103D INFANTRY DIVISION
Attack and Pursuit
19. An Old Wagon-Train Goes To Hell
After the very busy and stressful hours and first days of the massive attack, each of the regiments and their combat support units, including OUR MEN, forced the Germans back on a broad front and aggressively pursued them. We would be passing again through some of the same villages we had abandoned to the Germans when we had moved northward to support the fighting in the Bulge.
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Saturday, March 17, 1945 - Gumbrechtshoffen
(Moder River) Awakened at 5 a.m. to go on duty on Division Command Net shortly after hotcakes chow. We got ready to leave again. Obermodern and Zutzendorf pretty intact, but Mulhausen was the worst since St. Die! The town, completely leveled, was the worst with dead Germans and livestock lying around. Next came the smoking ruins of Vhrweiller, destroyed by artillery. Everywhere are huge shell holes and the fields sown with mines. There are World War I-type trenches and underground fortifications. Even the forests are torn down with explosives. Many trees have charges on them that just didn't go off. Just before we got to Gumbrachtshoffen we got into a traffic jam and had to wait for 410th Front-bound vehicles to pass. While waiting, I noticed a strange sight on a chimney top (about all that was left of the town). Two storks were perched up there, unconcerned about it all! Found "J" Area amidst half frames of destroyed houses and bricks and rubble were strewn everywhere. Found radio area, helped set up radio control system and sent a message to the now-moving Task Force. After chow we found a room in a not-too-badly-destroyed house. Terrific stream of trucks and armor moving up and there are few civilians left in town. Only the church seems intact - or with just a roof hit.
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS: MARCH 18, 1945 GUMBRECHSHOFFEN 8 HOURS
Sgt. Jones' wire team had a very difficult time laying wire into this town. We moved dragging our wires behind us in the morning and worked all day putting wire into the wirehead board and in the afternoon took off for the next town in a hurry to follow the action.
MARCH 19, 1944 GUNDERSHOFFEN 6 HOURS - We had been here several months before and the town looked almost the same except for the damage possibly caused by a German counter-attack when they reclaimed the town, or the attack earlier today when our troops moved back in. The place that we had stayed in briefly before did not exist any more. An artillery shell had wiped it out. We waited until about 2 AM for engineers to clear mines from a blown road block or something.
MARCH 19 WOERTH 1 NIGHT - We laid wire into this town just an hour or so after it had been cleared and so we were rather jumpy.
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Sunday, March 18, 1945 - Woerth
Up at 6:30 to move once more. Wandered around the wreckage, picking up a few souvenirs. I noticed an amazing sight. One wall of an otherwise demolished building had two Holy pictures with glass intact, straight and unscratched! We crossed several streams, including the Moder River, on the well-constructed Bailey bridges. We went through Gundershoffen (pretty well destroyed). We passed nearly-destroyed factories, dug-in-trenches, artillery and bomb craters, and demolished forests.
Reichoffen (we were there before) was pretty well preserved. There was still some red German wire along the way (fast retreat). The scenery is beautiful with green, rolling land, evergreen-covered hills and purple mountains in the background. We pulled into Woerth and set up just off the main drag, not far from the depot. Saw the main Woerth cathedral with its tall spire. There was also a WW I tomb of an unknown soldier. Off in the distance a pretty town on a hill. Time to wash, shave and chow before another move. Lots of supplies and armor - and infantry pouring through Woerth to the north. We left at dusk in convoy - through a valley between mountains. The Saver River is to our left. We passed the small junction of Statmatt and continued on up the valley past marching 410th Infantry (now in reserve).
Heard the 411th Inf. entered Germany at 3 p.m. today.
No C.P. when we got to Lembach, so we lay around and were entertained by
infantry jokes. Got a room and set up the AAW Net - sleep in a very
OUR MEN: "SMITTY"
On the 13th of March moved to Bouxwiller, and on the 19th we returned to Woerth. This time "our" tavern was occupied by another unit and we were obliged to set up on the edge of town.
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Monday, March 19, 1945 - Lembach, France
Lembach extends along a highway and a swift-flowing creek. Not the farmer type, but a higher economic level live here. A multi-spired cathedral was almost undamaged. We could see ripples in distant clouds caused by explosions Up Front. There were many bombers and fighters overhead. We had roast beef chow down near Winger Junction. On radio duty and helped a friend distribute mail and rations.
