At the time of its relief of the 99th Division, the 69th
Division’s mission was to defend along a north/south line on the west side of
the Prether River, on whose opposite bank, on the high ground to the east, the
enemy occupied strongly fortified but lightly held positions.
The division’s action during its first two weeks in the line was
confined to strong patrolling activity and probing of the enemy’s position.
During this defensive period, the 724th Field Artillery Battalion’s
mission was one of general support and reinforcement of the fire of the 879th
The division’s first offensive action was taken on the
morning of 27 February at 0600, H-hour. Its
mission was to take the high ground: Buschem, Honningen, south through the town
of Dickerscheid to Geischeid and Rescheid.
The 724th Field Artillery Battalion had as its mission that of general
support in the division sector.
At 0630, a preparation fire for the division attack was
delivered. During the attack, five
counter-battery missions were fired, 32 harassing missions, 10 defensive
missions, and four against counterattacks.
The total ammunition expenditure for the day was 808 rounds.
By 2400 on the 28th, the division had obtained its initial objective and
in some sectors had moved even further eastward.
On the 28th of February, the battalion expended 425 rounds to continue
its support of the attack.
During its initial month of combat firing, the battalion
fired a sum total of 2,638 rounds, distributed by mission as follows: 38
checkpoint registrations, 28 counter-battery missions, 18 against enemy
infantry, 10 against single guns, 45 interdiction missions, one cratering
mission, two against pillboxes, 39 against enemy-held towns, one against an
enemy operations post, one against an enemy command post, one barrage, and five
against enemy tanks and vehicles.
The initial month of combat also saw the Award of the
Purple Heart bestowed upon one member of the battalion: 5th Grade Walter H.
Wolff, Field Artillery, received it in action against the enemy on 28 February
1945, while in the execution of his duties as a wireman, maintaining wire lines
in the vicinity of the observation post. Wolff entered the military service from
New Jersey, and received the award on the same day he was wounded.
There was no change in the position of the battalion at the
end of the month. Positions
originally occupied on 12 February were still being used, but reconnaissance for
new positions in the vicinity of Hollerath, Germany, had been completed and
arrangements made for the occupation of new positions since 25 February 1945.
The 724th Field Artillery Battalion, on 1 March 1945,
displaced from its initially occupied position in the vicinity of Krinkelt,
Belgium, and moved forward to a new position in the Ardennes Forest, a few
kilometers west of Hollerath, Germany, where it received the mission of
reinforcement of the fires of the 379th Field Artillery Battalion and general
support of the division. The
battalion remained in this position until 7 March 1945, during which period a
total of 621 rounds was fired, consisting of the following types of missions:
Four counter-battery missions, 11 checkpoint registrations, four harassing
missions, three against enemy vehicles, one against enemy infantry, and two
against enemy counterattacks. It
was during this time also that the 186th Field Artillery Battalion was attached
to the 724th F.A. Battalion, comprising the 724th F.A. Group, with Lt. Col.
Gooch as group commander.
With the assistance of a heavy fog and light rain that
reduced visibility to a minimum, the enemy withdrew from its prepared defenses
and retreated eastward as quickly as possible, thereby forcing the division to
lose contact with them, temporarily. The
724th Field Artillery Battalion reconnoitered a possible new position area in
the vicinity of Schnorrenberg on March 7, 1945, but in view of the enemy’s
rapidly executed withdrawal, pressed its reconnaissance farther eastward, and
made a final selection of positions in the vicinity of Schmidtheim, Germany.
It was here that the battalion CO party
captured its first two prisoners, both of whom offered little resistance,
stating that owing to illness they had been left behind when their organization
fled eastward toward the Rhine. The
battalion closed in this area on March 7, 1945.
There was a period of relative inactivity at Schmidtheim,
Germany, from March 7 to March 16, 1945. The
division was still out of contact with the enemy, and the battalion fired no
missions during this time. Emphasis
was placed upon care and cleaning of material.
On March 11, the 467th Anti-Aircraft Battalion relinquished anti-aircraft
support of the battalion to “D” Battery, 461st A.A. Battalion.
It was at this time also that the 186th Field Artillery Battalion was
detached from the 724th F.A. Battalion.
