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Clearing the Path to the Rhine

 

Clearing the Path to the Rhine

24 February—1 March 1945

 

D PLUS 1

EXCEPT for the counterattacks at Boslar the bridgehead had not yet been seriously threatened. Gains of the first day had reduced the enemy’s capabilities of harassing the crossing sites with other than indirect artillery fire or aircraft. The remaining tasks for 24 February were, therefore, to increase the depth of the bridgehead in order to secure maneuver space, to cross the remainder of the divisional elements and to prepare for a northward continuation of the attack on the following day. There were no indications of active enemy resistance although tactical air reconnaissance reported armored columns moving deep within the Rhineland.

A development which especially strengthened our position in early morning was the fact that by 0500 on 24 February all of the 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion had cleared the river and was prepared for an active part in the operation. Three medium companies of the 701st Tank Battalion were also across and were moving to their assembly area in the vicinity of Tetz which was soon a scene of congested confusion. The first tanks crossed the bridge at Rurdorf at 0330. The bridge would support only one tank, a fact which materially increased the crossing time. Also, all roads on the other side were in very poor condition so that almost five hours were consumed in making the trip to Tetz. The battalion finally closed in its assembly area at about 0900 hours.

It early became obvious that the infantry would not have all its armor available for the resumption of the attack. But considering the enemy’s situation and the desirability of exploiting our successes, the Division Commander directed that the attack continue at 1000 hours and be pressed as far and as fast as possible.

THE 405TH INFANTRY

The 1st Battalion, 405th Infantry, on the left of the regimental zone of action, attacked at 1000 toward Hottorf from its positions along the escarpment north of the railroad tracks running out of Tetz. Company B was on the right, C was on the left, and A, which had suffered most in the mine-fields the preceding day, was in reserve. The machine guns of the heavy-weapons company were disposed on either flank (See Map 15).

Immediately after arriving in Tetz, Company A, 701st Tank Battalion, was attached to the 1st Battalion, 405th. Captain Shanks, the company commander, received notice of the impending attack only thirty minutes before H-hour and had less than five minutes to brief his platoon leaders. Nevertheless, the company moved up the road to Boslar and there deployed in a staggered line formation to the left of the road facing east. The tanks were to wheel left and move north against Hottorf, coordinating with the infantry. They had no sooner deployed when they received extremely heavy antitank fire from the east and southeast. Captain Shanks estimated he was opposed by at least a dozen 88s, all so well camouflaged that when he later walked over the terrain he stumbled upon the gun pits almost before he saw them. Four tanks were knocked out, and four more bogged down in the mud. The remaining two tanks backed up slowly, firing until they ran out of ammunition. Then they picked up what casualties they could carry and withdrew. Captain Shanks, his own tank disabled, ordered the reserve platoon to advance directly northeast to Hottorf. Two of these tanks were immobilized in an antitank ditch south of the town, but three succeeded in reaching the objective. One of the three had taken a hit on its turret which had so loosened its gun that it could not be aimed. In addition, a shell became stuck in the breech and made the tank useless except for its coaxial machine gun. Fortunately the company received partial replacements for its losses during the night.

The infantry therefore advanced alone across the open terrain where it received heavy fire from the direction of Hompesch and Muntz, but practically none from Hottorf. Their advance was not stopped and by 1200 the men were through the town, digging in along a line to the northeast, facing slightly east. There the attack halted because the Division’s artillery, which had not yet been able to cross the river, could not furnish further support.

The 3d Battalion moved out at 1100 from the north edge of Boslar, its objective being the high ground east of Hottorf. Company B of the 701st Tank Battalion supported this action.

Hastily leaving their assembly area, where they had arrived just in time to receive the attack order, the tanks moved out towards Boslar, only to find that the infantry attack was already under way. Lieutenant Kappa, the commander of Company B, ordered two platoons into an assault echelon, and the company attempted to catch up with the infantry. Debouching from Boslar, they received heavy fire from 88s located northeast of Hompesch. These guns, firing across flat country from distances estimated at 2,200 yards, knocked out seven of our tanks so that only two succeeded in reaching Hottorf. One of these had a disabled gun. After reaching the town these two tanks were joined by two assault guns which had been able to get forward and by the three tanks from Company A. Five more tanks from the 3d Platoon were finally brought up and by 1330 a hasty defense had been improvised. Later that afternoon, however, all tanks were withdrawn to Boslar.

In the meantime the infantry captured approximately forty prisoners in a quarry (which had been a troublesome position the day before) and had pressed on to Hottorf and the high ground overlooking Ralshoven. The battalion then dug in and consolidated its positions during the remainder of the day.

At 1400 hours the 2d Battalion, in regimental reserve, moved to an assembly area on the outskirts of Boslar. Thirty minutes later it was ordered once more to fill a gap, this time between the 406th Infantry to the right and rear, and 3d Battalion of the 405th in Hottorf. The battalion deployed and dug in along a north-south line from Hottorf to Gevelsdorf under heavy small-arms fire from the east.

407TH INFANTRY

On the Division left, the 407th Infantry jumped off at 1000 and advanced rapidly in both battalion sectors. The 1st Battalion on the right, employing marching fire, advanced quickly about a thousand yards across the open ground between Kofferen and Hottorf, and surrounded eight troop shelters. It captured 179 prisoners in approximately ten minutes of action. The battalion then dug in between Kofferen and Hottorf and stayed in their foxholes and in the German trenches for the rest of the day.

The 2d Battalion, on the left, attacked at 0930 hours, without armored support, from Glimbach toward Kofferen and Dingbuchoff with the intention of seizing the high terrain west of Kofferen. Company F was soon pinned down by heavy fire coming from Korrenzig within the zone of the 84th Division and was forced to dig in after an advance of about five hundred yards. About midmorning Company C of the 701st Tank Battalion made its appearance and at 1315 the attack was continued. Company G, supported by the tanks, moved into Kofferen, followed by Company E. It then became necessary for Company F, in reserve, to be committed on the right to assist the battalion’s advance, while Company C, 701st Tank Battalion, neutralized the enemy’s artillery fire. Having accomplished this object, the tank company reorganized in Kofferen and moved against Dingbuchoff. Aided by its Provisional Assault Gun Platoon, it proceeded to storm the area, knocking out two towed antitank guns and capturing a hundred prisoners from one pillbox. In this action, two tanks were lost; but despite heavy enemy artillery fire, all the ground between Kofferen and Dingbuchoff was secured by 1600.

406TH INFANTRY

To defend the Division’s right flank, the 1st Battalion attacked Hompesch at 1100 with Company A on the left, C on the right, and B in reserve. Machine guns on the south edge of the village and on the high ground to the east, as well as 88s firing from the east, slowed the attack, but the companies moved ahead under a heavy artillery preparation and secured their objective by 1245. Lt. Col. Woodson D. Scott, the battalion commander, asked for permission to continue the advance. Permission, however, was denied, as the Division was actually attacking frontally and defending the right flank at the same time. As the 405th advanced, the 406th had to extend the right flank, and we were becoming more vulnerable hourly. The troops then dug in along the eastern outskirts of the town where they tied in with the 405th Infantry on the left.

The 2d Battalion moved to Boslar at 1800 and then, during the night, proceeded to Hottorf in preparation for an attack north the following morning. The 3d Battalion likewise moved through Boslar to Hottorf for the same purpose.

The day’s missions were now accomplished. To exploit these successes, the armored and mechanized units attached to the Division prepared to cross the Roer and participate in coming battles. However, a change was made at the last minute on 24 February and Combat Command B passed to control of its parent 5th Armored Division, while the 11th Cavalry Group was recalled by the XIII Corps.

With the Roer bridgehead now firmly established as far north as Hottorf and east to Ralshoven (see Map 15), and with the enemy thoroughly confused as to the next move, the 102d Division was ready to capitalize on its command of the situation and sweep on to the Rhine.

