XIX CORPS NEWSPAPERS & PUBLICATIONS

 
 

XIX CORPS ENGINEERS

 

FOREWORD

 

The German Army is totally defeated. Now, immediately thereafter, a brief history of the XIX Corps Engineers has been assembled. The past eleven (11) months of combat are in the too recent past to view with great perspective. This report attempts to record factual data with little comment. it is felt that the record of the Engineers of this Corps will be inhaneed through close examination. Their record of achievement is solid; group planning has been sound, always reliable, sometimes brilliant; execution has been aggressive; individual acts of heroism have been numerous; team work with other arms has been outstanding.

 

From the viewpoint of the Corps Engineer I would like to record that cooperation and mutual support within the Corps General and Special Staff Sections and the other Corps troops have been uniformly superior. I doubt if Corps Engineers ever have been given a finer opportunity to fit into their proper place in a combat team.

 

The records of every Group, Battalion and Company speak for themselves. They are filled with commendations, citations and reports of missions accomplished. The men who actually did the job themselves have my unlimited praise. Every man in the XIX Corps Engineers can justly be proud of his organization and the part it played in the defeat of Germany.

 
                                                                                                                                              H. S.  Miller
                                                                                                                                              Colonel, C.E.,
                                                                                                                                              Corps Engineer.
 
 

ENGINEER HISTORY

 

Engineer operations in any locality depend principally upon the terrain. The more peculiar or extraordinary the terrain, the more unique become Engineer operations.

 

The terrain in Normandy, France, is peculiar for the large number of small streams, vast inundated areas near the beachhead the tidal influence on all streams and the thick hedgerows which often sheltered sunken roads. Hedges, as shown in Figs. 1, 2 & 3, gave the enemy excellent defensive positions which were easily camouflaged and stubbornly held. The logistics of the beachhead operations, therefore, presented many engineering problems. Added to this was the special situation of operating on a beachhead with all the accompanying problems of delayed buildup of personnel and materiel, complicated by unfavorable weather.

 

Elements of the XIX Corps landed on Omaha Beach beginning on D plus 2 June 9, 1944 and were concentrated in a Corps sector which, roughly speaking, extended from a north-south line 4 miles west of Isigny to a north-south line 6 miles east of Isigny. This position straddled the River Vire, along which the Corps fought for approximately 4 weeks, requiring many crossings along its length. In addition a crossing of the Vire et Taute canal on the Corps right front was also made early in the offensive operations.

 

The railroad east of Carentan formed the front line of the 30th Infantry Division on the 14th of June when the division was ordered to attack. The 246th Engineer Combat Battalion was placed in support of the 30th, and on the night of 14 - 15 June constructed two DS Bailey bridges (4 & 5) over passes across the railroad. In this operation the engineers were forced to work out in front of the infantry, due  to the commanding positions held by the enemy on the south side of the railroad, which prevented the 30th from establishing a bridgehead without some means to cross the railroad cut.

 

The two bridges, constructed under blackout conditions because of enemy artillery and small arms fire on the sites, were completed in five hours and were ready when the attack began. There were no engineer casualties of men or equipment.

 

Three unsupported treadway bridges (10 - 11 - 12) had been placed across destroyed bridges in the inundated area south of La Cambe by troops of the assault forces. When XIX Corps assumed responsibility for the area the Corps Engineer decided to replace them with class 40 fixed bridges.

 

Because these bridges were located on a heavily traveled MSR it was undesirable to close the road to traffic for a sufficient length of time to allow construction of fixed bridges. The decision, therefore, was to replace the treadway with Bailey, and then build fixed bridges underneath the Bailey.

 

Figure 1:   Typical German road block used in Normandy

Figure 2:  German Command Post in the hedgerows of Normandy.

 

Figure 3:  Sunken road between hedgerows.

 

The 247th Engineer Combat Battalion was assigned the first phase of the work and began construction 172400 June. Each site (7 - 8 - 9) required a 30 foot DS Bailey, and to facilitate operations all required materials were unloaded beside the road and adjacent to the bridges on the afternoon of 17 June. The road was scheduled to be closed to traffic for 3 hours but due to blackout working conditions and the limited working space, they were not completed until 180500. However, the delay caused no serious traffic tie-up.

