The 575th with the 11th Armored
by MAJOR CLYDE
First a word about how the 575th Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion came to be with the 11th Armored Division. After approximately fifteen months training in the United States at Fort Bliss, Texas and Camp Carson, Colorado the Battalion pushed off from New York on 30 October 1944 to polish off the Luftwaffe in some section of the ETO. Some felt that we would join the Timberwolf (104th) Division whom we had met and maneuvered with at Camp Carson. From the G-2 from the 7th hole we knew they were already in France.
Our advance party, which was to inform us of what was happening had been sent out about a month ahead of us. After fifteen days of hard labor as the ships crew we found our advance party in England. They had spent approximately a month arranging a mud hole for us in the vicinity of Omaha Beach, however, for some reason they were sent back to England and arrived there one day ahead of the Battalion.
We very quickly settled down for the winter near Nantwich, Cheshire, England. A few of the officers and men had the opportunity to visit London and hear and see some of the things the V Bombs were doing to that city. Our schedule of events was interrupted, however, by orders from higher headquarters. On 26 November we were attached to the 11th Armored Division. We moved from Nantwich to Codford to join our new comrades on 1 December 1944.
Upon arrival at Camp Codford Wiltshire, England, we were welcomed by Brig. Gen.. Charles S. Kilburn, the Division Commander. We were officially made a part of the Thunderbolt, 11th Armored Division, and given the privilege of wearing the Division shoulder patch which the G-4 would supply in plentiful quantities. However, it was later found that shoulder patches had a low priority for shipping space and there were none to be had. We were happy with our new assignment and felt that we were part of one of the roughest, toughest fighting teams ever thrown together.
On joining the 11th Armored Division we were informed that we would head shortly for combat with one of the Armies on the Continent. Speculation and rumor ran high, but the majority seemed to favor Patton and his "Kraut Busting" Third Army. We started the mill turning and for the next fifteen days worked on a twenty-four hour schedule getting our equipment assembled, test-fired and ready for combat. Jeeps and half-tracks blossomed out with additional armor, wire cutters and "Bustles". On 16 December we left England for France where we were to complete any unfinished work prior to combat.
THE CAMPAIGN OF FRANCE
On leaving England the Division had the mission of clearing our the Lorient Pocket where a few Krauts were holed up with plenty of food, ammunition, etc., and were denying the Allies the use of vitally needed port facilities.
While the Division was in the process of moving from England to the Continent the German winter offensive began. By the time the Division had closed in France the Von Rundstedt Armies had broken through the thinly held lines of the First and Third Armies and was pushing across Belgium toward France. The last of the 575th arrived in the assembly area near Bricquebeck, France in the early hours of 20 December. That day we learned that we would be moved up to stop the German Drive. On the morning of 21 December we took off for a town in Belgium that was at that time in First Army territory. That day our destination was changed slightly due to the fact that the Germans took our former destination. Rheims was our new assembly area. We arrived at Sissons, France on the afternoon of 23 December after having navigated through or around Paris. We had just started our preparation for a hot supper when our Liaison Officer arrived with an order to move the battalion less one battery to Camp Sissons immediately.
Battery B was attached to CCB on the spot and moved to Sissons Barracks to join the CC. The remainder of the battalion took off on one of the wildest rides in the history of AA. The march was made in complete blackout and at a rate that would astound the logistic experts. We made it though, less a couple of vehicles. We arrived at Camp Sissons which was at that time inhabited by the 82nd Airborne Division who were resting up after a jump in Holland.
The souvenir or loot collection started here. About 2300 hours we were notified to have one battery stripped down of equipment and ready for departure for combat at 0700 the next morning. Battery C being the only battery with all its equipment in firing condition was told they would be assigned and to get ready. Up to this time we had not used our radios since we had no frequencies assigned. We were told they would be assigned by the AA Group to which we were attached. Not having received any orders attaching us to a Group we were in the dark completely. However, the DSO assigned us a couple of channels and as Battery C -pulled out they were handed an SOI. That day Battery C moved out with CCA to cover the Meuse River Line from Sedan to Givet.
