and rode in a mizzling rain to Le Havre, boarded an LCT, and was shuttled out to the Wakefield in the harbor.
The Wakefield was less crowded, better provided with latrines and showers than the Barry had been. There wasn't much deck space for the seven thousand troops, but then it was cooler on the northern route; the sun seldom shone, and it was good just to relax in a bunk. The Battalion had guard duty on board and that left little time for anything else but eating and sleeping. The trip took only six and a half days and on July sixth the ship came into Boston harbor, greeted by a tug decorated with bunting, WACs, WAVEs, and civilian girls. There was a band on the tug, and whistles sounded from all over the harbor. The outfit debarked, proceeded by rail to Camp Myles Standish, and by winding up affairs during most of the night, was ready to break up by morning. The men were grouped for shipment to their respective service commands where they were separated for those thirty glorious days at home.
Those thirty days passed like a week, and then it was time to play soldier again. The Battalion reassembled at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for redeployment to the Pacific theater, and a training schedule and a shipping date had already been sent down when the Japanese surrender put an end to all future plans for the outfit.
The history that began in the white barracks of Fort Bragg, passed through the Niessen huts of Oulton Park, the mud and ruins of Grosshau, and the Finance Bureau at Nuremberg, promised well to write its concluding chapter in the low, tarpaper huts of Fort Jackson.
What Were They Like?
When the high school principal and our parents' friends ask us what we thought of the Germans or what Germany is like and we try to translate our memories of several months in Germany into terms suitable for them to hear, we are hard put to analyze our feelings. What didn't shock them just wouldn't mean anything to them. "Well, didn't you find them attractive? Weren't there some nice Germans?"
"They were cleaner than the French, and better looking," we might answer, "they were more modern. More like us." Or, if we didn't like them, "they were always after something. Snooping around. Being too damn polite. Cagey." Or again, "It was sort of pitiful. They were so scared, some of 'em. How'd you like to have your home taken away from you? I wouldn't, if we'd lost the war and somebody told us we had to give 'em our house after they'd wrecked about half the country already. Even if we hadn't been so good ourselves. It was kind of... well... pitiful."
"Well, yes," the principal answers, "but they deserved it, after all, didn't they?" "Yes, you damn right they deserved it, but you can't help feeling sorry for the kids and some of the women anyhow."
One of the charwomen in the finance building in Nuremberg was saying one morning she was having a hard time of it to feed her children and keep them clothed but she knew things would be better for her once the Jews came back. She'd hidden the children of several Jewish families when they were being rounded up and she knew they wouldn't forget her. But the Jews won't be back. They're dead or scattered. We didn't tell her that.
In a big house in Hintermuehlen one of the men found the insignia from an American aviator's hat and when the owner was asked where he'd gotten it he said three flyers were burned to death when their plane crashed nearby and his young daughter saved the cap insignia of one for a "Denkmal." A souvenir!
In Ulm there was a well-dressed young mother of two children, an evacuee from Frankfurt, living with her uncle and aunt, who, after it had been explained to them that we would need their house to sleep in for the night and she'd been told she could take anything she needed in the way of food or clothing for her children, hysterically begged us not to burn the house. We said we weren't beasts, that we only needed shelter ourselves, but she prayed us tearfully with clasped hands, "Yes, but please don't burn my uncle's house." She couldn't believe that though we had destroyed Frankfurt we should have no wish to do her and her children inhuman harm. When the truth began to dawn on her, still in tears, she begged to be allowed to take a little of the milk for her children and was further amazed when we told her yes.
In Fellingshausen there was a schoolteacher, a gaunt, prim creature who seemed to be translating everything we said among ourselves to the man with her. When she was spoken to directly in English she chose to look blank. A woman in Schoenstadt begged us not to take her house. She and her husband had been mobbed in 1936 when he refused to join the Party. They had been beaten and all their furniture smashed in the street. We tried to tell her, since she wouldn't be sent away but hung to our arms and hands, that in that case we were friends of hers and we asked her to lend us her house. She left but when some men went to move into the house next morning hardly a stick of furniture remained in it.
When we began evicting civilians for our billets, the billeting party would usually begin clearing the houses from four to five hours before the company arrived. Lt. Fischer, who became the regular billeting officer, heard all the objections and pleas of the civilians. This old woman was too ill to be moved, this in labor, that child too young to sleep in the barn. When they were given too much time they took out everything, even the beds, which were really all we wanted.
He got to cutting the time allowed from four or five hours to one or two, then a half, then fifteen minutes, five; finally the men were all but moving into their billets while the civilians were hustling themselves out.
In Hausen a young woman protested obstinately the loss of her little radio. She knew some English and argued that she had always heard the Americans were "chivalrous." After the radio had been returned to her someone discovered two or three cans of Borden's dehydrated milk in her basement. They were marked for Red Cross packages sent to American POWs.
For just such incidents as this we had long ago ceased to consider the Germans an "honorable enemy." But they expected to be treated as one. In Frankenfeld, the manager of the famous Pelikan Corporation, stationers to the world, was relieved when he heard that the diplomat Von Papen had been found. "Ah, now he can negotiate for us," he said. Von Papen is now up for trial in Nuremberg.
The people had been instructed before we came to destroy Nazi flags and pictures of Hitler and with the proofs destroyed they seemed to forget that they had ever been Nazis. Only one man admitted it. During the screening of the population at Hesborn the schoolmaster said yes, he had been a party member, as was required of all public servants. It was typical of the German attitude that no one blamed himself for the evils of Nazi rule. They felt. that while they were the subjects of the State, responsible to it, they were in no way responsible for anything it did. For the gas chambers and the mass burials, what they knew of them, they had no feelings of guilt at all. Only one humble peasant woman seemed to recognize what we felt to be Germany's sin. Behind the row of houses in Fellingshausen the green pastureland rose into a steep, wooded hill and along to other chains of hills. Early one morning when one of the housewives had come back to feed her chickens someone said to her, "Germany is so beautiful. How could you have wanted anything more?" And she cried, wiping her eyes with her apron, "Ja, Germany is beautiful. Only, the people are bad," and she told how a teacher friend of hers, a Jewess, had had to go to America and how their old burgomeister had been taken away to a concentration camp.
Their feelings about war itself were difficult for us to understand, too. However much they might have suffered from the war, they accepted its fortunes with, "Ah ja, Krieg ist Krieg" - "War's war." Their mistake, when they admitted one, was never in having started the war, but in not having won it.
Sometimes the momentary glimpse of a face will be more meaningful than a whole afternoon of questioning, cooperation or affability. Late the first evening in Fellingshausen we went down a dark cobbled street to the mayor's office to inspect the collection of confiscated weapons. But when we had finished and were leaving, there was just a moment when he stood in the candle-lit doorway behind us, his foot on the step, looking after us with an expression ... of what? He had been obliging in arranging billets and handling the other civilians. Of terrible hate and menace.
The days of Pingsheim and Dransdorf, Aue and Oberhunden seem far away in time and space now as we look around Fort Jackson. But whenever Able Company men get together, the talk sooner or later comes around to some story or memory of life in the European Theater of Operations.
In the first few months after activation, Able Company had the same large turnover of personnel as the other companies. Company commanders came and went, as did the halt, lame and lazy.
Those who started in to take basic training with Able Company thought that the (Motorized) tacked on the end of the battalion's name was one of the biggest frauds on the army books. A jeep was something to perform first echelon maintenance on; for travel they walked or double-timed. Even the mortars were hauled around on little carts, which the men pulled behind them so that the company on the march looked like a parade of coolies and iron rickshaws.
The mortars came as a big surprise to all but the cadre, for few of the incoming men had ever seen or heard of the Chemical Warfare's 4.2 before. By August the men had a healthy respect for the abilities of that 4.2 in the right hands, and Gaddys Mountain, McPherson Area, Coleman, and Quewhiffle became familiar spots.
But not all of the training was hard work. At Fort Fisher, S-3 left his training schedules home and the battalion's vehicles ran a steady shuttle service to Carolina Beach. (And as a result, in the words of Col. Bell, the outfit hasn't been the same since.)
After the return from Carolina Beach, those who thought the 90th would not get overseas began to be in the minority. By mid-September the last sheaves of furloughs came down to battalion for distribution, and it wasn't much later that Lt. Gasaway and some of the Able Company men were spending their time in the motor pool sheds dunking mortars and rifles and machine guns in the hot grease and cosmoline which the army thinks is the only packing material for a long trip. Those who worked on packing estimated that it would take the owners about six months to unpack and clean all that gunk off.