 

The next day work begun on the permanent timber bridges by the 254th Engineer Combat Battalion completed the following day. Traffic was again diverted for approximately 3 hours shortly after midnight to allow the removal of the Baileys and completion of the approaches.

 

The above procedure ( outlined in some detail ) is considered a very satisfactory arrangement, as the height of the Bailey above the roadway allows complete construction of a timber bridge -- with the exception of the approaches -- without disrupting traffic.

 

The task of routing troops and supplies to the right flank of the Corps sector west of Isigny was becoming increasingly difficult due to congested traffic on the one road running from Isigny west. On 21 July the Engineer gave orders to construct the necessary bridges to open another road from Neully to la Ray. Two bridges (12 -13) were required because of two streams between Neully and la Ray. The 246th and 247th Engineer Combat Battalions were given the jobs and completed them in good time.

 

The first bridge constructed across the Vire river on the Isigny - Carentan highway was a Bailey and as our traffic increased along this route it soon became apparent that a two-way bridge was necessary to prevent serious traffic disruption. Plans were immediately drawn up for a class 70 timber pile two way bridge, and work was started by the 254th Engineer Combat Battalion. Four days were required for completion.

 

Following the established procedure of replacing temporary bridges as soon as possible, a timber trestle (17) was constructed across the railroad cut southwest of Isigny 28 June. The 246th Engineer Combat Battalion constructed the bridge after first removing the Bailey.

 

Stubborn enemy resistance between the Vire and Taute rivers just south of the Vire and Taute Canal presented a serious threat to out east-west communications and the Omaha beach itself. A large scale attack was deemed necessary to eliminate this menance. Plans were therefore formulated for the 30th Infantry Division to make a two-pronged attack the morning of 7 July.

 

The 105th Engineer Combat Battalion -- 30th Infantry Division Engineers -- spearheaded the attack at dawn by transporting infantry units across the Vire at St Fromond in assault boats. The assault waves were hardly across when the 105th started construction of a footbridge in the same area. Twice before the infantry was able to use the bridge it was damaged by enemy artillery fire, but immediately repaired by the engineers. Twenty engineer casualties were incurred from this operation.

 

The existing bridge (21) at St Fromond was only partially destroyed and afforded the quickest means of getting artillery and vehicles across to support the infantry drive, so it was planned to span the gaps with treadway. The 247th Engineer Combat Battalion constructed the necessary repairs in an hours' time in spite of harassing mortar, artillery and sniper fire.

 

Corps engineer units constructed two additional bridges in the vicinity of St Fromond early in the attack -- a floating treadway (22) south of the existing bridge and an infantry support bridge (23) to the north by the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion, plus the 503rd Light Pontoon Company. Artillery shells fell in the vicinity of the infantry support bridge but no damage resulted. Corps engineers suffered approximately 15 casualties in all of those operations.

 

Meanwhile, the second prong of the coordinated attack was pushing across the Vire and Taute Canal to the northwest. The 30th Infantry Division assault troops encountered strong enemy opposition just south of the canal and called for armor to support their drive.

 

The problem of constructing a bridge (24) in the face of observed enemy fire was met by a brilliantly planned and executed maneuver, involving coordination between engineers and artillery.

 

A party from the 246th Engineer Combat Battalion constructed 36' of treadway bridge in a rear and loaded it on Brockway trucks. At a prearranged signal the artillery laid down a smoke barrage on the far shore and the engineers pulled away from the site just as the smoke lifted. The entire operation consumed less then 30 minutes, and greatly aided the drive of the 30th Infantry Division.

 

Because of the tremendous amount of traffic on the east - west road through Ariel, it was decided to construct a by-pass road and bridge north of the existing site. On the night of 9 July the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion started work on both projects. The bridge, a 90' (Bridge 30) TS Bailey, was completed in five hours but two days were required to finish the road. However, traffic was going over the bridge as soon as it was finished.

