272nd Infantry Regiment
Lt. Col. Edward Thompson
|Maj. Blackburn Stephens
Exec Officer, 3rd Bn.
|1L t. Donald J. Alderson S2 officer, 3rd Bn||1Lt Donald F Spry S4 Officer 3rd Bn.||Capt. George D. La Moree S3 Officer, 3rd Bn||Capt John R Montgomery S1 Officer, 3rd Bn|
Now that we have made, and
therefore are, a part of history, we cannot help but trace in retrospect the
history of the 3rd Battalion from its early days on the Continent up to its
final smashing climax and the end of the war with Germany.
Serious business. It was and
still is. Being away from home and
one’s loved ones is no fun, but we, as Americans, do have the happy faculty of
being able to adjust ourselves and our thinking to any and all situations –
good or bad as they may be. Certainly,
even as serious as the past months have been from an overall picture, there have
been many moments of levity. Laughs
in the 3rd Battalion have been neither too few nor too far between.
It is the purpose here to present the inevitably histrionic side of the
3rd Battalion’s adventures in Europe.
Our D-Day fell late in January
1945, off Le Havre, France. Do not
think that H-hour was not well sweated out.
How could it be helped, being packed in on that Channel crossing like
sardines? All right, the 3rd
Battalion didn’t make the shore in the first wave, but it was made from an LST
(Landing Ship Transport), and those duffle bags caused plenty of trouble getting
up the beach.
The remark, “That truck ride,”
will never refer to any but the one from Le Havre in open trucks.
“Standing room only” and “Destination unknown” are both
understatements, although the application is sufficient.
If people scoff at your tale of standing on only one foot during an
eight-hour ride at night in a blinding snowstorm while the convoy was lost, any
doctor will admit it is possible if the near-corpse is frozen stiff.
Leaving the Château de Vallalet,
an 18th-century edifice that had seen rough usage under the Boche occupation,
and the surrounding area of Romescamp and Gaillefontaine, the Battalion squeezed
into boxcars that jerked along for days. No
fiendish torture device could have left the Battalion’s body in worse shape.
At last, the arrival was made at port, and the historic events of the
present 3rd Battalion began with a muddy boot, a sloppy tent, and the foreign
sounds of “Oui, oui” and “Cidre.” Known
to the more erudite as Montigny-le-Franc, the Tent City was cussed up and down
by all concerned, including the numerous replacements who formed the genuine
fighting strength of the Battalion. With
the exception of one group of all-essentials, everyone had a few swallows of
life in the raw. The amphibious
training here consisted of building piers, causeways and breakwaters in a futile
effort to conquer the mud, so that the men still without overshoes wouldn’t
have to swim through the chow line.
No one was angry to march away in
the rain from that place, even though boxcarring again to Verviers presented
itself. From Laon to Reims, here
and there through a million nameless burgs, K-rations and ten-in-one turned the
nights into days and the days into sleepless nights again.
Comfort was a sideline, but the constant expectancy of something about to
happen minimized reality into a shapeless pulp of sleep, cussing, joking, and
horsing around in general. On the
French border, les Femmes Belgiques gave welcome by displaying their various
wares. As usual, American
cigarettes and chocolate spoke their international language. This was the Battalion’s last flick of a circular farce
known as civilization for some time to come; little did anyone realize it.
Hope for a near peace was naturally in every human mind.
At the first bivouac in Belgium,
it snowed and rained. Doubtless the
reason was that everyone who had a double-end shelter half was paired with
someone who had a single-end one. After
a few days, however, the Battalion again moved to Losheimergraben where the
perennial lucky star exerted itself – Corp Reserve, at least, was the lot.
Here, one day, all the ODs [Olive drabs], except the pair being worn,
were turned in along with the multiplicity of other unnecessary equipment.
As fate would have it, some planes were having it out overhead; the
awe-inspiring yammer of their guns echoed through the trees like nothing that
had been heard before. Men dove for holes, slit trenches, or anything that may have
resembled cover. The result: no
casualties from the airplanes, but everyone had muddy Ods.
Lots of laughter is still to be heard among the CP (Command Post)
personnel of M Company when they recall 1st Sgt Embree’s frantic efforts to
pull a barracksbag over his head. It was there that Bates of K Company made his flying leap
into the dugout when we were attacked. There
were already six men jammed into the small space, but somehow, with the aid of
that pungent fright, he managed to squeeze his large frame inside.