TERRAIN AND DEFENSES

A few deliberate fortifications, actually part of the Siegfried Line, had been encountered on the bluffs east of the Roer. The defensive works which were to confront our troops from now on were largely of hasty type, comprising extensive antitank ditches, fire and communication trenches, L-type foxholes, field emplacements, wire, and mines of many types. Positions were normally based on towns where groups of buildings organized for all-around defense served as centers of resistance. In nearly every large town a continuous tank barrier in the form of log, concrete or steel rail roadblocks and antitank ditches between buildings, denied ready access to the heart of the community. As revealed through aerial reconnaissance and study of photographs, the cities of Erkelenz and Munchen-Gladbach were classic examples of this hedgehog type of defense. These urban points were linked together by large-scale linear defense belts which ran generally north and south, parallel to the major water barriers, throughout the entire Cologne Plain.

The sweep to the Rhine, conforming to the plan for the employment of the Ninth Army, was to be directed generally north to join with the British instead of east in a head-on attack as had been expected by the enemy. This Allied strategy was disastrous to the enemy because the bulk of his fortifications, designed for use in repelling attacks from the west, became useless. Thus deprived of their best defenses, the Germans were obliged to withdraw, at the same time seeking to throw the bulk of their disorganized forces against the American right flank.

This withdrawal did not appear to contemplate defense upon any particular delaying positions but seemed rather designed to gain time and simultaneously to inflict as much damage as possible on the attackers. Actually, once the Gevenich—Boslar ridge immediately east of the Roer Valley had been lost, the enemy was afforded no particular advantage by the flat and featureless terrain of the Cologne Plain. The soil of the plain was drying after an early spring thaw, although some of the flatter fields were still not firm enough to support armor. On the whole, ground conditions were becoming more and more unfavorable to the defender. Despite these facts, the -enemy had apparently made no great preparation to exploit existing points of vantage such as the wooded area between Rheindahlen and Hardt, or the Niers Canal. The latter obstacle, which averaged twenty to forty feet in width and was approximately three and a half feet deep offered his last opportunity for a stand west of the Rhine River.

As for his offensive effort against the American right flank, the very scheme of the Ninth Army’s maneuver and the vigor and speed of its attack were to doom such projects to failure. The Army, it will be recalled, was attacking initially with the XIX and XIII Corps abreast, the latter on the left. Now the river had been crossed and the Army was pivoting to the left. The XIX Corps, being on the outside flank, was echeloned to the right rear and thus functioned as a counter-threat against the left flank of any enemy unit which might attempt a counterattack from the east against leading elements of the Army. Furthermore, contact between the

U. S. Ninth and First Armies was initially very close; once the Erft River and Canal had been reached, those obstacles would constitute an ideal right flank barrier for the XIX Corps during the remainder of its advance to the Rhine.

The plan for the advance of the Ninth Army to the north directed the capture of both Munchen

Gladbach and Neuss by the XIX Corps, while the XIII Corps took Krefeld and Uerdingen. Krefeld had earlier been the final objective of the Canadian First Army, advancing southeast from the direction of Nijmegen, but its offensive had not been as rapid as expected, and the boundary dividing the American and Canadian efforts had been changed to the northwest. It was planned originally that XVI Corps, operating on the left of the XIII Corps, was to be pinched out between the XIII Corps and Canadian forces. This plan was also changed and the XVI Corps, instead of passing through the XIII Corps bridgehead, forced a crossing of the Roer at Hilfarth on 26 February to fight its way to the Rhine with the remainder of the Army.

PLANS

The XIII Corps’ plan was to continue the attack on 25 February with two infantry divisions abreast, the 102d on the right and the 84th on the left, and to employ the 5th Armored Division to exploit the advance whenever the opportunity occurred. The 84th Infantry Division had forced a crossing over the Roer at the northwestern edge of Linnich on 23 February and now held a bridgehead extending from the left of the 407th Infantry, near Glimbach, through Baal to the Roer River at Korrenzig. The 5th Armored Division at this time was assembled west of the Roer near Baesweiler and was fully prepared to cross and break out of the Ozark bridgehead.

The objective of the 102d Infantry Division when it resumed its attack on 25 February was a four-mile stretch of the Rhine including Uerdingen and the Adolf Hitler Bridge, one of the most important German escape routes across the Rhine. A more immediate objective, however, was Erkelenz, a large communications center and potentially a key defensive obstacle to the Division’s advance. Following the capture of Erkelenz, the Division’s mission was to cover the XIX Corps’ operation against Munchen-Gladbach, then advance and capture the important town of Viersen. Finally, the Niers Canal would have to be crossed and the large- city of Krefeld secured.

 

25 FEBRUARY

On the right, the attack was resumed from Hottorf at 0900 by the 406th Infantry, which had moved north from Boslar early that morning, passing through the 405th Infantry. The 405th was disposed on the line Hompesch—Ralshoven in order to guard the right flank of the Division (see Map 15). The 2d Battalion, 406th Infantry, on the left, moved rapidly to take Klein Boslar at 0933 and Katzem at 1010. The formation for the attack was Company F on the right and Company G on the left. One platoon of heavy machine guns from Company H was attached to each assault company. Company A of the 701st Tank Battalion had one platoon with each company. Elements of the 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion were also present.

The usual method of attack across the open ground was for the infantry and tanks to work closely together. Small groups of infantrymen were assigned to each tank with instructions never to desert it and to coordinate their actions with that of the tank. This system worked to perfection.

In the attack on Katzem a pocket of enemy infantry, firing automatic weapons from east of the town pinned the infantry down until they were dispersed by tank fire. The infantry’s advance was resumed after the supporting tanks had been called up and Corps artillery had laid down nine volleys of 155mm howitzer fire on the right flank. By 1130 they had advanced 1500 yards and cleaned out two of the groups of houses. Two enemy tanks were destroyed by bazooka fire. At 1245 Eichof had been seized by a brilliant maneuver in the face of severe small-arms fire. The only method of advance possible in this open country was a steady; slow walk or crawl. The method of moving by fast rushes (as taught at the service schools) was found to be too exhausting and afforded little protection in flat open country.

By 1500 the battalion, which in the words of the executive officer, Major Franke, "had to fight all the way up," reached the high ground north and east of Katzem and was engaged in digging in under enemy artillery fire from the north. As was the custom during the entire operation, the Germans withdrew after delaying as long as possible. Nevertheless, in the severe fighting which took place in the scattered groups of houses in the path of the advance, the battalion killed about 40 Germans and captured 50 others. The battalion lost 6 men killed and 53 wounded during the day.

The 3d Battalion, 406th Infantry, stayed in Boslar until 0400 on 25 February when they marched to Hottorf preparatory to joining the attack as the right flank element of the Division. At 0915 they jumped off from a line of departure at the northern edge of Hottorf and moved out in a column of companies: K, L, and I. The heavy machine guns were divided between the two leading companies to furnish flank protection, and the mortars and an attached platoon of tank destroyers remained in Hottorf to furnish a base of fire. A company of tanks was also attached and remained in Hottorf awaiting orders.

Almost immediately the infantry came under heavy 88mm fire from Marienfeld on the right flank and from enemy infantry and tanks in and around the scattered houses to the front. Except for these houses, the flat terrain afforded no cover for the advancing troops. This fire pinned the battalion down and Company B, 701st Tank Battalion, was ordered to join the attack. Two tank platoons attacked in line with one platoon covering the right flank, supported by two assault guns. The assault battalions dug in for the night along a line northeast of Katzem, tying in with the 407th’s positions on the left. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, in regimental reserve, moved behind the attacking echelons and entered Katzem after it had been secured.

WITH COMPANY K

The preceding paragraphs are objective—they state only facts. Sgt. Howard Brodie, who went with the 3d Battalion of the 406th Infantry when it jumped off on the long trek up the exposed right flank from Hottorf through Gut Klassenshof, Haus Hochfeld, and Burgfeld to Eichof, has caught the more personal side of the battle, the triumphs and tragedies among the soldiers. His sketches appeared in the Southwest Pacific edition of Yank together with the following report of what he saw while with Company K.

He told about moving up from the assembly area and passing "a still doughboy on the side of the road with no hands, his misshapen, ooze-filled mittens a few feet from him." He joined a forward platoon the next day and described some of the things he sa.w:

A dough bailing his hole out with his canteen . . . Lt. Joe Lane, the platoon leader, playing football with a cabbage . . . a dead GI in his hole slumped in his last living position, the hole too deep and too narrow to allow his body to settle. A partially smoked cigarette lay inches from his mouth and a dollar-sized circle of blood on the earth offered the only evidence of violent death.

