69th Infantry Division Pictorial History

Hard cover (5 3/4 X 8 1/2) in color printed in Germany after transfers and Division was deployed. Ninety three numbered pages and several not numbered. Includes many pictures, text of the Division history (mostly included below,) fold out map of route across Europe, in memoriam section and statistics on awards and decorations. Distributed by Major General E. F. Reinhardt after his return to the States.

This Unit History is only available from a 69th member, his family, or by chance, a "flea market."


The narrative here is taken from "69th Infantry Division Pictorial History."  

Principal Commanders when the 69th Division went Overseas

( Click on the small pictures to view them full size.)

(Turn up your sound to hear a medley of  patriotic songs.)

Division Commander
Major General Emil F. Reinhardt

Artillery Commander
Brigadier General Robert V. Maraist

Regimental Commanders


Col. Henry B. Margeson        Col. Walter D. Buie           Col. Charles M. Adams
271st Infantry Regiment       272nd Infantry Regiment     273rd Infantry Regiment

Leaving Camp Shelby

     On the 31st day of October 1944, the first contingent of the 69th Division left Camp Shelby for the staging area. Some knew where we were going - most of the men did not. Throughout the train ride, you could hear this question: "I wonder where we're going?" Through familiar railroad stations we passed, rolling on to our destination. Finally, we thought it might be New York. It wasn't, but it was close. Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where no sooner had we taken off our packs before we found ourselves going through the routine of processing for overseas shipment. Processing was carried on with speed and efficiency, so that soon we were on passes - New York, Washington, anywhere within our time limit of 12 to 24 hours. Then the order, "No more passes." We knew that our time in the good ole USA was running out. Get ready now - we're going over!

Ocean Voyage

15 Nov. to 15 Dec. 1944

       How quickly time passed at Kilmer. It seems that we had no sooner arrived there than we were leaving again. This was it - the New York Port of Embarkation. The first troops departed 15 Nov. 1944 on the MS John Ericsson and the SS Santa Maria. The ocean voyage, who can forget it! Those hearty sailors who stood on the deck and said, "Boys, this is the life," were stared at by those poor souls whose eyes, reflecting murder, bulged from a pale green countenance. For about 15 days, we lived in spite of everything as only the Army can live at sea. Remember the cheers on the boat when it was announced that England was our destination - and England it was.


       The forward elements of the Division arrived in Southampton, England, about 1 Dec. - the remainder about 15 Dec. 1944. England proved to be a land of many interests - not too much unlike life in the States. Yes, they drove on the wrong side of the road, but we got used to that. It wasn't too long before we were, more or less, comfortably situated in the billets. Passes were in effect, and many had the opportunity to see London and other places of interest - old in the traditions of England. Many pleasant memories remain of England. The English people had suffered and knew we were soon to suffer, so a smile and a warm handclasp was ever ready for the American soldier. Here again we trained. Hikes kept us hard. Lectures on uniforms and equipment of the German Army, range practice firing where we zeroed in our rifles for the last time, where the artillery with the infantry cannon companies took off the last rough edges - these busied us. We unpacked our cargo, unpacked our equipment and made it ready for the final test. No one knew but it might be soon, for von Rundstedt had broken deep into our lines and the Battle of the Bulge was raging.


       Miles upon miles from home, from our families - sure, we were homesick, but others in England were homesick, too. Little children, who had been bombed out, and the soldiers got together and had Christmas parties. If those children had as much fun at the parties as the soldiers, then they surely had a wonderful time. But the Christmas Day was marred because the Division received orders to furnish 2,200 men as reinforcements to leave immediately. So it happened that many soldiers whose hands a few hours before held the hand of a little child, now held a rifle ready to go to the front.

