XIX CORPS NEWSPAPERS & PUBLICATIONS

 
 
 

ELBE OPERATION

 

This manuscript was prepared by Lt. Houcek assigned to the Historical Division of the European Theater of Operations at the conclusion of World War II. It was subsequently deposited at the Office of the Chief of Military History (OCMH) for reference use by historians preparing the official history of the Army. It is typical of the kinds of detailed tactical studies routinely carried out by the combat historians during World War II. The original is on file in the Historical Manuscripts Collection (HMC) under file number 8-3.1 AM.

 

"Elbe Operation"
 with 
2d Armored Division
83d Infantry Division

 

A clear picture of a tactical situation cannot be produced without first reviewing the events leading to it. Such a review permits one to come abreast more rapidly and understand more thoroughly why tactical plans were made and executed.

With this in mind, let us summarize developments of the two days prior to the time elements of the 2d Armored Division crossed the Elbe River. By this means, the general situation, of not only XIX Corps but subordinate units as well, will become clear.

 
 

INTRODUCTION

 

XIX Corps received orders on 10 April to continue the attack to the east from the "no advance" line, which was in the vicinity of Hildesheim. The actual reason for this line being established is not known, although it was thought that the rapid advance had carried our forces into Russian territory. Major General Raymond S. McLain, XIX Corps Commander, was quoted as saying, "I do not know why General Simpson established that line, but I presume it was because of political reasons among the allies in Europe."

To this point, XIX Corps had been attacking on a semi-narrow frontage and had had the 2d Armored Division in the left sector, followed by the 30th Division; while the 83d Division remained abreast of the 2d Armored's right flank. However, with the widening of the corps zone, switching the 30th Division from the rear to the left flank of the 2d Armored was made necessary. At the same time, the 113th Cavalry Squadron was attached to the 83d Division and the 125th Cavalry Squadron to the 30th Division for the purpose of screening the advances of the respective divisions. With this arrangement, XIX Corps advanced toward the Elbe River. According to Corps Letter of Instructions #142, the 2d Armored was to seize a bridgehead across the Elbe and were then to assist the passage of the 30th and 83d Divisions through it. That that plan would not even begin to materialize will be seen later.

The 2d Armored Division made an 18 mile advance against the best coordinated effort exhibited by the Germans since the defense of the Teutorburger Wald. Combat Command A met considerable direct fire from dual-purpose 88mm guns and small arms fire in the factory area around Immendorf. CC B fighting a series of road block battles had by 1400, its forward elements within 6,000 yards of Hornburg.

The enemy was forced to abandon the Herman Goering Works at Immendorf and the entire heavily built-up factory area southwest of Braunschweig. More than 60 88mm guns were destroyed as were Railroad guns and artillery of all calibers. Elements of CCA were forced to remain in the area after the enemy's evacuation on 11 April to prevent rioting, looting and traffic obstacles by the thousands of former forced laborers and freed Allied prisoners.

Miscellaneous units bore the entire weight of the advance. One significant fact emerging from this polyglot collection was the predominance of unite whose home stations ware in Wehrkreis VI, in which this fighting was taking place. This was the first instance when sizeable tactical units failed to appear from distant parts to help defend at successive points. Each locality was thus forced to rely on troops originally a part of that area, whether Volksturm, Service and Supply troops, or AA units.

The trucks, formerly utilized to motorize the 83d Division, had been returned to supply dumps, the day proceeding the issuance of this order, to replenish a now well depleted stock. The advance order came when trucks were not available, thus any and all transportation was gathered together.

Ahead lay the Harz Mountain area, which was known to be extremely rugged country. Not only was the natural growth and contours of the country an obstacle, but snow further made fighting conditions rough. The only effective enemy units were encountered in the northern approach to the Harz area south of Goslar, where our forces had to contend with elements of the 116th Panzer Division and 3d Panzer Grenadier Division that had managed to extricate themselves from the Ruhr Pocket. In addition, a newly formed division, the Potsdam, and a scratch division of Wehrkreis II, C. T. Greibig, made up the enemy forces.

As the 329th Regimental Combat Team, in the left half of the division sector and the 330th RCT in the right half, followed by the 331st RCT, surged ahead, resistance stiffened slightly along the edge of the woods northeast and southeast of Seesen, immediately in front of the 330th Combat Team. However, the 329th Combat Team continued driving around the northern edge of this area with very little difficulty and as the drive progressed, the 331st RCT was ordered to follow later swinging slightly south to take over the right half of the division sector. This was shortly done and both Combat Teams emerged on the slightly rolling but open country leading to their objective, the Elbe River. The 330th Combat Team was left with the responsibility of not only containing but eliminating the enemy in the northern Harz area.

 

On 11 April the 2d Armored made the longest advance in one day that has probably been made in the European Theater. Elements of Combat Command B, having captured crossings of the Oker River intact, advance to the east in two columns meeting moderate resistance. The north column reached the outskirts of southern Magdeburg while the southern CLM raced approximately 67 miles and entered the town of Schonebeck that evening. Street fighting continued throughout the night, the river being reached the next morning although the bridge was blown at 12 0830 April. The 83d Division, still on the right flank of the 2d Armored Division, advanced almost as rapidly, clearing Halberstadt and Wegeleben against light resistance. On the other hand, the 30th Division was meeting stiffening resistance on the outskirts of Braunschweig.

 

12 April was a day of not only high hopes but hard fighting for all unite concerned. Enemy infantry offered determined resistance to CC A from roads east of Helmstedt, which had to be cleared before the advance could continue. Heavy artillery fire was also received in large quantities from the towns lying to the northwest of Magdeburg. Elements of CC B received dual-purpose 88mm fire from the Wolfsfeld area where thirty planes were destroyed. Three of the latter were actually in the air when engaged by tanks of Combat Command B. Later that evening arrangements were made for the crossing of the Elbe River in the vicinity of Westerhusen.

The men of the 83d Division, feeling the effects of the break-through, were eager to continue, although practically at the point of exhaustion. On this hectic date, elements of this unit literally flew approximately 35 miles to reach the Elbe River, in the vicinity of Barby, using, as was noted, any and all types of transportation.

The instructions to the 3d Battalion, 329th Infantry were to move straight through to the Elbe River as fast as possible, without bothering to clean out the sector thoroughly. The 1st Battalion was to follow along behind to attend to the cleaning up operation. The mission given to the 3d Battalion was to seize the railroad bridge at Barby and cross the river if possible. However, after having had only light resistance all the day, the 3d Battalion ran into a tough defensive line at the outskirt of Barby in the middle of the afternoon, and by nightfall it had only been able to gain a foothhold on the outskirts of the town.

From the no advance line resistance was negligible. The disposal of prisoners was the main problem for the units, and all sorts of improvised transportation had to be devised to transport them to the PW cages.

It wasn't until 13 April that the 30th Division came up on line along the Elbe. It must be remembered that on 11 April the 30th encountered the heavy outer defenses of Braunschweig and it was not until the next day after attacking the city on two sides that it capitulated. During the late afternoon of 12 April the division drove approximately 50 kilometers and seized a crossing over the Weser-Elbe Canal in the vicinity of Calvorde. Then on 13 April it pulled up to the Elbe on the north of the 2d Armored Division.

 

WESTERHUSEN CROSSING
12 - 13 April

 

Shortly after noon, 12 April, Task Forces of CCB were reorganized by verbal Order of the Commanding Officer, CCB. Companies B and G, 41st Armored Infantry, were released from the 1st and 2d Battalions, 67th Armored Regt, respectively, to form the 1st and 2d Battalions, 41st Armored Infantry complete. At the same time the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry Regiment (30th Infantry Division) was also attached to CCB by Verbal Order of the Commanding General, 2d Armored Division.

Thus with all units in readiness, the attack to secure a bridgehead over the Elbe River in the vicinity of Randau, was in accordance with Letter of Instructions #35, Headquarters, Combat Command B, 121630 April 45.

The overall priority for a location of a bridge across the

Elbe River was:

It had to be in the division sector, and

The object was to get a bridge across as rapidly as possible.

Combat Command B being the first at the river, it was decided to establish the bridgehead in their sector. Having come up to the river between Magdeburg and Schonebeck, the bridgehead had to be somewhere in that vicinity.

The most probable sites were considered from earlier photographs and engineer intelligence reports received. One being an old wagon site at Westerhusen (D705926), the other, a barge loading site, north of Schonebeck (D731893). Westerhusen was able to be reconnoitered because that town had already been cleared to the water's edge, whereas, the barge loading site, was unable to be reconnoitered because fighting was still going on. A third bridge site was considered to the south of the blown bridge leading from Schonebeck to Grunewalde (D753880), although due to the lack of sufficient troops to clear out the town, the time element, and to save casualties among our troops, the Westerhusen site was picked.

A tentative plan had been to cross the 1st Battalion somewhere above Schonebeck and try to seize the Schonebeck Bridge from the east side of the river, if it was still intact. Further preparations for this plan were discontinued because of reasons already enumerated.

It was planned to prefabricate the pontoon floats and saddles back in a rear assembly area in the eastern edge of Gr Ottersleben, carrying the floats and saddles down to the river in dump trucks.

The purpose of prefabricating the bridge was to keep at a minimum the number of persons actually working at the site itself.

Lt Col John W. Finnel, Commending Officer, 1st Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry, as Task Force Commander, on the night of 11 April, had taken Langenweddingen with about a platoon of tanks and two platoons of infantry while the remainder of his battalion remained as far back as 30 miles to the north and west on road block missions. Having stayed there the remainder of the night, he received orders the morning of 12 April to move to Gr Ottersleben and relieve elements of the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, permitting then to contend their attack to secure Westerhusen. Shortly thereafter, the relief was accomplished, and he was informed by Combat Command B to remain there in reserve. Between noon and 1500, Col Finnel received additional instructions concerning the remainder of his battalion, which was to be assembled in Gr Ottersleben as quickly as possible. It was at the same time learned that there was a very good possibility of the 1st Battalion making the initial crossing of the Elbe River.

There being an ack ack battery in the vicinity of Dodendorf, Col Finnel was given a reconnaissance platoon and a platoon of tanks with the mission of not only cleaning out said battery but also the towns in that general area. Instructions stated that he was not to use his infantry because of the possibility of their making the assault of the river. Around 1630, just as Suldorf had been secured, a radio call directed the Colonel to CCB Command Post in Gr Ottersleben. Here he received instructions that his battalion would definitely make the river crossing in the vicinity of Westerhusen, using, assault boats and DUKWs. He also learned that the 3d Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, which was in the process of being relieved, would follow his force across.

The tentative time set for the crossing was 1830; although by the time Col Finnel arrived at his CP it was then 1730. At this same time, the largest group of his battalion, which had made up the greater percentage of all the road blocks, was entering town. Knowing there was not tine enough necessary to permit the issuing of orders, reconnoitering, and the checking of details, he called Combat Command B and informed them he could not be ready to jump off on H-hour.

Major Hastings, 1st Bn Executive Officer, having surmised the situation, had called all the company commanders together and had them present as the Colonel arrived. They were all hurriedly briefed and instructed to brief their men, so that each might get whatever equipment needed. Having given his subordinate commanders all the information he had, the Colonel turned the battalion over to his Exec and was about to leave to make a personal reconnaissance when he received a call from CCB informing him that H-hour had been set forward to 1900. During the conversation, the Colonel requested two Forward Observers and a Liaison Officer from Combat Command B. Completing the call, the Colonel went forward with his Reconnaissance Officer to see where the detrucking point was, where the crossing was to be made, and to have a look at the ground on the other side.

Having made his reconnaissance, Col Finnel's plan was to cross with two companies abreast in assault boats. The first wave would be made up of two platoons from each company abreast, while the 2d wave would consist of the reserve platoon of each company carried in DUKW's. The minutes were steadily ticking by all this time, and it again became obvious that H-hour could not be met. The Colonel attempted, fruitlessly, to contact Combat Command B Command Post and again have the time changed; but his radio being out made it impossible.

"We didn't jump at 1900 although our artillery fired the planned concentration on schedule. This was okay for they had been firing all night anyway. Brig General Sidney R. Hinds, CCB Commander, came to the bridgehead site at this time and my troops were just beginning to arrive. He was pretty hot because I couldn't get word to him that I wasn't jumping off, although I wasn't perturbed about it because I had no way of letting him know that I couldn't jump off."

The company commanders, preceeding their troops to the river, were given last minute instructions on the banks of the river by the Battalion Commander. Company C was ordered to keep the river on their left after they had crossed and to push through and establish a line (D705931 - 708932), keeping closed on the river. Company A was instructed to do the same thing on the right in the right sector moving out in an arc and pivoting on the river. A gap was known to develop in the center, if the compares kept their flanks on the river, and it was intended that the reserve company would be used to fill that gap.

The assault companies crossed at approximately 2130, being ferried by the engineers in nine men lots. There was at no time, throughout this operation, any small arms or any other type fire received.

Tank Destroyers and tanks had been placed next to the buildings along the west bank of the river to cover the crossing, however they remained silent throughout the night.