Some Germans and a couple of old women ran out onto the field from a house. There was the zoom and crack of 88s. A rabbit raced wildly away to the left. We went down, listening to the shrapnel. I saw a burst land on the running Jerries. One old woman went down on her knees in death in an attitude as though she were picking flowers.

A dud landed three feet in front of T/Sgt. Jim McCauley, spraying him with dirt. I saw a man floating in the air amidst the black smoke of an exploding mine. A piece of flesh sloshed by Sgt. Fred Wilson’s face. Some men didn’t get up. We went on. A couple of doughs vomited. A piece of shrapnel cut another one’s throat as neatly as Jack the Ripper might have done it.

Then the platoon headed for Hochfeld—a large building with a courtyard and a number of farm outhouses and sheds. Sergeant Brodie stopped to watch an 88 explode over the arched entrance and then followed the riflemen into one of the rooms where the company exec was reorganizing the platoons:

A dying GI lay in the toolroom. His face was a leathery yellow. A wounded dough lay on his belly in the cow shed, in the stench of dung and decaying beets. Another GI quietly said he could take no more. A couple of doughs started frying eggs in the kitchen. I went into the toolroom to the dying dough. "He’s cold, he’s dead," said Sgt. Charles Turpen, the MG squad leader. I took off my glove and felt his head but my hand was so cold he felt warm. The medic came and said he was dead.

Lt. Bob Clark reorganized his company and set up defenses. The wounded dough in the cow shed sobbed for more morphine. Four of us helped carry him to a bed in another room. He was belly down and pleaded for someone to hold him by the groin as we carried him. "I can’t stand it. Press them up, it’ll give me support." A pool of blood lay under him.

I crossed the courtyard to the grain shed where about 60 doughs were huddled. Tank fire came in now. I looked up and saw MG tracers rip through the brick walls. A tank shell hit the wall and the roof. A brick landed on the head of the boy next to me. We couldn’t see for the cloud of choking dust. Two doughs had their arms around each other; one was sobbing. More MG tracers ripped through the wall and another shell. I squeezed in among several bags of grain. Doughs completely disappeared in a hay pile.

We got out of there, and our tanks joined us. I followed a tank, stepping in the marks of its treads. The next two objectives were taken by platoons on my right and I don’t remember whether any 88s came in for this next quarter mile or not. One dough was too exhausted to make it.

K Company’s final objective was another courtyard, but this time in a small town. Brodie’s platoon moved toward it behind some tanks which splattered the town with fire. He saw Lieutenant Lane racing toward a trench full of Germans and saw one of the Jerries pull a cord, setting off a circle of mines around the lieutenant. The lieutenant was only sprayed with mud. S/Sgt. Eugene Flanagan started shooting at the Jerry who pulled the cord. He and a few other Germans jumped up and surrendered.

German soldiers and a few women started to come out of the large building. German mortar and 88 fire began to land in the courtyard. Pfc. Ernie Gonzales, Pfc. Bob de Valk, and Pfc. Ted Sanchez brought prisoners out of the basement, and the prisoners dragged two wounded men on an old bedspring and a chair. An 88 crashed through the roof and a platoon leader’s face began to bleed but it was only a surface wound. Brodie described the aftermath of the attack:

We made a CP in the cellar. The wounded were brought down there, and the stray Jerries were rounded up and sent to the rear. The jittery doughs relaxed for a moment on the beds in the basement. Pfc. Frank Pasek forgot he had a round in his BAR and frayed our nerves by accidentally letting it go through the ceiling. A pretty Jerry girl with no shoes came through the basement. The CO started to prepare a defense for a counterattack. Platoons went out to dig in. L and M Companies came up to sustain part of our gains.

Most of us were too tired now to do much. The battalion CO sent word that he was relieving us. All of us sweated out going back over the field, although this time we would go back a sheltered way. We were relieved and returned uneventfully to a small town. The doughs went out into the rain on its outskirts and dug in. Early the next morning K Company returned to its former position at the final objective in the big house with the courtyard. As I left, Jerry started counterattacking with four tanks and a company of men.

 

407TH INFANTRY

In the meantime 407th Infantry resumed the attack on the left at 0900 from the Kofferen area; they captured Lovenich at 1015 with the 1st and 2d Battalions in the assault and then secured the key high ground beyond. Mopping up operations were carried on until 1315.

The 1st Battalion with a company of tanks jumped off against Lovenich. The attack moved up the road, slowed occasionally by small-arms and artillery fire, but by 1107 the battalion was through the town and tied in with units to the right and left. There was no further incident during the day,

The 3d Battalion attacked in echelon of companies to the left as a protection for the exposed west flank. Only scattered opposition came from the front and by 0945 the battalion, supported by Company C of the 701st Tank Battalion had reached Lovenich and was consolidating the high ground immediately to the north.

The 405th Infantry functioned chiefly as Division reserve during the day although during the early morning the 3d Battalion moved through Ralshoven to improve the right flank security. Following a heavy artillery preparation Company L surprised the town at 0600 hours, capturing 35 prisoners without casualties. Company E then replaced L on the high ground east of Hottorf.

Company C, 701st Tank Battalion attached to the 407th Infantry, jumped off from its positions north of Dingbuchhof in support of the attack on Lovenich. The tankers encountered no difficulty and by 1100 hours were through the town, the 3d Platoon taking up position on the northeast perimeter. The 2d Platoon was sent to hold a ridge just north of the town. As the platoon crossed the crest it came under heavy fire from an estimated seven antitank guns located along the Lovenich— Erkelenz road. Two tanks were immediately knocked out and the remaining tanks began to back up under heavy artillery and mortar fire. The tanks therefore withdrew to Lovenich where they organized positions in anticipation of a counterattack. The attached tank destroyers of the 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion also found positions along the northern and eastern perimeter defenses behind the infantry who were already dug in along the ridge. No counterattack developed, however, although enemy shelling for the remainder of the day and night was very heavy. Solitary hostile planes were active and an assault gun crew, eating mess in Lovenich in the afternoon, was attacked by an enemy bomber; the gun and accompanying vehicles were not damaged.

The two assault regiments spent the remainder of the day organizing defenses and preparing for the next day’s operation against Erkelenz, while the 405th Infantry remained on the Hompesch— Ralshoven line defending the right flank of the Division. The 1st Platoon of the 102 Reconnaissance Troop was dispatched on a mission and spent the night reconnoitering east of Kuckhoven.

Early on 26 February Combat Command B of the 5th Armored Division, having crossed the Roer and reached Hottorf during the preceding night, advanced under XIII Corps control on the right of the 406th Infantry. Its mission was to strengthen the Division’s vulnerable right flank where a considerable gap had developed between it and the left flank of the 29th Infantry Division. CCB proceeded initially to the line Wockerath—Teerheeg— Menekrath, its first objective, and by 1325 had overrun the area northeast of Erkelenz. After clearing the towns of Krauthausen and Venrath at 1600 the armored units held those towns until relieved after dark by elements of the 405th Infantry. They then established a security screen to the northeast.

Much enthusiasm reigned and hopes ran high as the behemoths of the 5th Armored Division rumbled through the Ozark lines. The enemy was on the run and it was believed that nothing could now stop the advance of the XIII Corps. Apprehensions that had prevailed over the exposed right flank rapidly disappeared, and the capture of Erkelenz was assured. We were now ready to break loose without fear of fighting in three directions.

 

PROBLEMS

We did not know that soft mud, open terrain, and many dug-in enemy 88s would slow, and eventually bog down our own and supporting armor. The tanks of the 701st Tank Battalion were badly in need of servicing. They had done a superior job, but had taken a terrific beating. Crews were tired and weary and had not slept for days.

Although a tank battalion normally possessed only one assault-gun platoon, the 701st had organized an additional provisional platoon by stripping itself of headquarters personnel so that Companies A and C each had assault guns. These guns were being used in support fire, although they occasionally moved close behind the attacking echelons. They did not seem to draw as much enemy antitank fire as did the tanks, possibly because the shorter barrel of their guns made them appear less formidable. It seemed to be the practice of the German antitank gunners to sit and hold their fire until very nearly overrun and then either desert their weapons or surrender.