These incidents created a rare interest in dugouts and overhead shelters
that carried all the way to
Witzenhausen. At Losheimergraben,
the Battalion also had its initiation to the art of sitting out artillery fire.
The pressing question was, “Are they coming in or going out?” In addition, Jerry patrols were in the area.
S Sgt. Massa of King (K Company) fired at a member who had a wooden leg;
the bullet didn’t even faze him.
On moving into positions opposite
the Siegfried Line, the Battalion climbed the muddiest, steepest and longest
hills in our history. The going was
so rough that walking on knees was nothing unusual.
Even though there was a possibility that the shoulders were mined,
everyone had to stop for occasional breaks on the way up.
The entire Battalion started off in regular formation, but within an hour
each company was spread over at least 800 yards.
In another month, though, the troops were to wish that they could have
gotten that much dispersion.
At Kamberg, the Battalion received its
first real baptism of fire, with no wish remaining for further communion. The troops were told what to expect and what to look for by
the group being relieved. They gave
constructive and helpful advice. This
in itself gave everyone a feeling of confidence; the men were getting first-hand
information from the boys who knew.
The first day there, a patrol of
Lt’s Cox and Young, Sgt Johnson, Pfc's Hagquist, Fulcher, and Schellman of
King were pinned down by mortar and 88 fire.
Two days later, 2nd Lt Entzminger, leading his 1st Platoon patrol, was
caught in the crossfire of two pillboxes. The
Lieutenant observed the enemy position 200 yards to his immediate front and,
upon ordering his patrol to withdraw to safety, he remained in a forward,
exposed position, calling for and adjusting artillery fire upon the enemy
pillboxes. Although subject to
danger from friendly artillery as well as enemy small-arms fire, he remained in
the position until after the supporting artillery barrage was lifted. Immediately after the barrage, while shifting his position,
he was mortally wounded by enemy small-arms fire.
Two others were wounded, and several men of the Platoon distinguished
themselves by their efficient and courageous leadership.
Immediately afterwards, 1st
Lt Coppock was ordered to take out a Battle Patrol of four enlisted men to
determine the strength of the enemy in the immediate front of his position from
which artillery, Nebelwerfer and intense machine-gun fire were being received
across the entire Regimental front. Lt
Coppock pursued his task with such vigor and disregard for danger that, during
the night, he succeeded in penetrating 1,200 yards from the Siegfried defenses
into the enemy position. Having
collected the information he sought, he then led his patrol safely back with
vital information necessary for military operations.
As a result of 1st Lt Coppock’s action and report, a decision was
reached in higher headquarters that greatly accelerated the advance of our
troops through this sector.
Upon moving on line, March 3,
1945, the 3rd Platoon of Item (I) Company was given the mission of occupying two
forward houses, the main purpose of which was to function as an observation
post. All movements to and from the
houses had to be made during darkness, as both houses were under direct
observation of enemy pillboxes about 800 yards to the front.
The houses were reached and
occupied with a minimum of activity. The
men did not have to wait long to find out they were in a hot spot.
An automatic weapon broke the dead silence of the night with its staccato
bark. Following close on the heels
of the first burst came the explosion of heavy mortar shells.
Then, as if adding insult to injury, the pillboxes opened up with a few
rounds from the 88s. That night – the first in combat for the majority of the
Battalion – was the most nerve-wracking of the entire combat experience.
Actually, the heavy firing lasted only a short time, but hours seemed to
flit away until the night resumed its natural stillness.
The I Company outpost, being the
nearest to the enemy and the logical jumping-off point for many patrols, was an
excellent position from which to observe and pass on information of the
enemy’s movements. The outpost
kept in contact with Battalion CP, Item CP, and the patrols.
Observers there had a blow-by-blow description of our men venturing into
enemy territory for the first time. The
calm, precise messages sent back by these patrols assured all that the outfit
was to be a successful one.
Many enemy patrols were reported
in the area, but were not seen until the second day at Kamberg.
There, suddenly, advancing towards the outpost about 200 yards away, was
a Jerry patrol. After being
reported to Battalion, mortar fire was laid down in the vicinity. It turned out to be a very unsuccessful patrol for Jerry.
Third night at Kamberg was the
busiest for the outpost. At about
2130, the King (K) Patrol returned, bearing two casualties.