The final shuffling of the personnel to go overseas was still taking place the last week before Able Company left Fort Bragg, and a last-minute shot in the arm came with the replacements from the 37th Chemical Depot who got to Bragg just barely in time to catch that long troop train on Sunday, October 15th.
The trip from Fort Bragg through the New York Port of Embarkation and across the Atlantic on the Army transport Barry won't be remembered with relish. In fact some of Able Company's men were just getting over that old feeling they had on the boat when the English troop train put them off at a little whistle stop called Beeston Castle before dawn on November 3.
With visions of pitching the pup tents they had been carrying around at the "slung" or "ready" position ever since leaving Kilmer, the Able Company boys were plenty happy to see that Oulton Park had Niessen huts to keep the rain and cold out. Furthermore, the first weekend inventory of the surrounding country brought back reports that Chester, Manchester, Liverpool and the smaller towns had possibilities.
Getting those mortars and weapons in shape took less time than anticipated and very few November days had passed before training schedules appeared again and Able settled down more or less to garrison life, English style. New faces were seen with the first of December when the battalion was reorganized and Able received its share of the men from old Charlie Company, which had been broken up.
January brought rumors of leaving for the continent, and on the last day of the month, the company took its place in the long Southampton-bound battalion convoy. A miserable night at Southampton was ended when Able Company got everything loaded aboard LST 308 and started the choppy twelve-hour trip across the channel for Le Havre.
For some reason the devastation at Le Havre turned everyone cold, and even those who had seen what the V-bombs had done to London shuddered with the rest at the awful havoc done by bombs along the waterfront area. But no time was spent in idle looking. Company A's convoy was soon headed through the French countryside, and Camp Twenty Grand was the next stop.
Twenty Grand was a sea of mud dotted with leaky pyramidal tents, which merely funneled the persistent rain into a steady drip over everyone's cot. After ten days at Twenty Grand, Able Company was ready for anything as long as it involved leaving Twenty Grand. February 11 their wish was granted, and again the convoys were formed up. The first night out of Twenty Grand was spent in Cambrai, and by the next night the town of Raeren, Belgium, was reached. The following two days were spent by Able Company in putting the final polish and coat of oil on vehicles and mortars, while the company officers and some of the non-coms went up to the front to get the big picture.
Into Germany and Combat
On the 15th of February, the company pulled out of Raeren for the big mission. While the thoughts of everyone turned to home and to his chances in the immediate future, the convoy wound into the first stretches of the Huertgen forest. Here occurred one of the out-of-place things which always seemed to happen to Gl's in a war. In the depths of the g1oomy woods, a 30-piece band was giving out with the latest in sweet and swing. It seemed strange but the boys thought it helped a lot.
By this time everyone knew that A Company's first assignment was to one of the oldest and most famous American divisions, the 1st U. S. Infantry Division. At the time, the First was in position along the west bank of the Roer River, about twenty miles east of Aachen. Able Company's first and third platoons went into position, the first in Unter Maubach, and the third near Bogheim. The company CP and the second platoon were located in woods a short distance west of the battered wreckage of the town of Huertgen. The second platoon was acting as supply and ammo-cleaning platoon.
The first platoon was plagued to some extent by intermittent small mortar fire that appeared to be more harassing than dangerous. The position that the third platoon occupied was accessible only during the hours of darkness and then only by "Weasel." However the position was prepared and it was a good one, its holes deep, for which the men were thankful many times.
By February 26, the 1st Division had crossed the Roer River, and Able Company's platoons displaced on that day. The second platoon was put into the line while the third platoon was ordered to the rear. The first platoon was in position east of Eschweiler, and the third platoon displaced across the Roer to Jakobwullesheim and then to Irresheim during the day.
During the push across the Cologne plain to the Rhine, the fighting was a series of actions in small towns, and in general the company would move from one town position to another. On the 27th the first platoon moved from near Eschweiler to Norvenich, while the second platoon moved from Irresheim to Hochkirchen and then to Dorweiler, firing three missions during the day. The company CP and the third platoon moved to Stockheim. It was at Stockheim that a Jerry plane strafed everything in sight as the men were eating chow, but everyone felt a lot better when the plane came off second best with a nearby "ack-ack" crew and crashed nearby.
It was also at Stockheim that the company ran across a part of the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion, and old basic training buddies of Camp Rucker and Camp Sibert swapped experiences. When Able Company listened to the places the 87th had been, they realized that many roads in this war were long ones.
On the last day of February the first platoon did one of its finest pieces of work. They displaced from Norvenich a distance of 1,000 yards, set up their mortars and had the first round on the way in 30 minutes. For 20 minutes longer they maintained a 700-yard WP screen to cover the advance of units of the 1st Division into Wissersheim. That day the second platoon moved from Dorweiler to Pingsheim and fired four missions. The company CP and the third platoon moved from Stockheim to Eschweiler.
The Second Month
On March 1, the first platoon covered the taking of Gymnich with a screen fired from Wissersheim, while the second platoon fired five more missions from Pingsheim. On March 2, the third platoon went back into action, moving to Pingsheim, while the first platoon was ordered back to the rear at Norvenich. The third platoon at Gymnich fired a one and one-half hour smoke screen under great difficulties during which Sgt. Dombkowski was wounded. The following day the company got a rest as the 18th Infantry of the 1st Division went into reserve. The company had fired over 2,000 rounds at the Krauts during the week.
On the 5th of March Able Company was shifted to support of the 16th Infantry of the 1st Division with the second and third platoons in action and the first platoon assisting in ammunition supply. The second platoon moved from Pingsheim to Weilerswist on the 5th, and to Waldorf on the 6th. At Waldorf four men were injured when a round of HE exploded in overhead wires which had not been noticed in the darkness. The third platoon moved through the same towns as the second platoon. The company CP and the first platoon had moved from Friesheim to Weilerswist.
The first platoon went back into action in Waldorf and then in Dransdorf, while the third platoon fired from Brenig and Dransdorf. Both platoons were supporting the advance of the 16th Infantry into Bonn. The company remained in this vicinity until March 10 and had been looking forward to a rest in Bonn before the massing of troops and supplies for the Rhine crossing. By March 10 word had reached Able Company of a crossing to the south at a place called Remagen, and on that day the company left "the Red One" and was attached to the 99th Infantry Division. Plans were made to assemble the company at Leimersdorf in preparation for falling in convoy with the 99th Division to cross the Rhine. Traffic near the Remagen bridge was an M P's nightmare, however, and it was March 12th before Able Company's turn came to cross the Rhine. The company crossed on the pontoon bridge from Kripp to Linz instead of travelling over the more famous Remagen bridge. As it was, the time of crossing was fortunate, for the bridge was strafed before and after the Able Company crossing.
The country east of the Rhine might have been mortar country tactically, but it was back to woods and mountains, and the towns for billets were smaller and farther apart. The first platoon took up its first position near Dattenberg, while the third went into Ariendorf. At Ariendorf, the third was on a narrow shelf between the mountains and the Rhine. Regularly the Krauts tried to pitch a curved ball to get shells into the platoon position, but all of them hit in the river. In the meantime the company CP and the second platoon were set up with billets in Linz. The men liked the billets and were happy about the whole thing until on the afternoon of March 16 an aerial bomb from a Jerry plane hit in the street near the CP injuring 12 men from company headquarters and the second platoon. During this period the only casualties the company suffered were not at the mortar positions, but at the so-called "rear" at Linz.
The Advance Slows Down
For almost two weeks the mortar platoons of Able Company went forward by meters when the advance had been measured in kilometers over the Cologne Plain. For instance, the first platoon in four days displaced seven kilometers air distance in going from Dattenberg to the tiny village of Stopperich. In Stopperich they stayed for a week, firing missions nearly every day into the villages across the small but wicked Wied River, which proved so hard to cross. It was on March 18th that a German minister crossed into the American lines and said the German officer in command of one of the little towns east of the Wied had told the civilian population he would kill them all if the minister could not persuade the Americans to stop firing so much WP into the town. The answer was obvious.
During the same period the third platoon had started out moving to the south along the Rhine. By March 18, they were in Honningen and by March 22, they had displaced through Rheinbrohl into Ober Hammerstein, working for a day or so in support of the 18th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, which in turn was attached to the 99th Division. On March 22, the third platoon went from the Cavalry recon squadron to the 395th Infantry and made a long move from Ober Hammerstein to Reifert, which was only a matter of two kilometers from the first platoon positions in Stopperich. The following day the second platoon was sent into the Reifert positions, and the third platoon was sent back to Linz for a rest.