Winchester Cathedral

       In Winchester, England, where was stationed Division Headquarters and some of the units of the Division, stood many historical landmarks - the Cathedral, the Church of St. Cross, Guildhall, King Arthur's Round Table, Old West Gate, etc. Winchester was the ancient capital of England. It is steeped in legend and tradition. There stands the beautiful Winchester Cathedral, built in 1079. Time moved backward, and history seemed to march before you when you entered the portals and stood within. After a tour of this majestic structure, no doubt many wondered what stories would be told, could these stones but speak.


       Somewhere in England, once again the Division was sending out men as reinforcements. A long trip by truck through the snow and cold to an airfield to await transportation by air to the front. At the airfield, the ever-ready Red Cross Clubmobiles set up, ready to serve these hundreds of men hot coffee and donuts, which was like a gift from heaven after that long, cold ride. As they passed through the donut line, they filed into a large auditorium to hear General Reinhardt, who, but a few hours before, had been their Commanding General.

       "Attention" was called as the General made his entrance on the stage. The General began to speak - his voice unsteady with emotion. He told them how proud he and all the rest of the Division felt to have served with them and how much sorrow was felt that they were leaving our team. He told them he was not afraid for them, because they had proved in training that they had learned their lessons well, but urged them to make sure that in the heat of battle those lessons learned were not forgotten. The General's words brought out the point that our loss of so many fine fighting men would be another's gain, and that some day, perhaps sooner than we expected, we might find ourselves again fighting together shoulder to shoulder although not in the same unit, but in the same army, against the same foe and toward the ultimate goal - Victory over Germany.

England to France

       Alert! Now we were leaving England - bound for France across the historic body of water, the English Channel. We thought we were crowded coming from USA to England, but on this trip, we felt that sardines had nothing on us. Man, it was cold! The thought of reaching the shore of sunny France appealed to us. On the average, most of us made the trip in about 20 hours to land at LeHavre, France.


Le Havre

23 Jan. 1945

       This was France - what a mess! LeHavre looked as if some giant hammer had been pounding upon it. In spite of all the destruction, the harbor was a busy place - ships everywhere. They were moving men, supplies, trucks, artillery - all the vital necessities of waging war. We wondered how they could keep it all straight. Those who were riding the trucks drove right out of the ships, formed into convoys and moved on. The infantry, loaded down with their equipment, marched through what seemed to be an endless street into a railroad station. We boarded Army Pullmans called in France the "40 & 8s." Sunny France - what stuff! Beaucoup snow, and so cold that the proverbial brass monkey had at least one ear frostbitten. But finally the trip was over, and we arrived at our various destinations in the area of Forges les Eaux, which was the Division Command Post (CP). The artillery landed at LeHavre and moved to Normanville. The 69th Division was now in France.

Forges Les Eaux

       From Forges les Eaux, the Division moved to the vicinity of Liesse, France, arriving there on 2 Feb. 1945, and on 9 Feb., the Division was poised in assembly areas in the vicinity of Montenau, Belgium, awaiting orders to effect the relief of the 99th Division in the Siegfried Line. The area around Montenau and the assembly areas of infantry and artillery all bore the signs, "heavy fighting," because this was the area through which the Battle of the Bulge had raged. Discarded, destroyed equipment lay about. The signs "Minen" were all about, reminding one to walk and drive carefully. Here we saw our first German dead - there were many of them. The stay of the troops in the assembly areas was very short, and on 10 Feb., the first elements of the division started moving into the line.

       By the evening of 12 Feb. 1945, the infantry and artillery of the 69th Infantry Division had completed the relief of the 99th Division. The 271st Regt. on the north, 273rd Regt. on the south, and the 272nd Regt. in reserve. Division artillery in support. The move was completed, and the Division CP was set up in Murringen, Belgium.

       This was Germany - this was the infamous Siegfried Line. Some of the positions occupied by the infantry and artillery were in the pillboxes themselves. The roads were muddy and rough. It rained and it snowed. The enemy harassed us with artillery, screaming meemies. Life here at the front was anything but pleasant. The division held its positions in the line from 10 Feb. until 27 Feb. During this period, intensive patrolling was carried out, locating the disposition of the infantry units, support given by the artillery; the action of the services of supply and communications in the division was highly commendable. It proved, beyond doubt, that our training had been well done. We had a good team.