Both A and C Companies, shortly after arriving on the far shore, radioed Battalion and reported they were going along well with no resistance. As they continued cautiously ahead, the expected gap began to materialize. Company B was committed as previously planned, moving up, contacted Company C's right flank and then swung to the right tying in with Company A's left flank, as the battalion began to feel out the ground in front of them. The men had been told not to shoot promiscuously for it was desired to get out as far as possible before becoming engaged.

Having established a small bridgehead running in an arc from (D705931 - 717927 - 710919), with a MG platoon disposed in depth at (D711931), covering a water gap between Companies B and C, Col Finnel reported to Combat Command B by radio that his men were completely across. CCB immediately started crossing the 3d Battalion, 41st Armored Infancy, in DUKW's around 2230. Moving fairly rapidly, the 3d Battalion relived Company A, 41st AIR, which was then on the right flank, and started pushing out. Company A was then assembled in the rear of the 1st Battalion to be held in reserve; however, when Col Finnel received word that the 3d Battalion 119th Infantry Regiment was in the process of crossing Company A was again committed to the right flank of Company B filling the gap between the right of Company B and the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR. A Company, maintaining contact with the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, moved slightly forward as did the right flank of Company B and built up along the levee (D720922), which was in itself a tank obstacle, large enough to take a tank dozer at least two hours in which to break a gap sufficient to allow tanks through. Up to and including this time, resistance was non-existent.

The 3d Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry, under the command of Lt Col Arthur J. Anderson, had been in the process of cleaning up Schonebeck on the evening of 12 April, when orders were received to move to Westerhusen. Upon arrival they received instructions to cross the river and secure the right flank of the bridgehead. Elements of the 3d Battalion started across the river in DUKWS at approximately 2230, completing the relief of A Company, 41st AIR early the next morning.

H Company had been outposting Westerhusen to the north and west all this time, receiving orders about midnight to assemble in town and be prepared to cross the river. Approximately 0100, 13 April, the company was loaded on trucks and taken to the river' s edge where it was immediately ferried across by DUKWs, completing the move by 0300 without receiving any enemy artillery. Lt Fitzhugh stated, "There was a little confusion, for we didn't know exactly what we were supposed to do, so we stayed in an assembly area for approximately an hour." During this lull Capt Pearcy, Commanding officer of Company H, and Lt Fitzhugh moved southwest to reconnoiter the forward area to find out where Company H was to tie in with Company G. During the reconnaissance, it was found that Company I had a very narrow front and was tied in with G Company. As it was impossible for Company G to move, their being tied in with the 1st Battalion, H Company was brought forward, passing through Company I, to the levee where it contacted G Company's right flank and extended itself, right toward the river. While the men were digging in a few rounds of artillery were received but no damage was done.

The engineers having ferried the better part of two battalions across the river by 2300, began construction of the proposed bridge. Companies D and E, 17th Armored Engineer Battalion, had been selected for this job. Being terribly dark, the engineers had difficulty seeing even with the aid of two search lights beamed over the site to give artificial moon light. This failed to enlighten the situation for there were no clouds in the sky to reflect the light, the light, the beams simply dissipated in the sky. Even though being hindered by lack of light, work progressed rather rapidly from then until daylight without any unusual incidents, other than a few rounds of harassing artillery fire.

The 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry, having been attached and acting as rear guard for Combat Command Reserve, was detached and attached to CCB the night of 12 April. At 2200, the battalion was ordered to Westerhusen arriving there at 0400, 13 April. Lt Col Carlton E. Stewart said, "We had absolutely no idea what our mission was to be. I received the shortest order I have ever received in my life. It was simple, 'Cross the river and be in reserve in the little patch of woods, just across on the other side of the river'. I had no communication with the parent outfit, no armor, and no clear idea of what was required of me."

The Division being in the process of building a bridge across the river, Col Stewart was assured armor as soon as the bridge was completed. The battalion started crossing in DUKWs almost immediately upon arrival, reaching the woods (708928) at daybreak. As the men started digging in, a personal reconnaissance disclosed the fact that the front lines were only a few hundred yards to the front and the battalion was as much exposed as the front lines. The woods being heavily shelled all that day, everyone continued with improvements on his position.

At 0200, 13 April, 1st Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment sent a patrol to determine whether the bridge across the Alte-Elbe River at (D724943) was intact. The patrol reached (D714943) where it surprised and captured an enemy outpost of six Germans, arriving back at the battalion command post a short time later. Col Finnel immediately sent the patrol back to get the desired information, however, they returned about 11 hours after daylight reporting they had gotten into a little scrap at (D714943) and were not able to get through.

With the light of day edging over the horizon, 0530, the engineers put smoke pots on both sides of the river, above and below the bridge site to screen the operations from enemy observation. Having experienced intermittent artillery fire throughout the night, the incoming artillery became more active as the day grew lighter. A heavy concentration of indirect and direct fire was received around 0600 from the high ground directly opposite the bridge site, destroying five floats on the bridge. Considerable fire was also received from the area on the east bank of Magdeburg, destroying a number of floats already constructed on the bank, awaiting to be ferried to the bridge. It was thus necessary to suspend operations temporarily, about an hour, due to the intensity of fire coming in.

During this same period, our artillery fired countless counter-battery missions with meager results; for after the work again began, enemy artillery was still falling, although not quite as heavily.

Lt Col Louis W. Correll, Division Engineer, said, "The smoke wasn't too effective because the enemy had observation from different directions. The smoke, although, wasn't too dense, it may have blocked out observation from some spots but I'm certain there were many other points of vantage that could be used for the same purpose."

At 0930, verbal orders were issued the 1st Battalion, to attack and secure object #2, road stream crossing (D723943). At the same time, the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR was given verbal orders to attack and secure object #3, town of Randau (D735924).

Col Finnel's plan was to attack with C Company moving straight up the axis of the road (D706936), going, north then east to Perchau.

Company A was to move east across the levee swinging north through the woods (D725940). Company B (-), the reserve company, was to be prepared to move in support of either company on order. Company C moved out at approximately 1100, meeting meager resistance as they pushed forward until crossing the levee at (D709939). Advancing a very short distance, heavy fire was received forcing them to drop back and build up a line behind the levee. Being unable to locate the well dug-in German machine guns and riflemen or gain fire supiority, the well coordinated fires held C Company at bay, in their newly gained positions.

A Company, with two platoons of B Company, attacked east and then north through the woods as previously planned, without firing a shot. As they approached the vicinity of objective #2, a five minute fire fight ensued. The bridge (D723943) was gained intact as were 30 PWs. Six Germans had been killed while A Company suffered two casualties. An artillery concentration was immediately called for to be placed in the area around Pechau, as one platoon of Company A crossed the river and established a small bridgehead.

One of B Company's platoons reinforced Company A at the bridge site (D726942), while the other platoon had swung west to hit the enemy troops, firing at C Company, from the rear. The Germans, after suffering heavy casualties, pulled out very rapidly.

Shortly after the platoon of A Company established their bridgehead on the far banks of the Alte-Elbe, approximately 40 Germans were noticed advancing down the main road (D725946) from Pechau, toward the newly won bridgehead. These Germans were undoubtedly a part of the garrison of Pechau (D728952), and were evidently moving down to reinforce their 30 comrades who had already been captured. The leading platoon of Company A, not only attempted but accomplished an ambush, holding their fire until the approaching Jerries were practically upon their position, at which time every available weapon opened up for a matter of seconds. A few of the Germans were killed while the remainder immediately gave up with out a single loss to A Company's lone platoon.

Prior to the attack on Randau, the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, sent two 15 men patrols from both G and H Companies to determine the opposition in town, if any. Radio contact was maintained constantly. The patrols maintained a steady advance and when reporting their position in town also stated that as yet they had received no opposition and the town seemed to be clear of Jerries.

During the period these patrols were working their way to Randoau, Col Anderson was formulating his plan of attack. He said, "Being flat and open country, I thought the only way to get Randau was by infiltration; thus I decided to push Company I from a reserve position, to secure the town, holding my other two companies in position along the levee. After I Company reached its objectives the other too companies would be sent forward, one at a time.

About noon, Randau was completely cleared and secured by Company I, who had no trouble at all and had taken about 250 willing prisoners. The company immediately set up a defensive position on the outside of the town in preparation of tying with G and H Companies. While the cleaning up process was in effect, the other two companies had infiltrated forward, meeting no resistance but picking up a few war weary PWs while en route and then tied in with I Company. G Company, tying in with I Company at (D732926), extended left to (D726932) at which point it had visual contact with the 1st Battalion. H Company tied in with I at (D738918), extending in an arc to the right, along to Alte-Elbe to approximately (D733933).

Early in the afternoon of 13 April the engineers had 25 feet more to go to reach far shore, with sufficient floors constructed on the near shore to complete the bridge. At this opportune time, another heavy concentration of artillery fire started to fall, scoring a Direct hit on the furthermost (east) section of the bridge, three other floats further back were knocked out, and the floats along the bank, that were ready to move into position, were also punctured. One of the power bouts, used to pull pontoons into position, was also hit and sank immediately. Adding to this a direct hit was scored on an adjacent anti-aircraft gun position, killing the crew, and knocking out the gun.

Operations were suspended for the second time while our artillery tried to neutralize the enemy fire. After a 30 minute recess, an attempt was again made to repair and continue construction of the bridge; however, obviously under observation, as the work party moved to the bridge site, a heavy and continuous concentration was placed on the bridge and area adjoining. The second power boat, of which there were only two, was knocked out as were a number more floats on the bridge.

As Correl phrased it. "They just continued to throw heavy concentrations all over the bridge site. So much was coming in, the Forward Observers just couldn't locate it. Haze, covering the high ground of the bridgehead area, prevented air observers from locating the gun positions, and counter-battery fire seemed to have little or no effect on the enemy artillery."

At one tine, a man walked out on the bridge to check the damage and immediately 22 rounds of artillery were fired in on him. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt.

By 1400, a large portion of all the available bridge equipment had been knocked out when Col Correll received orders from Gen Hinds the t the bridge would be abandoned. Immediately orders were issued and the engineers began pulling out all the trucks and equipment to prevent further damage, as the fire continued to roll in.

In the proximity of 1400, Col Finnel received word that Col Paul A. Disney, Commanding Officer of the 67th Armored Regiment and Bridgehead Force Commander, was wounded and he was placed in charge of the three battalions now in operation.

Minutes later, it was reported to Col Finnel that five enemy tanks with infantry mounted were attacking objective #2 from the town of Pechau. Having reached (D727946), the joint fires of A and elements of B Company succeeded in not only dispersing but killing quite a few of the enemy infantry which had been mounted on the tanks. The tanks took cover around the buildings at (725947) and started shooting direct fire into A Company's positions. While at the same moment, several tanks, which had not been encountered on the drive north through the woods, circled the wooded area to the east and attacked the flank and rear area of Company A. Col Finnel also received word of a tank at (D714943) firing at Company C, however the tank was unable to move forward because of the levee.

At this point, Col Finnel ordered Companies A and B to withdraw from their positions, pull on behind the levee which was a tank obstacle, and take up their initial positions. Word was also sent to the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, to drop back and take up their original positions along the levee. As they started pulling out of Randau, it was realized to be in the nick of time for there were six or seven tanks operating in the woods north of there. The 3d Battalion tied in with the 1st Battalion between 1800 and 1900, with the same relative organization.

Because of the enemy being registered on the bridgesite, it was decided, at a conference between General White, Commanding General of the 2d Armored Division, and the XIX Corps Commander, to shift the bridgehead to the south in the vicinity of Schonebeck.

Col Finnel received orders, about 1900, to put into effect on his own time a movement to establish another bridgehead to the south around the town of Grunewalde. Col Finnel stated, "My one question was whether it would be that night and they said 'Yes'. I also may have added, 'Are you kidding'."

The order, covered in Letter of Instructions #36, Headquarters Combat Command B, called for the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry to establish the bridgehead and the 3d Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, to occupy the left flank. The 1st Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, was to pull into a reserve position. The time of attack to secure the new bridgehead was 2100, 13 April.

 

SOUTHERN SWITCH
13 - 14 April

 

 The 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry spear leading the attack, from their revere position, jumped off in a column of companies at 2100, 13 April, attacking to the south, moving parallel with the Elbe River. This Bn was to be followed by the 3d then 1st Battalions, 41st Armored Infantry, according to instructions. All during this time, armor and anti-tank guns were faithfully being promised these units.

Col Stewart's plan of attack was to by-pass Grunewalde and let the following two units clean it out. As the 3d Bn, 119th Inf, reached a point slightly short of the Grunewalde-Elbenau road, swinging then northeast, Company I was to advance on the left and abreast of Co. L, which was to the right of the road. Co K, being in reserve and following Co L, was ordered to thoroughly comb this wooded sector. Opposition to all units, on this move, was negligible but in the darkness, many enemy were by-passed.

This plan was carried out without a mishap; yet due to darkness it wasn't until 0400, 14 April, that I & L Companies entered the town. Having reached their objective unopposed both outposted the town on the far side and began the tedious task of cleaning out all the houses. Company L was responsible for the eastern sector of the town as was Company I for the western sector. K Company, all this time, was completely combing out the wooded area south of Elbenau; and upon reaching position (D754893), started digging in.

