( Click on the small pictures to view them full size.)
(Turn up your sound to hear a medley of patriotic songs.)
Major General Emil F. Reinhardt
Brigadier General Robert V. Maraist
Col. Henry B. Margeson Col. Walter D. Buie
Col. Charles M. Adams
271st Infantry Regiment   272nd Infantry Regiment 273rd Infantry Regiment
Leaving Camp Shelby
On the 31st day of October 1944, the first contingent of the 69th Division left Camp
Shelby for the staging area. Some knew where we were going - most of the men did not.
Throughout the train ride, you could hear this question: "I wonder where we're going?"
Through familiar railroad stations we passed, rolling on to our destination. Finally, we
thought it might be New York. It wasn't, but it was close. Camp Kilmer, New Jersey,
where no sooner had we taken off our packs before we found ourselves going through the
routine of processing for overseas shipment. Processing was carried on with speed and
efficiency, so that soon we were on passes - New York, Washington, anywhere within our
time limit of 12 to 24 hours. Then the order, "No more passes." We knew that our time
in the good ole USA was running out. Get ready now - we're going over!
15 Nov. to 15 Dec. 1944
How quickly time passed at Kilmer. It seems that we had no sooner arrived there than we
were leaving again. This was it - the New York Port of Embarkation. The first troops
departed 15 Nov. 1944 on the MS John Ericsson and the SS Santa Maria. The ocean
voyage, who can forget it! Those hearty sailors who stood on the deck and said, "Boys,
this is the life," were stared at by those poor souls whose eyes, reflecting murder, bulged
from a pale green countenance. For about 15 days, we lived in spite of everything as only
the Army can live at sea. Remember the cheers on the boat when it was announced that
England was our destination - and England it was.
The forward elements of the Division arrived in Southampton, England, about 1 Dec. -
the remainder about 15 Dec. 1944. England proved to be a land of many interests - not
too much unlike life in the States. Yes, they drove on the wrong side of the road, but we
got used to that. It wasn't too long before we were, more or less, comfortably situated in
the billets. Passes were in effect, and many had the opportunity to see London and other
places of interest - old in the traditions of England. Many pleasant memories remain of
England. The English people had suffered and knew we were soon to suffer, so a smile
and a warm handclasp was ever ready for the American soldier. Here again we trained.
Hikes kept us hard. Lectures on uniforms and equipment of the German Army, range
practice firing where we zeroed in our rifles for the last time, where the artillery with the
infantry cannon companies took off the last rough edges - these busied us. We unpacked
our cargo, unpacked our equipment and made it ready for the final test. No one knew but
it might be soon, for von Rundstedt had broken deep into our lines and the Battle of the
Bulge was raging.
Miles upon miles from home, from our families - sure, we were homesick, but others in
England were homesick, too. Little children, who had been bombed out, and the soldiers
got together and had Christmas parties. If those children had as much fun at the parties as
the soldiers, then they surely had a wonderful time. But the Christmas Day was marred
because the Division received orders to furnish 2,200 men as reinforcements to leave
immediately. So it happened that many soldiers whose hands a few hours before held the
hand of a little child, now held a rifle ready to go to the front.
In Winchester, England, where was stationed Division Headquarters and some of the
units of the Division, stood many historical landmarks - the Cathedral, the Church of St.
Cross, Guildhall, King Arthur's Round Table, Old West Gate, etc. Winchester was the
ancient capital of England. It is steeped in legend and tradition. There stands the
beautiful Winchester Cathedral, built in 1079. Time moved backward, and history
seemed to march before you when you entered the portals and stood within. After a tour
of this majestic structure, no doubt many wondered what stories would be told, could
these stones but speak.
Somewhere in England, once again the Division was sending out men as reinforcements.
