A-41st Tank Battalion
On December 21, 1944, Company A, 41st Tank
Battalion, as a part of the 11th Armored Division, landed on the coast of
France. The channel had been crossed in LST's from England, where we had spent
two months in training and in preparing our vehicles for combat. The landing
was made at Cherbourg at 2300 and we moved through the city on a twenty-seven
mile road march to bivouac in Barnsville.
Scheduled to mop up the "Lorient
Pocket", no one was in a hurry and we were thinking, here was a chance to
gain combat experience without undue hardship. However, new orders were being
issued that were to carry us far from the present scene and into one of the
hardest and bitterest battles of the European campaign.
Von Runstedt's forces, on a winter offensive,
had driven so swiftly and deeply into Allied territory, that every available
man was needed to stem the on rushing tide. The 11th was needed and though we
were more than four hundred miles from the action, we were told to get there
immediately and be prepared to fight when we arrived. The order was to result
in one of the longest and most completely successful road marches in the
history of American Forces.
Moving northward up the coast a distance of 99
miles, we arrived at Falaise on the 22nd. Another move brought us to
Danesville and on the 24th, in rain and increasingly cold weather, we put 138
miles behind us, to arrive at Soissons, France. Billeting was in French
military barracks, the last time we were to sleep under a roof in two weeks.
This was Christmas Eve, and to keep the
evening eventful, an acquaintance was made with "Bed-check Charlie''. A
strafing run and a bomb made the evening one that would be remembered for some
time to come.
Christmas Day to us was no holiday. Everyone
grabbed a sledgehammer or a wrench and began putting on track- extensions,
better known as duck-bills. There is but one way to change them - mean
strength and awkwardness. This took all day with time out only for the traditional turkey
At 2200, we moved out on a night march of 75
miles to a wooded area near Baalons, France. Tanks were camouflaged and we
settled down to a maintenance and rest period. Several men received promotions
at this time. Harber to S/Sgt; Burgess, Lang and Wessel to Sgt; Cofiell and
Swartz to Tec 4; Mckinley to Cpl; Boyd,Jylanki and Walker to Tec 5; Di Lorenzo
to Pfc. Sgt McGuire, Tec 4 Childress, Pvt. Howe and Pvt. Karvelas were
evacuated to the 81st Medics.
The weather was becoming increasingly colder.
Rain had turned to snow and the ground had frozen enough to easily support the
weight of our tanks. On the 29th, over roads almost to icy for travel, we
moved 85 miles to Leprey, Belgium, within five miles of the front lines. The
move was completed under cover of darkness and bivouacked was in a patch of
woods. There we fueled, slept a few hours and received final instructions for
our initiation into combat.
Up long before day-break, we were moving
through Morhet and into the attack position in the early light of dawn, with
the primary mission of taking and holding the village of Lavaselle. Led by a
Reconnaissance platoon and flanked by companies of our battalion, we made
contact with the enemy at 0822 and the fight was on.
The company over-ran and took Lavaselle and
shortly, two more villages had fallen to us in a brisk spectacular battle,
notable in that the enemy in the villages were completely surprised and
disrupted, all opposition coming from the woods to the front and either side
of the villages.
story of our first action, told by Sgt. Stanley of the first platoon, is as
follows: "Our company, as they moved into the attack, was in line
formation with the first platoon on the left flank. When contact was made with
the enemy, we all began firing. As yet, I had seen nothing, so I opened up on
a building to my left front. Several soldiers ran out and were disposed of by
myself and the other tank in my section.
The company advanced and my section became
cut-off from the platoon by a small stream. While trying to cross the stream,
my tank became stuck and was pulled out by my other tank. During this time, I
had looked up to see a crew abandoning a tank, and wondered what had hit them.
I then started up the hill into the village, as Lt. Simkin had radioed that
the other three tanks of the platoon were up there and had their hands full.
We could not make the hill, as it was too slippery, so started around it to
find them. Lt. Rysnick came up behind us and swung off to the right and up a
hill. Moving up with him, we found ourselves among some Company "B''
tanks, in time to help knock out two German Mark IV tanks.
