As Big - Twice as Tough
Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
until April 4, 1945
Lt. Lewis B. Ellsworth
4, 1945 until return to United States
From History of the 69th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
We slept till noon, because of the long night last night,
and cooked 10-in-one rations, which are the most popular of the field rations.
There is more variety, such as bacon and cereal, string beans, corn beef
or even beef. Salt, sugar, jam,
crackers, paper towels and toilet paper are also included.
What a change from the C and K rations!
Capt. Whiting, Lt. Fredericks, Weidman, and Fowler went up
toward the front to see how the 99th Recon. was operating.
It is rumored that the division will relieve the 99th Division.
From the village, one can perceive brilliant artillery flashes lighting
up the western sky and hear the distant rumbling.
We are 15 to 20 miles from the front and in the blackout zone. Inky-black nights; flashlights are frowned on.
The local citizenry turned out for church this morning
garbed in hoods, boots, and other colorful items typical of this rugged Dutch
stock. They plodded up the hill to
the little Catholic church on the hilltop in a long, sinuous column.
After the service, they disappeared into their little houses and will
probably stay there until next Sunday.
There were Catholic, Protestant and Jewish services at
Division Headquarters. Some of the
Catholic boys in the troop went to the little village church.
Part of Chobord’s team moved up toward the front to claim a group of
buildings near the lines for our use while we await our first mission.
The people with whom we are sharing the several houses can
speak both German and French. While
the German troops were in the area, they had to forsake their houses and live in
cellars in the vicinity. They are
optimistic, after having witnessed the failure of the Nazi breakthrough, the
reason being that they noticed that the Germans were underfed and had a scant
supply of small-arms ammo. We
ventured the opinion that the extended supply lines may have had something to do
There are plenty of Eisenhower “Safe Conduct” pamphlets
This morning, the Captain said that we would not move out
during the daylight hours, but any time after.
It was another case of getting all ready and then calling it off.
How the boys have been spending the past two days as we
await the move to the front:
Discussion and thought center around the problematical.
There are two differences of opinion concerning our fate.
One camp contends that we have been chosen to fight the war and therefore
we might as well get it over as quickly as possible.
The other hopes that some miracle will keep us out of it, but are just as
willing to go when the call comes.
There is pride in our great arsenal.
We feel that no other division recon. outfit could possibly have as much
equipment as we do.
The notorious 88mm shell never fails to invite a
conversation, chuck full of grim humor. Favorite
remark is, “The 88s won’t fire at the jeeps; they wait for the armored
cars.” Passing remark, “Famous
A huge mail call came in today. This writer, for instance, got 32, but several men received
many more. The dates on the
envelopes extended over a month in many cases.
The Second Platoon left for Bullingen, 10 miles nearer the
front, to try to reserve some houses for the troop. We were supposed to leave today, but we don’t want to quit
anything as comfortable as these houses until there is hope of something half
decent at our next destination.
The Captain, and Lts. Mock, Blend, and Fredericks went to
to the little town of Hellenthal, Germany, up at the lines.
There they were guests of the C.O. (Commanding Officer), 3rd Bn.
(Battalion), 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division, whose battalion occupied the
town, freshly captured from the Huns. From
the OP (Observation Post) in the Bn. Hq. (Headquarters) Building, they could
look through field glasses at Krauts who were looking back at them through field
glasses from the town of Blumenthal, a mere 2 km down the road. From the top of a ridge outside the town, the enemy had the
town under observation and sent artillery shells crashing down upon it, not so
much when there were targets of opportunity, but on a schedule – presumably,
when they had a quota of shells to allocate.
The officers told us it was a funny war – both sides just looking at
Lt. Blend is officially the new 1st Platoon leader,
replacing Lt. Viguet, who is laid up with appendicitis
Lt. Blend will remain in that capacity.
The 2nd Platoon sent word back that they had accommodations
for one platoon, so the 1st Platoon left for Bullingen after lunch.
This left 3rd and Hq. to remain at Montenau.
Those in the 1st Platoon will remember the struggle to find a road that
was passable, for that morning our Engineers went to work on the roads going
east, blowing out a bridge on our intended route.
But we found one that was rough, but true.
As we halted for a traffic snarl, one of the famous 1,000-plane raids
passed overhead, returning from Germany. Waves
of them could be seen in the sky for a good 90 minutes.
When we arrived at Bullingen, a jumble of wreckage greeted
us, among which were the houses selected for our habitation.
By nightfall we were comfortable, save for a couple of odiferous dead
cows in the shed on the other side of the wall.
The cold put a damper on the stench emanating from all dead livestock,
fortunately. Although Bullingen is a sorry sight, some of the houses were
quite modern and attractive at one time. This
conjecture could be made by brushing aside fallen plaster and perceiving nice
tile floors and handy lighting fixtures.
We posted an all-night guard outside the houses for the
vehicles at the front doors. The
proximity of the front causes everyone to take it seriously.
Loggins, on the 9-11 shift, saw a panel cloth (which had been billowing
in the breeze for some time on top of an armored car) flap a little too high and
suddenly to suit him, and he opened up on it with his M-3.
He missed the car entirely.
Headquarters and Third are still back at Montenau and come
to Bullingen to give 1st and 2nd mail and rations. Burns, Kinsey, Gugliemetti, and Kern are living under a 1st
Platoon hut in what they name their “Bomb Shelter,” due to its great, thick
The First and Second Platoons had to clean out another
wrecked building – for Headquarters and Third, who threatened to move up to
Bullingen this morning. Long and
loud were the “bitches.”
The Second Platoon is about a mile out of town down the
road to Butgenbach, aloof and free to roam about the country for souvenirs.
They have accumulated a lot of ammunition, which they expend shooting at
wrecked German tanks.
Bullingen and its neighboring fields appear to have been
the scene of a battle, terrible in its intensity and furious action.
Scores of knocked-out Nazi tanks and half-tracks litter the fields and
ditches. Great quantities of
abandoned equipment, hanging from trees, piled or scattered around meticulously
prepared dugouts, indicate that both sides, especially American, had to leave
their positions in wild haste. Apparently,
German armor struck hard and unexpectedly through Bullingen and met dug-in
doughboys with armored reinforcements outside the town.
If the Hun wasn’t repelled, he was certainly backed up. Most of the American dead were accounted for by air and tree
bursts. Their foxholes followed
rows of trees and hedgerows, and after taking one look at the trees (which
looked as though a giant scythe had cut a swath along their tops), one could
imagine that our men caught plenty of hell underneath.
The result of this carnage has been a gold mine for
souvenirs and ammunition, and some of the troop is scouring the fields and
bodies for stuff.
Half-alive dogs, cats and cows wander about the village as
though in a daze, which they probably are.
“Able” Cohen found a Russian rifle, which he is
reconditioning. Dalton suffered a
leg injury when a piece of shrapnel sunk in his leg after he had fired a .50
cal. too close to a wrecked German tank. He
went to the hospital. No more
firing of weapons without supervision.
Elements of the 271st and 273rd Infantry have been in
action on a vague line from Hellenthal to Neuhof since February 12.
The 272nd is in reserve. The
whole 1st Army front is quiet, save for combat reconnaissance patrols conducted
by the Infantry themselves. We are
under the 5th Corps. In Bullingen
are units of the 7th Armored Division, 106th Division, 5th Corps, 552nd Field
Artillery (Army), 126nd Engineers, and Engineer Road Maintenance Crews.
There are no missions for Recon., so the Division reports.
“The 69th Recon. troop is reconnoitering the division area.”
Actually, we are reconnoitering the fields for souvenirs, cleaning German
weapons, or walking to and from chow.
We are feeding Belgian policemen who are temporarily using
the attic above one of the First Platoon houses as their sanctuary.
The chow line, instead of the usual disheveled olive drab figures, now
has a few bright red-and-black uniforms of the Belgian gendarmerie.
They are working for the Allied Military Government, expediting the
return of the homeless to their shells and, in general, rehabilitating returning
citizens of Bullingen.
Souvenir and ammunition hunting parties are active on the
Bullingen front today. Bullingen is
referred to as “Somewhere in Belgium” on our letters.
Again, souvenir and ammunition hunting parties are active
on the Bullingen front today. Fikes
found a beautiful German Luger.
Lt. Mock heard his first “screaming meenie” up at the
front today. The mail is coming
regularly now. Matulericia has to
go back to rear echelon at Montenau to pick it up.
Keever, Treible, Stambaugh and Cross have been guarding
Gen. Reinhardt for about three weeks in two vehicles, and the General’s aide
does not want them relieved.
Cpl. Keever is in charge of the group, and they operate in
a point and mortar peep. In the
point peep, Treibel drives, Keever sits at the .50 cal. MG (machine gun) post,
and an MP (Military Police) up front with the driver; in the mortar bantam,
Stambaugh drives, Cross is handling the .80 cal. MG, and another MP rides up
front with the driver.
