Anti-Tank Company


Tactically, an Anti-Tank Company’s mission is just what the name implies – that is, to provide flank and rear protection for the Regiment.  Its 4th or Mine Platoon’s mission is to mark and breech enemy minefields and to clear roads before the advancing riflemen.  

Had the 272nd Infantry Regiment’s Anti-Tank Company worked according to the books, it would have done just that – but it was a different story for them.  Their Gun Platoons were found up forward with the Battalions, and when they were not used for that purpose, the Company as a whole became a highly mobile rifle unit.  The 4th Platoon not only marked and breeched minefields, but also cleared them. 

The landing on the shores of France – D Day Plus 221 – was an uneventful one.  All they knew was that Le Havre was a mere skeleton of a city, and the weather was freezing.  After spending some time in France, they went into the Ardennes preparing to move into the front lines.  There in that shell-shattered forest, they saw their first German soldier.  Fritz, the only occupant of the area, was definitely dead.  After everyone had looked at him, T 5 Joseph Marien, a former mortician, buried him, with “Chaplain” 1st Lt Kenneth M. Lemon officiating at the burial. 

On the line, things began to pop up, with the 1st Platoon claiming to be the focal point of a strafing attack by German-flown P-47s.  The 4th Platoon spent many hours clearing the extensive minefields of the Siegfried Line under fire.  It was there, clearing a minefield, that T Sgt Darwin H. Van Houton lost his foot when he stepped on a Schu Mine.  Sgt Van Houton, though painfully wounded, lay in the field instructing the men on how to probe their way to him.  Had Sgt Van Houton fallen differently from the way he did, his head would have been blown off.  Upon reaching him, Sgt Tony Concatelli and PFC Leon Hubermann, Medic, found a Schu mine less than two feet from his head. 

In their operations against the enemy, the 4th Platoon cleared numerous minefields, pulling well over 400 Holz (Anti-Tank) Mines and over 150 Schu (Anti-Personnel) Mines.  That action gave the members of the Platoon the honor of being one of the first units in the Regiment to receive the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.  When the Regiment moved up to the line, the Gun Platoons moved up, with the Battalions in close support.  The biggest thing there was the fake enemy counter-attack against the troops at Gescheid and Reischeid.  That night, men on guard had visions of enemy soldiers armed with knives, piano wire, and other forms of death-dealing equipment sneaking through the town looking just for them.  The mirage passed quickly. 

Meanwhile, in order to maintain our principal mission of Anti-Tank protection, Capt Harry G. Austin, Jr., organized a bazooka team within each Platoon.  This squad, made up of the three bazooka teams, a radio operator, a squad leader (Corporal), and the Platoon leader, was to proceed on foot with the Battalion that the Platoon was attached to, if the road conditions made it impossible to move guns and trucks. 

The taking of Dahlem was the testing ground for Capt Austin’s plan.  The enemy had blown a roadblock across the 1st and 3rd Battalions’ route of attack, so that trucks could not proceed.  Off the trucks went, eight men under the command of 2nd Lt James T. Hatcher, and joined the advance elements of the 3rd Battalion and marched into Dahlem.  As the 1st Battalion moved into Dahlem on the heels of the 3rd, another bazooka squad, under command of 1st Lt Kenneth M. Lemon, moved with them.  Not only the Gun Platoons played their part in this action, but also the 4th Platoon moved with the forward elements.  Reports stated that the enemy had probably mined the road through the forest, making it impossible for vehicles. Therefore, ahead of the troops, armed with M-1s and mine detectors, walked the Mine Platoon men under the able command of Sgt Paul L. McFadden.   

In Dahlem, the 1st Platoon of K Company, under command of T Sgt Frank Livers, was attached to Anti-Tank Company for training as an auxiliary Mine Platoon.  The Platoon was to be used to ease the strain on the 4th Platoon.  Shortly after joining, the heroic actions in the Battle of the Siegfried Line caused two members of the Platoon to be presented with the Silver Star and two others to receive the Bronze Star.  The Platoon left to rejoin Company K while in Osterfeld, Germany. 