While we were firing at troops to our front,
all other tanks backed off the ridge and left my section there. Although I had
orders to rejoin the company, we had located three artillery weapons and
proceeded to knock them out. Stopping long enough to pick up four men from B
company who had lost their tank, we moved back to the company and the
battalion, who had assembled on the high ground to the front of the villages.
The whole attack had been disorganized in the control of vehicles, but had
proven entirely successful from our view point. I had not been able to see
what the company had done but we were there without serious casualties. What
more could we ask?
To continue with the story of the company,
reports showed one tank out of action from a land mine and the driver, Tec 4
Calcinore, evacuated. One other tank was hit in the suspension system and
later was sent to the rear for repair. This tank was commanded by Sgt.
Weighill. In turn, we had inflicted far greater casualties on the enemy. The
report totaling three tanks, four artillery pieces, two mortars, several
machine-gun nests and an estimated 100 Germans.
Holding our position for the balance of the
day and night, we were subjected to continual artillery and nebelwerfer fire.
The enemy batteries could not be located accurately enough for counterbattery
to silence them, so this rain of missiles fell almost without interruption
during the entire time the battalion held this position. It was undoubtedly
the heaviest artillery fire we were ever to see. Some time during the night,
Pvt. Lawson was evacuated with bullet wounds in the leg, received while he was
on guard duty. Pvt. Mazursky was also evacuated with a back injury sustained
while loading ammunition into a tank.
The morning of the second day, we were
assigned the job of giving supporting fire to the 22nd Tank Bn., which was
attacking on our right flank. Someone in the 22nd made a mistake and dropped a
few rounds of shells among our vehicles, causing no damage but bringing up a
little incident that was to amuse us greatly at a later date. When the rounds
fell, Tec 5 Burling dived into a foxhole and was run over by a tank. The sides
of the hole collapsed, burying Burling and leaving only his head sticking out.
Burling says " here I was buried, couldn't move and didn't know what the
hell was going on. I hollered for help and finally Alex Kramer came over. The
darn sap stood there and says, 'What in the hell are you trying to do, play
games? I convinced him that I had to be dug out. If I could have moved,
someone would have had to dig him out."
About noon, Pfc. Del Piero was hit by a gun
recoil and received serious head injuries. Soon after, seven more men were
casualties, hit by artillery fire while loading ammunition into their tanks,
Sgt. Romero, Cpl. Ellefson, Tec 5 Askler, Tec 5 Woodrow, Pfc. Kanges, and
Pvts. Lilly and Vaughn were evacuated.
Within an hour, the command tank was hit by an
artillery shell. The company commander, Capt. Gardner, was killed instantly
and Cpl. Rice hit by shell fragments, causing serious wounds. Tec 4 Sterlacci
and Pfc Hunter, in the tank at the time, were sent to the rear, suffering from
concussion and shock. Tec 4 Goldman was unhurt. Lt. Scott assumed command of
the company and reorganized us. Men were shifted to utilize all tanks,
regardless of whether they had full crews.
Assigned the objective of Monty, we moved out
at 1100 the following morning. The intermediate objective, a small patch of
woods, was taken with little trouble. After assembling and mounting infantry
on the rear decks of our tanks, we moved toward Monty. The town was hidden by
woods and there was only a narrow corridor to advance through. Sgt. Dubicki's
account of this engagement is quoted.
"The company was moving with the platoons
in line formation. As we advanced down a corridor in the woods, it became so
narrow that there was room for only one platoon on line. The third platoon
took the lead and continued to advance. The ground was boggy, making it
difficult to maneuver.
We were moving in without artillery support
and could not see the town until we were almost upon it. Suddenly all hell
broke loose. Lt. Royce's tank was hit by an armor-piercing shell. Hit at an
angle that seemed impossible for penetration, we found later the shell had
slid along the hull for almost three feet before turning enough to penetrate.
The tank was abandoned immediately. In rapid succession, three more of the
lead tanks were hit, forcing the crews to abandon the tanks.
I had located an anti-tank gun and fired one
round when my tank was hit. We jumped from the tank and took cover behind it.
My driver had not gotten out so I went around and looked in the tank to see
what had happened to him. The round had taken his leg off below the knee so I
got him into the turret and gave him a morphine syrette, then placed a
tourniquet on his leg to stop the bleeding.
