The 133rd Ordnance Battalion History
Battalion was activated on August 15, 1942, as part of the new 11th Armored Division. The first commander was Lieutenant Colonel Leo H. Heintz. The officer and enlisted cadres were drawn from Army veterans. Draftees and enlistments filled out the battalion.
The battalion trained at Camp Polk and participated in the Third Army's Louisiana-Texas maneuvers in June-August, 1943. The division moved to Camp Barkeley, Texas, in September, when Lieutenant Colonel William J. Scott became battalion commander. In October, the Thunderbolts migrated to Camp Ibis in the Mojave Desert near Needles, California.
In February, 1944, the battalion moved farther west, to Camp Cooke, California. Camp Cooke was the division home until September, 1944, when the 11th Armored was ordered back east to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Troop trains carried the men across the country, but their stay on the east coast was brief. The 11th Armored soldiers—nicknamed the 'Thunderbolts"—boarded a troopship for England, arriving at Southampton. The division moved inland to bases on the Salisbury Plain and prepared for combat with help from the 133rd Armored Ordnance Battalion.
The division was sent across the English Channel to Cherbourg, France, in mid-December. The Thunderbolts were needed; the German army had launched a massive counteroffensive in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. Historians would call it the Battle of the Bulge.
The 11th Armored dashed 500 miles across France to help plug the Ardennes gap and to relieve Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division and other army units were surrounded. The ordnance battalion, loaded with spare parts, ammunition and equipment, followed the division, issuing truck loads of bogie wheels to keep the tanks rolling toward the bulge. No one knew what the future held; but this was what the ordnance troops had been trained for stateside. They would prove more than equal to the test.
The 133rd left Soissons on December 26 to support the 11th Armored along the Meuse River, which Army brass feared might be attacked. The battalion was subdivided so that an ordnance company would support each of the division's combat commands: CCA CCB and CCR.
After Christmas, Headquarters Company and A Company acting as base shop, moved to Launois. Meanwhile, B Company left to support CCB. Company C stayed with CCA and moved north along the Meuse River line. The Americans were steadily driving the Germans back and erasing the Bulge. The battle had been the 133rd battalion's baptism of fire. Everybody worked hard; near Molinfang, men of B Company went into German territory and recovered disabled American vehicles.
On New Year’s day, most of the-battalion was in bivouac near Vaux Les Rosiers. The snow was heavy and the weather was freezing. Company A stayed on the move almost constantly in January. Company B repaired and returned to the line 94 vehicles. Company C had an unwelcomed first experience—it was strafed by German warplanes. Three men were wounded and medic Dominic A. Gezzi earned a Bronze Star for heroism under fire.
The Germans retreated from the Bulge toward the Westwall, a massive defense cordon American and British troops dubbed the Siegfried Line. The 11th Armored drove straight for the Westwall, but mud made the going tough. In an effort to keep rolling, the 133rd battalion's men chopped down trees across muddy roads and shoveled in gravel. At least it made roads passable.
Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 133rd crossed from Belgium into Luxembourg. A, B and C companies followed. “The 'man with the shovel' can best depict the activities of men of the 133rd during their stay in Luxembourg," a battalion veteran wrote. "It was the PWA all over again and it was a vicious cycle of moving one chunk of mud to fill up a hole and thereby creating another hole." He added: "It was mud on the overshoes, mud in the chow, and it sure was a fine place for ducks, but the vehicles only had chains and not webbed feet. "
On February 6, the 11th Armored attacked the Siegfried Line at the base of the Bastogne salient. The 133rd Battalion rolled into Germany. Headquarters Company moved to Wallersheim. Company A moved to Schonberg in support of CCA and Company B sloshed through the mud to Bleialf. Meanwhile, Company C arrived in Sellerch.
In Germany, the 133rd Battalion reassembled in the mud and prepared to strike with the division toward the next big objective: the Rhine River. The battalion was rolling almost every day in early March to keep ordnance close on the tracks of the Thunderbolt armor.
Headquarters Company and Company C dashed non-stop from Wallersheim to Niedemmendig along wide, smooth autobahns. Company A left Wallersheim on March 8 and continued on to Mayen. Company B found itself in the German wine country when it reached Neuspath on March 10. "It was on the race to the Rhine that the disintegration of the German Army first became apparent." a 133rd veteran wrote. "Thousands and thousands of Nazi supermen were moving toward the rear of the Allied lines with their hands over their heads. For them. Hitler's dream of conquest had already ended in a walking nightmare."
The 133rd battalion was collecting plenty of war booty, including Luger and P-38 pistols. Cameras and binoculars were also popular trophies.
Headquarters and C companies enjoyed their stay at Niedemmendig, "A chicken in every house, a box of cigars on even table and a bottle of wine in every Gl's hand that is the story of the paradise in warfare that the battalion enjoyed in Niedermendig," the veteran wrote. Company B also showed up in Niedemmendig and moved into a hotel. They also helped themselves at a cigar factory next door. All in all, while stationed at Niedermendig the battalion owned four breweries, one cigar factory and several civilian automobiles." the veteran added. "There were real chickens on the hoof and they laid real Aryan eggs."