The Attack…

       On the morning of 27 Feb. 1945, the 69th Division attacked with the 271st and 273rd Regiments abreast and the 272nd in reserve, with the mission of seizing and holding the high ground between Honningen and Gescheid. In the north, the objective had been taken by 0900; in the south, the objective was taken by 1100, and six towns had been overrun: Honningen, Buschem, Dickerscheid, Gescheid, Rescheid and Oberreifferscheid. This was where our training with the artillery ensured the quick success of the infantry. For months in the States, we had trained with the close support of artillery. Now we had plenty, 15 battalions in all. The artillery sure sounded good going over to the Germans. Attached to the Division at this time was the 661st Tank Destroyer Battalion, which did a marvelous job of supporting in the initial attack and continued to do the same job in our battle across Germany.


       On 6 March 1945, patrols reported evidences of withdrawal of the enemy. V Corps was called, and permission was granted to initiate an advance to maintain contact. All three regiments were ordered to advance. It was soon evident that the enemy was withdrawing rapidly, but they left mined roads and roadblocks with small delaying parties. The big problem was communications and roads. The Germans had effectively blocked the one good road in the Division zone of advance. Everything they did not want to carry with them was used to block our advance. The advance, in spite of obstacles, however, was rapid. From the starting position of our advance, along the line Honningen-Gescheid, the Division moved 18 kilometers to the east, passing through approximately 300 pillboxes. Forty-two towns were overrun during this drive, the largest being Schmidtheim and Dahlem. Approximately 200 prisoners had been taken. On 7 March, the Division CP was set up in Schmidtheim.

       As the Division completed its assembly in the area about Schmidtheim, history was being made approximately 40 miles to the east along the Rhine River. On the 8th of March, 1945, the Ludendorff Bridge across the river had been captured intact. Streams of men and equipment were pouring through across the Rhine to establish the Remagen Bridgehead. The Division, however, remained in this area to reorganize, rest, service our equipment. Critiques were held on the conflict we had just gone through in order to correct some of the errors which had been brought out. In addition, the area to which we had been assigned was patrolled, searched for supply dumps and ammunition and equipment the Germans left behind in their retreat.

       Roadblocks were set up to screen and process civilians, for here we saw the first instances of Germans attempting to drop out of life by merely changing into civilian clothes. Our stay in this area was brightened somewhat by the fact that we were able to locate and liberate supplies of excellent Rhine wine. Shortly orders came down directing us to move up to the Rhine and relieve the 2nd Division and to take over the mission of protecting the bridge area in the V Corps zone. The movement started east toward the Rhine on the 21st of March. Part of our division artillery, however, had already preceded us and was serving as additional artillery battalions in support of the Remagen Bridgehead.


       From the 8th of March up until the time of our own crossing, the entire western front had moved up to the eastern shore of the Rhine River. The Ludendorff Bridge had collapsed, but before its collapse, bridges had been built across to facilitate the movement of troops and supplied with the expanding of the Remagen Bridgehead.

       On the 26th of March, the 272nd Regiment was made into a task force called CT 272 (Combat Team 272) and crossed the Rhine. The vehicles of CT 272 crossed Victor Bridge at Niederbreisig; foot elements were ferried across in assault boats. To make up the task force, the 3rd Battalion was detached, plus the following elements: 1st Battalion, 273rd Infantry; 406th Artillery Group, 955th Field Artillery Battalion, 879th Field Artillery Battalion; Company B, 661st Tank Destroyer Battalion; Company B, 369th Medical Battalion; 2nd Platoon, Company D, 369th Medical Battalion; 269th Engineer Battalion; 102nd Cavalry Squadron with 2 Ranger Battalions attached; 62nd Field Artillery Battalion and the 777th Tank Battalion. This formed a combat team of 6,000 officers and enlisted men. The plan of operation was for the task force to start from Volandar, then to drive east and south to the southern border of the V Corps zone. After the task force had advanced to the Corps' southern boundary, the remainder of the Division was sent across the Rhine.