From Dahlem, the Anti-Tank Company went on to the Rhine at Brohl.  Here they had the mission of protecting the Victor Bridge just above the Remagen Bridge. 

When Combat Team 272 went into action on the east side of the Rhine, the 4th Platoon again saw action.  This time, it was the clearing of Fortress Ehrenbreitstein, the last place the American flag was flown after the last war by the Army of Occupation. 

The way to Kassel was uneventful, except for one town, to which S Sgt Bruno J. Stefanoni brought in 183 prisoners (displaced personnel).  Now, he is known as “Sgt York” Stefanoni. 

Outside Kassel, the Gun Platoons followed in close support of the Battalions to Witzenhausen.  There, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Platoons went into the city to give close support to the two crossings of the Werra River.  The next morning, the Jerries opened up with self-propelled 88s on the infantry crossing the support bridge and sent the 3rd Platoon scurrying for foxholes.  Those who had none of these lovely items dug them very quickly.  On that day, it looked as though a shell had landed on top of Able Squad’s gun position; the shell landed close enough to shake in the sides of the foxholes.  T Sgt Robert Hegge took off to see what the score was.  Just as he got going at top speed, another shell came in.  They say that Sgt Hegge slid six feet when he hit the dirt. 

After leaving Witzenhausen, the Platoon went wild for prisoners, who were the order of the day.  In one town that was taken by the 1st Platoon, there was a Messerschmitt parts factory.  Three men, S Sgt Edward J. Oakley, Cpl Calvin Hine, and T 5 Charles Hawes, entered the factory and found in the main office a detonator wired to blow the building and surrounding area.  Cpl Hine disconnected the detonator at his own risk and prevented anyone from carrying out the order to blow the factory.  In that town, the 1st Platoon captured 15 prisoners, and PFC Leon Hubermann performed an amputation on a girl civilian whose leg had been shattered by our artillery. 

At Dobergast, the Company, with the rest of the Regiment, was strafed.  Through that action, a number of Purple Hearts were earned by members of the Company.  One man was seriously hurt and, now well on the way to recovery, Pvt Melvin Keller has not yet returned to the Company. 

From Dobergast, the Company moved into the attack of Leipzig.  The next day, the Company, acting as a Regimental spearhead, took the town of Otlerwisch, capturing 31 prisoners. 

From there, the Company went to Borsdorf, which was captured by the 1st and 3rd Platoons.  They stayed there until the Regiment moved against Leipzig. 

Before moving into Leipzig, 1st Lt John R. Kemper, Sgt Herbert Bodman, T 5 Unno Gustafson, T 5 Eldrige Killen, PFC David Ballon, and PFC Rufus Adams set out to capture an SS Trooper and an enemy Pak gun on the Reichsautobahn north of Borsdorf.  The gun had pulled out, but they did get the SS Trooper after a climaxing firefight. 

In Leipzig, the 2nd Platoon under the command of 2nd Lt Robert Hennessy followed F Company in close support.  The Platoon captured over 100 prisoners, among them SS Troopers. 

Throughout this, PFC Edward Adamy, acting as radio operator, maintained radio communication with both 2nd Battalion and Anti-Tank Company.  The 1st and 3rd Platoons followed, giving Anti-Tank support to the reserve Battalions. 

Anti-Tank Company figured in the Regiment’s historic meeting with the Russians.  In Torgau, the Germans had laid mines to prevent troops from reaching the Elbe.  These were cleared by joint action of the 1st Battalion’s A & P Platoon and the 4th Platoon of Anti-Tank Company. 

When the Regiment moved to Mockrehna, the Company moved up to provide an anti-tank security net.  While there, the 3rd Platoon captured 67 prisoners and captured and destroyed five enemy 20-mm Anti-Aircraft guns.  The 2nd Platoon at Grafendorf patrolled the area averaging 20 prisoners each day. 

The members of the Anti-Tank Company are proud to have been a part of and to have fought with the Battle Axe Regiment of the Fighting 69th Division throughout this series of campaign.  The men know that their Company will go down in the pages of military history as a hard-fighting, hard-hitting, and fast-moving Combat Team.