On March 24, the supported infantry finally got across the Wied River. The smallest river crossed by Able Company was to prove the most difficult. Once we were across the Wied the German crust was broken, and the following days read like a travelogue. It was crank up the jeeps in the morning, travel in convoy all day, and pull off in a little village at night. From March 25 to March 29 it was Kurtschied, Bonefeld, Gross Maischeid, Nordhofen, Altenberg, and Dorlar. And not a fire mission in the lot! The second platoon at the same time was moving through Hochschied, Dasbach, Dierdorf, Wiedenhahn, Leun, Krofdorf, and Launsbach, with only the one fire mission at Rossbach to limber up the mortars for. The third platoon and company headquarters trailed along a town or so to the rear, and by March 30, when the platoons came back under company control, the Able CP was at Heuchelheim, just outside of Giessen.
On April 2 Able Company moved with the battalion into an assembly area. The company took over billets in and around Schoenstadt, and was prepared to enjoy them. But on the following day an order came down again attaching the company to the 99th Infantry Division, and though Able men didn't know it at the time, when they moved out for Elsoff on the 4th, they were entering the Ruhr Pocket operation. The company commander sent the second and third platoons into operation here and during the following twelve days; it was these two platoons that represented Able Company with the mortars.
The first few days the terrain was rugged, wooded mountains again and the going was slow. The company fired 1,100 rounds of ammunition in the operation, but many times the small doses of mortar fire saved lives in taking the towns along the way. The first part of the advance was up the Eder River valley as far as Wingeshausen and Oberhunden. This took until the 9th of April. Aue and Oberhunden and Muesse will probably bear the scars of WP and HE for some time to come.
On the 9th, the company took the long trek around the mountain, which was necessary to get across the divide and into the Lenne River valley. It wasn't far across the mountains, but the road, which was hacked out, wasn't easy to get over. By the night of the 9th, the second platoon was at Lenne, the third platoon at Schwartmecke, while the first platoon and company CP were in Selbecke. From that time on the moving was a lot faster, and the German PW's came thick and fast.
During the following seven days, Able Company moved approximately 65 kilometers to the northwest following the infantry into Iserlohn, where the final surrender of the German 5th Army group took place. On April 16, word arrived that the company was to revert to battalion control, and the first platoon left for Ostwig, about 10 kilometers east of Meschede and about 75 kilometers to the east of Iserlohn. The balance of the company made it in convoy the following day.
Transfer to Third Army
With only two days in Ostwig to patch tires and to set their jeeps in shape, Able Company was ready when the order was received from battalion on the 17th of April for the long trip down into Third Army territory. The move called for the battalion to leave at night, but fortunately the Ruhr Pocket was at that time so far in the rear of the fighting to the east that blackout driving was not necessary.
The trip to Third Army country took Able Company through the completely devastated towns of Frankfurt am Main, Darmstadt, Wuerzburg, and many other smaller places. Wuerzburg in particular showed the efficiency of the firebombs dropped by the air force. In time the Germans would return to find houses devoid of everything except walls.
Again the battalion went into an assembly area. Company A's town was Langenfeld, a village on the main road from Wuerzburg to Nuremberg, and about 50 kilometers west of Nuremberg. On April 21, Able Company received orders for a new attachment, this time to the 86th Infantry Division, and on the following day left by convoy for the vicinity of Ansbach. This time, all three platoons went into action, the first and second platoons being attached to the 342nd Infantry, and the third platoon to the 341st. This attachment lasted until April 25th. During this time no platoon did much firing, and it turned out to be another operation of rapid movement. When the company shifted to the 99th Infantry Division on April 25th, the mortar platoons were in position in villages to the north of Eichstatt on the Altmuehl River, while the company CP was in Weiszenburg. This is the operation which wound up with no one in the 86th Division knowing the location of Able's third platoon, and it took a day of searching for them before they could be told to move into the 99th Division sector. The supported infantry seemed to know little and to care less about what the mortars could do than any outfit that Able Company had worked with.
The move of April 25th carried Able Company into support of the 394th Infantry. On the following day a long convoy move was made from Stiedorf, the company assembly area, to another assembly areas at Altmannstein which was about 10 kilometers northwest of the Danube River. On the 27th of April, A Company took up positions at Arresting, two kilometers back of the river, and fired WP across the Danube to screen the crossing of the infantry. The following day, the first platoon got across .he river, and the second platoon was waiting its turn in the long convoy lines which crept forward at less than a snail's pace. The approach to the river was a sea of mud, and it took constant work by bulldozers to keep traffic moving at all. The night was cold, and will probably be remembered by those who were there as one of the most miserable of the war. It was the 29th of April before the last elements of Able Company got across the miscalled "blue" Danube.
The last day of April found Able Company in position among the beat-up houses of a suburb of Landshut north of the Isar River. Word came back that the crossing of the river was expected to be difficult, as the Krauts were supposed to have much artillery on the ridges south of the city. Able Company on orders assembled all the ammunition they had in the company, and more was brought down from battalion. This was to be a really big shoot. The mortars were laid in, and the company settled down to wait for the scheduled time of fire around midnight. About a quarter of an hour before the scheduled time, a radio call came in to cancel the firing. Those of Able Company who were standing by for the mission repeated the customary unpleasantries about the division with which they were so familiar and went back to sleep.
On May 1st, word came of the formation of "Task Force Cummings" of which Able Company was to be a part. The purpose of the task force was to drive to the Inn River and seize bridges, if there were any left unblown. The force consisted of Able's three platoons, a rifle company riding on tanks, and a Cavalry recon squadron. During this operation, the second platoon was responsible for the capture of two Hungarian generals and their attendant retinue of "brass." Aside from advancing several miles to the front and "conquering" a number of small towns, the task force had a rather uneventful time. It was called back the next day when Able reverted to battalion control and moved into an assembly area and billets in the town of Oberfimbach about 10 kilometers southeast of Landshut.
No More Shooting
There followed a week of motor maintenance and searching for eggs to supplement the K and 10-in-1 rations. The latter part of the week brought news of the surrender of the German High Command. When other units could officially celebrate V-E Day, Able Company was in convoy bound for police duty in Nuremberg with the rest of the battalion.
After a night in a German army camp north of town, Able Company moved into pleasant billets along Bayreutherstrasse adjoining a city park. The next thirty-five days were spent in garrisoning Nuremberg. The company lived luxuriously in well-furnished apartments. The duties in the town were certainly different from those of the preceding days. The thoughts of Able Company turned towards home. At first it seemed that we might get into the war with Japan without seeing the States. Then the welcome word came down of redeployment through the USA. Soon the time was set for leaving Nuremberg, that battered and much worn Nazi "shrine city". On the 15th of June, the long Able Company convoy lined up for the last time and took its place in the longer battalion convoy headed west. Back through Ansbach and Heidelberg, Mannheim and Ludwigshafen, to a first night stop along an autobahn at Kaiserslautern. The following day brought a long trip through Homburg, where the less fortunate took the direct trail for Marseilles and the CBI, through Metz and Verdun and Rheims to Soissons. The very names of the towns brought back memories of American arms in the First World War.
But a night at Soissons back among friendly people did much to raise any spirits that might have been lagging, and many an Able Company GI profited from the barter of souvenirs, loot or chocolate and cigarettes with the French civilians there who would trade anything for everything.
The following day brought us to Camp Lucky Strike on the French coast, and its only advantage over Twenty Grand was that there was no rain.
Twelve days of sweating out the boat and finally on the 28th of June, orders came to load the trucks for Le Havre. The same day the company was on the transport Wakefield and bound for home. Then Boston POE and quickly those thirty days of "R, R, & R."
By the time the Company was reassembled at Fort Jackson, S. C., the news of V-J Day had come and gone, and the boys were already beginning to wonder and wait for those discharge papers. But whenever they get together now in barracks or beer parlor, many a time the talk turns to Pingsheim, or Aue, or Wingeshausen, or the Huertgen Forest - places that seem so far away now, but places which cemented Able Company into an efficient mortar unit contributing to the winning of the war in the ETO. The bonds formed in those days will never be broken wherever Able Company men are in the future.
S. O. P. in Germany
"...and you will immediately collect all rifles, pistols, bayonets, daggers, swords, cameras, and field glasses in the town, burgomeister, and have them deposited in your office. Verstehen?" The platoon interpreter is giving the town's head man his orders.