Keever looks sharp in his new role, and is as immaculate as
ever. He said that tomorrow, they
were to escort the General to 273rd CP (Command Post), where he will award a
Bronze Star. Also at Division are
Harsh, on liaison, Pickett, and Charroux.
Practiced dismounted patrolling in the vicinity of
Bullingen. Major Radcliffe arrived
in the area, sniffed our dead cows, and remarked, “I hope you are enjoying
Civilians are pouring into the town to register at the
bureau of the Belgian Gendarmerie.
Terrific explosions rock the town as the Road Maintenance
Crews blow up wrecked buildings for bricks to repair the roads.
Various teams of the platoons have visited the front lines
to look things over for themselves. Those
who visited Neuhof described the sensation of looking out over the unearthly
quiet of No Man’s Land, and being warned by doughboys not to bunch up in one
spot, for a sniper had been firing from the fields.
Third Bn. of the 273rd was popping mortars over the town out in the field
toward suspected emplacements.
Today marked the demise of our magnificent arsenal of
unauthorized weapons. In a sweeping
decree, the First Army ordered al equipment in excess of T.O .[TABLE OF
ORGANIZATION] to be turned
in. We said goodbye to .50 cal. MGs
on point peeps and .30 cal. MGs on mortar peeps.
Goodbye to bazookas, .45 pistols and unauthorized M-1s.
Save for the racks and the .50s on the armored cars, we look much the
same as we did on an “RCT” Regimental Combat Team) back at Shelby.
This morning, the troop took wonderful hot showers in a
building rigged up by the 81st Engineers – 106th Division.
“Ham” Ahern, a replacement from the States, took Berg’s place as
radio operator in Sergeant Walker’s armored car.
Berg had filled in for Opdyke, from whom we have heard nothing.
Here is what the boys picked up on the battlegrounds:
Karbiner 98s, Schmeisser machine pistol, Luger, Belgian Browning Pistol, P-38s,
Russian Rifle, Iron Crosses, Pay Books, watches, fountain pens, holsters,
compasses, propaganda pamphlets, and American equipment.
Harold Gardner suffered bad burns and went to the hospital.
Gasoline, which he was using to start a fire, ignited and enveloped him
in flames. Veres had the presence
of mind to leap upon him with a blanket and smother the burning clothes.
First Mission: Part of the 3rd Platoon relieved the
Infantry on a forward OP (Observation Post).
Fikes and Henry left to guard Colonel Gibbons.
Unlike Reinhardt, Col. Gibbons travels hard all day,
according to Fikes. Fikes and Henry
relieved a Second Platoon detachment, Abbot in charge.
We have managed to retain the two “three-quarter-tons”
by virtue of a phenomenon known as “Memorandum Receipt.”
Tonight, in the wrecked schoolhouse next to the kitchen, we
saw “Standing Room Only” with Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard.
It was a riot. A March of Time “Music and the War” filled out the swell
Fox was promoted to point corporal.
Dugaw was made T/5.
The Third Platoon is maintaining two OPs, one at Hellenthal
and the other at Hollerath. The one
at Hellenthal is not a comfortable spot to be in, for the ridge overlooking the
town was once used by the Germans, and as a result, they know where to lay in
mortar and artillery fire. The
doughboy dugouts around the hill from the one the Third Platoon controls are
getting a good working-over, and so the boys are getting a taste of the sights
and sounds of battle closehand. Hollerath
But the difficult part of the Hellenthal OP is that you can
only reach it by night, for it entails traversing an open space about 300 yards
wide on which raking fire can be directed.
A Headquarters armored car brings them hot chow at night to supplement
their day’s K-Rations.
Tonight, Wolfe’s car broke down, so Saville, Wilson, and
Sgt. Walker took the chow to the Hellenthal crew. They reported that Sgt. Nichols, McEneaney, Martin, and Veal
were lading the “foxhole” life that goes with a dugout type of OP.
“Screaming meenies” are to be heard more frequently.
The Division jumped off at 0600 this morning.
How many regiments participated, we shall have to wait until tomorrow,
when the official report comes in, to find out.
On the line between Hellenthal and Neuhof had been the 271st and 273rd.
We are subject to call at a moment’s notice.
The troop practiced a “dry run” on loading up, but the element of
surprise in the operation made it seem real.
Gardner and Dalton are still at the 97th Evacuation
Hospital recovering from their wounds. They
have been dropped from the roster, but fervent hopes are made for their return.
Both are men who are hard to replace.
The First Platoon relieved the Third on the OPs, but
established new ones in the same area, approximately. Sgt. Walker’s team took over a dugout 1-1/2 miles NE of
Hellenthal that an infantry company had erected, and were among units of the
110th and 112th Regiments of the 28th “Keystone” Division, located on the
69th’s left flank during the current local offensive. There they maintained an OP on Hill 526, overlooking Sistig
and Wallengberg. Choborda’s team,
to which were attached Kaiserman, Bellin, Sivas, and Veazey, of the 1st team,
were on Hill 630 overlooking Gescheid, Wald, and Rescheid, on the south flank of
the division front. Whereas
Walker’s sector was quiet at Hellenthal, Chip’s OP was harassed by artillery
and “screaming meenies,” and the boys spent most of the time in the dugouts.
When the Third was on OP, it was just in reverse – Hellenthal was the
The Second Platoon remained back at Bullingen, and the
Third Platoon returned there. The
Second had to leave their beloved house a mile out of the town, so that the
troop could be clustered around Hq.
A policy of one at a time from each platoon was inaugurated
on the 2nd of March for a pass to Eupen, Belgium – a rest camp.
Pay day in Belgian francs.
The Second Platoon relieved the First on the OPs.
The spring-like weather has ended, snow is falling, and it looks like the
Second Platoon is going to freeze, especially on the 12-hour night shift.
So the rest of the troop donated blankets today.
Paradine’s team, with a few attached from the 1st Team, took over the
Hellenthal post. There was Paradine,
West, Chordas, Snyder, Dugaw, Elliget, Dunn, Defeo, Abbott, Swindell, and Eddie
Glenz. Sgt. Hedger’s team
relieved Choborda’s on Hill 630. Included
in that bunch were Butler, Crane, George Shattuck Jr., Hoagland, Danowske,
Gold, Vance, and Barcalow.
A gigantic PX Ration came in today and some of the
The troop left Bullingen at 4:30 p.m. to go on a mission
that called for setting up OPs and machine-gun positions in a gap that was
supposed to exist between the division right flank and the 106th Division.
Actually, we didn’t have to leave Bullingen, for there was already a
battalion in that gap, and Recon. wasn’t needed.
We stayed in cellars and pillboxes tonight in the vicinity of Udenbreth,
just off the “International Highway,” while the Captain endeavored to find
out what we were supposed to be doing.
The wind and snow were fierce. The snow on the ground was becoming alarmingly deep.
Sympathies to the infantry tonight.
Miserable all around.
Waiting for a mission.
We are a couple of miles behind the lines. The OP is in a pillbox up the road at Neuhof.
Tonight, small patrol clashes could be heard off in the
night, punctuated by blasts from the artillery behind us.
The first real reconnaissance mission was given us this
morning, and it fell to the 1st Platoon. The
job assigned to them was to take the little town of Neuhaus and hold it until
relieved by the Infantry. Heading
the platoon column on this first mission was Bones Schueler’s armored car, and
its crew were Veres, Sivas, Lt. Blend, and Hallahan.
About a mile from the town, they encountered a roadblock,
and Sivas fired the first 37mm rounds at it.
Bones hit a Teller mine about three yards in front of it, and it blew the
left front wheel assembly and fender off, wounding Hallahan, who was in front of
the car guiding it through. He
suffered shrapnel lacerations about the neck, face, and right arm, and was sent
to the rear. He became the first
combat casualty in the troop.
Engineers from the 106th Division came upon the scene and
cleared the deadly roadblock while the patoon went on dismounted up to the town.
The first prisoner fell into their hands short of the town.
Cannily, he waited until the column had passed and was then detected.
Paulsen, “get away” man, picked him up.
Neuhaus was empty except for another prisoner on the other side of town
who was a young kid of 19, and fat from inactivity.
After the roadblock was cleared, Lt. Mock and the Third Platoon rode into
town to help conclude the occupying and searching of the buildings.
The First Platoon went on dismounted beyond the town and
ran into an elaborate roadblock – 400 yards deep – which they reported by
phone to Lt. Mock’s car back at Neuhaus.
They went on, bypassing it through the woods, and set up machine-gun
positions on a rise 400 yards beyond the roadblock, for the mist and drizzle cut
down observation to about nil. The
Third Platoon sent out a patrol up a road to the north, but they did not find a
thing except abandoned equipment.