The historic crossing of the Rhine at Remagen on March 7,
1945, by elements of the 9th Armored Division necessitated as much artillery
support as possible for units to follow across shortly thereafter.
On March 15, the 724th F.A. Battalion was temporarily detached from the
69th Division Artillery and assigned to the 406th F.A. Group, whose headquarters
was at Burgbrohl, Germany, a short distance from the Rhine River. Reconnaissance
parties from the battalion left Schmidtheim on March 15 and selected positions
in the small village of Kell, about eight kilometers west of the Rhine.
The battalion occupied these positions on March 16, 1945, and began
firing almost immediately.
The battalion remained attached to the 406th Group for a
period of one week, during which time it supported operations on the east bank
of the Rhine directly across from the town of Andernach.
A total of 1,624 rounds was fired, consisting mainly of counter-battery,
harassing and interdictory missions. On
March 23, the battalion reverted to 69th Division Artillery control.
Its relief having been accomplished, the battalion
reconnoitered new positions in the town of Bruhl, Germany, about ten miles south
of Cologne on the west bank of the Rhine. The 69th Division Artillery had temporarily been attached to
the 8th Division Artillery, and the 724th F.A. Battalion relieved the 45th F.A.
Battalion, occupying its positions in Bruhl on March 25.
The battalion, by its presence in the Cologne area at this time,
participated in the encirclement of German Army Group “B,” and fired several
rounds into the enemy pocket, the western boundary of which was the Rhine River.
In all, 323 rounds were fired by the battalion during the three days it
remained attached to the 8th Division Artillery.
The answer to the question as to when the battalion would
cross the Rhine was answered on March 28 when positions in Bruhl were vacated
and an assembly area at Fort Ehrenbreitstein on the east bank of the Rhine
opposite the city of Coblenz was occupied.
In reaching its destination, the battalion crossed the Rhine at Bad
Godesberg over a pontoon bridge, the span of which was 1,410 feet, and the time
of construction 16 hours and 45 minutes. During
its motor march south along the east bank of the Rhine en route to the assembly
area, the unit passed the famous Ludendorf Bridge, where the first crossing of
the Rhine took place between Remagen and Erpel.
The 724th F.A. Battalion remained at this assembly area two
days only, and on March 30 closed in another area at Dietkirchen, Germany.
The other elements of the 69th Division were assembled within a 30-mile
radius of this town, awaiting orders to move farther eastward.
The end of the month found the battalion still occupying this village,
where Easter Sunday was celebrated.
During the month of March, the second month of combat for
the battalion, a total of 2,568 rounds was fired, bringing the battalion total
to 5,206 for the period of February 12 to March 31, 1945.
A total of six different positions was occupied during the month, and a
distance of 100 miles covered between Krinkelt, Belgium, and Dietkirchen,
Presentation of the Purple Heart Award and Bronze Star
Award was made to several members of the battalion during the month.
Pfc. Ervin T. Best, Able Battery, was awarded the Purple Heart on March
15. The following men and officers
received the Bronze Star Award on March 21: Major W.A. Scoville, Major John F.
Porter, 1st Lt. Marvin S. Fineberg, 1st Lt. John H. Oesch, Cpl. John H.
Carringer, Cpl. Paul N. Adams, Tec. 5 Robert M. Inyart, Pfc. Wendell Clark, 1st
Lt. Denman H. Ayres and S/Sgt. David V. Ramsay received the award on March 22,
1945, while Tec. 5 Albert M. Talerico became a recipient of the decoration on
March 27, 1945.
The month of April was a noteworthy one for the 724th F.A.
Battalion in many respects. It was
during this month that the battalion drove deep into Germany after the
exploitation of the Remagen bridgehead by the First Army.
It was a month marked by sudden and repeated moves, by the capture of
numerous prisoners, by a vicious artillery duel with anti-aircraft guns at
Leipzig, and by the smashing of stubborn resistance in cities by heavy and
concentrated fire. The culminating
event was the linkup with the Russians by the 69th Division.
April 1 found the battalion in Dietkirchen, where it had
been waiting since March 30 to move eastward.
Armor of the First Army in the meanwhile was driving northeast toward
Kassel and forming the right pincers of the Ruhr pocket.