Tuesday, March 20, 1945 - Lembach
We hiked the length of town for great pancake breakfast. Hiked over the creek bridge to look at the homes. They are two-story, red-roofed and joined together on a narrow, winding street that ends up in a courtyard or dead end. Had a very good piece of apple pie by the owner of the house in "J" Area. He speaks good English and was a former chef at the Ambassador Hotel in New York. The 3rd and 7th Armies are near a junction, and the 103d Division is about 7 km inside Germany, and meeting terrific resistance by well-prepared Siegfried Line defenses. A welcome letter from home finally caught up today.
Wednesday, March 21, 1945 - Lembach - Spring Arrives
On duty from 1 to 7 a.m. A Task Force started out this morning with one of our radio trucks. They are shelling our Advance C.P. at Bobenthal with 88 fire. Corporal LIGHT gave me a haircut. Overcast day. Doubled back on night radio shift.
Thursday, March 22, 1945 - Lembach - Sleep all mixed up with day and night radio shifts. Took a dusty walk to depot at the other end of town. Sat down under a tree and felt good for a change. A farmer was hoeing up his garden and a cub plane (artillery) landed on a nearby hillside. Tall pines wave in the breeze and a creek sparkles in the sun. A shower felt great for a change and wrote letters in the "J" Area house. We got ready for a move soon - and maybe that's why I didn't sleep well.
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS - MARCH 20 LEMBACH 2 NIGHTS
While the boys were out asking people if they had an extra room for seven men, Bill found a whole house that was ready for living and not a soul was in it. We moved in. The German (?) folks showed up the next day and we asked them in, but made them toe the mark. (Apparently we are not in Germany yet. This type of joint tenancy and treatment of the citizens seems unusual.)
OUR MEN: EVANS
There were brisk fire fights for Lembach, Wingen, Climbach, all familiar to the 411th, and then into Germany at the same place where we went in back in December. Bobenthal was rough once more and then defenses stiffened in the Siegfried Line. The 411th bogged down in sharp fighting near Nieder Schlettenbach. Casualties were high.
One pillbox in that area was particularly troublesome.
It was located where artillery could not get to it. It was so tough that
a tactical air strike was called in. After it was softened up by
bombs that did little physical damage but shook up the defenders, infantrymen
were preparing to assault the pillbox with satchel charges.
General McAuliffe, and other officers who, no doubt, included Col. Yeuell, had come up to see how the attack on this troublesome strong point was going. McAuliffe stepped out from behind a tree for a better look. Suddenly, about a dozen Wehrmacht soldiers ran out of the bunker waving white flags. They ran right up to McAuliffe and surrendered to him giving further credence to his reputation as a hands-on commander. It was another boost for morale. Men are more willing to follow a leader who leads than a leader who stays behind and pushes, although there are many who would criticize him for unnecessarily endangering himself in that manner.
OUR MEN: JONES, BOYS - MARCH 21 BOBENTHAL, GERMANY 6 HOURS
This is our first wirehead setup in Germany and a lot of work on another traffic control line. We had just finished our line and got back to shelter when Sgt. FRAZIER, our section chief, took off on one of his big deals to lay a lot of wire with all of the wire teams working together.
We laid the wire out as fast as possible and two or three teams
policed it off the roads and into the fields, bushes, or trees. The rest
of the boys went along in front of the truck as a security patrol - indeed
We got into the town of RIESDORF about 4 AM and just hit the sack when we got up again - more tired than ever.
MARCH 22 KLINGENMUNSTER 9 NIGHTS - This was a period of high adventure and drama. The German forces were fighting back at our hard driving advance and it created chaotic conditions for all of us - lots of destruction, pain, suffering, death, injuries to men and animals. We had encounters that were almost exactly like experiences from World War One or possibly the Civil War.
It was a hot dry day and we had been laying wire since before breakfast (such as it was) after a rough night and the only thing that kept our minds off the drudgery of it all was that we were passing more battle scenes and equipment than we had passed in a long time.
Our task force had overtaken a retreating horse drawn artillery battalion and had scattered and destroyed it completely in a moving action through a beautiful river valley where the road was just a little higher than a broad meadow and a stream that ran through it. The German unit was composed of about 600 men, 100 wagons, several hundred horses and many horse drawn canons. The wagons were all kinds, flat beds, water wagons, covered wagons, etc.
They carried everything needed for a self sustaining artillery battalion - food, ammunition, repair parts, hay, blacksmith, wagon repair, and covered wagons emblazoned with red crosses for ambulances.
One of these ambulance wagons was at the rear of the column that had been overrun and so it was one of the first that we saw. It had apparently been attacked and hit by an advancing tank's cannon.