A long trip by truck through the snow and cold to an airfield to await transportation by air
to the front. At the airfield, the ever-ready Red Cross Clubmobiles set up, ready to serve
these hundreds of men hot coffee and donuts, which was like a gift from heaven after that
long, cold ride. As they passed through the donut line, they filed into a large auditorium
to hear General Reinhardt, who, but a few hours before, had been their Commanding
"Attention" was called as the General made his entrance on the stage. The General began
to speak - his voice unsteady with emotion. He told them how proud he and all the rest of
the Division felt to have served with them and how much sorrow was felt that they were
leaving our team. He told them he was not afraid for them, because they had proved in
training that they had learned their lessons well, but urged them to make sure that in the
heat of battle those lessons learned were not forgotten. The General's words brought out
the point that our loss of so many fine fighting men would be another's gain, and that
some day, perhaps sooner than we expected, we might find ourselves again fighting
together shoulder to shoulder although not in the same unit, but in the same army, against
the same foe and toward the ultimate goal - Victory over Germany.
England to France
Alert! Now we were leaving England - bound for France across the historic body of
water, the English Channel. We thought we were crowded coming from USA to
England, but on this trip, we felt that sardines had nothing on us. Man, it was cold! The
thought of reaching the shore of sunny France appealed to us. On the average, most of us
made the trip in about 20 hours to land at LeHavre, France.
23 Jan. 1945
This was France - what a mess! LeHavre looked as if some giant hammer had been
pounding upon it. In spite of all the destruction, the harbor was a busy place - ships
everywhere. They were moving men, supplies, trucks, artillery - all the vital necessities
of waging war. We wondered how they could keep it all straight. Those who were riding
the trucks drove right out of the ships, formed into convoys and moved on. The infantry,
loaded down with their equipment, marched through what seemed to be an endless street
into a railroad station. We boarded Army Pullmans called in France the "40 & 8s." Sunny
France - what stuff! Beaucoup snow, and so cold that the proverbial brass monkey had at
least one ear frostbitten. But finally the trip was over, and we arrived at our various
destinations in the area of Forges les Eaux, which was the Division Command Post (CP).
The artillery landed at LeHavre and moved to Normanville. The 69th Division was now
Forges Les Eaux
From Forges les Eaux, the Division moved to the vicinity of Liesse, France, arriving there
on 2 Feb. 1945, and on 9 Feb., the Division was poised in assembly areas in the vicinity
of Montenau, Belgium, awaiting orders to effect the relief of the 99th Division in the
Siegfried Line. The area around Montenau and the assembly areas of infantry and
artillery all bore the signs, "heavy fighting," because this was the area through which the
Battle of the Bulge had raged. Discarded, destroyed equipment lay about. The signs
"Minen" were all about, reminding one to walk and drive carefully. Here we saw our first
German dead - there were many of them. The stay of the troops in the assembly areas
was very short, and on 10 Feb., the first elements of the division started moving into the
By the evening of 12 Feb. 1945, the infantry and artillery of the 69th Infantry Division
had completed the relief of the 99th Division. The 271st Regt. on the north, 273rd Regt.
on the south, and the 272nd Regt. in reserve. Division artillery in support. The move
was completed, and the Division CP was set up in Murringen, Belgium.
This was Germany - this was the infamous Siegfried Line. Some of the positions
occupied by the infantry and artillery were in the pillboxes themselves. The roads were
muddy and rough. It rained and it snowed. The enemy harassed us with artillery,
screaming meemies. Life here at the front was anything but pleasant. The division held
its positions in the line from 10 Feb. until 27 Feb. During this period, intensive patrolling
was carried out, locating the disposition of the infantry units, support given by the
artillery; the action of the services of supply and communications in the division was
highly commendable. It proved, beyond doubt, that our training had been well done. We
had a good team.
On the morning of 27 Feb. 1945, the 69th Division attacked with the 271st and 273rd
Regiments abreast and the 272nd in reserve, with the mission of seizing and holding the
high ground between Honningen and Gescheid. In the north, the objective had been
taken by 0900; in the south, the objective was taken by 1100, and six towns had been
overrun: Honningen, Buschem, Dickerscheid, Gescheid, Rescheid and Oberreifferscheid.