The 3d Battalion, 41st AIR in an assembly area (D712920), followed the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry as they passed by on their southern drive. Having moved out at 2200, the Bn followed the spearheading elements upstream to (D752887); at which point the 3d Battalion 41st went into a semi-forward assembly area.

"This march was very uneventful except the men were out on their feet, and if they sat down for a moment they were snoring" quoted Lt Fitzhugh.

Lt. Parkins, CO, Company I, 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, during this period in the forward assembly area, had gone to the Battalion CP and discussed his situation with the Battalion Commander. With only four officers and 60 men, he informed Col Anderson that he did not have enough men to cover his proposed front, for having been in all previous engagements, a terrific toll had been taken. Capt Morrow, Company G, present at the time, talked Col Anderson into letting Lt Parkins have one of his platoons.

Shortly thereafter, 0315, Cal Anderson received word that the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry was in position and his battalion was alerted, moving out minutes later with H Company leading. Initially Company H was to tie into the left flank of the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry, at the windmill (D752904) and extend to the left, to the Alte-Elbe River; and Company I, plus one platoon of Company G attached, was to tie in on the left flank of Company H and extend to the left to the factory on the Elbe River at (D727903). Contact between the two battalions at the windmill never materialized, however, for it was never located by H Company, but contest was established at (D754903).

I Company, followed H Company very closely, for it was extremely dark and contact was of the utmost importance. Lt Parkins said, "I Just followed Company H positions along to see that there would not be any gap in our lines and then started placing our platoons." The 1st Platoon was in contact with the left platoon of Company H at (D740904), then came the 2d Platoon, 3d Platoon, and 3d Platoon of Company G, which had been previously attached. The men started digging in immediately for it was beginning to get light. G Company, less one platoon, leaving the assembly area, moved about 1,000 yards north swinging due west at this point for about 700 yards. There they dug in on a straight line on the far side of the wooded area (D747897). Being in reserve, very tired, and feeling confident that they would not become engaged with the enemy, the men didn't dig in as they should have.

Shooting had been heard and in the town of Elbenau through the light of burning buildings, soldiers were noted moving about, giving all the men confidence, for it was thought to be the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry. The 1st Platoon of Company H, having organized their positions, was instructed to send a three man patrol into town and contact the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry. This same patrol returning shortly after departure informed the platoon sergeant that the soldiers seen in Elbenau were Jerries. The platoon sergeant reported this to Lt. Fitzhugh immediately sending the patrol back with direct orders to contest the 119th. The patrol moved back and upon reaching the western outskirts of the town at 0515, were met by a German attack consisting of three tanks, one wave of infantry mounted on the tanks and two waves of infantry following said tanks. At once the patrol returned telling at the forthcoming attack.7

The 1st Battalion, 41st AIR, acting as rear guard, followed the 3d Battalion along the river in the southern drive, until the leading two battalions peeled off to the northeast; at which time, the 1st Battalion continued its drive on Grunewalde. Moderate resistance was met upon entering the town, consisting of panzerfausts, machine guns and small arms fire. Col Finnel stated, "We cleared down to the river rapidly and established a place where we could evacuate. By daylight there was still resistance in the eastern part of Grunewalde. Company A held the Northern part of the town; Company B held the base of the bridgehead down to the river; and Company C was centrally located mopping up. A platoon of heady machine guns was on the left flank (D748885) covering the woods to the north."

At 0300, Combat Command B received an order from the 2d Armored Division CP to leave a covering force on the east bank of the river at the abandoned bridge site, although all elements of the command had already been displaced to the south upon receipt. However, one squad of Company D, 17th Armored Engineer Battalion was ordered to cross the river and establish that security, although unable to cross the river because the enemy already held the east bank.9

The engineers were ready to start construction of a pontoon bridge at the net proposed site (D735891) me soon as practical. This plan shortly proved impossible for the enemy had retaken the river area at the proposed site after the bridgehead troops had cleared it. At 0640, the town of Grunewalde being cleared, construction of a ferry site (D749881) was begun at once by the 82d Engineer Battalion.

The banks of the river at the second site were gently sloping and necessitated the construction of an approach on the south bank and work with a bulldozer on the north bank, to permit the ferry to reach either shore for loading purposes. An approach was constructed by dumping several truck loads of rubble into the river at the water's edge to form a loading ramp, although construction of the ferry and approach was constantly interrupted and delayed by artillery fire. Prior to noon, the guide cable was damaged by an incoming shell and necessitated repair.

Major James R. McCartney stated, "The reaction from the enemy on XIX Corps bridgehead over the Elbe was determined and heavy. The enemy, made up of Task Force Ringelheim, launched a well-coordinated attack against the 2 Armored Division bridgehead and forced our troops across the river."

The beginning of this mighty assault was initially felt by the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry, but moments later the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, also received a terrible blow.

Col Stewart received word from Company I about 0500 that tanks had struck on their right, and having no anti-tank weapons, outside of bazookas, they were powerless under the weight of the German attack. At the same time, L Company reported at least six German tanks, two 20mm flak wagons, and about a battalion of infantry counterattacking from the east and northeast. The 1st Platoon of Company L, on the extreme east edge of the town, caused one column of the attack force to deploy and they swung northwest attacking from the north, overrunning the company.

Upon hearing this, Col Stewart ordered his leading companies to fall back on K Company, which was now in the woods south of the town. The order came too late, for L Company already had been cut off and unable to fall back, and I Comply was also split and elements captured. Six men were able to work back to K Company. The Bn Command Post group and all other available personnel, were displaced forward to give added support. Col Stewart said, "I had at no time received an order to hold, fight or withdraw."

All in all, eight tanks were seen. M Company could direct fire on three, K Company two, and the Command Post group three. The tanks kept moving around to prevent being bracketed by the intense fire. Col Stewart said, "We were having a tough time of it, but the enemy was having it just as tough." Col Stewart's rear elements finally made contact with Gen Hinds and he assured Col Stewart that tanks would be on the way to help.

Capt Stamford related, "The majority of our men hid in the cellars which the Jerries did not search. I contacted Col Stewart on the radio and suggested that artillery fire be placed on our positions as we were in cellars and it would prevent the Jerries from digging our boys out. I destroyed all my maps and prepared to wreck the radio. We remained in the cellar and occasionally we could see the feet of the Jerries as they passed by the windows. At the time we did not know of the general situation, for our communications had gone out."

The German onslaught descended upon the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, shortly after the patrol that was sent to contact the 119th Infantry in Elbenau returned, being well coordinated with the attack of Elbenau. When Lt Fitzhugh received this report and saw the enemy approaching, he immediately sought the Company Commander. As he reached the CO, who was at (D752903), the first wave of tanks was approximately 75 yards east of their position, having already run through the 3d Battalion 119th Infantry. Having no time to inform the platoon leaders of the other two platoons, he and the Commanding Officer gathered all the men they could and hit for the woods located in the of the bend of the Alt-Elbe creek (D7439l3). A considerable number of H Company men were scattered about the woods. Capt Pearcy and Lt Fitzhugh rounded them up and found that they had the majority of their 1st and 3d Platoons, about 60 men in all, and at once roughly organized in case they became engaged. Their original plan was to cross the canal going to the town of Randau and then work their way back to the Elbe the same way they had done the afternoon before. However, finding the depth of the canal over their heads, and no boats available, they decided to work to the east around Elbenau and then south to the river. This is exactly what they did, with the greater percentage of them crossing the river under the cover of darkness.

Minutes after 0500, Lt Parkins, Company I, received word from his 2d Platoon that three Mark V tanks with German infantry were coming up the line cleaning up everything as they moved. The attached 3d Platoon of G Company, being on the left flank of Company I, was ordered to drop back and build up a line along the levee, immediately, facing the threat. As the tanks approached, each seemed to have a platoon of infantry in support. The attackers had reached a point 150 yards from the levee when I Company opened up with every available weapon. Lt Parkins, thinking back, said, "I saw two bazookas each fire three rounds of American bazooka ammunition at the Mark V tanks. Of the six fired, I personally saw four hits merely ricochet off. We had no way to stop them, for they had American prisoners of war marching in front of the tanks and they were firing machine guns and tank guns right through them."

Having one of two alternatives, being captured or killed, Lt Parkins ordered his men to fall back through the anti-tank ditch or levee, a natural route of withdrawal to the river. Orders were also sent to all platoons to leave covering forces, which would pull back by bounds thus preventing the enemy from gaining momentum and completely surprising our disorganized troops.

The fact was later brought out that although I Company lost 25 to 30 men, they were the smartest of any other outfit. Elements of the Co kept the German tanks from swarming all over them with panzerfausts and bazookas while S/A fire kept the enemy infantry close to the ground, this permitting the larger portion of the company to "shag."

Col Anderson, not having to be informed of the critical situation, for he could see and hear it, immediately stated yelling for help. All available artillery was called for, but the counterattack having hit so fast, the maximum effect of the artillery was lost. Shortly after, having lost contact with his companies, Col Anderson said, "Once I lost contact with my companies I didn't know what the score was." He could see G Company overrun, some of the men running to the woods to the right of the command post and also to the woods to the left of the command post, as 15 others joined him.

G Company, although in reserve, was experiencing its own share of this counterattack, although one small point should be remembered. The previous night was very dark and the manner in which the battalion moved into position, left the area to the front of G Company unswept; thus it is possible that those elements of the enemy force had been there all the time.

During the early hours, 0500, S/Sgt Kramer was awakened by a guard and told that a German tank was close by moving across their front and Germans could be heard jabbering. 15 minutes later, it getting lighter all the time, a man was seen crawling into the turret of a tank. This was an entirely different tank, for the other was still heard further to the left moving. As it grew lighter, infantrymen could be seen moving around the tank, which was to the platoon's front. Sgt Kramer gave his platoon orders to hold their fire, for the enemy had armor which was more than they could take care of. Unfortunately, soon thereafter, a fight started and the Jerries began their slow, deliberate advance on G Company's positions. Sgt. Kramer's own words were "Then is when we opened up. We had one light machine gun on line and they tried to keep sneaking men up with panzerfausts to knock it out. We kept picking them off as soon as they would show up, and we were doing all right there, holding our own with small arms fire. The tank then pulled out of a small patch of woods to our front, keeping out of bazooka range, and the gunner opened up, with his fist round landing about 10 yards from the machine gun. He could see where every hole was and he just went down the line firing direct fire at each one. The men, being so tired from the night before, had failed to dig in properly, and were just below the level of the ground. The tank kept firing as the infantry built up a line and both were putting plenty of fire down on us. We waited for orders to arrive but never got word so we stayed there as long as we could. I gave the order for the 2d Platoon to pull out, our signal to take off and would be immediately after the tank fired his next round and was reloading, for he certainly was taking his time and deliberate aim. After that round was fired, 16 of us pulled out and took off for the river, running into Col Anderson, by chance, about 0730. The Jerries worked on the remainder of the 2d Platoon and then started on the 1st. They just kept working on each hole. The Commanding Officer, Capt Morrow, was dug in with the mortar squad of the 2d Platoon and no one from that squad or the headquarters section that was with them, has been heard from since."

The situation became more fluid throughout the bridgehead area as the minutes ticked by, being no physical contact between battalions or companies. The Commanding General, 2d Armored Division, visited the command post and discussed the situation with the Commanding Officer of CC B between 0800 and 0900, 14 April. The CG informed the CO, CC B that the 83d Infantry Division had established a small bridgehead and bridge to the south and that preliminary arrangements had been completed to send Combat Command Reserve across this bridge with a view of moving down the river on the east bank to counterattack and relieve the pressure on Combat Command B.

During the same time this conference was taking place, between 50 and 100 enemy infantry, who had occupied the east side of the proposed bridgesite, attacked southeast along the river and cam into the left rear of the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, Headquarters Command Group, consisting of apprximately 20 officers and men. A defence was immediately established with all the odds and ends floating around the CP, plus four heavy machine guns and one 81mm mortar. A terrific volume of fire was laid down by the command post group which shortly drove this enemy force back into the wooded area north of Grunewalde.

Col Anderson, not wanting to put his situation over the radio, left Lt Stockwell, I&R Platoon leader, in charge of the of post and started down the river's edge. He ran as fast as he could, got a DUKW to take him to the other side, and then went immediately to the Combat Command B command post, arriving at 1050. He wished to talk to General Hinds, but his not being there, he told Col Herkness, Executive Officer of CC B, the seriousness of the situation. Anderson went back to his battalion without being told the plan; however, upon meeting the general on the east bank of the Elbe, he was told they were going to withdraw.

General, then Colonel, Hinds, Commanding Officer of Combat Command B crossed the river via DUKW to Gruenewalde to get first hand information of the situation, at 1115. With failure of the ferry operation, he ordered evacuation of the bridgehead and approved the plan to be used by Col Finnel. His plan approved, Col Finnel ordered the remnants of the 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry to fall back into he perimeter defense of Gruenewalde, holding there.