At midnight April 2, the battalion left Dietkirchen to move approximately
120 miles northeast to Anraff, where the battalion closed into an assembly area
the morning of April 3. Fifteen
prisoners of war were taken during this trip and upon arrival, bringing the
battalion total to 25. On the
morning of April 4, the battalion had its first close contact with the German
Air Force, when three Me 1109s flew low over the area and were fired on by AA
units attached to the battalion. Later
that same afternoon, the battalion closed into a position of readiness in
Phillipiendorf, while the battle for Kassel was still in progress.
On April 5, the battalion moved into position north of
Kassel at the town of Simmerhausen and prepared to support an attack of the
division across the Fulda River. The
mission was to give general support to the division and to reinforce the fires
of the 881st F.A. Battalion. The
9th Armored Division, which had spearheaded the drive to Kassel, now stopped to
be re-equipped and reorganized after the rapid drive from the Rhine.
The 69th was to cross the Fulda River and seize the important city of
Hann-Münden, where the Fulda and Werra rivers meet to form the Weser.
On April 6, elements of the 273rd Infantry Regiment
succeeded in crossing the Fulda at two points south of
Hann-Münden – one at Spele, the other at Wilhelmhausen.
There was no firing by the battalion on the 5th or 6th, as the crossings
were unopposed. The enemy, however,
was holding out at Hann-Münden and fought bitterly in the village of Lütterburg.
The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Gooch, and his reconnaissance party
were unable to get a position at Lütterburg, as bitter fighting continued there
until dark. By the morning of the
7th, however, the town had been cleared, and the battalion crossed the river at
Kassel and went into position prepared to support the attack along the Werra
On April 7, the battalion did its first firing since
crossing the Rhine on March 28. It
was on that morning that Lt. Oesch, forward observer with the 1st Battalion,
273rd Infantry Regiment, adjusted on a column of five enemy vehicles which was
moving slowly up the hillside on the north side of the Werra River valley.
The column, consisting of two 88s towed by armored halftracks, two trucks
and a staff car, had already been stopped by our tanks firing from the south
side of the river. The battery
concentration bracketed the stalled vehicles, though no direct hits were scored.
A total of 119 rounds was expended at Lütterburg, there being 26 rounds
spent in preparation, 28 rounds in counter-battery fire, 11 rounds in harassing
and interdictory fire, and 32 rounds on other targets.
The battalion did not remain long in Lütterburg, for that night, it
moved 5,000 yards farther east into the Kaufunger Wald, just outside of
In the meantime, the 1st Battalion of the 273rd Infantry
Regiment, on April 7, had crossed to the north bank of the Werra River opposite
Laubach and proceeded to clear the north bank and drive east.
By the 8th, it had reached Atzenhausen.
It was here that the battalion helped the infantry out of a tight spot by
forcing two Mark V tanks and supporting infantry to withdraw from their position
in the woods 1,800 yards south of the town.
The fire mission from Lt. Oesch was relayed by Lt. Col. Gooch, who at
that time was out on reconnaissance for positions on the north side of the Werra.
Forty rounds were fired on this target and 45 more rounds were later
placed in the woods just before the infantry moved through them in a night
On the morning of April 9, the battalion crossed to the
north side of the Werra River on a pontoon bridge at Witzenhausen and moved into
position at Marzhaüsen. The 2nd
Battalion, 273rd Infantry Regiment, had crossed the previous day at Hedemunden.
Now the mission of the 724th F.A. Battalion became that of general
support, reinforcing the fires of the 879th F.A. Battalion instead of the 881st
F.A. Battalion. No rounds were
fired at Marzhaüsen, but the battalion did take four more prisoners.
This was to become an increasingly regular occurrence, as the 9th Armored
Division, which was once more going to spearhead the advance, bypassed small
groups of enemy troops in woods and towns which were off the main roads.
Our rapid advance necessitated a displacement from Marzhaüsen,
and in the same afternoon, the battalion moved some 10,000 yards further east to
the town of Freinhagen. Eight more
prisoners were rounded up in the town square, bringing the total to 40.