This was where our training with the artillery ensured the quick success of the infantry.
For months in the States, we had trained with the close support of artillery. Now we had
plenty, 15 battalions in all. The artillery sure sounded good going over to the Germans.
Attached to the Division at this time was the 661st Tank Destroyer Battalion, which did a
marvelous job of supporting in the initial attack and continued to do the same job in our
battle across Germany.
PAST THE SIEGFRIED LINE
On 6 March 1945, patrols reported evidences of withdrawal of the enemy. V Corps was
called, and permission was granted to initiate an advance to maintain contact. All three
regiments were ordered to advance. It was soon evident that the enemy was withdrawing
rapidly, but they left mined roads and roadblocks with small delaying parties. The big
problem was communications and roads. The Germans had effectively blocked the one
good road in the Division zone of advance. Everything they did not want to carry with
them was used to block our advance. The advance, in spite of obstacles, however, was
rapid. From the starting position of our advance, along the line Honningen-Gescheid, the
Division moved 18 kilometers to the east, passing through approximately 300 pillboxes.
Forty-two towns were overrun during this drive, the largest being Schmidtheim and
Dahlem. Approximately 200 prisoners had been taken. On 7 March, the Division CP
was set up in Schmidtheim.
As the Division completed its assembly in the area about Schmidtheim, history was being
made approximately 40 miles to the east along the Rhine River. On the 8th of March,
1945, the Ludendorff Bridge across the river had been captured intact. Streams of men
and equipment were pouring through across the Rhine to establish the Remagen
Bridgehead. The Division, however, remained in this area to reorganize, rest, service our
equipment. Critiques were held on the conflict we had just gone through in order to
correct some of the errors which had been brought out. In addition, the area to which we
had been assigned was patrolled, searched for supply dumps and ammunition and
equipment the Germans left behind in their retreat.
Roadblocks were set up to screen and process civilians, for here we saw the first instances
of Germans attempting to drop out of life by merely changing into civilian clothes. Our
stay in this area was brightened somewhat by the fact that we were able to locate and
liberate supplies of excellent Rhine wine. Shortly orders came down directing us to move
up to the Rhine and relieve the 2nd Division and to take over the mission of protecting
the bridge area in the V Corps zone. The movement started east toward the Rhine on the
21st of March. Part of our division artillery, however, had already preceded us and was
serving as additional artillery battalions in support of the Remagen Bridgehead.
CROSSING THE RHINE
From the 8th of March up until the time of our own crossing, the entire western front had
moved up to the eastern shore of the Rhine River. The Ludendorff Bridge had collapsed,
but before its collapse, bridges had been built across to facilitate the movement of troops
and supplied with the expanding of the Remagen Bridgehead.
On the 26th of March, the 272nd Regiment was made into a task force called CT 272
(Combat Team 272) and crossed the Rhine. The vehicles of CT 272 crossed Victor
Bridge at Niederbreisig; foot elements were ferried across in assault boats. To make up
the task force, the 3rd Battalion was detached, plus the following elements: 1st Battalion,
273rd Infantry; 406th Artillery Group, 955th Field Artillery Battalion, 879th Field
Artillery Battalion; Company B, 661st Tank Destroyer Battalion; Company B, 369th
Medical Battalion; 2nd Platoon, Company D, 369th Medical Battalion; 269th Engineer
Battalion; 102nd Cavalry Squadron with 2 Ranger Battalions attached; 62nd Field
Artillery Battalion and the 777th Tank Battalion. This formed a combat team of 6,000
officers and enlisted men. The plan of operation was for the task force to start from
Volandar, then to drive east and south to the southern border of the V Corps zone. After
the task force had advanced to the Corps' southern boundary, the remainder of the
Division was sent across the Rhine.