About midnight, the demolitions patrol of T Sgt Farley came by the OP
(Operations Post) for last-minute instructions before jumping off on their
attempt to blow up the pillboxes. The
patrol soon left and returned about 0300 with their mission accomplished. The outpost had front-row seats for this exhibition, and can
testify that those boys did a good job.
In addition, Item Company is
justly proud of its Aid Men. Their
deeds shine brightly through the darkness as memories take the place of battle
life. One day, as mortar shells
were coming in pretty thick, Jenkins of Item was wounded.
Out there could be seen the figure of a man running swiftly and without
hesitation – Mike DiCubellis. A
medic was needed, and mortar fire or not, Mike was going to where he was needed.
In just a moment he had reached the fallen Doughboy.
Working feverishly in a field where individual movement meant danger, the
Medic never flinched, seemingly not realizing that death flew through the air
with each burst. After the
engagement, he remarked, “Didn’t have time to dig in.
The guy was hurt bad; had to work fast.”
The Communications Section must be
praised especially for its fine job at Kamberg.
Although harried by mortar fire day and night, the lines between the rear
and forward CPs and each line company were in service at all times.
The whole week at Kamberg was, as one man put it, a thin solution of
night. We were like owls, having
eyes only for darkness.
Leapfrogging nimbly over the last
perimeter of the Siegfried line, the Battalion took Dahlem, our first town, in a
walk – literally – and what a walk. The
troops were loaded down like a convoy of one-man bands.
Mind you, at that time, it was mostly GI equipment, not boodle!
Leaving Waldorf, the Battalion
went on First Army Security Guard al the way to Stolberg and Aachen, big cities
wrecked by American bombing. This
meant working with engineer guards with white SGs on their helmets. This was the Battalion’s chance to get in on some of the
luxuries of rear echelon – beer, movies, showers.
That good deal was over in five days, and the Battalion crossed the Rhine
in trucks on the 28th of March.
Arriving in the ancient town of
Arzbach near the Lahn River late at night, the Battalion settled down for a few
days with little action except intensive patrolling of the area.
For the next week, the Battalion moved by vehicle or foot from town to
town, trying to catch up with the Krauts. Leaving
the town of Dehrn, which is memorable for the 100 slave workers who were living
in a lice-infested seven-room house, the troops rode the TDs (Tank Destroyers)
and other vehicles 100 miles to Lohne without incident.
The second day at Lohne, the order came for a march to Altenstadt and
surrounding villages, a 10-mile jaunt with full field and boodle.
Everyone soon swore off, “No more loot.”
An early call the following
morning started the Battalion on its unforgettable 28-mile march to Kassel, even
though aching and blistered feet characterized the day.
The men made it, however, and pulled into Bettenhausen on the outskirts
of Kassel. Nevertheless, boodling
that night took sheer guts. The
troops had not been so exhausted since the aftermath of forced marches at Camp
The next day, relieving the 80th
Division, the 2nd Platoon of Love (L Company) led as the point of a Regimental
attack. The Battalion pulled up
east of Kassel near Uschlag, taking over German flack huts with a country manor
house for Headquarters for the night. Next
day, April 7, the Battalion hiked and rode to Hubenrode, where the 2nd Platoon
of Love took off with the Battalion’s Battle Patrol on TDs to clear the next
As luck would have it, the TDs
took the wrong road, even though the right one appeared not to have been used
for years. In the meantime, 1st Lt
Alderson, Blue 2, and a patrol for the Battalion I & R Section – S Sgt Fox
and Pfc’s Solheim, Plan and Manning – followed the TDs in a jeep toward the
objective. Arriving at the
crossroads, the I & R Patrol took the correct road, thus placing them in a
position much nearer the town. Stopping
about halfway down the valley, the patrol got out of the jeep to observe through
field glasses. Immediately, they
were fired upon by enemy small arms. The
volley was so intense that the Patrol could not regain the jeep.
The men had to crawl through a muddy ditch for 1,000 yards until they
were out of observation. The Patrol
then started back up the hill, only to meet the TDs and troops who had now
realized their mistake and returned to the correct path.
The Battle Patrol, again under the
leadership of 1st Lt Coppock, took off on foot as the point to determine the
strength of the enemy defending the town. After
carefully groping its way into the quickly darkening streets, the Battle Patrol
soon reported back to Lt McDonald of the 2nd Platoon of Love that the town was
deserted of enemy troops. The
entire group moved in. Everything
was quiet, no shots fired; the civilians, unaware of the movement, were still
Twenty minutes after the 2nd
Platoon moved into the center of town, the supporting TDs rolled in.