Enemy artillery opened up at the same time
that the tanks were being hit by direct fire. Infantry riding the tanks took
cover in the woods and the tank crews took cover behind and under their tanks.
I could see more men getting hit and saw one tank that was stuck, get hit by
The Medics were busy taking the wounded away.
They had more work than they could handle, so I loaded Lt. Royce, who had a
broken leg, Jack Kraemer, Wingert and Burgess, all of whom were wounded, into
a tank and took them back to the battalion aid station, then rejoined the
The first platoon had gone to the ridge-line
on the right and the second platoon was firing directly into the town. All
direct fire at us had ceased and artillery fire was not so heavy. A check-up
placed our casualties at seven men and four tanks. Lt. Royce, Sgts. Burgess
and Fisher, Tec4's Eastin and Sumner, Tec 5 Kraemer and Pvt. Wingert were
evacuated. Five enemy tanks, one anti-tank piece and an estimated thirty
Germans had been destroyed. Also one ammunition dump had been blown up. We had
been hurt, but in turn had still been able to cause more damage than we had
Only three hundred yards from the edge of
town, we could not go in and take it without infantry support. We did not have
this in sufficient numbers, so we held the ground that was already taken. The
night was relatively quiet with an occasional serenade of artillery that did
no damage other than to keep us awake. In the morning, Tec 4 Cofiell was hit
by artillery and was evacuated to the rear. Pvt. Mixinotch was also evacuated
during the day.
At four o'clock, we moved in toward the town
with a wave of infantry to our front. Suddenly, the ground around us seemed to
explode. The air was full of flying dirt and shrapnel from bursting mortar,
nebelwerfer and artillery shells. Sgt. Kejr's and Lt. Simkin's tanks were hit
and the remaining tanks were forced to withdraw to the protection of the woods
behind us. Lt. Simkin, in addition to being wounded, had been run over by his
tank. When the tank was abandoned, the driver had remained inside and
proceeded to back the k tank to cover. His legs were crushed in this
unfortunate accident. Lt. Scott placed him on the rear deck of his tank and
took him immediately to the medics. Sgt. Kejr, Cpls. Hicks and Smoot, Tec 5
Brown, and Pvt Willie Wilson were also evacuated and Pvt Vinyard had been
killed by a shell falling on the hatch of the tank he was in.
Other units had moved into the town and had
taken possession. After we had reorganized, we followed them and took up
positions to help defend the town. That night, Cpl. Rossi was killed by sniper
fire while bringing the mail up to us.
The next morning, the 17th Airborne moved in
and relieved us. They had marched for two days on foot and with very little
food. These men welcomed cans of cold "C" rations, that we scorned
piping hot. Cigarettes were shared with them and we moved back to Bercheau for
a reorganization and rest period.
The first night we slept, then shaved and
cleaned ourselves in direct opposition to all our training. Tanks were drawn
to replace the ones that had been disabled and tank crews were reorganized.
Underwood, Robinson and Odatqwere promoted to Tec 4; Cummings and Tyler to
Cpl. Dillow, Leslie and Worley to Tec 5; Howe, Woodrow and Hunter returned to
the company. The Assault gun crew, Murphy, Slaughter, Newell and Schroeder
were assigned to Hdqrs company.
Nine days passed swiftly by and we headed for
the front again. Moving up through Bastogne, we moved into an assembly area
for the night. At daybreak, we made a long flanking movement around Foy, still
in enemy hands, and moved into positions overlooking the towns of Cobru and
Noville. We laid down supporting fire while "C" Co. and the infantry
The visibility was excellent and objects were
clear at extreme ranges. One tank was observed at 3500 yards. Apparently they
believed themselves too far from us to hit them. However, our second round was
a direct hit, setting the tank on fire. One other tank was knocked out at a
shorter range. At a range exceeding 5000 yards, vehicles and troops could be
observed escaping from the pincers of the bulge. Artillery was dropped on them
but we could not see how effective it was.
At 12~ the next day, we swung back to the rear
and around to the right flank of Noville to attack the woods and high ground.
With the company in line formation, we advanced to the woods without
resistance. The company had no more than arrived when two tanks were fired on
by a Mark IV tank and were disabled.