Though there were no fire missions while at Freinhagen, excitement was
created when a PW reported that there were some 60 soldiers in a woods near
“C” Battery’s position that wanted to surrender, but two SS troopers would
not let them. A “task force” from the battalion was organized to
investigate, but in the darkness, no contact was made.
The 9th Armored Division was now driving east ahead of the
69th, which meant the 69th must become completely motorized if the foot troops
were to keep up with the rapid advance. It
was on April 10 that the battalion first carried infantrymen on its tractors and
trucks. Approximately 200
infantrymen were riding with the artillerymen when the battalion closed into
position at Wingerode shortly before midnight on April 10.
The apprehensive civilians of Wingerode were holding their hands in the
air when the advance party rolled into the village, for this was their first
sight of the “barbaric” Americans. Thirty-seven
more prisoners were taken here, bringing the total bag of PWs for the battalion
to 77, and one more town was added to the list of those “taken” by the
There was no firing from Wingerode, and on the morning of
April 11, the battalion rolled east once more in the wake of the advancing 9th
Armored Division. By 1800 that
night, the battalion was 35 miles further east and in position in the village of
Bushel. It was here that their FW
190s came out of the setting sun in a long glide.
All guns of “D” Battery, 461st AA Battalion, plus the battalion’s
50-caliber machine guns, opened up with such well-placed fire that the planes
veered away, and one was seen trailing smoke as it steadily lost altitude and
disappeared from view. It was later
reported that the plane crashed one mile outside of Buchel.
Buchel yielded the usual group of “Supermen,” bringing the total of
PWs captured by the battalion to 92.
No rounds were fired from Buchel, and the next morning,
April 12, Lt. Col. Gooch and his party left on reconnaissance for positions
farther east. That afternoon, the
battalion moved out of position, proceeded east through the Burgwenden Forest,
where Headquarters Battery captured 21 prisoners while the battalion was halted
in the woods. Later that afternoon,
Captain Dennis, while picking up route markers, captured 23 prisoners in this
same area, bringing the battalion total to 135. At approximately 1800, the battalion halted about one
kilometer east of Golzen and deployed along the road to await further orders.
Here, the battalion experienced again what was to be almost a regular
nightly occurrence – an attack by German planes.
Four Me 109s approached at an altitude of 1,000 feet and started to
circle for the attack. The crews of
the Bofors guns had their weapons in action in a matter of seconds, and in a
short time, effective rounds from these and the artillery’s 50-caliber machine
guns were bursting near the planes, which were driven off, but not before two
bombs were dropped about 350 yards from the nearest vehicle.
The battalion continued the march, and at 2200 that night, it closed in
Uichteritz, some three kilometers west of Weissenfels.
The main part of the city of Weissenfels was on the east
bank of the Saale River, and it was here the Germans were putting up a stiff
resistance in the heart of the city. Our
troops had cleared the west bank of the river and were preparing to attack
across it the next day. In
Uichteritz, two prisoners were taken but, more important, a small factory that
made machine gun pistols was overrun in “B” Battery’s area, and about 60
French, Polish and Russian slave laborers and PWs were freed.
There was no firing that night, but the next day, April 13, the battalion
dropped 191 rounds into the city, the principal targets being a factory and a
troop barracks. There was also one
smoke mission of 20 rounds and a counterbattery mission of 24 rounds.
Our infantry crossed the river about noon and worked their way into the
heart of the city and, though there was still stiff fighting in the city that
night, resistance was ended the next day.
The battalion was now to proceed eastward and become
engaged in the memorable Battle for Leipzig.
Since the bridge was blown at Weissenfels, the battalion had to retrace
its steps and cross the Saale River at Naumberg on the afternoon of April 14 and
proceed eastward. The 9th Armored
Division had bypassed Leipzig and driven east to the Mulde River, leaving
Leipzig and its ring of anti-aircraft guns to be taken by the 69th and 2nd
It was on the evening of the 14th that the battalion ran
head-on into the outer ring of depressed AA guns and suffered its first
casualties from enemy fire. At
1930, the battalion closed into position in the little village of Kitzen, which
was about 18 kilometers southwest of the heart of Leipzig.
It had the mission of general support and reinforcing the fires of the
879th F.A. Battalion, which was in position 6 kilometers south of Kitzen at
Stontzch. There were no elements of
friendly infantry in front of the battalion and none to the flank.