The wagon was broken and collapsed in its middle with medical equipment scattered about and mixed in with the remains of several horses and men with their personal equipment. It was a very gory scene but so unusual and surprising because this may have been the first time we had seen such outdated equipment, all of which was so well maintained.
The ambulance was out in open country away from the river valley. That made it much more startling and dramatic. In addition to that, the fact that the Germans were still using almost the same horse-drawn units that had been common in WWl was a surprise to us.
When we moved on up into the valley, we could see the terrible results of the task force overtaking the horse drawn equipment.
Apparently one of the leading elements of the attack was a tank with a bulldozer blade attached that had been able to push most of the equipment, wagons, horses, men and other debris off the road and into the meadow so that our advancing vehicles and equipment could get past. The valley by the side of the road was full of equipment, guns, supplies and horses some of whom were moving about apparently unhurt, but many were dead or dying. We slowly moved past mile after mile of this awful destruction until we were almost in the town at the upper end of the valley, Klingenmunster. There in the road was a Sherman Tank that had been painted white for fighting in the snow and in spite of a previous period of warm weather and relative combat inactivity, had not been repainted to be less conspicuous. It had been hit by a German Panzerfaust (Bazooka-like anti-tank weapon) and had one of its tracks blown off and was disabled. The tank was partially burned from the explosion. The crew, in attempting to escape, had been killed. They were draped on the turret or lying near the tank on the road. There had not been an opportunity yet to carry them away.
OUR MEN: EVANS
Elsewhere, on the right flank of the 103d Division's sector,on March 22, 1945, the 409th Infantry, after four days of hard fighting around Reisdorf suddenly broke clear through the Siegfried Line. In that action, the 103d Division Artillery had a field day. They caught an enemy column of 500 German vehicles fleeing the Siegfried Line for the Rhine River and inflicted immense damage as accurate fire was directed by liaison planes.
They also smashed several smaller columns bringing the total to 600 vehicles. Doughs of the 409th piled on tanks and an ad hoc task force, "Task Force Rhine" was organized to exploit the breakthrough and push all the way to the Rhine.
The 411th Regiment that had been on the Division's left flank, moved through the 410th's zone and quickly caught up with the 409th.
As the 411th, now sandwiched between the 409th and the 410th pushed toward the Rhine Plain, Col.Yeuell took a shortcut to his planned next advance CP. We moved over into the 409th's zone and followed Task Force Rhine into Klingenmunster.
While General Patch's Seventh Army, which included the 103d Division, was pounding through the Siegfried Line, General Patton's Third Army had swept down the Saar Basin and cut off any need for further attack to the North.
Similarly, The Divisions of the Seventh Army between the 103d and the Rhine River had pushed along in parallel with us. After a brisk fight by the 409th for Klingenmunster, the 103d Division had been pinched off by friendly forces and there was no one left to fight.
OUR MEN: GEORGE BARTLETT
I was on the crew with Zachacki, Helmich, and Rosenblum. We were frequently attached to the 409th in the ETO. We were also briefly attached to French and British outfits--but I don't remember which ones.
Probably my most memorable experience was being part of "Task Force Rhine" which broke through the Sigfried line and went towards the Rhine. You probably have the "Report After Action" book that many of us bought in '45. On pages 96 and 97 it tries to describe that experience. The 761st tank battalion was part of that task force. They were an all black tank outfit (might have had some white officers back in rear echelon). We were the only unarmored vehicle within that task force. They really tried to protected us.
We were pinned down at one time by 88s and they made sure we had a safe cellar to get into.
One of the black noncoms of the 761st was eventually awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor as I remember.
OUR MEN: EVANS
This task force caught up with a retreating German column consisting entirely of horse drawn vehicles. The tanks brought all available guns to bear on the column. The Germans and their horses panicked and wagons and their contents were strewn all over the road. A tank-dozer was brought up to clear up the mess and the advance continued.
Between Silz and Klingenmunster we passed along the road where the horse drawn column was overtaken. There were piles of wrecked wagons, a number of German soldiers, and large numbers of dead horses shoved off the road by the tank dozer. There was a long grassy field parallel to the road and hundreds of horses grazed contentedly as though nothing had happened.
A few G.I.s were trying to catch horses that still had bits and reins to ride instead of walking but not many succeeded. The horses were still too skittish for that.