One of A Company's platoons has just come into a fresh village which the doughs bypassed in the rush eastward. The town has not been, shall we say, properly "policed", and the platoon has set its squads of specialists to straightening matters out. The platoon leader had only to say: "We stop here to eat." No further command was necessary to set the smoothly running machinery of the platoon in motion.
Before the jeeps stop rolling, the various groups are out and about their special tasks. Local security is set out and the town is combed for Jerry soldiers and DPs. The billeting party is reconnoitering surrounding houses for stoves, heat, and running water before selecting the platoon's hosts for dinner. The progress of the rations group can be followed by the indignant squawking of bereft hens in nearby barns. With efficiency born of long practice, even the city boys have learned to go unerringly to the right places and to distinguish a china egg from the real thing at first glance.
When the platoon leader steps out of his jeep, he finds himself surrounded by a group of grinning Allied POWs ready to be liberated. This consists of a little impromptu ceremony; each PW steps forward in turn, salutes, announces his nationality and grabbing the platoon leader's hand, pumps it happily. Russians, Serbs Poles, Lithuanians Norwegians - they can't make their words of gratitude to the Americans understood, but there's no mistaking the meaning of those broad smiles. (The burgomeister comes in later, begs the Americans to take him with them when they leave in the morning - he fears the vengeance of the freed prisoners for his treatment of them. The platoon leader smiles and asks the interpreter how to say TS in German.)
Suddenly, in the midst of the bustle all activity is suspended upon word that the burgomeister has completed his collection of contraband. It's first come, first served, and everyone would like to find a new pistol to pack or a shining Nazi bayonet to send home.
Returning to the business at hand, all groups converge on the kitchen in the local gasthof, where over roaring fires in huge stoves, the first batches of fried eggs, ham steak and French fries are already sizzling - C rations stay in the trailers, tonight. A happy yell goes up; there is running hot water - a miracle! A line forms quickly, and the grime of days is washed off. Meanwhile, a special unit of the foraging group leaves to investigate a tip that there is beer in the tavern down the street. They return under a full keg just in time to wash down the liberated dinner.
In the main room of the inn, cigarette smoke drifts over empty plates and glasses of beer. The relieved guards come in and head for the kitchen and the last of the food. A messenger from the Infantry follows: "You will spend the night here, be prepared to move out at dawn." The platoon leader looks over at his exec, stretched out on a couch, and grins. "Life in the ETO is rough," he says.
B Company's high spirited mortar men once again live on the Government waste lands of the southern United tates with months of hard training, overseas service, and combat experience to their credit.
The battle cry, "This outfit will never go overseas," was first heard about the Main Post area of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. To meet the Army's call for a unit which could deliver close-up artillery fire (and, brother, we mean close) for the infantry, this 4.2" Chemical Mortar Battalion was formed. Men from all branches of the service were gathered in the Battalion "rec" hall to hear Colonel Bell's famous words, "This is a hot outfit." Hot or cold, the men left for their respective companies sobered by the prospect of a vigorous training program.
Feet softened by months of idleness took to the dusty sands and blisters started to howl and scream in objection to the weekly forced marches and daily double time sessions. Flabby PX muscles began to bulge beneath sweaty "fatiggins" and learned to follow the commands of minds attuned to teamwork.
Finally the mortars were used (yes, harness and carts, too), resulting in endless hours of cannoneers' hop and field problems which tied together the forward observers, fire direction center, gun crews, and communications.
This rigorous training resulted in a well-earned rest in which work wasn't allowed to interfere with play. So Co. B focused its attention on the assault of Fort Fisher and Carolina Beach. For the first time a heavy mortar battalion's 48 guns were massed in a gigantic smoke screen thousands of yards long sustained for an hour.
Outstanding firing placed the hood over our heads and earned us the privilege of traveling to A. P. Hill, Virginia, to participate in tactical problems and maneuvers with the 78th Inf. Div. The pre-combat experience of black-out driving, reconnaissances, and occupation of positions, firing in direct support of advancing infantry combat teams served to prove the success of our unit training and brought us one step nearer the gangplank.
Preparation for Overseas Movement
Our return to Fort Bragg found us in the throes of POM requirements - cosmolining, packing and crating, show-downs, physical examinations, and replacements.
The noose tightened as we departed from Fort Bragg on October 15, 1944, to the staging area at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. We ran through a simple routine physical examination which sped our way to a North River pier in New York City and on board the Army transport Thomas H. Barry, formerly known as the Oriente, on October 21, 1944.
Eleven days of nausea, K. P., stuffy sleeping quarters, and endless chow lines and finally the sight of dry land, which was rumored to be England, disproved our battle cry. We were overseas!
We left Southampton, England, the 2nd of November proceeding by railroad to Beeston Castle. Under the kindly directions of our first sergeant, we were herded into buses and GI. trucks which took us through the drizzling morning to Oulton Park. Amid rumors of early departure to the combat front, another training cycle was started.
The Niessen huts, cold and drafty, with bunks made from jeep packing cases adorned with straw ticks, came to us through reverse lend lease.
Many cold, wet hours both day and night were spent achieving the perfection necessary for actual combat. Those efforts paid off with a minimum loss of life when the final test came.
Effective December 3rd, the battalion was reorganized and B Co. was further strengthened by the addition of part of old C Co. This revision enlarged each platoon and provided more men for communications and ammunition handling. Again the chance to train ironed out the kinks due to reorganization. Days were filled by mortar problems, hikes, and exercises, and nights found us preparing coffee and other Gl rations on the hutments' coal stoves.
A liberal pass policy was inaugurated permitting men to visit the famous cities of London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow. Even the historic Roman walls of Chester afforded a certain fascination for those who favored English femininity.
Our many thanks go to the Red Cross for providing room, board, and recreational facilities for those on pass. All will remember such places as Clemences, Shrewsbury Arms, The Green Dragon, White Swan, and the burning Scotch and cheap gin, warm beer, and tasteless food.
On to the Continent
Some were tired of England, others reluctant to leave, but on January 31, 1945, the executioner made final adjustments and we started the long, cold motor march back to Southampton. Men huddled miserably from the cold and rain under the scant cover of the motor canvas. Late that night we arrived at an English marshalling area on the outskirts of Southampton and were forced to satisfy our hunger on C rations and our fatigue on a concrete floor. The next morning we boarded the Navy's famous LST's for the voyage to France.
Each vessel accommodated one company with jeeps and trailers lashed to the upper deck and the trucks in the hold. An overnight trip through rough seas added to our complement of victims who had suffered from seasickness, but after all, LST's are not made for comfort. Morning brought us into the ruined port of Le Havre. The littered beach had been cleared sufficiently for us to drive our vehicles out of the mouths of the ships and onto the road to Camp Twenty Grand, our advance staging area.
At this point we were issued more equipment and combat ammunition, including bazooka shells, rifle grenades, and small arms ammo. On February 11th in company serial we moved forward in the ever-present inclement weather towards Belgium, stopping at Cambrai, France, for the night. The following night we were billeted in the homes of trusted Belgian families at Raeren, about 10 miles south of Aachen. It was our first contact with German-speaking peoples, and we heard for ourselves the bitter life these people had lived under the German occupation.
The battle sounds of the front could be heard - the dull boom of the giant field pieces and strange whistling sputter of buzz-bombs, the sound of high-flying bomber formations and the sudden roar of fighters hedge-hopping back to our lines - we were not reading the headlines now!
Three days were spent in reloading our vehicles for combat and we received our basic load of mortar ammo. A recon party was sent to the front to pick our first position and obtain all the information necessary for a successful mission. And early on the morning of February 15, 1945, one year and five days after the activation of the Battalion, the trap was sprung and we were plunged into the fight!Committed to Action
The early afternoon found us through the dense gloom of the Huertgen Forest and over the mountainous terrain of Westphalia strewn with dragon's teeth and demolished pillboxes of the once-renowned Siegfried Line. We opened our delicious K-rations in the ruined village of Bergheim a few miles south of Dueren. The company moved into woods near the town to await darkness before moving into position. The 2nd and 3rd platoons were committed to action and the 1st was held in reserve in order to make the firing platoons' job easier by cleaning and transporting the ammo. Our primary mission was the direct support of the 16th Regt. of the 1st Inf. Div. in their drive across the Roer River.