The remaining two batteries, A and D worked on their equipment getting in shape for action. Battery A had two tracks out with mechanical failures and Battery D had one we received just prior to leaving England that had been salvaged by some lucky outfit. Battery A was attached to Division Artillery and Battery D less one platoon was left under Battalion Control. One platoon of Battery D was attached to Division Trains and one platoon to protect Division Headquarters. Santa Claus came to see some of us with mail at Sissons on Christmas Eve. The night was enjoyed by all in spite of the demonstration of fire power put on by the Airborne boys. Think they found that most of their weapons worked Okay and there were not many more holes in the buildings the next morning. Have never been positive that some of the shots were not accidentally fired by the 575th.
Christmas day dawned clear and cold. After a wonderful feast of turkey with all the trimmings the Battalion minus departed for Poix Terron. From this time the Battalion minus was the Battalion Headquarters and one platoon that was assigned the mission of protecting the Division Headquarters. While here we learned that we were attached to the 113th AAA Group which was operating as the Corps Group for the VIII Corps. While here the first shot to be fired by any element of the Thunderbolt Division in combat was fired by the 3rd Section, 1st Platoon, Battery C, 575th AAA AW Bn (SP) at 0150 hours on 26 December 1944. This section shot down one FW- 190 aircraft while protecting a bridge at Sedan, France.
We all became acquainted with ''Bed Check Charlie" while in this vicinity. No one ever found out what "Charlie" was hunting for. However, he did strafe a few positions and roads in the vicinity.
On the 26th we were alerted for a movement to start at 0200. Necessary preparations were made and we departed for a new territory at 291300. Battery A moved with the Division Artillery, Battery B with CCB, Battery C with CCA, Second Platoon, Battery D with Division Trains and the Battalion minus with Division Headquarters. This move was to take us into Belgium and thus ended the Campaign of France. The 17th Airborne Division took over the river line when we departed.
BATTLE OF THE BULGE
The march from Poix Terron to Neufchateau progressed very well during daylight hours. As darkness came on we found ourselves in the Ardennes forests. An occasional flash on the horizon, that reminded one of the flash of an arc welder at Codford, served as a warning that something was happening up ahead. The Battalion closed into bivouac near Neufchateau in the early hours of 30 December 1944. By this time the drive had been stopped in the west and the 4th Armored Division had driven through to join the "Battered Bastards of Bastogne" and open a road from the south. The Krauts, however, had no intention of leaving this road open. On the morning of 30 December 1944 the 11th Armored Division, 575th attached, set out to convince the Krauts that the road would stay open.
By this time the Luftwaffe had ceased to be a major threat and the only planes were single flights of nuisance raids and reconnaissance at night. At about 300200 the Battalion CP was attacked by parachutists which were annihilated, both of them, in short order. At daylight the Division went into action and the 5?5th received its baptism of fire with the other elements of the Division. The next few days taught us many things that are not in the book and we, even though fresh from the great battles of the Texas plains, had not learned. When a hypothetical enemy becomes real and uses live ammunition people get hurt and some even get killed. We found ourselves in positions that, according to the things we had been taught, were not normal for AAA. Our mission was purely and simply ground support for an armored attack. A job we were to learn much more about as time went on. For five days the Division pushed into the southern flank of the Bulge. For a time it was felt that the tip of the Bulge would be pinched off. A concentrated drive was being made by the Third Army on the south to push up past Bastogne to Houffalize. The First Army on the north was to drive in and join the Third Army at Houffalize. Von Rundstedt, himself a master at such tactics, foresaw this and began to withdraw his forces from the Bulge. After five days of bitter fighting the Division was relieved by the 17th Airborne and rolled out of the line for reorganization. Losses had been heavy and the 575th had felt the sting of the enemy though perhaps not as heavy as some of the other units. The extremely bitter cold and snow had taken its toll along with the damage done by the Krauts. Battery B suffered the heaviest, losing two officers, Lt. Mink with frozen feet and Lt. Murtagh with shrapnel in the fanny, fourteen men, and two half tracks.
The Battalion including the Battalion Headquarters had learned the value of fox holes or just any old hole. The Battalion had participated in a drive that had pushed the best troops Germany had on any front back for six miles and had liberated more than a dozen Belgian towns including Chenogne, Lavaselle, Flohamont, Rechrival, and Mande St. Etienne.
