A History of the
91st Chemical Mortar Battalion
England and the Continent
Battle of Ardennes
Battle of the Rhineland
Battle of Central Europe
To our comrades who gave that "last full measure of devotion" in the service
of their country and to the infantry, tank destroyers, tank battalions, combat engineers, and all others "Up Front" with whom we have had the honor to
serve in the field.
To the men of the 91st Cml Mortar Bn this book is more than a unit history, it is an autobiography a rather personal sort of affair. It was written more in deeds than in words by the men who make up this separate battalion, which is, at best, an infinitesimally small part of the present day strength of the United States Army.
Since a unit is a collection of individuals, like an individual it gradually assumes a character and a personality which distinguishes it in particular from other units. The object in compiling this book is to preserve the character of the Battalion, our Battalion, by recording for future nostalgia some of the memories that the men like most to recall when they engage in a typical "bull session." The body of the text is essentially a condensation of the unit's official history together with humorous incidents, anecdotes, and human interest stories, all unexpurgated within bounds and representative of many thousands of war stories that might have been told about Army life in garrison and in combat overseas. The personal episodes are related as nearly as possible in chronological order parallel to the historical data that best provides a comprehensive background for the stories themselves.
No attempt has been made to describe in detail the geography of that section of Europe over which the Battalion traveled and fought, nor to pass judgement on the character and integrity of the people who live there. The reasons for having placed this limitation on the scope of this work will be obvious to those who have ever come in contact with people who have had their countries and homes turned into battle fields. The political and social reverberations which will undoubtedly be brought about as a result of this latest of World Wars have been left to future historians to record.
When the men of letters eventually set about the task of writing the history that was made by the U.S. Army during these years, they will probably make no mention of Tony Giambruno and Alonzo Clifford, to whom the men of C Company are forever indebted for having made a habit of spreading good cheer when the seriousness of a situation placed our spirits at a low ebb. They will never have heard of John "Goodfellow" Ettline who always was ready to make personal sacrifices and give parental counsel to the "kids'" in the outfit. And though they may write generally of the heroism and devotion to duty displayed by many men in the fields, they will probably not make specific reference to the frigid winter days in Luxembourg during the Battle of the Bulge when several of our mortar platoons were firing so rapidly that one crewman from each squad was kept occupied cooling the mortar barrel with snow so that the propelling charges would not ignite before the shells struck the firing pin.
Yet, when the histories are written, it will be incidents such as these that World War II will bring to mind for the men who participated in the fighting. For them, the war was very personal affair, and this is their autobiography.
In honor of Lt. Col. Roy W. Muth, who commanded the 91st Cml Mortar Battalion from it's activation on February 15, 1944 until April 15, 1945 when he was promoted to Chemical Officer of the VIII Corp.
A graduate of the United States Military Academy, he was uncompromising in his demands for discipline and strict compliance to duty; and yet possessed of a faculty for projecting himself into the last file of the last rank with a degree of humility and understanding that only a true leader of men can ever attain. The cooperation and teamwork that was required to develope a spirited and efficient combat team he solicited not by reference to his authority or by threat of reprisal but with dignity, bearing, and military "know-how" that bred respect and inspired confidence.
There were times in training when some of us thought his capacity for detecting seemingly inconsequential errors, and his mania for exacting perfection in routine, were stressed without reason. But after having fought in the field against a resourceful and determined enemy, we can better appreciate how invaluable his coaching was and how seriously he had accepted his responsibilities along with our own best interests.
Combat men aren't addicted to flowery speeches and flamboyant gestures; and we used to look forward to hearing from the Colonel when he would address us in his sincere, direct, and simple way to explain a situation or commend us for a job well done.
Now, in turn, we, the men of the 91st Cml Mortar Battalion would like to take this opportunity to commend you, Sir, and say "thanks" too, for a job that was truly well done.
The 91st Chemical Battalion (Motorized) was activated 15 February 1944 at Camp Joseph T . Robinson by authority of Ltr 321/57(CWS) (31 December 1943) GNGCT, Army Ground Forces, Subject: Organization of 90th and 91st Chemical Battalion (Motorized) and of General Order No. 23 Hq Fourth United States Army, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 85th Chemical Battalion (Motorized) was the parent organization although both the 85th and the 86th Battalions furnished cadre men to the new organization. General Order No.1, Hq 91st Cml Bn (Mtz), 15 February, 1944 announced the Assumption Of Command by Lt. Col. Roy W. Muth.
The original Battalion staff was announced in General Order No.2, Hq 91st Cml Bn (MTZ), 16 February 1944.
Major Dale L. Vincent, Exec O
1st Lt. Elmo C. Whitacre, S-1
2nd Lt. Ray C. Christena, S-2
Capt Renato J. Barone, S-3
2nd Lt. John W. Toole, S-4 (Actg)
2nd Lt. Henry B. Szygulski, Pers O
2nd Lt. Paul Leikin, MTO
For the first month after activation a few fillers were received from 4th Army Special Troop units in Camp Robinson, Ark., and Camp Swift, Texas. The first large group of men, 214, to come to the Battalion arrived on 18 March from the AGF Replacement Depot, Fort Meade, Maryland. These men were former Anti-Aircraft personnel who had received seventeen weeks of basic training, at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
While awaiting the arrival of fillers the cadre men were engaged in an intensified AITP (Army Instructors' Training Program) to better qualify them to instruct the new men in the tactics of Chemical Warfare and the 4.2 mortar and also to prepare them for their responsible positions as NCOs.
On the 24th of March 1944 Ltr. 370.5 - GNMC 13, 13th Hq. and Hq. Det. Sp. Tps., Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Ark., Subject: Movement Orders provided the authority for the 91st Cml Bn (Mtz) to move to Camp Swift, Texas on 1 April 1944. The Battalion's organizational equipment was moved by rail to Camp Swift on 3 April. The personnel moved by troop train on 2 April arriving in Camp Swift on 3 April. The Train Commander was Lt. Col. Muth and Capt. Barone was Asst. Train Commander. Upon arrival at Camp Swift the Battalion was attached to 5th Hq. and Hq. Det. Sp. Tps., 4th Army.
Two days after the arrival at Camp Swift 297 men were received as fillers from Hq. AARTC, Fort Eustis, Va. These men had all completed about twelve weeks basic AA training. This was the last large group of men to be received. For the rest of the month of April men arrived from various units in the 4th Army. Small groups were received from the 94th, 99th, 103rd, 75th, and 85th Infantry Divisions and the 13th Armored Division. At the same time men were shipped out to other units until shortly after the 1st of May the Battalion was stabilized at T/O & E strength plus a T/O Cadre strength.
The following story is written about Company C, but it probably gives a picture of the reactions and feelings of all those "displaced" AA trainees. Although an Army career is often punctuated by abrupt and unusual reassignments, their change from the intricate mechanism of AA guns to the unusually simple 4.2 mortars with its three main parts was undoubtedly a body blow. Here is a vivid description of their astonishment and possible doubts concerning their new weapon.
Men's reaction upon learning of assignment
The story of Company C began when a trainload of experienced Coast Artillery trained replacements were met at the station in Camp Robinson, Arkansas by one of the cadremen of the 86th Cml Mortar Bn. A diminutive sergeant he was with a snap in his voice. He introduced himself as Sgt. Hennessey - later became somewhat affectionately known to the men of the Company as "Sergeant P. J." After having been slightly brow-beaten through basic training and pummelled through a very impersonal processing at a replacement depot, the newly arrived fillers were pleasantly surprised by this new sergeant's easy-going manner and his apparent desire to make the boys feel as though they had at last found a home for themselves in the Army.
As the group marched along at "route step" to their new battalion area, the sergeant was bombarded by a dirth of questions from the new men in ranks who had imagined themselves at their new assignments working in laboratories behind a maze of Bunsen burners and assorted retorts. At that time the sergeant said something about the infantry and about a new chemical mortar being used in close support of the infantry. What the sergeant had to say made no particular impression then, perhaps because the prospects of spending our week-ends in nearby Little Rock loomed bigger in our minds.
Several days later, Cpl. Merkle was to give the new men their first orientation lecture on the 4.2" Cml Mortar M I A I. He appeared with a kiddy cart on which were chained what we thought must surely be the spare parts. To the astonishment of the ex-AA men, who had been trained on bulky and complex remote-control fire direction mechanisms, the Cpl. proceeded to assemble a weapon from the very little he had to work with. He followed his brief dissertation on nomenclature and the types of shells commonly used with a rather gory summation of the unit history of some of the experimental battalions first committed to combat in Sicily. About then, the men began to wonder whether the weekends in Little Rock would be worth it.
None of us knew too much about mortars and especially Whitey DeVaughn. After examining the piece or "pieces" for sometime, he turned and said, "The darn thing's got no breech. What makes it shoot?" There were many others who made technical inquiries about the operation of the weapon but it was Reinmuth who first expressed in words the anxiety that all of us felt inside. "For close support, uh?" he said. "Personally I think this pipeline contraption will require a man to get too damn close." Everybody forced a dirty laugh.
April 10, 1944 to October 2, 1944
The training program was begun on 10 April. This was an Individual Training Program (ITP) which was to train the individual soldier in the basic principals of warfare and in Chemical Mortar practices in particular. During the last half of this program specialists schools were held for communications and IMG personnel in which every man was thoroughly trained to carry out his job in an active theater.
ITP ended on 24 June 1944 and ITP tests were conducted by 5th Hqs. on 27 June. The Battalion received a VS (Very Satisfactory) rating on this test.
On 26 June the Unit Training Program (UTP) was started. This program was to be eleven weeks in length and complete the training requirements for overseas movement. In this eleven weeks of intensive training a great deal of field work and mortar firing was included. Special tests and training programs were included from time to time. On 14 July 3 Officers and 63 EM were sent to Fort Bliss. Texas to attend the AAATC for instruction of the .50 calibre machine gun. On 19 July 10% of the personnel were subjected to the Mustard Sensitivity Test.
Three tests were given on August 3rd, two of them to a small group of men and the other to over 90% of the Battalion. The first was a physical fitness test in which 20% of the Battalion participated. This was a rigorous physical endurance session in which the Battalion was given a VS rating. The next was a Basic Medical Test which was given another VS rating. In the third, a Combat Intelligence Test, the rating was Satisfactory.
For three weeks between the 7-26 August the Battalion carried out a field training program. The first week was spent at Lake Austin, 37 miles Northeast of Camp Swift. During this week much of the daylight time was devoted to swimming and ball games. At night problems in mortar tactics were carried out in the huge hills surrounding the Lake. In all it was a notable week for the men after spending all summer in the heat of the Camp.
After this week of semi-relaxation the Battalion returned to Camp Swift in a 150 mile convoy road march. Upon arriving in Camp the convoy immediately moved out to the field and set up a bivouac area where more mortar problems, both dry run and actual firing problems, took up the next two weeks.
At the end of this two weeks Air Ground Tests wire held. In the first phase the rating was VS and in the last two the Battalion was rated as Excellent.
The first week after the return to garrison was spent in preparing for UTP test which was held on 5 September. This test consisted of a Battalion mortar problem which was given a rating of VS. UTP ended on 9 September. This ended the training for the Battalion which was now ready for overseas duty.
The original movement orders were received on 14 August in Ltr 370.5 (9 Aug. 44) OB-S-E-M, War Department, Subject: Movement Orders, Shipment 9609. The 91st Cml Bn (MTZ) was assigned number 9609-G. The 1st of October was set as the readiness date for movement to the POE. As soon as training was completed packing was begun on an organizational equipment except motor vehicles. This packing was completed and all boxes loaded for shipment by 15 September.
The next two weeks were taken up with packing all equipment which was to accompany the Battalion (TAT). At the same time a physical reconditioning program was instituted for a week. By 27 September all the equipment was packed and the Battalion ready to move.
The call for movement and staging of the Battalion was received in Ltr SPTAB TEM 370.5 (No. 299) -15 Sept. 44, War Department, Subject: Movement Orders, Shipments No. 9609 - B,C,G,K,R,S,T,Y. Shipment 9609 - G was called to arrive at Camp Miles Standish, Taunton, Mass., on 5 October. On the 2nd of October the 91st Cml Bn (MTZ) left Camp Swift PAC Ltr 370.5 GNMC-5-3, 19 Sept. 44, 5th Hq. and Hq. Det. Sp. Tps., Fourth Army, Camp Swift, Texas, Subject: Movement Orders, Shipment 9609 - G. At time of movement the Battalion had a strength of 39 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer, 566 EM.
"Bucking" by definition is the technique of winning recognition when the incentive makes competition exceptionally keen. In any new outfit, when the Table of Organization calls for ratings to be distributed to men who can qualify, "bucking" inevitably ensues. The 91st Mortar Battalion was a new outfit.
In his anxiety to engender a spirit of open competition among his new charges, Capt. Horton one day assembled all his fillers in the day room, shortly after a drive to discover leadership was begun. He asked 12 men to stand up. "Here are your squad leaders. Buck sergeants," he said. He asked the next 18 men to stand. "These are your gunners, computers, and platoon communications chiefs. Buck corporals," he said. When all of his other "prospective non-coms" were standing, the Captain turned to the few dejected sacks who remained in their seats and said in an almost conciliatory tone, "It would be well to remember that in an organization of this kind, every man is a vital part of this integrated and balanced fighting machine we intend to build. Some men are born leaders. Some men can learn leadership. Some men just never do develop the capacity for commanding willful cooperation from their subordinates. For that reason," (and for the reason that the T.O. won't allow it, he might have added) "I can't make all of you non-commissioned officers. But no man who shows initiative will go unrewarded. We will have PFCs." To say that his lecture had an electrifying effect on the privates that made up the majority of his audience, is surely a gross understatement. In the days that followed, beardless boys with tenor-pitched voices suddenly became as loud and as domineering as they had once learned to be reticent under the heel of the demagogue cadre men who had lorded over them at their basic training centers. One bosom buddy would reflect a look of heart-felt chagrin at being ordered about by newly appointed PFCs. who up until that time would probably have sympathized with him in their suppressed mutual contempt for the Army's "caste system."
The approach of a 2nd Lt. would usually provoke some of these "aspirants" to raise their voices in order to make heard a recitation of some choice bit of oratory that they had obviously rehearsed. There were self-styled wits who sought to gain notice in classes by fashioning puns around each and every remark made by an officer regardless of whether the punch lines were timely and appropriate or not. Guys who ordinarily read comic magazines would often infiltrate into the brass-filled orderly rooms to make requests for technical manuals. There was the wolf-like variety of "bucker" who would try to register by crashing social circles or by exploiting human weaknesses. There were some men who would lean over backwards to give the impression that they had no desire to be non-coms, even to the point of threatening with violence any men who would dare to insinuate that they were ambitious. The subtle rivalry continued until the last re-organization took effect, until the men themselves were generally agreed that those who held their assignments were those most qualified to hold them. But probably no man took success with such a note of triumph as did acting-Sgt Whitey DeVaughn when his appointment to PFC was read aloud before the assembled company after retreat one day. First Sgt Don (Whistles) Carbaugh gave the company "At Ease" (as he did almost instinctively every night about that time); and, after going through the customary harangue about how to properly segregate the garbage, he began to read off the names of the men listed for promotion on special orders. Some men accepted the tidings with modest dignity, others tried hard to appear "most" unconcerned; but Whitey made no attempt to restrain his emotions and he spoke for the group when he shouted, "Whee!"
After each man had been more or less permanently assigned and trained to perform an individual mission, the 4.2 mortar began to come into its own. After weeks of crew and specialist training in all phases of mortar practice, the men loaded their questionable "goon gun" into jeeps and set out for that bit of Camp Swift called the Artillery Range. It was to become much too familiar to us in the weeks that followed, but on this particular day it was virgin territory.
Word got around the battalion area that sometime later in the week, the mortar men were going to fire the vaunted "goon gun" for the first time. A drawing was held to decide who should inherit the honor of sending the first shell on its way. We drove out to the artillery range, set up the guns on an azimuth pointing generally toward the center of the impact area, and then fell back far enough behind the gun to be able to observe the burst of the shell. The command was given to "fire." There was a sharp muzzle blast that the crewmen have since learned to turn from and duck under almost involuntarily. The deed was done. Some men who kept their eyes glued to the muzzle of the barrel were surprised to learn that they could follow the flight of the shell with their naked eye until it was high on the crest of its trajectory.
There were many trips to the range after that first one, some to develop the gunner's skill at placing the shells where they would do the most good, some to enable the specialists to learn to weave their functions into the unit's battle operational set up. Only after having used 4.2" mortar in action against an enemy can we fully appreciate the humor in some of the errors we made during that era in our evolution as mortar men when firing the "pipes" was still a novelty and an adventure. Some men in C Company are still convulsed with laughter when reminded of the day General Bartholf stood beside Col. Muth at the OP to watch one mortar crew register their gun on a bush that stood out prominently on the landscape. The crewmen had already begun to develop a healthy respect for their own marksmanship and yet, to their chagrin, they were having a great deal of difficulty in getting on target.
The recoil springs were checked, the sight was calibrated, only propelling charges that were recently removed from water-proofed containers were used, the IMG section was threatened, but still there was no marked improvement. After the "talent scouts" had left the box, obviously none too pleased with the "variety show" the boys had staged for them, someone discovered that an eight-ball had driven the aiming stakes just deep enough into the ground to keep them standing upright. The gunner was using the new M59 sight for the first time and did not know that he could adjust his line of sight without changing elevation by simply making a slight adjustment on the sight scope assembly. As a result, he was aiming on the tops of the stakes, which assumed a new azimuth each time the wind changed direction.
On several tactical problems, the mortars were firing over the kitchen truck and the cry "Rounds Away" spelled the doom of many surprises the bakers were preparing. After a day of heavy firing, the battalion was apt to be called out at dusk to return to the range and dig fire breaks around the perimeter of an impact area after he having set fire to the parched prairie brush. We began to refer to ourselves as a fire fighting detachment of the Post Engineers.
A particularly memorable incident occurred on one of those numerous night problems. A platoon in A Company, commanded by Lt. Sommers ("Empty Suit" to all his battalion associates) was in position in a heavily wooded area. Communications and FDC were in operation but there was some question as to what azimuth the guns should be aligned on. Lt. Sommers was not quite sure himself so he instructed the crewmen to set up the guns in the general direction of the moon. He then strode off to make sure everything else was running smoothly. After three quarters of an hour of intensive digging by the gun crews, the mortars were finally emplaced. Lt. Sommers returned and was deeply annoyed to discover that the guns were not pointing directly at the moon. Of course, the moon had moved in the sky during the elapsed time. The IMG section was nearly stricken with apoplexy.
One of the biggest problems the officers had to contend with was the selection of targets. If there was one tree or one bush that stood alone on open ground and within range, there would invariably be more than one observer who would call fire on that spot. A volley of shells would come raining down. One would score a direct hit. And every crew would automatically compliment themselves for their superior marksmanship. It was just this variety of intermingled conceit, pride, and confidence in themselves that made these crews more than a match for the "superman" when they later took sides against him in the field.
The other phase of training besides the mortar practice included hikes in the Texas sun, classes in all the things that a GI learns before going overseas, numerous parades, inspections, and Army routine.
There were moments of relaxation on week-ends off the post, but very little on duty time. We were too busy getting ready to fight. Then came a surprise. As a start for a three week bivouac, we moved to Lake Austin for that famous week of swimming, eating, and "a minimum of work."
The climax of the battalion's unit training was the trip to the "Lake" where the men were to enjoy a week of "rest and relaxation." We headed for Austin in a jeep convoy one bright morning and, after passing through the outskirts of the city, arrived at our bivouac area on the Colorado River. We pitched pup tents under shady trees along the beach, for purely tactical reasons of course. Our carbines, M-Is, and mortars overshadowed the sign, "No Firearms Allowed."
The training schedule called for three night problems, calisthenics, classes, a hike, subsistence on K rations for two days, light details (like dredging the sea weed from the Colorado River), mortar and motor maintenance, and organized athletics, notwithstanding such other small assignments as would be necessary to prevent the men from becoming bored with nothing to do.
Aside from these slight encroachments on our spare time, the week was primarily our own. The officers told us that we must not take advantage of the Army's generosity in having provided such a delightful bivouac area, so they insisted that no man sleep during sun-up hours, not even after a night problem. The week might not have been especially eventful if someone had not noticed some girls sunning themselves on the opposite shore. The officers found it hard to explain the spontaneous and keen interest displayed by several mortar crewmen in certain fire control instruments - notably those with multi-powered lenses.
In the middle of the week, the men were introduced to Major Thomas "Anzio Joe" Watson who prior to that time had been kept quite occupied with his duties as battalion Plans and Training Officer. He told us some hair raising accounts of his experiences as an observer with the 84th Cml Mortar Bn on the Anzio Beachhead in Italy. A short time after Major Watson made his lecture, an insurance agent came out to the bivouac area to sell lump-sum life insurance and strangely enough he did a rushing business.
Where there's water there's fish and Sgt. Ridosh and Cpl. Leach went after them. Rumor has it that Sgt. J.P. Lewis indulged a little himself, catching two fish over the period of a week. Jack insists that they were not minnows!
About this time the motor pool got very overseas conscious and began to practice amphibious assaults. What looks more like an LCI than a jeep trailer without its wheels? Well, it floated anyway and the motor pool played "Here comes the Marines" all week. It was about this time that some of the men decided to extend invitations to their wives. After all, a vacation is a vacation. So the hill behind us became alive with females who soon learned the intricacies of bivouac, pup tents and all.
We had a beer party that Saturday night which was such a hilarious success that some men went in for a moonlight swim, clothes and all - most of them against their wills. When the battalion returned to camp the following week, the men were looking forwerd to resuming their normal duties, and were thankful too that the Army doesn't make a habit of being unduly generous.
The 91st Chemical Bn (Mtz) departed for the staging area, Camp Myles Standish, Mass, on October 2 1944. Lt. Col. Muth was in charge of Train No.1, Major Vincent in charge of Train No.2. The Battalion arrived at the new camp on 5 October 1944. After five days of turning in reports and preparing clothing and equipment for shipment, the Bn departed for the Boston POE on 11 October and embarked for overseas duty aboard the USS Wakefield on the same day.
The next eight days were spent aboard the ship in a smooth crossing of the Atlantic. On 19 October 1944 the ship docked at Liverpool, England. Co. A and Hq. and Hq. Det. departed for Southampton 19 October, embarked for the channel crossing aboard the British troopship H.M.S. Monowai on the 20th and landed on Omaha beach 22 October. Cos. B, C, and D left Liverpool on the 19th of October and embarked for the channel crossing from Southampton aboard the H.M.S. Antenor on the same date, landing on Omaha Beach on the 21st.
From the 22nd of October to the 31st of November the battalion remained in bivouac in Area P of the Valognes Staging Area for the purpose of assembling T.A.T .and organizational equipment. T.A.T. equipment, in part, was located in Rouen on the 13th of November and the missing items requisitioned on the 24th.
In the meantime, a Station List dated 24 October 1944 assigned the 91st to the Third US Army.
On the 27th of November the unit was alerted for POL System Security involving patrol of the gasoline pipeline from Cherbourg to the limit of the Normandy Base Section responsibility.
The battalion took over the security of the POL System on 3rd December. The Bn CP was established in the Chateau de St. Colombe, the companies setting up their CPs along the pipeline.
On the 10th of December the Bn was relieved of its POL System Security assignment and the companies assembled in the Abbe de Blanchlande to prepare to move out to join General Patton's Third Army.
To any soldier who went overseas, the troopship on which he traveled will always be a thing to remember. For most men it was the first ocean voyage, and it was taken under conditions which would have made an impression on a dead man. On a ship traveling in a combat zone, there are other feelings which are fully expressed in the following description of the voyage.
There is an atmosphere aboard a troopship in which the cynic is fortunate, for at least he knows that if death comes, it will come quickly in the crowded, below-water-line troop compartments. One could feel this tension at almost all times in our steel-walled areas which we called home on the former luxury liner, "Wakefield," nee "Manhattan." It was rather well suppressed in the poker games, bull sesion, and literary gatherings over the material which was furnished by the Red Cross. But nevertheless, it was still there, from the time we left the submarine nets of Boston, until we anchored in Liverpool. One thought was uppermost in our minds: suppose a submarine is in the right place at the right time.
On deck, at almost any time of the day, one could find small groups of the 91st observing and expounding on the reliable merits of the dual 40 mms, the 20s and the deck guns. "Good lord, man, this ship could fight off her weight in wild cats. Just look at those guns. I was on the 40s myself at Ft. Eustis. Damn good fun."
But 25,000 tons of ship is a big target, a very big target. All of us knew that. Perhaps, that is why so many of us used to sit on the forward hatch and watch the radar bed-spring continually turning in its position on top of the foremast. The slightest stop or back track in its ordinary course would bring all eyes to the horizon, straining to see what the electrons had already found far beyond. We never saw anything which was in the slightest way out of the ordinary, but the rumors flew thick and fast.
The boat drills, the security regulations about garbage disposal and smoking on deck at night, all these served to show us that this was serious. Remember that most of us had never been on the ocean before, and that the newness of it all, the standup mess hall (2 meals per day) and the sea- sickness added to the tension.
The poker games seemed to grow progressively larger. Down in A Company's section, 1st Sgt. Burke began to have his brainstorms about the Red Cross sweaters, prize fight, and partial pays. B Company's distinguished mess sergeant is reputed to have become a millionaire overnight. D Company's compartment was strangely quiet as the famous whistle was trilled momentarily. Life apparently went on in a more or less normal way.
And yet, few of us were sorry to see the low shore line of England through the early morning greys of the dawn. Our Atlantic crossing, 11-18 October, 1944 was over!
England and the Continent
Landing in England, we began a train trip during which we gathered our sole impressions of that country. Through soot-hazy windows, we discovered the neat green countryside of England and its bombed out cities remaining as a testimony to that fateful summer and winter of 1940-41.
The evening of the 19th of October we climbed out of our railroad coaches to find ourselves in Southampton. There we boarded more ships to cross the English Channel to the continent. We landed in LCIs at Omaha Beach, a code name given to the rocky shores where American doughboys first waded ashore on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Our first impressions of Omaha were ones which began to make us doubt the values of our manual-based training in the United States. For, emerging from the total darkness of the before -dawn period, the French coast seemed to be an ETO Broadway of lights. There were floodlights, colored lights, spotlights, and just plain lights. All in an area which to us, as we arrived, seemed to be the first real combat zone that we had entered. Why then all the blackout driving, pitch black Texas bivouacs, and so forth? So this was what combat areas were like.
A little indignantly, and a little impatiently, we waited to be unloaded. As daylight gradually dawned, we were able to take stock of the grim reality of Omaha Beach. The harbor was full of ships, some riding at anchor like our own, and others just hulks of great ships whose broken frames, shrapnel-scarred superstructures, and sea-washed decks made restless monuments to the struggle some four months previously. Some of these had been scuttled intentionally, of course, to strengthen the sea wall made from the now-famous concrete caisons; but the majority were otherwise, and the manner in which they dotted the harbor made this far too obvious.
Eventually LCTs came alongside to take us ashore and we left our ship through a canvas tube stretched from deck to deck. Some debarked via the much rehearsed cargo-net route. We chugged ashore and landed on a floating dock which ended in the sands of the beach. At the other end of the dock, as we staggered off with our duffle bags we met our first combat men, Air Corps personnel who were to use the same ships we had crossed the Channel on to go home on rotation. They were dirty, tired and jubilant. We were clean, fresh, and downhearted. The contrast was one which impressed us a great deal.
The panorama of the beach was one of tremendous activity, because even at that late a stage in the War, Omaha and Utah beaches were still being used to land men and supplies, while Cherbourg handled oil, gas, and ammunition principally. There were people and vehicles moving about constantly, threading their way through piles of supplies which lay all over the beach, and around mountains of C rations which were undoubtedly the biggest stock of the stuff in the ETO, and perhaps the world. Above this turbulence rose the two-hundred foot hills which cost us so many casualties on D-Day. At this particular time they were green and fresh looking, although dotted with the whites and greys of the Westwall fortifications.
In due time we assembled and started along a trail that slanted up the slopes. We passed very close to a half-destroyed pill-box, which looked very formidable even in that condition. I recall several comments on the apparent strength of the Westwall from some of us, but the actual truth of the matter is that it was nothing at all compared to the fortifications we saw later in the Seigfried line. Nevertheless, to green troops who do not appreciate the basic weaknesses of any line-type of fortification, it is a very awe-inspiring sight to go through one.
As we reached the top of the ridge, we looked out across a small valley at a sight most of us will never forget. For there on the opposite hillside were the neat rows of thousands of crosses and stars which make up a military cemetery. They stood as a grim reminder that this was a war we were entering, not a maneuver or dry-run.
When we reached the crest of the cliff, carrying a full pack and weapon, we sloshed our way through our first French town of St. Laurent, and got to see what was left of part of it. Going on through the town we got our first glimpse of the Normandy countryside and its hedgerows. There were supply dumps all over the land. A few shacks were in evidence of how the boys lived in the rain and mud. They built the sides of the pup tents up with boards about 4 ft. high and used the tent itself as a roof. This allowed them to stand up a little better. We hiked across fields in ankle-to-knee deep mud and slop to reach an apple orchard, our first camp site. We were mud from head to foot, cold and hungry.
After searching the area, we gathered enough wood to start a fire. Spam, jam, coffee, and GI bread were served by mess personnel. After this repast. we pitched tents and sat around trying to dry out and scraping some of the mud off our clothing and equipment. After a very unrestful nigh everyone awoke to find that the sun could shine after all. It did until noon anyway. After that we had a steady drizzle. Mines had not been cleared from the area and all were cautioned not to get off the beaten paths. All complied.
Late that afternoon we all got "March Order" and found six new ¾ ton trucks waiting to haul us to "P" area. All bags and baggage were loaded and we took off. As we rode along, we passed through Carentan, and other French towns, and had our first sight of how badly a town could be flattened by artillery. After about a 25 to 30 km. drive, we arrived outside of Montebourg and entered our designated area where we were destined to stay for several weeks.
Because of the incessant rains, the area soon became churned up by the constant shifting around of men and vehicles until it turned into a sea of mud. We hauled sand from nearby Utah beach in order to make paths through the goo. Cigarettes were like diamonds by this time. Spam and jam and corned beef made up our daily diet. Washington got some mail for us one day and even those of us who didn't receive any were happy anticipating the next mail call.
Lt. Lefler was busy all the time searching for TAT that couldn't be found. We were always hitting the sack and hoping the rain would stop. No money. No cigarettes. No anything. Those were bad days. Then came pay day and our first PX rations. Much bartering ensued candy for cigarettes. D bars were plentiful, everyone had a good supply. Hobo coffee was made in a gallon can over an open fire at a ratio of one canteen cup of coffee to one gallon of water. It would take the paint off a board if you set the cup down. Socks were boiled in cans over the fire and hung out to dry, provided of course it stopped raining. There were cases of trench foot developed along with aching back and sore joints. Ball games were started, weather permitting.
Then came the rains again in bucketfulls. We had to get off the ground. A detail was sent over to an ordinance outfit to pick up truck platforms. We built shacks. Everyone started to feel a little more comfortable. We played poker each night and craps too. We purchased steaks at the local butchers in Montebourg at for 150 francs and up. They were good. Many bets were made over the coming election. How to pick the football winners were the favorite pastime of Lt. Parker, Courtwright, Peluso and others. The drivers made a convoy to the gay city of Paris. They returned with many stories as to what you could or couldn't do with a D bar. They also found to their amazement that "P" area had been deserted. The whole battalion had moved up for guard duty on the important pipe line. At last we were out of the mud, we hoped. It was still raining in Normandy, even if it was early December.
Cigars: PFC Heimlich was working as one of the company's permanent KPs. Once after the PX rations were distributed, Col. Muth was giving out cigars to some of the officers at the kitchen. Heimlich, feeling the inequality between the ranks and his own need of a weed, went to the colonel and said, "Sir, how about giving me one of those?" He got the cigar but he lost his happy home in the kitchen and was put out in the cold with the rest of the men.
Mustard gas: There was a big explosion one afternoon and T/5 Branning and Sgt. Hanny were sent to investigate. About half an hour later they came back saying that they had mustard gas on their shoes and leggings. They had seen the location of the explosion but they were more concerned about their legs and feet. They must have had their odors confused though, for the next morning Branning was still walking on his feet and Hanny on his knees.
Battle of ArdennesDecember 13, 1944 to January 25, 1945
On the 13th of December the Bn. moved out of Abbey de Blanchlande in two serials. The bivouac site for the first night (13th) was Verneuil. The night of the 14th, the first serial bivouacked in a chateau outside of Fere Champenois, the 2nd serial bivouacking in Sezanne.
The Bn. moved out of its bivouac on the morning of the 15th expecting to reach its scheduled stop in Nancy that afternoon. Captain Watson, Bn. S-3, preceeded the convoy into Nancy and there received orders for the Bn. to continue beyond Nancy to the XII Corps area. The Bn. was to billet in the Lorraine village of Pontpierre and await further orders. The Bn. entered the village early that evening.
There were no soldiers in the village. The inhabitants were farmers who spoke both French and German, the latter the common everyday language. The men were billeted in individual homes soon after arriving. There was neither enthusiasm nor hostility on the part of the populace, although the next day the Tricolor flew from the upper stories of the dwellings.