The Thunderbolt Division hit the Rhine at Andemach and Brohl. Now the Thunderbolts swung wide to Cross the Moselle and make a second dash for the Rhine at Worms. The battalion’s crossing of the Moselle was the first time the unit had been on a pontoon bridge. "As each vehicle rolled across there was an MP standing there distributing bottles of wine," the 133rd veteran recalled. ''He must have had an infinite supply because he had been passing it out for twelve hours."
As the Thunderbolts prepared to cross the Rhine, the 133rd Battalion jockeyed for position. Headquarters and C Companies landed in Kirchberg and A Company was in Panzweiler. The 11th Armored crossed the Rhine at Oppenheinn on a long pontoon bridge. It was the 133rd Battalion’s turn to cross on March 28 and 29. The division also sped across the Main River to Hanau when the Thunderbolts discovered a bridge that had not been blown.
April 1 was a day of tragedy for Headquarters Company of the 133rd Battalion near Volkaresham. No sooner had the company arrived than Mess Sergeant Joe Augustine ambled into the woods to urinate. He returned to camp with a Nazi officer; the woods were full of SS troops.
One three-quarter ton truck from the company ran into an ambush. The truck's occupants were forced to flee, but not before two were killed. Three others were listed as missing in action, but it was discovered later that they were taken prisoner and liberated by troops of the U.S. Seventh Army. Their truck was never found.
On the same day, Company C ran into serious trouble near Hartmanshain. The decontaminator, manned by the customary two-Gl crew, went after water. They did not return. Several days later, the truck was found overturned and riddled with bullets. The two men could not be found. Later, one turned up wounded in a hospital, but there was no accounting for the other man.
Company A followed the path of CCA into Kressenbach and ran into stiff enemy resistance at roadblocks. Fortunately, the company suffered no casualties from the close encounters. Company B escaped unscathed, too, despite a trip through enemy held territory to Pffafenrod. "The Thunderbolt was in high gear and Ordnance was traveling hard to keep on its tail" the battalion veteran wrote. "Long daily moves were a regular activity."
Headquarters Company and Company C were way out in front of the infantry when they arrived at Dippach on April 2. During the night, outpost guards opened up on German soldiers who refused to halt when challenged. One German was killed.
The 11th Armored had penetrated farther into Germany than any outfit on the Western Front. The achievement had certain drawbacks. The only food available was C rations. Coffee was in short supply but the men turned to foraging. 'Fresh eggs were worth their weight in gold, and some men even went so far as to bring live chickens along with them so they could have their breakfast food," the battalion veteran wrote.
From April 4-6, Company A was stationed at an arms factory in Suhl. On April 7, Company A finally caught up with CCA artillery at Hildburghausen. On April 13 —a Friday— Headquarters and C Company moved into an open field near Maineck. Suddenly, five ME-109s dove and began a strafing run. The message center radio truck from Headquarters Company was hit; a man from C Company was wounded. The Americans shot back, damaging one plane and shooting another one down.
German planes returned on April 10. This time they were 10, and their target was the column that included Company B of the 133rd. The column was not damaged and the Thunderbolts pressed onward on autobahns.
Headquarters and A Company arrived at Biniach on April 19. The same day, B Company left Bayreuth, home of the German composer Richard Wagner, and C Company moved out to Pressath. It was well into spring, but snow began to fall.
The Thunderbolts were driving parallel to the Czech border. Reports of SS troops and German tanks came in daily. Battalion anti-aircraft gunners kept their eyes peeled for German planes. "Anticipation of meeting the Russians was beginning to run high," the battalion vet wrote. "The Wehrmacht was dying, this was Adolph's Redoubt and last stand."
The Thunderbolts were in mountainous Bavaria, the heartland of Nazism. The brass said Hitler planned to withdraw what troops he had left to the Alps and make a last stand. It was supposedly called the "National Redoubt." There was no redoubt, but the speed of the American and Soviet drives would have made such a last stand difficult if not impossible. On April 27, Headquarters Company and A Company made a long move from Cham to the vicinity of Freyung in the Alps.
Meanwhile, Company B had moved through enemy held territory from Prackenbach to Regen. At one point, the company was ordered off the road to lessen congestion. The ordnance troops found themselves under fire from panzerfausts in the woods. Two officers and the mess sergeant were wounded when the company mess truck blew up from a hit. On April 26, the company moved to Nudback, where it stayed a night before moving on to Waldkirchen. Company C left Viechtach on April 25 for Grafenau. The next night the men moved through enemy territory to Furholz.
As April ended, there were rumors of peace everywhere. In early May, the division drove on, across the German border into Austria.
On May 6, Headquarters and A Companies were at Ufahr across from Linz on the Danube River. The day before, Company B arrived at Gallneukirchen and Company C was in Zwettl. The war was almost over. Good news came on May 7: Germany had surrendered unconditionally. The 133rd Battalion was at peace.
During four and a half months of combat, the battalion supported the 11th Armored Division and numerous attached units without the assistance of any higher echelon of ordnance support. The volume of ordnance parts consumed by the Thunderbolt Division reached 15 tons daily at times. During combat, the battalion issued and used 15,847 major parts assemblies.
The battalion had 732 officers and men in combat. Four were killed in action, 2 died, 30 were wounded and 85 were injured. The battalion earned a meritorious unit plaque.