By 1300 25 February Company D of the 701st had arrived at Hottorf. At the time of the Brachelen operation the tank battalion was allotted sixteen extra medium tanks to take care of necessary on-the-spot replacements. These extra tanks had not been recalled by Army and constituted, in effect, an extra medium company. Losses in the line companies were replaced with these tanks manned by crews from Company D.

The problem of gasoline and ammunition supply was also taxing the energy and ingenuity of every man. The chief difficulty was the bottleneck caused by the few bridges across the river and the heavy road traffic. Work of getting supplies forward was started at 1500 each day and quite often the ammunition and gas arrived barely in time to supply the tanks for the next morning’s attack. It was a 24-hour run for a truck to go back for supplies and return to the regiment. During the fight for Lovenich, crews of the 102d Quartermaster Company gassed tanks on the battlefield itself in order to insure timely support for the infantry.

 

26 February

H-hour on 26 February was delayed until noon in order to allow the 29th Division to advance and protect the Ozarks’ exposed right flank. At 1200 hours the 407th, still with the 3d Battalion on the left and the 1st on the right, jumped off against Erkelenz and the intermediate objectives of Tenholt and Bellinghoven.

The 1st Battalion attacked from Lovenich to Erkelenz with Company B on the right, C on the left, and A in reserve. Some small-arms fire was received from the right flank, as the battalion at the time was on the right of the regimental zone. Just short of Bellinghoven, Companies B and C were held up by small-arms fire from a trench south of the town and by heavy artillery fire. The troops sought refuge in a trench about 150 yards from the German positions. Heavy wire separating the opposing forces made a frontal assault impossible so the companies fired rifle grenades and 60mm mortar rounds, including smoke and white phosphorus, into the German trenches. After ten minutes the Germans withdrew, allowing the companies to cut their way through toward Erkelenz. They reorganized in Bellinghoven in order to resume the northward attack at 1540 in conjunction with the other battalions. The advance into Bellinghoven was generally unopposed although the battalion suffered severe losses in a minefield just short of the town where twelve men were killed by mines.

The 3d Battalion on the left advanced with little difficulty and secured Tenholt by 1345. The advance was so rapid that Company C, 701st Tank Battalion, reported they actually found civilians cooking dinner in the town. The troops then pushed forward on line with the 1st Battalion in preparation for a coordinated assault against Erkelenz.

On the Division’s right, the 1st Battalion, 406th attacked at 0800 hours from Katzem to Kuckhoven with Company A on the left, C on the right and B in reserve. Resistance was chiefly from 88s and a sprinkling of small-arms fire. Kuckhoven was reached about noon. There was no opposition in the town and the battalion immediately reorganized. At 1300 it moved against Erkelenz, coordinating with the 3d Battalion of the 406th on the left, while elements of the 5th Armored Division delivered supporting fire. Meanwhile the 2d Battalion, 406th, passed through the 1st Battalion in a column of companies and reached Wockerath without opposition, where it stopped to reorganize. During the morning Company L repulsed a counterattack of approximately four tanks and fifty infantry men who hit Haverhof from the northeast at 0900 hours; the 701st Tank Battalion assisted the 3d Battalion in holding this high ground.

Erkelenz Falls

Preparations to invest Erkelenz were now completed, with the 406th Infantry on the east and the 407th Infantry on the south. At 1540, after an artillery preparation of ten minutes, the two regiments assaulted the city.

The 3d Battalion, 406th Infantry, supported by tanks, attacked at a rapid pace directly west against the southeastern edge of Erkelenz; by 1830 it was In the town, consolidating a position along its northern edge, and tied in with the 407th on the left and with the 1st Battalion on the right. The latter had attacked toward the northeastern edge of the town at 1300, coming abreast of the 2d Battalion when it moved out of Wockerath.

The 407th Infantry attacked north and likewise encountered little resistance. By 1630 it had cleared its sector with little trouble except for a short fight with defenders firing from the east edge of the town. The 3d Battalion dug in for the night along the road running west from Erkelenz while the 1st Battalion organized its defenses around the northern perimeter of the town.

Erkelenz was a vital communications rail center, the hub of a large slice of the Rhineland. A costly operation had been expected but the bewildered Wehrmacht was helpless before the fury of the attack. Once inside the town, great heaps of debris and milling crowds of civilians were the worst obstacles. The regiments rapidly smashed through to consolidate on the northern perimeter. A little

after five o’clock—in just two hours—Erkelenz had fallen before a perfectly executed infantry-tank-artillery offensive.

Unusual features in planning the capture of Erkelenz were the precautionary measures provided against mines. For weeks preceding the Roer crossing, enemy prisoners of war had affirmed that the city was heavily mined and they promised that its occupation would prove disastrous to its captors. At first these reports were accepted as rumors, or at least figmentations of the German high command, who perhaps hoped that such stories might register on the Americans and either cause delay or, better still, prevent investment of a precious asset on the Cologne Plain. We could not believe that mines or time bombs, which have no respect for friend or foe, would be planted in likely places for quartering troops, or in buildings suitable for military installations—especially if the population remained in the city. As time passed and adverse reports persisted, and no unusual exodus of the population was noted or revealed, we began to realize for the first time that the fanatical German Army would stop at nothing to accomplish an end, even if it meant death to their own people and destruction of their own cities. Accordingly, all elements of the Division assigned to enter or pass through the city were given strict warnings to be particularly careful. These precautions, as well as the information obtained, turned out to be sound. The Germans had mined and booby-trapped the city notwithstanding the fact that men, women, and children lived amid the terror of exploding time-bombs in streets, buildings, parks, fields, and wherever the retreating enemy elected to leave such devices. Fortunately there were no casualties among our troops as the speed of our advance permitted evacuation of the metropolis almost as quickly as the city was captured.

During the day the 405th Infantry moved from the Hompesch-Ralshoven area to an initial assembly area near Klein-Boslar—Lovenich—Katzem and later to an area northeast of Erkelenz where they prepared to continue the attack in the Division right zone of action. The 406th Infantry meanwhile made plans to shift its activities to the left sector, pinching out the 407th Infantry which would pass into Division reserve.

THE ENEMY

By this time the situation of the enemy opposing the Ninth Army was becoming desperate. During the previous day he had committed elements of a second division in defense of Erkelenz. The German 338th Infantry Division, which had barely rested from its long fight in the Colmar and Breyell sectors far to the south, was rushed into action to replace the almost annihilated 59th Infantry Division. In the ensuing battle for Erkelenz, the 759th Infantry Regiment of the 59th lost 400 men and the 757th lost 300 men as prisoners of war alone. By the time Erkelenz had fallen, both the 59th and 338th Division had suffered so severely, that a third enemy division was necessarily committed to defend Munchen-Gladbach and the Rhine approaches. Later this division proved to be the highly touted 130th Panzer Lehr which at the time was estimated to have a total strength of 3,500 men, pius 30 to 35 tanks and an undetermined number of assault guns. Prisoners captured from the 901st and 902d Panzer Grenadier Regiments of this division stated that their units were resting and recuperating when the rapidity of our advance once again forced them into battle.

As a result of the Ninth Army’s rapid drive northward across the enemy’s axis of defense, a conglomeration of miscellaneous units and a large number of rear-area troops had also been forced into combat. In a typical day’s fighting prisoners were captured from seven different divisions, eighty-nine general headquarters organizations, and two Volksturm units. Characteristic of the confusion existing in the enemy’s camp was the early commitment of a number of separate battalions and smaller organizations which were hastily withdrawn from the Canadian front to the north. Battalion Heitman was simultaneously identified on both fronts on 26 February. In short, the enemy’s reinforcements, hampered by lack of transportation and disrupted communications, were far too few and committed too late. The Volksturm, armed with outmoded or irregular weapons including shotguns and small-bore rifles, was deserted by its leaders and failed to materialize as an effective fighting force. The German XXII Corps was reeling back across the Cologne Plain and the enemy high command was faced with a major crisis.