The Bn. was soon alerted for action. Initially Co. D was attached on 19th December to the 35th Infantry Division and in time to the 137th Inf. The mission of the Regiment was to secure the Saar River line by limited objective attacks. Co. D supported this action and on the 19th December had the signal honor of firing the first round for the 91st. The historical report submitted by the company is quoted:
"Today Co. D was the first company of the battalion to go into action. At 1053 the 2nd squad of the 1st platoon under Sgt. Kelley fired the first round of HE. The round was dropped down the barrel by PFC R.G. Holmes. Range 3,400 yards, elevation 1,010. Forward observers supplied by the artillery, with communications being relayed through artillery radio, through 137th Regt. switchboard to artillery switchboard to Co. D switchboard. Target was crossroad in town of Bleismengen, Germany. Seven rounds were used to range in, after which the eight mortars fired up 200 yards, back 100 yards, up 50 yards, and back 50 yards."
Co. C was attached to the 87th Inf. Div. which was on the right flank of the 35th and although it moved into the Division sector in the town of Woelfling the company was never sub-attached and never committed.
The remainder of the Bn. was attached to the 80th Inf. Div. with Co. A attached to the 318th Inf. and Co. B to the 319th Inf. The Division was in Corps reserve and was to be committed to the right flank of the Corps on D plus I and jump off to break the Siegfried Line and capture Homburg. The attack was called off and the companies never committed because of the new German offensive in Belgium and Luxembourg. On December 20th Co. C reverted to Bn. control and rejoined the Bn. in Pontpierre.
On December 22nd the Bn. moved out on Corps order from Lorraine to Luxembourg, accompanying the XII Corps (TUSA) in its shift occasioned by the threat of the mounting German counter-offensive.
Effective upon arrival in Luxembourg on 23 December, Cos. A and B were attached to the 4th Inf. Div. and C and D to the 5th Inf. Div.
The Bn. (Cos. C and D) moved into assembly area in the village of Gonderange. The town was quite fun of reserve Armored and TD elements, and was approximately 7 miles from the front lines.
Co. C proceeded to the town of Asselschwer. Co. D, several hours behind the remainder of the Bn., spent the night (22nd) in the city of Luxembourg and the next day closed in on its assembly area in the village of Eschweiler.
The Corps mission was to push the enemy back and to secure the South and West banks of the Sauer River. Cos. C and D supported the attack of the 5th Div. from the line Fels-Christnach-Consdorf to the River, a distance of approximately five miles. Co. C advanced from Heffingen to North of Beaufort in support of the 11th Infantry Regiment and Co. D advanced from south of Consdorf to Berdorf in support of the 2nd Inf. Regt. On the 29th December, when the 12th Inf. of the 4th Inf. Div. relieved the 2nd Infantry after it had secured the river line, Co. D moved to support of the 10th Inf. north of Eppeldorf on the left flank of the Division. The 5th Division at that time was in position to defend the newly gained ground and Cos. C and D were placed in support of the Outpost line.
December 25th, Christmas day, found Co. A moving out of Gonderange to its assembly area in the town of Lellig. Co. A was attached to the 8th Inf. Regt. of the 4th Infantry Division. The column was strafed on the road soon after it moved out of Gonderange. The plane was identified as an American P-47 with friendly markings. A subsequent G-2 report corroborated our knowledge of the use by the Germans of American planes with American markings.
The tail vehicle, the maintenance truck, was completely wrecked, exploding twice and burning. Of the seven occupants of the vehicle, 2 were killed, one subsequently died, and four were seriously wounded.
Tec. 5 Frank C. Cox Tec. 5 Earl M. Kay Tec. 4 Joseph F. Hern
S/Sgt. Herman N. Maurer Tec. 4 Alton L. Brittingham Tec. 4 Loy H. Goodman Tec. 5 George W. Kotson
Co. A was not committed until 27 December and was placed in support of the Outpost of Resistance (OPLR) attached to the 3rd Bn., 8th. Inf. The 3rd Battalion's mission was to defend the OPLR and to advance it to the high ground overlooking the Sauer from Wasserbillig to Moersdorf.
Co. B was committed on the 23 December in support of the 22nd Infantry Regt. which had the mission of clearing out the enemy from the west bank of the Sauer and establishing an OPLR overlooking the river. On the 26th of December a muzzle blast occurred while the 2nd platoon, Company B was firing a mission. Cpl. Kevin P. Hegarty was killed and Sgt. Robert W. Raudenbush was wounded. The company moved forward to a new position 500 yards south of Ferme Fromburg on the 28th of December to support this action and on the 30th December was out of range of the enemy. The 22nd Inf. did not deem it advisable to have the company move forward.
On the 30th of December another regrettable incident occurred in Co. A. Pvt. William B. Bailey died as a result of enemy action while driving to the CP In Lellig from the 2nd platoon's position on the North outskirts of Mompach. He was to pick up chow for the platoon at the kitchen when the fatal accident occurred.
The old year rang out with a sour note for the Bn. and Co. D in particular when 2nd Lt. Malcomb N. Parker was killed in action while on a FO (Forward Observer) mission on the 31st of December. The town of Reisdorf , in which his death occurred, was in German hands only the previous day. While making his way forward alone, Lt. Parker was killed by machine gun fire. Lt. Parker was subsequently awarded the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service (Posthumously).
Since arriving in Luxembourg, Hq. and Hq. Det. had been in Gonderange, a few kilometers in the rear of the Infantry Regimental CPs and within a half hour by jeep of all the companies. Although two companies were attached to the 4th Inf. Division and two to the 5th Inf. Division, administrative control over the companies had been maintained. The Battalion also closely supervised the tactics assisting and advising the Company Commanders and maintaining close relations with the supported units. On January 1st the Battalion moved from Gonderange to Bech. Before moving out, the town of Gonderange was given a good working over by 10 FW-189 in the morning and 5 FW-190 in the afternoon.
The situation remained unchanged in Company A sector on the second day of the New Year. Comparatively few rounds were fired but all with extremely remarkable accuracy. However, for the men the afternoon was ruined in spite of the good work, by a serious accident. The mortar in the 3rd squad pit was blown up by a shell bursting in the barrel. PFC. Donald W. DeWitt was the most seriously injured with a shattered right arm and a bad shrapnel wound on his left side. He died en route to a hospital. Cpl. Clarence Beckner and PFC. John S. Wicklund both suffered burns and shock.
FO No.13, XII Corps relieved Cos. A and B from the 4th Infantry Division and attached them to the 80th Infantry Division effective 4 January 1945.
Both companies were attached to the 80th Inf. Div. Artillery. The mission of the Division was to cross the Sure River in the vicinity of Heiderscheidergrund, seize the high ground in the vicinity of Nocher, and envelope and destroy hostile forces in the vicinity of Bourscheid by continuing the attack to the east and seizing the high ground in the vicinity of Masseler. By VOCG 80th Inf. Division Artillery, Co. A was attached to the 313th FA Bn. and Co. B to the 905th FA Bn. A's rear echelon was set up in Bissen and the platoon gun positions were established north of Feulen in the vicinity of Scheidel. Co. B's positions were close to Heiderscheid.
On January 5th a field message directed Co. B to be prepared to displace north across the Sure River. Early in the morning of the 6th the company crossed as per schedule. Neither A or B Co. fired during the day for the attack met very little resistance in its early stages.
On January 8th the Bn. Hq. and Hq. Det. moved by infiltration into its new location in the town of Mersch, Luxembourg. The railroad station, as well as two nearby inns and an empty house provided shelter for the detachment.
Co. A was relieved from attachment to the 80th Inf. Division and attached to the 4th Inf. Division 11 January. They were to be in direct support of the 80th Inf. Regt. to support the OPLR. The company closed in on Lellig on the 12th establishing a CP and rear echelon in the town. The platoons moved into the positions that they had recently vacated. The situation in this sector had not materially changed since the previous attachment to the 8th Inf. There were two battalions in line in a defensive situation along the Sauer River. The mission of the Company was to support the Infantry in an aggressive defense of the sector.
At 1600, January 16th, Co. A moved to a new location north of Eppeldorf on the Sauer River. The new positions were necessary in view of the impending operations. The company was still attached to the 8th Inf. and occupied positions formerly held by Co. D.
On the same day (January 16th) the 1st platoon of Co. B was attached to the 313th FA Bn. and moved into a new position on the right flank. Co. B was now in position to provide smoke for the Infantry in its coming operation to cross the Sauer River at that point. Co. C's first platoon shifted over to a new position above Stegon overlooking the enemy held town of Diekirch. This placed both platoons in a position to concentrate fire on that town.
The XIII Corps attacked to the north on January 18th in the direction of St. Vith to add the final chaper to the "Battle of the Bulge". The 4th Inf. Division on the right, with Co. A in support, attacked at 0300 with the 8th CT (Combat Team) across the Sauer River to capture Bettendorf and continue north and east to the German border. The 5th Inf. Division in the center attacked at 0500 ‘with the 10th Inf. supported by Co. D on the right and the 2nd Inf. supported by Co. C on the left. The 10th Inf. was to seize two important hills northeast of Diekirch and to continue to Bastendorf to the north. The 2nd Inf. was also given the mission of capturing two important hills as well as the town of Erpledange to the west of Diekirch with two battalions and having cut off Diekirch with the aid of the l0th Inf. to mop up Diekirch with the third battalion, then continue the attack to the north. After the attack progressed 5 miles the 11th Inf. passed through the 2nd Inf. in the vicinity of Landscheid and continued the attack to the North. Co. C went to the control of the 11th Inf.
The 80th Inf. Division on the left (with the first platoon of Co. B attached to the 313th FA Bn. and the second platoon of Co. B attached to the 314th FA Bn.) attacked at 0700 to clear the enemy from the south and west banks of the Wiltz and Sauer Rivers, capture Nocher and Burscheid and force a crossing of the Wiltz River east of Wiltz.
The largest number of shells to be fired in any 24 hour period was fired by Co. A on the 18th. Although only 7 missions were fired, a total of 1,072 rounds were expended, 528 WP and 544 HE.
Co. B's second platoon, just south of Dahl, gave direct support to the 319th Inf. in its assault on the town of Nocher and the surrounding area. The position received heavy mortar fire and during one particularly heavy barrage. Three of Co. B's men were wounded. They were Sgt. Frank H. Gray Jr., Sgt. Arthur O. Spaulding, and PFC. James W. Goss. Sgt. Gray and PFC. Goss were evacuated and Sgt. Spaulding received treatment at the Battalion Aid Station.
Co. C earned the heartfelt thanks of many doughboys when they answered an urgent request for smoke from an Infantry assasult company that had suffered severe casualties in an effort to cross a particularly exposed area. Co. C complied and the enemy positions were showered with WP shells thereby allowing the Infantry assault company as well as the rest of the Bn. to slip by without suffering any further casualties.
PFC. Donald H. Kinder was wounded in the hand by shrapnel while a smoke screen was being fired during enemy counter-battery fire.
By the 19th the attack was well under way. The 4th Division continued forward causing the first platoon of Co. A to "pick up" and move up to the river at Bettendorf. Co. B also found it necessary to displace forward into a position near Warken. Co C. infiltrated into the vicinity of Erpeldange during the day. However, the platoons did occupy their positions until after dark as the area was still under enemy observation.
By January 20th Co. D had moved its platoons into position Northeast of Diekirch and in the town of Bastendorf. The CP was East of Diekirch and the rear echelons actually in that recently fallen town.
The 81st Cml. Co. (SG) was attached to the 91st for this phase of the fighting in order to enable the Bn. to consolidate any smoke operations. The plan for the Smoke Generator Company was for the company to be prepared to assist the 91st in smoking bridging operations at Ingellorf on call of C.O., Co. C 7th Engr. Bn. with smoke pots and generators, and to be prepared to smoke bridging operations at Diekirch on call of C.O., Co. B, 133 Engr. Bn.
On D plus I, one section of generators covered the bridging near Ingellorf with a half section on both sides of the river.
The 4th Division objectives of the attack launched on the 18th were taken on the 21st but strong pockets of enemy resistance remained to be mopped up. Co. A assisted in these operations. The second platoon gave close support to the 8th Inf. In the taking of the town of Longsdorf. The Infantry had been held up by enemy small arms fire and direct 88 mm. fire for almost 48 hours. On January 21st the second platoon of Co. A poured a heavy mixture of WP and HE into the town which silenced the 88s and cut down much of the small arms fire. Shortly after the barrage was lifted the town was taken.
The 80th Inf. Division continued in the attack with Co. B supplying smoke screens for the difficult operation. The terrain through which the 80th Infantry attacked was extremely rugged country with a poor road net. It was definitely terrain well suited for defense. The attacking force had to cross deep ravines and, in most cases while under enemy observation. It was a very costly struggle, resolving itself into the doughboys slugging it out without benefit of armor.
Co. B's first platoon supported the Infantry in its attack on the town of Bourscheld by maintaining a smoke screen for 7 hours and 40 minutes on the high ground from which the enemy was placing observed fire on the attacking Infantry. The second platoon moved into a new position and received a call for smoke to screen the high ground in the vicinity of Masseler. The screen was satisfactorily maintained from 1300 to 1745. The hill was taken by our forces, but they were forced to withdraw later. Casualties among the Infantry in this sector were reported as extremely heavy.
Co. C moved forward with the 5th Division and made preparations to fire a screen in support of the Red Diamond elements showing off att 0800. The smoke was not requested and by 1600 the Division had advanced so rapidly that all targets were out of range and it was once again necessary to displace forward.
Both platoons and the FDC of Co. D occupied new positions in the vicinity of Brandenburg, Luxembourg.
On January 22nd Co. B moved into Bourscheid and was attached to the 905th FA Bn.
Co. C's two platoons also advanced this day, both going into Lipperscheid where the 5th Division was sustaining heavy casualties due to air bursts from enemy artillery.
By the morning of the 23rd in the 8th Infantry (Co. A) sector the objectives of the recent drive had been taken for the most part. Co. A no longer had targets in range. Both platoons anticipated moving forward to bring targets in the Siegfried line across the Our River into range.
For Co. B the day was one of movement, but no fire. The progress of the 80th Division precluded the possibility of any fire missions. The Company passed to the control of the 319th Infantry. The Company CP was established at Goesdorf. The first platoon set up near Nocher, the second near Dahl.
Co. C's mortar men were subjected to heavy counter-battery fire but they remained at the guns until all the available ammunition had been expended, the 11th Inf., 5th Division needing all the fire that "Charlie" Co. could throw. The mission was successful but at the expense of four casualties in the 1st platoon. Sgt. Emanuel Owens, PFC. Avery Cunningham, Pvt. Herbert Gilbert and medical aid man, PFC. Remus Meza were the injured.
By January 24th in the 8th Inf. sector of the 4th Division front the situation was stabilized with Infantry troops occupying the line along the high ground Southwest of the Our River. The 12th Regiment pulled up along side of the 8th by nightfall. Co. A was instrumental in the advance and securing of the ground of both Regiments.
Co. B left the 319th Infantry to join with the 313th FA Bn. of the same Regiment on the 24th. The CP moved to Eschweiler, the platoons just East of the same town.
The 5th Infantry Division troops to which Cos. C and D were attached encountered stiff resistance in Horscheid. Both platoons of Co. C coordinated their fire and succeeded in softening up the town enabling the doughboys to advance slowly but steadily. Co. D fired a smoke screen stopping all counter-battery fire.
January 25th found the 4th Inf. Division continuing the attack in a northerly direction in the area East of Fouhren. This day's action necessitated Co. A to move its CP to Gilsdorf.
All elements of Co. B displaced forward at 0030. At 0400, while the men were digging into position, six 88 mm. rounds landed in the draw; one round landing in the midst of a gun crew killing one and wounding four. Sgt. .Walter L. Lundberg was killed. Sgt. Edward B. Clay, PFC. Ralph W. Stevens, and PFC. Kenneth L. Heimlich were wounded and evacuated. Cpl. Eugene H. Howard was wounded and treated by the battalion surgeon.
Cos. C and D with the 5th Infantry Division moved into the outskirts of Horscheid at 0600. By 1800 that evening (25th) another forward displacement became necessary for Co. C. This time well into the town.
Company C upon being attached to the 5th Infantry Division on 23 December moved into position to support the Division in its drive to clear the enemy from the ground of Luxembourg. The company moved east from Fels and Christnach to the heights north and east of Beaufort. After reaching that point the Division set up a defense line which they held until the attack on the Bulge had progressed further. So Beaufort became the place where the men of Company C received their first real taste of battle.
Beaufort To the men of C Company there is no other word that is more nearly synonomous to the word "war" as the name "Beaufort." In this once-beautiful tourist resort, situated on the banks of the Our River in Luxembourg, a group of wide-eyed trainees began to assume the likenesses of veterans. Here were 1,000 combat lessons rolled into one. The experiences we gained served us in good stead when the drive to eliminate the Bulge began some twenty days later.
The town was situated only a few miles from the right anchor of the 40 mile corridor that the Germans had punched through the center of the Allied lines. The Fifth Infantry Division was assigned the mission of rolling the Jerry line back to the banks of the Our where a strong line of defense could be built - thus insuring that the breakthrough would remain channelized until enough forces could be mustered together to cut the pincer at its source. The Fifth Inf. accomplished their mission at no little cost. At the same time, farther west, General McAuliffe with his famous 101st Airborne Inf. was making his gallant stand at Bastogne to prevent the Germans from fanning out into the Third Army's zone of communications. Not until the German drive had lost its momentum and the situation was brought under control did we finally appreciate the strategic importance of holding Bastogne - with all of the dire consequences that might have befallen the troops east of the Arlon-Bastogne highway had the General elected to surrender when instead he answered the German ultimatum with the one word "Nuts".
The drive to cut off the bulge never did materialize. The weather and the terrain did not lend itself to mass maneuver. While other forces were engaged in the slow, grim, process of methodically reducing the Bulge with relentless pressure on its point and its sides, C Company remained in a defensive set up at Beaufort for eighteen days, waiting for the Krauts to make a stab across the Our in an attempt at widening the corridor sufficiently enough to enable their forces to exploit their initial gains - gains which were, as a result of courageous action all along the wooded, snowy hills, already doomed to failure.
That's the big picture. Both sides had massed artillery on both sides of the river; both sides were feverishly laying mine fields, stringing wires, and preparing defense positions against a possible attack; both sides made a practice of sending out reconnaissance and combat patrols in an effort to gain information or keep their opponents constantly harassed.
We entered Beaufort on a bitter cold night. The sky was overcast and the village stood out in stage like relief when the moon came out from behind the clouds to cast a hazy light on the glassy crusted snow. A barn at the far end of town was in flames; there was some discarded gear in the streets that the Germans had abandoned in their anxiety to make tracks; but, aside from these, the town didn't look at all war-torn or war-like. There were empty houses, without curtains, that looked as though they had lost their souls when their inhabitants abandoned them. There were animels in the barns and they broke the silence from time to time with pleading calls for the care end attention they were accustomed to. Occasionally a jeep would pass through town and the driver seemed to try to avoid racing the motor, as though to do such would be as sacrilegious as cavorting at a wake.
The mortars were dug in and emplaced on the outskirts of the built-up area of town. The crewmen laid down their bedding in underground huts and fox holes that had been constructed by slave laborers for German artillerymen. The sky would occasionally light up as nebelwerfers streaked across the horizon farther down the river.
The next day Lt. Mortimer went out to the OP to fire into Germany for the first time. The duel was on. In the eighteen days that followed, Beaufort was methodically bombarded with artillery fire until hardly a house remained unscathed. Until we became familiar with the whine of our own artillery whistling overhead, the men would often scurry for their foxholes only to hear the sounds die off as the shells raced off in the direction of the enemy lines.
By the time we were ready to shift sectors, almost every man could recognize and identify a war noise from any foreign sound. Some men were even presumptuous enough to indicate the types of arms by their calibre and their manufacture. The cellars with firm foundations on our end of the town were converted into comfortable living quarters where the mortar men could retreat to shave, heat a cup of coffee, or write letters. An elaborate communications network was installed by the communications section which enabled Capt. Horton to reach any man in the company as well as higher headquarters by simply calling the switchboard. At night. when patrol activities were unusually heavy the crewmen who remained at the guns would be called out of their underground huts to fire night missions. Tec 5 Jarvis and Tec 5 Lindberg would plug in the proper terminals to enable everyone to listen-in on the progress of the mission as the sensings came down directly from the infantry outposts.
On one occasion, an outpost called in to complain that some Jerries were chopping wood just across the river. A few rounds were dropped in the area as identified from map data. The wood chopping stopped abruptly. The observer was extremely pleased with the fire. When asked about the effectiveness, he answered, "Well, they're either scared to death or picking up what you chopped for them." For some unknown reason, Jerry used to send a patrol at just about the same time every night using the same road, and carrying shaded flash lights. We made an appointment to meet them through the infantry. Lt. Goodson registered two guns on the road during the daylight hours, and when night fell, a volley was sent out intermittently at approximately the right time. The results could not be observed but the men who braved the cold of the night felt a high sense of satisfaction after firing that mission.
PFC. Sarre and PFC. Odman decided that they would forego the safety of the damp cold cellars and establish their headquarters on the second floor of a modest but comfortable home in which there were two beds with mattresses. Before they could set up housekeeping, a shell tore away a corner of the house and the two cold bloods came scrambling down the stairs. As the barrage continued, the pair lay huddled under a table on the first floor and Sarre was prompted to remark. "Ya know, Bingo? Maybe tomorrow we should change our apartment."
It was actually dangerous to stand near the doorway of any cellar in that area when someone yelled, "Incoming mail!" That was especially true when Jarvis was caught in the open. There was no other man in the company who could fit through the door when that hulk of a man came piling in. A source of unending amusement to the boys in the FDC those days, was Jarvis' notorious appetite. His switchboard was always cluttered up with preserved fruits and canned vegetables that he had managed to scavenge from among the ruins while off duty, discounting an assortment of "goodies" that he regularly received from home. Other headquarters personnel often found it hard to catch any sleep in the FDC when Jarvis was on night duty because of the yapping and the clinking of jars and cans. And as though that weren't enough, he used to hunt stray poultry with bread crumbs in one hand and a club behind his back in the other. Sgt. Rogers prepared nourishing hot chicken broths using K ration bouillon powder as a seasoning, whenever Jarvis made a kill. Sgt. Jack Fredericks often complained that there wasn't room enough for a reel of W110 after Jarvis had loaded the commo truck with his reserve of food-stuffs. The mortar men once tried cooking a rabbit over a gasoline fire. The result was a delightful gastronomical adventure that later brought on violent abdominal pains for the men who had sponsored the dish and were forced to partake generously of it in order to save face with the weak-bellied skeptics.
Tec 5 Honeycutt discovered an old-fashioned water heater in a barn. A one-man detail stoked the fire while the men took turns bathing in a large galvanized tub. Capt. Horton made the mistake of climbing into a bubble bath during Jerry's harassing hours. Disregarding his fellow officers' pleas to take cover, he soaked in the luxury of the warm water until a large shell fragment came through a window and made a nasty gash in the opposite wall. The captain momentarily became oblivious to military dignity and composure, and his obsession for cleanliness was almost superseded by an instinctive desire to remain whole, even if dirty. But after sweating out the next shell, he concluded that the first was a stray and that he wasn't the sort to give any heinie the satisfaction of chasing him out of a bath tub. So he went right on washing, and listening.
Candles were at a premium when they could be used in blacked-out first-story rooms or cellars. The more electrically inclined devised lighting systems from discarded combat wire, undamaged light bulbs, and run-down German batteries. One of the most problematical engineering tasks was routing available stove pipe on make-shift stoves so that it would reach an aperture allowing the smoke to escape and the heat to stay in. Some of the clean round holes in the walls of those houses were not made by high velocity shells.
After firing on marked concentrations and anything that might move on the landscape throughout the day, we would spend out "quiet" nights making hot chocolate from D ration bars using heating tablets or improvised cooking stoves. While sipping the hot chocolate, we would involuntarily become involved in conversations that ranged from women, to mortar technique, to women, to war strain, then back to women.
Before long, the majority of the men acquired straw from which they made substitute mattresses. A company aid station was set up in one sturdy basement where "Doc" Haister could bed down and nurse back to health the men who had contracted severe colds, frost bite, and trench foot.
One of the most memorable barrages to which C Company was ever subjected came on New Years Eve at precisely twelve. Jerry ushered in the New Year by firing everything from flare pistols to heavy-heavy artillery. The following morning, when some of the men went out to inspect the damage, they returned excitedly with their report. "Remember that terrific noise we heard last night?" one asked. "Well," he said, "I can't be sure about what hit; but I do know that the house three doors up from Hoister's place has disappeared". He swallowed and added, "Even the cellar is gone!" Although under similar circumstances, we could probably not have made things more comfortable for ourselves, we suddenly felt the old surge of the pioneer spirit and an unbending yen to get out of Beaufort and on with the war.
Beaufort sidelight In Beaufort, Luxembourg the motor pool was set up in a barn near the outskirts of town. The mechanics were working on their tires, when it suddenly started to rain 88 shells. Then the race started. There is probably no champion runner who could run as fast as the mechanics did that day. It really is a wonder that there were no casualties from men running all over each other. At another occasion the mechanics were delivering gas to the platoons when they were once agoin cought in a barrage. They were out of the truck in a hurry, scurrying for shelter. As a matter of coincidence they all picked what they supposed was the safest available spot - under the gas-laden truck.
Company B during this time was attached to the 4th Infantry Division, supporting their drive to clear the west bank of the Sauer River north of Moersdorf. Their positions were set up near Herborn where they spent their Christmas day for 1944. From an OP near the Infantry outposts, CPL Vic Sergeant wrote home on the 26th describing that Christmas day.
The Western Front
December 26, 1944
Dear Mother and Dad,
On Christmas morning the tired lieutenant in the fox hole opposite to ours, looked out over the rim of his hole, out across the uncanny empty sweep of frozen woods and orchards which is the front, and grinned. He looked over at me and said:
"Here it is Christmas of '44 And what're we doin'? We're digging some more."
And he began to peck at the frozen earth to deepen his hole. Three men lived and slept in that hole in crouching positions for there was no room to lie down.
About 15 yards forward was the thin front line itself - a collection of foxholes, each about 10 feet apart, hacked into the sheltered side of a frozen bank.
The lieutenant was very young, but also very quiet. The men of the Infantry had been at war so long they said little. They had been hacked, shot and blown to pieces in a bloody affair just 3 weeks before; the survivors were here now, and now the enemy had put on a push.
There were about 40 men between us and the invisible enemy in the frozen valley. The enemy was on both sides and in front of us.
The boys hung stockings outside each fox hole. and in the stockings they placed K rations, hand grenades, and ammunition. For even here we remembered it was Christmas though with a wry grin. On the field telephone we heard that the boys back of us were having turkey for dinner. "Let us look at our menu," somebody said, bringing out a box of K rations.
Water was short, as we couldn't get it in until after dark, so we gathered canteen cups of snow, covered our holes with a blanket, went in and melted the snow by burning a cardboard K ration box. We got about one fourth of a cup of water at a time and added halazone tablets and drank, for we were all thirsty. The temperature was five degrees below zero.
At about 11, I got through on the radio, and we decided to throw some shells into the town below. My officer, Lt. Tom Goodwin, went forward to a hole where he could see the town. Looking out over the bank, he looked squarely into the frozen face of a dead German killed the night before. There were other dead Germans around, and some American bodies which had been there 3 days. Nobody could get them out for the path to the rear was exposed, dangerous, and could be travelled only at night or for some purpose of urgency to the living.
We sent back our fire commands and down in the valley we could see buildings go flying into the air. The town was on fire. My lieutenant was very pleased with himself and every time he saw us later that day, or in the night, he would ask, "Is that town still afire?" We named it "Our Town" for it was ours. We had flicked the radio switch, transmitted the commands and destroyed it. The dead GI Joes frozen on the slope were avenged.
Jerry was mad. His "Screaming Mimi" (Multi-barrelled rocket gun) began to sob over our heads with its terrifying noise. About 3 they began to lob mortar shells into us. Van and I lay in our hole huddled close. Van had dozed off and, as the shells began to come closer to us with their sullen whine he woke wih a start . "Hell," he said, "those boys are firing short." "Those aren't ours," I said, "that's Jerry." We laughted about it afterwards. But then we lay closely huddled shivering. "Damn it," Van said between chattering teeth, "I don't know whether I'm shivering from cold or whether I'm scared." I knew exactly why I was shivering. After awhile you didn't hear the shells whine. There was just a great burst as each shell hit close and sprayed earth and shrapnel atop of our hole. Presently it was quiet again. Although it was so cold, I was sweating.
We threw a blanket over our hole to hide as much smoke as possible and lit some cardboard inside to get warm.
At dark we went to bed. We had two blankets under us, one over us and one over the fox hole. We hadn't been able to carry more with all of our equipment. The cold was like a dull pain.
At 10 p.m. the young Infantry lieutenant decided to send a patrol down to the burning town to see what they could find. Five tired, cold men were chosen and set out. Van and I lay and listened, presently, a few desultory shots. At daylight the platoon sent back a report. They had captured one German, killed one. But Jerry had abandoned the town. Now "Our Town" was really ours.
Just one other thing. The day after this, I looked into the pack of the dead Jerry on the forward ridge. It contained a cake of soap, a towel, some socks, a German-English grammar and one other book: Euripides' Tragedies.
B Company occupied the general area north of Herborn until 5 January 1945 spending nearly a week without firing a round. A day or two before New Years 4,000 bottles of Champagne were discovered in a cellar and every man in the battalion had enough to warm the cockles of his heart. Cpl. Watkins, an unusually stout individual, required more than the average person to combat the cold of winter and threatened everything in his staggering path with his bulk. However an injury to his nose upon contact with a small tree put an end to his maneuvers.
When the XII Corps drive toward St. Vith started on 18 January, Company C had been supporting the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the 5th Infantry Division in their sector before Diekirch for several days. The first objective of the drive was the clearing of the city of Diekirch which was heavily defended by the German troops. Here is the story of the part one gun from Company C played in taking Diekirch.
Diekirch and Dahl Just before crossing the Sauer River, our platoon was in a defensive set up near Erpeldange and Eppeldorf. All four guns were firing in nearly parallel direction for practically all barrages. The order came from the FDC for the 3rd squad only to relay the gun and fire on an entirely new azimuth. The change involved a lot of work to swing 500 mils to the right in order to hit the new target which later proved to be the city of Diekirch. The squad did not know until several days later that the 2nd Inf. CP of the 5th Div. had requested some 4.2 fire on a factory in the city of Diekirch. The factory was holding up advances on the city with deadly fire from machine guns and machine pistols. For nearly three days our gun fired with only brief intervals. After completely burning and destroying the factory the Infantry called for fire on many adjoining parts of the city.
Some of the "doughs" personally thanked us for a job well done, which was highly gratifying to say the least."
(The following supplement to Sgt. Dragich's story is a direct quotation from the official unit history and is self explanatory. ED.)
Bn. Hq. receives daily G-2 and G-3 reports from Corps. On January 14th Intelligence Summary No. 302 for period 131200 to 132400 Hq. XII Corps, noted under the 5th Infantry Division: "Four large fires in Diekirch at 131830, also four explosions at 131850 and four at 132000, and all of them believed to be the result to our artillery (SIC) fire into the town."
The above report, though not causing great consternation in the Bn., did result in some muttering in Bn. beards. Co. C in particular, knowing full well that they alone were responsible for the fiery denouement of Diekirch, were slightly more irate concerning the crediting of the Artillery with their accomplishment.
Major Vincent, acting as Liaison Officer to Corps, attended the G-2 briefing on the 15th. The Corps G-2 made reference to the previous day's report on the firing of Diekirch and stated that since no Artillery had fired on Diekirch, he was at a loss to explain the cause of the large fires in the town. Naturally, the CW officers present enlightened the G-2 and it is expected amends will be made to give the 4.2 inch cml. mortar credit for its accomplishments.
In this same drive Company B was supporting the 313th and the 314th FA Bns. of the 80th Infantry Division in another sector. They had their troubles too.
It was at Goesdorf that we experienced our first counter-attack. When the fire command came down designating a powder charge of five rings, we were told to have carbines handy, for the enemy was but 1,000 yards in front of us. But the infantry with our help beat off the attack and matters returned to normal. We had fired 691 rounds in two hours.
On the evening of January 16th, the second platoon moved from Goesdorf, Luxembourg to take up positions in an orchard on the outskirts of the village of Dahl. The men immediately began to dig into the frozen ground to make protection for the mortars, in preparation for a scheduled fire mission the next morning in support of elements of the 80th Division. Shortly after midnight the men retired to dugouts previously used by the infantry.
At four o'clock enemy artillery began to shell the area and an adjacent cross roads with 88s and 105 mm. howitzers. Shortly before dawn the platoon arose to prepare ammunition for the scheduled fire. The barrage continued, forcing the men to stay close by their mortar pits. The men were startled to see that the fire was evidently observed, although the position was not under observation. An over round would be corrected and the next round would land in the position. Short rounds were similarly corrected. The platoon knew that the attacking infantry was going through hell and would need all the support they could get. They continued to prepare the scheduled fire.
At nine o'clock the enemy changed tactics and began shelling with 80 mm. mortars. Sgt. Frank Gray refused to take protection even when strongly urged by his men, insisting that the job he was doing was more important. The barrage continued and at nine-fifteen a close round burst in a tree ten feet above his head. His men heard him moan and asked if he were hit. He replied that he was all right but that he couldn't move his legs. Cpl. McRae and PFC Cantrell tried to help him into a pit for protection. They called for a medic and Cpl. Lansing, a former medical aid man, left his fox hole, running through the barrage with complete disregard for his own safety to treat Sgt. Gray.