Sgt Tumidajski's and Sgt Weighill's tanks were
hit, wounding both of the Sgts. and Cpls. Davis, McAllister, Ullrich and Pfc's
Glenn Wilson, Monfreda and Bonaventure. Cpl Davis' leg was shot off and he was
carried to a sheltered spot by Tec 4 Odato.
The Air Corp, working with us, was strafing
the woods to our front. Certain of our tanks were so close to the woods that
they were also strafed. No damage was done to the vehicles but the equipment
on the tanks was damaged and the mens' nerves frayed. In addition to the
strafing, bombs were dropped two hundred yards to our front in an effort to
knock out a tank we could not see.
Approximately fifty prisoners were taken from
the woods and sent to the rear. The company pulled around the woods, swung
left and advanced 500 yards to halt on a ridge line. A few Krauts were killed
and five more captured. Only three hundred yards to our front, at least two
enemy tanks pulled on to the road that night and escaped. It was to dark for
us to fire at them. Enemy vehicles could be heard moving all night long in an
effort to escape the trap that we had made of the bulge.
In the morning, extra ammunition was loaded on
the rear decks of the tanks. We were told that the bulge was almost closed and
that we were to be prepared to shoot at anything. A record was set that day
for amount of ammunition fired. At least two tanks fired over sixty rounds of
76mm ammunition and the other tanks were not far behind.
The company advanced to within two miles of
Houffalize. Several enemy vehicles and a number of troops were destroyed in
the advance. We took up positions and held them during the night. Late in the
evening, Cpl. Hicks, Tec 5 Brown and Pfc. Baldo returned to us bringing with
them a new tank. A crew was assigned to the tank and it took its place in the
The company withdrew to the same patch of
woods by Noville where we had lost two tanks. Assigned as support to Combat
Command Reserve, we bivouacked and began maintenance on our vehicles. CCR was
fighting at the time, but it was not likely that we were to be called upon.
The men constructed shelters and in various ways, tried to make themselves
comfortable. Cpl. Stehling was evacuated to the hospital with an injured hand
from an accident while taking a tank to Ordnance. Cpl. Mazursky returned to
the company. S/Sgt. Dubicki was discharged to accept a field commission.
Eighteen re-enforcements came into the company. These were Pvts. Colby, Greco,
Collis, DePrey, Holmes, Smith, Simonetti, Cisneros, Collins, Hassel, Clubb,
Railer, Shehorn, Beach, Belfiore, Barwick, Correll and Conrad.
On the 25th, we were relieved from CCR and
moved back to Bercheau. The weather had continued to become colder and the
snow deeper. But this fact did not prevent us from going out and doing
practice problems with our tanks. Spear-heading with infantry riding the tanks
was the major problem subject.
Sterlacci, Boyd Monfreda and Vaughn returned
from the hospital to company duty. Pvt Hatcher joined the company and a number
of men were promoted. Lt. Rysnik to 1st Lt; Ouellette to S/Sgt; Brosan,
Cummings, Hicks, Leslie, Dworczyk and Lucchese to Sgt; Hunter and Mazursky to
Cpl; Lopez to Tec 5.
While we were in Bercheau, the enemy had been
driven from Be]gium, across Luxembourg, and were trying to hold at the vaunted
Siegfried Line. To keep in closer contact with our fighting forces and to
provide a right flank guard for the Eighth Corp, the battalion was moved to
Binsfield, Luxembourg, a distance of five miles from the border of Germany.
The move was made on the 7th of February in comparatively warm weather. The
roads had been cleared of ice and the march was completed in good order.
More re-enforcements entered the company the
following day. These were Pfc Hicks and Pvts. Attili, Benbow, Darling, Gergel,
Hammontree, Kolanda and Woods. These men were welcomed, not only to fill out
tank crews, but to help with the guard and details that were being thrown at
us from every angle. Details assisted in building bridges, building roads and
every conceivable job that any engineer had ever tried to do. In addition,
guard came around to the men every other day and an occasional company detail
Many of the men we had received had no
experience with tanks. Spare time was spent in teaching these men to drive, to
operate instruments and guns. The whole company participated in problems at
various times to keep us busy.