 

27 FEBRUARY

 

Combat Command B of the 5th Armored Division moved out at 0730 to provide right flank protection for the 405th Infantry’s advance on Rheydter— Stadtwald, a wooded area west of Rheydt. Thirty minutes later the 405th Infantry jumped off from Terheeg. The 1st Battalion captured Venrath in an hour after a sharp engagement, while the 3d Battalion secured Beckrath at 1020 and then held fast. The 2d Battalion left Mennekrath at 0830, seized Herrath an hour later and moved northeast across the front of the 3d Battalion in the direction of Wickrathhahn, which it took at 1337.

 

Under regimental orders the 1st and 2d Battalions resumed the advance at 1430, moving to the north in a concerted attack against the railroad running between Rheydt and Wegberg. This advance was impeded from the outset by a heavy concentration of artillery, machine-gun, and small-arms fire coming particularly from enemy positions around the town of Wickrath on the right. Accordingly the 3d Battalion advanced from Beckrath in order to help clear this flank, while the main attack moved on slowly until 1730, when the 1st Battalion reached the railroad and tied in with the 2d Battalion, 406th Infantry, on the left. At the same time the 2d Battalion reorganized in the wooded area of Mennekrath while the 3d Battalion arrived at a position near Wickrathhahn. The 405th Infantry dug in for the night in these locations.

 

As for the 406th Infantry, Rheindahlen and Hardt were its objectives, but its jump-off was delayed for nearly three hours owing to the inability of Combat Command B, 5th Armored Division, to clear through the regiment on schedule. This armored unit had the mission of preceding the infantry and clearing out the area as much as possible before the 406th Infantry advanced, but its progress was impeded by a seemingly endless antitank ditch. At 1045 the regiment finally moved out under cover of heavy air and artillery strikes on Rheindahlen, and encountered little opposition until it passed the small town of Sittard at 1300 where it met very stiff resistance. It then became necessary for the two assault battalions to deploy and pass through Combat Command B which was immobilized by a gasoline and ammunition shortage and further embarrassed by more antitank ditches and enemy gunfire.

Passing through the 5th Armored elements, the 1st Battalion moved steadily against Broich under cover of a heavy air strike and tank support. As the men neared the town, a flood of civilians poured out of the southern edge and in a few minutes became a serious traffic problem, hindering the supply of the armored elements. The civilians were waving white flags and singing. They claimed to be Russians, Poles and French and regarded the Americans as their liberators; they were formed in a column of twos and marched, still singing, to the rear. In Broich, which the companies reached without opposition, approximately three thousand civilians— mostly women and children—were found in a steel-and-concrete air raid shelter. They, too, seemed glad the Americans had arrived and many of the women kept crying "Gott sei dank!" Of the Americans searching the shelter for hidden arms, they asked if their arrival meant that the danger of air raids was now over.

 

The 2d Battalion likewise moved rapidly under the air and artillery cover and by 1830 the battalion had passed through Rheindahlen and occupied the high ground along the railroad to the north. Both battalions immediately dug in for the night.

 

In the meantime the 407th Infantry in Erkelenz had passed into XIII Corps reserve, prepared for a possible motorized movement. After nine hours it developed that the regiment was not to be so employed as motors were unavailable. It then reverted to Division control, with the 2d Battalion in Beckrath and the 3d Battalion in Wickrathhahn. The 1st Battalion remained in Erkelenz under XIII Corps control until 1700 the next day.

 

During the night patrols from the 102d Reconnaissance Troop reconnoitered to the east and north-east and successfully entered the outskirts of both Rheydt and Munchen-Gladbach. The troopers discovered several Tiger tanks in the suburbs of the latter city and a garbled report caused considerable excitement in one of our artillery battalions which had gone into position on the extremely vulnerable right flank. However, the enemy was unable to exploit his opportunity of striking this flank and the tanks returned to cover within the city.

 

28 FEBRUARY

 

The 405th’s operations were resumed at 0530 the next morning when the 3d Battalion attacked from Mennrath to Gunhoven and secured its objective with no opposition except light harassing fire from the right flank. Meanwhile, the 2d Battalion had moved from Wickrathhahn to Buckholz and from there to Rheindahlen, from which it attacked at 0830 against Kothausen and Dorthausen. They en-countered little opposition in the two towns and Company G was left behind to clean them out; Companies E and F moved north up the road toward a large "institution" and airstrip to its north. The "institution" was found to be billets for slave laborers who welcomed the Americans with tears of joy and somewhat impeded their advance. To the north heavy resistance was encountered from several tanks and self-propelled guns; this enemy armor delayed the two companies until they could secure artillery support. Later in the afternoon Companies F and G moved to Wolfsittard without encountering any opposition.

 

Following the occupation of Gunhoven, the 2d and 3d Battalions jumped off in a coordinated attack against Hehn. The 1st Battalion moved out at 1030 behind the 2d Battalion while the 3d Battalion attacked directly north at1230. The 3d Battalion ran into trouble from a patch of woods to the north-east of Gunhoven, but swung to the left and quieted the enemy with marching fire. By 1430 they had cleaned up Hehn while the 1st Battalion dug in along a line running southeast of the town, facing east to protect the Division’s right flank. The 2d Battalion in the final action of the day pushed rapidly north about three thousand yards, passing through Winkeln which, like Vorst, contained only a few Germans.

 

The 406th’s attack against Hardt constituted the center prong of a three-pronged drive north by the Division during the day. The advance was made by the 1st Battalion on the left and the 3d Battalion, passing through the 2d Battalion, on the right. Both jumped off at 0800 and moved up either side of the Rheindahlen—Viersen road.

 

The terrain to be crossed was more wooded than any before encountered. The Hardter Wald south of the town presented a thick tangle of pines and cedars. As a result, the troops had difficulty maintaining contact and their pace was slow, although opposition was only moderate until the town was reached. By mid-afternoon the two battalions were still south of the objective. Their supporting tanks, now road-bound, had been halted by a roadblock. The infantry, however, went on without armor support under cover of an artillery preparation laid on the southern edge of the town. In Hardt there was a short but brisk fight before the town was cleared about 1800. Immediately thereafter the enemy counterattacked with infantry supported by artillery but were driven off by the 1st Battalion, assisted by the supporting tanks which finally reached Hardt. Both battalions prepared defensive positions north and northeast of the city. The city itself was occupied by the 2d Battalion.

 

Hardt was a new experience for the 406th veterans accustomed to the sight of battered towns. Here there was no bomb damage. Electric lights were on, street cars running. There were wine and cognac in the cellars. Moreover, the German civilians seemed genuinely glad to see the American troops, the first evidence of this puzzling paradox which was later to become more and more apparent.

 

The mission given to the 407th Infantry on 28 February was to operate on the right flank of the Division, protecting that flank and reducing any enemy resistance encountered. Accordingly, the 2d and 3d Battalions, which had moved to Beckrath dur-ing the preceding night, attacked from there at 0945 against Wickrath. The 3d Battalion was on the right, maintaining contact with 29th Division elements. South of Wickrath the 2d Battalion ran into opposition from a fortified factory on the edge of the town where an antitank ditch stopped their supporting armor; but Company E moved up and helped Company F overcome the resistance while Company G tied in with the 3d Battalion along the Beckrath—Wickrath road. By 1100 both battalions had elements in the town.

 

At 1500 the two battalions moved north out of Wickrath which had been cleaned up with little trouble. They advanced against Hockstein to secure it and the ground to its north in an effort to further protect the Division’s right flank. Heavy opposition was encountered from tanks and guns firing from Rheydt and the 407th was able to progress only by calling on all available support from tanks, tank destroyers, and the regimental cannon companies. The troops then advanced until at the end of the day the 2d Battalion halted in the woods west of Rheydt, which commanded the main highway. The 3d Battalion astride the railroad also controlled the road between Rheindahlen and Rheydt.

 

During the night the 102d Reconnaissance Troop was assigned the same mission as on the previous day, and both the 2d and 3d Platoons met considerable resistance on the Munchen-Gladbach and Rheindahlen roads. One jeep and the armored car were knocked out, but the 3d Platoon was rewarded by killing several Germans and capturing fourteen others. Both platoons were successful in getting advance patrols into Munchen-Gladbach and Rheydt.