A large barnyard had been selected for their assembly area.
As the Platoon was standing in the shelter of a building waiting for its
billets to be vacated, a terrific explosion shook the entire town.
The concussion sent many sprawling in every direction.
“Medic, Medic!” and the 2nd
Platoon Medic, Doc Watson, was on the job with the wounded.
Checking up, it was revealed that one of the TDs had fired a 76-mm shell
less than a foot over the GIs’ heads. One
man was seriously burned from the muzzle blast, and another suffered severe
Guards were posted, and tired
Doughboys went to bed. Another
engagement and another “Hell, that was close!”
The following morning, the entire
Battalion moved up to take over the bridgehead made on the Werra River by the
1st Battalion. Here, under the
heaviest artillery that the Battalion was ever to experience, the Headquarters
took adequate shelter in the cellar of a large building that grew into the side
of the cliff opposite the bridge. True,
the place was crowded, stuff, and dank; yet no one noticed, intent as they were
with expectancy of another shell. Round
after round came in. The Battalion
was pinned town and for a short time couldn’t move.
Hq Co (Headquarters Company) lost five men in the fracas – two dead,
three wounded. In M Company, Lt
Sodorff was wounded, and four vehicles were put out of action.
Many GIs from the line companies
sought protection from the artillery fire in a large factory used as a storage
house for strawberry jam and preserves. In
the short period of respite between the rounds coming in, many jars of jam were
polished off, proving that even 88s couldn’t dull a healthy GI appetite.
Fortunately, the warehouse was never hit; the men managed to have jam on
their flapjacks and bread for weeks.
In the atmosphere of the cellar at
the bridgehead, the men of Hq Co discovered their most sensational haul, a huge
cache of champagne and some other incidental wines which nobody even bothered to
touch. In the rear of the cellar,
cases were stacked to the rock ceiling. This
was very unfortunate for the officers, since they were all assembled up forward,
pursuing the necessary business of the plans for battle.
For the EM (enlisted men), however, with time on their hands and trying
to forget the grim proceedings outside that had already wrought casualties, this
was exactly what was ordered. The
first attempt at the cases revealed only glassware, but the second brought to
light the now-familiar, silver-capped bottles wrapped in straw coverings.
For five hours, Hq Co sat there
and drank the luscious beverage. Bottle
after bottle was downed, ever tippler secure in the knowledge that Col Buie
himself was directing operations vi a line that had been laid by the 3rd
Battalion’s on-the-ball wire team, 1st Lt Martin and T-5 Ellis. All the instructions sent and received that day had to go
over that telephone. It was a vital
The enemy guns were finally
silenced. A flush of the town’s
civilians, among whom were enemy artillery observers, effected the action. All was clear; the Battalion swept forward.
However, the treasure of champagne was scarcely touched.
In keeping with the Army cry for less wastage in any category, cases were
dragged out and lifted into trucks, jeeps, TDs and Recon (Reconnaissance) Cars.
The Engineers who had been working on the bridge got a well-deserved
share, as did those from all the attached units.
People ran in and out with bottles bulging under combat jackets.
The celebrated reply was made to an officer’s inquiry as to what all
this stuff was. “Oh, sir, just
Message Center Rear was the last
element of the Battalion to leave the vicinity of the bridgehead.
Sgt Kline, T-5’s Hartshone and Bertrand, Pfc Napier, and Pvt McClone
struggled and heaved to lift a case onto their trailer.
The load was not a light one. Scarcely
had they succeeded when a lone Jerry plane zoomed over and began to strafe.
The boys dove back into the cellar, wondering if a burst of fire would
ruin all their efforts and completely wreck their morale as well.
However, Ack-Ack fire drove off the attack, and the jeep set out for the
forward CP. By this time, dusk had
fallen, and the going was tough, since of course no lights were permitted.
The champagne, bouncing around the top of the trailer, was almost lost on
a particularly rough stretch of road, but happily it saw fit not to slide off.
By this time, the boys were in the mood to let it lay once it fell.
Pitch dark when the CP was reached, the case was set down in the hall,
and the next morning the wine was passed out.
For two days, Communications,
along with the rest of the company who had brought their own, had the stuff for
breakfast, dinner and supper. At
times, it was a rather strange combination with plebian K-rations.
Incidentally, all this could have
been one reason that the Jerry counter-attack failed that night.