During the reorganization of the Division, Battery B was relieved from attachment to CCB and Battery D took their place. The lost vehicles were replaced and men rested as best they could in barns, houses or tents. For heroic action in the engagement the Bronze Star Medal was awarded to Tec 5 Little, Medical Detachment and Tec† 5 Fine of Battery B.
On January 13th 1945 the Thunderbolt again took off to renew the attack and to relieve the famed 101st Airborne in and around Bastogne. This was still a slugfest with the Germans giving ground only after they were knocked over like ten pins. At this time the Germans were still within two miles of Bastogne. To support this drive all available artillery was emplaced around Bastogne. The Krauts were pounded from all sides and by P-47s from above. The show was beautiful to watch but hell to live in. On 15 January, the Eleventh Armored Division of the Third Army contacted the Second Armored Division of the First Army at Houffalize. The Bulge had been wiped off the map and the Krauts were running like hell for the Siegfried Line.
In the above action the Battalion lost its first man to be killed about two miles north of Bastogne by shrapnel. Though subjected to every kind o£ barrage the enemy had to offer, we still had the Golden Horseshoe in hand and our losses were exceptionally light. More than a dozen Belgian towns including Bertogne, Recogne, Mabompre, Foy, Cobru and Noville had been cleared. The above towns were also almost completely destroyed.
THE PUSH TO THE SIEGFRIED LINE
After the Junction with the First Army at Houffalize the Division was engaged in a holding action on a line from Bourcy to Hardigny. The relief of the 101st Airborne was completed on 17 January 1945 and the "Battered Bastards of Bastogne"' marched back £or rest and rehabilitation. On 17 January 1945 Batteries C and D were relieved from CCA and CCB respectively and attached to CCR as ground support for holding the line Hardigny-Bourcy, Battery D on the south and Battery C on the north. The weather was extremely cold and snow hampered movements somewhat.
While in these positions the Germans harassed our troops continually with artillery and mortar fire. On 21 January Batteries C and D reverted to attachments to CCA and CCB respectively. CCA passed through CCR in vicinity of Rachamps and Hardigny and attacked toward Boer~and Buret. CCB on the south was to move east through Bourcy. The Krauts, however, had flown the coop and the attack turned into an easy push to the east. The area was left well seeded with mines of all types. Battery C moving up in the darkness in the early hours of 21 January found later that they had set up positions in the middle of a mine field. The frozen ground and snow plus the Golden Horseshoe was in their favor and none of them exploded. The S-3 was not so lucky. Returning from Battery C at Buret on a road over which CCA had moved up, his half-track struck a mine and had its face lifted. No damage was done to personnel, however it has never been clear how many pairs of long-johns were discarded after the smoke cleared away. Incidentally, General Patton had passed over the same mine a few minutes earlier.
The Battalion then settled down for a few days rest. Battery D had suffered the heaviest losses in the recent campaign. They came out shy 21 men, the majority with frostbitten feet. One half track had been knocked out by a mortar burst and two by mechanical failure. All were evacuated and repaired by Battalion and were ready to roll in short order. The country side was strewn with wrecked German equipment of all kinds and many Kraut dead were frozen in grotesque positions where they had fallen. Evidence of a hard fight was everywhere. The enemy had moved into the fortified Siegfried line and the 11th Armored Division with attached units had played a major part in breaking up Germanyís might in the West. Our men had proven that they had what it takes. For heroic action in this push the Bronze Star Medal was awarded to Lt. Willey, Tec 4 Walsh, Cpl.. Grothe and Tec 5 Faber all of Battery D.
HITTING THE SIEGFRIED LINE
On 4 February Battery D moved to the vicinity of Burg Reuland, Belgium with CCR. CCR was composed of an armored infantry task force made up o£ the three battalions of the division. The division completed the relief of the 90th Infantry Division in the sector on 5 February 1945. Battery A was attached to CCB who had the mission of protecting the south flank of VIII Corps. Battery C remained with CCA which was placed in Corps Reserve. Battery B continued the mission of protecting Division Headquarters with one platoon and, it has been said, spare parts with its other platoon. Battery A with headquarters at Weiswampach, Luxembourg was assigned a sector overlooking the Our River and set up a defensive line there. Battery C with headquarters in Wiesten, Belgium remained there since the condition of the roads prevented any extensive movement of armor. The snow melted and the land thawed out making movement by heavy vehicles almost impossible.