Meanwhile, the doughboys (1st and 3rd Battalions, 272nd)
had received the order to move up, and in the early evening, they started coming
into town. The Second Platoon, held
in reserve, moved up to Neuhaus along the same road – first traveled in the
morning by the First. Paradine’s
car, West driving, hit a mine which tore the front of the car up pretty severely
but did not injure the crew of Paradine, Starner, Snyder, and West.
The blast fatally wounded an infantry boy about 20 yards in front of the
car. This morning, First Platoon
vehicles had passed over the same spot with impunity, as did the squad of
engineers and the Third Platoon.
The CP was set up in a pillbox between the cleared
roadblock and Neuhaus while the rest of the troop, except for part of
Headquarters still holding the fort at Neuhof, were quartered in Neuhaus itself.
And so ended the first day of combat reconnaissance.
Recapitulations: One town, two prisoners, two armored cars knocked out,
one wounded, nobody actually in the cars injured.
What was an empty, forsaken little hamlet yesterday became
today the center of great activity as long columns of infantry, weapons carriers
and supply vehicles clogged up the single road through town and the houses were
taken over for battalion CPs. Our little town had become important overnight, as
the division moved forward. We
moved 7 km forward to Dahlem accompanied by doughboys who were strung out on
both sides of the road along the entire route. There was no resistance whatever. It later turned out that two snipers were discovered sitting
apathetically in the church tower, apparently petrified at the thought of
picking off a few of the many milling soldiers in the square and then their
almost certain destruction.
The First Platoon parked their vehicles in the freshly
seized “main drag” and there munched K-rations, while the local gentry moved
up and down the street in a festive mood, looking innocent and giving us the big
smile. The Captain called the
Second Platoon into town and then hopped into Saville’s armored car and took
the First Platoon north of Dahlem about 5 km to reconnoiter the town of
Blankenheimerdorf. Pausing in
defilade, he sent out a dismounted patrol of about 16 under Lt. Blend.
About 1 km up the road toward Blankenheimerdorf, a wicked little
minefield was found in the road, and word was sent back of its location,
whereupon it was decided to dispatch the Second Platoon to the scene in order to
clear it. Before this was done,
however, Lt. Blend sent back a runner from his new point of advance near the
outskirts of Blankenheimerdorf, who reported that, after sizing up the town and
evaluating the situation, the lieutenant decided it was necessary for the Second
Platoon to be on hand for added strength.
There was some delay in getting hold of the Second Platoon,
because they reported back to Dahlem on orders from Liaison.
To say that the Captain was irked is an understatement; he immediately
recalled them and sent them on foot to Blankenheimerdorf.
The First Platoon was on the very fringe of town, not
wanting to commit their token force to venture in where the deceptive quiet and
billowing sheets, indicating surrender, might have turned out to be a fiendish
trap. They paused there with six
prisoners whom they picked up along the road and around the houses thereabouts.
One of them was in civilian clothes on furlough, so the platoon forced
him to dress and come along. When
the Second Platoon appeared over the hill toward the east, there was great
relief for the men of the First, for the prospect of lingering at the town’s
edge any longer was trying, especially if some hidden OP had them spotted.
The two platoons deployed over the town to unearth weapons
and prisoners. The civilians were
directed to place all their weapons in a common pile in the east end of the
town. The pile contained everything
from a midget pistol that fit in the palm of the hand and a .22 to rocket
launchers. From many different
versions, it was learned that the Germans had pulled out about three hours
before the First Platoon had arrived. Another
prisoner was rounded up, a sergeant. The prisoners were then marched out of town to the minefield,
which they cleared. A group went
down to the bridge at the railroad dept and found charges of Amatol at each end
of the bridge, totaling close to 200 pounds.
Just as our reconnaissance was really getting under way,
the order to go back to Dahlem came through.
We had to abandon the weapons pile in the barn and move out without doing
something about the bridge. The
civilians told us that the Nazis would return tonight and blow it up for sure.
The infantry will probably move in.
The patrol from the First Platoon will not soon forget the
creepy sensation they experienced as they approached Blankenheimerdorf, exposed,
dismounted on the naked landscape, toward a town regarded by all as utterly
insurmountable for a platoon. What
nameless calamity might have occurred if a strong enemy force had been nestled
therein had better be left to the workings of a morbid imagination.
One of the interesting sidelights of the afternoon in
Blankenheimerdorf was old Freeman of Supply leading his little hunting party
around the town excitedly. “Combat”
Freeman was disappointed to leave – he was just getting warmed up.
“Let’s go get more prisoners!” he would holler, with a triumphant
smile illuminating his friendly, old, bewhiskered face.
The prisoners were reclining against a bank near the
minefield that they had been forced to clear.
When the order to get up was given, they fell on the double, like robot,
and faced down the road toward Dahlem, ready to move. But they were taken back on Shattuck’s car and turned over
to the MPs.
The Third Platoon had not left Neuhaus until the early
afternoon, and when the First and Second Platoons had arrived in Dahlem, the
Third had set out, reinforced by an Infantry Platoon to reconnoiter a couple of
towns, but ran into two roadblocks – which delayed them.
The first one, they abandoned, took another road, and ran into another
roadblock. This was too much, so
they banged away at it with 37 HE [High Explosives] and were still working on it when darkness
descended. They then returned to
The troop spent the night in houses at Dahlem.
The kitchen and supply didn’t arrive until 9:00 p.m., coming direct
from Udenbreth through a terrific traffic snarl, as the front moved forward.
The three platoons went out on widely different routes, but
each one had about the same kind of a mission.
The First Platoon was assigned to take the town of Waldorf and link up
with the Second Platoon in Ripschdorf after leaving a holding force in Waldorf.
The First Platoon started out reinforced by the 3rd
Platoon, Co. C, 272nd Inf., and was held up for some time at a roadblock while a
path was made into the woods so that it could be bypassed. The bypass through the woods proved successful, bringing the
vehicles on the road without mishap. They
then rolled into the pleasant little village of Waldorf and began a systematic
house-by-house search. Lt. Blend
told the burgomeister that the townspeople must be divested of their weapons, to
be turned over to a common pile. A
couple of kids went through the town ringing a bell, heralding the arrival of
the Americans and summoning the people to obey the new order – a sort of Town
Crier effect. At length, the pile
of weapons swelled and many curious manifested themselves among the junk.
The search of the houses revealed nothing particular, but a sick prisoner
was apprehended and taken into custody.
Leaving the vehicles in Waldorf, a dismounted patrol of
infantrymen and cavalrymen under Lt. Blend sallied forth down the road to
Allendorf, which had been variously reported as clear of the enemy, but the idea
was to flush the town of possible stragglers and recalcitrants.
A few hundred yards out of town, unidentified figures were seen walking
furtively about the top of a large hill overlooking Waldorf.
The hill appeared from the town to be ringed with positions, for the
terrain on top took on the appearance of
There was little deliberation: A skirmish line was formed
at the base of the hill, and it started to move cautiously up the slope.
They were supported by fire from Wilson’s 37 [37 mm weapon] which began to drop
HE[High Explosives] around the area where it was believed trenches were dug.
Men were seen crouching and dashing along the trenches and disappearing
Prospects for a wicked battle loomed as the attackers edged
ever closer to the objective. While
they crept within 100 yards of the parapet, instructions were yelled along the
line for the assault fire order. But
nary a shot was fired from the hilltop, and a lingering suspicion that something
was wrong impregnated the thoughts of the men along the line.
Suddenly a man with his hands in the air strode forward and, lo and
behold, it was an American! He
had the presence of mind to step out when he did to save American lives, for
elements of the 69th Division were about to attack elements of the 347th Inf. of
the 87th Division. Meanwhile, Ham
Ahern had radioed about the enemy on the hill and had requested artillery fire,
The 87th boys had taken the town of Allendorft yesterday.
Hopefully, our boys asked the fellows in the positions whether they had
taken Waldorf yesterday, too, to which they replied in the negative.
Good, then it belonged to Recon.!
The explanation for all this was that the division front
had shrunk, so that other divisions were overlapping us. In fact, the Third Army was driving up from the south toward
Koblenz, while the rest of our First Army to the north had pushed toward the
Rhine. We had run into the extreme
left flank of the Third…A good question – what became of the artillery fire
requested by Ham Ahern?
Meanwhile, the Second Platoon was outside Allendorf
clearing a minefield and had witnessed the incredible scene from the other side
of the hill. They had entered Esche
and discovered the 87th had taken the town the day before.
Allendorf, they soon found out, was the same way.
The Third Platoon was active elsewhere.
They took the town of Nonnenbach and, in the same fashion as the
reinforced First Platoon, ordered the citizens to turn in their weapons to a
common pile. Sgt. Campbell,
notorious for his souvenir hunting, really combed the buildings of Nonnenbach,
for it was a virgin town as far as other outfits being there first.