In the zone of the task force's operation stood the famous fortress - Ehrenbreitstein. On
27 March 1945, this fortress fell once again into the hands of American soldiers. The
capture of the fortress was an historic occasion because it was here that the last American
flag was lowered following the occupation of Germany after World War I. The flag was
lowered on 23 April 1923, and it was planned to have that same flag raised over the
fortress on Army Day, 6 April 1945, as a symbol of the victorious return of American
troops to Germany.
There is, on our team, a group of men all too often under-publicized. They are the men
who, in the face of withering fire, have gone forth to give aid to our wounded. Through
long hours, bearing the same privations and hardships, receiving the same wounds,
sometimes paying the supreme sacrifice so that others might live, they have played their
part in our history. This group is well known to all soldiers as the "Medics."
Beyond the Rhine
On 28 March, the Division began to move forward again. Its mission was to follow the
Corps' south boundary. The Corps was proceeding due east, and it was to turn northeast.
The 9th Armored was in the lead, with the 2nd Division behind it. The 69th Division
followed, protecting the Corps flank and mopping up. The route followed generally the
Lahn River. The Division CP was for a time at Bad Ems. Little resistance was
encountered during this period.
On 5 April, the Division moved into Kassel and relieved the 80th Division. The Corps'
plan was for the 69th and 2nd Divisions to attack abreast, then pass the 9th Armored
Division through us. On the night of 5 April, the heavily defended city of Hann Münden
was attacked, and at 2049 on 7 April, the town had been seized. We now began to move
east rapidly. Our forces had broken into the open. It must be close to the end, but these
thoughts were driven from us as the 271st Regiment was slowed and stopped at
Weissenfels. The battle began on 12 April, and on the afternoon of 13 April, the town
had been declared cleared, and the armor and infantry rolled on.
On April 16, the 273rd Infantry captured the town of Colditz and liberated Colditz Castle,
freeing many Allied prisoners.
Prisoners - everyone took prisoners - the infantry, artillery, service elements, headquarters
units, the tanks and tank destroyers, found themselves facing large groups of Germans
who gave up without a shot. So many different units were among the identifications -
Germans from the Navy, from the Air Force, from veterinary companies, from schools -
every possible unit in the German armed forces was found in this conglomeration. Hitler
was not scraping the bottom of the barrel any more - he had trouble finding the barrel.
The hint of Victory was unmistakably in the air.
Observation Posts (OPs) are always valuable; they are our eyes, but one of the best eyes
we had was our air OPs. They brought targets to the artillery, information to the infantry.
They were those kites with a washing-machine motor, the Grasshoppers.
BATTLE FOR LEIPZIG
The Corps Commander planned for us to come in from behind and drive from the east to
the west after the armor swept to positions north and east of the city from which they
could block reinforcements. The 271st Infantry Regiment, in accordance with the plans,
swung wide behind the armor and went into position generally north of an east-west line
running through the center of the city. The 272nd Regiment was to swing into position
south of the northern regiment so as to drive into the city in a northwesterly direction.
The 273rd Regiment, which was already fighting on the south of the city, was to continue
its advance to the north.
It soon became apparent that the 273rd Regiment, south of Leipzig, was meeting
substantial opposition. The Germans had arranged the defenses of the city for an attack
from the south and east. They had hundreds of 88-mm anti-aircraft (AA) guns in our
The attack on the city began at 1245 on 18 April without artillery preparation. It soon
became apparent that the Germans would fall back into the main part of the city. The two
task forces were organized using tank destroyers and tanks from the 661st Tank Destroyer
Battalion and the 777th Tank Battalion. The infantry was to ride on the vehicles. At
1500 on the 18th, these task forces attacked. By 2100, they had reached their objectives
in the heart of the city. The two main points of opposition in the city were the railroad
station (the largest in Germany) and the "Battle of the Nations Monument" or Napoleon's
Monument. Both were massive structures built of heavy masonry and stone from which
artillery shells actually bounced. By 0800 on 19 April, these two points of opposition had
been cleared, and the city of Leipzig had fallen.