Fort Ehrenbreitstein

       In the zone of the task force's operation stood the famous fortress - Ehrenbreitstein. On 27 March 1945, this fortress fell once again into the hands of American soldiers. The capture of the fortress was an historic occasion because it was here that the last American flag was lowered following the occupation of Germany after World War I. The flag was lowered on 23 April 1923, and it was planned to have that same flag raised over the fortress on Army Day, 6 April 1945, as a symbol of the victorious return of American troops to Germany.


       There is, on our team, a group of men all too often under-publicized. They are the men who, in the face of withering fire, have gone forth to give aid to our wounded. Through long hours, bearing the same privations and hardships, receiving the same wounds, sometimes paying the supreme sacrifice so that others might live, they have played their part in our history. This group is well known to all soldiers as the "Medics."

Beyond the Rhine

       On 28 March, the Division began to move forward again. Its mission was to follow the Corps' south boundary. The Corps was proceeding due east, and it was to turn northeast. The 9th Armored was in the lead, with the 2nd Division behind it. The 69th Division followed, protecting the Corps flank and mopping up. The route followed generally the Lahn River. The Division CP was for a time at Bad Ems. Little resistance was encountered during this period.

       On 5 April, the Division moved into Kassel and relieved the 80th Division. The Corps' plan was for the 69th and 2nd Divisions to attack abreast, then pass the 9th Armored Division through us. On the night of 5 April, the heavily defended city of Hann Münden was attacked, and at 2049 on 7 April, the town had been seized. We now began to move east rapidly. Our forces had broken into the open. It must be close to the end, but these thoughts were driven from us as the 271st Regiment was slowed and stopped at Weissenfels. The battle began on 12 April, and on the afternoon of 13 April, the town had been declared cleared, and the armor and infantry rolled on.

      On April 16, the 273rd Infantry captured the town of Colditz and liberated Colditz Castle, freeing many Allied prisoners.


       Prisoners - everyone took prisoners - the infantry, artillery, service elements, headquarters units, the tanks and tank destroyers, found themselves facing large groups of Germans who gave up without a shot. So many different units were among the identifications - Germans from the Navy, from the Air Force, from veterinary companies, from schools - every possible unit in the German armed forces was found in this conglomeration. Hitler was not scraping the bottom of the barrel any more - he had trouble finding the barrel. The hint of Victory was unmistakably in the air.

       Observation Posts (OPs) are always valuable; they are our eyes, but one of the best eyes we had was our air OPs. They brought targets to the artillery, information to the infantry. They were those kites with a washing-machine motor, the Grasshoppers.


       The Corps Commander planned for us to come in from behind and drive from the east to the west after the armor swept to positions north and east of the city from which they could block reinforcements. The 271st Infantry Regiment, in accordance with the plans, swung wide behind the armor and went into position generally north of an east-west line running through the center of the city. The 272nd Regiment was to swing into position south of the northern regiment so as to drive into the city in a northwesterly direction. The 273rd Regiment, which was already fighting on the south of the city, was to continue its advance to the north.

       It soon became apparent that the 273rd Regiment, south of Leipzig, was meeting substantial opposition. The Germans had arranged the defenses of the city for an attack from the south and east. They had hundreds of 88-mm anti-aircraft (AA) guns in our Division sector.

       The attack on the city began at 1245 on 18 April without artillery preparation. It soon became apparent that the Germans would fall back into the main part of the city. The two task forces were organized using tank destroyers and tanks from the 661st Tank Destroyer Battalion and the 777th Tank Battalion. The infantry was to ride on the vehicles. At 1500 on the 18th, these task forces attacked. By 2100, they had reached their objectives in the heart of the city. The two main points of opposition in the city were the railroad station (the largest in Germany) and the "Battle of the Nations Monument" or Napoleon's Monument. Both were massive structures built of heavy masonry and stone from which artillery shells actually bounced. By 0800 on 19 April, these two points of opposition had been cleared, and the city of Leipzig had fallen.