 

As elements of the XIX Corps drove steadily southward it was necessary to repair or construct bridges for lateral communication every few miles. The next crossing was made in the vicinity of Cavigny, where the 234th Engineer Combat Battalion constructed a 110' TS Bailey (Bridge 32) and approaches on 13 July. The enemy sporadically shelled the town but no casualties occurred among the engineer. A few Teller mines were discovered and lifted near the site.

 

Three days later it became necessary to open another crossing in the vicinity of le Meauffe and the 234th Engineer Combat Battalion was assigned the task. A TS Bailey (Bridge 36) 110' long was to be constructed from an island to the far shore. Two sets of treadway were laid from the near shore to the island. because of the limited working space the loaded trucks were forced to back across the treadway, dump their loads and then move back to the near shore before any work could be done.  

 

Pont Herbert was taken by the 35th Infantry Division the 18th of July and by nightfall they had a firm bridgehead in that vicinity. The 992nd Engineer Treadway Bridge Company constructed a 156' (Bridge 38) floating treadway (Figure 4) on the night of the 18th.

 

Figure 4 

 

The following night it was converted into a trestle treadway by the same unit. The site was bombed and strafed during the conversion but no damage or casualties resulted.

 

One bridge at this point being insufficient to carry the heavy two-way traffic, the 234th Engineer Combat Battalion constructed 130' (Bridge 37) of DD Bailey on 19 July.

 

By 25 July the town of St. Lo was in our hands and because of the convergence or roads from all directions on the town, became the most important traffic center so far taken by U.S. troops -- and at the same time it presented the most formidable bridging problems to date. The streets were completely blocked by rubble from the destroyed buildings (Figure 5) requiring engineer units to work night and day in an effort to open them to vehicular traffic. To expedite traffic to the east and south a 80' (Bridge 41) DS Bailey was constructed northwest of the town on 27 July. The 247th Engineer Combat Battalion constructed the bridge and 1½ miles of new road.

 

Figure 5

 

The main bridges across the Vire in St. Lo had been damaged by our bombs some time previous but because of the road net, was deemed the most logical place to begin work. The 295th Engineer Combat Battalion cleared the streets and approaches, lifted 44 mines and placed a 36' span of treadway across the damaged portion of the bridge. The troops were constantly harrassed by enemy artillery fire and bombing while working. The next day the treadway was replaced by Bailey (Bridge 47) by the same unit.

 

At the same time ( 28 and 29 July ) three more bridges were being put across the Vire to the south and southwest of St. Lo. The first bridge, two miles south of the town was built by the 234th Engineer Combat Battalion. Construction was hampered by the stone side rails of the existing bridge -- over which the 110 (Bridge 42) TS Bailey was being built -- and by the fact that 300 lbs of explosive had to be removed from the railroad overpass before construction could begin. The second and third bridges were constructed on the St. Lo - Canisy highway by the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion (Bridges 45 & 46). A number of AT mines were removed from either side of the river on both sites, then a Bailey and a treadway were built side by side to handle two-way traffic.

 

On 30 July the boundary between XIX Corps and V Corps was the Vire river, with XIX Corps engineers responsible for construction of all bridges. Each Corps was responsible for the approaches on its side. The first crossing made under these conditions was at Conde-sur-Vire on 30 July by the 234th Engineer Combat Battalion, where they put in a 90' Bailey (Bridge 49). The division of responsibility for approaches was very unsatisfactory in that V Corps engineers did not start work as soon as necessary and thus delayed the completion of the job. It is recommended that one unit be made responsible for the entire job.

 

The stone arch bridge across the Vire at Tessy had been destroyed by bombs so it was necessary to construct a 110' Bailey (Bridge 50) which was built on 3 August. A few AT mines were found in the bed of the stream but no casualties resulted.

 

The last main east - west road crosses the Vire in the vicinity of Fontfaroy, a bend occurring in the river just south of that point and the stream bed veers sharply to the east out of XIX Corps boundary. The 234th Engineer Combat Battalion made this crossing, constructing 80' of DS Bailey (Bridge 52) on 4 August.