The Division Headquarters was to be set up in Klingenmunster, but when we arrived there was so much destroyed and abandoned equipment of all kinds, theirs and ours and so much confusion, the installation of the communications equipment, etc. would be delayed until some order could be restored. The wounded had been removed, but many dead soldiers were near where they had fallen - our men were soon removed from sight but the Germans were just moved out of the traffic patterns or placed in side yards.
Because of the very rapid pace of the assault and the overwhelming
force of it, many of the enemy soldiers in the surrounding country had
broken up into small dispirited groups. Some of these groups were
willing to surrender and many prisoners were being taken, but there were
others who continued to resist and to fight. It was a very uneasy
situation for everyone in the town and more so in the surrounding country.
OUR MEN: DONLAN -
Friday, March 23, 1945 - Germany - Birkendordt
Up at 5 a.m. for the move. We left a weapons carrier behind, so three of us rode in a 761st tank Bn. half track. Back to Wingen Cutoff in a bumpy ride and passed through pretty well demolished Climbach. Now a detour and mile after mile of woods. Tall pines are everywhere - unlimited timber. After many miles of detour, we got back on the main road and at 10 a.m., we entered Germany, past the 103d sign, "Here's Where We Came In". Roads very dusty and narrow and several tanks slid down an embankment. One tank had its turret completely sheared off by a hit. Many delays - a few yards at a time, and at one place we waited for part of the 14th Armored Division to pass, headed for the Rhine. Had a terrific headache as we passed on through the forested Palatinate. The dust is powdery and annoying. Tanks and trucks off the road in ditches. We entered our first German town, Birkendordt, at 1 p.m. in a cloud of dust! Very indifferent civilians were carrying their salvaged goods. "J" Area is a barren field outside town and Radio Control a trash-filled room which we had to shovel and sweep out before setting up the networks. Late duty and slept 11 good hours to get rid of a tension headache.
Saturday, March 24, 1945 - Klingenmunster - French toast and moving again! Another Task Force is out. Our radio truck took a circle to the west. This area is known as the Palatinate Bulge (in Palatinate Mountains of Germany) - the only pocket remaining west of the Rhine. Through intact town of Silz with colored homes, well-preserved. A church was yellow. After Silz we saw the results of Task Force Rhine and the 409th Infantry Regiment.
On both sides of the road are burned, dead horses and the wrecked carts they pulled. There are guns, ammunition, and clothing covering the green fields along the road. German bodies have been removed. Quite a view of the destruction reaped by the German Army. A ragged column of 300 German prisoners marched by. Some were very young - some very old. This continued quite a ways. The destruction went clear to our new C.P. at Klingenmunster. The town had several broken-through road blocks. Very large church with a round ball on the steeple (centrally located). "J" Area near depot with many tracks pointed north toward Landau, etc. Radio Control in a large building called "Postampt" (post office). Two elegant rooms designated for Radio Control. We worked hard to put wires upstairs to R.C. Went to other end of town to get some captured German phones and back in dust and traffic. The Germans are great eaters; hence good restaurants in town. We saw freed PW's walking back toward Alsace with broad and happy grins. A roast beef dinner and we relaxed in "J" Area down on the rr platform. 9 to 1 a.m. duty and we have a "conquered" German radio to listen to. Even found a mattress to sleep on.
OUR MEN: "SMITTY"
The last town in France was Lembach. We arrived on the 24th and left on the 25th to enter Germany. By the 25th, after passing through miles of smashed and burning equipment, we set up in the German city of Ingenheim. The terrain had become flatter and the civilians more somber... and a nonfraternization order was in effect.
Sgt. GRANT was accumulating public address equipment by the truckload, as much as possible to be mounted and operated as mobile units. A captured German radio truck was made available to repair and it became the sound truck.
The month of March seemed like it should be coming to an end and yet it still had what looked like a long week or more to go. OUR MEN, as well as the rest of the 103d division and the 7th Army had come out fighting on March 15th - and had been on the move ever since. The record shows that there was more than action for most of us.
OUR MEN: BECK - Somewhere in Germany 17 March 1945.
France feels like something way behind me. Something of the past. Crossing the national boundary was not an auspicious occasion. It was a bleak gray dawn that showed the wreckage and the destruction caused by the battles during the night. The columns of trucks and tanks wending their way, snake-like fashion, over a shell torn road, looked no different from France. The heavy mist and fog seemed made to order in setting the scene for the aftermath of a death struggle. And, there was death strewn all over. Animals, men and vehicles. War knows no different. The impregnable and untouchable West wall had, not only been pierced, it was shattered.