The Battalion minus was set up in Wilwerdange, Luxembourg with Division Headquarters. From Burg Reuland Battery D moved into Germany with CCR. They were facing the Siegfried Line with headquarters in the vicinity of Heckusheid. Here for six days they held and became familiar with the whine of 88s and the scream of the Nevelwerfer. They also experienced the noiseless mortar that did so much damage when it hit. On 11 February Battery D reverted from CCR to attachment to Division Artillery and moved out of the "Hot Spot" of Reckbusheid. In this action they had suffered 8 casualties, 6 wounded and 2 killed and one half-track damaged by an 88mm~ burst under the bumper. On 18 February CCR broke through the Siegfried Line, and by 22 February had reached the Division objective. The 90th Infantry driving down from the north and 6th Armored Division driving east on the south met and the 11th Armored was pinched out. The Division was placed in Corps reserve and began preparation for a new drive. As the month of February closed the batteries were disposed as follows: Battery A, after having been subjected to sporadic artillery fire had been relieved of their mission and were resting in Leithu, Belgium. Battery B, after having alarmed the Division by firing on an enemy aircraft at night remained in place with headquarters at Wilwerdange, Luxembourg. Battery C had moved with CCA to Manderfeld, Belgium in Corps Reserve to exploit a breakthrough there if and when it came. Battery D, with Division Artillery had their headquarters at Hascheid, Germany. The Siegfried Line had been breached and the Division was ready for a new assignment.
THE BREAK THROUGH
On 2 March the Division began moving to the vicinity of Prum, Germany and prepared to exploit a crossing there where the 4th Infantry Division was fighting for a bridgehead on the Prum River. On 3 March the crossing was made by CCB and a smashing drive was made against heavy resistance toward the Kyll River. The enemy was bowled over, however, he chose to stand. Things really began to happen fast, The race for the Rhine was in the making. The Krauts were doing everything possible to stop the drive. Road blocks were thrown up, bridges blown and areas heavily mined. The Thunderbolt busted through and on 6 March were at the Kyll, the last natural defensive barrier before the Rhine. Battery A had played the biggest part for the Battalion in this drive. The second platoon moving with the 41st Tank Battalion had cut loose their fire power to silence enemy small arms and mortar fire from woods that were annoying our troops.
THE RACE TO THE RHINE
On 7 March CCA crossed the Kyll and was followed by the other elements of the Division. The drive took off for the Rhine over the route Kelberg-Mayen. Somewhere along the line the column split with CCB branching off to the north. On 9 March the Division reached the Rhine. CCB commanded by Col. Wesley W. Yale took Brohl and CCA commanded by Brig. Gen. Willard A. Holbrook, Jr. took Andernach just north of Koblenz. The 11th Armored had again met the First Army and trapped a substantial number of Krauts west of the Rhine.
On this drive we realized what a powerful striking force an armored division can be when it really uncoils and strikes out in the open. It was on this drive that we saw the first lines Or Krauts marching back without guard and others just watching the power house roll by. We also saw our first DPs (displaced persons) wending their weary way west. They all waved and saluted and some of us wondered who the hell the mixed uniforms belonged to. In three days the Division took more PWs than the Division strength, and captured or destroyed more equipment than it would take to equip a division.
THE LOOT PERIOD
After reaching the Rhine the Division set about mopping up the area. The 575th was spread from one side of the Division to the other and took part in the mopping up operations. German vehicles, cameras, pistols, fancy scarves, telephones and other trophies of war began to appear in the Battalion. We also learned to appreciate the finer wines of the region. Sniper fire from across the river held no terror where the looting was best.
The Battalion minus was located in Niedermendig with Division Headquarters while the batteries settled down in the towns surrounding this city. Battery A had headquarters at Wassenach in a hotel well stocked with very palatable wines. Battery B had headquarters in Niedermendig. The headquarters of Battery C was at Krutt and Battery D at Obermendig. While in this vicinity,. we had a chance to fire at a few German planes that strayed over our area looking for some way to get at the First Armyís Remagen Bridgehead which was a few miles to the north. Some of our sections also took part in shooting down a comet that later turned out to be a B-17 that had been set fire while en route home from a bombing mission. The British crew cleared the whole matter up for us when they appeared.