 

At the close of operations on 28 February, the Division was disposed to the west of Munchen-Gladbach with regiments echeloned to the right rear, and with preparations completed to move northeast against the Rhineland cities of Viersen and Krefeld (see Map 15). Ahead there lay flat, sparsely wooded terrain with adequate roads, but crossed by an appreciable obstacle, the Niers River, located about two miles northeast of Viersen. By this time, however, the enemy was so disorganized and outmaneuvered that it was doubtful if he could exploit this obstacle, provided the division advanced rapidly enough. In anticipation of more fluid operations, regimental combat teams were organized at 2100 on 1 March. Each regimental combat team was additionally supported by these attachments:

 

RCT 405

Company B, 701st Tank Battalion

Company B, 3d Chemical Mortar Battalion

Company A, 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion

 

RCT 406

Company C, 701st Tank Battalion

Company A, 3d Chemical Mortar Battalion

Company C, 605th Tank Destroyer Battalion

Company C, 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion

 

RCT 407

Company B, 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion

 

In general support of the 102d Division for the next two days were the 38 1st Field Artillery Bat-talion, 548th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion (providing protection for the Division Artillery), and the remainder of the 605th Tank Destroyer Battalion (guarding the right flank).

 

During this four-day advance from the Roer bridgehead, supply and evacuation installations had kept fairly well forward considering the difficulties. By 24 February an ordnance collecting point had been established on the east bank of the Roer, and the next day an ammunition distributing point and two water points were in operation east of the river. Gasoline and oil points began operations in Gevenich on 26 February and in Erkelenz on 28 February. A ration distributing point opened in Erkelenz on 28 February. Supporting medical installations remained in Baesweiler, west of the Roer, until 28 February when the 2d Hospital Unit of the 63d Field Hospital opened in Lovenich, thus eliminating a long ambulance haul. The clearing station of the 327th Medical Battalion was located in Gevenich on 26 February, in Lovenich on 27 February, and on 1 March was opened in Rheindahlen.

 

A total of 3,566 prisoners of war was captured during the period 23—28 February. Division collecting points crossed the Roer with the assault regiments and prisoners were sent back in assault boats as early as six hours after the crossing began. Collecting points were advanced thereafter to Lovenich on 26 February, to Erkelenz on 28 February, and to Rheindahlen on 1 March. Evacuation from front-line units to Division collecting points involved marching prisoners for many miles, a time-consuming process for which assault units could not very well spare guards without weakening their fighting strength. Unfortunately, Ninth Army was unable to evacuate prisoners from the Division collecting points at any time after the Roer crossing. Empty supply vehicles returning to the rear were loaded with prisoners at the rate of 75 to each 2-ton truck; in this way their evacuation was eventually accomplished.

Traffic control during this fast-moving period following establishment of the Roer bridgehead was complicated by a limited roadnet, heavy traffic, and soft standing off the paved roads. It was necessary to move an entire armored division and the bulk of the Corps artillery over the poor roadnet serving the 102d Infantry Division zone. Their supply vehicles shuttling back and forth over the Roer bridges created a tremendous traffic load. Due to the soft ground, armored vehicles were road-bound, and there were many occasions when long columns of heavy vehicles, able neither to advance nor to leave the roads, threatened to bog down the entire forward movement.

 

TERRAIN AND THE ENEMY

 

Few deliberate defensive installations were en-countered between Viersen and the Rhine. Old antiaircraft emplacements, part of the Ruhr perimeter defense system, were troublesome. Along main routes of withdrawal, short firing trenches were dug at infrequent intervals, generally where-ever a road could be enfiladed. A few fresh L-type foxholes were found and, in some places, old convoy shelter holes were briefly manned by German troops assigned to rear guard action. Antitank obstacles were encountered in the outskirts of towns but they were not formidable, being scorned even by the local inhabitants who dubbed them "one hour-one minute obstacles" because, as the Germans said, "the American tankers laugh for one hour, tear them down in one minute."

 

At the same time a new method of aircraft identification was gaining popularity among the Nazi troops. This method was the essence of simplicity, running something like this: "If the planes are dark colored, they’re British. If the planes are light colored, they’re American. If the planes are invisible—that’s the Luftwaffe!"

The enemy was now retreating posthaste on Viersen, possibly with the thought of effecting some reorganization behind the doubtful refuge of the Niers Canal.

 

1 MARCH

 

Our next objective was Viersen. RCT 405 moved out of Winkeln at 1000 hours and encountered few difficulties. Citizens of Venn had been abandoned by the Wehrmacht and didn’t get their white flags out in time to escape a shellacking by our supporting artillery. The 3d Battalion encountered so little opposition that it plunged recklessly past Viersen and over the Niers Canal before the astounded enemy could pull his troops together. This canal might well have constituted a troublesome enemy defense line but German ambitions were not very lofty, being mostly confined to an overwhelming desire to vanish from the path of the attack. At dusk the 3d Battalion was marching unopposed into Vennheide, where it halted for the night and seized a number of unused German artillery weapons and other military stores. The 1st and 2d Battalions quickly seized Bocketerheide, Noverhofe and Beberick and by later afternoon were digging in for the night along the railroad between Hamm and Hulsdonk. It was apparent that the Germans, as often before in this campaign, had been completely surprised.

 

The 406th Infantry moved out from Hardt at 0900 and met scattered resistance until the 2d Battalion’s left flank began to receive 88mm and machine-gun fire from the high ground between Viersen and Suchteln. By 1550, however, both the 2d and 3d Battalions, which had come up from Hardt by way of Rasseln, were preparing to enter the city. The 3d Battalion moved directly through the city and dug in on its eastern outskirts, sending Company I forward to cross the Niers Canal and to secure and hold the railroad bridge. The 2d Battalion passed through the western part of the city and reached the vicinity of Rahser. The 1st Battalion in Regimental reserve, left Hardt at 1400 and arrived in Viersen at 1800, where it remained for the night.

 

The mission of the 407th Infantry was to continue to protect the right flank of the Division. At 0730 the 1st Battalion moved from Erkelenz to Venn, by way of Hehn, receiving some artillery fire on the way. Continuing, it proceeded through Boitzloh and Wolfskuhl to Ummer where it quickly wiped out the entire enemy garrison; the battalion set up road blocks as it moved on all roads leading south, east, and north. The 2d Battalion, having moved from Erkelenz to Venn, also established the necessary road blocks for right flank protection in that vicinity. The 3d Battalion which had been placed in division reserve in Rheindahlen, moved to Hehn in the late afternoon.

As darkness descended on 1 March, the Division was in possession of Viersen, and many small elements had already crossed the Niers Canal (see Map 16). The stage was now set for what was to be the 102d Division’s final offensive effort in the Rhineland campaign—the capture of the southern half of the city of Krefeld. In normal times Krefeld boasted a population of more than 170,000 and was one of the Rhineland’s most important industrial centers. German forces were still retreating through it to escape over the Uerdingen bridge crossing the Rhine. These factors, involving both German pride and delaying tactics, made defense imperative. A hard fight was expected.

 

 

It was a long walk from the bridgehead to the Niers River. Yet the infantry tramped every mile of the way, and had to fight for every mile of their gains.

 

1st Lt. JOHN E. LANCE, Executive Officer of Company B, 406th Infantry, accompanied by several infantry men, was first to traverse enemy held Kuckhoven. Observing a hostile group emplaced to ambush the rear elements of his attack echelon, he charged his position, killing two and dispersing the rest. While rejoining his company, he spied another position threatening the flank of the unsuspecting troops. Again charging alone, he killed four more enemy and reduced this second threat. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

 

S/Sgt. OVA I. MADSEN, Company I, 406th Infantry, was wounded when he advanced alone in an attempt to silence two enemy machine guns near Hardt. He succeeded in his self-appointed mission, however, but was killed in the action. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

 

S/Sgt. ABE M. KUZMINSKY, Company C, 406th Infantry, led his squad in an assault on Kuckhoven. When pinned down by withering automatic fire from a concealed emplacement he was wounded. Despite his wounds, however, he rose to his knees to draw the hostile fire in an attempt to discover its source. The machine gun was silenced but only after Sergeant Kuzminsky had been killed. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

 

1st Lt. RICHARD H. Scott, Headquarters Battery, 380th Field Artillery Battalion, while on a reconnaissance mission observed P—47s about to strafe a friendly column on the road to Glimbach. He unhesitatingly dove his liaison plane between the friendly aircraft and ground troops and thus succeeded in averting the tragedy. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The following men earned the Silver Star Medal

 

S/Sgt. OSCAR H. BATA, Pfc. CHARLES L. OWENs, Company B, 405th Infantry . . . near Rheindahlen . . . crawled 150 yards to capture five enemy mortars and 23 prisoners.