 

Additional bridges were required at St. Lo and St. Thomas de St. Lo. Two trestle treadways were built at these sites by the 992nd Engineer Treadway Bridge Company.

 

NOTE:   In addition to the crossing operations on the Vire, use was made of the locks and dams to control the water level. The lock  (Figure 6) nearest the river's mouth was at Ariel.

 

Figure 6

 

The lock was closed when captured. At this point in our advance we were attacking in force and anticipated a rapid advance. It was therefore decided to lower the water level to facilitate transportation of our troops across the river and to create a catch basin at the lower end of the river to take up any flood water the enemy might attempt to send down on us.

 

Being near the sea, the river at this location was affected by tidal action. A study of this effect showed that the tide ran out in about ten and one-half hours, and came in one and one-half hours. With the sluice gates closed, the water rose on the river side at the rate of nine inches per hour, whereas the tide came in at the rate of two feet per hour. Therefore, by manipulation of the gates to close out the sea water, the average depth of the river at this point was lowered about four feet.

 

The second lock was at la Meauffe. This one was found open. At the time XIX Corps reached this location it was to our advantage to raise the water level ahead of us, for two reasons. First, the river ran around behind the enemy and could be an obstacle to his supply lines. Secondly, reconnaissance discovered a small enemy footbridge at Rampan which had built just below the water level. By raising the water we were able to hinder enemy communications and deny him the use of the bridge. the gates were accordingly closed and the water level raised 7½ feet at the lock.

 

When the 35th Infantry Division reached the bend in the river northwest of St. Lo and took up defensive positions the water level was kept up to afford the best possible obstacle in front of the position. Later when the offensive was resumed, the water was lowered and the river crossed. 

 
Emphasizing the importance of St. Lo as a traffic center is the fact that three divisions were routed through the town in three day's time, all heading south in pursuit of the enemy.
 

A little farther up the Vire this Corps hit another traffic and communication center in the town of Vire. When its capture was announced by the 29th Infantry Division, the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion was ordered into the town to clear the roads of debris and mines; found the town still largely occupied by the enemy. After an all day fight, in which more than a score of the enemy were killed and 128 prisoners taken, the town was clear of Germans. The streets were then cleared for traffic. The engineers suffered 5 casualties, none of them serious.  

 

The main engineer activities from Vire south to Domfront consisted of clearing roads of mines, repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and clearing streets of rubble. 

 

Near Domfront our troops encountered the most extensive minefields since the early days of invasion. The enemy had large depots located in this area and had heavily mined all roads, paying especial attention to bridge and ford approaches. The location of one proposed ford had to be changed several times because of the mines. The 295th engineers suffered nine casualties during the sweeping and lifting operations. The Corps reached its objective in the south - eastern  push in good time and several days were spent in purely holding onto our gains while the Falaise gap was being closed.

 
During this time the engineers were engaged principally in road maintenance.
 

After a long administrative move to the vicinity of Evreaux the Corps started a northward drive and again the principal engineer task were; maintenance and repair of roads, and clearing the towns of rubble and debris.

 

Then came the most extensive bridging operations of the campaign to date -- the crossing of the Seine. The 28th Infantry Division was relieved of assignment to the Corps before these operations began so the bulk of the river -- crossing load was shouldered by Corps engineers. The 79th Infantry Division had established a bridgehead across the Seine, but was unable to expand it because of stiff enemy resistance. Top priority was given to the construction of bridges over which to send reinforcements.

 

During these bridges operations Corps engineers constructed the following bridges. The 295th Engineer Combat Battalion built a floating treadway (Bridge 104) in two sections near Manted; the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion built a floating treadway (Bridge 103) and a floating Bailey, each 610' long near Meulan; the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion built two (Bridges 99 & 100) heavy pontoon bridges, each 560' long, near Poissy, and a class 40 Bailey (Bridge 98) over the damaged portion of an existing bridge leading into Paris.

 

All of these bridging operations practically exhausted the supply of available bridging. Several bridges had to be picked up after the 2nd Armored Division and the 30th Infantry Division had crossed to the north side of the Seine in order to provide bridging for our northward drive.