At the same. time a fragment from the shell had ricocheted from the barrel of the fourth squad's gun to the base plate shattering it into small pieces. One of the pieces struck PFC Goss in the back and the other hit Sgt. Spaulding in the hand. Sgt. Hoehn treated both of these men and bandaged them. Sgt. Spaulding though wounded himself refused aid until Goss was treated. Hoehn went through the shelling to get bandages and stretcher and aid man Travis. An aid man from an 80th Div. heavy weapons company helped Lansing administer first aid to Gray and evacuate him. Several times they were forced to hit the ground to avoid incoming shells but neither took cover until Gray had been taken to a battalion aid station.
A near hit by the second squad mortar ignited the powder rings of several shells starting a fire and throwing dirt on the men. While Gray, Spaulding, and Goss were being evacueted Lt. Clark, the platoon leader, and S/Sgt. Rodolico came out to realign the guns. At ten o'clock all preparations had been completed and the men, badly shaken, were allowed to take shelter in neighboring houses. The pay-off was that the mission was never called for by the infantry. Late in the afternoon, a German Captain was captured. He admitted having used a radio from a nearby cellar to direct the fire on the platoon.
During the two or three days at Tadler the weather was bitter and our commo section encountered much trouble keeping lines in. It was necessary to hunt line breaks twenty hours a day and the commo boys deserve great credit as winter was probably rougher on them than anyone. Experience taught us later that telephone was a secondary means of communication, that radio would have sufficed ninety per cent of the time, especially in a situation such as this.
From Tadler the first platoon moved to Nocher. For the first time we had a chance to see what the 4.2 could really do, for we had pounded Nocher for twelve days and nights. This was the concentration "Charlie Dog" which the men of High Dawn Baker will always remember. Nocher was as flat as anything seen in Europe. We found two cellars in the town which were inhabitable. One had four feet of potatoes covering the floor. We made it our home. It was warm as there was one of those pint sized stoves in it and plenty of wood outside. "88s", 120 mortars, and meemies kept us on edge constantly.
There wasn't much sleep that night; it was like any other night in Luxembourg. Nocher was flattened, but no more than the rest of Luxembourg; every house and building was "Kaput." For the most part all that was left standing were the three foot thick stone walls that fhe Luxembourg people built their homes from and, of course, the inevitable manure piles, and in many places the latter were burning, a fact which added to the stench of battle and made it almost unbearable. All farm animals had either been driven off or were lying dead in the fields or in the streets. Luxembourg must have been a beautiful and peaceful place before Hitler come to power. Even in the ruins of its villages could be seen the beauty that must have once existed before it was swept under by the battles.
Company A also supported the 4th Infantry Division in this attack from their positions near Eppeldorf. On the 19th the progress of the attack carried the first platoon into Bettendorf, a small town on the Sauer River, where they remained for several days while the heights north of the river were being cleared of the enemy.
Bettendorf, Luxembourg, the once picturesque town where General Patton is reputed to have swum the Sauer River as an inspiration to his troops served as a locale for a great many experiences of the first platoon of A company. The Patton legend which grew up here was an example of the difficult fighting which three American divisions went through. The first platoon was here for almost two weeks and during that time was attached to the 4th Inf. Div., 80th Inf. Div., 4th Armored Div, and back to the 80th Inf. Div, in that order. The mortars moved into Bettendorf from Eppeldorf by infiltration since the road was under direct observation from the high ground across the Sauer River. It was the most beautiful OP an observer could ask for. We found that out later.
It was here in Bettendorf that Sgt. Clarence Beckner earned the cluster to his Purple Heart. He and his squad were setting in their gun behind a battered house and ducking meemie barrages every 15 minutes. There was a road junction very close to the position and that's what the Jerries were after. "Beck" got his second Purple Heart when a piece of shrapnel crept right in his hole with him. That's how close those barrages were.
All guns were set in that night under a unique system. The squad leader would stand at the gun pit and watch the horizon while the men dug in the gun. When the sky lit up with the typical tracer effect of nebelwerfers going off he knew that they had about 30 seconds to tale over. They flew into the houses and the sounds of slamming doors and running feet were intermingled with the thud of bodies hitting the floor and the explosions outside. The men immediately returned to the pits and resumed work for 15 minutes after which a repeat performance was in order. It was a pretty harrowing night.
S/Sgt. Frank Bednarczyk, Lt. Szygulski, and Tec. 5 Palo were at the OP most of the time and they often came back with stories of close calls. On one occasion Bednarczyk had no hole to get into and when the shells were landing close he hid behind the only tree on the landscape. When the barrage lifted he noticed that only fragments of the tree were left. Palo never stopped laughing at that one till the platoon left Bettendorf.
The night Lt. James Schmutte and Cpl. Donald Kurtz were hit was the darkest they had ever seen. Lt. Schmutte and Bednarczyk tossed a coin to see who would go out as FO with an armored Infantry Battalion of the 4th Armored which was to pull a sneak attack on Moestroff right across from the Siegfried Line on the Our River. The plan was to hold all fire and cut the communications lines from the town. It was to be a knife sticking party and our FOs were there in case they ran into trouble. As fate had it, somebody stepped on a mine and a number of men were killed and wounded. Those were the only casualties that night and paradoxically the town was taken with no difficulty. Lt. Schmutte and Cpl. Kurtz were evacuated for wounds, the former with shrapnel in the lower part of his posterior and the latter with fragments in the knee. Their absence was sorely felt in the platoon.
From the position in Bettendorf the platoon supported an attack by the 80th Div. which finally succeeded in taking the high ground in front of us removing that dangerous OP. Over 450 rounds were fired and together with the 81s and artillery all German resistance in that area was smashed. Our FOs had an opportunity to count the German dead and there were many.
The stay at Bettendorf was not altogether unpleasant. Our self-styled cooks had an opportunity to exhibit their talents. Chicken dinners, fried rabbit, smoked hams, and bacons from the chimneys, and wine from the cellars were all part of the home style meals. PFC. Manning of Sgt. Pannucci's squad even baked pies and cookies between fire missions. There were occasional cases of indigestion though. What the fellows enjoyed most were the unusual accommodations. Each squad had a house of its own with the guns set up in the garden outside. Cold water wasn't exactly ideal for washing dishes, so out the window went the dishes. Most notorious for this was Sgt. Ditmars' squad with PFC. Ballinger, PFC. Hansen and Cpl. Scerca the star offenders.
Lt. Ralph Sheets joined the outfit at Bettendort and was rapidly indoctrinated into the lives of the 4.2 mortar men. The life here was a revelation to him.
There was one single factor more than all others put together which caused the bitching during the winter, and that was the intense cold. At Goesdorf it was particularly bitter. A guy would crawl into bis palatial hole at 6 p.m. and emerge the next morning through a foot of snow to find everything capable of freezing frozen quite solid. The first thing to be done was to build a fire in order to thaw out shoes and rubberized overshoes prior to donning them. Even then the feet were not protected against the weather. Moisture partially, but cold, no! It was to be a great day when the shoe-packs we were reading about became a reality.
This brought the Battle of the Ardennes to a close. All four companies did little more for several days until the XII Corps regrouped before the Siegfried Line, the next phase of action.
The Little Foxes We were really in a spot one time when we lost our motor pool and kitchen. The kitchen truck had a flat tire and the motor pool stopped to help them fix it. The convoy went on and the kitchen truck and motor pool truck were to follow. They did follow until they came to the town that we were in, but instead of stopping with us they just kept on going. Did we look for them!! The "Cap" had everyone up all night looking. In fact he had everyone saying "Where's ‘mah' Motor Pool?" Long before morning we were all cursing every member of both the motor pool and kitchen. We had to move on in the morning without so much as a cup of the cooks "mud", and everyone was in a foul mood. When we did find them, neatly set up in a town and living like kings, we really called them some beautiful names. Some people think that perhaps they were dumb like a fox. We slept in a field, and they slept in a very nice house. Now I, for one, don't want to criticize anyone, but...
Battle of the RhinelandJanuary 26, 1945 to March 21, 1945
On January 26th the 80th Infantry Division was relieved by the 17th A/B Division of III Corps. The 80th in turn relieved the 4th Inf. Division. Co. A remained in position and was attached to the 80th, while Co. B was reverted to Bn. control and on the 28th of January moved into the Bn. Hqs. town of Mersch for a well earned rest.
By January 29th the bulge was virtually eliminated. Now the tide was swinging East into Germany. No longer blasting the resurgent enemy that had broken through the Ardennes, our mortars were now preparing to hammer at the Siegfried defenses.
On February 1st the 91st looked something like this:
Co. A - 1st platoon just outside Gilsdorf attached to 10th Inf. of CCB, 4th Armored Division. 2nd platoon in Beaufort attached to 318th Inf., 80th Inf. Division.
Co. B - Left Mersch to relieve Co. C. Attached to 11th Inf., 5th Infantry Division. 1st platoon in Weiler, 2nd in Wahlhausen, CP and rear echelon in Merscheid.
Co. C - Relieved by Co. B. Moved into Mersch for a three day rest.
Co. D - Attached to 304th Regiment, 76th Inf. Division. All elements dispersed between Osweiler and Dickweiler.
On the morning of February 2nd the 10th Inf. of CCB, 4th Armored Division began an attack on Hoesdorf. 24 hours later the attack was still under way and Co. A was still standing by ready to deliver fire when called on. In the early hours of the 3rd, Lt. Schmutte, Platoon Leader, 1st platoon, and Cpl. Kurtz, communications man, accompanying the FO party of the 10th Bn., CCB, 4th Armored Division on their way into Hoesdorf, were wounded when an S-mine was tripped which in turn set off several others. Lt. Schmutte and Cpl. Kurtz were evacuated. All of the Infantry assault company officers were in the FO party and all were wounded. In spite of the loss of ALL officers, the unit went on to take the town.
The XII Corps had now consolidated its defensive positions along the line OUR-SAUER Rivers and continued to patrol to the same line.
Approaching operations occasioned much movement into new positions during the first two weeks of the month of February. The supported Infantry Divisions,the 80th, 5th, and the 76th were jockeying into position for a smash through the Siegfried line.
On February 4th Co. A's 1st platoon moved to a position on the Sauer facing Moestroff on the other side and was attached to the 905th FA Bn. (80th Div.). Co. D moved into the 417th Regimental boundary, 76th Division, at the little hamlet of Jacobsburg, preparatory to moving into the line.
On the 5th both platoons of Co. A moved nearer the Siegfried line. The 1st platoon went into position West of Hoesdorf, the 2nd into Bigelbach. Co. B moved into Berdorf without delay, although the roads were clogged with the military traffic incidental to a big push. Cos. C and D, attached to the 5th Inf. Division, also pushed forward. Co. C, all rested up after three days in Mersch, moved into position near Berdorf. Co. D left Jacobsburg for Echternach. Hq. and Hqs. Det. moved from Mersch to Kreuzhoecht, a small farm settlement near Altrier. The Bn's. new location in the immediate rear of the companies greatly facilitated communications. The demand for ammunition when the assault started was expected to tax transportation facilities. An expectation which was soon to be justified. The Bn's. close proximity to the companies was to reduce that problem.
The XII Corps attacked the Siegfried line at 0100 February 7th with the mission of breaching it. The 80th Inf. Division (Co. A atchd.) was on the left, the 5th Inf. Division (Cos. B and C atchd.) was in the center, and the 76th Division (Co. D atchd.) was on the right.
Co. A in position with one platoon near Hoesdorf and the other near Bigelbach joined with the 905th and 313th FA Bns. In the preparatory fire prior to the jump-off of the 80th at 0200 and gave support to the Division artillery for the remainder of the period.
The 1st platoon began firing at H-hour minus 40 and continued until H plus 25. The 2nd platoon fired its first mission into Germany. The town of Biersdorf, Germany was to be fired prior to the attack. All of Co. A's targets were on the East bank of the Our and Sauer Rivers.
Two companies of the 319th Infantry accomplished the difficult task of crossing the Our River, difficult because the river current was extremely swift and well covered by enemy fire.
Enemy observation from the East bank of the Sauer made the Engineers' task of spanning that stream a not too easy job. Co. A was called upon to screen the towns of Biersdorf and Wallendorf from which the Jerries watched our every move.
Co. B, attached to the 10th Infantry, in position North of Berdorf supported the crossing of the Regiment with smoke, firing over 6,000 rounds in three days by the end of the period.
The extreme urgency for smoke in this operation was evidenced in this (5th Div.) sector on D plus 2 (Feb. 9th).
River crossings are difficult operations, but in the face of abruptly rising ground studded with pillboxes that comprise the Siegfried line, crossing the river without screening enemy observation was suicidal.
Despite the difficulties due to the shifting of the wind and the need for moving the screen forward as the Infantry advanced, a 9 hour smoke screen was maintained by Co. B with an expenditure of 2232 rounds of WP. At one point the screen was lifted for a short time and immediately the German artillery and machine guns opened up on our troops. The screen was quickly reestablished and the enemy fire ceased.
At one point smoke generators and smoke pots were employed as a substitute for mortar fire but were found to be ineffective. The severe strain on the supply of WP occasioned by the need for continuous screening induced this change.
The Infantry found it too costly to attempt any further crossings in this area but the screen was continued as a ruse. They successfully crossed at a lower point and the Infantry observers and line officers declared it a "grand job". Late that night (10th) the regimental commanding officer called Captain Grove to thank and compliment him on the fine job Co. B had done.
Co. C, attached to the 11th Infantry, in position Southeast of Berdorf, supported the crossing of the 11th with both smoke and HE. When the Infantry jumped off a 1,000 yard smoke screen was established to cover the assault boats crossing the Sauer.
Three battalions of Infantry were across on the 10th but were running into numerous pockets of enemy resistance. At about 2200 the situation cleared and Co. C prepared to shove off across the river and into Germany. Lt. McCluskey and T /5 Russell were the first men of the company to enter Germany when they crossed the Sauer to establish a forward Observation Post.
Co. D, in position in Echternach, supported the crossing of the 417th (which was attached to the 5th Inf. Div.). Co. D again stowed away another "first" when Lt. Smith, with the advance Infantry elements, distinguished himself as the first man in the 91st to trespass on German soil.
The enemy pillboxes of the Siegfried line, on the high ground overlooking Echternach, stared down into the town and the 4.2s stared right back and suddenly began to belch forth WP-HE mixtures almost incessantly for three days. To be exact Co. D served Jerry 2,041 shells between H-hour and 0600 February 10th.
The severity of the resistance from the many pillboxes of the Siegfried line is evidenced in the fact that all companies were still firing from their original H-hour positions on February 11th and by the fact that since the beginning of the operation a total of 24 screens were maintained for from 30 minutes to 9 hours, fired from 1 gun to an entire company, and expending, by the end of this period 9,194 WP and 500 FS shells, almost 1,215 tons.
By February 11th, 2400, the attack on the Siegfried Line continued with greater success than experienced the preceding week.
Co. B was the only Company to do any firing worth mentioning. The 1st platoon screened Infantry crossings and bridging operations in the 5th Division sector. The 2nd platoon displaced forward some 2,000 yards closer to the river.
Co. C spent the day on reconnaissance in preparation to cross into Germany. No firing was done, however, they did receive several heavy barrages during the afternoon. The FDC in Biesdorf was shelled killing PFC. Lamosek who was standing just outside the building housing the FDC.
By February 15th the bridgehead was firmly established and the forces regrouped in preparation for the continuation of the attack. The 2nd Infantry relieved the 417th Infantry on 16 February. All platoons but one were in Germany and Companies B and C were across the river in their entirety. Co. B opened their CP in Bollendorf, the platoons moving to Ferschweiler. The CP for Co. C was at Ernzen with the platoons dispersed close by. Co. A's CP was in Bigelbach, Luxembourg but both platoons had crossed the river, the 1st platoon in Ammeldingen, the 2nd in a position East of Wollendorf. Only the 2nd platoon of Co. D crossed the Sauer into Germany. They dug in near the river's edge East of Echternach. All moves were made in good order. The traffic into Germany was heavy. That country was popular with the American tourists that season.
February 15, 1945 - The 91st Cml Bn was exactly one year old. The exigencies of the situation prevented the Battalion from celebrating together, but each of the companies took it upon themselves to celebrate. All companies served beer, and Co. A added ice cream and cake - an indigestible combination, but good.
The XII Corps attack continued under the original plan. On February 18th the 2nd platoon of Co. A supported the 318th Infantry in an attack around Hammerdingen. Co. B moved forward into Shankweiler where both platoons fired varied missions, among them enemy troop concentrations, vehicles, and a smoke screen to obscure the visibility of German self propelled guns firing into the town.
On February 18th the Battalion began to reorganize under a new T/O ordered by Third Army and was then designated the 91st Chemical Mortar Battalion. It was planned to break up Co. A, reassign the personnel and to re-designate Co. D to Co. A. O/D No.78, XII Corps, moved Co. D from the 76th Infantry Division to the 80th Infantry Division, and moved Co. A from the 80th to Battalion control on the 19th of February. Co. A moved into billets in Zittig, Luxembourg. The administrative details involved in the disbanding of the Company occupied much of the time while in Zittig. At the same time the men enjoyed a rest after 57 days on the line.
On February 20th the last Company A formation was held. All officers and a few of the cadre addressed the assembled company. Needless to say, the officers and men were saddened by the disbanding of the company. Their spirits were somewhat raised by receipt of commendations from the 80th Infantry Division, the 905th FA Bn., and the 314th FA Bn.
PFC. George B. King, Co. B, was wounded and evacuated on the 19th of February when the jeep in which he was riding was struck by shrapnel.
Lt. Clark's 2nd platoon of Co. B won't soon forget the 22nd of February, 1945. On this day the 2nd platoon was subjected to the heaviest enemy artillery barrage that any one in the 91st had as yet encountered in the 2 months of combat. The shells were of extremely large caliber. Six craters, in and around the platoon position, were deep enough to be used as mortar emplacements. It was nothing short of a miracle that brought the entire platoon through the shelling without serious consequences.
On the same date the newly designated Co. A (formerly Co. D) moved its CP South of Korperich. The 1st platoon moved into Kewenig, Germany, and thence to Korperich. The 2nd platoon displaced forward three times to finally settle down in the town of Huttingen, Germany.
The final bridgehead across the Sauer and Our Rivers was secured by the 22nd of February and XII Corps regrouped to continue the attack to the Northeast. Co. C went to the 304th Inf., 76th Inf. Division but since there was a boundary shift to the Northwest they did not have to move. The other companies had to displace to get into new forward positions.
Bn. Hq. and its newly formed Hq. Co. moved into Germany proper. Hq. and Hq. Co. was located in the Hotel Wald Villa, near Bollendorf, on the slope of the hill running along the Sauer River.
The XII Corps began an attack across the Prum River at 2300, 24th February. From the initial assault to the finish of the planned operations the attack advanced, favorably against light resistance. The general offensive on the Third Army front with steady progress by the 4th Armored, 76th, 80th, and 5th Infantry Divisions, made it difficult for the companies to fire and keep pace with their supported units.
During the period the Corps continued the attack to the East and Northeast and cleared the enemy from the area bounded by the Sauer-Mozelle-Kyll Rivers in the Corps zone.
The 80th Inf. Division, Co. A attached, proiected the Corps North flank and mopped up the enemy in its zone. The character of the opposition was attested by the fact that the company did no firing during the entire operation.
The 5th Inf. Division, Co. B attached, cleared the enemy out of its zone, with the 1st platoon supporting the 2nd Infantry. The Division forced bridgeheads across the Kyll River on the 3rd of March. At the close of the period the 2nd platoon was preparing to cross the river having been given a very high bridge priority.
The 76th Infantry Division, Co. C attached, having completed the clearing of some 200 pillboxes of the Siegfried line, swung South and cleared the enemy from the Sauer-Mozelle-Kyll area and contacted XX Corps at Trier. Co. C was initially attached to the 304th Inf. and went over to the 385th Inf. when it passed through the 304th in the vicinity of Eisenach. At the close of the period Co. C displaced to support the 76th crossing of the Kyll.
On the 25th of February only Co. C remained in position. Neither platoon of Co. A was able to fire due to the rapidly moving situation. The 1st platoon moved three times, the last position being in the town of Ortcheid, but by nightfall both platoons were in the process of displacing forward again. The Co. CP was established in Niedersgegen. Co. B was on the move all day.
On the 26th the platoons of all three companies were "on the road". Only the CPs were able to remain stationary, and then for only a matter of hours. Co. B moved their CP into Dickendorf. Co. C got into Alsdorf after an attempt to pass through quagmire flat lands on the night of the 25th was prevented by road blocks and heavy artillery fire.
On the 27th Co. A's CP moved into Hutterscheid while the 2nd platoon moved into the town of Rittersdorf. It was necessary to take immediate further reconnaissance for another forward movement. Co. 8 - the same story - Infantry moving too rapidly and no targets available. The company CP was scheduled to move to Esslingen. Co. C's platoons moved into the vicinity of Meckel.
The next day Co. A's 2nd platoon went to Wiersdorf. Co. B packed up their CP and shoved off for Esslingen, found out it was "trespassing" on the 2nd Infantry domain, were evicted, and moved on to Idenheim. The 1st platoon moved from Igendorf to Idenheim, but one section of three guns was immediately moved to Trimport. Co. C's CP, the 2nd platoon, and one section of the 1st platoon moved in and around Gilzen. Lt. Sheets and his driver, PFC. Hazlett were wounded by the explosion on a land mine detonated by their jeep as they were traveling over a road presumably swept for mines.
The month of March found most of the companies still moving forward. The 2nd platoon of Co. A displaced into the town of Niederweiler and was placed in support of the 313th FA Bn. (80th Div.). Co. B remained in position except for the 2nd platoon which passed to support of the 11th Infantry and moved North into the vicinity of Ahlbach. One section of the 1st platoon of Co. C went into Eisenach and one section of the 2nd platoon went into Helenburg as the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 304th Infantry jumped off. The Company support was transferred to the 385th Infantry attacking through the 304th.
March 2nd - Co. A's 1st platoon moved into a new position Northwest of Phillipsweiler. Co. B moved in its entirety putting the CP in Bitburg, the 2nd platoon in Motsch, and fhe 1st platoon 1,500 yards forward from the old position. All elements of Co. C also moved. The Company CP went into Undelfungen and the platoons West of Trierweiler. Hq. and Hq. Co. moved from Bollendorf, on the German side of the Sauer, to Alsdorf, a town on the Echternach-Bitburg highway.
Co. C supported the 304th Inf. in its crossing of the Kyll River on March 3rd. The 1st platoon was set up in Hofweiler, the 2nd Southeast of Idenheim. The CP was in Ittel-Kyll. Co. B remained in position. Co. A moved its 1st platoon into Bickendorf.
The Third Army offensive, spearheaded by the 4th Armored Division, catapulted the Battalion deep into the heart of the Rhineland. The 80th Inf. Division remained inactive, but Cos. B and C, supporting the 5th and 76th Inf. Divisions, went along on the "Ride to the Rhine."
XII Corps advanced at H-hour, 4 March, to seize the West bank of the Rhine River between Andernach and Koblenz on two routes. The formation was as follows - 4th Armored Division on the left followed by the 5th Inf. Division, and the 80th Inf. Division; 76th Inf. Division (reinf.) on the right. The companies remained attached as before. The 4th Armored passed through the bridgehead across the Kyll River that was secured by the 5th Division the night of March 4th-5th and in 58 hours had reached the Rhine River, 52 miles away!!! The 5th Inf. Division motorized CT2 (Combat Team No.2) with the first platoon of Co. B attached, and CT 11, with Co. B minus 1 platoon attached, on the 6th of March. These two Combat Teams followed the 4th Armored Division and mopped up in its zone. The attack went so fast that no firing was done by Co. B.
The powerful offensive virtually crushed all organized resistance West of the Rhine although many bypassed German positions remained to be cleared. The overall picture was that of armor slashing through, with the Infantry following as fast as possible to occupy the Rhineland. The front line was jagged with salients thrust fo the Rhine and intermediate points. This resulted in the anomalous situation of Bn. Hq. and Hq. Co. being at one time deeper within Germany than the companies, having moved into a salient not part of any company sector. At Daun, Germany, Bn. Hq. and Hq. Co. entered the town two days after it was taken.
Co. A remained with the 80th Inf. Division. This Division remained in positions West of the Kyll River. Although the Company did no firing we shall trace its route up to the Rhine. On March 4th the CP moved into Niederweiler while the 2nd platoon went into position at Schleid. The next day the CP joined the 2nd platoon in Schleid. On March 7th the CP and the 2nd platoon moved into Bickendorf. The 89th Inf. Division joined the XII Corps in the line between the 5th and 76th Inf. Divisions on the 9th of March and Co. A went to this Division but by the end of the period had not been committed.
The 76th Inf. Division ran into considerable resistance after securing the initial bridgehead across the Kyll and Co. C, in support, did quite a bit of firing to aid the Division in its assault. On March 4th the 304th Inf. Regiment shoved off on a night attack. Co. C stood by ready to fire but was not called upon to do so. The next day the 2nd platoon moved into position in the vicinity of Rohl to assist in halting a counter-attack but their fire was not called for. On March 6th the 1st platoon defended the right flank of the Infantry holding the bridgehead across the Kyll River. The 2nd platoon moved into a defensive position at Speicher in support of the 2nd Bn., 304th Infantry. The next day one section of the 2nd platoon displaced to Herforst to support the 1st Battalion's attack on Arrinrath. On March 9th the 1st platoon moved into Landscheid from which supporting fire was given the Infantry in its drive to Muschweiler. Later one section moved into Berg to fire on Minderlittgen. Counter-battery fire was very intense. One barrage of 88 mm. fire killed S/Sgt. Richard Yarnell and wounded Cpl. Lee and PFC. Kelly. On March 10th the 1st platoon in Berg fired in support of an early morning Infantry attack and later displaced into Minderlittgen. The 2nd platoon also moved into Minderlittgen and at 2400 displaced again and went into position in the vicinity of Wittlich.
Bn. Hqs. moved from Metterich to Duan, deeper into the Rhineland, on March 10th. A chemical factory was occupied for a Bn. CP.
Having reached the Rhine, Third Army forces were now moving into position to move South, cross the Moselle River and eliminate the enemy in the Saar. The first part of the period was spent in clearing the enemy from the West bank of the Rhine and the North bank of the Moselle and regrouping for a continuation of the attack. FO No.16 prescribed an attack across the Moselle River in the 90th and 5th Division sectors. The Moselle River in front of the 76th Division was prescribed as the XII-XX Corps boundary so Co. C was relieved from the 76th on March 13th and sent to an active sector to support the 90th Division.
On March 11th, while still attached to the 76th Division, Co. C's CP was in Wittlich, the 1st platoon in Wengerohu, and the 2nd platoon in the vicinity of Altrich. On the 12th the 1st platoon displaced to Wengerohr. Upon attachment to the 90th Division the company moved approximately 75 miles. The Company CP "set up house" in Polch. The platoons moved into positions ready to fire for the approaching river crossing. The 1st platoon, attached to the 359th Inf. Regiment, moved into Metternich and the 2nd platoon moved to Moselsurch to support the 357th Inf. Regiment.
Co. B, still with the 2nd and 11th Inf. Regiments of the 5th Division, established a CP in Kolig and 1st platoon positions in Clotten on March 11th. The next day the CP moved to Brohl and the 2nd platoon established its mortar positions North of Karden and the Moselle. The 1st platoon was prepared to fire in support of the crossing of the Moselle River by the 5th Infantry Division. On March 13th both platoons moved into position closer to the new attack point, the 1st platoon in Brieden and the 2nd in Muden. Both platoons moved to the banks of the Moselle on the 14th, the 1st went into position Southeast of Brieden, the 2nd into the town of Mosselkern.
Co. A did its first firing in 20 days In support of the 89th Inf. Division mopping up operations. On March 11th the CP was established in Pickliessen, while the 1st platoon, supporting CT3, went into position in Landscheid, and the 2nd platoon, supporting CT5, went into position in Manderscheid. On the following day the Company CP moved to Manderscheid. The 1st and 2nd platoons displaced and went into position in Niederscheidweiler and Dreisch, respectively. March 13th was moving day again, the 1st platoon to Beuren, the 2nd platoon to Lescherhof.
Following the companies in their moves to cover the Moselle River crossing, the Battalion CP moved to Polch on March 13th.
The 5th and 90th Inf. Divisions jumped off at 0200, March 14th and had all assault Regiments across the river by nightfall. Co. C fired a screen to aid the crossing operations after which the 1st platoon displaced to Morhausen and the CP to Brodenbach.
In the 89th Division sector the remaining pockets of enemy resistance were being cleared out. These operations kept Co. A "double-timing all over the place." The 1st platoon set up their guns 1,000 meters Southwest of Aldegund and the 2nd platoon moved to Faid for the day and displaced to Reil the next morning.
On the 15th of March Co. B fired to support an Infantry attack on the town of Lahr. When the mission was completed "March Order" was given and the 2nd platoon went to Zilhausen. The 1st platoon went to the Southeast with the 2nd Inf. Regiment. The Company CP moved to Muden.
The 4th Armored Division passed through the 5th and the 90th Inf. Divisions' bridgehead the afternoon of the 15th and the race was on again.
The 90th (Co. C atchd.) was given the mission of securing the West bank of the Rhine from Boppard to Bingen. The 1st platoon of Co. C early in the day moved to Morshausen but fired no missions. Then later in the day displaced again to Obr Gondershausen. The 2nd platoon crossed the Moselle River at 1100 hours. They emplaced their mortars at the Northwest edge of Herschweisen to act as flank protection for the 357th Regiment. The guns were in an unusual position, being in line with the 81 mm. mortars and 4 German 120s manned by the former cannon company of the 357th. The following day (16th) the 1st platoon displaced from Obr Gondershausen to Lissenfield. The entire platoon then assembled at Brodenbach in preparation for a transfer to another sector. Both sections emplaced at Notershausen. The 2nd platoon, in a defensive position in Herschweisen, displaced to Buckholtz at 1800.
Co. C went to control of the 357th Infantry on the 17th and supported the attack on Boppard. The 1st platoon moved to Pfaffenheck which was bitterly defended by a garrison of SS troops. The numbers of enemy dead were seemingly disproportionate, but this small town was strategically important. When resistance was smashed, the Infantry shifted to another sector leaving the platoon and a small Cavalry reconnaissance unit to hold the town. The 2nd platoon, supporting the 2nd Cav. Gp. (atchd. to 90th Inf. Div.) fired the first round across the Rhine River for the 91st. The target was Pilsen. Cpl. Campbell dropped in is first round down the barrel.
Co. B, in the meanwhile, was on the move in an extremely mobile situation. On the 16th of March the 1st platoon left the 2nd Inf. and went to control of the 10th Inf. The Company was following the 5th Division in column. They spent the night of the 16th in Castlelaun but on the alert for a quick movement. By nightfall of the 17th they were someplace in the vicinity of Simmern. Co. B was traveling as a part of the 19th FA Bn. convoy.
The 89th Inf. Division crossed the Moselle on the 16th of March against light resistance. Co. A did no firing. The 1st platoon crossed on ferryboats at 1000 and the rest of the Company followed the next day. The 1st platoon, following the Infantry, set up in Grenderich and did no firing. The 2nd platoon moved into Briedel on the 17th. The company was across in its entirety now and still moving on. On the 18th the CP moved into Denzen, the 1st platoon into Linderscheid, and the 2nd platoon into Rhaunen. On the 19th the CP displaced to Echneppenbach and the 1st platoon to Kirn. The 2nd platoon was packed and waiting. On the following day the CP opened in Heimburg while the 1st and 2nd platoons displaced to Barweiler and Otzweiler respectively. March 21st was the first for several days that the entire company did not move. Only the 2nd platoon moved to Becherbach.
The other companies' reports for these days are no different than Co. A's. It was a continuous process of displacement from one position to another.
Co. B, on March 18th, located its CP in Weinsheim while the 1st platoon settled down in Monzingen and the 2nd in Weinsheim. The next day the CP and 2nd platoon ended up in Wallertheim, the 1st platoon in Steinhardterhof. On March 21st the CP and 2nd platoon moved to Schwabsburg, the first platoon spending the entire day on the road without stopping. These moves put Co. B close enough to the Rhine that it might be said that their "Ride to the Rhine" was practically finished. On March 22nd the 1st platoon displaced to a RJ (Road Junction) South o Hillesheim. The 2nd platoon moved at about' 1900 to occupy positions in the town of Oppenheim on the banks of the Rhine. Under cover of darkness the mortars were set up to cover the historic crossing of the Rhine River.