RHINE TO RHINE VIA MOSELLE
On 16 March the Division and attached units was switched from the VIII Corps to XII Corps and ordered to attack to the south along axis Lutzerath-Kirchberg-Worms. After days of planning by G-3 this was one move he had not planned. However, the Division commanded by Major General Holmes E. Dager (then Brig. General) who had taken over from General Kilburn, took the order in stride and took off in short order. In five days the Division drove for over 70 miles against scattered resistance and pulled up on the banks of the Rhine for the second time at the city of Worms.
This drive brought us from the north flank of the Third Army down to the south across the Moselle at Alf, through the vineyards and linked up with the Seventh Army on the south flank of the Third Army. Many will remember the historic crossing at Alf as the place where every man was handed a bottle of excellent wine before going on the bridge. This drive though comparatively an easy one netted the Division another big bag of PW's. We came out very light with Battery D again sustaining the heaviest losses, with two men wounded and one half-track damaged, Battery A lost one jeep with no personnel casualties.
At the same time we were driving toward Worms from the West, the famed 4th Armored was driving for the city from the north. There is some doubt in minds of some of us as to just who should have been the one to accept the surrender of the battered city. Due to the prior establishment of the restraining lines the 4th took the city and pulled out immediately leaving us for a time with the ruins of Worms. The Thunderbolt had captured hundreds of horses, artillery pieces, PWs, assorted motorized equipment and an airfield with a number of operational aircraft. The Third Army was on the banks of the Rhine from Koblenz to Worms.
THE LUFTWAFFE REVIVES
'On 21 March at 0730 hours the Luftwaffe appeared for the first time in any numbers since our arrival in the ETO. Ten fighters appeared over the area just south and west of Worms and Batteries A and D, being in the area went into action. As one member of a gun crew put it, the firing was not like Hueco at all. Nobody was there to tell them the plane was coming on course from east to west and besides they wouldn't fly in a straight line at a certain altitude. When the smoke cleared the 11th Armored Division was still intact and Battery A claimed two E/A destroyed. The aircraft had done no damage to the defended area. Later the same day Battery A fired on one ME 262 which streaked leisurely over the area. During the next few days single aircraft wandered over the area at odd hours. They very carefully kept just out of range of our guns and even though we expended a few rounds of ammo, neither side did any appreciable damage.
JUST BEFORE THE CROSSING
On 25 March the Division again changed Corps. This time from XII to XX Corps. The corps mission was to hold the river line on the south flank of the Third Army And assist in preparation for a crossing. The second platoon of Battery A was at this time in one of the most ticklish spots ever to be assigned to an AAA unit. They were emplaced along the river bank near Worms with the mission of destroying any mines that might be floated down the river in an effort to disrupt bridging operations. The east bank of the Rhine still belonged to the Krauts and any movement on our side brought prompt response from snipers over there. We still had a hook on the Golden Horseshoe and only two men were hit.
The Division with Headquarters at Alzey was covering the south flank of the Army Zone. Preparations for a crossing were made and a bridgehead established at Oppenheim. A second crossing was to be made at Mainz and Battery A was to get a similar job to the one they had at Worms. The Battalion Commander, Colonel Baker, had the aerial shot off his halftrack which was reconnoitering this location. Things happened fast and we were never called to fulfill this assignment. The Luftwaffe made a determined effort to break up the crossing at Oppenheim and on the night of 26 or 27 March one of the best shows of the war took place. The Luftwaffe came in and dropped numerous flares over the bridgehead area. For almost an hour the sky was full of tracer ammo, flares, and 9mm bursts. An occasional flash in the sky wrote finis to another Kraut plane. It is not known known many were in the attacking force but whatever the number in the beginning it was exactly one dozen less when they went home. The crossings continued uninterrupted.
ACROSS THE RHINE
On 28 March the 11th Armored Division again changed Corps, from XX to the XII and was ordered to cross the Rhine at Oppenheim and attack to the north and east into the heart of Germany. The crossing was made without incident. We were at this time following the crossings of the 4th and 6th Armored Divisions. The 4th Armored had already cleared Hanau and moved own, however, the 11th met some resistance in this area. We drove through Darmstadt and Hanau and headed toward Fulda.