For eleven days we fired destructive offensive fire, counter-battery and counter- mortar fire, harassing fire, smoke screens, and protective fire for night patrols. On the tenth day we were ordered to fire and maintain a massive smoke screen for the 8th Div. in the initial crossing of the Roer. Late that evening we fired three screens and the 8th Div. after a few setbacks successfully crossed and established a sizeable bridgehead. Early the next morning, in order to exploit the bridgehead, we were ordered to fire an extensive screen ranging from 1,700 to 2,000 yards in width and of eight hours' duration and requiring 3,511 shells. The 8th had crossed north of our position and fought south along the river's banks. The 16th's Engineers were then able to bridge the river and send its own infantry across. With the crossing, the second platoon was put in reserve and the first and third became the firing team.
The next day the firing platoons moved across the river and set up in Kreuzau where the men billeted in the Mayor's house and for the first time in many days beds were available. No firing was done and with the crossing of the reserve platoon the company was reunited. The first prisoners were taken from the deserted destruction of the village, proof of the effectiveness of our fire. The big mission now was for our troops to drive across the Cologne plain to the Rhine River, and we were to help them by supporting fire of our mortars.
The forward elements moved on to the town of Soller from where they fired 1,165 rounds of WP to cover an advance near Kelz. The smoke screen was maintained for three hours and 15 minutes. Both platoons recognized the incoming enemy shells from their recent experiences along the river. On the 28th February we displaced to Vettweiss and the guns were set up on a side street. In spite of the heavy 88 fire, 950 rounds of WP were fired in a smoke screen laid in the vicinity of Gladbach. The next morning the company was detached from the 16th and attached to the 26th Inf. Regt. The platoons displaced to the western edge of Gladbach where the mortars were set up along a railroad track. The situation had become fluid and our fire was not needed. Therefore at 0500 the company moved forward to Erp where amid sniper and artillery fire a gun position was established and fire laid down on enemy troops entrenched along roads and in gun positions.
On Saturday, March 3rd, the 1st and 3rd platoons moved into Lechenich where they were further ordered to advance to Blessem to fire on self-propelled artillery. Because of the exposed position we were withdrawn to Lechenich. For the next three days we were engaged in grueling group marches trying to keep up with the infantry. On the night of March 7th we were attached to the 18th Inf. Regt. The following morning the most unfortunate accident of our combat history occurred. While waiting at an assembly area near Buschhoven, the prepared ammo in one of the platoon's ammo trucks caught fire, seriously injuring eleven men who had taken shelter from the bitter cold and rain. Pfc. Robert S. Abramson later died of complications from his injuries. Two squads from the second platoon replaced the casualties and the platoons moved on into Buschhoven where upon arrival a heavy barrage of 88 fire was laid upon us causing the death of Sgt. Clarence Ivy.
Still pushing Rhineward, we entered Duisdorf in time to answer an urgent call from the infantry for concealing smoke. Our screen covered the advancing doughfeet in their attack upon the suburbs of Bonn and without casualties they took their objective. At last the Rhine! On the 9th of March we entered the university city of Bonn on the banks of the Rhine River. Here the remaining two squads of the second joined the rest of their platoon and the third tired for a well-deserved rest.
The company was set up in the Botanical Garden and the forward observers had a field day firing at targets of opportunity on the east bank of the Rhine. We expected to stay some time Bonn until the Inf. felt the other side soft enough to cross, but such was not the case. The next day we heard rumors that a bridge had been taken intact to the south of us. On the 11th we were ordered to pack up and head for the Ludendorff bridge and Remagen.
Across the Rhine
South from Bonn we traveled and stopped a Werthhofen where we waited overnight for priority to cross the bridge. Finally word came and we inched our way along side roads - all roads led to Remagen those few days when a quick end to the war was in balance. Every type of vehicle crowded the roads and the fields were thick with pounding artillery, readied tanks, and ack-ack guns, most of them waiting their chance to get on the small bridgehead. The heavy bombardment of the bridge made crossing very difficult. After hours of short moves and long waits we moved across into the town of Erpel, stopping for a short time to get orders and then on to Unkel. At this time the bridgehead was still very new, and the whole area was still under heavy artillery fire. Momentarily we expected a large-scale counter-attack. Jerry planes of all types made pass after pass at the bridge in effort to halt the troops moving into the bridgehead. We were forced to seek cover even more when our massive antiaircraft barrages went up to knock out these planes. At night the concentrations were so great the sky became as bright as daylight from bursting shells and tracers.
While the company rear stayed in Unkel the firing team moved to a position just outside of that town. A once beautiful mansion filled with the best wines and champagne brought the morale of the company up far beyond par. The 14th, attached to the 78th Inf. Div., found us moving away from the days of fine liquor and setting up in a shell torn woods. Most of the men were rather dubious of the huge 350mm. shells that decorated this position. Here we fired on enemy tanks and troops during their frequent counter-attacks. After three days in foxholes, we were detached from the 78th and attached to the 9th Inf. Div.
On the 17th, with the guns set up in a railroad factory yard at Bahnhof- Kalenborn, we accounted for many casualties to the entrenched enemy. The 18th we moved into Rederschied. From our position there, nine missions were fired resulting in great damage to the enemy. One and possibly two heavy German tanks were knocked out by our shells. Artillery, 4.2s, and 81 mm. mortars were massed in time on target missions. The company was highly commended by the CO of the 39th Regt. and the CO of the supported Battalion for its rapid and accurate fire and an infantry company commander praised our mixture of HE and WP. For the next two days the firing element moved to various positions supporting the infantry in their mission to cutthe Reichsautobahn. In one town the men captured a usable Kraut jeep and had fun comparing it to our own jeeps. On the 21st the Autobahn was cut and the platoons moved into Windhagen. After firing several missions on enemy troops, the first platoon was withdrawn to rest in Unkel and was replaced by the third. This new team moved to Strodt and prepared to fire in combination with C Co. on the town of Rahms. Three missions were fired using 236 rounds of WP and HE While in Unkel, the first platoon took showers, got clean clothes, saw movies, and each squad had its own apartment.
From Strodt we moved into a stone quarry on the southern flank of the bridgehead. Two missions were fired under excellent conditions. On the next day, the 24th, the company was attached to the 39th Inf. Regt. and we moved back to the position the first and second platoons had occupied in Windhagen. Several smoke missions were fired. Later that afternoon, in order to bring fire on the regimental objective, the company moved to Guenderscheid, where up until midnight twelve missions were fired on enemy mortar positions, neutralization of six towns, and screening a town. We stayed there overnight and early the next morning we began shooting the first of 15 missions fired that day. The company was credited with the destruction of two enemy tanks, and relieving an entire infantry company, which had been pinned down by machine-gun fire from a small town. Our forward observer called for a smoke screen and the Inf. was able to take the town without further casualties.
On the 25th we moved forward again to a farm house further up the Autobahn in the small town of Ruedell. No missions were fired so after an overnight rest we displaced to Reeg, where the entire company was regrouped. (And believe it or not, the first platoon was glad to get back in the lines again!) At this spot a large quantity of raincoats were acquired, and proved very useful in keeping equipment and ammo clean and dry.
Again the situation became fluid and we spent our days and nights driving forward behind the Inf. in order to furnish support if needed. On the 29th of March, the company halted in a small valley town near Kirchvers where we stayed four days. We enjoyed the excellent deer hunting provided by the surrounding mountains interrupted only when one shot at a choice buck brought out surrendering German soldiers instead. Taking them to the PW cage became a boring task. After this rest we moved to Unterrosphe, where, on the 3rd of April, we were attached to the 99th Inf. Div. and told that we were to assist in the closing of the Ruhr Pocket.
Buttoning up the Pocket
This phase consisted of daily displacements sometimes under the most trying conditions and very little firing. Our itinerary included: Wemlighausen on the 4th, Latrop on the 6th, Nieder Fleckenberg on the 7th, Assinghausen (attached to the 5th Inf. Div., 10th Inf. Rest.) on the 8th, and through Meschede (where we saw the Inf. clear the hill above the town of German infantry troops) and on to Berghausen the 9th. For the first time on April 10th the firing platoons were separated and sent on individual missions: Co. Hq. and 2nd platoon went to Kalle while the 1st and 3rd moved on to Wallen. From Wallen missions were fired on enemy troops, OPs, and artillery positions with very satisfying results. Here the 1st platoon was attached to the 10th Inf. Regt. and the 2nd platoon to the 2nd Inf. Regt.