By 1130, the Armored Infantry, fighting without anti-tank weapons, other than bazookas, disintegrated into isolated groups and were no longer an effective fighting force.26

The 82d Engineer Battalion, all this time, had been feverishly working against time on the damaged cable and ramp. At 1205, the construction and repair work had been completed and the dozer, needed for construction of a ramp on the far shore, was loaded. In spite of the approach ramp on the near bank, the river was still too shallow to float the ferry when loaded and was grounded unable to pull off under its own power. With external force it was freed and began its first trip with progress very slow because of the swift current. A DUKW driven to the ferry by Capt Youngblood, CO, Company D, 17th Armored Engineer Battalion, was lashed to the floats to increase the propelling power. Progress immediately improved, but yards before reaching the east bank, an artillery barrage came in and cut the guide cable. The swiftness of the river and the absence of the guide cable made it impossible to control the ferry with the power of two outboard motors and the DUKW, thus the ferry drifted downstream lodging against the debris of the old blown bridge. More artillery began to fall in the vicinity of the bridge and upon Capt Youngblood's orders, the DUKW was cut loose and all personnel of the ferry and the bulldozer were evacuated.

At 1255, the Commanding General, 2d Armored Division, called requesting advisability of reinforcing the bridgehead with more infantry and the possibility of building another ferry, to which the reply came a short time later. The CG, Combat Command B returned at 1305 from the east bank of the Elbe River and called the Chief of Staff, 2d Armored Division, telling him of the seriousness of the situation and that they could not hold the bridgehead without tanks and anti-tank guns. The addition of more infantry alone would be of no help: and he had issued instructions to evacuate the bridgehead using the DUKWs which remained operative. The Commanding General 2d Armored Division, visited the command post at 1400 and discussed the situation with the Commanding Officer of Combat Command B. He was informed of Colonel Hinds' order of evacuation because of the inability to conduct further bridging or ferrying operations due to heavy enemy artillery fire and due to the impossibility of providing the infantry with necessary anti-tank means to sustain themselves. The Commanding General approved the order and issued orders amending their original mission and directing them to secure a line east of the river from (D8687) - (D9487) to protect the left flank of the 83d Division bridgehead pending further orders.

Remnants of the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry, and 1st Bn 41st AIR, withdrew from the vicinity south of Elbnenau and north of Grunewalde, respectively, passing into the perimeter defense of the 1st Battalion, 41st AIR, at Grunewalde. When Col Finnel ordered evacuation of the bridgehead, the order of evacuation was, 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry, 3d Battalion then 1st Battalion, 41st AIR. Under protective fires of tanks and tank destroyers, in position of the west bank, the 3d Battalion, 119th Infantry, and 3d Battalion, 41st AIR, were evacuated by DUKWs, the 1st Battalion, Armored Infantry, provided a rear guard and was the last to cross. The evacuation was completed at approximately 1600, in good order.

Riflemen were withdrawn first, their movement being covered by machine guns and bazookas from the perimeter defense and by tanks and assault guns from the weat bank. The movement was made in an orderly manner, without confusion, which was a credit to both officers and men. A covering force and one DUKW was also left on the west band for the evacuation of any stragglers.

Although thought captured or killed, L Company, 119th Infantry was still playing a cunning game with the Jerries. About 1500 a volunteer three man patrol had cone out to reconnoiter for a covered route out of town. Upon returning, a half hour later, they reported having located elements of the Third Platoon in another cellar, positions of a 20mm flak wagon, two half-tracks, and a tank. About 1530, the artillery F. O. managed to got his radio operating and contacted a cub liaison plane that happened to be in the vicinity. Learning that most of the elements of Combat Command B had been withdrawn across the river Elbe, the artillery officer contacted his Commanding Officer, by relay, and requested a 15 minute smoke concentration be placed on the town of Elbenau at 1545, as an attempt to escape would be made at 1600. Capt Stanford related, "About 1600, taking advantage of the smoke, we made a break after contacting all the men possible, about 55, in all. Fortunately, someone had contacted our fighter planes and they coordinated beautifully. Heading for the main road south of the town we lost several men as we hurriedly withdrew along the edge of the woods from direct tank fire. One of our planes knocked out the tank when we were about half way through the woods. We also captured a German officer and brought him along. We by-passed Grunewalde to the east, arriving at the Elbe about 1930, and found engineers with boats waiting for us."

Later that evening, three men from Company L volunteered to again cross the river to see if they might find any more of the missing men. This was readily agreed to, their arriving back shortly with 10 of our men and 6 prisoners. Others, that had hidden away when overrun, came in by ones and two's, swimming the river under the cover of darkness.

During the bridgehead operations, casualties surmounted by the 2d Armored Div, and the 119th Inf (30th Div) were as follows:

Losses to the 2d Armored Division were: 6 killed, 23 wounded, 147 missing.

Losses to the 30th Infantry Division were: 1 killed, 9 wounded, 90 missing.

The losses in vehicles numbed ten.

"When the 2d Armored was forced to withdraw from their bridgehead, east of the Elbe on 14 April, we had practical no plans to give them for support. They just were not available because the air strips had not been moved forward with the same rapidity as the advance of the armor and infantry. There were captured enemy bases in the area and it seems as though it would have been a simple job to move the fields forward, but it was not done. On that particular day the 2d Armored was forced to withdraw, it was perfect for flying, clear, and unlimited," said Major Jensen.

On the west side of the Elbe the strongly defended city of Magdeburg still remained to be reduced. The plan called for the 30th Infantry Diction to attack from the north and the 2d Armored to reduce it from the south. Prior to that attack, an air strike was to operate against the city. On 17 April, between 1100 and 1445, 11 groups of medium bombers, that numbered approximately 350 planes, attacked the city. Immediately following, the infantry attacked and by nightfall the city had fallen, thus finishing the eventful drive for the 2d Armored Division.

 

ATTACK OF BARBY

 

The 3d Battalion, 329th Infantry, received orders on the morning of 12 April to move as rapidly as possible through their sector to the Elbe River, capture the railroad bridge at Barby intact, if possible, and be prepared to cross the Elbe River. The 1st Battalion, which was to follow, had the responsibility of thoroughly mopping up the area, while the 2d Battalion, in the right half of the regimental sector, was not only to reach the river but protect the regiment's right flank.

Leaving Gnadau (D7883), the 3d Battalion directed I and L Companies to Pommelte (D815850) as K Company continued to move due west.

I Company, preceding L arrived in Pommelte about 1200 and was informed that elements of the Recon that was preceding them having eighteen men of I Company's 3d Platoon attached, had run into a heavily held out post line (D836838) of dug in machine guns and panzerfausts. It was also learned that a percentage were able to withdraw, but a large number of men were pinned down under a terrific volume of fire. Plans were formulated and the company moved out at 1230 along the right side of the Pommelte-Barby road. The 1st Platoon led out, in open column, followed by the 2d Platoon, weapons platoon, and the remainder of the 3d Platoon. The company, in extended column, followed a ditch which offered very good cover to (D825844) at which point the ditch ceased to exist. Here the 2d Platoon swung to the right and moved abreast of the 1st Platoon, as both moved forward with two squads forward and one in support. The 3d Platoon remained in Company support.

Four light tanks, which had been attached to the company, formed a line parallel and just to the rear of the forward elements, as the rapid advance continued to the edge of the orchard (D830838), at which time the company came under intense fire. The infantry and tanks being somewhat taken by surprise, fired everything they had at any and all likely areas occupied the reason being when Jerry had dug his foxholes, all surplus dirt had been removed, making it impossible to get a line on the individual holes.

K Company, all this tine, had been advancing toward Barby along the Gnadau road (D822827), and upon reaching (D835327), the company encountered frontal fire from town and flanking fire from the positions holding up I Company. Being unable to advance, the platoons slowly worked themselves into position, dug in, preparing to "slug it out" with the enemy.

L Company arrived at Pommelte shortly after I Company and remained there in Battalion Reserve, awaiting commitment orders.

The 2d Battalion, on 12 April, having advanced against practically no resistance, reached a general line Tarnitz-Wespen, in the late morning, southeast of Barby. Company G and one platoon of the 643 Reconnaissance Troop in Wespen, were sent to Barby to aid the 3d Battalion which was know to be having trouble on the outskirts of town. At 1500, the company left Wespen on the secondary road leading east, preceded by elements of the Recon consisting of three jeeps and two armored cars. The 2d Platoon, Company G, followed on four light tanks, while the 1st, 3d, and wepons platoons, in that order, rode vehicles of all descriptions.

As the Recon approached (D844818), the leading vehicles received a heavy burst of fire, wounding quite a few men. The follow up vehicles had just crossed a slight knoll as the fire began, thus they stopped and started to back out while the 2d Platoon of G Company deployed moving forward with the tanks to give supporting fire to the forward elements. The ground being very flat to the immediate front, smoke was necessary not only to corer evacuation of the wounded but permit the 2d Platoon forward to building up a line along a slight embankment (D840818). As the 2d Platoon advanced forward the tankers were also given the mission of moving to (D842818), under the protective cover of the smoke, establish a line and cover the withdrawal of our men. The other platoons having dismounted continued cautiously working their way up the road in open columns on either side of the road.

The smoke laid down undoubtedly saved the day, for the Recon and most of the wounded were able to get out. Upon near completion of the evacuation the tanks that had moved into the field were pulled back across the bridge (D840817). Shortly thereafter the 1st Platoon joined the 2d forming a line of skirmishers, with the tanks interspersed. This force swung north, moving along the west side of the creek to the first group of buildings at (D840824), thus anticipating to easily by-pass this strongpoint.

As the platoons started for their new objective, Lt Littlepage received word that five medium tanks were being placed at his disposal, the rendezvous point being (D839818). Keeping a few of his riflemen with him, as security for the tanks, the tanks upon arrival were given positions enabling them to cover the east sector of the town by fire if need be.

The 3d and Weapons Platoons of G Company, upon reaching the railroad crossing (D830815), moved northeast along the west side of the railroad embankment and at 1600 joined the remainder of the company in the two houses already held. All this time, 1st Lt. Arthur D. Littlepage, CO, did not know the location of these two platoons, for he had had no communication with them since the action began. It was not until 1700, upon his arrival at the company CP, that he was enlightened as to their whereabouts.

"At this point, things were relatively quiet", stated Lt Littlepage. Word was later received, 1730, to hold their position and wait for F Company. Upon receipt of this order, a patrol of two men was sent out to contact elements of the 3d Battalion, approaching from the west, however, the word of contact was never brought back and both men were found dead the next morning.

While Company L remained in Pommelte, 1st Lt Alden D. Allen, Commanding Officer, stored with the Battalion Commander all afternoon keeping in touch with the progress of the two forward companies. At 1700, the 1st Platoon, Company L received word to establish an outpost (D832841) to protect not only the left flank of I Company but the battalion as well. From the Battalion observation post, at 1830, I Company was noted having trouble thus L Company was committed to its left.

Leaving the 1st Platoon in its position, the 3d Platoon, at 1830, began infiltrating forward and building up on its left flank. The only available cover on this move, keeping the mission in mind, was a ditch on the left side of the road which was utilized to the fullest extent. The 2d Platoon, advance by bounds, remained in the rear. As the two leading platoons came abreast of each other and prepared to continue the attack, the platoon of attached medium tanks were brought forward, forming a line behind the 1st and 3d platoons, for the purpose of supporting by fire all movements made by these forward elements.

Upon reaching the creek (D843835), the tanks were stopped for this barrier was about waist deep, four feet wide, and the banks very abrupt. The forward infantry reached the creek slightly before the tanks did, 1845; and being held up but momentarily, continued their advance. Confusion was nil, yet a gap between the two leading platoons began to materialize rapidly. Without orders from the Company Commander, the 2d Platoon leader ordered his men forward to maintain contact between platoons. Sniper fire, although not accurate, was encountered coming from the town and the high ground across the river. However, by the use of "Marching Fire," the rapid advance was not impeded; and the factory (D847834) which was their objective, was reached by 1900. A short time later, 1945, the railroad bridge was blown. Having thoroughly searched the factory area, patrols were sent to probe the river's edge while the rest of the of the company set up a defensive position in front of the factory, facing the river with all three platoon on line.

The next morning, 13 April , L Co cleared the other factory that was close by without firing a shot. The company again remained the rest of the day, crossing the river about 0400, 14 April.

Although L Company had apparently walked up, so to speak, and sat down on their objective, I Company was still engaged in a fanatical fight. Being unable to see, due to camouflaged, the only thing to be fired at was possible positions and one or two Jerries whose heads might be seen bobbing out of his foxhole too fast.

The 3d Platoon, although not having been committed, was only a few hundred yards to the rear of the front lines and was being subjected to the same fire holding up the 1st and 2d Platoons.

During these hours of give and take, it had grown very dark. Company I was ordered and jumped off in an attack at 2030. Fire minutes prior to H-Hour, three assault guns, which had been attached to the company, arrived.

