Fortress Ehrenbreitstein - Festung Ehrenbreitstein
By Chet Yastrzemski
Co E 272nd Inf Rgt


     On March 27, 1945, Fortress Ehrenbreitstein fell into the hands of American soldiers for the second time in the 20th Century.   Details of the troops involved and the movement may be read in Unit Histories of the 272nd Inf Rgt beginning with the March 26, 1945 date. The historic factor of the conquest and the ceremony of the occasion is also spelled out there.

     The capture of the fortress was a historic occasion because it was here that the last American flag was lowered following the occupation of Germany after Word War 1. The flag was lowered on April 23, 1923, and the same flag was once again raised over the fortress on Army Day, April 6, 1945, as a symbol of the victorious return  of American troops to Germany. General Bradley, 12th. Army Group Commander and Major General Rheinhardt, 69th. Infantry Division Commander, presided over the ceremonies. 

     Two platoons were selected from various companies of the 272nd. & 273rd. Regiment. They were chosen in proportion as to their height and weight generally about 5 ft. 10 inches and about 150 lbs.. They were representatives of World War 2 as conquerors and received the colors from members of the 4th. Infantry Division, representitives of the occupation troops of the last war. Also present was a platoon of soldiers from the various infantry divisions in the European Theater Of Operations.

     John Westlake and I were chosen from Company E, 272nd. Regiment, for the ceremony. We had spent about one week in Bad Ems performing close order drill and other details pertaining to the flag raising ceremony. One bad aspect during the drill almost led to serious injury or death. During inspection arms phase one of our group forgot to clear his weapon and the rifle discharged narrowly missing one soldier in our group. We left Bad Ems by trucks for our trip to Koblenz.

      Fort Ehrenbreitstein sits very high upon a rock formation. Looking down from the fortress at the Rhine River is a scenic view of the area known as "Duetsches Eck." At this site is a statue with a soldier on a horse. At this time the head of the soldier was missing supposedly shot off by a artillery shell from our troops. When I returned to this fortress in 1965 the head was still missing from the statue. 

     This is a huge fortress and we were billeted in a former German Army barracks. One area of the fortress was underground and was being guarded by the Military Police. We were advised that it was off limits and that there were many paintings and other artifacts, including gold, that were stolen from other occupied countries and stored in this fortress.

We trained in close order drill for about four days in preparation for the flag raising ceremony. We were all issued new equipment including M1 rifles, steel helmets, cartridge belts, bayonets, combat boots, Ike jackets, shirts, ties and pants. We were also issued the Combat Infantry Badge probably the first to receive it in the division. During the ceremony we were guarded by military aircraft and 50. cal. machine guns were located on top of the buildings. We were reviewed by General Omar Bradley and General George Patton. 

     Upon my return to Company E I was glad to be back with our squad but sad to learn that during my absence three members of our squad had been wounded while crossing a open field to attack a position located on a high hill in a wooded area.


 As a member of the event we were all issued a Kaiser Wilhelm helmet with a spike on the top. They were to send it to our home address but sadly to relate mine never reached home. John Westlake was from Long Island about 45 miles from my home in Southampton and we were in the same squad of Company E. John spent 42 years in Dallas, Texas, then retired to Riverside, California. I spend my winter days in retirement in San Diego. Barbara and I have spent our last 15 years with the Westlake family at Christmas time at their home in Riverside. Sadly to say I lost my buddy 3 years ago but we still spend our Christmas Days with the Westlake family. Their two daughters and son, Drew, reside in California and Robert & Teed Westlake and Edward Sinayi live in Dallas. I have been back to Koblenz numerous times in past years to view the fortress from a distance but have managed to go back inside about four times during my seventh trip to a Tour Of Europe with members of the 69th. Division Association, the last one being in 2000. Shall I return to see the fortress one more time only God will predict that for me in future years.