 

During the September drive through northern France into Belgium bridging operations were quite light, with only seven short spans of Bailey being constructed from the Seine to the Belgium border. Two cases of poor demolitions on the part of the enemy enabled us to merely doze dirt onto the structures in order to prepare them for traffic.

 

When the Corps turned eastward Maastricht two engineer task forces were formed to facilitate rapid movement. The first consisted of the 1104th Engineer Group Headquarters, 246th Engineer Combat Battalion, 611th Engineer Light Equipment Company, two platoons of the 503rd Light Pontoon Company, one platoon of the 992nd Treadway Bridge Company, and a Battery of AAA. The second task force was made up of the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion, one platoon of the 992nd Treadway Bridge Company, one platoon of the 503rd Light Pontoon Company, and a Battery of AAA. The principal task of these two forces were to rapidly clear and maintain roads and construct bridges on three main routes of advance. Two short Bailey spans and a couple of expedient bridges were all that were required in the 80 mile drive.

 

The Corps had been fighting a rather strange war for some time; by passing large pockets of the enemy, and even capturing Jerries in our bivouac areas. The engineer task forces added another chapter to the vagaries of the campaign. The 2nd Armored Division ran out of gas on the way to the Meuse, and when the engineer task forces caught up with the stalled tanks the decision was made to push on as far as possible alone. Picking up two additional batteries of quadruple mounted cal. 50s the engineers pushed on to the Albert Canal, clearing out the enemy west of the canal in several brisk engagements. 

 

The enemy had done a very thorough job of demolitions on the existing bridges across both the Albert canal (Figure 7) and the Meuse, except at Liege, where VII Corps had captured one bridge intact.

 

Figure 7

 

The 234th Engineer Combat Battalion quickly constructed treadways (Bridges 118 & 119) across the canal and the Meuse near Vise, which became extremely important to our Corps operations. The decision was made to pass two engineer battalions across this bridge, to be closely followed by a bridge train. The battalions were to move up to the east bank of the river to Maastricht and construct a bridge from east to west.  This was accomplished against very light opposition and by nightfall of the same day, 14 September, the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion had completed a treadway (Bridge 123) and a heavy pontoon bridge (Bridge 122) across the river. Shortly thereafter all opposition on the "island" formed by the Albert canal and the Meuse had ceased.

 

Meanwhile the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion had been assigned the task of building a Bailey across the canal to the island. The enemy was firmly entrenched on the far shore and it was necessary to send infantry across before beginning construction. The infantry quickly reduced opposition and a 140' DD Bailey (Bridge 128) (Figure 8) was constructed. However, in launching the bridge one section collapsed and dropped the entire structure into the canal. Necessary equipment for salvaging the bridge was immediately ordered; the damaged sections "burned" off at the water's edge and the remainder of the bridge hauled back to the near shore where reconstruction was begun. The bridge was successfully launched and traffic started over on the night of 15 September. 

 

The Dutch had managed to send two barges through the German lines and because of the failure of the first bridge one of these barges was placed and anchored beneath the Bailey in the center of the span. The barge was not directly supporting the bridge but was there in case of excessive deflection. The bridge was commonly called the "Psychological Bridge."

 

Figure 8

 

Because of the delay due to the collapse of the Bailey, a treadway (Bridge 129) was quickly thrown across the canal in the same vicinity and was completed by early morning of 15 September. Operations were able to proceed according plan.

 

One of the existing bridges across the Meuse at Maastricht had three spans destroyed, and the Engineer decided to put this bridge back into using Bailey bridging over the destroyed spans. It required the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion just three days to complete the three spans (Bridges 141, 142, 143, 144 & 145) the longer span, a 190' TT Bailey, had since become famous as the longest single span Bailey in the ETO and was featured in the XIX Corps Christmas card. (See Figure 9 and 10)

 

Figure 9

Figure 10

 
The remainder of southern Holland in our sector was cleared of the enemy without much trouble, and involved no major engineer task.
 