Co. C - March 19th - At dawn the 1st platoon displaced from Waldalgesheim to Weiler where the guns were set up and several registrations fired. The platoon then dug in at Wolfsheim. The 2nd platoon moved to join the 358th Regiment in Dromersheim where orders were received to set up in Nonsheim. March 20th - At noon the 1st platoon displaced to Essenheim. Shortly after the halt the first section of the platoon moved forward to a RJ just North of Obr Olm in support of an attack on Bretzenheim. The second section displaced to support the attack on the left flank of the sector. The 2nd platoon displaced forward in support of Co. C, of the 1st Bn. of the 358th Inf. in their advance. Before they set up the platoon had moved through the towns of Aspisheim, Englestadt, Bobenheim, Schwabenheim, and into Winterheim. Here they set up to fire on Ingelheim. After the mission was completed the platoon displaced to the town of Drais. March 21st - At dawn the first section of the 1st platoon went forward into Marienborn to better support the attack on Bretzenheim. At 1700 they displaced into the cleared section of that town. The other section, from their position in Drais, placed fire on Gonsenheim. As soon as the town was cleared they moved in to support the attack on Mombach. During this time the 2nd platoon displaced to Gonsenheim where they fired a 5½-ring mission. They ceased fire after drawing direct fire. March 22nd - Both platoons fired in support of the attack on the city of Mainz. At noon the 1st platoon displaced to the outskirts of the town. At the end of the day the city was cleared of enemy troops. This was the largest city that the Third Army had taken by assault thus far.
In its effort to keep as near to the companies as possible, Bn. Hq. and Hq. Co. displaced to the town of Kulz. just North of Simmern, on March 19th. On the 21st the unit moved to Wollstein, 12 kilometers East of Bad Kreuznach which had been cleared the day before. On the 23rd Bn. moved again, this time to Gau Oderheim.
On March 19th the first issue of the Battalion weekly newspaper (unnamed as yet) came off the presses and was very well received by all personnel of the organization.
Thus the first part of the period, the attack South of the Moselle, came to a close with the XII Corps completing the mission set forth in FO No.16. The Corps regrouped to continue the attack. FO No.17 prescribed the surprise attack across the Rhine River South of Mainz.
The action in the Bulge was tough slow and made at a heavy cost - the sort hated by all combat troops. The bitter cold, the hilly wooded terrain and the enemy's determined resistance made living conditions damnable.
Once through the Siegfried line the attack followed swiftly from hamlet to hamlet with sporadic resistence in isolated pockets. Summer was coming - summer when "the living is" easier if not exactly easy.
That German plumbing Lt William T. Free, commanding the third platoon was unfortunate enough to undergo a truly amusing experience at his own expense. An orientation on German plumbing is in order before the story gets underway, however. Most middle class houses in Bavaria have the same type, a cess pool along the side of the building, sometimes covered, often not.
It was a certain night in Hengersberg when Lt. Free was about to conclude an investigation and retire for the evening. Rounding the corner of a building, his goal in sight, he forgot completely the possibility of open cesspools. Consequently before he had gone very much farther than the corner of the house he found himself submerged to his chest in the most undesirable of swimming holes. The burst of profanity that followed was immediate and highly abusive to the German race. Indeed, it is doubtful that there shall ever occur the equal of Lt. Free's specific and heartfelt language. The next morning all that remained to indicate what had happened was an abandoned pair of boots exuding a none too aromatic odor.
The Action in Wilwerwiltz, Luxembourg On the evening of January 26th, the second and third platoons of company B moved into position to support the 80th Division in an attack on Bockholz and Hosingen, Luxembourg. The platoons' convoys moved through the village of Wilwerwiltz into Pinsch where Infantry were still mopping up resistance. In Wilwerwiltz the convoy parked on a bridge which was being sporadically shelled by the enemy and were lucky enough not to be hit. In Pinsch they parked on the infantry lines, 50 yards behind the forward outposts and , 50 yards from an enemy Tiger tank in position on a nearby hill. The Tank Destroyers were called on and the tank was silenced. About midnight the column moved back to Wilwerwiltz and went into position to support the next day's assault. The third platoon was on the reverse slope of a high hill at the forward edge of the town and the 2nd platoon further down the slope in a valley near the center of town. Both units began to dig in. The weather was cold and there was a heavy layer of snow and frozen earth to slow operations. The majority of the men were suffering from dysentery and this further hampered operations. The work was slow and painful. About two o'clock enemy 88 mm. shells hit the forward slope of the hill in front of the third platoon. A short while later two shells burst behind the 2nd platoon and a third arriving immediately afterwards struck between the 3rd and 4th squads of the 2nd platoon. The 3rd squad was knocked out and the 4th badly hurt. The wounded called for help and medics from both of the platoons responded. Several men from the third also came to help. Sgt. Lundberg, leader of the 3rd squad was instantly killed, PFC. Stephens was hit in the eye, PFC Heimlich in the leg and back, Sgt. Clay in the stomach. and Cpl. Howard in the back.
Men of both platoons went back to their work but there was no spirit in them. When morning came they fired several missions in support of the attacking infantry. The following day they moved up to Buckholz to assist in the capture of Hosingen. The infantry jumped off in a pre-dawn assault and ran into stiff resistance. Leading into the town was a highway which was the only route of approach. 500 yards before the town the road sloped down through an open field which was open to observation through its entirety. At the right side of the road at a distance of 300 yards was a heavy woods in which the enemy had placed well concealed snipers with machine guns. The open field before the town was crisscrossed with machine gun fire and barrages from mortars and 88mms. The attack was to be frontal in a line of companies. Fighting was so heavy and casualties so high that no more than one company could get into town at a time. The company that gained entrance had no flank protection and, threatened with encirclement, was forced to withdraw. Four times during the day companies or platoons entered Hosingen only to have to fight their way out. Casualtles were very high and it was impossible to evacuate them with jeeps and ambulances because of the fire from snipers. Wounded were removed riding and lying on medium tanks to Bockholtz and there transferred to ambulances. Many were wounded again on the way back. Each time that a unit got into town the other units struggling to get support to them were cut down by intense fire. By late afternoon we still had no troops in the village. The colonel commanding the attack sent an order to the mortars to burn the town down. The 2nd and 3rd platoons shelled with several volleys of white phosphorous and set the town afire. That evening the 80th Division was relieved by the 17th Airborne Division and B company was relieved by the 3rd Cml. Bn. The infantry withdrew shortly before midnight. The attacking battalion had thirty men surviving - thirty exhausted, battle-weary men who weren't sure of their right to be alive - who were more dead than living.
The following day, the 29th, patrols of the 17th Airborne entered Hosingen and discovered that it had been abandoned by the Jerries during the night. In the afternoon the company left for the rear areas and a three day rest.
During the period most of the company had passes to Luxembourg city, which was not touched by the war as for as material damage is concerned. Signs of war were all around at the time though, as there were a great many soldiers in the city wearing uniforms representative of nearly all of the United Nations. Americon O-D was definitely predominant, although many RAF pilots walked the streets. Food and drink was availoble - such as it was. An average unrationed meal consisted of bean soup, a thin slice of roast beef or bologna, potatoes, and pickled beets. Most of it was tasteless and cost approximately thirty francs (60 cents). Beer was plentiful but non-alcoholic, selling for five francs (10cents) a glass. A few places sold schnapps (the German version of Cognac) for about thirty francs (60 cents) a shot, but most of these places were sold out early in the day. As far as souvenirs were concerned there were plenty of post cards and stamps to be had for a few francs in addition to hand pointed handkerchiefs which sold about fifteen france (30 cents) each. Everyone returned late at night fairly well satisfied, and at least refreshed. It had been nice to see people again. The towns that lay in the wake of the fighting had been evacuated. Mersch was the only town in our zone that was occupied by civilians who were carrying on "as usual."
In Mersch there were several theaters showing American pictures with French translations written at the bottom of the screen. There was also a very good USO show one night with chorus girls and all. There was plenty of beer but an early curfew on "Gasthauses."
A good hot shower (the first in months), clean clothes. plenty of worry-free sleep, and a few really good meals (Cpl. Hamilton asked for an even dozen hot cakes to which S/Sgt. Tillen complied), and the company was back on the road for the front.
The Sauer River crossing was one of the hardest working periods for the 91st. Smoke mission after smoke mission was fired for unusually long lengths of time to blind the enemy to our moves.
On February 5th, the 1st and 2nd platoons of company B went into positions in Berdorf, Luxembourg near the Sauer River to support the 5th Division in a crossing. At one o'clock on the morning of the 7th an assault was attempted at Echternach after an all day artillery preparation. The current in the river was very strong and many of the assault boats were capsized and swept downstream. The remainder of the boats were subjected to intense fire from machine gun emplacements, 88s, and pill-boxes. Very few of the craft reached the shore, the men in these were forced to dig in immediately to escape the barrage. Many of the men were wet and some of them made the fatal mistake of building fires to dry themselves and remove the chill of the river. The men by the fires made perfect targets in the night and their positions were saturated with rifle fire and many men were hit before the fires could be extinguished.
Artillery support was heavy and our mortars fired several missions but the Jerries were persistant and well fortified with adequate reserves of both men and ammunition. By nightfall very few reinforcements had crossed the river and the attacking units were forced to withdraw leaving their casualties behind.
The next morning another assault was made under a smoke screen laid by the 2nd platoon and a secondary screen of the 3rd platoon. This crossing was more successful though the infantry was again pinned down by artillery fire. Under the screen engineers began to build a pontoon bridge to bring over reinforcements and armor. Several times the bridge was shelled and partially destroyed. The engineers suffered heavy casualties in wounded and drowned, but the building went on with the help of armored engineers. Self-propelled 155 mm. guns were brought to the river's edge to fire point- blank on the German pillboxes in hope of destroying them. Only a direct hit could neutralize them. Days later, dazed and deaf enemy troops were still holding out and had to be dislodged with flame throwers and demolition charges.
That day the 1st platoon fired 1,500 rounds to maintain their screen. The firing lasted from 10 a.m. to six in the evening. Only one gun did the firing and the rest of the platoon worked on ammunition to sustain the rapid rate of fire. The platoon used five mortars in all and as soon as one gun went out of action another took its place so that the screen would not disperse. The infantry reported that the screen was absolutely essential to the building of the bridge and the security of the bridgehead across the river. In the service platoon, everyone was working to prepare the ammunition and help had to be drawn from company headquarters. It was necessary for everyone to assist in the preparation of ammo, cooks, first sergeant, and company commander included.
That night the infantry had a more secure bridgehead and were able to resist strong counter-attacks. The next morning the infantry held their positions while reserves were brought across to build up strength for an attack. The 1st platoon began firing at 0800 hours and set a new record for a 4.2 Cml. Mortar platoon firing 1,786 rounds. Again one gun was fired at a time using the others for reserve. Once a barrel became so hot that the propellants on a round went off prematurely throwing the shell only 30 yards away. The round didn't explode. The rate of fire was five rounds per minute for the day. Newsreel photographers shot scenes that the mortar men have been hoping to see ever since.
The next day the screen was continued during all the daylight hours at a similar rate. The 3rd platoon fired a smoke corridor as a secondary screen. The infantry had gathered enough strength to make a small push out of their bridgehead. On February 11th the infantry made further gains and the mortar platoons continued their screens in support. The second platoon beat their own record by firing 1,846 rounds. The 3rd platoon continued their smoke column. By nightfall the infantry had advanced far enough so that the screen could be discontinued. By that time battalion supply trucks had exhausted smoke shell supplies from all Third Army dumps and had begun to use the First and Seventh Army dumps. The total expenditure for both platoons was in excess of 8,600 rounds. Later the German High Command stated that the crossing of the Sauer River by American troops was successful largely because of the artificial smoke concealing them from observation. This grudging admission by a beaten enemy is gratifying to the men who made it possible.
The Sauer River screen was peculiar in that its relation to the mortar position was unusual. The longer axis of the screen was parallel to the trajectory of the guns requiring that the screen be laid by varying the propelling charge of the shells instead of the deflection of the mortar. Further the tremendous expenditure of ammunition necessary to maintain the screen caused by strong winds in the river valley, was far in excess of usual requirements. Our respect for the part the "doughs" played in this difficult operation was reflected in our efforts to help them in any way possible.
S/Sgt. Tillen, or perhaps his benevolent cooks, fed Infantrymen everyday during the stay at Berdorf. There were usually about 300 extra mouths to feed. The mortarmen never complained of going hungry to feed any "Dough" that came along as we all realized that each and every infantryman was a good friend. We also hated K rations and knew that "Doughs" did too.
Company D's version of the crossing of the Sauer River is a bit on the sentimental side. It was their greatest adventure of the war.
The company had been placed in reserve with the 76th Division and was moving from north of Diekirch to the city of Berbourg. This was a small hamlet located not too far southwest of Echternach. Little did we know what experiences were in store for us.
We moved out of Berbourg late one afternoon after an ice storm that left the roads quite slick. After approximately three hours on the road, we spent the night in a deserted farm villa, both platoons flipping coins for the driest spots of the floor on which to bunk down. There were no windows. The house, however, afforded some damp bundles of wheat which we gratefully used for bedding.
It was about 2100, 5 February 1945, on the following day when both platoons were ordered to move into the city of Echternach. Company headquarters was left at the farm to act as a service unit. They really came through with the chow at night and morning. It was delivered under the cover of darkness. The ammo drivers never paid any attention to the scream of 88s down "Bowling Alley Road". They all made it in spite of two flat tires. Ask Stubblefield.
We left the farm, as previously stated, late at night. After reaching the hard surfaced road, we were instructed to remove the chains from the tires and the luminous markers from the jeeps and trailers. Echternach, we were told, was under enemy observation from both sides. This sort of put a damper on our wishful thinking. We moved up to within a few kilometers of the town and waited and waited and waited.
An advance party went into town and, offer what seemed a century of waiting, they returned with the information that the Jerries were shelling the road and town. We were told to keep our distance and be careful. On our move down the road, we were delayed at several points to let ambulances and trucks pass our convoy. An 88 landed somewhere up ahead. We stop- ped and waited - finally moved on.
Our first glimpse of Echternach was quite startling to most of us. There was a long row of modern looking houses along the right side of the road and, although we couldn't see any too well that night, it was plainly evident that they had been subjected to terrific shelling. This didn't add any to our peace of mind. We moved on down the street and, at long last, stopped in front of a nice looking building which was to be our home for the next nine days.
We were instructed that no lights be used and that the mortars be emplaced in the drive-way of one house and in the front yard of another. No fires were to be permitted in the houses. This meant another miserable night but, by this time, we were used to that. We were also warned to be especially watchful, and alert for German patrol activity.
The mortars and equipment were unloaded in the street and the jeeps and trailers were sent back to the CP for safe keeping. We would have been in one hell of a shape if the Jerries had re-crossed the river. The town was being held by a couple of companies of infantry and a few engineers. The mortars were set up and we were preparing to go to bed, when Kelly, Hulley, and Holmes decided their mortar ought to have a camouflage net over it. In proceeding to do just that, Hulley stumbled over a trip wire that exploded a detonator of a booby trap. This about put a finish to our nerves. The next few hours were spent cleaning away the glass and plaster on the floor in order to make room for our bed rolls.
We posted our security for the night and the squads settled down to rest. It was then about 0500. Soon after we hit the sack, Lt. Lefler came with hot chow. Some ate; most didn't. Everyone was exhausted. Security took over the kitchen and set up a gasoline tank stove which had been made from a piece of copper tubing, and a gas tank and needle valve from a German farm engine. This form of heat was OK, so this section of the company had the only heat in the house. Just as the jeep drivers returned from the CP, a burst of machine gun fire sprayed the front lawn of our house. No one was hit. The rest of the night went quietly with occasional machine gun fire from both sides.
We remained indoors during the daytime and spent our time playing cards and waiting for night to come so that we could improve our positions. The squads were on the job and had their work completed in an hour and reported "Ready" for any missions that were requested by the FDC. The next day passed. Nothing happened till late that night. The Infantry was at last moving in an endless supply of rubber boats and engineer equipment. It looked like this was "It"! Everything had moved in under the cover of darkness. Jerry had shelled "Bowling Alley Road" all the previous morning at fifteen minute intervals. Over half the shells were duds. There was very little shelling from American artillery since our arrival, but plenty of big guns were in position to support the assault on the Siegfried Line and its formidable pillbox defenses. We had spent our first morning in Echternach looking over these fortifications with field glasses. The famed "Dragon's Teeth" were visible. The line stretched along the high ground across the Sauer River. There were plenty of pillboxes.
At about midnight things were pretty quiet but there was plenty of stuff moving into town. Soon Jerry started his nightly shelling, sending shells into the town at ten to twenty minute intervals. Although it was big stuff, again a good percentage were duds. At 0045 the American artillery opened up with a terrific barrage. They threw everything they had into the Siegfried line defenses. The ground shook under the devastating pounding. It was really a sight to see. The barrage lasted until 0645 at which time the Infantry was scheduled to cross the river.
We waited and hoped for news of the attack. At first we were told it wasn't going so well. We fired several missions in support of the river crossing. The mortars were in a position from which we could observe our own fire. We took up where the artillery left off and fired both platoons most of the day and on into the night. The 1st platoon alternated with the 2nd on missions. One platoon covered the right flank while the other covered the left. The shelling from our mortars was quite accurate. The German machine guns were well protected and couldn't be silenced. We fired a 200 round mission of WP, at about 2000 hours, trying to burn them out to allow the Infantry to mop up and secure their positions.
We went to bed that night amid the intermittent shelling from the German guns across the river. It was good to hit the sack. Jerry was still at it when we got up. The Fire Direction Center received a direct hit from an 88 that morning. A scramble for the cellar, but no casualties. The 2nd platoon house was hit and resulted in the loss of 25 rounds of ammunition. We are thankful that that was all the damage done. The crap games flourished along with sessions of poker between missions.
The owner of the house we lived in was kind enough in his hurried exit from the town to leave his wine cellar intact. There were some old vintages dating from 1910 and up to the present. His stock also included quite a few bottles of champagne. We enjoyed every drop.
Beer mugs were the rage about this time. Some of them were quite fancy. You could find them in most any house.
One night while firing a mission, a self-propelled 155 mm. howitzer moved up into position alongside of our mortars. Sgt. Franus was notified of their mission but didn't think anything of it. When the first round was fired from the 155, everyone hit the ground thinking that a Jerry shell had landed close by. We all had a good laugh afterwards, but at this time we were scared as well. The following afternoon, during a mission, a Jerry round landed especially close. PFC. Robert Holmes was slightly wounded. It wasn't serious. The Germans shelled all the night at regular intervals and we passed our time on guard duty counting more duds. The slave laborers in Germany must have been doing a lot of sabotage in munitions factories.
The following day a reconnaissance was made for new positions for the 1st platoon. The 2nd platoon remained in place. Company headquarters moved into the vacated 1st platoon position. Little did they know how hot a spot it would be! The 1st platoon set up again at the edge of town and prepared to give continued support to the Infantry. They didn't realize that they were on an outpost until a thirty men Americen combat patrol was challenged by our guards on its way out of town.
Some of the boys helped Cpl. Sonntag develop films the company had taken. Materials were gathered on a reconnaissance made by Cpl. Leach. That also helped pass the time between missions. Some good results were obtained when Tuck did some translating of formulae.
It was chow time one afternoon when a fire mission was called for. While chow was being dished out, several men stayed at each gun to continue firing. A battery of 105 howitzers opened up further down the valley. Suddenly a mortar shell hit the end of the last house and exploded, sending splinters of wood and debris all over the place. Three men made a dash for the same door of the same cow shed all at once and it is said there was quite a pile up, chow and all. At about this time Marion Smith and Russell Hall had a marvelous piece of luck. A dud landed within three feet of their gun pit and buried itself in the ground.
Many trips were made to the downtown part of the city amidst bursts of enemy shell fire. There were many interesting places there including the bank, stamp stores, brewery, and jewelry stores.
The Infantry finally began moving ahead quite fast. The platoons and FDC were to move ahead and give added support as they pushed through the Siegfried Line. It was a wet trip to the new position. This was our first close-up of the Siegfried and its pillboxes. They stretched down the valley both ways, covering each other with their firepower. They were also connected by trenches. The company fired many smoke missions during this period and aided the infantry in capturing a good many of these fortifications. We had a chance here to explore many of these notorious pill-boxes. One big one had three levels and a multiple steel machine gun turret on top with six machine guns sweeping the whole countryside. These guns were equipped with telescopic sights and were scaled for precision firing. It was responsible for many of the casualties during the river crossing.
The stay in the Siegfried Line proved to be a short one. We had Jerry moving back and had to keep pressing onward. Next day about noon all were pulled back across the river and reassembled in Echternach. Orders attaching us to the 80th Division had been received. Jerry artillery was still busy in Echternach and they were still shelling the town as we assembled there. Most of us were glad to say goodbye to the town and the memories of war that it had left in our minds. Our convoy left Echternach to take up other positions with the famed 80th Division.
Every once in awhile some action occurs that gives the CP commandos something to think about when the boys from the platoons start spouting about who takes the risks.
On February 14th we moved across the Sauer river near Echternach into Germany. After much delay the platoons and FDC moved into Ferschweiler, Germany and set the guns into position. The CP moved into Bolendorf, Germany. When the move was completed it was found that B company was the first complete company in the battalion to operate on German soil.
The supper of February 15 held a surprise. Bn. Hq. sent all of the companies several kegs of beer to celebrate the first anniversary of the activation of the battalion.
For the next few days there was moderate firing and the platoon moved to Shankweiler. At Shankweiler "Jerry" threw very few shells, i.e.; until the platoons moved out and the company CP moved in on February 21st. Shankweiler was on the forward slope of a hill and in plain view of any enemy within ten miles.
While the CP was in town Jerry threw in a barrage of "Meemies" and "88s" about every two hours. About six in the afternoon of February 23 the company was receiving its reinforcements from Company A which was being deactivated. Luckily (for the men from Co. A) one of the trucks bringing them in got a flat and held up the column long enough to keep them out of Shankweiler until one of the heaviest barrages ended. There are many stories about that shelling but probably the best one concerns on incident that happened to the kitchen personnel. The kitchen had prepared a fine chow to welcome the A company men to B company. The platoons had already sent in for their chow and the "jeeps" had returned to the mortar positions about 2,000 yards away when the "Meemies" and "88s" began to cut loose. The chow complete with cherry pie was sitting on the serving line just waiting to be served. An "88" hit the roof and dumped shingles, dirt, tile, and straw into it making a grand mess of everything. Chow for the new men consisted of Bologna and bread that night. They say that during all this Sgt. Tillen and has crew were situated somewhere near the "thirteenth sub-cellar" and that a lamp fell off the wall in Lt. Goodwin and Capt. Grove's room starting a fire which they put out with some difficulty.
During the rat race to the Rhine neither platoon did much firing except that the 2nd fired a few rounds one night after crossing the Moselle at Mosellkern.
The 2nd platoon headquarters and ammo section spent the night there in a real castle, Burg Eltz. It is the only Moselle valley castle left. Burg Eltz was built through nine centuries from about 900 A.D. to 1800 A.D. and is a very beautiful place complete with turrets, spires, leaded windows, suits of armor, and antique weapons.
At Mosellkern the 2nd platoon came across a most desirable cache of wine and liquor in the cellar of a brewery. Needless to say the night spent there the men were high in Moselle "Spirits". The next day Lt. Baker had to hike along with the infantry as FO, hangover and all.
The cessation of hostilities will allow many a military secret to be revealed for everyone's benefit. In C company's experiences overseas probably no event was so immediately clouded with official secrecy as the affair of "Kosarek and the Colonel" - which could be appropriately called "The Duck."
It was in the heyday of wine and feast after the crossing of the Moselle River. We were aiding the 358th Inf. of the 90th Div. clean up pockets after the fast driving 4th Armored had swept through. We did little firing and traveled with plenty of ammo and a similar quantity of wine.
Having set the stage it is only necessary now to add that we were off the line for reassignment to a new sector and all slightly tipsy the day the Colonel passed our outfit on the road. Our buddy, Cpl. Walter Kosarek, had at this time found himself a pet, a "Liberated" duck, picked up in one of Hitler's poultry yards. Also, being of Polish origin with a plausible knowledge of the language, it wasn't strange for him to be talking to two DPs who were of that nationality. It could have been any of the three aforementioned things that so upset the Colonel - the wine, the duck, or the DPs. Anyhow he felt the need of stopping his jeep and taking our boy to task.
The setting is as clear to me now as if it had happened yesterday. Picture Kosarek standing by the side of the road, stroking the duck, talking with the Poles, a slightly woozy look on his face. Enter the Colonel: "Get the hell out of here," to the DPs. "Snap to attention when an officer addresses you," to Kosarek, "Let that damn duck go." Well, things might have still been settled peaceably but our buddy suddenly felt the desire for a smoke, and in his unsteady state it didn't seem to be a disrespectful way of treating the Colonel, so he pulled out a fag and attempted to light up. In as well judged a shot as any of his infantrymen were capable of, the Colonel slapped the cigarette from Walt's mouth. The fellow was angry.
"What outfit are you from?"
"The 91st Cml! !"
"Shut up! Speak when you're spoken to.
"Shut up. I'll do the talking here."
"But I "
"You've been drinking. What's your name?"
"Your commanding officer will hear from me."
At this stage one of our brave officers intervened for his man only to have himself brought on the mat for not parking the convoy off a main route of supply even though we were scheduled to move out in five minutes.
The Colonel left. Perhaps he forgot, possibly he didn't have time, but nothing further was ever done about the matter. However, the seal of secrecy was clapped on and only now can the story be released.
Although the Colonel undoubtedly appreciated our fire power, I have often wondered about one of his quotations in which he is rumored to have said, "God bless the 4.2s."
Shellings are one of the things line men expect and take for granted. Occasionally, though, one barrage is more memorable than another for the humor or pathos coincidental to its happenings. This particular version of what happened in Berg, Germany has often been retold by the boys in Sgt. Ditmars' squad who were "out of action" and resting in a house when the shells began to rock the town.
It was a large stone house surrounded by tanks and 4.2 inch mortars. Quarters for the night had to be found and only as a last resort did we claim that fateful second story room as our home. The room itself was spacious with several large windows overlooking an ancient stone road with its typical stone houses to match, A small stove in one corner of the room blazed furiously sending a wave of warmth throughout the room. It gave us all a kind of contentment and satisfaction that comes only after long, cold nights of sleeplessness and work. I parched my chair against the wall and smiled unconsciously at a two months old "Pic" magazine. "Why couldn't the German girls be like that?" I thought. As I glanced about me I saw this same relief, this same satisfaction on the faces of my friends that I had felt inwardly. One fellow was re-reading a letter, another was writing one, a third boiled coffee on the stove, and the rest slept. The strong toasted odor of good fresh coffee filled the emptiness of our room. It seemed to accent the cheeriness of this particular moment.
Daylight had started to fade but still the mortars continued to echo through the desolate, forlorn streets. I grew lazy and sleepy. The magazine slipped from my hand and fell to the floor. I was so utterly comfortable. The comparative silence was soothing, the warmth, the toasty smell. Then suddenly came an earth-shaking roar and with it a blinding dazzling flash. It struck terror in our hearts. The smell of burnt powder was sickening.
I came to my senses. Even in my astonishment I realized what had happened. Heavy self-propelled guns had dropped shells into the quietness of the little street. Glass from the windows flew into our faces. My friend, PFC Kaplan, who had hardly begun to enjoy his coffee was evidently as surprised as I was. With one lunge he was practically out of the room. As a result of his excitement and his anxiety to reach safety he spilled his scalding coffee with bombsight accuracy down the back of PFC. Ballinger.
All this while, I laid on the floor in a semi-dazed condition unable to rise not because it was not healthy to stand up beside window frames when the shell fragments were ricocheting about. I crawled to the doorway and scrambled down the stairs to find myself in a cool dark cellar where I could hear my buddies breathing in short gasps.
No one spoke - no one cared to. Then, like a shot out of the night, I heard a muffled cry. It was dark, but I could distinguish a crumpling swaying form at the head of the stairs. It was Ballinger. "I've been hit. I'm bleeding - my neck." Everyone gathered around to help.
He touched the back of his neck and then looked profoundly at his hand. He looked puzzled, then laughed. "Somebody poured coffee down my neck, but during the excitement I forgot about it. When I got into this dark cellar, I felt something moist on my neck and thought it was blood." Kaplan apologized. We sighed with relief.
No one ventured to return upstairs even to retrieve equipment, not for the time being anyway. At the top of the steps Sgt. Ditmars stood examining a strange piece of metal slightly green on one side. I inquired about it. Ditmars looked up in his usual calm, unconcerned manner, "That, my boy, is a hunk of shrapnel that blasted its way through the window and embedded itself in the staircase." I must have looked sallow because this time Ballinger did the laughing.
Second only to the war against the enemy was the battle against discomfort.
When the 2nd platoon of C company was driving to Mainz with the 90th Inf. Div. they set up in Gonsenheim just on the outskirts of Mainz. A little argument about billets followed. Cpl. Bernard Hadley was only a few steps behind Snuffy Jackson when they walked into the only room with beds in our billets. They were nice beds too, with inner spring mattresses. Snuffy whipped out his billet chalk and wrote up "Commo Section" on the door in big letters before he was trampled underfoot by Pappy Millarg's 4th squad. When Snuffy picked himself up he found Bill Barr and Bill Epes chanting in unison, "If anybody don't mind, I'll take this bed tonight." Walt Connor and Joe Dutko were having a heated argument with P. J. Hennessy who was busily erasing "Commo Section" from the door and preparing to write "Hqs. Section" instead. Snuffy decided he was a bit outnumbered so he went to find his commo crew and that was usually quite a job when there was work to be done (good old commo). Cpl. Campbell's and Sgt. Faulconer's squads heard the racket and put in their delayed but noisy bid for the beds. Finally "Loot" Van Wagoner came running in screaming, "Fire Mission" and the battle royal was interrupted by the business of setting up the mortars.
Despite the fact that we were in a very forward position (hardly 300 yards from the Infantry outpost) and under (we found out later) direct observation, the second section of the platoon began to drop rounds out there with 8 rings. It seems we got those Heinies pretty mad at us because we hadn't dropped more than 3 rounds when some enemy tanks on the other side of the river began to pour direct fire into our position. With all the noise of those shells screaming in and shrapnel whining you'd think all the boys would be in the cellar. Not the fighting forward second section of the 2nd platoon - nobody could find the cellar.
This went on longer than anyone thought necessary and when it finally did let up and we came crawling out of our holes you could see everyone nervously counting his bones. Hadley murmured fervently, "Oh, my aching back." The dust was pretty thick and it was a while before anybody got around to noticing that the floor plan of our billets had been changed kind of sudden-like. There were a lot of new windows at any rate. ...But rents were cheap around that time and we weren't much worried about our house until someone opened the door to our "best" room. Those tanks had just put in a big new ventilation system. There was a hole in the brick wall which could easily have accommodated three guys like Bill Barr, and that's a mighty big hole. Those beds didn't look quite as inviting as before, and P. J. wasn't at all flattered when we told him he could have them both.
Mortar crews have found that at times their 4.2 mortars were a bit on the useless side.
On March 20th, after advancing for the better part of two weeks against weak and sporadic resistance, the first section of Charlie Company's 1st platoon was ordered to a displace from Eisenheim, just before dusk, to take up positions at a road junction leading into Bretzenheim. Their mission was to support the infantry in an impending attack on this bastion suburb protecting Mainz, up until that time, the largest city ever threatened by assault from the Third Army. Lt. Forrester called for scheduled harassing night fire on a road leading into Bretzenheim after Lt. Hindin had registered oil guns. The mission was completed at 2230 and the mortar crews shared their billets in a "gasthaus," situated only a short distance from the guns, with a number of infantry men and tank destroyers who had been dispatched to that area to hold the crossroads against possible attack.
Lt. Hindin, a veteran of the fighting in Africa and Italy, was combat wise, and probably knew Jerry better than any other one of the men who were there that night. Because we were often amused by his casua1 philosophy and his indifference to front-line abnormalities, we couldn't help but notice his apparent concern over the trend in the situation that was developing.
"I've got one of those premonitions," he said as he lay down on his sack fully clothed, his pistol by his head.
The few of us who had heard him make that remark thought awhile about having fired from hasty surface emplacements, on table surface terrain, after dark when the muzzle blast flashed high in the sky, from a location that could be identified by inspection on a road map, at enemy troops preparing for the last ditch defense of a large city (only 700 yards farther down the road). The majority of the men had not heard him - or else were too tired to be concerned.
At approximately 0215, there was a resounding "wham" as a German-make bazooka shell shook the building. The glass in the closed windows shattered and plaster dust filled the air. The men sat up in their sleeping bags, half-awake and partially gagged, still not fully aware of what was happening. There were a few seconds of silence that seemed like an eternity; then the unmistakable chatter of Heinie machine guns and machine pistols. The bullets spat through the building to dispel any notion that the first explosion was not by design. The boys began to grope around for helmets, pants, shoes, carbines, and rifles.
Lt. Hindin sprung to life and immediately began to rally the startled men into a hasty defense. At this critical moment, the Germans seemed to have sensed the inevitable confusion that follows initial surprise. They fired "several more rockets preparatory to moving in on the buildings. One fanatic "Kraut", who had probably seen too many American movies, strung belts of ammunition around his neck and rushed the building with his machine gun blazing from the hip. He got as for as the door before the guard dropped him with an M-1 firing left handed with his back pressed to the wall. His quick action bought us more time. "K" Company messenger from the 357th's third battalion manned a .50 cal. machine gun mounted on a jeep parked in the courtyard just across the street. The tankers started their motors and dispersed their tanks in the surrounding fields in vantage points that provide better fields of fire for the machine guns mounted on the turrets of their destroyers. The men within the building were posted at windows from which they could better observe and report what was going on to Lt. Hindin.
The skirmish was becoming less one-sided. The commanding officer of the attacking force began to lose some of his bluster. No longer screaming commands to his men, he resorted instead to a direct appeal for "der Amerikanisher soldaten" to surrender - or else. The messenger spot him and answered with a .50 cal. bullet that caught him in the thigh. "The Voice" cried out again but this time he didn't sound much like Hitler at a Nurenberg rally.