Crossing the line of departure, the edge of the orchard, both rifle platoons, tanks and assault guns, which were all on line, preceeded speedily forward, each weapon firing as rapidly as humanly possible. The Jerry positions being only a hundred yards distant were rapidly overrun. The companies did not stop here but kept moving forward to a point about 500 yards from the railroad. Although the support platoon had made an effort to clear the area passed over by the leading elements, due to the darkness, many of the enemy were never detected. The remainder of the company, tanks, and assault guns having reached (D838833) about 2100, were having difficulty in maintaining direction and keeping contact. It was then decided to move back to the original position and wait the rest of the evening. While back-tracking, a few of the Jerries that had been overlooked started sniping; however, they were dealt with shortly. The company was again in its original position about 2300, awaiting the light of dawn, at which time another attack might be launched. The tanks and assault guns continued back to Pommelte for the evening.

Initially, Company F had ban in reserve in Wespen (D8181). Having been alerted around 2000 on 12 April, 1st Lt Ira E. Boyer, Commanding Officer, made a reconnaissance prior to the mone. His mission was to move his company to Barby (D8582), then kick through G Company and secure a larger foothold in the town. Battalion had reported G Company as holding a complete block in town, however, that was later found out not to be true.

The company left Wespen at dusk, in open column, with the 1st Platoon leading, followed by the 2d, Weapons, Headquarters and 3d, on the Wespen-Barby road. At the railroad crossing (D830815) the company veered off the road and proceeded along the left side of the railroad tracks, to the crossing at (D840825). Here the leading men of the 1st Platoon turned right and proceeded along the road toward Barby, for about fifty or seventy-five yards, at which point they held up. The second building on the left of the road was on fire, as was a large school (D841823), making it impossible for them to move without being seen and drawing intense fire. The Company Commander went forward, contacted G Company CP, in the first building on the right side of the road, and found that it was one of the only two houses in town held. The other building being immediately across the road.

Lt Boyer, at this time ordered a patrol toward the town in an attempt to determine the strength and disposition of the enemy. The patrol, however upon entering the lighted area, was driven back by automatic weapons and panzerfausts. Seeing the situation confronting him, Lt Boyer requested permission from Battalion to set up a defensive position along the tracks and await dawn. Permission was granted about 2300. The CO having omitted one thought in his request planned to drop back to (D830815) before setting up his defensive area; thus, whether knowingly or not, he had chosen an extremely advantageous position.

About the same time F started pulling back, another patrol was sent out to skirt the southern edge of the illuminated area and approach Barby guiding along the Barby-Wespen road. Being in radio contact with the command post constantly, they reported their crossing of the creek (D840818) at 2400, and having received some small arms fire. A few minutes later they again called stating they had reached (D844817) and were returning because of intense small arms fire.

All was not quiet for G Company the early morning of 13 April. Shortly after midnight the Jerries infiltrated a few men close to the supporting tanks, which had been placed around the command post. Six panzerfausts were fired although no great damage was done. These individuals were warded off and then at 0100, the building in which the CP was located received a hit by a bomb dropped from of lone German plane, who after dropping the one bomb was not seen nor heard again. The result of this lucky hit was eight men wounded.

The 1st Bn spent the night of 12 April in Wespen and Gr Muhlingers in Regimental Reserve.

The following morning, 13 April, orders were received to continue the attack at 0845, but G Company, having contacted the burgomeister, found that the troops were pulling out and that the town would surrender at 0900, so the jump off was postponed fifteen minutes.8

Then, at 0900, the 2d and 3d Battalions moved tactically into Barby and established themselves along the west edge of town. This was done preparatory to giving supporting fire to the 1st Bn, 329th Infantry which had been picked to make the initial assault boat crossing of the Elbe River. Both the 2d and 3d Bns had suffered fairly heavy casualties in this brief action, the aggregate number being 24 men and 1 officer killed, 35 men wounded and five men were missing.

Shortly after the battalions had moved into positions, E Company arrived from the vicinity of Tarnitz where it had been providing flank protection, and aided in the clearing of Barby also sending one platoon to (D864816) to establish an out post and cloy the proposed bridging site. Having cleared the town thoroughly, the company also established road blocks.

1st Lt Earl E. Hoover, Executive Officer, said, "These were the best soldiers I have ever seen."

The backbone of the defense of Barby was the 1st Bn, 1064th Inf Reg, Potsdam Division. This was one of the three newly-formed Divisions organized in the vicinity of Berlin within the previous ten days. Personnel were mainly NCO's and officer candidates released from the NCO and reserve officer's school in the Berlin area.

The defense of what at one time was considered the three largest natural barriers confronting our troops, The Weser, Leine, and Elbe Rivers were very weak and poorly utilized tactically. It seems strange indeed, having natural obstacles already existing, that at least hastily dug fox holes were not established along the far shores of these rivers. Instead, they seemed to withdraw in mass, so to speak, many kilometers to points not as advantageous for defensive action. This very type of thing happened at both the Weser and Leine Rivers. However, when they did see fit to defend the Elbe, all orthodox tactics seemed to be thrown to the fore winds. Instead of establishing their line on the far side of the river, where havoc might have been raised with the assaulting troops while on the riviers, the Germans preferred defending it on the near aide. Thus, they were confronted with two obstacles, our advancing forces to their front and quite a sizable river to their rear. However, this might have been done in order to prevent, as much as possible, anybody from withdrawing of their own accord.

 

83d DIVISION CROSSES

 

13 April

 

With the surrender of Barby and the evacuation by the enemy of adjacent areas, the 83d Infantry Division was to lose no time in exploiting their gains. In anticipation of this advance, Lt Col Tim O. Cook, commanding the 1st Battalion, 329th Infantry, made a personal reconnaissance of the west shore of the river. His command passed through the 2d and 3d battalions, which were taking up positions along the east side of Barby, closing on the river line by 1300 hours. These latter two battalions, who were to provide fire support, were just engaged in setting up as the 1st Battalion moved forward; and they were barely in position when the time came for the battalion to deploy along the river. The engineers, preceding the column with their heavy equipment, launched the assault boats immediately upon arriving at the waters edge, and within 30 minutes the 1st Battalion was moving across the river. Upon dropping the assault boats, the engineers moved upstream and started construction of the ferry proper.

In a rough line of 34 boats with "A" Company on the right and "C" on the left, the assault force began crossing the Elbe (D862-823) at 1330 hours. Although the river is about 200 yards broad at this point, not a single enemy weapon opened fire on the battalion during the crossing and there were no Germans seen in the vicinity. Cook led his men right into Walternienburg against meager resistance after partially clearing the wooded area confronting him, closing on the village and establishing a defensive position by 1500 hours. This crossing was described by 1st Lt William Stout, Asst. S-3, as being, "just like a Sunday afternoon picnic."

(As he brought his men into the river bank for the infantry crossing, Col Edwin B. Crabill, Regimental Commander, had gone up and down the line exhorting his men with these words: "Don't waste the opportunity of a life time. You are on your way to Berlin. You can get across without having a shot fired at you. But you have to move now. Don't wait to organize. Get going. Get over there in any shape that you can." It was in this fashion that the battalion crossed the river. It proceeded without order and with the men scrambling for the boats as fast as they could. Crabill said that he actually booted some of his men in the pants to make them go faster.

Now it is to be said that the crossing in the assault boats was made close to 600 yards down-stream from the potential ferry site. This was an intentional deception which added immeasurably to the success of the operation.

About 1430, or a little later, the first ferry went into operation and before long, two more were being serviced. It was just about this time that the enemy started shelling the area adjacent to the initial assault site and the railroad bridge area. This shelling was maintained partly by big guns and partly by assault guns throughout the remainder of the afternoon, and during the hours of darkness. The enemy, however, did not shell the ferry site at any time. It had happened that a German reconnaissance plane had flown across the Elbe at the time of the assault crossing, strafing the troops and puncturing one of the boats. It is believed that this plane carried back information about the early crossing.

Over two hundred heavy vehicles including medium tanks and TD's were ferried across on the treadway ferries. This contributed immensely to the success in repelling several counter attacks.

About 1500 the engineers started rolling the bridges material in, however, the work on the bridging did not actually get under way until about 1900, and the bridge was not completed until 0730 on the second day.

The 2d Battalion, 329th Infantry, crossed the river about an hour and a half after the 1st Battalion had completed their assault, proceeding along the same general route to Walternienburg. Here, the battalion swung north and dug in along the Walterneinburg-Flotz road. During the night the Germans made repeated fanatical counter attacks against the battalion's sector of the bridgehead with infantry, tanks, self-propelled guns, and mortars. Friendly machine guns and rifle men held off the infantry, and the armor was kept its distance by the constant firing of anti-tank guns. The attackers were finally driven off on the morning of the 14th. It was later found that the enemy troops used in these counter attacks were young Nazis from an OCS Company. Since that time, there being very little action, the battalion was pulled back to Walternienburg during the early part of the period, on the 15th, and placed in regimental reserve.

The 2d Battalion, 331st Infantry, secured Cable (D7875) by 0940 of 13 April, after which the battalion moved to Barby and crossed the Elbe in the near proximity of 1600. By the end of the day the battalion had established positions in the vicinity of Walterneinburg, the woods (D890814) south of the town.

That night the forward positions were at a depth of about 2,000 yards from the bridgesite. Although this country is perfectly flat, it is quite well wooded and studded with small villages. At that distance and from the positions along the bridgehead perimeter, there was practically no chance for enemy observation of the bridgesite upon the coming dawn.

Two platoons of TD's and all the anti-tank guns of the regiment had been moved across the river by dark, as well as one platoon of tanks. The destroyers and the tanks were put in the perimeter around Walterneinburg except for one platoon of destroyers which were covering the positions around Flotz. They were used to back up the infantry line, directly covering all tank approaches.

The infantry companies were in contact, and all the Battalion Command Posts were in Walterneinburg, as the enemy counterattacked four times during the first night with an infantry force of approximately battalion strength supported by an unknown number of assault guns. The method of assault seemed quite novel. Firing only a few rounds from the assault guns, the infantry would come on in and charge under cover of intense machine gun fire. To make the shortest approach on the center of the American positions, they deployed from out of the woods to the east and north of Walterneinburg. These attacks were made by the 2d Battalion of the Langemaier Regiment, Scharnhorst Division, a specially constituted outfit largely composed of OCS men, who fought intelligently and persistently.

About 2300, Company E at Flotz began to receive fire from forces which had filtered in on both sides of their position. Finally the enemy managed to get into houses of the village and the company drew fire from close up. The Company thereupon asked for artillery to be turned directly against its own position, the men dropping into the basements of the houses as this concentration fell among them.

The fire from two battalions of Division artillery and their own supporting artillery effectively checked the attack and the enemy infantry withdrew from Flotz.

At Walterneinburg the attack was pressed to a point where several squads of the enemy got in among the houses of the village, but these were driven back by supporting fire from the destroyers and by riflemen working at close range. A check of the ground on the following morning showed that five of the enemy's assault guns had been destroyed. But because of the darkness it was not possible to establish whether this result had been obtained by the destroyers or by the supporting artillery fire.

 

14 April

 

The rather strong enemy counterattacks against the elements already across the river necessitate reinforcing the bridgehead. One of these counterattacks was an attempt to emulate the American marching fire technique, but the enemy was mowed down and the attack completely broken up.

"B" Company, 331st Infantry, being in Barby, was alerted and attachment to the 2d Battalion, 331st Infantry, and ordered across the river as quickly as possible. Upon arrival at the 2d Battalion area, 0300, they were given the mission of protecting the right flank of the battalion. The 3d Battalion, 328th Infantry, was also alerted and consumed the remainder of these early hours crossing the river, assembling in Walterneinburg at 0930, where they stayed until the next day. Shortly after the battalion had completed its crossing, 0730, the pontoon bridge was reported as having been completed, and at once the remaining tanks of the 736th Tank Battalion were alerted and started crossing to reinforce the Bridgehead troops.

From its position south of Walternienburg, the 2d Battalion, 331st Infantry, launched an attack, 0930, to the southeast, objective Badetz. The familiar 2-1 formation was used, G Company being on the right, "E" Company on the left, and "F" in reserve. Resistance being non-existent during their rapid march, the wooded areas encountered were easily swept. Upon reaching the approaches to the town of Badetz, moderate small arms fire was met. This neither held up nor impaired the attacking forced, and by 1230 the town was not only cleared, but the forward two elements of the battalion were in defensive positions on the far side of the town (D925790). "F" Company being in reserve, established itself at (D918796). A short time after the battalion had settled down in anticipation of a few hours well earned rest, G Company was alerted and ordered to move to the vicinity of Tochheim (D9079). Preparations were male immediately and shortly thereafter G Company moved out. They partially cleared the northern edge of the woods (D9179) without meeting a bit of opposition, while en route. Easily and rapidly the company reached its objective and dug in (D903790) approximately one kilometer from the town, remaining the rest of the night.

B Company under direction of 2d Battalion, also jumped off at 0930 with the mission of securing Tochheim. The extensive wooded area that had to be dealt with hindered the company slightly; for although there was no resistance, a thorough combing operation took a great deal of time. The town was reached and cleared however, in the late afternoon without a shot being fired. Security measures taken, patrols were sent to feel out the wooded areas in the close vicinity. The company remained here the rest of the night not knowing that friendly troops were merely one kilometer out of town on the main road leading to the east.