By following my map, I knew where I was, and seeing that I now rode over the holy ground of Adolph Hitler gave me a thrill. Not a thrill that it was his ground or land, but a thrill to be on his holy ground that was battered, beaten and torn to shreds by American troops, who left ample evidence of the ferocity and savagery of their vengeful attacks. It was Krautland that I now trod! Imagine all the way from Brooklyn and Denton, Texas, to the heart of the land where the Nazis rule so supreme!
The people, of course, were much different than the French. Here we met no cheering hysterical crowds who lined the streets to cheer their liberators. The people knew they were conquered, not liberated, in Germany. American soldiers do not speak to the Germans. We are not even permitted to smile in their presence. The old silent treatment, if you know what I mean.
The white flags of surrender fly from window sills and rooftops where the Nazi swastika reined for so long. Over streets that withstood the hob-nailed boots of goose-stepping German soldiers for lo! these many years, now rode a Signal Corps wire truck with the lettering "103rd Signal Company" on its bumpers as dirty, grimy, tired signalmen hopped on and off as they strung the telephone wires down the street. Signalmen who reported to me for duty in Dec. 1942 after being inducted only two days before. Men who strung wire in the woods and swamps of Louisiana and the plains of Texas. My own G.I.'s who danced and drank beer in Dallas, Gainesville, Alexandria and Forth Worth.
Now they methodically string their lines over conquered territory while the conquered peered with faces as stoic as stones.
As for yours truly - well I was just as dirty as anyone else.
Me, my driver [Sheldon] and my jeep were one color - brown.
20. Dark Encounter - Friend Or Foe
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS
Our wire team was soon called upon to lay wire forward in the direction that the fighting advance had taken. The wire truck, with its trailing wires, moved down the road with all of its crew except RUDY DORTMAN and Bill B. who were left behind walking along to police the wire off the road and out of the traffic.
In the late afternoon the wire team police-up men were well beyond the outskirts of town and the truck was very far down the road when Rudy and Bill encountered a group of 4 unarmed Germans who were moving toward the town with the intent to surrender. This was a first time experience for all of them. The Germans were taken back closer to town and turned over to some GI's on guard there to be escorted to the POW cage. The two men started back toward the point where they had left the wire job uncompleted. Because they had been separated from their equipment on the truck for a longer time than had been expected, our boys were unarmed and without helmets. In the dusk, a group of 4 armed soldiers could be dimly seen in the field, on the edge of the road. Bill asked; " Hey, are you guys GIs?", just before their hob-nailed boots hit the pavement. The enemies were about 10 yards apart, and all of them uncertain what would happen next.
The Germans obviously had not been looking for some soldiers to surrender to, but they surely knew that they were isolated from their main forces. RUDY knew how to speak German, but in this tense situation did not seem to know what to say. Bill wished that he had not spoken in the first place and that the two of them had just passed rapidly down the road and into the darkness. He did recall that in the Movies sometimes the hero was able to bluff his way out of trouble by pretending to have a gun.
A pair of pliers in a case on his belt seemed to have been meant for just this situation, placing his hand on them, he commanded (?), "HANDIHOCH!" (HANDS-UP). When the response was for one of the Germans to pull the bolt back on his rifle and load a bullet, Bill wished again that he had remained silent and/or had never, ever been to the Movies.
The one sided shooting did not start right away, thankfully.
There began a conversation among the 4 Germans - by now Bill had joined
RUDY in not being able to think of anything more to say. Apparently one
of the Germans was a non-commissioned officer who was able to convince
the other three of the futility of their position; separated from their
main forces, tired, hungry, and probably scared that the next GIs they
met would not be such unprepared idiots.
Three of the men dropped their rifles, RUDY was persuaded to move forward and pick up one rifle to cover the group, and Bill could abandon the ridiculous pose with the pliers case on his belt. The other discarded rifles were broken, Rudy held the rifle while Bill had the non-com remove his pistol and give it to him.
If RUDY or Bill had been carrying their rifles as they should have been, there is a good chance that the dangerous bluffing would not have occurred, the shooting might have started at that point. It certainly would have started when the German activated his rifle.
Our men would have been in serious trouble if there had been any shooting. During this whole episode, lying in the field next to the road, were about 5 more armed Germans who surrendered when the captive group was about to be marched off in the now complete darkness to the PW enclosure!