When Lt. Col. Gooch was informed over the radio in front of the battalion
by Lt. Psaltis, forward observer with the 3rd Battalion, 271st Infantry
Regiment, that they were going to attack Kitzen, he radioed back that the
battalion was going into position there.
At 1930 and while the howitzers were being prepared for
action, two air bursts from 88s cracked over “A” Battery’s position
without warning, and others followed in rapid succession. Upon Major Scoville’s suggestion that an observation post be
found near the command post, Lt. Col. Gooch, Major Scoville and Captain Wightman
ran to the third floor of the house opposite the command post, from where the
flashes of the enemy guns could be seen clearly across the flat farmland about
4,000 yards due east. Lt. Col.
Gooch began adjusting with “A” Battery immediately, and a voice relay was
used to get the commands to the Fire Direction Center across the street.
The gun crews of the battery worked quickly, and the adjustment was
swiftly completed. Major Scoville,
who returned to the observation post above the battalion command post, also
adjusted on the battery before dark. Captain
Dennis fired two missions from the third floor of the command post – one on
the enemy battery and another the next morning on a building housing enemy
troops. Before nightfall, a total
of 115 rounds was dropped on the dug-in battery of anti-aircraft guns, and they
did no more firing that night. “A”
Battery had three casualties: Sgt. Aycox, Pvt. McCabe, and Pfc. Lazorwitz.
Tec. 4 Calup of Headquarters was also hit.
That night, Lt. McCormick, battalion survey officer, set up
a short base to locate the enemy battery accurately in case they did any firing
during the night. Though there was
no firing during the night, excitement was provided when one of two German
prisoners attempted to escape in the darkness and was killed by rifle and
machine gun fire from the alert guards.
All was quiet that night, but the next morning, April 15,
at 0800, the enemy battery opened fire again and placed heavy and accurate
concentrations over and in “A” Battery’s position. Lt. Col. Gooch, who was at the command post at the time,
again adjusted on the guns, and an artillery duel followed, during which there
were times when both the guns of the battalion and the German guns were firing
at the same time. A total of nine
counter-battery missions was fired in the morning, during which time, 277 rounds
were dropped in the dug-in battery. The
enemy position was well-protected by troops dug in about the installations, and
these could be seen moving during lulls in the shelling.
A total of 90 rounds was effectively placed on these troops, and an
additional 39 rounds were fired on buildings in which enemy troops were seen.
Though the fire from our guns inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy,
our own battalion did not escape unscathed.
Lt. Fonde, S/Sgt. Gallager, S/Sgt. Mitchell, Pfc. Shayka, Pfc. Hurt, Pfc.
Fair, Cpl. Jensen, Pfc. Jarriel, Pfc. Tyndal and Pfc. Drew, all “A” Battery,
were wounded during the firing on April 15. Pvt. Basner, Headquarters Battery, Tec. 4 Stepch, Medic and Pfc. Marion of “A” Battery were
also hit. A half-track of “D”
Battery, 461 AA Battalion, was knocked out by a direct hit on the motor.
At 1000, “A” Battery moved to an alternate position at
Eisdorf, 1 kilometer west of Kitzen. While
at Eisdorf, “A” Battery received 20 more rounds from the enemy guns but
suffered no casualties. That
afternoon, the rest of the battalion moved and went into positions at Pegau, six
kilometers to the south.
The plan of attack was now changed, and the 2nd Division
took over the sector west of the Elster River.
The 69th had the area east of the Elster and was to attack to the north
toward Leipzig. At Pegau, the
battalion was in a position to fire north in support of the attack.
Its mission was to be in general support of the division and to reinforce
the fires of the 879th F.A. Battalion.
On the morning of the 16th, the 3rd Battalion of the 271st
Infantry Regiment attacked toward Rüssen, but met bitter opposition.
When Lt. Stubbs, liaison officer from the 879th F.A. Battalion, was
killed, Cpl. Turner, “C” Battery forward observer, took over his duties.