Blasting themselves away
from the bridgehead with the aid of tanks, the first town, Eichenberg, was taken
in the steady stride of Love (L) Company; King was left to mop up.
Again Love strode off as point, and the second town, Hebenhausen, was
taken in the same manner, leaving I Company for the cleaning up this
time. For the third time, Love,
under command of Capt Benard, continued on to the third and last objective for
the day in 3, 1, 2, 4 platoon formation. The
Company was subjected to Tiger tank fire from Hebenhausen to the objective,
Nieder-Gandern, at the same time bypassing the town of Berge.
Under the constant 88 fire, the company took the objective, pushing
straight through the town to an anemic creek called the Leine River.
Here, Love Company deployed in defensive positions, and the Battalion
Headquarters set up in the home of a Baroness who made the caustic remark, “I
don’t mind turning my home over to Americans; I know they’re gentlemen.”
The retreating Tiger tanks at this
stage – being well hidden in the next town a short distance away –
concentrated their fire on Love Company as it was digging in.
The 2nd Platoon sustained two casualties. KIA
were Sgt. William C. Shwartz, Assistant squad leader and Pfc. Strawder H.
Tifton, rifleman. Also, KIA that night, or the next morning, were Pfc.
Roger E. Washburn, Rifleman, and Pvt. Marshall D. Hooie, bazooka man, 4 Love
Company KIAs in a short period.
T Sgt Phillips, being on the alert, directed Aid man Doc Watson to the
injured men. Lt McDonald, in the
meantime, in disregard to the 88 fire, was endeavoring to get our artillery
directed on the enemy. A period of
time after this, a German ambulance was spotted, coming from the town occupied
by the Tiger tanks and bearing the white flag of surrender.
In reaching our lines, it was immediately taken over to evacuate our
wounded. 1st Lt Daniels of Hq Co,
on calling for volunteers, was quickly answered by T Sgt Young, S Sgt Starley,
Pfc Alfred, and Pfc Trujillo who, acting as litter bearers, crossed to the field
under fire and evacuated the wounded. The
success of this operation was credited wholly to the 2nd Platoon runner and
messenger, Pfc Andras, who, seeing the opportunity, acted quickly and took off
under heavy fire to intercept the ambulance across the bridge at the Co CP, from
whence he returned with the litter bearer team to the injured men.
Later that night, S Sgt Corley
halted an unidentified vehicle, which was an enemy tank carrying foot troops.
He called for the tank to halt and was fired upon at a range of about 10
feet. In spite of this fire, S Sgt
Corley stood his ground and returned fire, causing the tank to halt and wheel.
The Sergeant then directed the fire of his squad upon the tank and the
foot troops who were trying to get off the tank.
In the ensuing firefight, six Germans were killed, two were wounded and
six others were taken prisoner. The
enemy later attacked with two tanks, one armored personnel carrier and about 20
troops mounted on bicycles. S Sgt
Corley’s squad opened fire and in the ensuing fight, 18 Germans were killed
and 19 taken prisoner. S Sgt Corley
must be commended for his brilliant leadership, and the spirit and manner in
which all of L Company executed their duty was exemplified by the entire success
of this whole operation.
Early the next morning, the
Battalion bypassed all the dead Krauts who had counterattacked during the night. King Company led over a circuitous route, through the woods
and onto the road. One sniper was
flushed out by the lead squad under S Sgt Smith, Sgt Jonassen and Pfc Tarkington,
and in the second town, 21 men were captured and 10 wounded or killed.
The light machine gun section of the 4th Platoon of King accounted for
one man. Along the way, M Company
caught a group of the Boches running up a hill.
The HMGs (Heavy Machine Guns) gave ‘em the hot foot, and the Company
proceeded unmolested, leaving behind over a dozen dead Krauts.
That night was spent in almost forgotten comfort, complete with soft beds
and electric lights in Heiligenstadt.
A few days later, as the leaking
element, Mike (M) Company ran into trouble on the outskirts of Bad Kösen when
the vehicles were fired upon. The
heavy weapons task force went into action and, without benefit of riflemen, but
assisted by a Tank Platoon from the adjacent Third Army unit, proceeded to knock
out all opposition. The HMGs, the
Mortars, and the FA (Field Artillery) tore up two hills, burned a few buildings,
captured some prisoners. The best
job of the day, however, was the destruction of a particularly menacing
roadblock. Expertly done in a
minimum time and with maximum effect, it was blown by Tec 5 Hutchison and a few
of the other men from the A & P[?] Platoon from Headquarters Company. All in all, the Battalion earned the rest it had that night
in Naumburg and the surrounding area.