The Third was the first there. They left Nonnenbach for Hungersdorf, which necessitated the
bypass of a blown bridge on the outskirts of town. They arrived at Hungersdorf to find out that it had already
been taken, so they waited in a barn for further orders. Finally, they returned to Waldorf.
Lt. Blend had arranged with the burgomeister for the
evacuation of a section of town for our use and the doughboys who were with us.
Plans were drawn up for a wholesale evacuation of most of the town in
view of the impending arrival of the rest of the troop and more personnel of the
division. The spectacle of families
moving out to the far end of the town, quitting their homes and leaving us their
rooms, beds and stoves, occupied us the remainder of the afternoon.
The troop congregated in the town and, when the smoke
cleared away, the Second Platoon found itself aloof again – about a mile out
of Waldorf in a white farmhouse nestled in the valley. Everybody is pretty comfortable in German homes, sleeping in
beds with colorful blankets and pillows. Cold
running water and stoves to heat it are enjoyed.
Doughboys can be heard marching through the streets.
Third Battalion 272nd will share the town with us.
A leisurely day at Waldorf.
The civilians are living in the part of town on the hill – strictly off
Replacements came in today from reinforcement centers in
Belgium. Pvt. Ormsby and Pfc. Peden
went to Headquarters, Pvt. Stockwell, a peep driver for the First Platoon, and
Pfc. St. John to fill in with the Third Platoon.
Still in the hospital far to the rear are Hallahan, Dalton,
and Gardner. Keever, Treible,
Stambaugh, and Cross still guard Gen. Reinhardt, and Fikes, Henry, and Barcalow
are caring for Col. Gibbons. Glotfelty
is the new mail man.
Resting in Waldorf. Waldorf
is the nicest German town we have run into, and the surrounding country is
A day of rejoicing for the First Platoon.
Quietly and without any advance notice, Opdyke returned, having been gone
since Jan. 21. He spent more time running the gauntlet of replacement
centers than recuperating from his blood poisonings.
There was a movie tonight in a barn, “It Happened
Tomorrow,” with Dick Powell and Linda Darnell.
and Sgt. Weiman drove up to the Rhine and across the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen,
just recently captured by the 9th Armored Division.
They told of the long convoys teeming through Remagen on their way to the
front at the four-mile bridgehead. At
the bridge, they saw a German plane shot down by a stupendous barrage from AA
(anti-aircraft) batteries all around the bridge area.
A B-24 crashed just outside Waldorf, and a few scavengers
from the troop went out to forage among the wreckage. It was so thoroughly demolished that there was nothing much
salvageable. It was a ghost ship,
the crew having bailed out some time before it glided over Waldorf toward its
Sixty-ninth Division patches were painted on our helmets in
keeping with the custom carried on by other divisions in the ETO (European
Theater of Operations).
The kitchen moved from its somewhat unclean and crowded
location at the CP to a field about 200 yards in back.
If we were not aware before today that we were rear echelon
and far behind the lines, it was brought to our attention in a subtle manner and
with crude formality. Retreat!
Garrison life. In Germany, too. Get
all spruced up and give Terreforte a chance to blow the bugle again.
Sgts. Plocher and Hedger ventured into the wilds with other
members of their respective platoons, and each shot a deer.
Plocher with his carbine and Hedger with an ’03.
The best place for deer is on the ridges and in the evergreen forests
above the Second Platoon area.
Movie tonight in a barn.
“Brazil,” with Virginia Bruce.
Venison for lunch.
Sgt. Ney went out to a winery and returned with 400 gallons
of red wine for the troop. The
result: A spectacular drunken orgy. The
innocent red drink had hidden strength and was doled out about 100 gallons to
the platoon in containers of all descriptions, from small pitchers to 5-gallon
GI water cans. There were lurid
scenes all over, but the ramifications were more furious at the Second Platoon
house. Shots were fired and a great
deal of hell raised. Ormsby, a new
man, got out of hand and became a whirling dervish and a serious threat with his
M-1. He was subdued by Capt.
Whiting, Haight and Shattuck, tied up, and shipped back to a clearing station.
Needless to say, the axe was put on the wine.
The platoons went on a mission to reconnoiter towns closer
to the Rhine for the division. They
checked with officials in the towns to determine the number of troops billeted
therein, how soon they were moving out, and what facilities were available.
About four towns were covered per platoon.
We saw some excellent mountain scenery, and this gave
Hedget a field day. A few miles
west of the Rhine, he shot a mountain goat from a jeep and then brought down an
Lts. Viguet, Mock, and Blend were promoted to 1st
The troop shed today and drank in the warmth of an
unusually fine First Day of Spring.
The Captain demonstrated the Panzerfaust (German bazooka),
which has a more potent warhead than our bazooka, but its trajectory is arched
and wobbly. Plocher and Cohen each
fired it once, Plocher connecting on the old truck wreck.
Then Dubovec, Nichols, and Choborda fired the U.S. bazookas at extreme
range – 600 yards.
Venison for supper.
March 22 – Ramersbach
We moved about 30 miles nearer the Rhine in a formal troop
convoy displaying a red panel. Headquarters,
Second, and Third ensconced themselves comfortably in the town of Ramersbach.
The First Platoon is 8 km distant in the tiny hamlet of Honnebach.
An effort was made to get the whole troop together in Rannersbach, but it
couldn’t be done.
Our disposition is as it was at Waldorf, i.e., waiting for
the First Army Remagen bridgehead to fill out in order to accommodate all the
divisions poised at the Rhine ready to move.
We should be part of a tremendous drive, and there should be for us
plenty of movement and temporary occupation.
The deeper we move into Germany, the more comfortably we
live, and the less beat-up the towns appear to be. The Germans retreated to the Rhine so fast that there were no
sieges and holdings of towns. We
are enjoying beds, mattresses, running cold water, stoves, and coal.
Ramersbach, for instance, appears to have suffered not a scratch, and the
CP is in a small mansion behind a big church.
There was a clothes inspection today, which was more or
less welcome in view of the warm weather. It
gave us the opportunity to turn in wool knit caps, galoshes, sweaters, and
overcoats, and, consequently, lighten our own burden.
The “mountain” scenery is gorgeous, and the views from
the trails and winding skytop roads are endless.
For the past three days, not a cloud has been seen.
Jeeps and armored cars are to be painted, and so most of
the troop was seen cleaning the vehicles with a thoroughness reminiscent of an
ordnance inspection back in the States.
Lt. Blend, Sgt. Weiman, and Sgt. Fowler were outside of
Ramersbach when the ammunition dump started to explode around them.
An investigation revealed a powder train leading up to the works.
Lt. Blend told the citizens in Ramersbach to stay put in the house
pending the arrival of CIC (Counter Intelligent Corps) and AMG (Army Military
Holding down our rear echelon position, but still moving
relentlessly forward, we rolled to Niederbreisig am Rhein, 10 km south of the
Ludendorf railroad bridge at Remagen. Here
the Rhine is beautiful, flowing between wooded bluffs and rolling hills on which
plowed fields of evergreen seedlings are terraced.
From the top of an old castle above town, one can see the wrecked bridge
at Remagen. Across the river is
Honningen, which was captured by the 99th Division, which the 69th relieved
around the middle of February. The
front is about 15 miles east. A
couple of 240mm howitzers boom every now and then from the hills downstream.
The only watch on the Rhine consists of several heavy .30s interspersed
along the bank maintained by doughboys in shifts.
An excellent pontoon bridge links Niederbreisig with
Honningen, over which courses an unending flow of supplies, artillery, and armor
for the rapidly expanding bridgehead. All
day and night it is in use. While
the traffic on one side pauses and accumulates, the other side moves for about
15 minutes. A sign says, “Victor
Bridge, the longest tactical bridge in the world, 1,370 feet long.”
The troop moved into a narrow street down by the river,
12-25 Biergasse. Tiny little
banners wave above the street as though the street was participating in some
sort of a carnival. It was a
delicate operation to back the armored cars through the archways leading off the
street. They squat in the archways
like bullfrogs facing the street. Chow
is served in a courtyard around which the Third Platoon lives. A full-fledged theater is on the second level of the
courtyard. A couple of guys from
the 271st worked all day in it and tonight showed “One Body Too Many” with
Jack Haley and Bela Lugosi.
The houses are comfortable – plenty of beds, mattresses,
and even toilets.
A Corps inspection was in the offing for this morning, but
nothing happened. After a little
cleaning up and preparation for said inspection, the day was spent lolling
around, sleeping, strolling along the river, watching the traffic flow across
the bridge from the Rhein Hotel and last, but not least, climbing up to a castle
far above the Rhine.
There were three shows at the theater; “And Now
Tomorrow,” with Alan Ladd and Loretta Young.