When Cpl. Turner was relieved by Lt. Psaltis, he returned immediately to
duty as forward observer. Our
troops were unable to get into Rüssen that day, but at 2100, a rolling barrage
was fired by the battalion, enabling the infantry to take the town without a
casualty. A total of 223 rounds was
fired on the 18th, including the rolling barrage of 54 rounds, 3 counter-battery
missions of 49 rounds, one harassing mission of 62 rounds on the town of Zwenkau,
and 63 rounds to support a counterattack.
On the 16th, the battalion was still within range of
Leipzig’s anti-aircraft guns, for that afternoon, two rounds of 88mm landed in
“B” Battery’s area, and four rounds hit in “C” Battery’s area, not
no one was injured. That evening,
“B” Battery displaced from the battalion and moved to a position at
Kieritzch, eight kilometers further east, to give added support to the 879th F.A.
On the next day, April 17, the 2nd Battalion, 271st
Infantry Regiment, captured Pulgar and then Zwenkau after a furious battle.
During this attack across the open fields, and in the face of leveled
anti-aircraft guns, close support was given the infantry by the battalion
through the forward observer, Lt. Fineberg.
The 3rd Battalion, 271st Infantry Regiment, attacked the town of Löbschutz
in the morning and succeeded in taking the town.
Heavy anti-aircraft fire, however, forced a withdrawal.
The battalion, through Lt. Psaltis, liaison officer with the infantry,
laid down a heavy preparation that night, and the town was re-taken.
During the afternoon, Lt. Parson, forward observer at Rotha, placed
effective fire on a battalion of 88s near Zwenkau and set fire to the ammunition
dump. A total of 224 rounds was
fired during the fighting on the 17th. There
were four counter-battery missions and one smoke mission.
Ninety-six rounds were poured into Zwenkau and Löbschutz, and six rounds
were used to knock out a machine gun nest.
It was now decided to attack Leipzig from the east, and in
conformity with this plan, the battalion on the 18th moved from its position
south of Leipzig to a position east of the city at Kleinposna.
The heart of the city, some 10,000 yards away, was within easy reach of
the battalion’s howitzers, and soon after they were in position, the battalion
was registered on the main railroad station by Lt. Rhoads, from the plane flown
by Lt. Visin. They were the only
rounds to be fired into Leipzig by the battalion.
The 1st Battalion, 272nd Infantry Regiment, whose forward observer was
Lt. Oesch, met no opposition warranting the fire of 155s, and by 2300 that
night, the battalion had driven to the main railroad station and was less than
300 yards from the No-Fire line set up to prevent our artillery from hitting the
2nd Division, which was advancing into the city from the west.
Later that night, the 1st Battalion, 272nd Infantry Regiment, contacted
the 2nd Division. Lt. Winter,
forward observer with the 273rd Infantry Regiment, which was going into the city
from the southeast, had no opportunity to adjust fire, as no suitable targets
The battalion remained in position on the 19th with its
guns still trained on Leipzig, but there were no fire missions.
The battalion was alerted to watch out for German soldiers attempting to
get out of Leipzig in civilian clothes and during the screening, two prisoners
were picked up, bringing the battalion total to 167.
On April 20, the battalion changed the direction of fire
from west to east and remained in a defensive position.
Special attention was paid to cleaning of material.
There were no fire missions.
The battle for Leipzig was now finished, and the battle for
Eilenberg was to begin. Eilenberg,
strategically located on the Mulde River, was strongly defended by an assortment
of German troops, police, and Hitler Jugend armed with machine guns,
panzerfausts and supported by some artillery and nebelwerfers on the east side
of the Mulde.
Late on the morning of the 21st, the battalion received
orders to displace immediately to Gostemitz to support the 1st Battalion, 271st
Infantry Regiment, in its attack on Eilenberg that afternoon.
The battalion closed into its new position at 1340 and, by midnight, had
fired a total of 473 rounds into the city, 341 of which were fired unobserved,
according to plan. The remainder of the fire was adjusted by Lt. Parson, who was
with “A” Company attacking from the south, and by Lt. Fineberg, who was with
“C” Company, which was attacking from the southwest.
The infantry met stiff opposition and did not get into the
town that night, and the next morning, the 22nd, the attack was resumed.