The Corps consisted at this time of only the 2nd Armored and the 30th Infantry Divisions, and had a long exposed northern flank, where they laid thousands of mines and fought as infantry. The 246th Engineer Combat Battalion suffered extremely heavy casualties while on the mission. Two other engineer battalions, the 295th and the 82nd, together with the 1115th Engineer Group Headquarters were placed in Corps reserve until such time as a third division should be assigned to the Corps.

 

Early in October a decision was made to crack the Siegfried Line in our sector, the defenses of which began along the far shore of the Wurm River. All bridges across the Wurm were destroyed and every possible site covered by artillery and small arms fire. However, the 30th Infantry Division easily forced a crossing of the stream, and in a very short time thereafter the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion had a Bailey (Bridge148) in position at Marienburg, Germany, and a treadway (Bridge 150) at Rimburg, Germany. The approaches to the bridges were very soft and had been weakened by the continued wet weather and it became a Herculean job to keep them open to traffic, especially since all sites were still under artillery fire. However, the job was accomplished and by 11 October the Siegfried Line had been thoroughly penetrated by the 30th Infantry Division and the 2nd Armored Division in the Corps area.

 

Meanwhile the 7th Armored Division had been assigned to the Corps with the mission of clearing out the enemy still west of the Meuse in the area of Venlo. An engineer task force consisting of the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 992nd Engineer Treadway Bridge Company, and one platoon of the 512th Light Pontoon Company was placed in support of the division. During this operation, which was not too successful, the engineers again suffered heavy casualties.

 

On 11 October the 246th Engineer Combat Battalion was attached to the 30th Infantry Division to fight as infantry. The remainder of the 1104th Engineer Combat Group was formed into two task forces to aid in the encirclement of Aachen. The first of the two task forces consisted of Group Headquarters, the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion and 172nd Engineer Combat Battalion, with the following attachments: two batteries of AAA, one company of TD's, and one platoon of tanks. Two battalions of artillery and one company of 4.2" mortars were in support of the Task Force.  The second Task Force consisting of the 611th Light Equipment Company, 503rd Light Pontoon Company, and the 989th Treadway Bridge Company was initially Group reserve. 

 

The attack began on 16 October and went off very well. The main task force averaging over 2 km per day until 18 October when contact was established with adjacent units coming up from the south. Meanwhile the second task force was committed on the right flank and by 20 October both forces had reached 'no advance lines."

 

During the attack the engineers took well over 300 prisoners, destroyed dozens of pillboxes, and had suffered only very light casualties -- and the first large German city had been taken by American troops.

 

Engineers were relieved of infantry duties on 22 October, and on the same day XIX Corps was assigned to Ninth Army, after having served under First Army since D-day.

 

The next attack with the Roer River as its immediate objective began on 16 November and reached the objective one week later after very stiff town to town fighting. Major engineer accomplishments during the attack were clearing and posting minefields and maintenance of roads. Many towns were almost completely mined and booby-trapped. Signs were posted warning troops of this fact. heavy traffic over the poorly constructed roads caused constant deterioration, and maintenance of them was a major problem.

 

Plans had been formulated to cross the Roer once we had reached it but before this operation was attempted information was received at the engineer office which caused a complete change in plans. The Germans had constructed two dams upstream from XIX Corps sector and with these dams could control the flow of the river, and even cause disastrous floods. Our crossing had to be delayed until such time as these dams could be destroyed or captured. Two attempts were made to capture the dams but each time our troops were repulsed. Several heavy bombing attacks failed to do any material damage to the structure.

 

Then came the breakthrough in the Ardennes sector and all thoughts of crossing were dismissed for the time being. VII Corps on our right was shifted to the breakthrough area and XIX Corps moved south and took over VII Corps sector. Our troops in this area were spread necessarily thin because of the demands to the south, and there ensued the most extensive minefield operations, plus other fixed and temporary defense works, on the entire campaign. Roads in the new Corps area were in bad condition and until a freeze occurred, it became almost impossible to keep all routes open to traffic. The freeze caused icy surfaces on all roads, which coupled with several heavy snowfalls caused new engineer headaches. The roads were satisfactorily maintained, however, principally by scattering cinders and gravel almost every day. Here for the first time we utilized the service of German civilian laborers both on road maintenance and the construction of chespaling for future operations. 