On 31 March the GAF again came over in an effort to destroy a bridge over the Main at Gross Auheim. Two sections of Battery B with trains claimed one ME 262 destroyed. Battery C also got in some shooting at Stukas there. The section doing the firing was on the bridge at the time and the superstructure prevented accurate firing and no damage was inflicted.
The end of March found us engaged in a drive toward the heart of Germany. The Division objective was the towns of Arnstadt and Kranichfeld. These towns were reported to be part of the German Government and Communications Center. It was rumored that everything including Hitler had moved from Berlin and set up shop in this area. The drive was made by three armored divisions. The 16th Armored in the north, the 4th in the center, and the 11th in the south. The drive was to capture the government and end the war. On April 1st we took off. Resistance was bypassed whenever possible. We traveled mostly over country roads or cow trails. We learned the value of road markers and keeping in column on the right road. Lt. Joiner especially is familiar with this part of the story. He took a wrong turn and walked back minus one Jeep and most of his personal belongings. How he or his driver got out he has never figured out. This was to be the only vehicle we had captured by the enemy while in running condition. Later the same day part of Division Headquarters with Headquarters 575th pulled off the road into a field while the Krauts fired a few ranging shots into the area with a mortar. It was soon found that this was unhealthy and the column moved on leaving the Kraut to play with his mortar wherever he was.
On 2 April the Krauts became mildly interested in what was happening and the Luftwaffe began to appear over the heads of our columns. They seemed to be more or less content to fly around beyond 37mm or 50 cal. range† and watch our progress. During the day Batteries a and D engaged five flights of FW190s. Total aircraft in the flights was 50 which at the time was more aircraft than we thought the Germans had. Claims for damaging 7 aircraft were made, most of which could not be supported due to the fact that movement was so rapid and the situation such that any search for wreckage was highly impractical. From 2 April to 16 April some element of the Battalion had a chance to fire almost every day. Luftwaffe pilots seemed to respect our fire power and on very few occasions made any actual attacks.
On 3 April with CCB at Oberhof and CCA at Suhl resistance stiffened. It was learned that Hitler and his cohorts were not in the areas into which we were heading, so the Thunderbolt prepared to strike out for another possible hiding place. On this drive all infantry support was left behind and the war continued behind us while some of us wondered where the nearest friendly unit was. Supply trains traveled, when they traveled, with tanks, armored car, and AAA protection. Mail and the Stars and Stripes were just a little slow coming through. The Division drew its elements into a tight triangular formation, CCA at Suhl, CCB at Oberhof, and Division Headquarters at Steinbach-Hallenberg.
The loot piled up. We were in the heart of Thuringia where everyone had guns and cameras. Wine stocks were fair. The Luftwaffe had made its presence known and AA gunners from all units kept a weather eye on the sky. At dusk on 3 April trigger happy gunners opened up on three P-47s who came over to pay their respects. The sky was filled with tracers from single fifties flying in every direction. Thanks to poor marksmanship, the guidance from above, and the fact that the 575th did not fire, the planes flew blithely on and no damage was done.
'On 5 April the Division Headquarters moving behind CCR moved into Zella-Mehlis, the home of the Walthers and P-38 pistols. The loot really piled up. In addition to the larger Walther plants almost every house in the city manufactured some kind of a gun or part of a gun. Battery C at Suhl wasnít doing badly, but they had to set up an assembly only since their pistols were largely in the disassembled stage.
On 7 April the 90th Infantry caught up and took over the sector and the Thunderbolt Division had to find a new home.
THE PUSH INTO BAVARIA
The Division uncoiled on the 7th of April and struck out to the south and east. We were joined by the 71st Infantry Division who were to mop up behind the Armored thrust. The presence of Infantry and the Air Corps was always welcome, even though the Infantry did get mixed up on the roads at times. From here on the artillery with the aid of the Air Corps very carefully arranged for the Division Headquarters to have a warm reception in the towns they selected for GPís. The homefires burned brightly by the time Division Headquarters arrived. By 13 April the Division had rolled more than 50 miles, and taken the city of Kulmbach. The objective for the Division was at this time the city of Hof at the western tip of Czechoslovakia. The 90th Infantry traveling in a straight line on the north took the city and privilege to fraternize in Czechoslovakia. The 11th Armored with Headquarters at Mainleus took a few days for much needed maintenance. Batteries A and B had Headquarters at Mainleus. Battery C was at Stadt Steinach and Battery D in the vicinity of Rothwind.