Having unearthed some photographic chemicals, Chordas,
Abbott, Cohen, Fox, and Kaiserman have been in the dark, processing films taken
at Bullingen and Waldorf.
We retired tonight, expecting a blissful sleep in the plush
…At the ungodly hour of 0330, the troop was awakened and
ordered to load up. The reason: The
9th Armored Division had moved during the night and was enveloping Limburg,
about 25 miles southeast. Recon.
and a regimental combat team were to help out.
At 8:00, we were still waiting around.
We were then informed that the 9th Armored found Limburg empty, so we
were not needed.
This morning, some of the troop took mineral baths.
This blissful pastime consists of sitting in a tub and soaking in hot
fizz water, no soap allowed.
The boys have been wearing the weirdest assortment of
clothes imaginable. Felt hats,
dinner jackets, white bow ties, canes, and loud scarves predominate.
Even the Captain was seen today sporting a cane, scarf, and tall silk
hat. Saville has a toy cow on the
front of his armored car which moos every time you turn its head.
All around the town, soldiers are finding bikes and horses,
all dressed up.
We assembled at 0830 in the TD (tank destroyer) motor pool
for the big “push” across the Rhine. The
big push was merely a serene drive across the Victor Bridge in a splendid troop
formation. Nevertheless, it was an
occasion and a memorable event for the sentimental photographers.
The entire span could be included from the west bank, and a good view of
the vehicles easing onto the pontoon bridge was afforded.
We followed the east bank to Ft. Ehrenbreitstein at the junction of the
Rhine and Moselle Rivers, from where we had a glimpse of Coblenz.
Then we swung inland and followed the Lahn River to Nassau, 7 km east of
The troop CP appropriated a veritable mansion with elegant
furnishings. There were plenty of
fine homes at our disposal – plenty of beds, kitchens, pianos, plush sofas and
chairs. Plenty of champagne in the
ruined cellars. Wow!
This morning, the platoons were dispatched on a mission to
round up stragglers or itinerant soldiers in civilian clothes.
Suspicious youths were stopped and, if they failed to produce the proper
credentials, they were turned over to the MPs like any other PW (prisoner of
war). The job was slow because much
of the time was spent in directing the hordes of liberated French, Russians and
Polish forced labor and war prisoners eastward to the Rhine.
The Third Platoon had a wide area to search along the Lahn
River Valley, and they hauled in eight prisoners. At Baldwinstein, they hopped into a launch and rode
majestically across the Lahn to get to the town on the other side.
The First Platoon was hailed at a crossroad by an MP
lieutenant who declared emphatically, “I was shot at down the road about a
mile. I was wondering if you boys
would take a run down.” They did,
and located a cabin on top of a hill in the woods from which a shot rang out
(according to a civilian). A patrol
found nothing at all and concluded that someGI had missed a rabbit and the
The troop moved from Nassau to Heckholzhausen and from
there, the Third Platoon went out on a road reconnaissance mission.
The landscape is flatter, and the “castle country” of
the Rhineland with its towering hills has leveled out somewhat.
The First Platoon has been detached and assigned to the V
Corps. The first team is in reserve
at Neustadt, Corps Headquarters;; the second team is with the 197th QM [Quarter
Master] Gas Co. at Wetzlar, where they will convoy gas up front to the 9th
Armored Div., racing forward like a forest fire. The third team is with an ammunition dump at Giessen, also
convoying for the outfits up ahead.
The V Corps embraces the following: the Ninth Armored
Division, the 661 TD Bn., 460 and 461 AAA[anti-aircraft artillery] Bn., the 2nd and 69th Infantry
Divisions, the 777th Tank Battalion and
assorted Corps, Artillery, Engineer, Supply, and Maintenance units.
Whenever the 9th jumps off, the 69th and 2nd trail behind in their wake,
mopping up pockets of resistance.
The troop, minus the First Platoon at Corps, the Second and
Third Platoons (reconnoitering wooded areas for a suspected 100 Heinies) left
Heckholzhausen at 1300 and traveled about 130 miles to Wolfhagen, new 5th Corps
Headquarters, west of Kassel. Incidentally,
this is one of the longest, if not the longest, jumps the troop ever made.
It was a grueling trek over traffic-clogged roads.
A situation arose that testifies to the speed of the First
Army’s advance. Elements of the
Corps and the 9th Army joined, creating a sizeable pocket in which thousands of
Germans were cut off, but able to mount sporadic but diminutive counterattacks.
The 69th relieved the 80th Division in Kassel.
Northwest of Kassel, the 273rd held a line for the purpose of keeping a
stable front while the pockets were cleaned out.
The Second and Third Platoons were assigned to the 273rd and given the
job of reconnoitering in front of the regimental sector as far as the Weser
The Second Platoon covered two routes: (1) Oberelsingen
through Zirenberg, Grebenstein to the Weser River. (2) Istha through Dornberg; Weimar to Summershausen on the
Weser. Lt. Viguet was in charge of
the platoon while Lt. Fredericks and Gold were on their way back from a Paris
pass. Lt. Fredericks assumed
control on the 4th as Lt. Viguet returned to Liaison.
Likewise, the Third Platoon patrolled two routes: (1)
Herlinghausen along the Diemel River to Friedrichsfeld.
(2) Escheburg through Hofgeismar to Friedrichsfeld.
Attached to the 3rd was a platoon of light tanks from the 777th Tank Bn.
and Co. L-273rd. In a sense, the
2nd and 3rd were detached from the troop, for their missions came through the
On Tuesday the 3rd, the Second Platoon had a skirmish at
Weimar. The Heinies let
Paradine’s car slip by and opened up on it from the right rear flank.
A slug hit the jacket of the .50 cal., and a piece of shrapnel from it
injured Snyder in the forehead. (He
returned the next morning.) They
shot four Heinies near the railroad tracks there.
The other two teams ran into a roadblock outside the town.
A Panzerfaust was fired at Viguet’s armored car, but it hit a tree and
exploded between Dugaw’s jeep and the armored car.
Dugaw got two Krauts with his M-3, as they fled into the woods.
The vehicles withdrew to a hill behind them quickly, because the
roadblock was defended by an AT (anti-tank) gun, firing as they went.
Abbott, Elliget, and Lt. Viguet fired furiously while the vehicles
maneuvered, pinning them down. They
scattered like flies. Hedger fired
at a truck in which some Krauts had sought refuge, saw one of them dart behind
the truck; never saw him come out. He
got him with a 37 AP
(Armour Piercing round)
(Armour Piercing round)
The same day, Cowboy Vaughan was grazed by two bullets near
Liebenau while he was dismounted from the armored car.
One skimmed along his back, and the other grazed his waistline, proving
that Cowboy must have this inhaling-and-exhaling-at-the-right-time down to a
fine art. The Third Platoon
encountered heavy fire here, but when they tried to call for artillery, they
couldn’t make contact with any battalion.
At nightfall, they stood security at Hofsgeismar.
Hofsgeismar was the scene of a neat bit of teamwork, as
displayed in Felty’s team. They
were coming down the road toward Hofsgeismar when they ran into a sizeable
contingent of the enemy scattered over a wide area ahead of them.
Tignor had taken care of four or five on the right, but on the left, the
team was in the process of being surrounded.
While the team withdrew, Felty, manning the .30, sent withering fire in
that direction, pinning them down until the withdrawal was effected.
Headquarters moved to Niederelsingen, and on the 4th, Capt.
Whiting was relieved of his command, and Lt. Lewis B. Ellsworth from the Second
Div. Recon. Troop replaced him. The
Captain came near signing off prematurely when he and Mike Moscaritola were
strafed by Nazi fighters. A shell
tore through Mike’s radiator near the gas filter.
The Second and Third Platoons continued to clear towns in
the Kassel area. Sometimes it was
necessary to go through a town doing reconnaissance by fire, for the situation
was so fluid that intelligence was faulty.
A town reported not cleared would be teeming with our troops at one
extreme, while at the other, an innocent hamlet would erupt with enemy fire.
Such a town was Holzhausen, where 88s opened up on the Second Platoon,
but, happily, they missed.
Once again, on the 5th, the platoon was fired on by 88s
while they were dashing down the Autobahn, and again, they emerged from the
ordeal unscathed. They helped
General Maraist set up his artillery positions along the Autobahn by furnishing
communications and information. About
this time, George Jr. was laid up with an infected hand, and “Combat”
Freeman took over his job at the wheel.
On the morning of the 5th, Lt. Blend detached the First
Platoon from Corps and ventured out in the same general area as the other
platoons. The First joined up with
Lt. Fredericks’ team in the town of ______ (I can’t remember them all),
where that team had been scouting for a platoon of the 777th Tank Bn. and had
run into an ambush that had killed three doughboys and one of the tankers on one
tank. The outskirts were blazing
from the furious working-over given by the tankers in testimony of their loss.