 

As soon as the German drive in the south was stopped and our counter-attacks developed, this Corps began a limited objective attack to secure the dams controlling the waters of the Roer. Working at times in blinding blizzards, day and night, Corps Engineers of the 1104th Engineer Combat Group greatly assisted the attack by building one assault bridge (Bridge 193) across the upper Roer. Thirteen bulldozers were lost by running over mines in the deep snow.

 

XIX Corps returned to the northern sector on 5 February 1945 where planning began once more for crossing of the Roer. A thaw heaving occurred all roads in the sector were rapidly becoming virtually impassable, and again, only by working night and day were the engineers able to arrest their deterioration and improve them for the very heavy traffic which would immediately proceed and follow the Roer assault.

 

The attack toward the dams was progressing well until 9 February when, with our troops in sight of the dams, the enemy destroyed the discharge tubes causing flood conditions which lasted approximately two weeks.

 
After the crossing of the Roer had to be delayed until the flood water receded sufficiently to assure the success of our operation.
 

The enemy was completely fooled when the Corps attacked 24 hours before the receding began in spite of the width of the river and the speed of the current.

 

The assault of the Roer River began before dawn on 23 February and proceeded according to plan in most cases. A total of 16 bridges were constructed across the river, 15 of them in the assault phases. The 246th Engineer Combat Battalion built 3 footbridges (Bridges 208, 209 and 210) 1 treadway (Bridge 219) and one infantry support bridge (Bridge 212); the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion 1 treadway (Bridge 220) and one Bailey (Bridge 222); the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion 1 footbridge (Bridge 221) and 4 treadways (Bridges 214 and 215); the 554th Engineer Heavy Pontoon Company one heavy pontoon (Bridge 213); the 503rd Engineer Light Pontoon Company 1 footbridge and the 105th Engineer Combat Battalion 1 footbridge and one treadway. (Figures 11 - 12 - 13)  

 

Figure 11

Figure 12

Footbridge on Roer River. Treadway destroyed by artillery, Julich, Germany
 

Figure 13

Roer River Bailey, Julich, Germany

 

One hundred and eight feet of treadway bridging was destroyed when an enemy artillery concentration fell and construction had to be postponed until the artillery was silenced. One footbridge was damaged and had to be replaced nine times. Eventually all of the footbridges had to be abandoned but not until their primary mission had been accomplished. Every bridge except the Bailey was constructed under observed artillery and small arms fire due to the enemy holding the high ground on the far shore. Engineers suffered very heavy casualties during the operations, totaling 14 killed and 128 wounded. Alligators (Figure 14) were very successfully employed in transporting infantry to the far shore and the evacuation of wounded across the stream.

 

Figure 14

 

The city of Julich presented much the same problem as did St. Lo back in Normandy. All available road equipment was put to work clearing highways through the town and this was accomplished with a minimum of lost time.

 

By this time our armor and infantry had almost completely smashed enemy resistance, and Corps engineers had very little engineering work to do until the Rhine was reached, there being few minefields and fewer streams to cross. On 3 March engineers began the task of clearing the streets of München-Gladbach, which had been hard hit in previous bombing raids. 

 

When XIX Corps plans for an immediate crossing of the Rhine were turned down by higher headquarters, the Corps and Corps troops began a program of training and rehabilitation. One battalion, the 234th Engineer Combat Battalion, was attached to XVI Corps for the purpose of making the Rhine crossing. The 247th Engineer Combat Battalion built the only bridge in the Corps area in that period, a 98' pile structure (Bridge 240).

 

Colonel Miller, XIX Corps Engineer, and Major Cockey, XIX Corps Engineer Supply Officer were "loaned" to XVI Corps to help in the planning and acquisition of supplies for the Rhine assault. They remained with that Corps until the crossing had been made and the bridges were in position.