On 13 April the first of the Luftwaffe to actually fly down our gun barrels paid us a call. Four ME 109's swept down the valley striking at Division Trains in that area. The opening burst by Battery B who was farthest west at the time, caught one in the middle, and one section of Battery C also opened up. The plane scattered parts for approximately five miles before breaking itself into little pieces in the trees. The remaining three aircraft clipped the grass flying so low our crews could not fire without endangering surrounding units. They picked an opening and slipped over the hill in a hurry. Tracers were seen to bounce off rooftops in Mainleus where gunners tried to get down to the planes.
The next day the AA gunners in the vicinity of Division Headquarters really opened up. Tankers, Engineers, Infantry men, AA crews and the Division Commander with his 30 cal.. jeep mount all cut loose. Five fighter bombers, FW 190; came over loaded for bear. They circled over the area flying at about 5000 to 8000 feet. The bombs were plainly visible on the wings. The mass of fire below them discouraged the pilots, and after a couple of turns over the area one of them cut loose his bombs. After what seemed to be an hour they struck. The pilot had been a little slow on the release and the bombs landed in a field Just back of Headquarters Battery billets. The only damage was a few shingles knocked off and one man burned and another cut. The, burn was caused when the man struck a hot exhaust pipe while diving under a halftrack and the cut by a man who was shaving and jumped when the bombs hit.
During the time the Division was performing maintenance, artillery was preparing the City of Coburg for the plucking. The officials were contacted and they asked for time to consider surrender. The artillery dropped a note now and then to help them make a decision. As the designated hour approached, P-47s also came over flying leisurely around the city with bombs hanging ready for release. The "City Fathers" talked fast and the P-47s had to hunt a new target.
ON TO AUSTRIA
On 17 April the Division again shoved off to the southeast taking Bayreuth, the home of the composer, Richard Wagner. Hitler was a yearly visitor here in his better days attending the festivals given at the Wagner Opera House. The Air Corps had done an excellent job in this vicinity. Bayreuth itself was well pounded and an airfield with more than 100 planes had been destroyed. The Thunderbolt paused here briefly and the 71st Infantry Division took over the city. The Thunderbolt pushed on to tale Grafenwohr, one time training center for the German Army. Here the Division captured one of Germanyís largest chemical warfare dumps, a large assortment of artillery and other equipment plus large stores of food. The chemical warfare dump contained over 3,000,000 rounds of gas filled ammunition. Battalion Headquarters procured a beautiful brand new generator from the captured stocks here. The Air Corps had accomplished one of the most thorough jobs of destruction here ever witnessed. Hundreds of barracks, shops and officers quarters had been completely pulverized. The town was burning when we arrived and two days later when we left, ammunition was still exploding as buildings burned themselves out. The Thunderbolt Division continued to move to the southeast moving parallel to the Czech border towards Austria.
On 23 April the Division took Cham, CCB entering from the south and CCA from the north. On this drive we had our first glimpse of Hitlerís work with Concentration Camps. CCB overtook a column of prisoners that were being marched east in an effort to move them out of the line of the American advance. The roads were lined with dead who had been shot when they fell from exhaustion. Few of us will ever see a more pitiful sight than that which the lines of liberated people presented. Hundreds of men, starved, half-dressed and half-crazed each with a KL in big red letters on his back. It is said that some of us had the pleasure of seeing these people deal out just punishment to some of the SS guards. This drive had also released an allied PW camp containing 1722 British and American PWs.