The 1st Battalion, 331st Infantry, less B Company, moved to Barby and had completely crossed the river by 1155, using the recently completed pontoon bridge. The unit moved through Walternienburg and then southeast, clearing the wooded areas to their front. "C" Company, preceding "A" Company, moved forward very aggressively; but upon penetrating the woolen area (D900818), resistance made itself known and grew heavier. As the forward elements pressed on, they encountered heavy mortar, artillery, and automatic weapons fire, to say nothing of six enemy tanks. Close coordination with artillery was responsible for the elimination of three. The others seeing their fate drawing closer, withdrew to the rear. The withdrawing of the remaining armor left but one alternative for the supporting infantry, thus the woods were cleared to (D906817) by 1425 hours. The battalion remained there the rest of the day, consolidating and improving their positions against a possible c/a from the north.

The 3d Battalion, 331st Infantry, having been operating under Task Force Biddle, returned to regimental control at 1100 hours. They moved to an assembly area initially at Brumby (D7474) at 1600, prepared to cress the Elbe river to reinforce the bridgehead area. The battalion was again on the move at 2000, crossing and closing into their new area (D885808) at 2130 hours. In this general vicinity, the battalion remained throughout the operation, in regimental reserve.

Plans were made to continue the attack at 141600 April. But this was called off, probably because of the elimination of the 2d Armored Division Bridgehead to the north.

All this time the 330th Infantry (83d Div) was constantly fighting not only road blocks but rugged terrain and the elements in the Harz area while under corps control.

CCR, commanded by Lt Col Russel W. Jenna, CO, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, was placed under the operational control of the 83d Division on 14 April. This force consisted of the 2d Battalion, 119th Infantry; 3d Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment; a platoon of TD's and Company "C", 17th Armored Engineer Battalion. The mission of CCR was to cross the Elbe River in the 83d Division sector at Barby, secure the line Dornburg-Prodel-Leitzkau and protect the left flank of the 83d Bridgehead. The force being broken down to three teams of one rifle and tank company plus an attachment of heavy weapons, jumped off at 1530, and by 1830, Prodel had been reached against moderate resistance. Because of a possible counter-attack threat, the Commanding General, 83d Division, ordered a withdrawal and a tightening of the defense network.

CCR, having crossed the river via the Barby bridge a little after noon moving to Walterneinburg, thence north to Flotz with F Company, 119th Infantry plus tanks leading followed by E and G Companies in that order. F Company crossed the LD, railroad tracks in the vicinity of Flotz, at 1530, passed through Godnitz and continued driving hard to the north clearing a path in the wooded area on either side of the road to Prodel.19 Shortly after 1600, E Company preceeding G Company, arrived in Godnitz. They received word of a possible German counter-attack and also orders to return to Walterneinburg and set up a strong defensive position. G Company continued to move forward through Godnitz and had searched the better part of the wooded area, including that which had already been investigated by F Company, capturing three Germans, when their mission was changed, ordering them south to Kameritz.

F Company, mounted on a Company of Medium Tanks during this time, had been meeting comparatively no resistance; however at (D868887), they encountered dug in infantry firing bazookas and small arms. One tanker was unfortunately killed by a lucky hit, this being the only casualty. The remainder of the woods were cleared and the objective, Prodel, was easily occupied and cleared by 1830. The company completed their defensive plan and remained in position until 2000 when they were ordered to drop back to Flotz.

As F Company continued forward, G Company returned to Godnitz, mounted their trucks, and started south to occupy Kameritz. When the company was about a half mile from town, they were informed by infantrymen along the road that the town was still in enemy hands.

Notifying higher headquarters of this, orders were to establish a defensive position along the 90 grid line for the night.

Plans at that time were being formulated for the construction of a bridge south of the existing one. The Commanding General of XIX Corps indicated that the 320th Infantry (35th Infantry Division) might be attached to the 83d Infantry Division for the operation of clearing the triangle of untouched territory south of Barby and establishing this second bridge. This task would however involve the construction of a bailey bridge over the Saale River northeast of Calbe.

 

15 April

 

An attack was launched at 0930 by the 329th Infantry for the purpose of enlarging the bridgehead area. The 1st Battalion, on the right moved six or seven kilometers, occupying Nutha (D9482), while the 3d Battalion, attacking to the northeast and on the left, advanced to a line roughly even with the 1st Battalion. The 2d Battalion, having been draw back, was being held in reserve in Walterneinburg at that time.

The 1st Battalion moved out with A & B Companies forward, "A" being on the left, followed by C Company. Upon reaching and cautiously proceeding through the wooded area at (D905825) fanatical resistance was met at different points. The defending forces, although only a few in number at each successive point, were found to contain numerous young Hitler Jugend, all fighting from well concealed foxholes and dealing out very accurate small arms fire. Between 0930 and 1630, the 1st Battalion spent these hours minutely checking the woods, sustaining heavy casualties in doing so. Before this area had been completely cleared, it had to be combed twice more. Continuing the advance, Nutha was attacked and surrendered soon thereafter, the enemy making no attempt to defend this point. Thus having completely cleared the town, A Company moved slightly north setting up a defensive position, as Company B moved forward digging in on the road leading south out of Trebnitz. C Company was ordered into Nutha to establish a defensive position along the eastern edge of town.

The 3d Battalion attacked to the northeast toward Guterluck in a column of companies, K Company leading followed by L Company. As "King" Company came within 400 yards of the town, the Germans opened up with small arms and mortar fire. The company deployed and attempted working forward out of the mortar fire. Love Company, receiving intense mortar fire, while in the vicinity of (D900837), was unable to move for a short time. Company K began working into the edge of town against heavy S/A fire as Company L infiltrated to the left side of the railroad embankment. Paralleling the main road, the company followed the railroad to the crossing at (D919857) from whence it hit the town from the north west. Resistance at this point collapsed. The air support was excellent during this maneuver, and without it Company K would not have been allowed to move into town frontally across the open fields.

Shortly after clearing Gutergluck, K Company, one platoon of I Company attached, was ordered forward to establish a defensive position generally on line with the 1st Battalion. The main line was established in the vicinity of (D943846). The platoon from I Company was ordered to (D943840) for the purpose of not only contacting the 1st Battalion, but maintaining it after made. This was accomplished without a shot fired.

 

Both 1st and 2d Battalions, 331st Infantry, attacked at 0930 the morning of 15 April while the 3d Battalion remained in reserve. E Company, from its position outside of Badetz made a limited objective attack to position (D932793) receiving no fire. G Company, being approximately a kilometer outside of Tochheim, moved slowly northeast toward Hohenlepte (D938814). By 1810, the town was completely cleared. The only evident resistance consisted of two or three snipers which were quickly eliminated. F Company, from position (D918796) attacked northwest at 1030, with the mission of securing Kameritz (D9181). The company followed the main road having two platoons forward, on either side of the road, with the supporting tanks and TD's rolling along in the center of the two columns. Upon reaching a point four or five hundred yards from the town, intense fire was received. Both forward platoons deployed as skirmishes and at the same time, the support platoon was also committed. The platoon of tanks and TD's that were attached to the company, took positions to the immediate rear of our friendly forces and supported them to the uttermost. Although the resistance was stubborn, the third platoon led by Lt Irving Drucker gained a foothold in town by the use of marching fire and the supporting armor. With a sector of the town in friendly hands, it was a comparatively easy matter for the remainder of the company to move forward using the same tactics. While this process was going on, small groups of Germans kept surrendering and the fire grew lighter; thus by 1800 the town had not only surrendered, but had been cleared. Upon completion of this mission, F Company swung balk east, moving to Hohenlepte from whence it moved to the right flank of G Company at (D940811) and extended to (D936788) where they dug in and contact was made with members of E Company.

B Company, under the operational control of the 2d Battalion, also jumped off at 0930 with the mission of clearing the wooded area south of Tochheim towards Stockby. At 1355, CO, 1st Battalion, was informed that B Company again reverted to his control, however continuing on their present mission. This attack toward Stockby being a tedious task due to the extensiveness of the area and not resistance met, the company had merely worked its way to (D9278) by 1800, at which time they were relieved by A Company. The relief being completed, B Company moved to Tochheim where they have remained since.

The 1st Battalion, less B Company, also received orders to further the attack at 0930. C Company's given mission was to clear an enemy pocket in the vicinity of (D906813). The enemy defending this point yielded immediately upon sight of our advancing forces; thus Battalion Headquarters, when informed of this, ordered the company to support, using their tanks or TD's to the best advantage, the 2d Battalion's attack on Kameritz. This fire was maintained until elements of the 2d Battalion requested it lifted. C Company then moved slightly forward although not entering the town. Upon completion of their mission 1800, when the town completely surrendered, they received orders to clear the canal west of the town. This was shortly done, there being no opposition, and word was received to fall back into Kameritz for the night. At the same time, C Company jumped off, A Company moved around Walterneinburg and then south toward Tochheim. Continuing past this town, they moved through the wooded area to a position to the rear of Baker Company, remaining there until approximately 1800, at which time the relief of "B" Company was completed. Here A Company remained in the same relative position (D9278) until the next morning.

The 3d Battalion, still in regimental reserve, continued to dig in and improve their positions. At 1100, orders were received to move K Company to Tochheim for the purpose to guard the approaches to a new bridge site to be used in that vicinity.

 

CC R also had a series of limited objectives to deal with, as was ordered by the Commanding General, 83d Division. Company F and armor being in Flotz, jumped off at 0630 and soon had occupied and cleared Gehrden (D899873) without opposition. The objective being reached, and no further orders given, the company established a defensive position and settled down to await new developments. G Company, defending along the 90 grid line south of Walterneinburg, was ordered to Godnitz. Around 0800, mounting a company of light tanks and a platoon of TD's, moved to the stated town to protect the northern flank of the bridgehead. The entire column arrived in Godnitz slightly before noon, having not been molested at any time during the motor march. E Company, 119th Infantry, Armor, and Company C, 17th Engineer Battalion, at that time in Walterneinburg, jumped off at 0930 in an attack on Gutergluck (D920852). E Company, leading, moved north to the railroad, thence east toward the town, keeping the railroad on their left. The village of Molk was reached shortly after noon, without a shot fired, it being remembered that the 3d Battalion, 329th Infantry had already neutralized all resistance in that sector. Contrary to normal procedure, the Engineer Commanding Officer was put in command of Molk and its defense. The orders he issued placed his company and armor in a defensive position slightly short of the railroad crossing at (D919857), and E Company was in reserve within the town proper. The engineers established only normal local security except for the 1st Platoon, E Company, which outposted the road from the railroad crossing to Gehrden, where F Company was located.

 

16 April

 

At the first break of day, the enemy counter-attacked Hohenlepte and Nutha. The attacks, directed from the east, consisted of an estimated two companies of infantry and ten assault guns. This venture was short-lived due to the close in artillery support, which was responsible for inflicting terrific casualties on the attacking forces. Three assault guns were knocked out, one by C Company, 329th Infantry, and two by the attached Tank Destroyers. Being in a state of confusion, the enemy withdrew the remnants of its command as rapidly as possible, without loss to our men.

The 2d Battalion, 331st Infantry, whose left flank was in Hohenlepte, also took part in repelling this attack. Early in the morning, the sleep of the men on the MLR was disturbed by the crackle of gun fire from the outposts. Through the complete telephone communication set up, the entire battalion was quickly alerted, and artillery fire called for and received. This fire, combined with accurate tank destroyer, mortar, rifle, and machine gun fire, stopped the enemy infantry in their tracks. Shortly after the counterattack began a number of enemy self-propelled guns were observed coming from the vicinity of Neiderlepte, but the deadly fire of the artillery and tank destroyers knocked out fire of these guns within a few minutes after they were first observed. At the cost of one man killed in G Company, our troops had killed 40 Germans, taken 70 prisoners, and destroyed five SP guns.

As the early light of dawn broke the horizon of 16 April, CC R was preparing to jockey into a slightly different position. G Company was prepared to leave a platoon in their present position, at Godnitz, and move the rest or the company to Gehrden after F Company jumped off on their attack to Shora. However, these plans did not materialize because of a counter attack sustained by E Company in the vic of Gutergluck.

Prior to dawn, K Company, 329th Infantry, was ordered to send a platoon to the town of Toppel (D9585), with the mission of establishing outposts, not only for the company but Battalion front as well. Unfortunately, the attack which was soon to follow missed this group entirely. However, had this unit encountered the attacking force, it is my personal opinion that Molk would have been an entirely different story.

At 0630 the enemy in high spirits and coordinating with the attackers of Hohenlepte and and Nutha, counterattacked Molk with approximately 12 self-propelled guns and a battalion of infantry from the northeast having followed the southern embankment of the railroad. They were to hit the town in three waves, the first striking at 0530 against the engineers. The timing and precision on the part of the Germans was well carried out, for there wasn't a round of friendly artillery opposing them and they completely surprised the engineers.

Lt Col McCawn, Commanding Officer, 2d Battalion, 119th Infantry, stated, "Only one thing need be said about the engineers defending the town. They Ran! This is understandable, of course, for they were not seasoned troops. The initial wave also terrorized the tankers, who for the most part abandoned their tanks. It became a fight of E Company against the enemy."