Meanwhile, back at the truck, during the late afternoon the main part of the crew was laying out wire as fast as possible. They were delayed by abandoned equipment and other road blocks and the generally confusing and uncertain conditions. Before dark, they also encountered German soldiers. At one point, they captured 3 soldiers and, with Pop KRUEGEL keeping them covered every minute, took them into a PW cage.
Darkness overcame the truck crew also before they were able to turn back to look for Rudy and Bill. During their return, their search became more anxious - there was some real fear that the two missing men had become casualties. The final meeting near the town was emotional.
(1995 Editor's note: The question about whether this incident would actually have ended with in a "fire fight" between the Germans and our boys has concerned me from that day to this one.
Most of us in our training had been told that the enemy must be destroyed
at every opportunity if for no other reason than the survival of ourselves
and our buddies. "He who hesitates" could be dead! My attitude even
after that training and additional informal discussion was that if there
was ever a chance to walk away from a fight with some honor I would do
it. I have had the opportunity to talk with some of our veterans
on this subject, just after the war and at reunions etc. A number
of them told me that they did have occasion to resist the instinct to "shoot
first and ask questions later". Fifty years ago, at the moment the
German soldier loaded the bullet into his rifle, in my mind, the chance
to "walk away" had passed. I was scared and desperate enough that I would
have started shooting. There was no doubt in my mind that Rudy and
I would have been badly hurt.)
21. Occupation And Pursuit Of Fast Retreating Germans
OUR MEN: TOM BROWN
We had the Germans on the run. We started out laying a double wire, but our attack was going so fast that we switched to single wire and still couldn't keep up. As I remember we worked 48 hours straight without rest trying to get the line in. We were exhausted!
Sgt. NELSON had to temporarily leave us and I was put in command of the team. One afternoon we were ordered to lay wire to a "Y" in the road where a Sherman tank would be on guard, then stop and wait for further orders. We came to a lonely stretch of road and saw three Germans up on a hill overlooking the road. They were dug in and apparently were a rear guard unit, but seeing our strong force of tanks and infantry, decided not to challenge them and kept quiet and under cover. By the time we came by they must have realized that they were surrounded and decided to surrender to us.
When we saw them, I told the men to jump in the ditch and cover the Germans with their rifles. I then did a stupid thing and jumped out on the road and signaled the Germans to come to us. They came to us fully armed. One was a corporal and I relieved him of his P-38 pistol which I still have. We smashed the rifles of the other two men and tried to question them. HILLARD could speak German so I asked him to ask the Germans if there were any SS troops around. They didn't know. So we herded the Germans into the back of the truck, and since Hillard had a Sten sub-machine gun I had him get in the truck and guard the prisoners.
OUR MEN: EVANS
The 103d Cactus Division now had another new role. It was placed in SHAEF reserve (technically, about as far back from the war as you can get, but actually only about 30 miles from the front where bitter fighting was stili in progress). We were charged with the occupation of a major part of the Saar, Moselle, Rhine Triangle, a big chunk of Germany west of the Rhine. The units of the division were scattered over a large number of towns with Division Headquarters located in Landau. The infantry units occasionally had to mop up pockets of resistance that had been bypassed earlier but the routine became mainly one of acting as guard for Allied Military Government, restoring power, water, phones, and other services and processing a never ending flow of POWs.
Our radio team was relieved and we relocated to Division Headquarters in Landau for vehicle maintenance and a number of administrative matters. It was great not to worry about 88s, or mortars, or mines for a while.
While we were occupying the Saar, Moselle, Rhine Triangle, Cactus G.I.s happened upon a cave near Schifferstadt containing tens of thousands of bottles of French Champagne that the Germans had taken from the French. We drank three of the four bottles allocated to our crew over a period of several evenings but I wanted to save mine for a really special occasion.
Checking out one public building in the area, I had found a large Nazi flag. I carefully wrapped my bottle of Champagne in the flag and put it in the tire chain compartment hoping that it would be safe until that special occasion.
Even though the Cactus G.I.s were enjoying the break from hostilities, the VI Corp continued its advance establishing a bridgehead across the Rhine near Worms on March 26th and then pressing east and southward along the eastern side of the Rhine.
(1993 Editors note: Landau was the city in which Rosario Natoli met a lovely young lady, Ingeborg, whom he married after the war. What a lucky guy!)
OUR MEN: DONLAN -
Sunday, March 25, 1945 - Klingenmunster
Awakened by a friend for hotcakes for chow. We then cleaned up the power unit. Went to Palm Sunday Mass. The German churches are bright-colored inside, with many statues - in contrast to the bland Alsatian churches. Glass panes, mostly broken.