 

Pfc. LONNIE H. MAXWELL, Pfc. ALFRED D. KEMPER, Com-any K, 405th Infantry - . . near Mennrath . . . neutralized several enemy emplacements in house-to-house fighting.

 

Pvt. FRANCIS X. CASAVANT, Pvt. EUGENE G. RUPPERT, Pvt. GLENN E. SHEIRER, Company C, 405th Infantry . . . near Rheindahlen . . . infiltrated behind enemy lines to set up their machine gun . . . forcing the enemy to withdraw.

 

Sgt. RALPH J. CHIRICO, S/Sgt. JOSEPH J. MIGLIORE, Company A, 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion . . . near Ralshoven when their destroyer received a direct hit . . . remained under fire to rescue their comrade trapped inside . . just before the vehicle exploded.

 

Sgt. ERNEST R. CROYLE, Pfc. LEO D. McCARREL, Company I, 405th Infantry . . . at Hottorf . . . advanced over open terrain . . . to assault and neutralize a house defended as a strongpoint . . . captured 14 prisoners.

 

2d Lt. EARL F. ADAMS, Company I, 406th Infantry ... at Hardt . . . crawled over exposed terrain under fire . . . to eliminate a machine gun with grenades.

 

Sgt. DAVID M. ABERCROMBIE, JR., Company B, 407th Infantry . . . at Bellinghoven . . . crossed enemy terrain to place rocket teams in position . . . which forced a general withdrawal of hostile armor.

 

S/Sgt. WILLIAM J. ASHER, Company K, 407th Infantry near Erkelenz . . . successfully withdrew his squad caught in a furious artillery barrage . . . but was himself killed by a tree-burst.

 

2d Lt. ROBERT C. BAKEWELL, Company L, 405th Infantry . . at Ralshoven . . . despite wounds . . . made his way through hostile territory to establish contact . . . and then led his platoon to the objective.

 

 

Pfc. JOHN L. BARRINGER, III, Company 1, 406th Infantry at Gerkorath . . single-handedly neutralized one tank and forced another to withdraw ... then was wounded when he attempted to divert enemy fire to himself . .. to discover hostile positions.

 

1st Lt. FRANCIS N. BROWN, 701st Tank Battalion . . . disregarding heavy antitank fire he led his platoon ahead of infantry support to neutralize the positions.

 

Capt. GEORGE E. BUTLER, 407th Infantry . . . pressed forward into hostile territory . . . to effectively relieve pressure on his hard-pressed platoons.

 

S/Sgt. HENRY A. CASHMER, Company B, 406th Infantry . . . at Kuckhoven . . . alone assaulted the enemy -- - killing seven and capturing five.

 

Pfc. WILLIAM S. CHAPPELL, Company D, 405th Infantry . . . near Boslar . . . crawled forward despite furious fire . . . to set up his machine gun and force an enemy withdrawal . . . killed when attempting to advance again.

 

S/Sgt. CARL E. COOK, 406h Infantry ... although strafed by enemy aircraft . . . he remained at his machine gun until he succeeded in shooting the hostile plane down.

 

Pfc. RALPH P. CYPHERS, JR., Company B, 405th Infantry . . . near Rheindahlen . . . climbed a tree in the face of heavy fire to locate and neutralize enemy positions.

 

S/Sgt. EDWARD A. DASKY, Company F, 407th Infantry... at Kofferen ... assumed command of his platoon ... reorganized by crawling from man to man . . . captured the objective.

 

1st Lt. JOHN DAVIDSON, Company M, 407th Infantry -at Erkelenz . . . assumed command of an adjacent platoon as well as his own machine gun . . . and skillfully led his command to the seizure of the objective.

 

2d Lt. ROBIN L. DUNLAP, 701st Tank Battalion . . . rendered temporarily unconscious when thrown from his tank by a direct hit . . . he returned to the flaming vehicle to extricate his comrades.

 

S/Sgt. WILBER C. ELLIOTT, Company 1, 407th Infantry . . . single-handedly assaulted and neutralized an enemy machine gun . . . and was killed charging another hostile position . . . near Wickrath.

 

Capt.. PAUL N. ESTES, Company F, 406th Infantry for outstanding gallant and fearless leadership.

 

Pfc. JAMES L. FAIR, Company G, 406th Infantry - . . single-handedly charged a group of 24 counterattacking enemy killing eight . . . and repulsing the enemy’s attempt at Viersen.

 

S/Sgt. WALTER H. FREITAG, Company L, 406th Infantry at Gut Klassenhof . . . rescued and evacuated the wounded under intense fire . . . entered a burning house to carry a stricken comrade to safety.

 

Pfc. SYLVAN FRUCHT, Company D, 405th Infantry near Viersen . . . moved ahead of assault units to support their attack with his machine gun . . . and carried ammunition forward in the face of withering hostile fire.

 

Pfc. JESSIE G. GEORGE, JR., Company C, 405th Infantry near Rheindablen . . . assumed command of his platoon . . .led them forward through intense fire . . . with skill and daring.

 

T/4 LEO GENNARELLO, JR., 701st Tank Battalion . . . disregarding enemy fire . . . he rescued two men from a burning tank.

 

1st Lt. THOMAS E. Glass, 701st Tank Battalion . . . ignored extremely heavy high-velocity fire to neutralize an enemy position.

 

 

1st Lt. JOSEPH F. GUERIN, Company B, 771st Tank Destroyer . - . at Wickrath - . - reconnoitered enemy terrain on foot . . . returned under intense fire . . . with vital information.

 

 

1st Lt. FREDERICK H. HADDEN, Company D, 406th Infantry . . - at Erkelenz - - . reconnoitered under heavy enemy fire . .. then infiltrated his mortars forward . . . forcing the enemy to withdraw.

 

S/Sgt. FORREST 0. HALL, 407th Infantry ... single-handedly charged a machine-gun nest . . . and eliminated it in the face of heavy fire.

 

Pfc. CHARLES R. HANCOCK, Company K, 405th Infantry near Mennrath . . - single-handedly mopped up a group of buildings sheltering a delaying party . . . thus enabling his unit to advance.

 

MAJOR HARRY S. HOVER, 3d Battalion, 405th Infantry at Beckrath . .. despite being wounded . . . he led a party in house-to-house fighting . . to secure and establish a command post.

 

T/5 GEORGE A. HUEBER, 927th Field Artillery Battalion near Linnich . . . although hurled through the air by concussion when a truck received a direct hit . . . he ran to the blazing vehicle . . - administered aid . . - and helped evacuate casualties.

 

1st Lt. STANLEY M. HUFFMAN, Company D, 405th Infantry . . . went forward into hostile territory at night to plot routes of advance . . . thus enabling his troops to advance . . . near Herrath.

 

Col. BERNARD F. HURLESS, 406th Infantry . . . inspiring leadership . . . from the bridgehead to Kuckhoven . . . enabling prompt capture of Erkelenz.

Capt. CHARLES M. KILLE, Company K, 405th Infantry near Mennrath . . . advanced ahead of his troops to locate hostile weapons holding up the advance ... neutralized the enemy and led his men forward.

 

Pfc. RALEIGH S. KING, Company K, 407th Infantry near Rheydt ... forced two enemy tanks to withdraw by advancing alone to place well aimed rocket fire.

 

Sgt. DAILORD M. LACOMBE, Company B, 405th Infantry near Hottorf... assumed command of his platoon which was caught in both enemy and friendly crossfire . . .he succeeded in rallying his men . . . identifying his command ... and then led them to capture their objective.