Headquarters moved to Weimar.
On the 6th, the First Platoon worked with the 777th Tank Bn.
and Company E and F of the 273rd Inf. on the town of Bonefort.
While the M-4 tanks lined up nearly hub to hub and fired point-blank at
the buildings – an awesome spectacle if there ever was one – the platoon and
a squad of engineers cleared a roadblock. While
this was going on, Doc Sessler volunteered as stretcher bearer and helped
transport wounded doughboys under fire through the woods and down to the medic
That same day, the Third had a skirmish at Dahlem.
Freddy Vaughn shot three Krauts and a rooster with his .50 cal.
The following day, the three platoons were given what
appeared to be quite a mission: To seize and clear a bridge on the Weser for the
division’s immediate use – direct from G-2. After a long, dismounted approach march with vehicles from
other units passing us periodically, it became clear that Intelligence had made
a fool out of us, and this mission was a travesty on reconnaissance.
Especially when we saw an armored car and three jeeps from
the 661 TDs smoldering by the roadside. Then
we breathed a sigh of relief, for it could have been us.
We repaired to Neuhagen for the night.
Glotfelty, the mailman, had to go 160 miles back to Bad Ems
for the mail – it took him two days of driving.
Troop Headquarters moved to Heiligenrode on the Super
Highway, in the suburbs of Kassel. In
the meantime, Division moved into Kassel, and the troop was given route
reconnaissance missions between Kassel and the Hann-Munden area, which was being
taken by the 273rd Infantry.
It was a busy week for the troop, and we did a bang-up job
of patrolling in the Kassel area. Cooperation
was well knit between the platoons and the tanks, who were the striking force in
the operation. Headquarters was
ever on the ball, bringing up hot chow for breakfast at the wee hours of the
dawn, wherever the platoons happened to be.
Here is a review of the communication we set up: The
messages were sent to NCS [Message routing system)] in Wolfe’s armored car (Command), maintained by
Sampson and Fowlers. This was the
regular troop channel. On a
different channel entirely was the net between the Executive car and Liaison.
After NCS (Message Routing Systerm)received a message from a platoon, let us say, it would be
turned over to Executive car (Lt. Hennessey, Haight, and Ritchie and Berg at the
set), which in turn would contact the Liaison car at Division and subsequently
to G-2. The Liaison crew is Lt.
Viguet, Sgt. Ney, D.B. George, and Charroux and Fager work the set.
A message to the troop from G-2 is sent from Liaison to Executive car
back at the troop, and to the platoons on the other channel through NCS.
Route reconnaissance between Kassel and Hann-Munden.
Miller pulled a prize one today. While
pausing in a town amidst columns of prisoners en route to a PWE [Prisoner of War
Encampment], he spied a
Kraut with a fancy Luftwaffe belt and reached down from his perch on the armored
car to grab it. The Kraut thought
Miller was glad to see him or wanted to be friendly, perhaps, so he shook the
outstretched hand and passed on. Miller,
or should we say, Muller, just stewed all the rest of the day.
This was a big day. Around
dawn, the troop assembled at Gertenbach, where Troop Hq. had moved to last night
at midnight, and worked till dawn in a town still burning from tank shellfire.
Chow was served behind the rubble. The
three platoons gassed up and joined a task force which had orders to start
rolling and not to stop until the objective, 60 kilometers eastward, was
After a long traffic snarl in which Recon. would pass the
entire convoy and wait until the entire convoy passed them again, etc., the task
force, including the 777 Tank Battalion with doughboys from the 272nd on board,
AT and Cannon Companies, and TDs from the 661 TD Bn., moved ahead in a body.
We could say that we were spearheading the 5th Corps.
The Task Force proceeded to Heilingenstadt without incident, and we left
the convoy in town to carry out a mission assigned to us enroute. This was to head southeast to Dingelstadt until we contacted
friendly forces. At Geisleden, we
paused to shoot up the town a bit and some Krauts for good measure.
Dingey made a kill with a carbine.
Cautiously, we moved to Dingelstadt and found the Third
Army firmly entrenched in the town: elements of the 6th Armored and 76th Inf.
Divisions. When they heard we
represented the First Army, they were overjoyed, because they had been sweating
out counterattacks from the hills and had ringed the town with tanks as a
For being the first unit of the First Army to link up with
the Third in this particular measure, the troop was commended.
Friendly forces contacted, mission completed.
The troop has been attached to “Task Force Z,” which
consists of the following 5th Corps units: Two M-4 (105 Howitzer) medium tanks
from the 777 Tank Battalion, one company of light M-5 tanks, one Anti-Tank
Company (273rd Inf.), one Cannon Company (273rd Inf.), one Mortar platoon, and
the 69th Recon. Troop.
While the 9th Armored Division pushes swiftly ahead, the
Task Force Z will be summoned and the direct fire weapons brought to play.
The troop is to dismount 58 men to be used as infantry.
The objective is Leipzig.
It seems as though the 5th Corps was eager to be the first to meet the
At approximately 2 p.m., we joined Task Force Z outside
Dingelstadt and traveled about 11 miles to a big field overlooking Mulhausen.
There we camped for the night, and the old pup tents came into use again. It was the first time the troop had been obligated to live in
the field since the OPs at Hellenthal and Hollerath necessitated our having to
curl up in dugouts at the end of February.
Left Mulhausen with Task Force Z and traveled 45 miles to a
field adjacent to Stodten. Fortunately,
the ground has been nice and soft for sleeping, but the nights are anything but
warm. Stodten is northeast of
Erfurt, which is now being cleared by Third Army Infantry.
Gardner returned to the First Platoon, spending three weeks
in getting back to the troop from a hospital in Paris.
The entire troop is together in Task Force Z, kitchen and
Spent the morning sunning ourselves in the pasture, fixing
flats, or washing up in Stodten. The
colonel in charge of the Task Force is loathe to allow the men to inhabit
dwellings – for tactical and mobility’s sake.
After chow, we moved further northeast to Steinbach, north
of Jena, this time in a wheat field on top of a large hill.
No one is complaining that they haven’t called for us.
At 7:30 we heard the shocking news of President
Roosevelt’s death over the BBC. The
fellows had just finished a breakfast of fresh fried eggs, and were sitting
around on the vehicles drinking in the warm, enervating early morning rays, when
the news reporter intoned the mournful tidings.
We moved to Plotha and became subject to call at any minute
to go out with the Tanks to help the Infantry in Weissenfels.
The Tanks were the only ones sent out.
At midnight, we were suddenly detached from Task Force Z
and sent to Naumberg (Saale), where Division Headquarters was located.
We were to act as local security for the CP in view of an impending
uprising in the city. We were told
that, through the underground, the MPs had learned from some British and French
agents at large, of a plot in which the citizens of Naumburg, on hearing of the
fall of Weissenfels, would stage an uprising.
Creeping into the city at 2:30 a.m., the troop split up,
and the various teams were stationed at vital intersections, particularly the
Markplatz, the suspected meeting place.
Weissenfels has fallen, but there was no uprising or
commotion of any consequence.
The Kitchen is in Kaiser Wilhelmplatz, and the rest of the
vehicles are parked around the square. Guards
are stationed at the approaches.
Tonight, the platoons guarded important public buildings,
utilities, or roamed the city in a roving patrol on the vehicles.
A day of rest. Tonight,
the same areas were patrolled or guarded by the same personnel.
Left Naumburg about 10 a.m. and moved a few miles to Pegau,
22 km south of Leipzig, tacitly committed to offering local security for the
Volunteers offered to search for an enemy artillery
observer, believed to be ensconced in some high building.
In the meantime, the Germans fired 88s into the city, and our artillery
countered with barrages that shook the buildings from cellar to attic.
The 88s whistled over the town in horrifying noises like the roar of a
The First Platoon received a commendation from the Fifth
Corps for their work in convoying the supplies and providing radio communication
between echelons during Easter week while they were attached to the Corps.
At dawn, the platoons set out to reconnoiter roads south
and southeast of Pegau to see if the area was clear before the division headed
for Leipzig. The Third Platoon took
a few prisoners in the process. Before
the day was done, each platoon had run over 100 miles, circling and retracing
their steps. There was nothing to
report. The First Platoon happened
upon two Frenchmen who had a hysterical youth at bay whom they claimed was a
Nazi soldier. There was one body in
the ditch already. After the
platoon had gone down the road a little way, they looked back and saw only two
men standing at the spot, so….
None other than Zeke Clements obtained some barber tools
and made the rounds cutting hair.
The platoons patrolled the same area as yesterday on
slightly different routes and joined Headquarters at Naunhof, 19 km southeast of
Route reconnaissance – local security for Division Hq.
and patrolling along Corps boundary.
The Second Platoon guarded the approaches to Leipzig
tonight in a roving patrol, while the Third filled in as MPs guarding PWs.