Extra armor was welded onto the tanks carrying
a 76mm gun. This consisted of a plate on the front slope of the hull and
plates on the turret to either side of the gun shield. However, we never found
out how successful it was in protecting the tank as none of these tanks were
Del Piero, Weighill, Childress and Ulrich
returned from the hospital while we were in Binsfield. Toy Sam became
entangled with the kitchen stove and was evacuated to the hospital, suffering
from the partial loss of a finger. Goldman, W.T. Miller, Esterley and
Callender contracted yellow jaundice and were also evacuated. Lt. Scott was
promoted to Capt. and Harris, Wilber and Bariteau were sent to Paris on a
In the three weeks that passed while we were
here, the weather had changed from winter to spring. The snow had melted,
grass was turning green and one could walk around in shirt sleeves. The
siegfried line had been cracked and tanks were needed again. We had been
inactive for a long time. On March 2, we rolled out of Binsfield toward the
front and on out of luxembourg into Germany, bivouacing on German soil that
night near Honthiem. During the day, we had our first look at the much vaunted
dragon-teeth and pill-boxes. Truly formidable but not impregnable, for were we
not on the enemy side with nothing between us and the Rhine but a few million
On March 3, we moved up through Prum and a few
miles beyond onto a ridge line in attack position. After looking the terrain
over, we attacked to the north east along the main road. After a short advance
with no resistance, the company ran into a mine field and Sgt. Brosan's tank
ran over some mines. Barwick received injuries and was evacuated The rest of
the tanks backed out of the mine field and skirted to the left flank,
continuing to advance. Swinging to the right, we moved toward the ridge line
and were met by anti-tank fire. Sgt. Ouellette's and Sgt. Cumming's tanks were
hit, Sgt. Ouellette's tank catching on fire. One man, Cpl. Satre, was the only
injury. He received burns when he had difficulty in escaping from his tank.
Sgt. Ouellette's narration of the incident as
we remember it is contained in the following paragraphs:
"We were advancing with my section on the
left flank of the company. Suddenly I heard an explosion and new it was my
tank. Another tank had hit a mine shortly before and my first thought was that
we had also hit a mine. Then I saw there was no dirt flying and realized it
must be direct fire. I told my driver to keep going and then immediately told
him to stop. The tank was on fire and we started bailing out. My pistol belt
hooked on something and I couldn't get loose for Satre was pushing me up. I
pushed him down and dropped inside to get loose. It was then that he got
burned for the inside of the tank was full of flames. As soon as we were out,
we looked around and saw another tank was hit. The men seemed to be okay, so I
stayed by my tank. All at once we heard small arms fire, and bullets started
whistling by. I yelled snipers and hit the dirt only to find it was my own
gun. My carbine was laying on the turret of the tank and the heat had started
it firing. We were picked up by other tanks and Satre was picked up by the
Medics. All of our equipment was gone. I didn't mind the loss of most things,
but I got mad every time I thought of my civilian bedroll. It wasn't going to
keep me warm and dr: anymore."
The AT gun had been destroyed by the company
and our advance continued about a mile where we halted at the outskirts of a
small village. Infantry moved in and took the town. The next morning, we
repeated, our advance, this time with infantry on the tanks. A shell narrowly
missed Sgt. Younkin's tank, tearing through mussette bags to explode and kill
one and wound two of the infantry on his tank.
An advance of three miles brought us nearly to
the banks of the Kyle River. A halt was made short of the woods leading to the
river and reconnaissance was made to the river. The crossing was out so the
Co. held here until a new route could be found. On the 6th, we swung to the
north and back to the river in an attempt at crossing. The bridge was blown
while we were still 1500 yards away and our attempt was a failure. Infantry
moved out to clean up the town and establish a bridge head. The latter was met
by fierce resistance. The following day we withdrew and moved back to the
right, using the same crossing as CCA.
For the remainder of the day, we followed CCA.
Evidence of CCA's progress was the speed at which we traveled and the
thousands of prisoners moving in a steady stream toward the rear. Wreckage and
scattered equipment strewed the highways. Horses, Artillery, vehicles were to
be seen every where.
At dark, the company was still on the road and
continued to move until we caught up with CCA. The company halted in column on
the road and stayed in that formation the balance of the night. This was the
only time we never took defensive positions in all our combat experience.