A GI ambulance carrying a wounded infantry man and a wounded PW rolled up to the intersection smack in the middle of the melee. The Jerries shot it up although they couldn't possibly have mistaken the huge Geneva Cross at such close range.
PFC Levine, PFC. Odman and several infantrymen managed to take prisoner the wounded German who had been giving orders, using a door that had been blown from its hinges as a stretcher. Levine started to interrogate the Jerry with his slight but invaluable knowledge of Yiddish-flavored German. He learned that the attacking force was a combat patrol made up of 50 men - their objective, a sneak attack on the Third Battalion's CP some 1,700 yards farther southwest. They had never anticipated any strong resistance at the crossroads.
The information got around and the news of the limited objective of the enemy served to relieve a good deal of tension among the men who had supposed that these Jerries were the feeling lead element of a main body yet to arrive.
As quickly as our spirits rose, they fell. One GI noticed that the propelling charges were burning on 200 rounds of ammunition piled across the road in a huge dump in preparation for the mission that was to be fired at 0530 that morning. When the T.N.T. got hot enough, it would blow. And, it did!
The explosion took the roof off the hotel, left gaping cracks in the walls, and sent the remaining window sash, doors, shutters, and what have you careening about; but the structure held, and there were no casualties except for one Kraut who had been using the ammo dump for cover from observation. What might have been tragic resolved into a blessing. The ammo dump began to burn fiercely, throwing enough light to silhouette any Jerry standing up and precluding any further attempt on their part at rushing the building.
We had only to watch and wait now, we thought. But Jerry had an ace up his sleeve. On our radio's wave band we could hear one of them transmitting fire commands to their artillery. Lt. Hindin tried desperately to jam the wave length by making all sorts of weird noises and reciting ad infinitum every German curse word he knew. The messages must have gotten through, however, for shortly after, the crossroads were subjected to intensive artillery fire. The shells burst long, short, and wide, but not one hit the building. They fired so long and with such little effect that one boy who lay huddled beneath a window sill said, "Those no good $*!?&. Not a hit yet." His perverse sense of humor registered and we laughed for the first time. The dawn came painfully slow that morning and with the dawn came a flow of infantrymen headed for Bretzenheim. The mortar men salvaged what they could find undamaged at their mortar positions, and the mission was successfully completed. We had dinner in Bretzenheim that night.
One of the most humorous sidelights of the battle (if you can believe that comedy and tears go hand in hand) was the response that we received when Lt. Hindin called for reinforcements from the infantry in the opening phases of the fight.
"How many men do you have ?" asked the Colonel.
"About 35," answered Lt. Hindin.
"How many men are attacking?" asked the Colonel.
"At least 50," answered Lt. Hindin.
"What the hell are you crying about?" answered the Colonel.
The "reinforcements" arrived the next morning.
Our hero, old "Papa" Levine, came darn close to meeting his ancestors at one point in the exchange of lead, when he had the audacity to demand that the Germans who had surrounded the place surrender. His knowledge of German was so poor that one dough-boy got the impression that Levine was prepared to negotiate our surrender to the Germans. The mortar-men had to reassure him about Pap's intentions because too many of those beaten-up doughs had no qualms about bumping off a quitter.
Several nights later, the 1st platoon was billeted on an outpost line again as was so often necessary when the battle plans called for support of attacks that were to take place in the wee morning hours. Shortly after we had bedded down, a TD officer approached Lt. Mortimer at the CP. He proposed that we coordinate security in our edge of town. It seems that one of his tank sections had suffered badly in a surprise attack several nights before; and, just in case, he wanted to be ready. We gladly endorsed his policy and told him that our section had had the same experience. In the course of the conservation, we learned that this TD officer was the commander of tho tank men who had shared our lot at Ober Olm.
The officer's anxiety was materially relieved when he noticed that so many of the mortar men were carrying automatic weapons and grenades. The boys had decided that, by gosh, if they were going to have to fight like infantrymen with this division; they were going to be armed like infantrymen.
Teddy Glugla was on guard that night and he imagined he saw someone moving among the trees. As soon as he spread the alarm, the men were on the alert. Several of them generously peppered the designated area with small arms and Scerca fired a healthy burst with a machine gun. If there were any "Krauts" around that night they were quickly discouraged.
"Preparedness" was the keynote after Ober Olm.
Battle of Central EuropeMarch 22, 1945 to April 15, 1945
Co. A was relieved from the 89th Inf. Division and attached to the 26th Inf. Division on March 23rd and assembled at the Bn. CP in Gau Oderheim pending orders from the 26th. Initially the Company was placed in Division reserve preparatory to crossing the Rhine with a CF of the Division. However no subattachment came until March 25th, 2 days after Cos. B and C had crossed to the East of the Rhine.
Co. B remained with the 5th Inf. Division for the attack across the Rhine. One platoon was with the 10th Infantry, the other with the 11th, both being assault Regiments. Both platoons crossed the river in LCVPs prior to noon of D-day, the 23rd of March, and thereby earned the distinction of being the first in the battalion to cross the Rhine. The first men in the Company, and the battalion, to set foot on the East banks of the Rhine River were Lt. Goff, PFC. Heninger, and Pvt. Gossar. Both platoons followed shortly after in Navy landing craft, the 1st platoon to set up in Leeheim, the 2nd in Geinsheim.
Enemy plane activity kept the men in Company Hq. busy. On a reconnaissance early in the morning Capt. Grove and Lt. Close were forced to take cover when planes bombed and strafed them on the road. Then at 1840 the CP was bombed and strafed with all the guns available at the CP firing to ward off the enemy aircraft. At 2115 another flight of planes came over, dropping one lone bomb which landed in the courtyard of the house next to the CP. Again at 0550 the planes came over with the results that two of them were shot down by AA gunners.
On the night of the 23rd-24th the 2nd platoon was the recipient of a counter-attack which was driven off by the men of the platoon and some Infantrymen who were in the town (now Gross Gerau). Four men were wounded: Cpl. Lansing, PFC. McKeever, T/5 Ku~kol, and PFC. Ragosta.
The 1st platoon displaced to Konigstadten early in the morning of the 24th.
Co. C was attached to the 358th Inf., 90th Inf. Division for the first part of the period but for the attack across the Rhine one platoon went to the 359th and the other to the 358th Inf. Both platoons crossed the river the night after the attack, when the 90th Division passed through the 5th Division bridgehead and continued the attack on the night of the 5th.
March 23rd was a day of movement and excitement that will long be remembered by the men of Co. C. After spending a comparatively quiet day, firing across the Rhine from the suburbs of Mainz, the Company received "March Order" and displaced to a new sector. The move was made in convoy from Mainz to Dexheim to the Third Army assembly area South of Mainz. The men were told to bed down for the night and be ready to cross the Rhine at 0600 the next morning. Shortly after that announcement the plans were changed when the Company received highest bridge priorities and prepared to move out immediately.
The approaches to the pontoon bridge of the 5th Division's bridgehead was under harassing artillery fire and constant bombing and strafing by enemy aircraft. The entire convoy crossed without incident, under a roof of tracer AA fire. Both platoons proceeded to the outskirts of the town of Leeheim, and awaited the return of the reconnaissance party. An enemy plane dropped a flare and soon afterward the road was under heavy artillery fire. There were foxholes and Stagger trenches conveniently left by the enemy and they afforded excellent cover. There were no casualties. The reconnaissance party returned to lead the men to billets in town where they were to remain on call until the supported Infantry could make its crossing. At 0430 the Jerries began to shell Leeheim. Despite the thorough dispersion of vehicles throughout the town, direct hits set vehicles and ammunition on fire in the congested little town. Violent explosions followed while the men went scurrying through windows and across fields to escape shrapnel, concussion, and burning gasoline. T/4 Ettline and Sgt. Letson drove jeeps away from the blazing gasoline and ammunition piles. PFC. Mead was injured in an attempt to move his 2½ Ton truck away from the flaming buildings. An explosion collapsed the framework and plaster in the building occupied by the CP and ammunition personnel. Sgt. Wade, T/5 Eberhardt, and PFC. Odman were injured. Numerous men of the 1st platoon assisted in the rescue of GIs who were trapped in a collapsed building. All personnel were saved but there was a considerable loss in equipment. The 2½ Ton kitchen vehicle and all kitchen material including field ranges were destroyed. The 2½ ton ammunition truck exploded. Four jeeps were wrecked and burned, three were damaged. Four mortars were damaged beyond use. Three radios were destroyed.
The 1st platoon spent the best part of the following morning reorganizing. The equipment that was serviceable was salvaged. At noon the 2nd section of the platoon displaced to Dornheim. Before a round could be fired the Infantry had advanced out of range against collapsing resistance. Both sections were displaced to the outpost line in Buttleborn and were set in by nightfall. Preparations were made to support an impending attack at dawn.
The 2nd platoon displaced one section to Erfeldin to support the attack of the 357th Infantry on Goddelau and Wolfskehlen. One section then displaced to Wolfskehlen to support the attack on Greisheim.
Thus the Third Army's historic crossing of the Rhine River was accomplished. The initial attack met very light and disorganized resistance. The enemy evidently was completely surprised by the crossing of the 5th Division which was made with no artillery preparatory fire at all. However the situation was very fluid with several pockets by-passed.
The road to Berlin now seemed wide open. The companies of the battalion followed in the tracks of the fast moving armor and Infantry.
Co. A crossed the Rhine with the 328th Infantry and for two days went from one assembly area to another. At Klein Auheim, on the Main River, they fired their mission in about a month, firing across the Main into a factory area at Gr Auheim. This was on March 26th. During the day the Company CP moved to Badenhausen only to move into Klein Auheim with the platoons the next day. On March 29th the CP and the 1st platoon moved to Gross Auheim. Because most of the day of March 30th was spent in moving no firing was done by either platoon. At the end of the day both platoons and Company Hq. were billeted in the town of Langenselbold which was an assembly area for the 104th Infantry. The Company remained there for several days for an unexpected rest.
Co. B's "Ride to the Rhine" came to an end with the crossing of the Company CP on the 25th. Now the Company started the "Ride to Berlin."
The first town on this ride was Gross Gerau, where the CP and the 2nd platoon were billeted. The 1st platoon moved to Konigstadten. On the following day the 2nd platoon, in support of the 11th Infantry's crossing of the Main River, displaced to a RJ South of Frankfurt-on-Main. Although the Southern side of the city was partially cleared, the Northern section, on the other side of the river, was still in the hands of the enemy who were resisting with all they had. To keep them under cover while our troops crossed the river, the platoon fired harassing fire into the city. However, the Jerries were also harassing with artillery fire all around the gun positions. As a result of this fire PFC. Dinsmore Knepp, Jr. was killed by a direct hit. The resistance continued through the next day giving Co. B its biggest firing day in several weeks. This firing helped break the back of the only really organized resistance in this sector. Both platoons and the Company CP were now in the southern section of Frankfurt.
Co. C continued to follow the advance of the 90th Inf. Division and by the end of the period had traveled about 100 miles.
Action for the 1st platoon started with a mission fired at dawn to support the Infantry attack on the town of Klein Gerau. The town taken, the attack proceeded to the second objective, the town of Morfelden. It was quickly taken with the aid of a screen laid down by our mortars. The first section then displaced forward into the town. The attack continued to the East to take the strategic ground around the important highways in this sector, including the Reich Autobahn which runs North-South along the Rhine. The Infantry pushed on to take this ground so fast that no support was called for. The second section then leap-frogged into the town of Grafenhausen, but before the mortars could be laid in and communications established, the motorized Infantry was far out of range. Both sections followed them by displacing to Enhausen where the guns were set up for defensive fire.
The 2nd platoon saw no action during the day (25th), but moved to Wixhausen to support the continued advance of the attacking Infantry. The Company CP moved to Braunsardt.
For the greater part of the following day the 1st platoon chased behind the fastest moving Infantry in the world, in what amounted to a tour of this section of Germany. Early morning found the platoon at Enhausen, but the order soon came to pick up and move. The convoy started out by by-passing Engelsbach on the road to Langen. From there they went on to Sprendlingen, where both the Infantry and the platoon were met by direct fire from an SP (self propelled) gun in the heavily wooded area on both sides of the road to Husenstamm. To put a stop to this the 1st section set up its guns to fire a rolling barrage along the road. With this accomplished, the 2nd section followed the Infantry into the woods to support them until they reached cleared ground on the other side. With no resistance ahead of it, the Infantry soon rolled on. The platoon moved on to Heusenstamm, had chow, and then joined in the parade to the River Main, the next obstacle in the path of the Infantry. For the 1st platoon the ride ended in Muhlheim after passing through Bieber.
The 2nd platoon stood by in Wixhausen until mid-afternoon. Following reconnaissance in Egelsbach, the platoon occupied billets there but did not set up its guns. For several hours they stood by awaiting further orders. In the evening a move to Dreichenhain was made. There they were billeted near the 357th Infantry which was in reserve. To follow their fast moving platoons the Company CP moved into Neu-Isenburg, a town just South of Frankfurt.
From its positions on the banks of the Main the first platoon spent the 27th of March firing on observed targets across the river.
The 357th Infantry, to which the 2nd platoon was attached, moved from its reserve position to prepare to cross the Main River. The platoon first moved to Hausenstamin where the guns were set up for the afternoon. At about dusk orders were received to move to Rumpenheim. All the mortars were emplaced to support the crossing.
The assault crossing of the Rhine River was now a well established campaign. The bridgehead was by this time rapidly growing out of the "bridgehead" classification. The whole XII Corps was across the river. The bridgehead everyone talked about now was the one over the Main River, and that rapidly became a fact.
At about 0330 (March 29th) both sections of the 1st platoon of Co. C were alerted to prepare to fire in support of the 358's crossing. Meeting virtually no resistance, the Infantry easily crossed and occupied the town of Bruchkobel. Since no support had been called for, the 1st section laid their guns to fire defensive missions on the flank.
The 2nd section made preparations to support the advance of the Infantry at dawn.
From their positions in Rumpenheim, which had been occupied the night before, the 2nd platoon fired a smoke screen at daybreak to obscure enemy observation from a ridge. After completion of this mission the platoon moved forward to Wachenbuchen. The Company CP moved up to the river in the town of Muhleim.
Early in the morning of the 29th Co. B in its entirety moved across the Main into the larger section of Frankfurt, which had been cleared after two days of crashing artillery barrages from both sides. Just as the platoons were setting up, orders came which relieved the company of its attachment to the 5th Inf. Division. The company then moved to the town of Offenbach where Bn. Hq. was located to await further orders. The 5th Division which the battalion had been supporting since the 22nd of December was put in the XX Corps by a change of boundaries.
Co. C spent their first day across the river following the Infantry. It finally stopped for the night in the town of Heidenberg en but was to move out early on the 30th to begin its chase once again. The 2nd platoon stood by in its positions in Wachenbuchen until 1300. Orders were given then to move to Gross Karben and set up one section for defensive fire. Both sections were billeted for the night. The CP was established in Windecken.
Joining the motorized Infantry in their mopping up operations behind the 4th Armored Division, the 1st platoon spent the entire day of the 30th on the move. In the afternoon one pocket of resistance was encountered by the Infantry. The 2nd section, stopping to emplace their mortars, fired in support of the attack of this pocket. The platoon stopped for the night in the town of Wenings.
Shortly after the Infantry pushed off at 0600, the 2nd platoon followed them in regular convoy formation. Movement progressed rapidly forward in a northeasterly direction all day with no resistance encountered. At 1600 the 357th Infantry established their CP in the town of Echenrod. The platoon halted there also and occupied billets for the night. The Company CP followed the platoons in their moves to set up their CP in Gerden.
On the last day of March the Company CP moved to Schlitz. The first platoon spent The day moving to the town of Sandlufs to support the rapid advance of the 358th Infantry. The 2nd platoon moved to Rimbach with the 357th.
Two days before the companies crossed the Main, Bn. Hq. and Hq. Co., under a heavy smoke screen laid down by smoke generators, moved across the Rhine River into the town of Gross Gerau. This put the entire 91st across on the 27th of March. On the 29th Bn. moved to Offenbach on the Main River where the CP was established in a luxurious mansion.
In the next phase of operations Corps continued its attack to seize the line Gotha-Ohrdruf-Suhl.
Co. B remained with Bn. Hq. until April 5th. The company was notified of its attachment to the 71st Inf. Division on April 3rd but no movement was made until two days later.
The situation in the rear areas were uncertain and dangerous at this time. It had been planned to move the Bn. CP to Gerden on the 1st of April in order to maintain close contact with the companies. The usual advance elements started on the move and arrived without any difficulty. Then as the day progressed and other vehicles started on the road, trouble began. A pocket of enemy troops all along the Corps MSR (Main Supply Route) had begun to show themselves by establishing road blocks covered by machine guns and small arms. Several of the battalion vehicles were warned of the pocket and managed to go around it. Later in the day the enemy began to spread out, so word was sent back to Offenbach to hold up all other vehicles. A few trucks had started before the word arrived. Captain Fleetwood and S/Sgt. Trabalka in a jeep and T/5 Searcy, T/5 Jamrog, and PFC. Crawford in the mail truck had started out about dusk. The mail truck ran into the enemy and after firing at them turned back to the old CP. Although it was known that Captain Fleetwood and Trabalka had started, no other word of them was received. Two of the 2½ ton trucks which started later in the evening, were fired on PFC. Raisor and PFC. Gurka were wounded and evacuated. After spending the night in a nearby town, PFC. Card made it through to Gerden to tell of the incident. At the end of the day part of the men were in Offenbach, part in Gerden and the rest somewhere in between.
Reports the next day were that about 4,000 SS troopers were still located in the woods to the rear and trying to make their way to the lines. The Corps MSR had been cut and no supplies were coming through. A report from the 2nd Cav. Sq. that the troops were moving toward Gerden made it advisable for the Bn. Hq. personnel to set up a defense. All the men were moved to the top of a hill in town where there was a large building that could be defended. A perimeter defense was set up around the building and two outposts on the outskirts of town were occupied. In the afternoon the situation was under control and vehicles were again coming through from the rear. As soon as this became known the CP began to move to Angersbach, a move that had been planned for that morning. None of the Bn. trucks had yet come through but some of them arrived in the late afternoon. Part of the Bn. Hq., personnel made the jump from Offenbach to Angersbach without stopping at Gerden. At. the end of the day the situation had begun to straighten out and most of the vehicles and men were accounted for.
By the morning of the 4th all of the men of Bn. Hq. were accounted for except Captain Fleetwood and S/Sgt. Trabalka. There had still been no word from them except for repeated rumors that someone had seen their wrecked jeep in a ditch. Then in the afternoon the first word of them was received. They had been prisoners of the SS Troopers of the 6th SS Mountain Division which formed the enemy pocket in the rear. Captain Gorry, Assistant Corps Chemical Officer, had been captured at the same time. The situation in the rear was now well under control and all vehicles were able to travel, the Corps MSR without difficulty.
Late in the afternoon of the 5th Captain Fleetwood and S/Sgt. Trabalka returned with the story of their capture. On Sunday evening they were riding through the town of Stockheim when they heard a loud bang which they at first interpreted as a tire blow-out. When it was repeated they realized they were being fired upon. Suddenly a burp gun opened up at them causing Trabalka, who was driving, to jerk the wheel sending the jeep into a ditch against a telephone pole. When they got out of their wrecked jeep they were surrounded by Jerries. The rest of the night they were hustled from town to town ending up in the morning in Lissenwald where the Jerries had made their headquarters for the time being. During the day they were in the center of the fight which went on between our troops and the encircled Germans. Monday night they were placed in a cellar without food and a guard placed over them. The next morning the Burgomeister came to tell them that the German soldiers had left the town. At the same time, he surrendered two German carbines with ammunition. Captain Fleetwood and Captain Gorry then started checking the town to see if the Germans were really gone. A surprised civilian who saw them asked if there were American "soldaten" in the town. Although there were only seven Americans in town and they had only two carbines as arms, Captain Fleetwood told them the town was full of Americans. Apparently this conversation was overheard because immediately a group of Jerries came out with their hands over their heads. Before the Americans left the town, they had rounded up a tota1 of 45 SS troopers.
Co. A ushered in the month of April with a fire mission aimed at Schluchtern where the Infantry was meeting stiff resistance. The Company CP with the 1st platoon moved into Brietenbach. The 2nd platoon fired one mission on Steinau. The next day the Company made no moves and no firing was done. Very unusual!
On April 3rd the 1st platoon threw more shells into Schluchtern to support an attack on the town. All six guns fired one round per minute until our troops entered the town. Then they displaced to the town and set up on the defense, but withdrew at dusk to their old positions in Brietenbach. The 2nd platoon fired during the day on the town of Schweben for the Infantry. The town was first covered with WP for smoke and incendiary effect. Later harassing fire was substituted.
Co. C's 1st platoon moved from their old positions to follow the 358th Infantry. This was on April 2nd. No fire was called for because of the rapid advance of the Infantry. The 2nd platoon left the town of Rimbach at about 0800 and moved several miles to the Northeast of Honebach. Both sections stood by for two hours until a mission was called for in Dankmarshausen. One section displaced to that town and delivered fire on Dippach. After the town was taken at about 1900, the entire platoon moved into Dankmarshausen. The Company CP followed the platoons and established Hq. in Honebach.
On the morning of April 3rd the first platoon displaced at dawn from Ausbach to Heimboldshausen, but since resistance was light the first section continued on to Rohsigshot followed by the 2nd section to give support in an attack on Philipsthal and Vacha. Two ME-109s bombed and strafed and did considerable damage. All the men found cover in fox holes and a nearby bomb melter. The second plane left after the first plane crashed behind our mortar positions, apparently out of control. The 2nd platoon remained in Dankmarhausen until 1600 when both sections moved across the Werra River. In Dippach they met the reconnaissance party and continued Southeast to the village of Abteroda. Preparations were made for a barrage to precede the Infantry push-off in the morning. The company CP moved to Dankmarshausen when the 2nd platoon moved out.
By the 4th of April the armor elements of Corps had reached the Gotha-Ohrdruf-Suhl line. For the remainder of this period the Infantry units mopped up the by-passed resistance and regrouped to continue the attack to the Southeast.
Co. A remained attached to the 104th Infantry of the 26th Infantry Division and had a platoon with each of two battalions at all times. The regiment was initially protecting the right flank of the Corps and had such long frontage that the platoons were sometimes out of contact with the company.
The 1st platoon was on the move on April 4th. No mortar positions were established. The 2nd platoon fired three missions in and around the cluster of towns made up of Oppertz, Kalbach, and Neuhof.
The Company CP displaced to Humpfershausen on the 5th, following the 26th Infantry Division in its move to occupy their new sector in the Corps zone. The 1st platoon stopped in Kaltenmordheim after being on the move for two days. The 2nd platoon fired three missions during the early part of the day in Ellers, Rothemann, and Hattenhof.
The Company CP and the 1st platoon remained in position the next day. The 2nd was on the road all day. On the 7th the entire company moved throughout the day. There were no established positions.
The CP moved to Suhl and the platoons to Sohmeidefeld on April 8th. Both platoons moved to Fraunwald and the CP to Schmeidfeld the following day.
At the end of the period the regiment was relieved by elements of the 71st Infantry Division and assembled in the vicinity of Dillstadt. Co. A accompanied the regiment to this area, the CP and 1st platoon to Lanscha and the 2nd platoon to Koppelsdorf. At the close of the period the Company was relieved from the 104th and put under Division control.
The 1st platoon of Co. C moved to the town of Immelborn on the 4th and remained there for the day. French slave laborers crouched around the mortars positions to give a lusty cheer each time a round was fired. The 2nd platoon, after their preparations of the previous night, fired in support of the Infantry push-off at 0700 from their positions in Abteroda. Both sections later displaced to the southeast of Fraeunsee. One section continued on to Danges and then to Mohra. The other section moved from Fraeunsee to Weissendiez and later in the evening joined the first section in Mohra.
From its defensive positions in Immelborn, the 1st platoon crossed the Werra River on April 5th to follow the Infantry in their advance to Mersonthal. No resistance being encountered, the platoon moved to Bad Liebenstein for the night.
The 2nd platoon moved at 0930 from Mohra to Kupfersuh in order to transfer its support to the 3rd Bn. of the 357th Infantry. Just prior to darkness, the platoon displaced to Etterwinden. The CP moved to Mohra during the day and to Bad Salzungen the next day.
The 1st platoon moved from Bad Liebenstein with the 358th Infantry to an assembly area in preparation for a new attack. The 2nd platoon remained in Etterwinden until 1400 when they followed the 357th into reserve positions. Billets were occupied in the town of Leimbach.
XII Corps, beginning a new period now, continued to group and on April 10th jumped off to the Southeast in accordance with FO No.18. Good progress was made against light resistance in spite of the ruggedness of the terrain.
On the 14th of April Co. A, under a new attachment to the 9th TD group, moved to Coburg to await orders.
Co. B moved to Meningen with the 71st Inf. Division on April 8th and, remained there awaiting further orders until April 11th. They then displaced to Themar still under Division control. Shortly after reaching Themar the 2nd platoon was committed to action with the 5th Inf. Regiment and moved to Hildburgshausen oq the 11th. The 2nd platoon moved to Coburg with the 5th Regiment when the city was occupied. The next day the CP and 1st platoon entered Coburg and the 2nd platoon left for Lutzelbuch.
On April 13th the 2nd platoon was relieved of its attachment to the 5th Inf. Regiment but stayed in Lutzelbuch pending further orders. The Company was notified of its relief from the 71st Division during the day to become effective on the 14th.
On April 8th the 1st platoon of Co. C moved from Immelborn to support the 358th Infantry in its new sector. From the assembly area the platoon followed the Infantry in an attack through heavily wooded mountain country. During the afternoon both sections dispraced twice to keep in range. A third displacement was contemplated but numerous roadblocks delayed the advance. The guns were then set up for the night behind the heavy weapons company bivouac area in a heavily wooded area near Stutzerbach. The 2nd platoon remained in Leimbach awaiting orders. The Company CP moved to Zella Mehlis.
At dawn both sections of the 1st platoon displaced from their positions outside Stutzerbach into the town. The 2nd platoon was attached to the 359th Regiment and moved to Manebach to their area.
Both sections of the 1st platoon leap-frogged throughout the day of April 10th to keep within effective range of the infantry clearing the wooded and mountainous terrain East and Southeast of Stutzerbach. The Regimental phase line was reached according to plan through good cooperation among all the supporting units. The 2nd platoon displaced to Manebach in support of the 3rd Bn., 359th Inf. Regiment in their advance to take the town of Oehrenstock. The Company CP moved to Mohrenbach during the day.
The 1st platoon spent the 11th attempting to keep up with the Infantry. Resistance was light, the advance being held up only by the mountainous terrain through which the attack was moving. The platoon spent the night in Katzhutte. The 2nd platoon remained in position to fire a brief mission along the road between Oehrenstock and Lange Wiesen in the morning. At dusk "March Order" was given and the platoon moved to set up their guns in Gehren.
On the following day both sections of the 1st platoon followed the Infantry in their jump-off at dawn. During the morning the sections played leap- frog again but about noon resistance collapsed. Motorized convoys were formed to carry the Infantry forward including the supporting units and the 4.25. The convoy stopped for the night at Spechtsbrunn. From their position in Gehren, one section of the~2nd platoon pushed off with the 1st Bn., 359th Infantry early in the morning. The attack went well, carrying beyond the day's objectives with ease. The other section followed later helping in the clearing of the following towns: Pennewitz, Herschdorf, Drubischau, Barigan, Mankinbach, Wittgendorf, Volkmansdorf, Hoheneiche, and Kleingeschwenda. Billets were obtained in the last mentioned town for the night.
On April 13th there was no action for Co. C except for movement. The company CP moved to Lehfsten with the 1st platoon inWurtzbach and the 2nd in Gahma.
On April 7th Bn. Hq. moved to Dorndorf. just East of Vacha. Two days later they moved to Rohr to establish the CP. On April 13th Hq. moved again, his time to Sachsendorf just north of Eisfeld.
Ours is a battalion in name but not in action. We were committed to action independently, and the companies and platoons were as independent as any unit can possibly be. When it comes to describing the crossing of the Rhine we find, naturally enough, three distinct versions as follows.
On the evening of March 22nd the Fifth Division crossed the Rhine River at Nierstein against light opposition and made extensive gains the morning of the twenty-third. The assault had been made without the usual artillery preparation and several days ahead of the anticipate date so that the enemy was weakened by the surprise maneuver. The next morning the 2nd and 3rd platoons of company B assembled on the west bank of the river preparatory to crossing. They were forced to wait several hours while units of higher priority crossed. The 3rd platoon found a wine cellar and set up a "USO Club" to serve refreshments to the infantry moving by. Drinks were on the house and a smile with each one, simulating USO tactics. The 2nd platoon crossed the river in Higgins boats early in the afternoon of the 23rd followed soon afterwards by the 3rd platoon. The 2nd platoon took up positions in the village of Leeheim and the 3rd in Trebur. Enemy artillery shelled Leeheim continuously that night and planes of the Luftwaffe released flares to aid in observation, strafing the town at the same time. The platoon FDC occupied the rear and front rooms of a house and several infantry men were resting in the center room. Shortly after the infantry moved out a shell burst inside the room. No one was injured.
The 3rd platoon went into position and registered shortly before dusk. At that time on artillery liaison plane for 155 mm. howitzers was directing fire on a position less than 300 yards from the mortars. A hurried radio call to artillery headquarters ended the fire. Later we learned that the plane was actually shelling enemy troops but at the time erroneously believed the enemy to be several thousand yards away. All evening an enemy plane strafed the town with MG fire. At midnight the platoon was given "March Order" to move to another sector. The 1st and 2nd squads were the first to reach the mortar position and to dismantle the guns. They had hardly begun when enemy infantry yelling and screaming charged from a nearby woods. The men were surprised in the open and forced to retreat back to the house to make a stand. The mortars were immediately overrun and the enemy took up positions to the rear of the house. Our infantry was pushed bock into town and the line bent around the edge of town. An order was issued to evacuate the house and reassemble near the center of town. The men went in groups of four racing and dodging down the street through enemy MG fire. Half of the men had moved back when an order came to hold the house at all cost to help the infantry who were out numbered, without ammunition, and severely pressed. They had suffered high casualties in the initial shock of the counter-attack. The men who had already left were brought back except a few who had gotten lost and were unable to find the rendezvous point.
In the house it was decided to make a stand in the upper stories at the rear. A 50 cal. m.g. was taken from a jeep mount and brought to a rear window. There were two B.A.R.s in the platoon and these were also taken to the rear windows. Lt. Free, then executive officer of the platoon, supported the m.g. on a window-sill and fired it from the chest at the enemy. PFC. Baumgardner loaded the gun for him. When the men fired a burst from the gun, the fire was immediately returned by a German machine-gunner a short distance away. Firing the gun was especially risky since the enemy had excellent observation on the house. To avoid being hit by the accurate return fire the men were obliged to drop to the floor after firing a burst. T/5 Kukol sustained a head injury from fragments of plaster thrown by the return fire. At the height of the battle the fighting was fluid and confused. An infantry battalion supply was fluid and confused. An infantry battalion supply train was ambushed trying to enter town. After an hour the town was surrounded and enemy combat patrols and machine gun crews had penetrated the infantry perimeter and infiltrated to the center of town, preparing ambushes and cross fires for our troops. It was soon discovered as evidenced by the enemy's fanaticism and brashness that he was either drugged or intoxicated. He showed no regard for his life and used foolhardy and impossible tactics.
At infantry headquarters the men soon learned that the situation was desperate. There was no communication with supporting artillery and the only assistance available was from regimental cannon whose fire was inaccurate and light. There were tanks and tank-destroyers in the town but these were helpless in the dark. One T.D. knocked out 2 half-tracks and was set afire by an enemy tank. At two o'clock the battalion commander gathered his papers together to destroy them. Three of the men, Sgt. White, PFCs. Cantrell and Gusta were sent out on outpost duty by the infantry to a barn.
Back at the house the rest of the men were still holding out. Two wounded infantry men were brought in and Cpl. Lansing went to get medical aid. He crossed a street and was hit in the leg by machine-gun fire. PFC. McKeever attempted to charge a machine-gun single- handed and was wounded in the hip as soon as he got out in the clear. Sgt. Hoehn was out searching for the men who hadn't shown up at the rendezvous point, then at infantry headquarters. Lt. Goff reconnaissance officer and S/Sgt. Rodolico were firing the m.g. At two-thirty the enemy fell back to lick their wounds and reorganize. This was a welcome rest for the infantry who had a chance to consolidate their positions and bring up ammunition and reinforcements to meet the expected attack. At this time communications were established with artillery support units. A reinforced company was sent to the infantry battalion to aid them in repulsing the coming attack.
The attack came with renewed fury at five o'clock again with tank support. This time the infantry was better prepared and the enemy did not make any extensive gains though the battle still was concentrated at the edge of town. Artillery support was close, accurate and heavy and the Germans were driven back. At dawn two flights of P-47 fighter-bombers, strafed the enemy positions with machine gun fire and bombs. The location of the enemy had been given to them by an artillery magenta smoke shell. An enemy tank was hit on the first bombing run. The strafing so demoralized the enemy that they broke and ran. Our infantry and tank-destroyers joined in the pursuit. The third platoon recovered their mortars and took part in the final mop-up of the remaining forces.