The battle for Leipzig, almost certainly a 69th Infantry
affair, with the 272nd and 273rd Regiments and 881 Field Artillery Battalion
taking part (supported by elements of the 2nd Division, 777th Tank Battalion,
661 Tank Destroyer Battalion, and corps artillery) is nearly over.
Only a strongly entrenched, fanatical SS garrison is holding out in
Napoleon’s monument, in which they have 88s firing at point-blank range
The impact of War and Fate finally caught up with the
troops this morning in a stark, convincing manner.
While driving along a main road out of Naunhof, Lt. Hennessey and
Nickerson were ambushed and killed by burp guns about 200 yards from a hospital
for Nazi wounded. No one is sure
where they were going at the time, but it was evident that they died not having
much of a chance, because the jeep was sprayed mercilessly.
The news had a sobering effect on the troop.
Everyone was inflamed and set out to slake their anger and remorse on any
Krauts who showed themselves in the vicinity of the tragedy.
The loss of the indefatigable, ubiquitous Lt. Hennessey was
a serious blow to the troop. It was
he who coordinated the heterogeneous tasks of Headquarters Platoon and brought
order out of the chaos that sometimes pervaded the ensemble.
A simple man with a big heart and tremendous enthusiasm, he devoted his
energies to the many unglamorous but vital jobs that kept the troop functioning
and the combat platoons nourished with the material of war.
He had an admirable capacity for getting things done.
He believed that his “folks” should have the best, and to this end he
was constantly on the go. The
vitality of the man was amazing – he could come through an exhausting day
undismayed and still preserve his equanimity and that unruffled composure.
We can remember the wicked hikes he used to lead.
Platoon leader, motor officer, executive officer – he was quite a
versatile man. But “Long Tom”
was not a machine; he was a very real person, a character, a kind and sincere
leader. The best picture of Lt.
Hennessey to preserve is the sight of him standing tall and unpretentiously upon
the front seat of the jeep, moving up and down the troop column, attending to a
million and one little details and making certain that everything was doing OK,
coordinating this and that, and seemingly, enjoying every minute of it.
We will miss Big Nick, too, not because he drove the
kitchen peep [downsized jeep], and hauled water and performed sundry duties but because he was
a landmark both in size and good cheer, for he exuded confidence and optimism.
A good friend and American was Nick.
Lt. Blend assumed the duties of Executive Officer, Lt.
Viguet went back to the First Platoon, and Lt. Tuttle took Lt. Viguet’s place
as Liaison Officer.
The First Platoon is still guarding PWs.
The battle of Leipzig has ended. The
monument garrison surrendered today, ending the very difficult and fierce battle
for the city. Here was Germany’s
most powerful radio station, one of the largest railroad stations in the world,
center of 38% of the Reich’s output of single-motored engines for fighters,
and the peacetime habitat of 700,000 Germans.
Five thousand prisoners were taken during the last two days of fighting
in the city. That is one reason why
the Third Platoon was needed for MP guard duty.
We have been eating 10-in-1 rations lately.
The kitchen has not received any B rations (hot chow) since Naumburg.
Reason: The First Army has moved too fast for the supply lines.
There was nothing doing today, so the time was passed
performing motor maintenance or compounding the ingredients of the 10-in-1
The reason for our inactivity is a vague one.
The division is in a static situation following the Battle of Leipzig.
Last night, we were told to be ready to move out at 5 a.m.
to join a small task force that was going to be assigned to Corps.
Corps would hold us there until the opportunity arose to link with the
Russians driving west to the Elbe, bypassing Berlin.
It looked like a big occasion in the offing.
Especially for Dubovec, and “Nick” of the Second Platoon.
We would be the first units in the Corps, perhaps the Army, perhaps the
entire front, to meet the Russians. Maxie
Thurmond would come too; this would be the big deal.
We got up at 5 a.m. and promptly went right back to bed again.
By nightfall, we still had not gone.
Rumor has it that the Third Army had joined up with them near Dresden.
Pay day in German Marks.
Fikes is driving the Assistant Division Commander, Col.
Sietz, with Barcalow as machine gunner. Meanwhile,
Keever, Treible, and Stambaugh have been guarding the CG [Commanding General].
Henry returned to the First Platoon.
The First Platoon went out with the CIC (Counter
Intelligence Corps) to investigate a German uprising reported by some Russians.
It proved to be a dry run.
At 3:30 a.m., the I & R Intelligence &
Reconnaissance) section of the 1st Bn.,
273rd Regt., contacted reconnaissance units of the 173rd Regt., 58th Guard
Division, 34th Corps, 5th Army, First Ukrainian Army Group (Koniev), became the
first outfit to contact the Russians and brought honor and fame to the
division’s ever-growing prestige. The
link-up took place at Torgau-on-the-Elbe, 53 km northeast of Leipzig.
Previously, rumors had suggested the imminence of the
juncture, and today, the troop was alerted to guard the General in a journey to
meet the Russians.
This was a day long to be remembered by those of the troop
who were there. Clustered on the
west bank of the Elbe River on the outskirts of Torgau, laden down with cameras
and binoculars, we witnessed the epic meeting between the commanding generals of
the 69th Division and the 58th Russian Guard Division, assisted by their staffs
and an impressive assemblage of brass on both sides. This official meeting commemorated the East-West linkup that
had been eagerly awaited by the Allied Nations for some time.
It celebrated the achievement of our division in being the first outfit
on the front to contact the Russians; it gave voice to the deeds of the I &
R (Intelligence & Reconnaissance) the evening before; it catapulted the 69th to a position of eminence and
esteem little dreamed of by its members in the days back in the De Soto National
Forest where it seemed we were the most forlorn and unknown division going.
How did the troop get in on something like this?
Well, it is just typical of us to get in on something good.
We formed what you might call an elite escort for General Reinhardt,
convoying his M-20 armored car and a small detachment of MPs, several C & R
[Combat & Recon] cars filled with brass, to Torgau. The
Second Platoon led the parade, the General was cruising somewhere in between,
and the First Platoon was rear guard.
Even the trip up was extremely interesting.
The convoy left the division CP about 1245 and began at a good clip,
which we maintained for the entire long and circuitous route.
We passed within easy visual range of the skyline of Leipzig which lay to
our left and glimpsed Napoleon’s monument – the bastion that gave our
doughboys so much trouble.
Next came the town of Eilenburg, on the Mulde River, stark
and beautiful in its skeletal ruin. Our
doughboys had a big fight here, but not before the town was wrecked.
A bridge across the Mulde sported a sign – “Courtesy of the 69th Inf.
The roads were jammed with Displaced Persons (ex-Nazi
prisoners and slaves), and among them were some dark-skinned men clad in Empire
uniform. It is possible that they
may have been Ghurkas from the polyglot British 8th Army. Two characters with turbans rode by in the rear seat of a
jeep, adding to the color.
Amid this gay procession were officers and men of the
Wehrmacht, unescorted, endeavoring to get back to our lines to surrender rather
than give up to the Russians to the east. True,
there were long lines of prisoners attended by our guards, but there was no need
to worry about those who were walking along in little groups by themselves, for
with singleness of purpose, they were headed the same way in order to cash in
their chips with a more lenient enemy.
We reached Torgau about 3:00 and wheeled through streets in
which some buildings were still smoldering (the town was relatively unharmed).
Then we proceeded to the flat, grassy bank of the Elbe, midway between
two demolished bridges that had sagged into the river about a kilometer apart.
Before the General and his party reached the bank, the
scene had the aspect of a Kiwanis Club outing, rather than a military
rendezvous. Scores of Russian girls
were chatting with Russian soldiers – sitting on the bank in little groups,
passing in great, long scows on the river, and having a big time in general.
Sixty-ninth boys were standing around, greeting their Allies from a land
that used to seem so fabulously far away and aloof from the world, taking
pictures, and waiting for Gen. Reinhardt.
We followed the General’s entourage down to the bank.
They posed for a couple of pictures surrounded by cameramen from the
Division SSO [Special Services Olfficer], First Army Official Photographers, and official U.S. Signal
Corps Photographers. A long scow,
canoe-shaped and manned by a hefty Soviet on long, sweeping oars, drew up along
the bank, and Reinhardt, Maraist, and Col. Sietz stepped gingerly in.
They were rowed across the swiftly flowing stream to the other bank where
the official ceremony transpired. Meanwhile,
a shuttle system of scows coursed bank and forth carrying the press, high
officials, and more brass. Only Lts.
Ellsworth, Viguet, Fredericks and Blend were fortunate enough to gain passage
across the Elbe for the ceremony. The rest of the troop, however, could watch the proceedings
quite easily through field glasses along the narrow river.
Flags of the Big Three Allied Powers were flourished: Old
Glory, the Union Jack, and the big red Soviet flag with star, hammer and sickle.