 

XIX Corps crossed the Rhine as soon as the bridgeheads had been firmly established. The 2nd Armored , 30th Infantry, 83rd Infantry, 95th Infantry and the 17th Airborne Divisions, crossed into the bridgehead and began the operations that were to culminate in the complete collapse of the German armies in the west.

 

The enemy had destroyed all of the bridges across the Dortmund - Ems canal and the Ems River. Considerable bridging was required in the crossing of these water obstacles. On 31 March the 17th Armored Engineer Combat Battalion constructed a 144' (Bridge 241) treadway across the Ems and the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion built 130' of DD Bailey across the canal (Bridge 242). Two more bridges were used in crossing the canal, 144' of treadway (Bridge 243) and 110' of TS Bailey (Bridge 244), both constructed by the 295th Engineer Combat Battalion.

 

By this time the 2nd Armored Division had scored a definite breakthrough, the division drove all of the way to the Weser, meeting scattered resistance. A bridgehead was very quickly established, and the 17th Armored Engineer Combat Battalion constructed 382' of treadway across the Weser on 5 April (Bridge 245).  On 6 April the 234th Engineer Combat Battalion built another treadway (Bridge 246) across the Weser and on 8 April the Weser was again spanned - this time by a heavy pontoon bridge built by the 554th Engineer Heavy Pontoon Company. These bridges were supplemented by two floating Baileys on 10 April built by the 247th Engineer Combat Battalion and 234th Engineer Combat Battalion. The treadways were picked up for future crossings.

 

The chase of the demoralized enemy forces continued all the way to the Elbe, with resistance being for most part very scattered. Individual strong points offered the only serious resistance and the Elbe was reached by the 2nd Armored, 30th Infantry and 83rd Infantry Divisions on 15 April. The 17th Armored Engineer Combat battalion immediately commenced work on a treadway across the stream, following the establishment of a small bridgehead. An enemy counter-attack in force caused the bridgehead to be withdrawn and practically the entire bridge was lost.

 

The 83rd Infantry Division, however, established a firm bridgehead further south. The 295th Engineer Combat Battalion built a 624 ft treadway (Bridge 254) on 16 April, and on 18 April the 234th Engineer Combat Battalion built another treadway in the bridgehead area 516 ft long (Bridge 257). it was necessary to put in floating mine booms both upstream and downstream from the bridge, and maintain constant vigilance to prevent the enemy from destroying the bridges.

 

A searchlight battery was set up near the sites to illuminate the river, expert riflemen, automatic weapons, and tanks used to destroy the floating mines sent down at the bridge. A demolition crew set off prepared charges in the river upstream from the sites at short intervals -- this precaution being taken principally against threat of enemy demolition swimmers.

 

No record was kept of the number of mines exploded before reaching the booms, but three mines hit the boom protecting the lower bridge, causing negligible damage. Approximately 25 mines escaped the guards' vigilance and exploded against the upper boom. A fifty-foot section of the boom was damaged and one mine got all the way to the bridge, damaging one trestle.

 

German demolition swimmers attempted to destroy the bridges and isolate the troops in the bridgehead. The demolition swimmers were highly trained picked men whose specialty was under water swimming. One party of three demolition swimmers were captured by the bridge guards. Interrogation revealed their party originally consisted of one officer and six men. Part of the original party surrendered before reaching the bridgehead. Demolition charges accounted for the balance of the party.

 

This ended the offensive operations of XIX Corps, except for cleaning out the Harz forest by the 8th Armored Division, which task required very little engineer work. However, engineer troops received no respite as they were immediately put to the task of rehabilitating and operating several hundred miles of railway. Principal use of the railroad was the transportation of displaced persons to the rear areas.

 

It was while engaged in these non-warlike task that the engineers received the long-awaited word that VE day had arrived, thus writing finis to the European campaign.

 
 
 

Statistical Summary of Corps (active)
Summary of Tactical Principles (active)
Complete list of bridges built by Corps Engineers from D-Day to V-E Day (active)
Pictures of Engineer Work
 
 
 

 

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