The town of Naumburg was quiet. The troops had wonderful billets and plenty of wine and food
for everyone. By the usual organic
methods, the troops then moved to Kottochau, where the advance was held up three
days, clearing the final path to Leipzig.
It was while in the vicinity of
Theissen that an incident occurred which the Battle Patrol will never forget. It was that day when the angels sang and little devils stoked
their fires a little too soon. Civilian
reports reached Headquarters that a huge flack position on the outskirts of
Theissen, a town not yet cleared, was being held by a handful of Germans.
So few Krauts were there, it was reported, that a squad could easily
occupy the position. The 3rd
Battalion Battle Patrol was detailed to find out exactly what the hill had.
Upon gained an auxiliary position
1,000 yards from the hill, plans were being made within the Patrol for advancing
up to the flack guns. Suddenly,
however, seven prisoners started streaming out from a nearby village which had
not been occupied. As one of them
spoke English, he was immediately interrogated.
It was learned that not a handful but the remains of three batteries of
Krauts were intent upon a defense-to-the-last of their position. This was reported, and the Patrol was ordered back to the CP.
Five minutes later – had not the additional information been learned
– the Patrol would have started its attack up the hill.
Next morning, the tanks rolled up the streets of Theissen.
The Doughs of Item and Love Companies piled on, few of them knowing
exactly what was up. Unknown to the Infantry, the boys of the 880 FA just over
the hill were getting their orders too. The
tanks, with passengers, rumbled through the chilly morning.
Captains Sewell and Benard issued
the orders for the attack formation. They
moved out to the edge of town to wait. Then
they saw the objective: a large scattering of low buildings and gun emplacements
on top of the barren hill, only 600 yards to the front.
Their job was to take and destroy it.
It was easy to ascertain what the
position held. Dual-purpose 88s,
and about 36 in all.
The boys eyed it with curiosity. There were certainly Krauts in there somewhere, although they
could not be seen. The troops got
off a good start, crouched behind the tanks, one attacking squad behind each
tank. There were 10 tanks in all,
five for Item and five for Love, who now took up the right flank.
It was quiet for a minute or two, but the artillery soon cut loose.
The first shell landed to the left, the second to the right, and the
third right on the target. The FA
men outdid themselves. Buildings
flew apart. Guns shook on their
platforms. Ammunition dumps blew
sky-high. The Doughs could hear the
swoosh of their own heavy mortars as they went into action behind them.
There were five TDs deployed on
the right flank, giving flanking fire, something that everyone appreciated. The troops moved up behind the tanks to about 200 yards from
the first building. Our tanks gave
the Jerries hell-at-close-quarters. The
order to move forward came over the 300 radio, and two platoons fanned out from
behind the tanks, which looked like a sea wave rolling towards a rocky shore.
If the Doughs did not know what a Dual Purpose 88 was before, they
learned that morning. A fast-firing
Jerry machine gun opened up on the right, but it was quickly dispensed with, as
was some sporadic sniper fire. Fire-from-the-hip-and-keep-firing
was the order of the day. The men
knew they had to keep the Krauts down. As
the first row of buildings was hit, all was quiet. However, two Jerries were picked off while the BAR[?] men put
a new ventilating system in the shacks and barracks, just to make sure.
One platoon sergeant yelled into a
hole: “Deutscher komm heraus!” A
Kraut started out and was followed by 54 more and two female nurses.
More came – plenty more. Some
wounded, a few killed, and the rest scared and shocked from surprise.
However, the troops moved steadily through, pausing only momentarily to
detail one or two men to take the prisoners out of the way.
All the forward elements
moved through the camp and set up a perimeter defense on the far side.
By this time, the tanks had moved in closer and added a bulwark to the
outside defense. Then the men
walked back over the rubble and debris that once had been a solid fortification.
The final tally brought the number of PWs (Prisoners of War) to 249.
Little was left to do but go back to the billets, leaving a medic or two
to take care of the Kraut wounded. Our
Dogfaces boarded the tanks and took off for chow.
Prior to the attack of Leipzig,
supplies were moved up. A great
deal of gasoline, some food, but very little mail.
The Division’s attack on Germany’s fifth largest city began.