The 11th found the 1st through Olpe and into the town of Freienohl. The same day the 3rd moved into Lennepe and in their firing scored a direct hit on a Jerry 150mm. gun knocking it out of action and causing the crew to surrender. On the 12th the 1st platoon moved on and ran the gauntlet of 20mm ack-ack guns commanding the approach to Rumbeck, and after firing a zone to neutralize a suburb of the town we moved on into the most "lootiful" town yet - Arnsberg. The following day the remainder of the company joined us there. Here we found that all Germans are not peasant folk, for many of them had beautiful homes that would have done any American city proud. Their taste in guns and cameras was good, too, as many of us can verify. The 1st platoon made a short journey the next day, but could not catch up with the enemy so returned to Arnsberg after staying in the town of Neheim-Huesten overnight. Definitely the Ruhr Pocket was being zipped shut and we were fast running out of work to do. Consequently, on the 16th, under battalion control, we moved to the town of Heringhausen to service equipment and await our next assignment.
South to Bavaria
We did not have long to wait, for on the 18th, at 2045 hours, we started our long convoy drive down toward Nuremberg in Bavaria to join the 3rd Army in cleaning up the famous Redoubt Area. In the small community of Baudenbach we stayed until the 22nd. Attached to the 394th Inf. Regt. of the 99th Inf. Div. again, we convoyed to Schwabach where we stayed overnight. The following day we moved again and bivouacked near Leerstetten. On the 24th we displaced several times finally ending up in the vicinity of Berching. Next day we moved into positions in the woods not far from the banks of the Ludwigskanal. Here we fired HE and WP and by virtually burning up a small town we neutralized the machine gun nests there which had been holding up the infantry for some time. After this the intense enemy resistance we were used to seemed to have melted away along with the myth of German Supermen.
While following rapidly advancing Yank columns, we moved along roads congested with surrendering Germans and through towns filled with cheering, shouting, happy, liberated Allied prisoners. This was their day. They were grateful and we were proud - proud to have been able to help a little in relieving their long months and years of suffering.
On the night of the 27th we drove in a creep and crawl fashion toward the one bridge across the Danube. The night was cold and wet and the men had long since turned in their winter sear. Now they were huddled beneath blankets and in sleeping bags trying to catch a few winks whenever possible. The river was crossed at 0530 the next morning, taking almost fourteen hours to make this move of a little more than six miles.
We slowed up again when our troops reached the Isar River. The 30th of April will be remembered by all of us. Leaving the company rear in Altdorf, the three firing platoons moved out to a farmhouse on the reverse slope of a hill overlooking Landshut and the river. Under cover of darkness we moved down to Muenchnerau and set up the guns in readiness to help the other companies of the battalion in a gigantic mass fire on the supposed strong enemy forces on the south side. Again the enemy did not choose to defend his positions and had moved back. But we did expend 70 rounds of HE and 379 rounds of WP to aid in the river crossing and in neutralizing the surrounding area. This mission lasted until the early morning. With the sunrise we were off again behind the advancing columns - across the river, through Landshut and over the hills to the south as far as Giessenhausen.
We Turn West
May 2nd marked the end of the war as far as we were concerned, and we were ordered to the village of Engkofen to rest and await our next move. V-E Day, May 8th, we motored up the Autobahn into Nuremberg, staying overnight in barracks of a former German military camp. Here we learned that we were to become part of the police force used to enforce law and order and to guard valuable properties. B Co. took over the northwest section of the city, and moved into suitable houses to accomplish this task.
With the war over, the Army set about making life in the conquered country more enjoyable for us. USO shows, movies, swimming, and sightseeing tours were offered. Even though the non-fraternization ban was enforced to the fullest degree, all enjoyed watching the passing parade of feminine pulchritude.
Early in June with the issuing of combat jackets came the glorious news that we were going home. The fact that we were to be redeployed to the Pacific meant little. We were to go home for those all-too-short thirty-day furloughs.
Nuremberg saw the last of us on June 15th when we rode through the streets and out on the highway toward France. Two overnight stops were made at Kaiserslautern and Soissons before we reached Camp Lucky Strike just 36 miles from Le Havre and the boats for home. At this camp we turned in our remaining equipment and vehicles and packed for the ocean trip.
Everything about Europe but our loot and memories were left behind on the 28th when we boarded the transport, USS Wakefield (SS Manhattan) and steamed out of the still ruined port of Le Havre, France, two days later. By cutting five days off our first trip across we docked at Boston on July 6th. Our own beautiful land and girls! HOME!
With the rapidity of trained troops we were rushed from Boston to Camp Myles Standish, divided into groups for separation centers and sent on our way for a well-deserved thirty-day holiday.
After reassembling at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and going into our "Japan-bound" training program, the war in the Pacific ended. All of us know that civilian life is not far away.
C Company"February 15, 1945. The second platoon formed in convoy at 1430 today to leave Raeren and go into position. On way p we passed through scenes of utter desolation. Many dead cows from mines, the villages ripped to shreds. Road from Schmidt on nearly impassable. Engineers working on it. Troops encountered from 82nd Airborne have a studied cockiness, and the careless manner of the veterans they are." From the preceding lines in a diary written on the day Charlie Company went into their first combat mortar positions, we get a picture of the impression made on one who was there. It had been a year and five days since activation at Fort Bragg.
On that day in February most of the men's thoughts were too occupied with other things to think over the happenings of the past year, of the 10th of February, 1944, when C Company had been activated as Company D of the old 90th Chemical Battalion (Motorized). Since activation date, company commanders had changed, first sergeants had changed, and officers and enlisted men had come and gone.
The Company D that had started under Lieutenant (now Major) Joseph C. Braxton as company commander and First Sergeant (now Master Sergeant) Wharton S. Sanders had trained long and hard at Fort Bragg. It had been plagued with the customary "eight balls" which always seem to accumulate when old units are ordered to send fillers to new ones. But by the time unit training had been completed and the company was packing up to leave Fort Bragg, it had been shaken down considerably, and most of the cripples had left for parts unknown. Lieutenant (now Captain) T. D. Smyer had taken over command of the company and Luther Turner became first sergeant.
From the time Fort Bragg was left behind on October 15, the trip across had proved uneventful enough. During the sea voyage on the army transport Thomas H. Barry, quite a few were seasick, and quite a few more took advantage of the crowded conditions of the troop deck as a better than ordinary opportunity for ducking the KP duties which came around frequently.
The company was not unhappy upon arrival at the Oulton Park camp in England as everyone thought the ship was headed for the French coast. It wasn't long until the possibilities of the surrounding countryside had been thoroughly explored, and it was even claimed that more men would be found of an autumn evening at the company's alternate CP at the "Royal Oak" in Winsford than in the Niessen hut marked for the purpose at Oulton Park.
With the first day of December came orders from Battalion for a reorganization, which inactivated C Company of the old battalion, and moved D Company up one letter. The new C Company received its share of men from the old C, and soon had made them feel at home.
Finally with the end of January came orders to move out, and Charlie Company formed in convoy with the rest for the long trip back to Southampton and, following a wretched night of cold C rations and very little sleep, made the LST trip to the battered port of Le Havre, France. Le Havre was left behind on the same day, and by the evening of February 2nd, Charlie Company was bedded down in the mud of Camp Twenty Grand. There followed ten days of waiting and cussing the mud and rain, culminated by Col. Bell's promise on the anniversary date of activation, that once we left Twenty Grand, we would be in the line without relief until the finish.
Into Belgium and Germany
Sunday, February 11, started the long trip to the front which brought Charlie Company to Raeren, Belgium, on the night of the 12th for a couple of days in comfortable billets before going into position. But the change was a big one when the company went into the lines. In the words of a second platoon man:
"When, on February 15, the second platoon moved into the Roer Valley with the 325th Glider Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, near the town of Schmidt, we were filled to the bursting point with training films and lectures. We quite expected to be digging foxholes under unrelenting fire, and we hoped the situation would permit us to rotate our shoes at least once every other week,
"Everyone was very relieved, therefore, to discover that the Germans ignored us - the first day - and to find holes already dug. Everyone had an uncomfortable mud hole roofed with timbers, and we washed our own mess kits with mud and water from the mountain stream that flowed through the position.
"But seriously, it was a grave, dangerous position. Life was primitive. Guard was long, tiresome and not a little frightening. Every morning promptly at 0430 our position was shelled by the enemy - more than once setting fire to the stacks of mortar ammunition, which mercifully did not explode. The sporadic shelling cost us dearly. It was here that Pvt. James Dalton was struck by a fragment from German mortar shell and killed instantly on February 21. Delott and Walker were later struck by fragments from a bursting enemy mortar shell and had to be evacuated. Both returned months later."