Six hours after Leipzig had fallen, the Division was on the move again to the east. This
time, with the mission of relieving the 9th Armored Division and securing the east bank
of the Mulde River. Little opposition was met throughout the Division zone, except at
Eilenburg in the extreme north of the Division's zone. This proved to be one of the
toughest fights of the Division. On the 21st day of April, the 271st Infantry attacked
Eilenburg. This fight became an artilleryman's dream. Victory over Germany seemed
too near to lose too many men, so the decision was made to pour on the artillery. More
than 10,000 rounds of white phosphorus and high explosive were fired into the city. The
city was flattened. On 23 April, Eilenburg had been taken, and the Division held the
Mulde River within its zone.
While positions were being established along the east side of Mulde River, patrols
constantly crossed the river in hopes of meeting the Russians. Excitement ran high as the
rumors of the possible meeting of the Russians spread throughout the area. For several
days, there was little activity outside of patrolling. Orders were issued to fire only on
targets that were unmistakably German. Another indication of the juncture with the
Russians was the steady stream of German prisoners coming into our lines to evade
capture by the Russians.
On the afternoon of 25 April 1945, a patrol of 11 men led by Lt. Albert L. Kotzebue of
the 273rd Infantry Regiment made the historic contact at Leckwitz on the Elbe River with
the 58th Guard Division, 34th Corps, General Jadov's 5th Ukrainian Army, Marshal
Koniev's First Ukrainian Front (click on LINKUP above or on this website's "East Meets West" button
for more details of patrol meetings and map). History had been made - the great Soviet
Army and the Allied Army had joined. Germany had been cut in two. Victory could be
only a few days off.
May 8, 1945 - Simultaneously, at the capitals of the three major powers, the
announcement was made - "V-E Day" - the end of the War in Europe. V-E Day came to
us causing mixed emotions, but actually no wild celebrations, because it was just another
step toward the end of War all over the world. We asked the questions, "What now,
occupation?" "The South Pacific - and how soon?"
Killed in Action: 341   Wounded in
Action: 1, 146 Died of Wounds: 42
The 69th and "The Battle of the Bulge"
Many 69ers and family members
believe the 69th Infantry Division was in the famous "Battle of
the Bulge," but it was not.
69ers and family members think the 69th Infantry Division was in the famous
Battle of the Bulge, Nazi Germany's last big effort to stem the advance of the
Allies. But although some 69ers may have been in the Battle of the Bulge, the
Division as a whole was not a part of it.
The 69th began training at Camp Shelby in the
early summer of 1943 and departed for overseas in October 1944. During this
period, thousands were trained and sent to other Units as replacements to
Divisions that may have been in the Bulge fighting. Some of these replacements
were in the 69th, even though they didn’t depart overseas with it, and these
soldiers may have been in the Bulge fighting during its short but devastating
period, but with another Division.
The Battle of the Bulge took place between Dec 16,
1944, and January 25, 1945. The 69th began to arrive in England in December
1944. On December 25, 1944, the 69th was called on to furnish 2,200 men as
replacements for battle-worn and decimated Divisions in the Bulge fighting.
Some of these men, and others, may have returned to or been transferred the
69th after the Bulge was over - and of they course could lay claim to being in
the battle, but not as a member the 69th. There were many replacements to the
69th from battle-rested Divisions as the 69th moved across Germany to its
final meeting with the Russians on April 25, 1945.
The infantry regiments were the frontline troops.
The 69th was comprised of three regiments - 271st, 272nd 273rd. The Unit
histories of these regiments written immediately after VE Day (May 9, 1945)
show the 271st assuming position on February 10, and the 272nd and 273rd on
February 12. Therefore, we can see that the 69th Infantry Division itself did
not participate in the Battle of the Bulge.