Went up to next town of Klingen for supplies, noting many Wehrmacht vehicles destroyed along the roadside. Coming back to Klingenmunster, I got a good view of the castle with a square tower above all on a high hill, the Germans had used it for an O.P. The 409th radio team said they had been having a rough time, with even civilians firing at our troops. They were often under small arms fire. I took the jeep to get P.X. rations. This town of Klingenmunster was the main objective of the Task Force. Terraced crops planted on nearby hills are coming up. Quite a few locals worked at a Nazi factory just outside town.
Monday, March 26, 1945 - Klingenmunster - Slept in the kitchen, and we worked on the power unit again in the rain. We fixed French fries, toast and cocoa for chow and went on duty after getting four letters from home. The 103d Division is now off the line.
OUR MEN: FADER
Then with the radio crew, assigned to a 103rd task force we went through Germany...Neustadt, Ludwigshafen, Darmstadt, Aschaffenburg, Heidelberg, and then Heilbron where the mayor supposedly surrendered the city. No sooner did our troops enter when they were fired upon from the roofs of the houses. So back out with an ultimatum to the mayor that the city would be shelled...and then it was over.
OUR MEN: REYNOLDS
I was a sergeant in the Message Center Section along with RUEBEN HENSON and ERICK WARMBEIN.
RUEBEN was a jeep driver and he was ordered to take a message to one of the regiments in a German town that was supposed to be cleared. ERICK went along to ride shotgun.
When they arrived at the town and rounded a corner they came across four German soldiers fully armed and many more down the Street. ERICK could speak German, he quickly ordered the Germans to drop their weapons. They were so surprised that they did.
ERICK ordered them to jump onto the hood of the jeep and RUEBEN turned around and they roared out of town with four prisoners.
All of this happened before the Germans down the street could
react. Needless to say they were mad that they were sent to a town not
yet cleared of the Germans.
ERICK WARMBEIN died of a heart attack a few years ago and I think RUEBEN has also passed away.
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS - MARCH 28, 1945 SHIFFERSTADT 5 NIGHTS
This was another defensive position with occupation as a side line. We conducted a systematic search of the town for fire arms, weapons, uniforms, and any other military equipment that the people were trying to hide. It was a little surprising what we found, but more surprising what we missed.
One piece of enemy equipment that we had failed to find appeared during a bizarre incident. In one of the houses, our passing infantry soldiers had left a fragmentation grenade, a very menacing looking object. An older German woman in the house found this grenade and in her curiosity, pulled the ring that held the detonator handle - it flew off with a typical small explosion. The woman was alarmed enough to throw the grenade out the kitchen window - a good move. Unfortunately she was still curious enough that during the five second delay before the major detonation, she leaned out the window to see what was happening. that was a bad move!
The explosion blasted the side of the house and the woman in the window with shrapnel. Those GIs nearby were frozen into inactivity, but the German folks had been dealing with this type of sudden destruction for such a long time they responded almost instinctively.
Several of them got the woman out of the house in a hurry and a young man ran to a barn nearby, uncovered a BMW military motorcycle, raced to pick up the old woman who was strapped to his back in an instant with belts from the bystanders, and they sped down the street in the direction of the local doctor's office.
OUR MEN: DONLAN
- Thursday, March 29, 1945
Loaded up early for the move and had difficulty with the PE 195. We pulled out at 8 a.m. on our 40 mile trip to near Manheim on the Rhine. The day was dark and dreary. Towns of Heuchelheim, Impflingen and Insheim, the latter a large town. Next came Essengen. Most of the towns are the same - curving streets, stone houses and red-tiled roofs. We now moved out onto the flat Rhine plain - wonderful farming country with row on row of fertile crops and meadows. Tall poplar trees and church steeples jut above the flat countryside
Next came the very large town of Offenbach - and German tanks upside down and burned out. A large residential town - Barnsheim -is next. Then Hochstadt, Weingarten and Friesbach with its dome and pyramid steeple jutting up quite high. There are many Nazi fortifications in the fields, such as concrete and dirt trenches stretching hundreds of yards and dragon teeth tank obstacles. Gonnersheim is next. There are good railroads and roads in this sector. An occasional water mill sits on fast-running streams. After Geinsheim there were hazy, high mountains to the left, continuing quite a ways. The Rhine Plain to our right had what looked like high trees in a tree farm. Gaily-painted town of Hofsloch had many civilians in the streets. In the flat plain was Iggleheim and finally Shifferstadt. Past many factories before getting to "J" Area - amidst bright-colored two-story homes. We laid overhead remote lines several blocks - tough going. One of our fellows played a piano in our radio area. Quite a change - neat cobblestone streets with bright- painted homes. The 100th and 71st Divisions are also in town and we're only a few kilometers from the Rhine River. Went to Mass in a large church with a large gold crucifix. Went on radio duty 7 to 1 a.m. Moonlight on deserted streets as I walked back to "J" Area.