 

T/5 THURMAN LARGE, Company F, 405th Infantry in Herrath . . . delivered ammunition . . . by driving his vehicle through shell-swept streets . . . firing as he drove then maneuvered into position to force the enemy to withdraw.

 

T/Sgt. CARL A. LARSON, 1st Battalion, 405th Infantry... assumed command of his platoon . . . reorganized . . . moved freely under fire to neutralize minefields and roadblocks.

 

Pfc. LEON G. Lucio, Company B, 406th Infantry . .. near Kuckhoven . . . alone assaulted a hostile ambuscade eliminating their automatic weapons.

 

2d Lt. RICHARD P. MANNING, Company E, 406th Infantry ... at Kleinboslar ... led an assault and captured his objective despite serious shrapnel wounds.

 

Cpl. MERRICK L. MARIS, Company A, 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion . . . near Wickrathhahn... rescued a comrade from a burning tank destroyer . . . then, despite severe burns .. . crawled to another burning vehicle but was driven away by exploding ammunition.

 

Pfc. DONALD L. MCCOMBS, Medical Detachment, 406th Infantry . . . carried his wounded comrades through a barrage . . . to an improvised aid station . . . which he maintained despite enemy, fire.

 

Pfc. JAMES J. MCMAHON, Company B, 405th Infantry ... near Hottorf . . . by a clever ruse alone reduced a strong-point . . . capturing six prisoners.

 

S/Sgt. ROBERT G. MOONEY, Company I, 405th Infantry at Hottorf . . . alone assaulted ... and reduced a strong-point in a building ... thus securing his unit’s flank.

 

Pfc. DALE M. MOWREY, Medical Section, 406th Infantry in Hardt . . . penetrated enemy lines to successfully recover and evacuate three wounded members of a patrol.

 

2d Lt. WILLIAM C. MUNN, 380th Field Artillery Battalion near Hottorf . . . climbed to an exposed house top and directed accurate artillery fire to neutralize hostile gun positions.

 

Pfc. ARTHUR W. NEAL, Medical Detachment, 407th Infantry . . . entered a dense minefield five times to treat and evacuate the wounded . . . under continuous fire . . . near Erkelenz.

 

1st Lt. IRVING R. NELSON, 379th Field Artillery Battalion . . . crawled five hundred yards into enemy territory ignoring small-arms fire . . . to direct accurate fire against hostile positions.

 

T/Sgt. LUKE A. O’CONNOR, Company E, 406th Infantry. . . at Viersen . . assumed command of a platoon killed eight . . . captured 69 . . . and secured all objectives.

 

S/Sgt. WILMONT S.. OSMUN, Company M, 406th Infantry at Hottorf ... continued the assault . . . with his squad despite serious wounds.

 

T/Sgt. LEE POWELL, Company L, 407th Infantry .. . near Rheydt . . . single-handedly made his way through several enemy-held buildings to find and destroy a machine gun.

 

S/Sgt. WILLIAM R. PRYOR, Company A, 407th Infantry in Erkelenz . . . charged a trench, killing three enemy then cleaned out a strongpoint . . . capturing 25 prisoners.

 

S/Sgt. WILLIAM C. PURVIS, 3d Battalion Medical Detachment, 406th Infantry . . . evacuated three wounded members of a patrol from hostile territory in Hart under intense fire.

 

1st Lt. FRANK I. PUSATERI, Company C, 405th Infantry ... near Hottorf... assumed command of a company ... reorganized under point-blank fire . . . rallied his men . and advanced.

 

1st Lt. ROBERT W. RANEY, Cannon Company, 405th Infantry . . . near Herrath . . . as a forward observer . . . he crawled a hundred yards through intense fire . . . to successfully neutralize hostile positions.

 

Pfc. ALBERT L. RAY, Company B, 405th Infantry ... near Rheydt . . . assumed command of his platoon . . . went forward on foot reconnaissance to silence a machine gun.

 

2d Lt. HARRY W. REECE, Company G, 407th Infantry ... near Munchen-Gladbach - . . under intense fire . . . emplaced his rocket launchers . . . and dispersed an armored counterattack.

 

1st Lt. WILLIAM F. REEDER, Antitank Company, 405th Infantry . . . moved closely behind assault troops . . . clearing roads of mines and obstacles . . - facilitating the movement of tanks and supporting vehicles.

 

Pfc. ROBERT D. RHODES, Company K, 405th Infantry . assumed command of his platoon ... reorganized - . . led them in a bold assault to seize an objective . . . near Mennrath.

 

Pfc. RICHARD E. RICHARDSON, JR., Company E, 406th Infantry . - . near Rheindahien . . . led a group in a bold frontal assault . - . to capture thirty prisoners.

 

 

Major WILSON SANDERS, 3d Battalion, 407th Infantry led two rifle companies from heavily shelled positions to completely rout the enemy . . . near Rheydt.

 

S/Sgt. ELI SAUNDERS, Company A, 407th Infantry . . . at Lovenich . . assaulted and silenced two hostile artillery pieces . . . alone.

 

Sgt. JOSEPH SCALA, 701st Tank Battalion ... made his way to a burning ammunition truck . . - disregarding the explosions . . . rendered medical aid.

 

Capt. GEORGE F. SCHROEDER, Company A, 405th Infantry ignored his wounds . . . and continued to lead his company . . . after crossing the Roer.

 

Lt. Col. FREDERICK J. SIMPSON 701st Tank Battalion ... ignoring enemy fire, he guided his tanks on foot . . . to successfully overcome the resistance.

 

2d Lt. JOHN W. SMITH, Company C, 405th Infantry . . .near Katzem . . . alone crawled forward to eliminate two snipers . . . then neutralized a hostile machine gun furnishing covering fire.

 

Capt. EARL W. SOCKEL, Company F, 407th Infantry in the bridgehead . . . led his men through a minefield to capture all objectives with a minimum of casualties and completely routed the enemy.

 

1st Lt. JOHN C. SORENSON, Medical Detachment, 407th Infantry . . . near Erkelenz . . . made five journeys into a minefield to treat and evacuate casualties.

 

Pfc. MARSHALL STACY, Company I, 405th Infantry near Ralshoven . . . crawled to an exposed position . . . and by careful, relentless fire forced a general retreat.

 

S/Sgt. RAYMOND E. STONE, Company H, 405th Infantry traversed three hundred yards of fire-swept terrain near Boslar . - - to gain a precarious position . . . where he forced the enemy to withdraw . . . and was killed.

 

T/4 ROY S. SUTTON, 701st Tank Battalion . . . despite heavy enemy fire - . . he rescued two injured crew members from a burning tank.

 

T/5 JAMES E. TABLER, 3d Battalion Medical Detachment, 405th Infantry . . . near Mennrath . . . rescued two men from a blazing armored vehicle . . . despite exploding ammunition.

 

Pfc. LESTER H. TATEM, Company I, 405th Infantry at Ralshoven . . . despite mortal wounds . . . assaulted and silenced a hostile gun.

 

Capt. CYRIL J. THORPE, Company G, 405th Infantry near Provinzal . . . reconnoitered in hostile territory exposed positions . . effectively routed the enemy.

 

Pfc. DENNIS C. URBAN, Company I, 405th Infantry alone he captured a machine-gun crew and two enemy officers ... thus neutralizing a gun position near Gunhoven.

 

2d Lt. VLADIMIR J. VNOUCEK, Company G, 406th Infantry . - . advanced alone against hostile tank and artillery emplacements . . . to neutralize heavy fire . . . then led a patrol forward ... near Rheindhalen.

 

Capt. HEBER G. WINFIELD, Company A, 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion . . - from Hottorf to Ralshoven . . . personally led his destroyers into enemy territory to render successful support . . . gallant leadership.

 

Lt. Col. JOHN H. WOHNER, 2d Battalion, 407th Infantry . . . at Kofferen when a hostile aerial bomb ignited several vehicles . . . he drove a blazing ammunition-laden truck into a waterhole . . . thus saving countless lives . . . then evacuated the wounded.

 

 

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