With the capture of Cham we also took an airfield with more than 50 operational aircraft and Field Marshal Kesselring's private train that was on the way to move him from the path of the American advance. The airfield was later to provide good hunting for us. For several days after its capture pilots came in for landings and in finding the Americans there tried to pull out again. The 128th Gun Battalion, two batteries of which had joined us at Mainleus for high level protection, also got in some shooting, here. On 24th and 25th April we claimed five planes destroyed and six damaged. The drive moved on and someone else moved in and took over. On 26 April, the Division moved to Freyung. The Luftwaffe was most annoying on this move. Ground troops also became troublesome. The 56th Engineers Headquarters, the rear element of the Division column, was continually in trouble. One section of Battery B was sent back to clear up the pocket of resistance. Small arms fire from woods along the roads can make one feel most uncomfortable. As the afternoon dragged by the Luftwaffe continued to be active overhead. the majority of flights were made over the forward elements at altitudes just out of reach of our guns. We continued to blaze away with everything available, but they stayed high. Some of us had the pleasure of watching from a ringside seat one of the prettiest sights of the war. A "dog fight'' in clear skies.
While four Krauts played around annoying the columns below, eight P-51s came in from nowhere and in two minutes four Krauts had dived into the earth each with a P-51 on his tail till he hit.
It seemed very simple. You could see a flash, hear a burst of MG fire and forthwith a Kraut headed down smoke streaming from his tail. Towards evening the radio began to crackle. People who had been most unhappy at having to haul what they considered excessive loads of ammo, were getting low on 27mm and 50 cal. ammunition. The ammo on hand was distributed the following morning and trucks dispatched to the rear for more. For the bigger part of the next three days we wondered about the trucks. They were overdue and no one seemed to be exactly sure how the war was going behind us. They returned on the third day with ammo after having toured half the dumps in Germany for 37mm ammo. Meanwhile the Luftwaffe had been less active and we hadnít† needed the. ammo too badly.
On 26 April a patrol from the 11th Armored Division became the first Allied troops to enter Austria from the west. At this point and from then on the 11th Armored Division was to have troops farther east than any element of the Allied Armies. From 26 April the Division held the area around Freyung with troops on the Czech border on the north and Austrian border in the south. The consensus of opinion was that we were waiting for the Russians. The poop was out the signals were all arranged. On two occasions we had received all the maps we would need to meet the Russians. Still on 30 April we took off again for Linz, Austria where we were sure the Russians already had patrols. On 4 May the cites of Linz and Urfahr surrendered to CCA and still no Russians CCB advanced to Gallneukirchen north east of Linz and sent patrols to the east. Everyone who could dashed down for a look at the beautiful blue Danube. The Germans call it the Danau and it wasn't blue. Germans were surrendering by the thousands in Italy and northern Germany. It was rumored the war was over. Hitler was dead Doenitz had taken over and we waited for the Russians.
On 5 or 6 May we knew that the surrender details had been worked out. On 8 May Troop A of the 41st Cavalry Squadron was captured by the Russians. At 0900 1 May 1945 the war in Europe was over. We visited the Concentration Camp at Mauthausen, met the Russians collected pistols and wondered what would happen to us next. We were issued one 11th Armored Division shoulder patch per man.
At the cessation of hostilities the batteries were disposed as follows: Battery A with CCB and Battery B with Division Artillery were located in and around Gallneukirchen. Battery B Headquarters and second platoon were at Kirchlag, first platoon at Rohrbach and Battery C and Headquarters Battery at Hellmonsodt. Less than six months had elapsed since we debarked from the U.S.A.T. Marine Wolf at Liverpool, England and four months and ten days of this had been spent in combat. The 575th AAA Auto Weapons Bn (SP) was proud to have been a part of the 11th Armored Division, and sewed the shoulder patch on the best shirt we had.
We had credit for 15-3/4 planes destroyed, 3 probably destroyed, and 8 damaged. We had expended 4,886 rounds of 37mm and 185,782 rounds of 50 cal.. ammunition at aerial targets and 2,036 rounds of 37mm and 69,300 rounds of 50 cal.. ammunition at ground targets.
The Division in its push from the Bulge to Linz had taken 76,229 prisoners. After cessation of hostilities an additional 11,834 prisoners were discharged and 34,125 turned over to the Russian Army. Prior to the effective time of the surrender the Division refused to accept the surrender of over 200,000 troops then in the zone between the 11th Armored Division and the Red Army.
Thus ended the war in Europe and the 575th began worrying about points and battle stars and battle stars and points.
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