Questioning of prisoners revealed that the attacking force was a battalion of OCS students reinforced with tanks, assault guns and half-tracks. One enemy rifle company walking down a highway in close column (no one knows why they weren't dispersed) had run into our heavy machine gun fire. The 1st platoon had been allowed to approach within a few yards of the guns and then cut down in a cross fire. The 2nd platoon had continued to come and were similarly slaughtered. Part of the 3rd platoon were caught in the same ambush. The sides of the road were littered with dead. Many of the German dead were found with wine bottles substantiating the previous assumption that they were intoxicated. Several were found behind our lines drunk and asleep and were subsequently killed. Over 200 prisoners were taken including wounded. Though our mortars and a large stock of ammunition were overrun none of them were harmed or used against us.
Company C Crossing the Rhine The papers said the Third Army's crossing of the Rhine was a snap but to at least thirteen men of C Co's. 2nd platoon, it was far from being just another river crossing. In fact, it was the wildest, most terrifying eight hours they had ever had the misfortune to spend. Actually, what happened that night was nothing more than the average infantryman had to endure time after time.
C Co. had moved south from Mainz on the evening of March the 23rd. As yet, we had no idea of what was in store. But shortly after dark, we began to run into other large convoys, all moving in the same direction. We knew something big was up but we still didn't know that we were to be a part of it. As we halted to let a convoy of tanks pass, the brake lining of our kitchen truck caught fire presenting a striking contrast to the blocked out countryside. The fact that Jerry planes were somewhere in the air around us, didn't ease anyone's mind concerning that burning 2½. But the big show was evidently up ahead and the Germans, if they spotted us, paid no attention. Finally we moved on and came to an assembly area where it seemed the entire Third Army was concentrated. Vehicles and tanks of every kind were waiting for a signal to move up and cross a bridge at Oppenheim - a pontoon bridge which engineers had put up under heavy fire after elements of the 5th Div. had crossed the night before. We were going to cross the Rhine.
It was now 2100 and when we had parked our vehicles we were to make ourselves as comfortable as possible and get some sleep. We would probably not cross until daylight. At exactly 2140, we were awakened and told to get ready to move in 20 minutes. Our objective was the hard-pressed town of Leeheim, the second town on the other side of the Rhine. As we got closer to Oppenheim, we could see what turned out to be a burning gasoline truck near the bridge. We moved along a tree-lined, darkened, street next to the Rhine, and pulled up to a halt just a few yards from the bridge.
The ack-ack was plenty busy and the Luftwaffe was aided considerably by the burning gasoline truck which lighted up the entire area. The Heinies were throwing big stuff at the bridge and it came in with a hair raising scream that sent us all looking for a fox hole.
When part of the 2nd platoon convoy had started across, another heavy shell came in and those of us who were left on shore took off for the cellars. By the time we had bolstered our morale sufficiently to go back to the jeeps we had lost the rest of the convoy although we didn't find it out until we had followed a strange jeep for several miles on the east bank of the Rhine. There we were - four jeeps, thirteen men, lost, and very close to enemy territory.
After much excited arguing and several unsuccessful attempts to orient ourselves and find the way to Leeheim, which included dragging a frightened, old German farmer out of his bed, two of the fellows located an infantry CP and with a map loaned by the infantry picked out the correct route. At last we were on the right road and although the constant pounding of the ack-ack and artillery up ahead kept us on edge we were considerably relieved. And then came the worst blow of all - a German plane dropped flares and the countryside looked like Ebbets during a night game. The plane apparently wasn't interested in us though and in a few minutes we moved on, always with a watchful eye to the sky. We passed through one town after another running parallel to the river and still that plane seemed very close. All the way to Leeheim he seemed right at our heels. The platoon, unknown to us, had moved beyond Leeheim and we were unable to find them until morning. Fortunately, we ran into the first platoon and were able to find billets for the night. It was a very uncomfortable and uneasy night though, sweating out the shelling and strafing in the cellar of a very overcrowded house. Everything looked much better in the morning. In the comparative safety of the daylight, the previous night seemed more like a nightmare than a reality.
The Rhine Crossing In the north, the American Armies were already storming across the Rhine River. In our sector, General Patton was making preparation for the Third Army's sneak across this vast natural barrier.
A Company assembled at Gau Odernheim while awaiting reassignment. The town was located close to the Rhine, and the noise coming over the horizon told us that the Third Army had already started its move. In fact Patton's bridgehead was established and the surprised Germans were desperately trying to stop the flow of reserves and supplies pouring across the river. We spent our time cleaning and checking our equipment in contemplation of our future operations.
We didn't have long to wait and soon learned of our assignment to the 26th Division. In no time, "March Order" was given and we were on our way to the Yankee Division assembly area near Oppenheim. Dusk settled around us as we deployed into an open field to await H-hour, (24, March, 1945). We spread our vehicles out as much as possible since there was no cover. By this time the dark of night had closed in like a shield against enemy observation.
We were just beginning to feel secure when we heard the distinctive moan of Jerry planes above. And then all hell broke loose at once. American anti-aircraft let go from all around us. Tracers arched into the air, going up so red and then disappearing into the night. By this time the planes were flying in a wide circle, dropping flare after flare until the whole earth seemed to glow. Search-lights pencilled the sky.
On the ground there was nothing to do but watch and pray. Grim faces stared upward, faces outlined by the flares, helpless. It was evident that the planes were trying to find the bridge. The bridge we were going to use.
Just as the night seemed destined to stretch into eternity, we prepared to move out. H-hour was announced - Midnight! Our convoy inched along the road to Oppenheim. As our convoy made a sharp turn and continued onward, the waters of the Rhine became visible out of the blackness to our right. Everything seemed quiet and still. There was the bridge before us. We turned right, extinguished the cat-eyes, closed up bumper to bumper, and started across. The 800 yard expanse seemed unending. Jerry was overhead straining to see us, intent on stopping our crossing. At lsst the other shore was before us, big and black. Once on land everyone told himself, "I made it." We drove along at a snail's pace with the river still in sight. Suddenly a plane came down and leveled off over our column. It looked dark and sinister and seemed to hang in mid-air for a split second; then disappeared fast. He didn't see us! At long last we turned to the East, to the East and that final push to Victory.
The crossing of the Rhine was the opening phase of the greatest chase in the history of the U.S. Armies. The backbone of the German armed forces had been cracked. Our mission was to complete their destruction. Their efforts at defense were sporadic and poorly coordinated giving rise to sudden heated fights in large towns and in some areas where we expected no resistance at all.
The Battle for Frankfurt/Main On March 26th the Sixth Armored Division was stopped outside Frankfurt by the ferocity of enemy resistance. The defenders were supported by a battalion of 88 mm. anti-aircraft guns, depressed for ground targets, the enemy manning these guns were Luftwaffe troops permanently stationed in Frankfurt. They were well fed, rested troops who had not seen the horror of the Ardennes slaughter and the winter campaign. Their morale was very high to the point of fanaticism. Their ammunition supply was practically inexhaustible and their fire-control enabled them to fire as a battalion. For these reasons they were the center of resistance in the city.
The Fifth Division had established a small bridge from one of the city's suburbs across the Main River into Frankfurt proper and as evening closed in they were pinned down by withering fire from the anti-aircraft guns. The 11th Infantry regiment was the assault force. For artillery support they had their own cannon company, a battery of eight inch howitzers which were reducing the city, and the 3rd platoon of B company.
After dark on the 26th the platoon went into position in the suburbs, about five hundred yards from the river and the bridgehead. The mortars were set up, individual protection dug and the men were billeted in a bombed out building. At ten o'clock a company of medium tanks moved into an assembly area across from the building. They were immediately taken under fire by the enemy's anti-aircraft guns. This barrage continued until midnight when the platoon was called out to register its guns for a fire mission. Half of the platoon had manned their guns when the barrage against the tanks swung momentarily to the right, dropping several into the platoon. PFC Knepp was instantly killed. The mortars were shifted out of the area of impact of the barrage. Skeleton crews were kept on the Guns to fire the mission.
When daylight came the enemy barrage swung once more, this time to the infantry's frail bridgehead. Our firing continued all day at a rate of one round every four seconds. The platoon fired from ten o'clock to noon. One section of three guns then moved to another part of the city. The other section fired until the mid-noon and then joined the platoon. Several missions were fired for the infantry until dark. That evening they fired interdictory missions. One of the guns was in such a position that its fire could be easily observed by the enemy. The mortars were immediately engaged in accurote counter-battery. The enemy's fire was periodical, however, enabling the men to fire on their own target between salvos. Rounds were prepared and fired and the crews dashed to nearby cellars to wait for the Jerry's next salvo.
That night the men were lulled to sleep by the song of 88 mm. shells passing close to the windows of their billets on the way to targets farther on.
Firing continued the next morning until afternoon when the infantry had enough reserves for the final assault on the city. By noon of the 29th fighting had progressed very well and only mopping up remained. The company was reassembled and sent back to the city of Offenbach to XII Corps reserve.
We always looked forward to breaking into the "big towns" but Frankfurt was an exception. No comfort, no demonstrations, no escape there, just more campaign misery.
Frankfurt am Main saw the end of Co. "B's" actual combat days. Although the following period when the company was attached to the 71st Div. was also considered combat time.
The only instance the company was anywhere near danger was on April 3rd, when a by-passed pocket erupted between Offenbach and Angersbach. Even so, nary a "Kraut" was spotted. Everyone was very cautious, though, as many trucks and jeeps had been shot up and wrecked the night before by short raids and ambushes. We had Dame Luck with us again and barged right on through without encountering enemy troops unexpectedly. Surprise attacks play hell on morale.
While attached to the 71st Division there were several occasions when one or more of the men involuntarily hit the dirt at the sound of a "burp" gun only to find that it was some GI out practicing.
The company rode along with Div. Headquarters from Angersbach to Fulda where the first rumors of "21 days" really got their foot hold. There had been such rumors before but never so strong. (The rumor had to do with a "21 day furlough" in the U.S. before shoving off for the Pacific - Ed.)
In Fulda the company was billeted in German barracks. The town was loaded with drink and there was "escape" enough for all.
The company later moved to Meiningen where the men talked to and saw for the first time newly liberated allied prisoners of war. Meiningen had had a recuperation hospital for wounded prisoners. Most of the patients were from the air corps, both British and American. Some were Infantrymen. They told various stories about the way they had been treated. Some had been neglected for many days with bad wounds, some had marched miles, surviving while other wounded dropped by the side of the road. A few had been treated pretty well, especially two airmen who had been shot down over Berlin and had had a German plastic surgeon take care of them, but all told the same story about the food they had been given. One loaf of bread had to serve for eight men for one day, one piece of bologna for eight men for one week, a little bitter tasting barley coffee without sugar, and watery soup. They had practically no cigarettes and absolutely no clean clothes. Red Cross packages had been rifled by the German guards. They all wanted the men of the company to bring them K-rations, C-rations, or crackers and jam. The things that other men had grown tired of were very tasty to these men who had virtually lived on bread and water.
All of the prisoners were awaiting orders to return home and wanted souvenirs. Anything from a "Heinie" belt buckle to a Prussian sword was in demand, and naturally we complied, bringing just about anything we had scavenged in our travels.
From Meiningen the company moved to Themar on April 11 and the 2nd platoon moved, theoretically, into action again at Herbardsdorf. Actually no action was seen by the platoon, as the 71st had had no great demand for support and had no idea of what a 4.2 platoon could do. Naturally no one told them as it might have meant more shooting if they had found out.
The chase is a soldier's dream campaign. It is swift and exciting with few casualties. The infantrymen and tanks still share the brunt of the attack, but casualties are spread throughout the corps. Pockets exist and bands of enemy on the loose sometimes lend excitement and death to rear echelon troops, especially in ambushes on the roads. The chase after the Rhine was a "dream campaign". Prisoners were many and varied, even Air Corps fliers were captured on the run.
No wine cellar was passed without a sampling; no town was by-passed without confiscating cameras and binoculars; no prisoner got to the rear with his pistol. We lived as well as possible considering our swift and unpredictable moves.
Action at Coburg Sometime in the earlier part of April the 2nd platoon of B company was attached to the 71st Infantry Division, a unit which had seen little combat service. During the entire period "White" was attached to the 5th regiment of the 71st, it did not fire a shot.
The "action" at Coburg was of an entirely different nature. The 71st was following in the wake of the 11th Armored Division, and the latter was held up on the outskirts of the city by an unusually persistent force of the enemy. The platoon had drown up under the shadow of the Duke of Coburg's castle to await return of Lt. Goff from regiment with orders. When he did arrive, both he and his driver, PFC. Stephan Henninger, were waving several pistols they had removed from some German prisoners captured in the castle. Upon receiving the information that we were to sit tight for a couple of hours, Lt. Free, commanding, took off for the great building dominating the hill. The lieutenant used to refer to himself and his men as "Me and my forty thieves" and if the Duke had amassed a stock of "exquisite bouquets" he was due to learn his first lesson in democracy. Lt. Goff had mentioned the possibility that there might be a few stray Jerries in the vicinity which strengthened our conviction in the necessity for a complete investigation of the premises. There proved to be one forlorn German who desired to be captured and the men in the foremost jeep were quick to oblige.
The Duke's domain had apparently been ignored by our infantry and was untouched by the tide of war in damage wrought. There was only one obstacle hindering the platoon's undisputed claim to this magnificent household, that being the presence of three officers from an artillery unit confiscating the collection of fire arms However, they soon departed and the estate was left in our care.
There was a large garage which housed six automobiles varying from a Mercedes-Benz to the German-version jeep. The latter we took with us as registered captured enemy material. A scream of delight then issued from the direction of the main building, and Cpl. McRae emerged holding a Webler .455 in his hand. Someone discovered a large wine cellar, which held vast quantities of pre-war liquor. The stock of champagne was quickly packed off for future disposal, and in the rush the more eager of the crew overlooked the prize of prizes, two bottles of White Horse Scotch and one of Johnnie Walker. What remained was too assorted to name here, but, let it be said that the Duke was not guilty of keeping rot-gut for his guests.
Later, the appropriated champagne was iced in a bathtub and consumed shortly after the platoon had settled down for the evening. It may have been owing to the lack of space in the house but it was probably the vintage 1928 that moved S/Sgt. Bednarczyk to share an army cot with Sgt. Spaulding for the memorable night.
Once into the heart of Germany, we were amazed to learn that there wasn't a "Nazi" to be found. The dangerous Nazis were those who lived next door, upstairs or across the street. Even those German land owners who had slave labor barracks in their back yards claimed to be either innocent or "ignorant" of the deplorable conditions under which these spiritless, wretched laborers were obliged to live. Some of the natives in this wealthy little town house were the exception that proves the rule. This one German was a self-confessed Nazi in good standing and had no regrets for the misery that Germany's war for "living room" had im- posed upon the vanquished peoples who were crowded into the unsightly, wooden, barbed wired hutments only several hundred yards from the factory in the right of the picture.
When the 1st section of Company C's 1st platoon informed the haughty proprietor that his palatial home was being taken over for billets, his paranoid Prussian temper flared. "Nothing like this has ever happened in Germany." He raved and insisted on his "rights" under international law.
We weren't too sorry to give him his house back the next day. The beds were too soft anyway.
The following are a series of letters by PFC. Kaplan to his girl, Rhoda, which we have taken the liberty to reproduce here because they so concisely summarize one company's activity throughout the three campaigns in which the 91st participated. Although Kaplan has devoted a sentence or two to explain a situation that might have required a book, he stresses the part he played in getting reinforcements to the infantry when the doughs unexpectedly ran into trouble taking a small town on the Moselle near Trier. That is why no two men give identical accounts of anyone engagement. "To those who participated in it, the war was a very personal affair."
9 May 1945
We landed on Omaha beach in the rain. Where the beachhead was established, the shore line drops off into the ocean forming a bluff about 300 feet high. Jerry had machine guns lined up all along this shore so you can picture the hell a landing party would run into if it attempted to get ashore here. Well, they not only tried but did. When we reached the top of the bluff we saw some of the cost - there were row after row of white crosses over the graves of our dead. This is no time for celebration I repeat. One is deeply impressed by the shortness of life in war for here were men who had but a few minutes of combat action, yet their lives had been torn from them by fate and the fortunes of war. Too many thoughts along this line aren't good for the soldier or the civilian.
We marched to the bivouac area which was a puddle of mud approximately 100 x 50 yards. Fortunately, we didn't have to spend the night here although we did set up pup tents.
Trucks carried us into the interior, and we pitched tents for the night in an ex-cow pasture somewhere in Normandy. We remained in this field and the adjoining ones for 6 weeks before we got wise to the ways of making life more comfortable and built us some shacks from discarded truck cases. After that it wasn't so bad if you were allowed to stay in the huts, but guard duty and other details called for a great deal of wading around in the sea of mud that much of surrounding fields had now become. I was lucky to procure a pair of boots through illegitimate channels, and they kept me from getting trench foot. Our passes to town included visits to Cherbourg where the Red Cross had a sorta USO and the French women served us coffee and doughnuts for a small price.
Our equipment hadn't arrived so they pulled us out of the mud into an even worse set up guarding the gas line carrying gasoline to our troops at the front. A couple of weeks of this work made us almost eager for combat and it was coming our way.
The outfit assembled at a great convent, and we set out for our trip across France via jeeps. Our first assignment was in Alsace-Loraine, but about this time the Germans started their push into Belgium and Luxembourg. Consequently, we didn't see any action here but were shifted north with the Third Army for the Battle of the Bulge.
Just out of Luxembourg City we joined the 5th Division and got our orders. The first night we went into combat was a memorable one for us all. It was cold, snow fell steadily until later that evening when a beautiful moon lighted the way for our blacked-out jeeps. We pulled into position in a snow-blanketed field and set up for action. Digging was so hard that a big pick was required to make any progress. We still dug holes. For the next month this was to be a nightly procedure, so I got pretty good at digging in. On this night we didn't realize the Infantry was only about 1,000 yards in front of us or we would have been more frightened than ever. We did fire from here and there was one little village less left in Luxembourg. Our lads took the town, and we were praised for an excellent start.
From here we moved into the position I wrote from on Christmas day. We heard screaming Mimis for the first time here and saw our Air Corps dive bomb and strafe enemy positions. Our respect for the boys that fly was to grow greater and greater as time went by; for the fighters and bombers passed overhead day and night. Thank God and our Air Corps, they were always headed for the Heinies and not our lines.
We were on the southern flank of the Bulge and after advancing to a river reached a static position on its banks. We stayed here, sweating out possible counter-attacks and firing a hearty salute at the Jerries every day. There is something nicer in war when you don't hove to witness the damage you are doing. We undoubtedly have killed quite a few Heinies, but to date I have never seen a victim or fired any weapon directly at a German. Hence, my ardent admiration for the doughs who have these gory and dangerous missions to carry out. Here we sat for a few days exchanging rounds with the Mimis and "88s". It was colder than anybody could possibly want. It snowed constantly, and the days were spent grouped around fires or in our holes.
Leaving this place we supported the doughs on their continued drive to the Siegfried Line. During this time we lived under the most miserable conditions, and many a day found us hardly able to stand on our feet . Our platoon strength was split in half by sickness and casualties. One great event always pepped us up considerably - chow was there morning and night, and it was usually hot. Then of course there were the unpredictoble and unbeatable mail calls. We chased the Infantry (literally) all the way to the line, and then got that life-saving rest in Luxembourg. Sleeping on the floor, in a house with a stove was a luxury thoroughly enjoyed.
I wrote you about the rest I had here. One day we got word to ship out. Half of the crew were on pass to Luxembourg City, but the remainder of us hopped aboard the indominatable jeeps and passed over the Our River into Germany. This time we were not to stay in Germany long for we were called back the next morning to await a new assignment.
We came back to the front and set up in a position to help our division cross the Sauer River into Germany. My letters from Luxembourg gave you some impression of my great respect for the infantry. Here at this river-crossing, they proved themselves even greater martyrs and gave their all in cracking the Siegfried Line. The papers at home may have said the casualties were light, and perhaps as a whole they were; but here the doughboys cought hell, and the sight was none too pretty to behold. They met the same type of cross-fire they ran into D-Day and the toll of men was terrific. Many boys got across, lost contact with their buddies, and had to spend three days in holes while the rain kept falling and the wind blew colder. All the time, Jerry was shelling their holes, the river, and everywhere around the river. The bodies of our dead made a sickly sight to behold. This was wor in its worst form and it will always be these brief moments of horror that stand forth in my mind as a challenge to all who argue the good of war. I have got to tell someone these things, sweetheart, so bear with me if it gets gruesome in spots. Yes, I was there but the Heinies never found our position though we fired most of the time we were there.
At this high cost, the bridgehead was established and a foothold was gained on German soil. We passed over into Germany a few nights after. I haven't left Germany since; Jerry began some more of his strategic withdrawals at this time and we pushed him across other parts of his vaunted line with comparative ease. I started enjoying much better living conditions at this time also. After we had crossed here, I finally convinced the platoon sergeant to take me out of the squad I was in as that squad leader and I just didn't jive. Three days later the sob got his leg caught between two vehicles and they evacuated him. Then I was very pleased to return to my old squad for the other boys are a pleasure to work and live with.
A few days later we pulled into a little town, set up and some of the boys fired a few rounds in support of an attack up ahead. Jerry had been waiting for us and he had several tanks hidden in a good spot above us. He opened up on the town and caught us in the midst of firing. We lost our platoon sergeant and Boogie was slightly injured. We were lucky at that and I came as close to a purple heart as I ever hope to come again.
I had an interesting personal experience at our next position. We had been moving steadily aheod, not meeting any real opposition and were pushing the few remaining Jerries back across the Moselle River. My mortar wasn't set up and they needed someone to move ahead with a couple of guns as a radio operator. I was "selected". Notice the term "selected"; one learns not to volunteer. The setting was this. We were helping the infantry take a small town on the river. No great resistance had been expected so no communication lines were laid or else they had been broken. I was relaying messages from our observer to the guns and he was in contact with the infantry via radio. The attack was proceeding nicely and I was getting a good picture from our observer. Suddenly, the Heinies opened up on the doughs with everything they could. Our higher command had underestimated the enemy's strength and the attacking party immediately realized that they didn't have enough men to take the place. Then there was a question of getting this news back to their chiefs. Well, they had planned on our observer being on hand for this emergency and he was there to help out. Little me on a radio for the first time in my life was going to be of a little help along this line of communication. There were messages going both ways and fire commands coming all the time. I was a busy lad, but it was a thrill. We weren't in danger, but the engineers set off a land mine down the road and I nearly burrowed my way underground with my nose.
The next day we moved up the river into another sector to aid in another river crossing with a new division. Since crossing the Sauer we had left the Fifth and supported the 76th, a rookie outfit, but plenty hot for a new combat division.
May 11, 1945
We joined the 90th Division southwest of Koblenz and crossed the Moselle River with them here. The crossing was surprisingly easy. That night the infantry boys ran into a bunch of SS troops in a little villoge at the top of a mountain, and it was quite a bet tie to take the town. We came in the next morning and there was still plenty of evidence that a bloody engagement had taken place. A few 88 rounds were dropping near the place but our tanks and infantry drove them off down the road.
Not long after this the 4th Armored Division came through to start its mad dash down the Rhine, outflanking the entire main line of defense the Germans had. The Germans, in the Saar-Moselle triangle were trapped and the Siegfried line crumbled. We came along helping to clean out the pockets and enjoying rides through the country. Just outside Mainz several of the bays were surrounded by a combat patrol that Jerry sent out. They were in a precarious spot for awhile but with luck and support from tankers, and infantry they were spared from casualties.
Then one night we were called on to make a routine move. Before we could realize what was up, it was announced that a bridgehead had been established across the Rhine and our outfit was scheduled to cross that night. We did. Outside of a Jerry plane that couldn't find the bridge, and several 88 rounds, the crossing was not too rough. After we had got across and pulled into position, Jerry dropped a heavy concentration of shells in the area we had stopped in. We all left the jeeps and dived for holes that had conveniently been dug there previously by Jerry. The Germans can be complimented on their ability to dig holes.
Our troubles were not over yet. We moved into a little village, parked and went to sleep. My squad was agreed that the cellar was the safest place to be. So that is where we made our beds. About two in the morning, the departing Heinies decided to drop a couple of rounds into the town as a sort of farewell gesture. One was a direct hit on a vehicle loaded with ammo. All hell broke loose then. Shells were exploding, small arms ammunition was popping off, gasoline from punctured cans filled the streets and caught on fire, all the surrounding buildings were aflame.
This was a job for the local fire department I figured, so I crawled out of the cellar before the house fell in on me, took off down the street and did not stop running until I was sure any more trouble in that quarter would not include me. Baby, I was no hero that night.
A couple of the boys did try to remedy the situation a little but their efforts were futile and only resulted in some of them getting serious injuries.
We were back in line again the next day and continued our pocket cleaning activities on the east bank of the Rhine. O'er hill and dole we followed the infantry, which was itself loaded on tanks, trucks, and any other means of rapid travel that was available. Every now and then, some SS or Volkstrum would cause a little trouble, but in general the Wehrmacht was rapidly going Kaput. Several replacements came in and I started getting a little experience as an IMG man (that is the guy that computes the firing data for the mortars.) I had one try at it and I must admit the luck was good cause we dropped the second round right in the middle of the town and kept it up until the infantry decided to move into the place. We were near the crest of a hill and some Jerry rockets or tanks started trying to find us with their rounds. They were not successful in doing this. That was the last combat action we were to have, for the outfit was pulled off the line for its present job, and life has been quite sweet and safe since.
Now for the future, there are the following alternatives offered:
(The letter got a little personal from this point on. But the alternatives were generally those that engendered a maelstrom of rumors until the official word from headquarters sent us on our way to the CBI-via USA. - Ed.)
Military GovernmentApril 14, 1945 to May 18, 1945
April 14th: The 91st was relieved by the 97th Cml. Mortar Battalion. The Battalion assembled at Sachsendorf.
Co. A - The entire company moved to Bn. after being relieved from attachment to the 26th Infantry Division.
Co. B - The entire company moved to Bn. after being relieved from attachment to the 71st Infantry Division.
Co. C - The entire company moved to Bn. after being relieved from attachment to the 90th Infantry Division.
So ended 117 days of continuous combat. This was the first time since the 18th of December that the entire Battalion was together. All the companies reverted to Battalion control to await further orders on a new assignment to Military Government.
Lt. Col. Muth took leave of the Battalion on the 15th of April to assume new and greater responsibilities as Chemical Officer of the VIII Corps. Major Dale L. Vincent, Executive Officer, assumed command of the Battalion, designating Captain Brewter T. Horton as Executive Officer. Lt. Davies was designated Company Commander of Company C.
The following letter written by Col. Muth is herewith produced:
"The orders assigning me to VIII Corps, coincident as they are with the withdrawal of the Battalion from combat duty, bring to a close a chapter in our organization's history. It is a chapter replete with acts of high individual valor and superb organizational operation. I am proud of the part I have played in this history and proud of the part each of the men has played. Now that we are parting I feel secure in the knowledge that the Battalion will continue to do its assigned tasks laudably. I say goodbye with regret and wishes for the best of luck to each member of the organization."
Roy W. Muth
Lt. Col., CWS
The entire Battalion was attached to the 9th Tank Destroyer Group at the beginning of this new period with the mission of furnishing Military Government Guard for the XII Corps Area.
As the unit assembled on the evening of April 14th, the first few hours were spent in seeking out old friends and renewing acquaintances. The following morning a Bn. formation was held for the presentation of awards which had been published in orders during the previous month. In conclusion of the ceremony, Lt. Col. Muth made a short and impressive speech of farewell before leaving the Bn.
The remainder of the day was devoted to cleaning up, making plans for the MG assignment, and the servicing of equipment.
On the following morning all personnel of the Bn. were transported to Eisfeld to attend a lecture by Col. Darling, CO of the 9th TD Group.
At the conclusion of the meeting Co. A was ordered to move to the town of Eisfeld to assume MG jurisdiction over that town and a large area extending from Ilmenau in the North to Themar in the South. By 2100 guards has been posted and the area was under a patrol guard. The Co. CP remained in Eisfeld, with the Hq. personnel taking over the guard details in the town. Guards were placed at warehouses and all installations of military value, and roving patrols in jeeps covered the MSR as well as the town and the allotted territory. The 1st platoon established its Hq. in Hildburghausen and placed guards at a factory, the DP (Displaced Persons) collecting point and all vantage points. Roving patrols made a periodic check on all unoccupied towns in their sector.
The 2nd platoon moved to Brietenbach with sections in Lichtenan, Gehren, and Lange Wiesen.
The remainder of the Battalion moved out on Tuesday, April 17th.
Co. B, upon receipt of orders, moved out to assume jurisdiction over an area bounded by Sonneburg-Kronach-Lobenstein-Ober Weissbach. Hq. personnel remained in Sonneburg. The 1st platoon moved out to Lobenstein, the 2nd to Remstendorf. Guard and patrol actions, ranging from 8 to 22 men were sent out to Wurzbach, Rappoltengrun, Ludwiggstaadt, Neuhaus, and Volkmannsdorf.
Co. C, upon receipt of orders, moved out and was initially placed in reserve with the 1st platoon attached to Battery A, 273rd FA Bn. This platoon patrolled the area in the Corps Rear surrounding Geisa. One section remained in this town where the platoon CP was established. The other section split into two groups and set themselves up in Spahl, just outside of Vacha. The section in Geisa located a large supply of ammo and arms and notified higher authority.
Co. Hq. and the 2nd platoon moved to Grafenthal to guard installations.
About noon of the 18th the Company CP and the 2nd platoon were ordered to move to an assembly area around the town of Kronach.
Hq. and Hq. Co. formed into three sections or platoons and moved to their assigned area. The 1st platoon set up in Schalkau, the 2nd in Neuhaus, and the 3rd in Konigsee.
Bn. Hqs. remained in Sachendorf where it was fairly centrally located.
Hq. Co. spread out all over their area putting guards on an ammunition factory, a radio tube factory, and several other strategic spots. The area which Hq. covered was heavily covered with woods and full of German Army men, some of whom had taken to civilian clothes, and others who were still in uniform. From information supplied by civilians and by keeping careful lookout, many of these ex-Wehrmacht members were rounded up.
All companies were busy rounding up PWs, keeping the civilians off the streets during non-circulation hours, and conducting searches for concealed weapons.
The 2nd platoon and Co. Hq. of Co. C moved to Kulmbach to take over that town on April 18th. The 1st platoon remained in the area surrounding Geisa but in the afternoon prepared to move the next day to Friesen to act as a mobile reserve. The convoy was held up in Lobenstein by a blown bridge and was not able to proceed until the following day. They continued on the next morning but halted in Saalburg instead of Friesen.
On April 20th Co. B extended its guard to include the towns of Buch, Mevr, and Tettau. PFC. Hardy was killed when his jeep overturned as he attempted to get out of the line of fire of a strafing enemy plane.
A typical day during our period as MGs might be April 20th in Company C's sector. The Company had a busy day with three investigations which led to extensive searches. The first was started when a civilian of Kulmbach reported that the school teacher in Triebenreuth was feeding Nazi Bund leaders hiding out in the woods nearby. A patrol was sent out at 0430 but no men were found. The only school teacher in town was brought back to be screened by the C.I.C. The next search was conducted in the DP camp where it was reported that weapons had been hidden. A shake down of the camp brought to light a jeep load of weapons (including a small mortar and bazooka) and ammunition. There were turned over to the Enemy Material collection in Kulmbach. The last report was that the Burgermeister and his friends had been raiding the warehouse in Unter-Steinach. When the warehouse was checked some wares were missing. Since there was not enough equipment to warrant a guard, the above information was turned over to the Summary Court officer in town.
Upon receipt of orders on April 21st the Battalion prepared to move to a newly assigned sector.
Co. A was assigned in reserve initially in Helmbrechts. The 1st platoon CP moved to Niala and the 2nd to Schwarzenbach.
Co. B had an area of about 300 square miles in the Northern portion of the Bn. sector from the Berlin-Munich Autobahn West to a line North from Kronach. The CP was established in Berg, situated on the Autobahn. The 1st and 2nd platoon, moved to Hadermannsgrun and Hasslach respectively.
Co. C had one platoon in Kulmbach yet and the 1st platoon was assigned to a sector of about 100 square miles bounded by Kronach-Kulmbach and Co. B's South boundary.
Hq. Co. initially had an area bounded by the Autobahn on the East, Co. C on the West, and Co. B on the North. The Bn. CP was established in Mundlberg and the 2nd and 3rd platoons moved to Stammbach and Marktleugast respectively. The 1st platoon remained with the CP in Munchberg.
Co. A, on April 22nd, played an important role in an investigation of a serious war crime. On the 13th of April, a column of Jewish political prisoners had been marched through Helmbrechts, just before the town was taken by our forces. One of the more fortunate men of this column was found by Co. A in the local PW camp. From information furnished by this prisoner, the bodies of 19 of the others were found in a shallow grave outside of town. All had been shot through the head. An investigating officer from 3rd Army took statements and continued the investigation.
On the evening of the same day it was reported that one of the local townsmen had been a high ranking Nazi official. He was promptly located and placed in jail pending advice from the C.I.C. When the cell was opened in the morning, to lock up another prisoner, the man was found hanging from a pipe and pronounced dead.