At 0600, the engineer Commanding Officer notified the CO of E Company, 119th Infantry, that his position had been overran and the enemy was entering the town. Lt Hall notified his 1st Platoon, which was outposting the Gutergluck-Gehrden road, to withdraw to F Company's position. The remainder of E Company was alerted and ordered to take up defensive positions directed toward the north for the attack was moving down the main street in town.

By the time Col McCawn arrived in town, E Company was fighting against very heavy enemy infiltration and the fire of self-propelled guns. The Col again thought, "Our own tanks were very, noticeable by their absence." He instructed Lt Hall to place his men around the houses and to move back only when forced to. He also told Hall that F Company had been ordered to leave its position in Gehrden and attack the enemy from the west.

F Company, moving down the road from the west, hit the enemy column in the rear, momentarily diverting the enemy's attention, accomplishing the element of surprise. At the same time, the second enemy wave attempted to enter the town directly from the east, however artillery fire called for helped slow it up. E Company was heavily outnumbered and soon the Company Command Post was on line; however, it was the action in the vicinity of the command post that broke up the second wave. A combat team composed of Sgt. William O. Jordan, Sgt. Daniel B. Van Nice, and Pfc Franklin White, commanded by the executive officer 1st Lt Holycross (all headquarters personnel) placed themselves in front of the command post, manning an abandoned tank. The 76mm gun, 50 cal. and 30 cal. MG's, plus a bazooka were all brought to bear on the enemy, by these four men. One self-propelled gun was K.O. and the infantry discouraged from continuing the attack. The 3d enemy wave did not enter the town, for the artillery and infantry action discouraged it also.

As the counterattack became more pronounced, G Company, 329th Infantry, was ordered to (D893843) for the purpose of being in a position for a quick shift to any threatened area or stop a possible breakthrough.

Although this engagement is stated to be a victory, because 150 prisoners were taken, more than a hundred ethers killed, and seven self-propelled guns disabled, "E" Company's losses were considerable with three KIA, eight WIA, and 19 MIA. After the action F Company returned to Gehrden, G Company relieved E Company in Gutergluck, and E Company reverted to Battalion Reserve in Godnitz.

The time of the attack having been changed from daylight to 0730, Company C, 331st Infantry had considerably more time to move from Kameritz, south, contact A Company and jumped off on time. However, upon passing through "A" Companies defensive position and moving a few hundred yards, the lead vehicle was fired upon by two enemy armed with burp guns. The infantry immediately detrucked, moved against the opposition which withdrew rapidly. Prior to the departure of the enemy a panzerfaust had been directed against the center of C Company's column but failed to reach due to a tree burst.

Having run on this isolated O.P. unexpectedly and not knowing what lay ahead, a platoon acting in the same capacity as scouts, only on a larger scale, was then used to further prevent the entire Company, from again being surprised or ambushed.42 During this time, A Company had been ordered to send a combat patrol to search the woods in the rear of Charlie for infiltrators; but none were found.

Battalion having received similar orders, the companies were told to stand fast, though permission was granted C Company to clear the woods to the canal (D936767), thus the company consolidated its position (D923775) and sent the patrol to check the crossings of the canal. Upon the patrols return, having had a slight skirmish with three Germans, killing two, three bridges were reported intact at points (D929767-935768-942769). A Company shifted slightly to the vicinity of Badetz, assuming responsibility for a sector of the wooded area south of the town, which was to be heavily outposted. One rifle platoon of Company A and a tank were ordered to the town of Eichholz (D9578) to establish a strong point.

The Battalion remained in the same relative positions.

 

17 April

 

At daybreak, construction on the second bridge over the Elbe River was started by the 234th Engineer Battalion and was completed by 1730 hours. The enemy became very sensitive to the new bridge and made several more attempts to destroy both existing bridges. Not only did artillery fire become more pronounced, but for two successive nights concerted aerial bombardment attacks were made. The anti-aircraft batteries in the vicinity prevented their hitting the bridges, yet the bombs dropped were responsible for several casualties in the general area.

Showing increasing concern over these two bridges, the enemy floated numerous mines down-stream. In doing so, he utilized the drifting mine (Type G.L.) which contained approximately 25 lbs of TNT, a telescopic rod, five feet long, with antenna which extends from the top of the mine. This rod remains above the surface of the water when the mine is floating and any deflection of the antenna will detonate the mine. Anticipating this threat, anti-mine booms were installed about 600 yards upstream from each bridge. Engineer riflemen were also stationed at these points and on the bridges themselves, however in spite of these precautions, one mine came within fifteen feet of the bridge before it was destroyed by rifle fire. Although concussion from the mine caused one casualty, no damage was done to the bridge.

A day or two later, the enemy sent two crews of swimming saboteurs downstream equipped with special rubber suits with amphibious attachments. One of the reported crews was never located; however, the other crew, consisting of one officer and two EM's, was captured. Having experienced great difficulty with the mine boom, they were forced to give up their mine after working an hour to free it. After conclusion of this, there were no more attempts made to destroy either bridge.

Shortly after the bridges were completed, elements of each Engineer Company assisted the infantry in laying and recording minefields along the M.L.R. of the bridgehead. Nearly 14,000 mines were laid and many anti-personnel and trip flare devices were installed.

 

Field Order #33, Headquarters, XIX Corps, 192100 April 45 (Classified Top Secret) stated:

At this date enemy units in contact on Corps front from north to south were: 3 battalions (300 each). Combat Team Burg Regiment Langemier, Scharnhorst Division, 2 Battalion (400 each) and Regiment Mahlow. Corps mission, as set, is to defend the line of the Elbe River in its sector, maintain and defend the existing bridgehead and occupy and govern the assigned areas.

Having completely cleared its assigned area east of the Saale River, the 320th RCT crossed the Elbe River in the vicinity of Barby and relieved CC R, 2d Armored Division. Combat Command R, at this time reverted to its division control. Two days later, the 330th Infantry, having completd its mission in the Harz area, was released from Corps control and joined the 83d Division, relieving the 320th RCT upon arrival at the Bridgehead.

The Division's drive to the Elbe and the establishing of the bridgehead was in no small way dependent on close operation of the air corps. After the division established a bridgehead over the river, a constant flow of fighter-bombers protected the area and had much to do with our maintaining this spear-pointing at the heart of the German Reich—Berlin. Between 15 and 20 April as many as 12 squadrons a day worked with the division and succeeded in destroying at least 28 railroad guns and many field pieces, ammunition dumps, and oil cars.

When the Germans saw that we were not preparing to further the attack, their minds were directed to the Russian drive. An interrogated PW officer revealed that the policy of the German forces at this time was to surrender their unarmed troops to the American forces and continue fighting the Russians as long as possible.

With the capture of Magdebourg by the 2d Armored and 30th Infantry Divisions, there remained in the Corps zone, up to the west bank of the Elbe, no sectors of resistance of any consequence. All zones within the Corps position were consolidated and the 83d Bridgehead across the Elbe strengthened.

General McLain stated: "When I noticed that both the 2d Armored and 83d Infantry Divisions had a bridgehead and I was sure we could maintain one of the two, I ordered the 30th Division not to attempt to cross for two reasons (1) save personnel for we already had two means of crossing and (2) bridging material was scarce."

The General continued, "My plan had been to cross to the east side of the Elbe over the bridge and then direct the 83d Division to attack south and east. The 2d Armored Division units on the east side of the Elbe on their own bridgehead would drive to the north and thereby uncover the 30th Division that held the west bank of the river in their own zone. My plan was not even to wait and reduce Magdeburg. At that particular time, I had had the 35th Division attached to my Corps and I was going to utilize them for this, while my three spearhead units continued their drive east. However, as you know, we were ordered to hold up on the west side of the Elbe and maintain the 83d Bridgehead."

 

SAALE-ELBE POCKET

 

15 April

 

In order to insure the bridgehead's security, it was decided to construct an additional treadway bridge over the Elbe River, at the ferry site, four kilometers south of Barby. To accomplish this however, it was necessary to make an assault crossing of the Saale River and drive the enemy from the pocket between these two rivers. Thus, during the early afternoon of 15 April, the engineers supported an assault crossing made by the 320th Infantry of the 35th Infantry Division. There were only 17 boats used, one battalion crossing on a partially destroyed railroad bridge at (D803763). Although the enemy was well dug in on the opposite shore, the crossing was made without a shot being fired.

The 2d Battalion, in an assembly area at Forderstedt (D6873), was ordered by regiment, at 1100, to effect a crossing of the Saale River. The unit moved by motor to a detrucking area (D800785) from which it proceeded in a column of companies, the order being G, F, & E, with the intention of crossing on the destroyed railroad bridge. This bridge was preamble, with difficulty, for foot troops and was being improved by the engineers at the time the leading elements of the battalion arrived at the foot thereof.

Prior reconnaissance and observation of the ground, soon to be covered, disclosed numerous enemy positions along the levee, 100 yards from the south bank. The enemy, from their position, apparently did not observe the work of the engineers at the north aide of the bridge for there was no fire directed at them while feverishly working against time. However, patrols sent to the south edge of the railroad bridge, entering on that portion raised above the ground, had been sniped at. Thus the column was therefore stopped short of the bridge in order to make necessary arrangements for the supporting fires, which took several hours because of the necessity of establishing communication and getting the weapons in place.

Both heavy machine gun platoons of H Company were emplaced on the north bank of the river, from which they could bring frontal and flanking fire on the enemy positions generally observed along the south levee. The mortar O.P. from an excellent position in a water tower at the north end of the bridge, was prepared to adjust fire on numerous observed targets, one of which, a house along the railroad, had been previously spotted as an enemy command post.

At 1600 all preparations for the attack were completed, and the supporting fires opened up together as G Company in platoon column started across the bridge. The bridge stretched 200 yards, and in 15 minutes all of Company G was across. They methodically cleared the south levee and advanced toward Trabitz (D8175) to allow the remainder of the battalion to cross. The only resistance met consisted of scattered small arms and sniper fire, two casualties being suffered.

Proceeding along the railroad tracks, the Company stopped approximately 800 yards outside of Trabitz, sending an eight man patrol from the 1st Platoon forward to reconnoiter the town. The patrol returned soon thereafter stating that they had found no trace of the enemy. Thus by 1900, the company had moved into Trabitz, taken 9 PW's who voluntarily surrendered, and set up a perimeter defense for the night.

Company F, meanwhile, had started across the bridge behind George Company, at 1630, in platoon column without incident, assembling in a draw immediately south of the bridge. The 3d Platoon from this position, moved forward in column under cover of the dike (D8076), toward the town of Gottesgnaden (D788749), with the mission of reconnoitering the town and occupying it if possible.

Reaching the outskirts of town, a canal too deep and too wide to wade was encountered although upon close observation, two locks with foot bridges offered the desired means of approach. Clearing the shelters of the dykes, and approaching immediately short of the bridges, automatic and small arms fire was received from the far side of the bridges killing the squad leader of the forward squad, and wounding three others. The entire column, hit the ground, returned the fire, but because unable to advance further, withdrew a 100 yards to the cover of the dyke.

2d Lt Vivian C. Palmore reorganized his platoon and sent a five man patrol under the leadership of PFC Charles J. McKruen, a volunteer, forward with the mission of reconnoitering the area adjoining the footbridges for a covered route of approach thereto, and finding the enemy machine gun in that vicinity. The patrol, having accomplished its mission, returned with the exact location of the machine gun position and a covered route of approach to the bridges, offered by the embankment of a near by road.

While the 1st and 2d Platoons, together with the light machine guns, supported by fire from positions along the dyke, the 3d Platoon again moved out along the left side of the embankment, crossed over the footbridge, and moved into the town without meeting resistance, the Germans having already hurridly withdrawn. This was carried out without a mortar or artillery preparation proceeding the attack because friendly troops were in Calbe, approximately 400 yards to the right. The support platoons then moved in on the heels of the 3d Platoon and undertook the clearing of the buildings. 11 PW's including one officer, were captured and the town was completely cleared by 2100 hrs.

A perimeter defense was organized in addition to a heavy guard on each of the foot bridges, consisting of a rifle squad reinforced with a Light Machine Gun Squad, as preparations were made to advance on the town of Schwarz (D793734).

At 2030, G Company was ordered by Battalion to continue their advance and secure Patzetz (D853727), approximately two miles southeast of Trabitz. The unit moved out shortly thereafter in the track to the southwest, the road running parallel with the Saale River, one half mile northwest of Patzetz, was reached in good order. Word was received from Battalion, at that time, to stop and establish a defense along the road and railroad tracks with special attention to the flanks which were exposed, the adjacent units on either flank being at least a mile distant. Thus a strong perimeter defense was set up on this flat and open expanse with the 2d Platoon on left, 1st on the right, 3d in the center. Meanwhile, an eight men patrol from the 3d Platoon was sent forward to reconnoiter the town of Patzetz. This patrol was fired upon on entering the town. Its mission, accomplished, the patrol worked its any back to friendly lines, leaving two of its buddies, dead, in the town.