Nothing took place during the night and at daybreak, we moved out. The Company
swung off the trail made by CCA and began spearheading a trail of their own.
From Pelm on our trail, prisoners were taken
with regularity and without resistance. Things went well until after we had
passed thru Wehr. At the next small village, some activity was noted and
sniper fire was drawn. S/Sgt Decker of the second platoon, leading the company
that day, tells us of the action.
"On reaching the town, we noticed a few
soldiers and there was some sniper fire. As we came to the first buildings, a
road block was encountered. The road block was driven over by Sgt. Younkin's
tank and he proceeded up the street. I crossed the road block and followed
about fifty yards behind as support. When Younkin's tank crossed the first
intersection, it was fired on by an anti- tank gun to the left. It was a miss
and Younkin went on but I was cut off from him.
I then decided to cross anyhow and told
Mustarde to stop just before he got to the intersection and then take off
again, in this way hoping to throw the gun off. We were not fired on and so
proceeded to the next intersection, where we took up a position to observe to
the left and to the right down both streets.
Younkin had run into another road block that
he could not smash thru, so he backed to a fork in the road so he could
command either approach. While he was doing this, a sniper opened up on me,
missing twice and on the third shot, put a bullet thru my helmet. If they can
come any closer without hitting, I don't want to be the target.
Panzerfausts were being fired at Younkin's
tank and we began to fire at the buildings to drive the Krauts out. I was
looking at Younkin's tank and saw a puff of smoke, then I knew he was hit.
Younkin was the only man that came out, so I knew they were hit hard.
Younkin was moving back and forth to either
end of his tank and trying to work his gun. It appeared to be jammed and there
was no way I could help him. Before anything more could happen, Infantry from
our half-tracks came around the buildings and took over the situation. We got
the Medics up to us and found that all the men in the tank had been wounded
and Tec 5 McIntyre had been killed. The other crew members, Younkin, Kapka,
Hammontree and Worley were immediately evacuated.
The road block was cleared and we swept on
thru the town, thru Bergbrol and on to the Rhine, contacting the CCA to the
north of us. Then we turned back to Bergbrol and took residence in the town
for maintenance and rest. Most of the land west of the Rhine was in our hands.
Germany was fast becoming allied territory.
On the 11th, we searched the surrounding
country and picked up 20 prisoners, then returned to our billets. Lt. Borchard
was assigned to the company. Pvt. Hatcher returned from the hospital and
Holmes was evacuated to the hospital.
The following day we moved back to Wehr and
completed our work on the vehicles. Several days of rest were obtained here
before we moved. McLinley and Pfc. Hicks were sent to the hospital. On March
17, the company moved to Lauzenhausen on a night road march. A few German
troops remained on this side of the Rhine. Our mission was to link up with the
7th Army and to clear all the country to the south. Our company was in support
on the 18th and saw little action. Not until Kirn was reached did we
participate in action.
We were sent into position observing a bridge,
in an effort to prevent the Krauts from blowing it. This was not successful,
however. In the action ensuing here, one MK IV tank, two half-tracks, three
trucks, one anti-tank gun and one motorcycle were knocked out.
Kirn was entered at dusk and the company
remained in town for the night. Several well-stocked wine cellars were located
and the contents transferred rapidly to the tanks. This liberated champagne
and liquor were found to be as potent as any obtained across the conventional
During the night, the river had been forded
so, at day light, we crossed and headed east with the city of Worms on the
Rhine as our objective. Village upon village rolled by and prisoners were
taken by the thousand. By four o'clock, we were within a few miles of Worms.
At this time, our company was cut loose from the battalion and swung to the
right to take a parallel course. By sundown; we were looking a: the city.
Bivouac was made in a small village. During the night, a horse drawn wagon and
three Krauts were captured inside our bivouac area.
Our mission on the following day was to drive
more to the right and around the city to capture an airport. It had been used
by the Germans to train pilots and it was hoped we might capture some planes.
There were no planes, so we rejoined the battalion and moved into the city to
The houses that we moved into were about the
best we ever stayed in. Plenty of room and beds, well located and there was
some liquor. This was important to the men for they needed relaxation from the
constant tenseness of combat. L-t. Sullivan joined us here.