Th. 1st platoon of Co. C established their CP in Weissenstadt on the 22nd and assumed command of that area.
The companies were bringing in so many prisoners now that Bn. Hq. found it necessary to establish a temporary PW Cage where an PWs picked up by the companies each day could be delivered and then turned into the PW cages of Army.
On April 23rd Co. B extended its guard to include the towns of Stockheim, Posseck, Heinersdorf, Ebersdorf, and Rothenkirchen.
Co. Hq. and the 2nd platoon of Company C moved into a new sector on the 23rd. The platoon set up its Hq. in Ober Rosslau. The Co. Hq. men joined the 1st platoon in Weissenstadt.
In Hq. Co. the action for the day was confined to a movement by the 2nd platoon to Gefrees, a town just East of the Autobahn to take over an increase in the Hq. Co. sector as the Corps Rear Boundaries moved to the Southeast.
On April 24th the highlight of the day for Co. A was the capture of a Lt. Colonel of the Wehrmacht. A young boy and girl had reported that there was a General in a house in the woods. When the house was investigated, Lt. Col. Hugo Stitzinger was found in civilian clothes. Like a good officer, he changed into uniform before being taken away.
Both platoons of Co. C had fire fights with German soldiers on the 24th. The 1st platoon received a report from a Polish DP that there were some German soldiers on the edge of town. A six man patrol was sent out to investigate. When they made their appearance, two soldiers started to run. One escaped into the woods, but the other was hit in the arm and legs and turned into the hospital in Weissenstadt. 400 pounds of explosive and a truckload of arms were picked up by the platoon.
The 2nd platoon moved to Friedenfels to cover an increase in area assigned to the Company. Patrols were started to check the area and report in anything to be further investigated. One squad under Sgt. Dragich chased and captured 5 heavily armed Nazi soldiers in the wood, south of Friedenfels. The soldiers were armed with pistols, one light machine gun, and one machine pistol.
On April 27th the Battalion minus Company C received orders to move to a new area. The orders were to move to an assembly area to await definite instructions as to the area to be taken over. Company C was to remain in position temporarily. B Company moved out on the morning of the 28th. En route they received orders to move on to the town of Bruck which was to be the center of the area assigned to them. Company A moved out to assemble in the town of Pressath.
Upon arrival orders were received to move on to Nabburg to take over the area by nightfall. Bn. Hq. and Hq. Co. moved to Grafenworth where the Bn. CP was located. Two platoons of Hq. Co. moved out in the afternoon to their new areas. The other remained with Bn. Hq. to accompany the CP in a move to be made the next morning. The new area assigned to the Bn. extended from a point on the Danube River to a line approximately 60 miles north. Co. C received orders late in the day to move to an assembly area point near Roding to be in reserve to take over any new territory assigned.
Co. A, establishing its CP in Nabburg, assumed control of an area of about 150 square miles east of Amberg, bounded by Nabburg. on the north, Neunberg on the west and Bruck and Schwandorf on the south. The next morning the 1st platoon moved to Bodenwoh and Tennesburg and the 2nd to Hirschau.
The CP of Co. B, along with the 1st platoon, located in the town of Bruck, while the 2nd platoon CP went to Munster. The area assigned to Co. B was about 150 square miles bounded by Schwandorf, Bruck, Straubing, and Nittenau.
Orders were received on the 28th assigning Co. C to their new territory and the Co. CP and the 1st platoon, which was to be held in reserve, moved into Roding. The 2nd platoon received orders to assume jurisdiction over Neustadt and the adjacent area.
Hq. Co. initially assumed control of an area of about 80 square miles with the 1st platoon in Mitterdorf and Roding, the 2nd in Rotz and the 3rd in Unt-Traubenbach. The area was bounded on the south by Co. B and on the west by Co. A. The Bn. CP was established at Mitterdorf.
A French PW, in Co. A's area, reported approximately 21 bodies of political prisoners buried in the vicinity of Nabburg. Other such burials were reported elsewhere in the area and an investigation was conducted.
In Rotz another atrocity case was discovered when 85 partially buried bodies were found. The Burgemeister of Rotz was ordered to have all the bodies dug up and put into coffins. As soon as all of them were found a mass burial was held with all the civilians in the town present. Many of the survivors of this "Death March" were found in the local hospitals and camps suffering from malnutrition. There were also several cases of Typhus.
On May 1st 3 Russian DPs reported to Co. A that a group of German soldiers were in the woods. An 11 man patrol was sent out to investigate. As they combed the woods they were met by fire from a machine pistol. The fire seemed to come from a barn in a clearing so the men set up their 4.2 and fired 2 rounds of HE and 1 of WP at the barn. When the building was entered SS uniforms, blankets, and food were found but no soldiers. Two men who owned the house and barn admitted being ex-soldiers but denied that the barn was being used as a Hq. by the soldiers. Both of these were turned over to the C.I.C. for harboring enemy soldiers.
On May 7th the Bn. was assigned a new sector and all companies made preparations for the move. Co. A moved into Roding. Co. B's CP went into Ratiszell with the 1st platoon in Stallwang and the 2nd in Zinsenzell. Since the Bn. move was anticipated the next day only motor patrols were established. The second platoon of Co. C moved into Roding to await further orders.
On May 8th the entire Bn. moved to new areas bounded by the Regen-Deggendorf Road, the Austrian border, the Danube River and a line running approximately along the Czechslovakian border.
Company A moved its CP to Tittling with the 1st platoon in Haselbach and the 2nd in Schonberg.
Company B moved to its new sector placing the CP in Hengersberg, the 1st platoon in Winzer, and the 2nd in Unter Zwieselau. Section guards moved to Roggersing, Lalling, Nied Alteich, Regen, and Kirchdorf.
Company C established their new CP in Thyrnau with the 1st platoon in a factory overlooking the Danube River. The 2nd platoon moved to Griesbach. Patrols were established to cover the entire area assigned.
Hq. Co. and Bn. Hq. moved to Eging In the center of the new area. The 1st platoon of Hq. Co. remained in Eging with the Bn. CP and the 2nd and 3rd platoons moved to Schonberg and Hofkirchen respectively.
The normal problems were aggravated by the presence of thousands of German soldiers on the roads who were fleeing from the advancing Russians. The Bn. attempted to pick them up but found the job too big for just one Bn. No tally was kept of the multitude of PWs turned in to the PWE. Those Germans who were on foot were picked up and turned over to the Corps PWE. The others in their own vehicles were allowed to pass through the rear areas. Two SS troopers who had been picked up in the town of Haunsbach (Co B sector) attempted to escape and were killed instantly. Both were buried by the local townspeople.
On May 9th the 2nd platoon of Co. C established a CP in the town of Obernzell in order to check the area east to the German-Austrian border.
On May 14th Operational Directive 119, XII Corps, relieved the Battalion from control of the 9th TD Group and from the MG duties. Each company then assembled their men at the Company CPs where everyone waited for further orders. The time was spent in cleaning equipment and preparing vehicles and guns for ordinance inspections. All equipment was put in serviceable condition or turned in for repair. Inspections and surveys of the men's personal equipment was made as well as the T/O & E equipment.
On Friday, the 18th, Major Vincent presented awards to men of Company C at the Company CP. At the end of the week the Bn. was enjoying a good rest waiting for orders to move to a central assembly area for training. A training schedule for four weeks was drawn up to go into effect at the time of the move.
Since even the top grade officers are agreed that "all work and no play" is not conducive to high morale, the men sometimes found the props and the occasion to give vent to their emotions and relax war strains. In Kulmbach were stocks of fine drinks, and conveniently enough, it was Datemasch's birthday.
Davies' Doughboys "stage" celebration for Datemasch's birthday
The place is Kulmbach, Germany, a town whose principal attractions consisted of 5 breweries, many well-stocked "kellers", and elite "Swiss" citizens. (So few Germans were "Aryan" after we got to them.) The time is that happy interlude spent on MG detail. The characters (and such they are) are the members of an organization known as "Davies Doughboys" formerly known as "Tate's Traveling Circus".
The scene opens:
The citizens of this fair city are utterly astonished to see two American jeeps come speeding down the center of the main street. The occupants are part of our advertising committee with the mission of putting up handbills and selecting the site upon which the "big top" will be pitched. Above the clatter of the jeeps a few voices are heard: "Where's the ‘keller'?" "Have you seen any mine sweepers through here?" "Habenzie Schnapps?" Of course, few people understand, but they are aware that something out of the ordinary is in store for them, and how right they are.
Sometime later, the carnival enters town. The first vehicle, a shell-pocked jeep, contains tarnished brass, but no band. The next, an impressive 2½ ton truck, rolls in bearing the moniker, "John's Carry All". The remaining vehicles are nondescript jeeps whose bulging seams reminds one of a circus caravan. The occupants, a group of weary performers, sense the air of expectancy among the audience.
The site selected for the "big top" is a beautiful mansion, so kindly donated by two of our "Swiss" citizens. They are reluctant at first but are finally convinced by the persuasive brandishing of carbines. The building is well suited for our needs. The dining room is spacious, the parlor comfortable, and sleeping accommodations adequate without crowding.
The first requisite is to replenish an exhausted supply of alcoholic medicants. This is accomplished by sending out a scouting detail that returns with many gold and red sealed bottles which the hospitable "Swiss" insist we accept as a token of their goodwill. A second group returns with two kegs. Some complex improvising is required of the "engineers" to install a draught at a makeshift bar. With a few preliminary drinks, the evening's festivities get under way.
"Tear up those 15 cent tickets; let them in for a dime", cries our barker, J. S. Miller. The show becomes progressively more hilarious as the empty champagne bottles accumulate. The din grows loudest when a band enters, a real honest-to-goodness band from the 71st Infantry Division. The boys have generously consented to play for the gala occasion. Such feast and pageantry is not without occasion, mind you. It is Datemasch's birthday. He says so.
And so the show goes on - the Big Top - the Side Show - Greenberg running a roulette wheel - Cackowski cutting the poker table - Hadley managing the galloping dominoes - and Seymour Friedman with pencil and paper trying to find a new system.
If an instructor had stood on a table with a manual in his hand an outsider would have gained the impression that we were staging a class in organized calisthenics, with special emphasis on elbow bending exercises. The bar remains open from 8 till late, "Dutch" Kramer tending.
Epilogue: Several nights later, the main tent was taken down. Some of us who didn't remember having done so before got around to wishing Datemasch a happy birthday before the "show" got on the road again.
Sometimes, the liberated laborers were besides themselves in their anxiety to show their appreciation for what the Allied soldiers had done for them. Since the continental Europeans like wine and feast anyway, the least they would do was prepare a magnificent spread and help us eat it, if we supplied the foodstuffs and something with which to propose a toast-to victory, to GI Joe, to "amour", to anything - so long as the liquor lasted.
A Parisian dinner in Bavaria My squad had just completed billeting in a town on the Czech frontier, and we had retired to a barracks that housed twenty five French forced laborers to learn what the small city was like. I chatted with them while one member of the squad received a much-needed hair cut and another was investigating the possibilities of some German women the French were entertaining. Several drinks and a couple of hours later it became necessary to leave, but not before certain arrangements had been made in regard to a dinner the following evening. My driver and I were to pick up two of the French, one of whom spoke the difficult Patois of the Bosques, then drive to a neighboring village, and liberate ten chickens, an indefinite number of eggs, and several kilos of flour. The mere presence of an American soldier was sufficient to quell all arguments before their inception, and added weight was provided by a fist full of confiscated marks. I am not aware of the usual price of the hen, but we paid no more than five marks (fifty cents) for any one cackler. By canvassing the entire hamlet we succeeded in gathering the ten required chickens, a helmet full of eggs, and seven kilos of flour. This was our part in the preparation of the feast. The French, or rather a chef from Paris, did the rest.
Supper was set at a small café on the main street for seven o'clock. We arrived slightly before the hour but were shown into the dining room to take our seats and await the repast. I was rather startled as I entered, for great pains had been taken to accord us a great welcome and convey to us their intense appreciation for what we had done. There was a table along the entire right side of the room and one along the far end, both elaborately arranged with the finest glass and silverware to be found in town. Candles in expensive holders furnished the light, and flowers spaced at intervals on both tables completed the magnificent display of French ingenuity.
The four of us were seated in the center of the longer table. At the head was seated the man who seemed to be the leader of the French with his wife on his right. The presence of two other French wives added to my amazement, and I still wonder how they came to be there. The bulk of these women also caused me to lift an inquiring eyebrow, but they were too far down the table to talk with, so I forgot them. Besides my interest was becoming more and more absorbed by what lay before me on the table. Wine had been liberally passed about, and now I thought it was time for something to eat. To the left of my fork was an unknown object lying on a plate, and I was not sure whether they were waiting for me to start on it or not. I elected to remain immobile, an action which proved correct, for a moment later the chef brought in a great plate of chicken to be followed by a mammoth dish of potatoes prepared as only the French can. They insisted that we eat all we could, and one never refuses a Frenchman. I had no particular desire to spare the food anyway, for seldom have I tested a more delicious meat when the time for dessert arrived. I learned the genus of the rolled-up affair on the plate. It turned out to be crepe without equal in the world.
Supper over, a few more toasts were proposed in the continental fashion. Someone shouts a qui, a qui, receives an answer, delivers his toast, then every one claps in unison according to a well-known pattern. After several of these pleasant interludes the singing began with some encouragement. They sang a number of songs in French, then turned to the four of us hopefully. None of us imagined himself to be the idol of any bobby-soxers, and decided the best we could offer to uphold the U.S.A. was a blues vocal by myself. They applauded from sheer politeness, sang a few more numbers, and came to the highlight of the evening, the French national anthem. We all stood up out of due respect and joined in. When they had finished, they turned to us for ours. We looked at each other quite blankly and suddenly realized that we had but the vaguest idea of the tune and none at all of the words. We conferred among ourselves, weighed every avenue of escape, and eventually determined we had to give them something, a song we all knew. So we sallied forth with "You Are My Sunshine" in the most discordant of keys. Whereupon the French, perceiving our attempt at song and not understanding our lingo, arose en masse to pay respect as we had done. We could not bring ourselves to our feet, so struggled and bluffed the way through several choruses and ended in a magnificent rally.
I have no way of knowing if they knew to what they were paying tribute, for I certainly had no intention of asking at that point. That was the note upon which the repast ended also, for the foul taste in my mouth demanded an immediate exit from the lion's cage.
The last few weeks prior to receiving official redeployment orders were spent in the area surrounding Tittling in Bavaria. The war was over and the great majority of wondering German soldiers had been rounded up. There wasn't too much that Headquarters required us to do; so we occupied our leisure time playing ball, hunting, fishing, and making excursions to famous land marks and GI theaters. The "honeymoon" ended when Corps Headquarters dreamed up a training schedule to remind us that the war had only ended in Europe.
Camp Tittling The little town of Tittling rests in the Bavarion Alps, 21 kilometers from Passau, and even less from the Blue Danube. Its population is just over 2,000, but the Army more than made up for its loss in residents by locating a German PW enclosure on the outskirts of town.
We entered Tittling the 10th of May and prepared to set up a Company Headquarters for the platoons operating in the surrounding area. Thae main purpose in coming to Tittling was because it was centrally located in regard to our area of control. We soon found out that it would take every minute of our time to patrol the area completely.
On the second day of our occupation, PFC. Cleapor and PFC. Manuel challenged a convoy of 400 PWs, including one colonel and six majors, all fleeing from the Russian advance in the east. Much to their amazement they found that it was almost as hard to get rid of these Jerries as it was to hold them. To Cleapor and Howlett goes the credit for finding 800 murdered Polish and French refugees who were buried in a swamp near town. Then our job really started. We asked for volunteers from the ranks of the German PWs (by the "you" and "you" and "you" method). All the officers and SS troopers "volunteered" for the job with no questions asked. Their first duty was to recover the bodies from the pit and to arrange them for burial. This was done by giving each family in that area several bodies to bury in a decent manner in their front yard, so that in future years they would be able to look back and see how great and fine the Nazi party was. A short time after we were relieved from MG duty, and the company was idle until placed on a training schedule much to everyone's disappointment. Our MG duties meanderings about had given us an inside view of the Nazified German people. That inside picture was rotten all the way through.
It just couldn't be true what we saw on the bulletin board - this training schedule. "Four hours mortar drill tomorrow morning, and inspection tomorrow afternoon." Oh how we loved the Headquarters' personnel of the XII Corps! The day after we had a special treat, an eight mile hike.
For this "rugged" training schedule, the 3rd platoon was reformed with Lt. Messenger as platoon leader and S/Sgt. Reece as platoon sergeant. It was purely a training platoon because we had operated with only two platoons in combat. From this red hot outfit came one of the best softball teams that southern Germany had even seen, undefeated in 14 straight games. S/Sgt. Reece was the coach, aided by Sgt. Franus, a sharp ball player in his own right. After one of our fast games, we would slip down to the lake which was only about two miles away and take a dip. We always wore GI shorts, because sometimes there happened to be a few German frauleins swimming too. We often wondered if some "outside" officers wouldn't rule that swimming in the same joke with those buxom beauties was violating the non-fraternization order.
Then things really got rolling - rumors of going home, rumors of going straight to the CBI! Whom were we to believe? But while we lived in a balance between the USA and the CBI, the nights were devoted to pleasant trips to Passau to see several fine shows which made us went to see the good old USA even more. We staged a play produced by Lt. Pacey which would have run at least 52 weeks on Broadway. Manuel was to play the part of a 3 star General, and the 3 stars on his helmet made him look quite right for the part. So much so, in fact, that many GIs stumbled all over themselves trying to salute him when he was on his way to the theater. Orchids to the entire cast. Everyone enjoyed themselves.
The army really tried to fit us when they issued us ETO jackets. They even sent a quartermaster sergeant down to take our measurements. And what do you know, they did fit! Now came this bit of deductive reasoning: if we are issued ETO jackets, would we be going to the CBI? Or could they be for the 4th of July parade in Regensburg?
The glorious day arrived. We received orders to proceed to the States for 30 day furloughs. That meant a well earned rest at home with fresh milk and fresh girls, but most important, our families. This was too much. It couldn't be true. No one would believe it until we were on the boat sailing for New York Harbor. But one fellow soldier was very much disappointed - Lt. Martin. He wanted to stay behind and attend to important affairs, namely his fiancé who was stationed in the 110th Evac. Hospital Unit. How far from Tittling? It was in Tittling, only about 700 yards from our CP. I hear he even tried to break his leg so that he would be sent to the hospital for an unlimited amount of time. One man's loss is another man's gain. "C'est la guerre."
"Shirley, Irene and Grandma" On 3 June 1945, while at Winzen, Germany, Company B produced the one act play Sally, Irene, and Grandma with an entire male cast. The play was to be entered by the companies in a battalion contest.
The play was a comedy about three soldiers and their sweethearts, one of whom was the Colonel's niece. One of the GIs had to resort to acting as his own Grandmother in order to fool the Colonel. At one of the high points of the play "Grandma" was supposed to spill a drink in the Colonel's lap. Four glasses were provided, one of which was almost empty. By mistake "Grandma" spilled one of the full glasses instead, thoroughly drenching the Colonel.
Sgt. Durkee and Cpl. McRae did a fine job of directing and Tec 5 Brueggeman acted as electrician and stage manager.
Tec 5 Denis
Tec 5 Brueggeman
RedeploymentMay 18, 1945 to September 2, 1945
Under a 25 day overseas movement alert effective 17th of May, the Bn. began scheduled training on May 22nd.
The training program was designed to train replacements in the use of the 4.2 mortar, to re- fresh the men in those things which are necessary to the fulfilment of our mission, and to train additional specialized personnel. The program included calisthenics, mortar service, map reading, Japanese warfare, military courtesy, orientation on current, news, and special classes for communications and IMG personnel. Special emphasis was placed on physical conditioning and the training of replacements without previous experiences in mortar battalions.
On Friday, May 25th, a notice was received that all men would be permitted to write in their letters that "we may be home in the near future." This order was transmitted to all personnel with an attendant rise in morale.
During the week of June 4th - June 10th all companies continued the program of training and participation in athletics. Three six mile marches were made during the week. In the specialist classes, the first phase of the training was completed with examinations on the past two weeks' work. Supply groups continued to check all equipment in readiness for further orders. Shortages of equipment and clothing were requisitioned. Stress was placed on the care and maintenance of vehicles in anticipation of the forthcoming movement.
On June 8th Col. Johnson, XII Corps Chemical Officer, visited Bn. Hq. and Hq Co., inspecting one of the classes and speaking with the men.
On the evening of June 9th the Bn. received a message from the Troop Movement Section of Third Army ordering it to be moved to Camp Lucky Strike, at St. Valory, France. The unit was to leave on June 12th. This was the news we had all been anticipating for so long. Final arrangements for the 700 mile journey were completed with everyone anxious to start the trip back home.
On the 10th, 11th, and 12th, the battalion prepared for the coming move. With all details handled, the final plans were drawn up for ihe convoy which was to consist of four serials.
Early on the morning of June 13th the convoy started on the eventful trip to France. The 1st platoon of Co. C was detailed as road guides and departed at 0500. At 0600, the billeting party under Lt. Goodson left in advance of the first serial which departed at 0800. The advance party which was to preceed the battalion to the United States left at time under the command of Major Watson.
The first elements of Hq. and Hq. Co. and Company A cleared their IP (Initial Point) at Eging at 0800, proceeded to Hengersberg where Co. B joined the convoy and then went to the junction of highways N8 and N11, east of Straubing where the convoy was completed by the Company Headquarter and the 2nd and 3rd platoons of Company C.
The route the convoy followed on the first day was through Regensburg to Nurnberg and then southwest on N14 to Ansbach where the battalion bivouacked in the Army area. This area was reached at 1600 after a ride of 150 miles.
The cadre of the battalion who came from the 86th Cml. Mortar Bn. had an unexpected chance to meet old friends of the 86th as that battalion occupied the same bivouac area and was also en route to Camp Lucky Strike. "Long time no see" could be heard echoing through the woods until the wee hours of the morning.
The convoy began its day's journey at 0430. The weather was very cold and cloudy with resulting discomfort. By daylight the convoy was well on the first part of the 180 miles that was to be covered that day. The route of the trip from Ansbach to Kaiserlautern was on N14 to just west of Hall, N39 to Neckargemund, and N37 to Kaiserlautern. The Rhine was crossed between Mannheim and Ludwigshaven just three and a half months after the first elements of the Bn. had crossed going east on May 23rd following the 5th Infantry Division in their surprise crossing of the river.
The morning was surprisingly cold until in the afternoon the weather began to warm up so that by the time the Bn. had reached their bivouac area near Kaiserlautern at 1440 everyone was warm again. The bivouac area was located in heavy woods along the unfinished Autobahn between Kaiserlautern and Saarbrucken. Early in the evening a very light rain caused everyone to hastily revise their sleeping arrangements since most of the men had made no provision for any shelter.
At the early hour of 0330 on June 15th the Battalion began to move on again. From Kaiserlautern the convoy moved on N40 to Homburg, on N10 to Saarbruken, on N3 to St. Menehould, and on N31 to Soissons where the Battalion stopped for the night. At Saarbruken the Battalion passed over the German border returning to France after entering Germany on March 1st from Luxembourg.
The distance covered during the day was the longest of the entire trip, 210 miles between 0330 and 1600. Again the weather had been cold during the early morning but by afternoon it had warmed up considerably. In fact, it was hot by evening.
Soissons offered many attractions to the men of the Battalion for the evening. There was an elaborate Red Cross Club in the town with a full size movie house. For most of the men it was the first full length movie that they had seen for months that was not interrupted during the picture to change the reel. The fact that they were now in France made the non-fraternization policy a thing of the past and immediately high morale took another jump.
Starting comparatively late after the starting times for the last few days the Battalion began the last leg of their trip across Europe at 0630, June 16th. Following N31 to Gournay, N30 to Rouen, N14 to Yvetot, and D131 to Cany Barville, the Battalion reached Camp Lucky Strike, France, at 1600, after covering 160 miles. At the camp the Battalion went into a tent area to begin their processing for the trip back to the U.S.
The Battalion began processing early the 17th with the task of completing all details as soon as possible. Affidavits testifying to the completion of various aspects of the processing were signed and returned to Camp Lucky Strike Headquarters. By Tuesday, June 19th, the Battalion had packed all TAT, the men had packed all their personal equipment and filled out all necessary inventory and customs forms, and all requirements of processing were complete. On Wednesday, June 20th, the advance party sailed from Le Havre for the United States.
Then began the nerve wracking business of waiting for movement orders. Rumors flew thick and fast, some pessimistic, some optimistic. While we waited, one-day passes to Paris were instituted. For the men who remained in camp there was softball, volley ball, horseshoes, Red Cross tents, shows and an ample amount of "bunk fatigue." All these things helped somewhat in the waiting for our orders to proceed home.
On July 1st the long awaited day finally arrived and the battalion departed from Camp Lucky Strike for the port of Le Havre and boarded the transport "Hawaiian Shipper." The ship departed on 2 July, destination the United States and home.
The journey was uneventful. The men relaxed for the first time in many months with deck fatigue as the favorite sport.
In the early hours of 10 July the skyline of New York presented a long to be remembered sight, with the Statue of Liberty directing us up the Hudson River to Camp Shanks, New York.
The unit disembarked, was gloriously fed, and was quickly processed. Within 24 hours the men departed for their respective states and furloughs home.
The advance party began to assemble at Camp Swift, Texas, on 4 August to handle the many details prior to the arrival of the Battalion. On 18 August the men began to assemble.
A training program was put into effect on 23 August. After getting back into the swing of garrison life, the men were well into the redeployment training program. The first week the training emphasized individual needs such as marksmanship, sanitation, military courtesy, close order drill, map training and athletics. Some of the men went on the range for qualification and others fired courses in familiarization with their T/O weapons.
During the week several of the members of the Battalion received orders for separation from the service. Many of these men were original members of the 91st Cml. Mortar Bn. upon its activation February 15th, 1944.
On Friday, August 31st, the men of the Battalion participated in a retreat parade of the 5th Headquarter Special Troops which was reviewed by Brig. General Bledsoe, CG 5th Hq. In spite of the hot weather the 91st made a good showing for itself in its first formal parade since the return to the States.
This section is devoted to stories, many of them unmentioned in this book. It is hoped that they will serve as a refresher to your memory in years to come when you look back over those two years - 1944-1945 - which you spent with the 91st Chemical Mortar Battalion.
Memories at activation: Those terrific rain storms at little Rock KP every other day...No passes needed after duty hours...Lots of women...little wine...good bus service...a soldier's town...Sgt. Rainwater in his glory, home every night. More officers than enlisted men...Load up...On to Camp Swift...
Deep in the heart of: Company D always last to get out on pass...Coffman gets quarantined... give Wylegala an assist...Purple Heart to Sherry Smith for scars acquired from tangling with Hq. ... Ponny's broken leg...Maloney and Wagman, the Bobsey Twins...Their counterpart, Lt. Martin and Lt. Messenger...George White and the poker games ... Lefkowitz looking for his toilet articles..."I won't wear my leggins," Maloney versus Lt. Miles...Copperheads in bivouac area...Austin, Elgin, Bastrop, Taylor, Smithville...1st Sgts. with their whistles...Raft built to cross Lake Austin...Bill Gossage sets up in yellow jacket nest...Lt Morton inspects rifles with flashlight on tactical problem...Three day passes... Dallas and sixteen quarts...That rugged last night at PX 7, somebody told "Old Man" Briggs we would cut down the center rafter before leaving...Tony Giambruno marches semi-inebriated back to accompaniment of the "Billboard March" sung at the tops of our voices
The old garrison routine: KP and guard duty in the military manner...Retreat parades...Pass in review (so I can see you)...Conversations in the chow lines...Orders to be obeyed and not questioned... Hikes in the Texas sun...How to beat supply out of a pair of pants...La di da, comes autumn...Rumors and more rumors..."We'll never go overseas...Occupation duty at best...Famous "This is it" orations followed by discussion of the 28th Article of War (desertion)...Capt. Zambon's dispensary looking like corner of Main and Market...Fuerhelm carried to last formation...Miller and Wade sway under packs ("You told us to be here at five but you didn't say we had to be sober.")
Camp Hush Hush: Troop sleepers...side-tracked in Washington...Negress begins weeping already, asks some of the men to say "hello" to Jefferson Oliver Holmes if we are assigned to First Army..."You are now at a secret base"...Wives waiting in Boston... How far can you go on a fifty mile pass..."None of my men will go AWOL"...The famous Taunton gag What to do with the compass needle it captured...How to look nonchalant in Europe...Security discipline, civilians in Boston tell us we'll ship on Thursday (they were right)...Kekich spoils magician's trick by biting apple...Inspections and clothing checks... Does my gas mask leak?...Via train to Boston...Still it couldn't be...Coffee and doughnuts...We request band to play "Billboard March"...When your lost name is called, answer with your first name and middle initial...gangplank!!
Luxury liner to Europe: Au revoir...Boston drifting away...all alone for miles and miles and miles...Radar ever so watchful...Abandon ship drill..."Now hear this"...That funny feeling starts...Some guys never did get out of their sacks... Sea sick pills...Graham's USO...Ollie Lewis' you must eat policy...Poker, and reading, and poker, and sleeping, and poker, and eating, and poker...Race to the end of the counter to catch your tray in mess hall twice a day...Scraping the stairs (Oops! Ladders, Mate) Navy lingo confusing, fow'd aft, port, starb'd, bow, topside, below, bulkhead...Religious services taken very seriously...Rigid blackout...Decks so wet and cold...Troop compartments so stuffy and crowded...Everybody checking the sun for direction and speculating on our position...First sight of England...
Tea and crumpets: Liverpool looked deserted...Debarking in the fog and rain after midnight...Hike to the train station...One Englishman thought there wasn't any necessity for Uncle Sam to be sending more troops...England had just about polished off this "Hitler fellow" (His soul was damned to hell and back during the Ardennes Compaiqn)...Coffee and doughnuts again...the pretty "Limey" was from Pittsburgh...English train with cozy compartments for six Tea at numerous stations...Impressed by beautiful English countryside...Lt. Forrester adopts non-fraternizing policy applicable to English girls, breaks up the fun in train station after combing his hair...Train conductors and well-wishers eagerly sought playing cards, cigarettes and gum...what accents!...Marching through Southampton in battle gear...Everyone so friendly we wanted to stay awhile...Waterfront badly damaged...First sight of English Channel...
Gangplank again: What kept the Antenor afloat?...Dirt and filth and crowded conditions...Sleeping on floors and tables...English food-liver sausage, kippers, wormy bread...No one ate...two nights and one day...Channel rough...Forton tells off Skipper...Contrast to American navy great...Monowai no better...France in sight...English cigarettes go overboard...Transfer to LCIs with chutes, rope ladders, and gangways...Invasion craft bobbing up and down in the Channel to the tune of "Goodbye Broadway, Hello, France"...Omaha Beach...D-Day + 135...Wreckage and silent pill boxes...Over the hill stood France.
Memories of P Area: Ride in the dark...pitched tents by the numbers...Moved around cautiously, area not completely de-mined...Meals consisted of corn beef, Spam, jam, peanut butter, crackers, and coffee made hobo style...Built bridges across hedgerows...Menu improves - Split pea soup added...Reveille when it wasn't raining...Wood cutting details which threatened to ruin all the hedges in Normandy...Trips to trade or buy straw to sleep on "Avez-vous du paille?"...Those who knew a little French got along quite well...War destroyed villages...St. Floxel...Montebourg...Valognes...Passes to Cherbourg...The real estate boom in building...Huts made of jeep crates...Some of them were odd looking affairs like Brady triangular hut...Gossage and his squad built a mansion with fireplace, which smoked...Madeleine...Teresa...and Juliette of St. Floxela...Apples and cider and more cider...Hunting for butcher shops with meat to sell...Midnight requisitions for overshoes...No more trees to be cut down so we pruned them instead...Rain, Rain, and more Rain...Disillusioned by first French girls-nix chic...Cpls. Martin and Francia sing "Blue Skies" in the pouring rain with the 91st Follies...Kitchen moves into a tent...Menus had a little more variety when a kitchen stove was available...Cigarettes, there weren't any "Chocolate" for everything...The football game in Cherbourg...Christmas shopping for "parfum" (Joe sent me)...First overseas pay in Invasion currency...Policing up France...Schepis' house that Lewis built..."Spring toes" Rembert bogged down in the mud...Many cases of trench foot...First casualty...Lt. Heard stepped on German mine on French beach...Fewer court-martials...Long awaited mail from home...Sokel and Kosnoff's underground heating system lacking only an iron funnel...Showers!!!...Fusco falling into mud at least once a day...Some get to go to Paris...Return with "Horror" stories...Learn of assignment to Third Army...Everyone rehashing stories about Patton..."John come to bed"...Two men from Mars - Wright and McGee in their overall suits...
Pipe line brigade: France had the Maginot Line, Germany had the Siegfried Line, and the 91st had the Pipe Line...Guarded important pipe line to Front while awaiting equipment...Walk, walk, walk,...Plenty of chance for rifle practice...Calvados used for anti-freeze...Capt. Arch and "Colonel" Dragich take escaped German PWs...Pyramidal tents, warm stoves, quite an improvement...Stoves worked on syphon principle...Drew lots to see who would suck on the copper tube...Parachute scare and rumors of sabotage...Assemble at the Abbe de Blanchelande to unpack equipment...Labriola finds the Saint's bones...Those crowded little rooms and Duffy with the GIs...