In the meantime, the first platoon had gone into position on the same day at Bergstein, a ghost town with here a lone wall, there a chimney, and around it all, the damaged vehicles and unburied dead of both sides tangled up amid the debris. At Bergstein the first platoon was attached to the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The first company CP was set up amid the gloomy pines of the Huertgen Forest about five kilos north of Lammersdorf. In the beginning, the third platoon was with the company trains aiding with ammunition supply. However, on February 25, the third platoon went into position to initiate a long period when Company C had all three platoons in action at once. The third platoon's position was also near Bergstein not far from the position of the first platoon.
The 82nd Airborne Division had been pulled out of the lines on February 19th, and Company C was attached to the Ninth Infantry Division, which relieved them. The additional firepower was thought necessary because of the extremely rough terrain across the Roer River in the Ninth Division sector. On the last day of February, the Ninth Division had a bridge in at Hertzingen, and the first platoon crossed the river. The second and third platoons continued firing from west of the Roer that day, and crossed the river the following day. The company CP and trains also moved into Nideggan on March 1. On the night of March 1st, Lt. King was injured in a head-on jeep collision between Nideggan and Berg while both vehicles were driving blackout. The following day, the executive of the first platoon, Lt. Dafter, was wounded and had to be evacuated, and Lt. G. D. Bartels took command of the platoon.
On the third of March, while the first platoon was firing from the outskirts of Zulpich another man was wounded when a HE shell burst in a tree. On the same day, Lt. Warren Evans, Cpl. Roy Moore, Cpl. Richard Gray, Pfc. Edward Knoud, and Pfc. George Hemphill were reported missing, after having left Rovenich to go to a forward CP. The second platoon heard the next day that these men had been captured when they ran into an ambush. Substantial confirmation was later received that Cpl. Richard Gray was killed in the action that followed. The remaining men were taken prisoner by the Germans, but were later liberated by our advancing forces. On that same day, the third platoon had moved into Friesheim and got caught in a heavy artillery concentration immediately after arriving. Staff Sergeant Williams and Cpl. Reha were hit, and Williams had to be evacuated. Ten jeeps were shot up, two badly, and seventeen tires were riddled with shrapnel. This was Company C's bitter day in combat, but the fire support the three platoons gave the infantry more than paid Jerry back with over 2,000 rounds of ammunition fired between the Roer River and the Erft Canal.
By the 7th of March, the first and second platoons were on the heights over-looking Bonn and the Rhine, and the third platoon was in the vicinity of Buschhoven. The company CP and trains were in Lommersum. The company was expecting to continue to move behind the doughs of the Ninth Division into the town of Bad Godesburg. But on the night of the 7th word was coming back to Division, Corps, and Army Headquarters of a railroad bridge across the Rhine at a place called Remagen.
First Artillery to Cross Rhine
On March 8th, the entire company was attached to the 60th Inf. for a high priority move to Remagen and across the Rhine. In the words of a first platoon man: "All that day we moved south with the second platoon. Then the third platoon and the company trains joined in. There was word that we were going to some bridge that the Germans had forgotten to blow, or couldn't, or something. The whole thing was rather vague except for the rain and bitter cold. It was after dark and still raining as we inched past a burning building that lit up the narrow, crooked streets of Remagen like a gigantic torch, silhouetting the tanks and jeeps against the flames for the enemy across the river. In screamed Jerry's artillery - 150mm. The first shell caught us in the jeeps - the second found us under them, face down in the muddy road. A few more burst nearby and then they stopped. I crawled out and was looking for a good cellar when the old familiar 'load 'em up' came down the line, and we got in and started off, anxious to get out of that locality.
"'Load 'em up'- Go ten feet - stop - wait - kill motors - listen - hit the dirt -'load 'em up' - start motors - go ten feet -. Finally those Jerry gunners, having gotten our faces in the mud enough, must have gone back into their dugouts for another shot of schnapps. And finally we drove on to a shadowy bridge and crept across it guided by lanes of luminous tape and invisible voices. Even though the future was uncertain east of the Rhine, we breathed a sigh of relief and all of us felt as if we had just escaped from an unreal nightmare."
But the nightmare wasn't over yet. When Company C moved into the Hotel Weinstock and set up mortar positions in the railroad yards just behind it, the Remagen Bridgehead consisted of little more than a toehold on the east bank of the river about ten kilometers in length along the bank of the river, and less than a kilometer in depth in many places. The mortars could fire from the first positions into towns that were not taken a week later.
The bridgehead was a precarious spot for the first week, and C Company, the only artillery across for the time, kept an anxious eye on the slim thread by which it hung - the Ludendorff Bridge.
And then there were the planes; thick and heavy those first few days before the AA units were pulled up from all around. If you got tired of shooting the mortars, there were the 50-caliber machine guns on the kitchen and supply trucks, and Cpls. Croft and O'Keefe proudly treasure a paper given them by an ack-ack crew stating that they were responsible for getting a ME-109. But as the AA units assembled, it was not many nights before the curtain of ack-ack over Remagen made Fort Fisher look like child's play.
The Bridgehead Grows
By March 14, the first and third platoons had inched up to positions in a rock quarry a little over three kilos east of Linz, above Hargarten. It turned out to be the best mortar position the company ever had. The OP couldn't have been more than 25 yards from the guns of one platoon All you had to do was to climb up the east bank of the quarry and watch your shells land. Everyone was constantly on the jump, ducking not only Jerry shells and "screaming meemies," but also our own anti-aircraft shells from the units along the river firing at the steady procession of daring pilots who were still trying to get the Remagen Bridge and the pontoon bridges above and below it. It was in this quarry on March 15 that the men took turns watching the WP shoot on Lorschied to screen the attack of the 60th Infantry. The whole affair had something of the unreal qualities of a movie set, but there it was tanks, infantry, and strafing P-47s all spread out on the plateau below you.
In the meantime, the second platoon was moving up another valley in support of the 47th Infantry. By the 14th, they were on top of the first ridges at Erl, and by the 16th were firing from a battered sawmill not far from Kalenborn.
By the 1 8th of March, the first and third platoons were in Strodt, overlooking the winding Wied River and the enemy positions on its east bank. The second platoon was at Vettelschoss, two kilometers north of the other two platoons. Every day brought missions for each platoon, and so heavy was the demand for smoke, that two WP shells were fired to one HE. Even better was the mixture of HE and WP the Germans grew to despise. During the week ending March 18, the three platoons of Charlie Company fired more than 3,200 rounds of ammunition.
On March 20th, the third platoon got some well-deserved rest when it was pulled out of position and sent back to Linz. It was the first time since February 25th that all three platoons had not been actively attached to an infantry combat team.
On March 22, Company B moved into Strodt with Company C and during the afternoon the fires of four platoons were massed on the town of Rahms, a German strongpoint east of the Wied River. Following this heavy mortar firing, the 60th Infantry crossed the Wied, and Company C had the first and second platoons across the following day. On the 24th, the second platoon was pulled back to Linz for a rest, and the third platoon moved into position east of the Wied near Dinkelbach. By the following day both platoons were across the Autobahn east of the Wied, and the advance along the whole corps front had speeded up rapidly.
The following days were spent by the whole company mainly in convoy. At the time the first and third platoons were both attached to the 60th Infantry. On the 27th, 28th, and 29th, Company C's platoons and headquarters train had moved an average distance of over 90 kilometers airline, or probably nearly twice that by the route taken. During the whole week of rapid movement, the twenty rounds fired near Wienau by the first platoon were the only ammunition fired by the battalion. The company was ordered to assemble at Lohra by the 60th infantry on the 29th, and it remained at Lohra until April 2.
Ruhr Pocket Operation
On April 2, Charlie Company moved in convoy to the new Battalion assembly area in the vicinity of Schoenstadt. But by April 4, another job had come. At midnight of the 3rd came word to move out and be in position to support the men of the Ninth Infantry Division again. Charlie Company left the village of Reddehausen at 0200 on April 4, and by 0700 was in an area 2.5 km. north of Zueschen. The Ruhr Pocket operation was beginning.