On the 25th we moved to Framershiem. Billets
were not as good here as at the place we left, but this was definitely a
better place. Investigation showed every cellar to contain hundreds of gallons
of wine. Also there were plenty of rabbits and chickens to provide a feast in
the evenings. Most of our maintenance work had been completed in Worms, and
now the time was our own.
Cisneros, Del Piero, Monfreda, Shehorn and
Totaro were promoted to Cpl. In addition, 23 men were promoted to Pfc. On the
38th of March Lt. Ryenik and Pfc. Baker left for furloughs in the States.
Satre, Kimble and Bonaventure returned from the hospital. That evening and the
following day we moved north and crossed the Rhine.
After crossing we drove over a hundred miles
to Frankfurt and on by the city to make contact with the enemy. More towns
rolled by as though it were no more than a road-march and we were at Fulda.
The bridge was blown here and heavy resistance was met. Heavy artillery was
thrown at us, making holes five and six feet deep. The company swung away from
here and made a river crossing many miles further to the north.
On the 1st of April we were spearheading
again. Our kitchen truck driver reports he could follow our progress for miles
by the smoke from the fires we set. One town in particular was burned to the
ground because of the fierce resistance met there. Kaltensundhiem, Wasungen,
and other towns rolled by. On the 4th of April we were entering the resort
town of Oberhof. Resistance was heavy, featured by sniper fire, and by
indirect fire on roadblocks that we encountered. Air observers reported a
Tiger tank in the town. Artillery fire forced the tank to leave the town. The
infantry was moving in to take the town and was receiving casualties. Our
medic, ''Red" Phillips, was wounded by a sniper while returning from
evacuation of wounded soldiers.
At dark we had most of the city in our hands
and took the rest by the light from burning buildings. Outposts of tanks and
infantry were set up and we settled down for the night. Although it had been
warm spring weather on the Rhine, there was snow here and during most of the
night it alternately snowed and rained.
At four o'clock in the morning, enemy troops
slipped in and fired panzerfausts at two of our tanks. This resulted in the
death of Colby and the injury of Oulette, Underwood, and Tumidajski. No other
attempts were made at the time to harass our troops. However, during the whole
time in Oberhof, there was continuous sniper fire and patrols were continually
bringing in prisoners.
This town was really a hot spot. We had 1400
Germans in hospitals here, supposedly injured. Many were caught attempting to
escape and hundreds of pistols were taken in a search of the hospitals.
Counterattacks were expected but never materialized. They were possible, for
after we left a counterattack drove the 26th Infantry, who had relieved us,
from the town.
Hundreds of bottles of Scotch and Champagne
were found here. Most of it was taken control of by CCB, who came up the day
after we took the town. Our billets were excellent, many being millionaires'
homes, but we could not relax to enjoy them. All the men were glad to leave
this town with its dark forests, and haunted aspect. At one time our supply
lines had been cut and an armed escort was necessary to get our trucks
Lt. Newton was assigned to the company and
shortly thereafter, we moved out to continue our advance. Another company was
spearheading and we drifted along behind to give support if needed. In this
manner we passed through St. Bernhardt, Dingliebon, Pfersdort, and other
towns. Sgt. McNally, and Pvts. Ball, Bolenbacher and Blevins were assigned to
Coburg was taken and then our company took the
lead again and advanced to Kulmbach. Four 88mm artillery pieces, thirty AT
guns and one Tiger tank were taken without resistance. We had turned off the
highway and came in on the flank before the guns could be thrown into action.
No ammunition had been found with the anti-tank guns so they had been no
Bivouac was made here and the next morning we
traveled to Bayreuth without resistance. We deployed on the hills around the
town and did some firing. The Bourgemiester was captured and offered to
surrender the city. However SS troops in the city would not allow the others
to surrender. The second platoon and infantry went into town and cleaned up.
The 71st Infantry came up and did the final mopping up. The 14th A.D. was
observed fighting toward the city on our right flank, but we had taken it
before they reached us.
Moving back to Mainleus, we took a 48 hour
maintenance break. The tracks were changed from steel to rubber. Pvis Moore,
Panter, and Perez joined the company. Then we moved up to Bayreuth and
billeted for one night. Our next stop was Grafenwohr, a German replacement
center. This was reached with little resistance and was made our bivouac for
the next few days. 300,000 rounds of chemical filled artillery shells, food
stores and various supplies fell into our hands.