The 3rd Battalion swung to the
south, bypassing Leipzig and, after two days, pushed into the city from the
east. The Battalion moved into its sector and promptly cleared it
of all opposition, snipers and possible soldiers in civilian clothing.
Then, the troops were themselves at home for a couple of days and managed
to eat an enormous quantity of wonderful fresh eggs that were found in a
The Battle of Leipzig offered to
the mortar men of Company M a chance to engage the Kraut in hand-to-hand combat. Acting upon information received from an ally, a combat
patrol was formed within the company of volunteers, consisting of two Officers
and 21 EM. Starting at 0100, April
19th, and armed mostly with pistols and carbines, they stormed an enemy garrison
not knowing what was in store for them. Taking
full advantage of the inky darkness, they were able to liquidate several guards
before the alarm was given. At this
point, the Krauts in it, taken mainly by surprise, quickly surrendered.
A German Major was told that 10 times as many men as were actually
present, had the place surrounded. Impressed
by this, he agreed to guide the men around to the other barracks and to try to
persuade the rest to surrender.
While this was going on, many more
of the guards were being disarmed by force.
After approximately 140 soldiers had been captured, the Commandant’s
house was approached by eight men and the German Major.
The other members of the patrol were busily engaged in flushing out other
buildings and guarding the prisoners. When
the Major called out to the guards at the Commandant’s house, all hell broke
loose, with automatic and small-arms fire coming from the windows and doorways.
During the fierce fight that
followed, Lt Raque accounted for one at a maximum range of two inches when he
met a Kraut face-to-face while creeping around a hedge.
After this final resistance was overcome, a count showed 187 prisoners
taken, with several dead, against the American loss of one Officer’s big toe.
Another fight occurred when the MPs (Military Police) objected to
accepting the prisoners, ranging in rank up to a Colonel, in varying stages of
undress. Again the patrol won.
As an aftermath, 10 more volunteers went back at 0900 the same morning
and bagged 47 more Krauts.
On the evening of April 18th in
Leipzig, two squads were given one of those “beats-me-what-the-deal-is”
details. The men, Sgts Plasky and
Barnes, and Pvts Feinberg, Clews, Meijicke, Hedges, Dunkin, Shanor, Juarez,
Ruane and Miller, reached a group of buildings that were housing thousands of
slave laborers. The task before the
squads was the Army nemesis, guard duty. They
no sooner passed through the gate when girls, girls and girls swarmed about
them, showering them with kisses. Needless
to say, the men were well pleased as they set up a walking patrol for the night.
The activities were climaxed the
next morning when a feminine voice was heard rendering some smooth English. The
voice belonged to a gal from Boston named the Countess de Maduit, the former
Roberta Lorrie of Boston. She could
not believe the Yanks were there until a few cuss words cinched the fact. The perfect portrait of an overjoyed woman, even though she
bore the scars of an unforgettable past, she showed the Love Company the
concentration camp. Tears rolled
down the cheeks of the men as they were shown the sea of people subjected to the
barbarous treatment. The worst came
when they saw what remained of a building the SS had burned to the ground.
To keep the record of the Krauts straight, they had crowded some 200
patients into it before igniting the fireworks.
The sight was not a pleasant one. The
troops realized that the enemy was all and more than anyone had ever imagined.
After our Division’s juncture
with the Russians, the Battalion moved to Eilenburg and Sprotta, the latter of
which was a farm town whose wide main street was hardly large enough to
accommodate all the Krauts who were straggling in to give themselves up.
The Battalion left only when the Russian Army was moved in to relieve it.
Under the experienced command of Lt Col Edward J. Thompson, the 3rd Battalion of the “Battle Axe Regiment” had proven itself well in combat. Over hill, trails, and to the magnificent woods that spelled digging, smoky fires, makeshift shelters and excitement, the 3rd Battalion has caught in its wake of fire, memories that surround themselves with flesh and blood, with hope and sorrow, and with laughs and experience. During that time, a Battalion changed from a carefree, bivouac-inured herd to a confident, battle-tried team of fighting men. Only one medium can effect the change; only one process can bring about the metamorphosis. That one process is war. The actual struggle of meat and bone remains, as through the centuries, the unique method of shaping troops from the whims and idiosyncrasies of rear echelon to the positive qualities need to fight a battle. The way has been hard; it could have been harder. A spirited Battalion now exists that will function well under any conditions.