      Six hours after Leipzig had fallen, the Division was on the move again to the east. This time, with the mission of relieving the 9th Armored Division and securing the east bank of the Mulde River. Little opposition was met throughout the Division zone, except at Eilenburg in the extreme north of the Division's zone. This proved to be one of the toughest fights of the Division. On the 21st day of April, the 271st Infantry attacked Eilenburg. This fight became an artilleryman's dream. Victory over Germany seemed too near to lose too many men, so the decision was made to pour on the artillery. More than 10,000 rounds of white phosphorus and high explosive were fired into the city. The city was flattened. On 23 April, Eilenburg had been taken, and the Division held the Mulde River within its zone.


       While positions were being established along the east side of Mulde River, patrols constantly crossed the river in hopes of meeting the Russians. Excitement ran high as the rumors of the possible meeting of the Russians spread throughout the area. For several days, there was little activity outside of patrolling. Orders were issued to fire only on targets that were unmistakably German. Another indication of the juncture with the Russians was the steady stream of German prisoners coming into our lines to evade capture by the Russians.

       On the afternoon of 25 April 1945, a patrol of 11 men led by Lt. Albert L. Kotzebue of the 273rd Infantry Regiment made the historic contact at Leckwitz on the Elbe River with the 58th Guard Division, 34th Corps, General Jadov's 5th Ukrainian Army, Marshal Koniev's First Ukrainian Front (click on LINKUP above or on this website's "East Meets West" button for more details of patrol meetings and map). History had been made - the great Soviet Army and the Allied Army had joined. Germany had been cut in two. Victory could be only a few days off.

V-E Day

       May 8, 1945 - Simultaneously, at the capitals of the three major powers, the announcement was made - "V-E Day" - the end of the War in Europe. V-E Day came to us causing mixed emotions, but actually no wild celebrations, because it was just another step toward the end of War all over the world. We asked the questions, "What now, occupation?" "The South Pacific - and how soon?"

Killed in Action: 341    Wounded in Action: 1, 146    Died of Wounds: 42


The 69th and "The Battle of the Bulge"

Many 69ers and family members believe the 69th Infantry Division was in the famous  "Battle of the Bulge,"  but it was not.

     Some 69ers and family members think the 69th Infantry Division was in the famous Battle of the Bulge, Nazi Germany's last big effort to stem the advance of the Allies. But although some 69ers may have been in the Battle of the Bulge, the Division as a whole was not a part of it.

     The 69th began training at Camp Shelby in the early summer of 1943 and departed for overseas in October 1944. During this period, thousands were trained and sent to other Units as replacements to Divisions that may have been in the Bulge fighting. Some of these replacements were in the 69th, even though they didn’t depart overseas with it, and these soldiers may have been in the Bulge fighting during its short but devastating period, but with another Division.

     The Battle of the Bulge took place between Dec 16, 1944, and January 25, 1945. The 69th began to arrive in England in December 1944. On December 25, 1944, the 69th was called on to furnish 2,200 men as replacements for battle-worn and decimated Divisions in the Bulge fighting. Some of these men, and others, may have returned to or been transferred the 69th after the Bulge was over - and of they course could lay claim to being in the battle, but not as a member the 69th. There were many replacements to the 69th from battle-rested Divisions as the 69th moved across Germany to its final meeting with the Russians on April 25, 1945.

     The infantry regiments were the frontline troops. The 69th was comprised of three regiments - 271st, 272nd 273rd. The Unit histories of these regiments written immediately after VE Day (May 9, 1945) show the 271st assuming position on February 10, and the 272nd and 273rd on February 12. Therefore, we can see that the 69th Infantry Division itself did not participate in the Battle of the Bulge.