From the brow of the hill, a small guard of honor for Maj. Gen. Rusakov,
CG [Commanding General} of the 58th Guards Division, appeared and marched briskly
down to the water’s edge. Bemedaled
Gen. Rusakov, clad in a gleaming, many-hued uniform and big black boots, stood
out like a cock pheasant in an autumn cornfield.
And so it came to pass that Reinhardt met Rusakov by the swift-flowing
Elbe, “officially” cutting Germany in two.
The solid wall of correspondents that encased the central
figures finally broke and fanned out over the meadow as the delegation repaired
to some building a few hundred yards beyond for some vodka and toasting.
Some of the press returned to the other side, and from them we gathered
that the event was well covered. News
men from International News Service, Associated Press, Paramount News, First
Army Headquarters; metropolitan papers, by roving reporters attached to the
First Army or to the front, were represented; New York Times and Tribune,
Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer and Bulletin, and others.
They were dressed in the regular OD (Olive Drab) war correspondent’s uniform bearing
the insignia “Press” or “War Correspondent.”
On the west bank, the troop was entertained by a number of
spontaneous little ceremonies such as raising the sign, seeing a broadcast for
the Army Hour, and watching the colorful Russians singing and playing guitars,
unearthing liquor, and getting their pictures taken by GIs.
The Russian soldiers and their quaint little mannerisms,
such as picking up a canoe and breaking it in half on a rock, or heaving a Kodak
into the river, never failed to intrigue us. The canoe-breaking episode took place when a Red soldier, a
bit “tanked up,” stepped into a scow and fell into the water.
After a big laugh from all on the bank, he then picked up one end and
dashed it to pieces. And that was the end of the trim little scow.
He then waded ashore and spied a camera on the ground, whereupon he
hurled it far into the Elbe. But he settled down to the extent that Abie Cohen consented
to lend him his camera to satiate a burning desire to take pictures of us all.
He finished Abie’s roll.
Another character in a ruffled uniform and tousled blond
hair strewn all over his head, gave us a bottle of Russian wine, gurgling over
the conviviality of the meeting. Eventually,
he took off in a scow singing lustily, half in-half out of the boat.
Perhaps the most significant ceremony was the raising of
the sign commemorating the junction between the East and West.
And guess what outfit raised the sign to the erect position?
Yes, in the person of Chordas and Stockwell.
The sign depicted an American soldier with a 69th Div.
patch greeting a Red Army man. They
stood on a Nazi banner upon a globe – the Statue of Liberty and skyline of New
York behind the 69th soldier, Moscow behind the Russian – outlined in white.
Above their heads was a large facsimile of the division patch.
As soon as the sign was firmly planted in the grassy
embankment, members of the troop lined up underneath it with as many Russian
soldiers as they could muster among them for a memorable picture.
Before the photographic splurge had ended, most of the men were posing in
front of the sign in groups of two to eight.
Danowski, shaking hands with a Russian soldier, was taken by an official
First Army Signal Corps photographer who asked for his name and address.
Longlee was photographed by many a freelancer.
While Gen. Reinhardt and Gen. Rusakov were concluding the
ceremony on the bank across the river and heading to the buildings in the rear
to partake of vodka and drink the cup of friendship, a recording was being made
to be broadcast on the Army Hour. A
young 20-year-old Soviet lieutenant was interviewed, as was Lt. William
Robertson of the 273rd Inf., who met the Russians at Torgau.
Then there was a songfest in which a mixed chorus of soldiers and
recently liberated citizens took part in a “Katusha.”
That concluded the program.
The Russian women were a target of much comment and
speculation. Such apt phrases as
“stacked” and “breasty” do not begin to describe the extent to which
these babes were built. Moreover,
they are as strong as oxen. Although
they were supercharged with vitality, they were a bit more refined than the men.
One group of Russian soldiers and girls were clustered beneath a tree,
singing softly to the strains of a guitar just as one has always pictured them
doing. When they weren’t singing,
they cavorted about the streets like a bunch of wild Indians.
Eventually, General Reinhardt returned by scow and took off
in one of the plane from “Maraist’s Air Force.” So we returned to Naunhof.
This evening we were plagued by one of those bastard
missions instigated by the CIC, that of investigating the activities of the
Hitler Youth. The result: We
returned with two 12-year-old kids.
Waiting for something to happen. Conceiving and promulgating new plans for the ten-in-one.
Not content with escorting two stars, we took on 4-star
General Courtney Hodges, First Army Commander and escorted his party to Torgau,
where he met the Russian 5th Army commander. The Second Platoon met him at
the airport along with Lt. Ellsworth's car, General Reinhardt and several MP
jeeps. Hodges arrived in a C-47 transport flanked by eight P-38 "Lightnings".
At Eilenburg, the First, and Third platoons were waiting and they joined the
column there. The whole works moved up to Torgau, led by
It was timed well. When we got to Torgau, Hodges was
whisked across the river, and we didn't see him again for four hours. The
troop waited on the west bank and mingled with the "Ruskies".
Escorted two Major Generals from the Seventh Corps to
Torgau. Watched the Russians building a bridge.
The division has been assigned a new area around
Leipzig, with the division CP still located at Naunhof. We moved to
Markleeberg, about 10 km south of Leipzig.
This town was placed under our jurisdiction and the
surrounding areas will be patrolled. Now that activities on First Army
front never ceased we will get a foretaste of the type of work we would be doing
if it would develop that we become Army of Occupation. We have been
transferred to VII Corps.
No sooner than we reached Markkleeberg when the supply
corporals went around to their respective platoons and announced that they were
going to take sizes for new clothes, specifically, a field jacket on the order
of the "Eisenhower" jacket, dark OD trousers, and overseas caps.
What could this mean? At any rate the war in Europe is over for us; from
now on it will be patrolling and working for the AMG.
The Second Platoon escorted General Collins on a tour of
unit CP's in the area of Leipzig. Other platoons patrolled.
They call us "those starry-eyed veterans of the
69th." None other than Gen. Omar N. Bradlsy--4 stars, 12th Army Group
Commander, Lt. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg--3, stars, and lesser satellites such as
Major Generals, Brigadier Generals, and Colonels, were conducted to Torgau by
the troop where Bradley met Koniev, CG of the First Ukranian Army, presented him
with a jeep, and received a horse in return.
A route was chosen so that the General could be sped over
the countryside while sacrificing directness. From the super highway out
of Leipzig to the rough road out of Eilenburg, Bradley demanded speed and he got
it too... A forty-five mile per hour average.
The Second Platoon and Lt. Ellsworth's car met Bradley at
the airport where he arrived on a C-47 without any escorting planes.
Torgau had changed since our last trip. Russian
street signs were on the city streets, a giant painting of Koniev was on display
and the Russians were building another bridge.
Effective at 1800 we were transferred to the 9th Army,
remaining part of the 7th Corps---for administrative purposes
The Bronze Star was awarded to Lt. Blend, Sgts. Yeiman,
Walker, Ewing, Paradine, and Choborda, in a brief ceremony at 7:00 this evening.
Lt. Ellsworth conferred the medals upon them..
This was the week all of us had been waiting for, but the
news was received here without too much excitement – probably because our work
was over more than a week ago. The
division sector had been cleared and quieted down.
Hill driving Starnbaugh's mortar jeep with Cross as machine
gunner, overturned as they were speeing along trying to catch up with the
General's party. They both suffered abrasions and Cross was sent back to a
clearing station. Nothing serious.
Sgt Hedgesr has a broken shoulder. It happened back
at Waldorf the day we were looking over towns west of the Rhine for possible
billeting areas. He has not been with the 2nd Platoon for a week, or so
and is back at a hospitsl. The following promotions have hone into effect
today: Dugaw is Sgt. in Hedges place, Snyder T/4, Vance T/5, Abbott is
of May 7-May 11 (Monday-Friday) – Victory Week
This was the week all of us habe been waiting for, but the
news was received here without too much excitement----probably because our work
was over more than a week ago, The division sector had been cleared and quieted
Over the weekend, the radio and Stars & Strips had been
telling us of the giant capitulations that were taking place in all corners of
the Reich. First, the surrender of
all the armies in Northern Italy to the British 8th and U.S. 5th Armies; second,
the surrender of all German forces in northwest Germany, Holland, and Denmark to
Gen. Montgomery’s forces; third, the capitulation of German resistance in the
Redoubt (Southern) corner; and finally at 0241, May 7, the surrender at Reims,
Gen. Eisenhower’s Headquarters.
Lt. Fredericks heard the news of the surrender about noon
on the 7th over the unofficial Radio Luxembourg.
The next day, the announcement was made at 3 p.m. by Winston Churchill,
and many of us heard it over the BBC. His
announcement made V-E day official.
By B. Lippincott 1946
From History of the 69th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)