By noon of April 4, the first and second platoons were firing from Winterburg. The third platoon and company trains moved into Winterburg the following day. Pressure on the Ninth Division in the first days of the Ruhr Pocket was very great, as the Germans now realized they were surrounded in the pocket, and were trying to break out. During the first week of operation in the pocket, the two firing platoons fired more than 700 rounds of ammunition each. One of the high spots of the week occurred on the 7th of April when the second platoon fired from Siedlinghausen into Altenfeld for the greater portion of a morning and was credited with the destruction of two SP guns and the surrender of many German infantrymen. During the day the second platoon was commended by the 39th Infantry for their work and was visited by the commanding general of the Ninth Division. The first platoon also fired from Siedlinghausen into Elpe during the day, doing a great amount of damage to German installations there.
After that first week, however, most of the firing was over. The second week of operations in the Ruhr Pocket, the company fired only 365 rounds of ammunition. During this time, four days of operation were spent with the Ninth Division until the Division finished its mission. On April 12 the company was attached to the 2nd Infantry of the 5th Infantry Division. A long displacement was necessary, and on April 15th, the company assembled at Menden in preparation for a return to Battalion control. On the 16th, the company started the long trip back to Berlar, its assigned town in the Battalion assembly area southeast of Meschede.
Battalion Goes to Third Army
On April 1 7th the news came to Charlie Company that the Battalion was being transferred from the First to the Third U. S. Army, and on April 1 8th, the long move to Third Army territory began. The move down took the company through many large towns including Frankfurt-on-Main and Darmstadt. On the night of April 19th, the company moved into billets it took over in Hambuehl, a village not far from Neustadt a. d. Aisch.
The pleasant life at Hambuehl lasted until the afternoon of April 22, when Charlie Company was attached to the 99th Infantry Division and moved from Hambuehl to Pfaffenhofen, a small village southeast of Schwabach. Here the company remained in bivouac until April 24, when it moved in convoy to Rockenhofen (north of Greding). From Rockenhofen on April 25, the second and third platoons moved to positions between Haunstettin and Kinding and fired screens to cover the 395th Infantry's crossing of the Altmuehl River.
The following day the company followed the advance of the infantry to Lobsing and Ettling, both towns being within easy mortar range of the east bank of the Danube River. On the morning of April 27th, the first platoon displaced from Lobsing to a quarry 1.5 kilometers north of Marching. In moving into this position, the platoon took 40 prisoners, which had been by-passed by the infantry. The third platoon displaced from Lobsing to Marching. Both platoons during the day fired screens and missions on enemy positions across the river. Sgt. Spritz, Pvt. Duclos, and Pvt. Rubin in the third platoon were wounded late in the afternoon by enemy artillery fire. They were the last casualties the company, or the battalion, suffered in the war.
The 28th of April was spent in waiting for priority to cross the Danube River pontoon bridge at Hienheim, as the 395th Infantry was now in reserve. The company got across on the 29th, and at the close of the day, the second platoon was at Moosburg, the great German Prisoner of War town. Following one mission at Moosburg, the second platoon settled down to share all the food and experiences it could with the liberated PW's. By the 30th, the balance of the company was at Niederndorf
On the 1st and 2nd of May, C Company continued displacements behind the 395th Infantry but fired no missions. On the night of the 2nd of May, the first and second platoons were at Neuhausen and the third platoon and company trains were at Nefraunhofen. The following day the company reverted to Battalion control and moved into Guenzkofen, near the Battalion CP at Salksdorf.
The War Ends
Charlie Company was in Guenzkofen when word came down on May 7 of the surrender of the German High Command. This news arrived about the same time as the news that Charlie Company would move to Nuremberg with the Battalion on the following day to take up occupational duties there. The company moved in the Battalion convoy the following day to billets in a German army camp at Buchenbuehl, just north of the German "shrine city," Nuremberg. On May 9, the other companies elected to move out of the army camp and into billets in Nuremberg proper, but Charlie Company's patrol activities were such that it was convenient for them to remain. After the other companies of the Battalion departed, all Charlie Company men moved into the officer's quarters of the German camp amid surroundings equal to those of any permanent fort in the States. To the mess personnel, the kitchen was wonderful, with tile floors, two big iceboxes, running water, and lots of tables and cupboards. The stove was unique in that the smoke was drawn down through the floor. Adjacent was a nice airy dining room where the whole company could be seated.
However, May 17th brought happenings to Charlie Company which will probably live in the memory of the men as long as any battle experiences. At about 1400, the men were astonished to hear explosions that sounded very close. It developed that the company's stock of mortar ammunition had caught on fire, and the HE shells were throwing the WP shells through the air to start not one, but a series of raging fires. Before darkness most of the fires had been put out by the combined work of all the companies of the 90th, troops from neighboring areas, and a part of the German Nuremberg fire department. Company C grimly assessed the damages. Fortunately and almost miraculously, no Charlie Company personnel were injured, although two men from a neighboring quartermaster unit were. But the company lost most of its motor and all of its mortar equipment.
An investigation revealed that the fire had been started by two small German boys, both of whom were killed by the first explosion. It had been a grim and costly day for Charlie Company, although later results of the investigation did not hold the company responsible.
But spirits soon rose with the news that the 90th was going through the United States before going to the Pacific, and those thirty-day furloughs sounded all right to everyone. Charlie Company pulled out of the German army camp on June 15 when the Battalion left Nuremberg for the French coast. An additional two days of driving brought them to Camp Lucky Strike, near the French coast, and not far from Le Havre. Here the company spent ten days of idleness before loading on trucks for the trip to Le Havre. There they loaded on the Wakefield, and waited for the first sight of America. This was at Boston, and before many hours, the men of the company were on their way home from Camp Myles Standish.
When the company reassembled at Fort Jackson, S. C., any talk of going to Japan was cut short with news that the war was over on August 14. Followed a sweating out period until it was known definitely that the battalion was not leaving for Japan any time soon. Then the high point men started gradually to leave the organization, and it began to look like any assembly of Charlie Company men now would take the form of a reunion.
The thought of a job well done would be carried into civilian life with the men who had trained and fought with Charlie Company of the 90th.
The 4.2" Chemical Mortar
We're proud of our weapon and of the big job it did for us overseas. It was dubbed the "Goon Gun" and called our new secret weapon when it first appeared in combat, but it wasn't long before it was decided that a division's firepower was not complete without its contingent of 4.2's. Highly mobile, light, compact, easy to handle, and accurate, it answered the Infantry's need for a weapon that could stay up with them and still deliver a big wallop. Just how big that wallop is can best be seen by comparing the 4.2 to the field artillery 105mm howitzer, for example. On a pound-for-pound basis, the 4.2, with nearly twice the weight of high explosive in its shelf and weighing only 1/14 as much as the 105, is 25 times as effective. Here are the vital statistics (M2 model):
Weight of mortar: 333 pounds.
Main parts: barrel, standard, and baseplate.
Barrel: rifled, 24 lands and grooves; 48" long.
Elevation: between 800 mils and 1,066 mils.
Weight of shell: 25 pounds.
Weight of fillers: high explosive, 8.5 pounds; white phosphorous, 7.6 pounds.
Propellant: made in disc form; each disc known as ½ ring, with 52 discs, or 25½ rings representing a full charge.
Maximum range: 4,400 yards (with shell HE, 25½ rings).
Maximum muzzle velocity: 841 feet per second.
Maximum rate of fire: 20 rounds per minute for short periods of time. As many as 40 rounds have been fired in one minute.
Mechanics of firing: When the shell reaches the base of the barrel, the firing pin, through the striker nut, detonates an ignition cartridge which, in turn, ignites the propellant charge. The gases force a pressure plate on the base of the shell upward, expanding the rotating disc to engage in the rifling. The rotation thus given to the shell insures true flight. The superquick fuzz is armed only upon leaving the mortar, bursts the shell instantaneously upon contact.
Rounds fired by the 90th in training: 18,000.
Rounds fired by the 90th in combat: 12,000 HE, 20,000 WP
Editor, 1st LT. DOUGLAS W. DWYER
Assistant Editor, 1st LT. ROBERT B. BIRD
Assistant Editor, T/SGT. EDWIN B. BARRETT
A Company, T/5 DAVID HORNADAY
B Company, S/SGT. THOMAS E. LIETZ
C Company, CPL. NELSON W. PRATT
Hq. Company, T/4 CLYDE STAFFORD
Custodian, MAJ. ROBERT H. MORRISON, JR.
A Company, CPL. RICHARD W. HUGHES
B Company, SGT. FLORENZ W. MONGE
C Company, CPL. FRANCIS B. INNIS
Hq. Company, S/SGT. RALPH G. HODGE
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