When we left Grafenwohr, the first platoon was
broken up and assisted the infantry in mopping up to either flank of the route
of advance. The section under Sgt. Wessel saw what appeared to be a Tiger tank
and opened fire to find it was a wooden target used by the Krauts in training
their troops. By evening the platoon had rejoined the company with nothing
more exciting happening.
Bivouac was outside in a light downpour of
rain. Next morning we jumped off in the direction of Schwarzenfield. After
passing through the town, we encountered SS troops and they were the most
persistent of any we had seen. The lead company was by-passing them and we in
turn were being sniped at. As we drove along we took shots at them and at
every halt concentrated our efforts on filling them with lead. Very few would
surrender and when they did, they would try to hide their pistols and other
At Cham we began to run into evidence of the
Nazi atrocities. At first, a few dead bodies were seen along the way, then we
began seeing live men. Men who had been prisoners of the Nazis and were little
more than bones with a hide to hold them together. At last we caught up with
the main body and thousands of prisoners were released.
Mention cannot be made of all the things we
saw this day. Many of the SS troops who had escaped being shot by us were
taken care of by these refugees in their own way. Hardly a hand was raised to
prevent them. All felt that the Krauts couldn't be treated mean enough.
An airfield was captured by our battalion. At
least fifty planes were captured intact. Proof of our swift advances were
brought to us that evening and the next morning when planes landed on the
field, not knowing that it was in American hands.
Bivouac was in a small town. Perez was
accidentally shot in the hand and evacuated that night. In the morning, we
drifted up to Regan behind another company. Reports came down the line that
Medics were needed up front. Our medics left to go up and that was the last we
saw of Leo Campbell, who had been with us all this time. He was killed by a
sniper while he was giving aid to a wounded dough-boy.
By the 27th we were at Waldkirchen. Enemy air
activity was heavy and a load of bombs were dropped by a plane. It missed us
by four hundred yards and anti-aircraft fire drove the planes away.
Toy Sam returned to the company and Totaro was
evacuated to the rear A few days here and we were rested and ready to go
again. On April 30th we moved up to Cresback and the following day had the
lead of the battalion.
Several road blocks had been run onto but were
not defended. Near Lembach we ran into one and after a look around men began
clearing it under the supervision of Capt. Scott. While they were working a
sniper opened up with a burp gun. Capt. Scott was killed and Pfc. Beach was
wounded. Col. Yale, commander of CCB, upon hearing of Capt. Scott's death,
said " I have just lost my key man."
Lt. Sullivan took command of the company. A
bridge to our front was blown so the first platoon was sent out with an
infantry task force to find a new route. Resistance was met and overcome, but
by the time a route was located, it was too near nightfall to continue.
The next day we were recalled to the company
and told to stand fast. Rumors were afloat that the war was over. All of us
were beginning to hope that the end was in sight.
On the 4th of May, we started out again,
moving up to Obernuekirch. Here we met only light and scattered resistance.
One day there and we advanced to Gallnuekirchen and billeted in buildings.
Prisoners began coming in by the thousands to give themselves up. It looked as
though we could sit there and let the war end itself.
On May 7 the third platoon was sent out to
flush some SS troops from the woods. While Sgt. Dworczyk's tank was crossing a
bridge, the bridge collapsed and the tank fell into the river, landing on its
turret. As the tank fell, the men were thrown around and lost their sense of
direction. The tank was filling with water and the men finally escaped through
the escape hatch. Dworczyk checked and found one man was still inside.
Pfc Benbow was still inside the tank, and a
check showed that he had been caught between the breech of the gun and the top
of the tank and killed instantly. The body could not be removed until the tank
On May 9, 1945, at 0001, the war with Germany
was over. The next few days were spent in processing thousands of prisoners
and in giving aid to refugees of the German prison camps. Finally, we moved
into the former SS barracks near Linz and settled down to the peaceful
vocation of waiting. Later we moved to Kremsmunster and the men have gradually
drifted from the company, to be redeployed, sent to the States or used in any
other way that may be necessary.
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