Pontpierre bound: Jeeps boarded up to ward off cold Tate's traveling circus first originated...St. Lo in ruins...Outskirts of Paris in early morning... The Versailles Palace...Company C's 1st and 2nd platoons "accidentally" get lost in Paris...Demand for anything alcoholic to keep us warm...K rations en route...Overnight stop near Sezanne...Officers feverishly trying to round up men...Nancy (the city) looked like a nice town to go to on pass Alsace-Lorraine at last...Unique tarming community...Cattle and people lived together...French flags hung out when they were sure that we were Americans...Half French, Half German lingo...Dry runs with mortars set up in front of houses...Company D first to be committed to action...A bed time story entitled "How We Got Into Germany Ahead of the Infantry" or "I Believe I Took The Wrong Road Colonel", by Capt. Rembert Entire company exposed...No fire received...Beginner's luck...Everyone scared or a liar Liaison in Sarreguemines...First men to be fired on in C Company...Company D's first mission successful... What a relief...German counter-attack scare... Machine guns set up at tactical points, in streets... People in Pontpierre nervously took down French flags...So confused they didn't know which side that they were on...March order...XII Corps moving to Bulge...Blood freezing ride to Luxembourg...People friendly, showered us with apples and snowballs...Night closed in as we stopped along road near Luxembourg City...Air raid sirens, ack-ack, we hit the snow...Huddled under trailers filled with ammo...C Company remains in jeeps...Capt. Arch "Well, what the hell? You guys have battle experience."...Move on through Luxembourg City and attached to Infantry Divisions...Brought up to stem the tide... First positions...Boys enthusiastically dug and dug...Ground frozen and hard...D Company couldn't sleep because of machine gun banging away on hill...FDC sandbagged...First and last time...Began to look rugged...No one had shaved for days...Chow froze to the mess kits...Battalion split up...Each company takes over story.
Old Company A combat diary: Kitchen set up across from church...We were able to improve our living conditions by moving into buildings with the people. Jerries trying to widen the bulge 10th Armed in town...Pretty nice town and chance for all to get cleaned up...Christmas Eve and rumors of Jerry's approach...Set up mortars at outskirts of town... School house OP...All night vigil...Next morning prepare to move to front...Christmas day we started out to support the 4th Division...Strafed leaving Gonderange...Motor pool truck, last vehicle of convoy, hit...All killed or seriously wounded...Most miserable Christmas Day we will remember...Rest of us arrived in Lellig...On the front...Found living quarters...Hadn't eaten all day...Turkey Christmas dinner at last...No celebration; just another meal...Mourned losses...Set up mortars before town and prepared to defend the flank of the bulge...First taste of 885...CP and FDC in Lellig; most welcome cellars...Platoons did a fine job in extreme cold...Rides in for chow...Mortars manned in two shirts...Could see P-47s bombing ahead...The deer and pigs that supplemented our Qm rations...Platoons found 8,000 bottles of champagne in No Men's land...Were under Jerry...Just in time for New Years Eve...Celebration...Langiotti dressed as a woman... Quite a few of the boys feeling happy in Lellig...Welcomed mail caught up to us...R.R. gun shelling Lellig at night...Bombing of infantry battalion headquarters...ask Cpl. McFeeters...PFC. Card and Mess Sgt. Forney manned 50 cal. machine gun against enemy bombers...Platoons firing on Jerry towns and troop concentrations...Overshoes at long last... Good many missions fired...More casualties and continued cold...Move to Feulen ...Set up under complete blackout conditions for the first time Plenty of incoming mail on the road into town Had to really spit out the password to the infantry guards...With 80th Division...Rear of company in Bissen...Hot time for the commo boys...Kephart shelled while bringing food to OP; placed food gently down, then hit ground...Trouble with overturning jeeps...Roads very slick...Back to Lellig...Shorter stay this time...Move to Eppeldorf...Both platoons set up on slope in front of town Nights at the old mill...Continued cold...Foxholes in the snow...Icy slope...Preparations for the attack...Officers make midnight recon...The case of the disappearing base plate; (emplaced over 50 foot well) Ask Sgt. Finley...Terrific artillery barrage, including our mortars, softened up Jerry's positions in advance of H-hour...1st platoon moved to Bettendorf...Hot time getting into position...Set up mortars to the tune of screaming meemies Ate ham and bacon natives had hung to smoke in chimneys - once things quieted down a bit 2nd platoon moved across the Sure River and set up before Longsdorf...Very little infantry ahead...Plenty ot harassing fire thrown at Jerry during the night to disturb his sleep...50 cal. machine gun set up above mortars just in case...Continued firing...1st platoon moved across river to Moestroff and then on to high hill top past Bettendorf...Terrible road to position especially for bringing up ammo...One house for whole platoon...First look at rockets on tanks...2nd platoon at Beaufort...Own cooks...One house per squad...Town really torn up...(Chorus from C CO. "Don't we know it")...Hot card games...Cellar CP; sofa and all...Remnants of German equipment in town...Siegfried line battle...Plenty of support to infantry...Company in Gilsdorf...Modern house...The owner really threw a fit when she re- turned and saw what was left of it after battle...The coffee and doughnut girls...wine...Getting ammo to the platoons in preparation for the push into the Siegfried...That back road to Bigelbach...And the front road under enemy observation...Hair pin curves with Jerry looking down your throat...Dead cattle along all the roads and prone, stiff Jerries...Attack...Rough fighting in the Siegfried defenses... Both platoons across into Germany...Mortars belching from the Fatherland's soil...CP moves to Bigelbach...Ammeldingen Kaput...Trying to find cover in the few walls that were still standing...Pill boxes on the hill...Mines along the river's edge...Hot town...Constant Jerry shelling day and night...81s set up outside coughing all the time...Jerry duds all over. ..Back to battalion in Luxembourg for new assignments under the new TO...Took over picturesque town...Ice cream and doughnuts from Luxembourg City...Liquors deluxe...Beer and hell raising...Off to our new assignments in Germany...
Company D combat diary: The first time we were strafed in Mederanch Consdorf...Pop Larkin's four hams...Cold chow and bad coffee...K and C rations FDC in a modern house - with a concrete cellar...Crosley milking cows next door...Three incoming 88 shells interrupt Christmas dinner Darn close Fired on enemy troop concentration with WP Jerries screaming...New Years dinner...PX rations and hard candy CO taking Rainwater on a reconnaissance for new position Caverly's art of evacuating a jeep on the run, without waiting for it to stop Mines and booby trap fears Engineers staggering out of woods shell-shocked and beat up MP platoon also Moving up artillery all over the place...Tanks moving in Big guns all around us...noisy bunch Doherty fixing line and then came the shells...Firing on Berdorf...Dug supposedly permanent position...Ground frozen a good 18 inches...Dead GIs along road...a hell of a feeling 105s moved up behind us and opened up...Couple of jeeps sent forward to dig alternate positions stopped just in time as forward positions were still in enemy hands...18 day position firing on Diekirch and Gilsdorf...Eppeldorf Foxhole improvements - straw bottoms, stoves, and candles...Nice and warm on a cold snowy night...Everyone prayed not to be awakened...Comparative luxury of the FDC...Continually breaking communication lines...Dysentary epidemic which caused more discomfort than the enemy...Rumors about the water we drank and folk about sabotage...Getting used to artillery firing and getting the knack of sleeping through the noise...Firing harassing fire at night Those snacks Lt. Smith brought back from Luxembourg City...The number of chickens and pigs killed - by enemy shell fire of course...They really supplemented our daily diet...Hand grenade fishing...Shower in Fels...Bar next door...The dud that landed next to Wagman...Sleigh rides...Cleaning ammo in cold quarters...life was anything but sweet A jeep ride was the closest thing to getting into on ice box Spring could never come too soon New Years Eve...fire mission at 2345...And Champagne at Midnight...Camouflage vehicles with nets in snow...Rotation rest at Medernach Trees dynamited - ready to be blown up...Ammo hit Night - you had to keep the password at the tip of your tongue...Co. CP in Diekirch...Heinies shelling Gilsdorf...Across Sure River...Bastendorf - blast mortar positions...Slept in house...Brondenburg - castle...Standard trouble...Movies in Diekirch - nice theatre...Brewery and the large vats of wine...Pop Lerkin's "Place - cabaret in Diekirch...Dead cattle...Fruits and jellies...Tall windy hill in sight of Siegfried line...Cold as hell...Lots of Infantry casualties...Echternach...Snow melted...Slipped into town...Infiltration - dark as pitch...Hot spot...Complete blackout and danger of mines...The "obstacle" at the gun pit that turned out to be a corpse...Fourteen Jerry pill-boxes in sight across the river...Burp gun firing down center of street...Jerry shell hit six feet in front of 200 rounds of ammo-set all the propellents on fire...Found movie projector...Phonograph and Red Johnson playing "Merci Mon Ami"...Strawberry jam made with honey...Pop finds his first love - Annabelle...Constant shell and smell arms fire...Guard duty no cinch...Hot time for the Commo section...Stanwood and Kincade hit by dirt from a dud...Kunz and Carrick seeking protection from enemy shell fire crawl under truck - little did they know that the truck was loaded with 400 rounds of ammo...Smoke generator outfit covering Echternach with man-made fog...Seeing our shells hit pillboxes across the river...260 rounds from one mortar without digging out...On to Bigelbach...
D Company becomes new A Company: Cross into Germany under new set up...Through Biesdorf into Crutchten ...Patton's Armor pouring through in our wake...All the propaganda pamphlets - Jerry waging psychological warfare...We answered him with 4.2 mortar shells...Life in a captured pillbox...filthy, sickening stench, German rations and equipment lying around...blood on the floor...Fired on by snipers...Shadows in the dark...Acquiring pistols...Thaw and mud...Capsized assault boats along river's edge...Signs of a rough crossing...Mines...Move two dead Heinies away to dig gun pits...Commo section radio always playing Push through the Siegfried line...Platoons in some hot spots...Moving and more moving...The mortars keeping up close...Coffee and doughnuts and a look at girls...Moving into position at midnight - Infantry alongside...Rain, sloppy, wet...Long convoy passed Bitburg...Tons of armor...Waxweiler...Life in a barn - the shelling that jarred the hay loose over Johnny Gordon...Rest period at Bickendorf...Garrison life...Conflict with censorship regulations...Bitburg Kaput...Day after day convoy...House burned down and barn too...Fried ham and eggs...Feather mattresses Kraut dugout...Through the Moselle wine valley...Mile upon mile of vineyard land...The CP hotel in Alf...Passing out thousands of bottles of white wine to 11th Armored men...Private rooms and bath...Across the Moselle River - 1st platoon on rafts...Picturesque country...Kirn and Zell...J.P. Lewis finds six-shooter mid-stream...Following the 89th Division and the 11th Armored...Billets throughout Germany...running for the best rooms...Manure piles ever present...Tapping wine cellars as we moved forward...Loot - first come, first served...Pushing into the Saar pocket or Moselle Triangle...Picturesque German vacationland...But no tourists, only war refugees...Germans not liking the war on their own home grounds...Elling handing out wine to everyone, including the divisional brass...Franus and his trailer full of wine...And Waldron's trailer...Gin Rummy with shell fire on the horizon...Stanwood presented with beautiful shotgun...Rainwater's hand cut...Leonard's hand accidentally stops a 25...Hedaya decides to take a hot bath - and all the rest of us had to shave in cold water...Dead horses along the road...Those Nazi Supermen frozen in all positions - Not looking very super...The craters along the road that told us the Army Air Forces had been around...Those beautiful bombers rendezvousing overhead and heading for the heart of Germany...The white vapor trails looking oh so good to us on the ground...That dark night Gold and Kehoe drove to battalion for maps and that Jerry plane hit overhead...The white flags from every window - Germans trying to look like long-lost allies...Those PWs that were turned over to us and Meaney just loved covering them with his BAR...He would have loved it better if one of them would have tried to get away...Company rendezvous at Gau Odernheim and the USO show there...The King Sisters and those swell comedians and other performers...Assembly area at the Rhine...Grouped around the mess truck as Jerry planes dropped flare after flare from above...The ack-ack going up and we cheered - and prayed...Across the Rhine - so dark, so tense...With the Yankee Division into the heart of Germany...That bomb dropping and everyone running away from the Ammo truck...It missed...The tanks along the roads at night...Big, black, fearful looking - the flames shootin' out the rear into the black of night...New faces in unit...Klein Auheim...Wild goose chase into Frankfurt...Looted Gestapo headquarters...Moss found fiddle case...Stubby was a wonder getting the chow through...Back to Klein Auheim...That mission fired across the river where we were able to see our own rounds land on target...Bicycles from factory...Across the Main River...Hanau...War-torn scenes in Darmstaat...Alles Kaput...Business district converted to rock piles...Roofs on ground floors...Frankfurt too...Story told itself that Germany was being repaid...Keep moving...Situation unsettled due to fast advance...Cut off and surrounded...Champagne...Apartment house - lights and running water...Firing to East after Germans...4th Armored ahead...Jerries infiltrating behind us...Liaison work for Reese, Lewis, and Hedaya Someone rigged up bath facilities and there was a line till midnight...60 eggs for Austin...Neuhof - dead civilian on corner...fried potatoes and pink champagne...Fire missions and 81s beside us...First platoon firing into Schluchtern...Second platoon firing into Steinau...Moving forward cleaning out enemy pockets Jerries really on the run...Armor running wild...Constant moves to keep up with the advance...Supported the 71st Division for several days...Reverted back to battalion control...
Military Government: This started a new phase in our military career...Attached to 9th TD Group...Everyone had chance to clean up - helmets painted...Moved to Eisfeld to secure our Army's rear and maintain order...Patrols covered all unoccupied towns...Dick, Jimmy, Shorty, and the Arab form our own "elite counter SS"...Moved to Helmbrechts...Naila and Schwarenbach...Investigated war crimes...Jailed high official and found him hanging by the neck at dawn Major officers captured...Nabburg...Burgemeister found shot to death in field...Town doctor commits suicide for the cause...We apprehended PWs by the truckloads...Our patrol was fired upon from a barn...One mortar set up and commenced firing...Last time the mortars of the 91st were used in the ETO...Liquor in Helmbrechts...Everyone getting pretty happy Co. CP in Neunburg...Roding...May 8th - V-E Day - WE MADE IT!...Tittling...Those 800 dead and German atrocities we will never forget...Thousand upon thousands of dusty tired German soldiers file past fleeing from the Russians...May 15 - MG duties come to an end...
Postwar Tittling: Everyone happily billeted down...Evenings of leisure...Then came the training schedule...Mortar drill during the day...Hikes...Movies and showers at Passau...Nightly trips to this spot on the Danube...Beaucoup DPs...Our kitchen courtyard IMG and Commo classes at battalion "Straight-away Harry"...Egg collections...That Headquarters house on the hill...Mary's strict non-fraternization policy...The interior decorating done by the commo section...Some people most interested in "Forever Amber"...Guard duty...Good laundry service or the arbeit of the German civilians...Hot baseball games...Happy-go-lucky existence...
Co. B combat diary: Moving up from Gonderange...the first smell of burning manure piles...Herborn, a ghost town...fear of infiltrating enemy...putting chains on with frozen fingers...the clank of chains on each turn of the wheel breaking the dead silence...the first position in Ferme Fromberg...chisseling a hole in hard frozen ground...cleaning ammunition on a crossroad in blackout...the "Old Man's" speech, "We may all be killed tonight, but we have a job to do-"...7 a.m., "fire mission"...that GI bacon fried on a flattened can over an open fire...waking up under a snow-blanket...the burn of trench foot...those welcome overshoes...the first shelling...that expected crack of a 155 every five minutes...Xmas dinner "a la fire mission"...March order...Champegne...digging holes we never used...New Year's Eve, all hell broke loose...digging holes through frozen ground into an underground stream...Taking the wrong road...miserable nights and terrific shelling at Goesdorf...harassing fire on "Charlie Dog"...Hiederschied, Dahl, Nocher...The smoke screen at Tadler...no chow, jeep can't get through...Lines out...That night at Wilwerwiltz...Two men to a "sack"...relief, hurrah for the 3rd Cml....Mersch...hot chow...clean clothes...showers...sleep, wonderful sleep...Luxembourg City...Back to the front Walsdorf or "hit the dirt"...Berdorf ten rounds per minute...Schnapps Across the Sauer into Deutchland...Lansing runs over a land mine Shankweiler, the CP gets it Men from Co. A join us...The Kyll river...Bitburg...Rat race to the Rhine Moselle wine...Burg Eltz...Schwabsburg and Rhine wine...Crossing the Rhine...Counter-attack at Trebur...Strafing planes...Company B "ack-ack"...Frankfurt flak...A cellar full of spirits...XII Corps reserve...Offenbach, was that champagne good?...By-passed pocket...Angersbach, rounding up all men from 18 to 45...Fulda, German barracks...Meiningen, PW hospital...Castle at Coburg...A house with a bath...German jeeps with four wheel steering...Sachsendorf "Don't pay me no mind" Perminter...MG...Prisoners...Souvenirs...10 in one rations...DPs at Sonneberg...Falkesnstein, gaststadt...Private rooms...hot and cold running water...Servants...Clean sheets Along the blue Danube...Straubing...Schloss Oberzwieselau...V-E Day...no more blackout...Winzer...Traininga...March Order...We're going home!!!
Company C combat diary: Bivouac in snow under pines...Infantry service company there too...Doughs bitter...Losses in Luxembourg heavy..."We never saw Jerry so hepped-up in months"...Move out next day at 1800...Dig in northeast of Heffingen...FDC in barn on road junction...Planes strafe town...Kelley and Eberhart lost in woods..."Don't waste your ammo, there's only two of us"...Palo gets hic-cups at OP the first day out...Meemies hit OP... Chuck Graham didn't have to be told...Col. Birdsong of the 5th Division inspiring leader...Christmas dinner, turkey with trimmings - but nobody was very hungry...P.J. Hennessey comes down with the chills...Trench foot and frost bite begins taking toll...Haller Doughboys spoil Jerrys' Christmas dinner...Waldbillig...See our own damage for the first time...WP sickening...On to Beauforta...Ammo dump under church steeple...Hagan's gasoline dump hit...Spies caught in rear directing fire on Waldbillig...Motor pool and kitchen personnel have hectic time...Lenyk and Giambruno deliver calf to proud mamma cow...The meemies that almost enlarged Lt. Forrester's foxhole...Jack Fredericks' bed roll ventilated by shrapnel...Search for deep cellars becomes intensive...Set watches by "Bed-Check Charley"...Lt. Neill lays barrage on Jerry chow line...Russell, "Get in your foxholes. They're scrapin' "...Jerries snipe at latrine...The impossible, the first platoon puts eight out of nine through hole in the roof of building being used by Krauts..."Dreamer" Commo boys splicing lines 21 hours a day...Lindberg puts one through the door...Moose Yarnell gave Francia a sore ear...How that boy could scream into a phone...Dixie Howell's pet pig..."Do you have a fire up there, Captain? ...Yarnell first to let Captain know his place had caught fire...John Emporium...The stamp collection...The Jerry river crossing...We never got on a target so fast...Doughboys direct fire for night missions "I could listen to your music all night"...The famous Tate and Catfish conversation...Lt. Mortimer trips booby trap on recon...Meemies active...28 rings if necessary, but get them...Move to "Purple Heart" draw..."Have one of the boys cut me some logs...Misfires galore...Combat patrol on the loose..."Get your carbines and get in your holes"...First mortars to arrive on line with 60 mm...Goodson spots Heinie hiding place outside of Diekich...Bobbing helmets plastered by every observer at the same time..."First tanks are crossing now with Captain Horton's jeep in support"...Halcomb, Keady and Ettline have tough time keeping commo line in...Displace three times in one night...Heinie comes out of woods and startles Goodson...He didn't even have a cap pistol with him...Louie commands Kraut to surrender and he did!...Another Kraut taps Steffen on shoulder while the "Old Goat" is digging in...He was unarmed and docile so Steff motioned him to the rear...He was seen walking around with his hands still over his head about two miles away more than an hour later...Willis Wade with his ammo counts..."We are being attacked by Elite American Ski troops" the Germans tell the citizens in Hoscheid...Lt. Neil makes one man invasion of German territory...Anti tank truck hits mines piled beside rood Now you see it; now you don't...We register by jeep courier...Hoscheid hard nut to crack...Second platoon helps infantry evacuate wounded...Karpovich and Giambruno keep two guns firing through confusion of accurate counter-fire...First billets for weather-worn gun crews...Began emplacing mortars in door-ways and gardens...Lts. Slesinki and Ingersol join the brotherhood...Weiler...Road into town under observation...Those jeeps came slipping around that corner like it was the Indianapolis race track...Relieved by B Com- pany...Hated to leave the 5th Division... Mersch for a three day rest...Showers, haircuts, shampoos, and passes to Luxembourg City...Ice creom that tasted like Father John's Cough Syrup...Everybody trying to figure out how to rate a reor echelon job...Long line of OD clad GIs in front of the Black Cat...Fredericks, Rogers, Honeycutt, Francia, Forton and Howard are billeted at "Helen's"...She entertained Gen. Pershing in World War I...Reservation for Marlene Dietrich...Back on the line..."This is the beginning of the end"..."If victory at Siegfried is decisive, the crossing of the Rhine will be routine"..."Secret weapons" to be used...Doughboys bitter..."Since when have we adopted the Goebbels line" was typical reaction...The 60 barreled rocket tank...No fiction, it was fact...Passes to Paris for everybody once the Siegfried was cracked (Oh yeah!)...Doughs sleep on rafters in FDC before jumping off...Joke about their debt to society...Everybody felt bad when we heard that the first wave was cut to ribbons...Wasn't funny anymore...Letson left on guard across the Sauer...Volunteers to fire a mission alone (Such conceit)...Patton checks up...A general directs traffic at approaches to bridge...Merkle goes after chow on motorcycle...He never drove one before...Battered Ernzen, war town de-luxe...Air Corps has field day while we watch and cheer...Where were the 70,000,000 Germans...The 76th takes over...The doughs fresh and spirited...Plenty hot for a green outfit...Trier falls...Up 4th Armored corridor to cross the Moselle...Eberhart and McCabe cross with doughs armed with two bottles of white wine...Ebie "Lost" cries McCabe over the radio (He stopped to relieve himself)...Morgan prepares banquet...Morehausen and Pfaffenheck...Some SS were foolish but game...Sparkling burgundy prima...On to Boppard...Second platoon first to fire across Rhine...Kinder and Morton run gauntlet of sniper fire on road parallel to river...Dead end street!...The Krauts got another chance for free...Clear Saar-Moselle triangle...Ginsberg has a talk with the general...Living getting easier...McCabe and Lt. Mortimer capture "general" at Mainz...He was a fire chief (How those Heinies love a uniform)...Private suites for each squad in apartment house at Mainz...Gilbert finds a studio and plays piano concert...Surprise call for push across Rhine...Assembly area...The whole Third Army there...C Company gets high priority to cross before the infantry we were to support...Luftwaffe reappears...Flares...Long range artillery terrifying...Kramer takes, cover under blanket...Flyweight Francia hits foxhole and 2 ton Karpovich piles in on top of him...On to Leeheim and night's "rest"...Doughboys protecting town are hard pressed...Barrage begins...Explosions reduce houses as we scamper away from center of town...Doughs repulse Jerries with assistance from B Company...Doughboy comes into town to pick up ammo...Gets chased around by artillery fire and decides he'll go back to his rifle company..."It's safer there"...Doughboys fire on 4th squad of 2nd platoon thinking they're Jerry paratroopers...Resistance collapses...Form into motorized combat teams to give chase...Everybody rides and doughboys loved it...Ks and 10-in-1 were the only rations available...Liberated prisoners jam main roads...They are K biscuits with such relish we had to try them again to see if something new had been added...Levine acknowledged cheers and glows with pride as the "U.S. Armies roll on"...He got so excited he rolled his jeep into that of a spit and polish intelligence officer..."Habenzie vine und eyer" become the by-words...Nix mere "couchez-avec"...Lt. McCluskey and Sgt. Farrell get into town too soon and hide in a cellar as retreating Germans parade by..."Take ten" in barnyard and two krauts are found sleeping in loft..."Where's the front"...Wherever you find a German with fight in him..."This Joe looks like he's prospered under Nazism, let's teach him his first lesson in democracy...Only the best homes for billets...The beset-upon, "low" Germans were wide-eyed...Nicht Nazi...Hitler kaput...Amerikanishers prima...Haben alles...Hook Calamonica chases geese...Jablonowski assists engineers by driving over roads that have not been checked for mines...German factories running until day befor we arrive..."Your combat days in the ETO are over"...It's only a matter of time now...
MG: Revert to battalion control...MG-SS we told frightened Germans..."You are the absolute authority and Morgan knew how to wield it...Russian DP has Al Milanovich shoot lock off door under pretense that Jerries were hiding inside...When Milanovich opened door the Russian grabbed a huge ham and ran off...Al shoots up a hay loft but Jerry comes out in tact...Freak of war...Russians couldn't understand why they were not allowed to rob Germans..."We are Allies, aren't we?" Germans couldn't understand why they had to feed Russians if they couldn't make them work...Dragich chases four "Russians" who were molesting people...They were Germans...Pole reports that 2,000 SS are hiding in woods with cache of arms...Lt. Lamb takes out 21 men to investigate...Caught one scared former who admitted feeding two German soldiers and had buried one rusty .32 cal. pistol...Reports from DPs not always accurate...Girl breaks curfew...She is an American citizen...Her Daddy a Third Army doughboy of World War I...The volunteer fire department in Wiessenstadt fights blaze...A study of the German mentality in an emergency...Engineers get ambushed and the Colonel gets sore..."Never knew Americans could be so hard" said Germans...No trouble after that...Lt. McCluskey come to Lt. Neill's birthday party dressed in pinks...Deer hunting to supplement K rations...Used machine guns and tracer ammo...Fishing with hand grenades...Ditmars and his boys surpirsed by Jerries straggling through woods...Roding...The prisoner enclosure at Cham...German civilians saw thousonds being herded in and wept...Liberated British over-joyed at prospect of being frown home by ATC... Asked "Who is this chap Eisenhower"...Had been prisoners since Dunkerque and early African campaigns...Liberated prisoners describe American daylight air raids You couldn't see the sun for the planes overhead...Passau, where the living was easy...Rumors galore...Non-fraternizing made difficult by frustrated frauleins...Swimming in irrigation canal...Second platoon's yacht on the Danube...Scenery beautiful...McCabe goes to Riviera and returns with red wig for Morgan...German refugees begin to jam roads...No class consciousness here...Rich and poor alike take to road to escape Russians in Upper Silesia...Sight of Jerry tanks and half-tracks roaming about causes trigger-happy GIs a little unrest...Trips to Berchesgaten and Czechoslovakia...Rufrano photographs "natural beauty" bathing in stream...The Hungarian Navy arrives to clear Danube with transits and measuring tapes...More rumors...The "phony" broadcast engineered by Sarre...Movies in Passau "All men from 91G report back immediately"...Happy trip in rain...This was it...USA bound...Carbough reappears with whistle (the inevitable)...
Annabelle: In the CBI they had snakes and monkeys, in Australia kangaroos and duckbills, in Germany Company A had Annabelle. Pop Larkin found her in shell torn Echternach, the only living creature in a ghost town. A chicken! Why, no one knows, but somehow Annabelle missed the axe.
It didn't take long for Annabelle to become the mascot of D company and later A Company. Pop was her official guardian, feeding and caring for her. Annabelle reciprocated with eggs. Her home was a wicker basket in Pop's jeep. She left her native Luxembourg with the outfit and followed in the Third Army's footsteps across Germany and up to the Austrian border. Her only short separation from Pop was when he went on furlough to the Riviera. Annabelle remained with the outfit under the care of Sgt. Feuerhelm.
When the war ended, and it was known that we were headed home, Annabelle's naturalization papers became the topic for discussion. Pop claimed her democratic ideals and it was decided that Annabelle deserved a home in the USA. But would the customs officials agree?
A Company` started its long trip to the port of Le Havre in the middle of June and Annabelle had her home in Lasagna's truck; At Camp Lucky Strike she roamed around at will and seemed to be sweating out that trip home as much as any of us.
At last the fateful day arrived. Annabelle changed hands many times in order to avoid detection by the officials. As the boat sailed, the question was asked, "Where is Annabelle?" Pop alone has the answer. "We are shipping her TAT!"
The 91st arrived in New York harbor at last. Annabelle disembarked incognito, anxious to see her new country. And so Pop and Annabelle returned together to Pennsylvania. Pop's promise to her has come true. "You will retire for life when we get home Annabelle, and you can have anything your heart desires."
A strange factor to come out in Annabelle's life in the States is her own Non-Fraternization policy. She will have nothing whatsoever to do with American fowl. However Pop entered her in the Animal War Relief Pet Show in Pittsburgh and Annabelle, the veteran of three Battles in the ETO, won first prize.
This is a roll call of the men of the 91st who distinguished themselves in action in such a manner that they were awarded the right to wear either the Silver Star or the Bronze Star for Heroism. Their names on this page reflect honor upon themselves as well as our battalion.
Capt. Leo. U. Zambon (Medic)
T/Sgt. Paul O. Herpin (Medic)
Sgt. Clarence Beckner
Cpl. John J. Grady
Cpl. Elmer W. Karpovitch
Cpl. Thomas J. Langan
Cpl. Russel J. Lansing
Cpl. Glen T. Watkins
Tec 5 Anthony V. Giambruno
Tec 5 Kenneth D. Hess
Tec 5 Roy F. Schroeder (Medic)
PFC. Philip L. Bryant
PFC. Ray A. Lambert
PFC. Morton K. Lange (Medic)
PFC. James W. Travis (Medic)
PFC. Joe C. Franklin
1st Lt. Herman Hinden
1st Lt. John F. Smith
Tec 5 Angelo Palo
PFC. Leon Levine
1st Lt. William S. Clark
1st Lt. William T. Free
1st Lt. Louie A. Goodson
Tec 4 Jessie T. Wiggins (Medic)
PFC. Edward J. McKeever
PFC. Benjamin F. Hoyt
1st Lt .William S. Clark
1st Lt. Julian F. Lockerman
1st Lt. Bert H. Peterson
1st Lt. Henry B. Szygulski
S/Sgt. Joseph Rodolico
Sgt. Arthur O. Spaulding
Cpl. Russell J. Lansing
Tec 5 Frank W. Welsh
1st Lt. Jack H. Pacey
1st Lt. William W. Forrester
1st Lt. Louie A. Goodson
1st Lt. Robert J. McCluskey
1st Lt. James B. Owings
1st Lt. Ralph W. Sheets
1st Lt. Henry B. Szygulski (OLC)
S/Sgt. Charles S. Morgan
Sgt. Bishop C. Letson
Sgt. James R. McCabe
Sgt. Paul W. Steffen
Sgt. Arnold L. Vance
Cpl. Wiliam L. Maloney
PFC. Walter G. Dell
PFC. Donald R. Lofstrom
Sgt. Leonard W. Lansky
Sgt. Basil C. Hoehn
Tec 4 John F. Ettline
Tec 5 Joseph H. Bunn (Medic)
Tec 5 Arthur N. Lindberg
PFC. Alonzo G. Clifford
PFC. Richard A. Meade
PFC. Bengt S. Odman
Combat statistics190800 December 1944 to 192400 May 1945
1. Cumulative positions occupied during combat operations, all companies: 341
2. Number of missions fired: 780
3. Ammunition expended:
Co WP HE FS Total A 11516 9123 200 20839 B 14472 7401 1132 23006 C 8137 16804 0 24941 Total 34126 33328 1332 68786
4. PWs taken to date: 2326
5. Decorations and awards:
Bn. Commendations: 3 Purple Heart: 54 (16 posthumous) Oak Leaf Cluster to Purple Heart: 2 Silver Star: 26 Bronze Star (For Heroism): 30 (2 posthumous) Bronze Star (For Achievement): 60 (3 posthumous)
On August 14, 1945, the day that many of the men were due to report back to their reception stations after spending a 30 day recuperation leave at home, the momentous announcement of Japan's surrender was flashed over the radio.
Upon re-assembling at Camp Swift, only a short distance from our old training grounds, we began a streamlined, redeployment schedule, the plans for which had been formulated long before. The men knew that there must necessarily be a log between the formation of policy and the receipt of orders. Everyone suspected that the unit would eventually be notified of a change in plans. On Sept. 17, the orders arrived. The alert for oversees movement was officially lifted.
Since then, there have been many other orders issued, some transferring men to the Fourth Army's 5th Headquarters for separation and others transferring men for limited assignments in different commands within the limits of the continental United States. Before long, the majority of the men who first arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas and Camp Swift, Texas will be returning to civilian life. There isn't a great deal more to note here, except perhaps-
We hear that the 91st might be made an active part of the peacetime regular Army. If it does, we would like to say to those who will someday serve in this battalion that in joining this unit they inherit a legacy of fraternity and good-fellowship, the rival of any in any unit in any Army. The evolution of this tradition we immodestly consider our greatest single accomplishment - to think that it should have been born to city sharpsters and farmers, Northerners and Southerners. Hill-billies and jazz fans, college students and products of the little red school house at a time when intolerance, hatred, and prejudice plunged the entire world into a war the likes of which had never taken place before on the face of the earth. We hope that this spirit will live on in the battalion, in peace as well as in war, as it lived in the 91st Chemical Mortar Bn in the years 1944-45.
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