At 2230, F Company was again alerted and 2d Lt John Scully, 1st Platoon leader, moved out with his men in platoon column toward Schwarz. Preceded by a squad as a point, they moved cautiously and quietly across the open field, reached the town by 2400 without incident and immediately set up a perimeter defense. A runner was dispatched to the company command post at Gottesgnaden and at approximately 0100, the 2d and 4th Platoons entered the town to widen the defenses. The 3d Platoon had been left in Gottesgnaden to hold, however at 0400, when it was decided by Battalion that holding this town was unnecessary, the platoon moved forward and joined the rest of the company.

Company E was initially in Battalion Reserve at (D802765) preparing to cross the Saale River, relieve G Company, and occupy Trabitz, on order. In the late afternoon word was received and the Company moved off, entering the town close to 1930 hours.

The 3d Battalion closed into its rear assembly area, the town of Ulluitz (D705736) at approximately 0200; and at 0900, moved to a forward assembly area at Tornitz (D8378) prepared to effect a crossing of the Saale River coordinating with the 2d Bn, and establish a bridgehead on the south bank thereof.

The Battalion plan called for a crossing of the river at 1600 with two assault companies in the vicinity of (D846766). This move was to be coordinated with the engineers of the 83d Division. The initial crossing was to be made by Companies K & L, in assault boats, after which a pontoon bridge would be constructed for the crossing of heavier equipment. After the bridgehead had been established, Company K was to secure Gr Rosenburg (D8576), Company L was to secure Kl Rosenburg (8577) and Company I was to remain in reserve and protect rear installations, occupying positions to the west and east along the north side of the Saale River. The 113th Cavalry Squadron was to support the crossing from positions north and west of the Saale River by firing on the wooded area in the vicinity of (D850775).

Company K started across the river in assault boats on time, and as soon as the 1st Platoon was over, small arms fire opened up on these leading elements from the direction of Gr Rosenburg. The attack continued slowly, despite this fire, and as darkness fell the town had been partially secured. By 2030, all of K Company had entered the town, although scattered enemy fire continue to stream in from the east edge of the town.

Company L, after crossing the river with little opposition, reaches the vicinity, (D852762) by 1835, where it was ordered by Battalion to move north to clear the wooded area at (D845778) and secure Kl Rosenburg, despise the fact that Company K had still not completely cleared the town of Gr Rosenburg. To ease the situation slightly, I Company was brought forward from Werkleitz to help K Company gain and occupy the town, thus enabling L Company to continue with its mission. By 2230, Company L had secured the town without incident and cleared the woods, sending one platoon east to establish, a road block at (D872782).

In order to protect the right or south flank of the Battalion, Company I was ordered to establish three squad outposts generally along the line (D850758)-(D860757). Two other squads from the Co were used to protect the bride site (D848766), one being north and the other being south of the site.

The 1st Bn., during this phase of the operation, was held in Glothe (D7175), as motorized Division Reserve, not to be committed except on Corps Order.

At 2200 the 83d Div Eng. started the construction of a pontoon bridge across the Saale river, (D847767) although technical difficulties prevents its completion before daylight. Thus, the plan of the 3d Battalion Commander, Col Joseph Alexander, to bring two platoons of medium tanks across the river for direct support of Company K and to protect the bridgehead, was frustrated.

 

16 April

 

During the early hours of the morning, 0500, G Company reported a considerable force of enemy troops, estimated at 150 counterattacking their right (south) flank. Shortly thereafter, word was also heard that the right flank platoon of G Company had been captured.

The Germans, having literally caught our boys napping, had infiltrated through the lines undetected with a sizeable force, capturing most of the 1st Platoon and a heavy machine gun section without firing a shot. This accomplished, enemy fire of every type opened up in heavy intensity from the company's right rear.

The Commanding Officer, seeing that trying to maintain his present position was too dangerous, again called the Battalion Commander and requested pervasion to withdraw to Trabnitz. This request was granted because of three reasons: (1) the enemy was to the company's rear, (2) both flanks were exposed, and (3) the terrain was flat to offer any cover or concealment. Thus, the remainder of the company started pulling back along the main Trabnitz-Patzetz road. Upon reaching the town, having encountered a few minor skirmishes, the company coordinating with and elongated E Company's perimeter defense.

Shortly after the arrival of G Company, an enemy force, attacking from the southwest toward Trabitz, hit Company E's right platoon. However, having good observation together with determined fighting and the support of Company G, the force was held from breaking through to the railroad, which was later learned to be their objective. As it grew lighter, the enemy was pinned down and practically annihilated by artillery fire directed by a liaison plane and mortar fire directed from excellent observation points.

During this action it became necessary to abandon, momentarily, the route from the railroad bridge to Trabitz, along the south bank of the river; thus a ferry was established by the 60th Engineer Battalion at the Bns. present location.

At approximately 1600, when the situation had cleared, G Company was attached to the 3d Battalion taking over defense of the Gr Rosenburg bridge. The company was ferried across the river at Trabitz and moved along the north bank of the river to its new location, arriving just before dark.

In the early hours of the morning, Company F, having successfully cleared Schwarz by daylight, reported that the enemy was dug in alone a series of levees, which practically encircled the town, making it impossible to gain contact with the remainder of the Battalion. This in mind, the company was ordered, at 1200, to withdraw to Gottesgnaden, for Company G had suffered a counterattack and it was considered that F Company was too far forward, with flanks exposed, to set up a reasonable defense. The company began moving back in a circuitous route taking advantage of all available cover and concealment. From Gottesgraden, the company followed its previous route to the railroad in order to occupy positions supporting the right rear of Company E. Because of the necessary slowness of movement and minor skirmishes on the way, most of the day was required, although by dark, the company was in position from the vicinity of (D810749) extending north to the railroad bridge.

Closely coordinated with the attack on G Co, Gr Rosenburg was attacked from the front, flank and rear by an estimated 150 enemy infantry who evidently intended to pinch off the town from the bridgehead. The engineers, still working on the bridge, were forced to abandon it because of direct fire coming from the rear, west edge, of town. Company K was receiving heavy small arms, machine gun, mortar and bazooka fire in the town proper. A group of about 50 Germans were observed working their way along the deep ditch that ran along the river dyke in the vicinity of (D852765) toward the bridge site. The squad from Company I, which was attached to the engineer group for close in protection, opened fire on this enemy group from excellent positions at the bridge site and prevented them from actually reaching the partially completed bridge. This bridge however was completed after this minor action.

Company K, aware of this threat, brought a single 60mm knee mortar, the only one in its possession, into action against the enemy group. The fire from this weapon proved to be very effective in as much as 15-16 dead Germans were found in the ditch after the fight. Fire from this mortar greater influenced the enemy withdrawal, for several hundred rounds were fired during this period. The fight lasted almost three hours, at which time the enemy withdrew although fourteen casualties were suffered.

Shortly prior to the German counterattack of Gr. Rosenburg, Bn had bock quite concerned over the absence of word from "I" Co's platoon, which was outposting the right flank, as the evidence of a coming German counter-attack become more pronounced in the direction of this lone platoon 1st Lt Kleber TREGG, Cannon Co observer with the 3d Battalion, 320th Infantry described the action:

"I was with Capt Homer W. Kurtz, Commanding Officer of Company K at an observation post, within the southern outskirts of Gr Rosenburg. We observed a general line of approximately 30 or 40 German soldiers firing small arms in the direction of the 1st Platoon from positions in the vicinity of a barn (D859756) approximately 500 yards from us. Approximately 100 rounds of HE were dropped by the guns of cannon company, in the vicinity of the barn, scoring at least seven or eight direct hits. Suddenly 23 men ran out from the barn with their hands over their heads. Thinking they were Germans wanting to surrender, we beckoned them forward across the open field, but they would not come. We then got hold of a German civilian, gave him a direct order to go out under a white flag and advise the enemy troops that they would not be fired at if they came into our lines with their hands over their heads. After a 30 minute conference between the civilian and the soldiers, he returned alone and informed us that most of the men there were Americans and the Germans were using them to make us stop our fire which they could no longer endure. Soon thereafter the Germans in a sneaking attempt, tried to withdraw along the road and open field to the south of the barn taking our troops along with them. However, cannon and machine gun fire placed only a few yards to their front stopped and forced them to retreat to the shelter of the barn. We were afraid to fire at them for fear of hitting our own men. Several similar attempts were stopped in the same manner. We then observed a soldier running toward us, whom we recognized as an American. When he reached us he said that a high German officer offered to make the following deal with us. "Let us withdraw to Breitenhagen (8978) and we will let your men go".

After some consideration it was decided to save the captured platoon and the offer was consented to by Capt Kurtz. However, a group of volunteers were armed with automatic weapons, mounted on a truck and moved out to the vicinity short of the barn under cover of a line of trees to insure that the enemy would carry out their bargain. The enemy started to withdraw and took the captured platoon several hundred yards with them, after which they released them, we kept our word also.

Shortly thereafter, 1700, L & I Companies, with two platoons of light tanks attached, continued the attack toward Brietenhagen and by 1900 the battalion reported the town clear of the enemy.

The 1st Battalion, having reported to regimental control at 1615, moved to an assembly area in Tornitz preparatory to employment on the right flank of the 3d Battalion. This move was dictated by the fact that the 3d Battalion moved east and the 2d Battalion south, thus opening the center of the regimental line as the advance progressed. The Battalion jumped off from the vicinity of Gr Rosenburg at 2045, and by 2355, without difficulty, had advanced to positions vicinity (D9176), where it halted for the night.

 

17 April

 

Daybreak witnessed the first phase in the construction of the second bridge over the Elbe River at (D898788). By late afternoon 1730, having had no interference all day, the bridge was in full operation.

During the early hours of the morning, orders were received from regiment reverting Company G to 2d Battalion control and attaching a platoon of light tanks, of the 113th Cavalry Squadron, to the Co. at Gr Rosenburg. Actually, this platoon had only two tanks. The Battalion's mission, as given, was to clear the area between the boundaries shown on the overlay. The Battalion plan called for Company G, with the platoon of light tanks, to move south at 0800 from its position at Gr Rosenburg, secure Patzetz and Sachsendorf, turning west at that time to seize the farm at (D831720), finally moving into Zuchau. Company E at the same time, was to move from Krabitz to Patzetz, immediately behind Company G and take over the clearing of the town, should it be necessary, and prepared to continue its follow up to Sachsendorf, sending one platoon to clear Rajock and one the area in the vicinity of (D862769). Company F was to move parallel to Company E along the railroad establishing contact with Company G at the farm (D831720), plus protecting the Battalion's right flank, along the railroad, facing to the southeast. The only resistance encountered, at all, was by Company F at the railroad crossing (D828730), which consisted of a few enemy apparently left over from the day before. By this tine, Company F had been passed through by the 83d Reconnaissance Troops which reconnoitered the area to the east of the Battalion and found it to be unoccupied. The Company then moved into the same town with Company G. Patrols of both companies were sent to Dornback and Gramsdorf, each found unoccupied. At 1815, two platoons of F Co, were dispatched to Gerbitz to clear the town taken by the 83d Rcn. troop.

During the days operation, a few enemy stragglers were rounded up, but organized resistance, of any kind, was non existant. The Battalion remained in the positions last indicated until the morning of the following day, 18 April, at which time they became Division Reserve for the 83d Division and were assembled in Breitenhagen (8978), prepared to move to the east bank of the Elbe River. At approximately 1400 the Battalion was ordered to send one company to Barby (D8582) to relieve Company C, 330th Infantry in the protection of the bridge site. However at 1700, the Battalion, less Company G, was attached to the 329th Infantry and at 2200 moved to an assembly area in the via of Walternienberg as regimental reserve.

The 1st Battalion attacked at 0730 and easily reached its successive objectives in good order, having merely encountered scattered small arms resistance. A Company, attacking on the right, cleared Lodderitz by 1330 and Diebzig by 1630 hours. B Company, attacking through the center, had not only cleared the woods (D9273) but was approaching Kuhren at about 1630 hrs. By 1815, B Company had cleared Kuhren, having found it unoccupied, and C Company had reached the limit of the regimental advance. K Company was attached to the 1st Battalion at 1530 and ordered to Lodderitz as Battalion Reserve, thus giving support, in depth, to the front line elements.

The 3d Battalion (less Company K & M) was attached to CCR 2d Armored Division at 1500, and at the same tine M Company was attached to the 83d Division Engineers to guard the bridge site at Breitenhagen, relieving L Company. The 3d Battalion (less Companies K & M) began movement to the vicinity of Flotz.

 

18 April

 

This particular day was very uneventful for all concerned, consisting of only minor changes for a few of the units. Late in the period, the 2d Battalion was moved to Breitenhagen, in preparation of crossing the Elbe. The following day an order was received by the Commanding Officer of the 320th Infantry Regiment from the Commanding General, 83d Division, dated 190720, which stated:

CT 320 relieves CCR of the 2d Armored Division in zone with mission of defending north flank of Elbe River bridgehead. Being immediately complied with, by the end of the period the relief had been completed.

Having spent a moat peaceful three days, covering the northern flank of the bridgehead, the 320 CT was relieved by the 330th Inf (83 Division), at which time it reverted to 35th Division control. Thus their mission had been accomplished.

 

The days following were extremely serene for the 83d Division with few changes being made unopposed. The climax, of course, came then the Russians uncovered completely, XIX Corps front, thus ending the war for these tired but true fighting men.

 
 

 

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