Three companies got into the western edge of town, but were unable to
make any headway into the town that day. A
total of 742 rounds was fired into Eilenberg by midnight of the 22nd, but the
enemy was not yet dislodged.
On the morning of the 23rd, the attack was resumed, and
three companies drove east through the city, block by block.
Lt. Parson and Lt. Fineberg were relieved in the late afternoon by Lt.
Oesch and Lt. Winter, respectively. By
nightfall, the town had been cleared to the Mulde River, and the infantry dug in
along its banks. A total of 563
rounds was fired into Eilenberg on the 23rd, and of those, 537 were fired by
plan to “level” that part of the town which was east of the creek running
through the center of town.
On April 24, the battalion received orders to move south to
Polenz, where it was to be in general support of the division and to reinforce
the fires of the 881st F.A. Battalion. It
closed into position that afternoon but did no firing.
About 2200 that night, the battalion was warned that it might have to
move back into its old position at Gostemitz to fire on Kultzchau, which was
across the river from Eilenberg. Lt.
Col. Dunlop, commanding the 1st Battalion of the 271st Infantry Regiment, had
issued an ultimatum to the commander of the German troops in Kultzchau that if
he would not surrender his garrison by midnight, the town would be leveled by
artillery. At midnight, orders were
received to move, and by 0300, the battalion was again into its old position
prepared to fire 1,000 rounds into Kultzchau.
The battalion was assigned a definite sector to “level”
in the city, and at 0600, the firing began.
By 0900, 393 rounds had been dropped into a small area, leaving only
rubble where formerly buildings had been. Lt.
Col. Gooch, who was at the observation post manned by Lt. Oesch, spotted foot
troops approaching a farmhouse on the other side of the Mulde and adjusted on
them with one battery, but the effect of the fire could not be determined.
Its mission of helping smash Kultzchau having been
completed, the battalion now returned to Polenz, site of one of the largest,
permanent airdromes in the Reich, whose field was littered by the fleeing
Germans. The battalion closed in
this position on the afternoon of the 25th.
Later that day, a tractor caught on fire and blew up with 18 rounds of
projectiles plus bazooka and small-arms ammunition. The tractor was destroyed, and a nearby house was set on
fire. Captain Diekman, battery
commander, was burned on his face, but there were no other casualties.
There was to be no firing by the battalion for the
remainder of April. Everyone was
now waiting for the linkup of the Russians and our forces.
It was reported that the German forces between the Elbe and the Mulde
were disorganized and in confusion. On
the 26th, the electrifying news was announced: An infantry patrol from the 69th
contacted the Russians at Torgau at 1640 on April 25 and returned with a Russian
officers and three enlisted men from the 58th Guards Division, part of Marshal
The division was now in a defensive position on the west
bank of the Mulde. The battalion on
the 26th and 27th had classes on security and stressed maintenance of equipment.
On the 28th, the division and the battalion were released
from V Corps and assigned to the VII Corps.
That afternoon, the battalion was informed that it was to be in charge of
the Allied Prisoner of War Camp, Camp DeWalde, at the Airdrome at Polenz, which
was established by the 69th Division to take care of the thousands of American,
British, French, Dutch and Polish prisoners of war who were now streaming across
the Mulde at Wurzen.
On the morning of the 29th, the battalion took over
operation of the camp from the 186th F.A. Battalion and moved to the PW camp,
where the howitzers were placed in a non-firing position.
The primary mission of the battalion was now to feed and house the Allied
PWs. The last day of the month
found the battalion applying itself energetically to its new job of caring for
the 9,248 Allied PWs under its care.
During the month of April, the third month of combat for
the battalion, a total of 4,200 rounds was fired, bringing the battalion total
to 9,406 for the period of February 12-April 30, 1945. The greatest number of rounds to be fired during any 24-hour
period was 893. This firing was
done at Gostemitz on the morning of April 25.
A total of 14 different positions was occupied and two of these were
occupied twice, at Polenz and Gostemitz, making a total of 16 moves.
A distance of 408 miles was covered from Dietkirchen to Polenz, Germany.
Excerpted from History of the 724th F. A. Bn.: From
22 Nov. 1944 to May 1945, by Lt. John Oesch and Lt. McCormick. pp. 6-22
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