OUR MEN: "SMITTY'
On the 29th of March we moved to Schifferstadt and occupied the gasthaus at the bahnhof. One of the combat units, we were informed, liberated a carload of champagne and it was said that everyone in the division was afforded a liter or so. There was rejoicing. The 409th regiment crossed the Rhine River on 7 April over engineer-built bridges, and repair made the crossing on the following day. Later in the day repair set up in Heppenheim. The only thing I recall was the existence of a chicken coop in the back yard... our kitchen was regenerated.
It seemed as though displaced persons were everywhere... Polish, French, Russian, Czech. Sgt. GRANT'S sound truck was employed by CIC people (I was told) in order to coax German troops out of hiding.
OUR MEN: DONLAN -
Friday, March 30, 1945 - Schifferstadt - Hotcakes, 1-5 p.m. duty and a stroll to southern part of town. It looked like an American city with wide streets, sidewalks and new, square-type homes. "J" Area has older homes and narrow, cobblestone roads - and curving. A large, white crucifix stands at the fork in the road.
Saturday, March 31, 1945 - Schifferstadt - The chow hall kept those pancakes coming. Washed clothes and we got paid in marks (1 mark = 10 cents). We went to a good U.S.O. Camp Show at night. It had a good M.C. and Marlene Diedrich in person. Morning and midnight radio duty.
Sunday, April 1, 1945 - Easter Sunday - Attended Easter Mass on a nice, sunshine day. Otherwise, a pretty routine day. We are to be occupational troops for awhile.
OUR MEN: JONES, BOYS - APRIL 1, 1945 NEUSTADT 7 DAYS
This was an Army reserve and occupation set-up and we spent a lot of time on MP duty. Sgt. JONES fixed up a motorcycle and everyone had a big time riding it around until the clutch gave out completely. During the period the motor cycle was still operating with the clutch barely working, Bill tried his very first adventures on a 'cycle. He scared all who saw him making the lurching starts and barely controlled turns and stops.
The people still used their Nazi passes for identification and we just had to guess who was who on the streets.
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Monday, April 2, 1945 - Neustadt
All clocks advanced one hour to Baker Time. After 9-11 a.m. duty we loaded up once more. But it was a three-hour wait before moving. Passed the time playing ball and reading. We pulled out at 3 p.m. I rode in the "plywood" covered, captured German truck. Just outside Schifferstadt we headed toward the distant, purple mountains. Fertile farms, towns and church steeples dot the plains and hills. Through Iggleheim and nearby Bohl. Through Hasslock again on towards the mountains - paralleling the railroad and by orchards and vineyards. Musbach (closer to mountains). We even saw some mansions with towers and gables - and surprise - a modern gas station and factory. In the distance was Neustadt, made up almost entirely of rich estates and mansions. These Rhine Germans are well-off - and not much war destruction. "J" Area set up in Neustadt in a large school. Radio Control on second floor and we slept in the attic. Brought power cable to control and relished a cafeteria area for our eating - with chairs and tables! Cherry and apple trees blooming along a sparkling creek.
Tuesday, April 3, 1945 - Neustadt - Cold radio duty 5-8 a.m. Long wait for chow, too. We hauled some mattresses up to Control. Took long walk toward the mountains past beautifully landscaped mansions with garden walls. After evening duty and chow we had a meeting laying down a set of practically Garrison Rules. We have to follow from now on. Read and wrote letters after night duty.
Wednesday, April 4, 1945 - Big chicken dinner at noon. Went over to salvage area and picked up a few useful items. There are several good-sized bomb craters in town. There are large numbers of supply trucks and "ugly ducks" passing through on the way to the Rhine. "Hit" on mail call again.
Thursday, April 5, 1945 - Neustadt, Darmstadt, Worms - It happened again. I came off duty at 5 a.m. and informed at 7:30 we are moving again. I went on detached service temporarily to Message Center (along with others during our "lull"). Made a jeep run to the 411th at Oggersheim and the 409th up at Worms (around 25 miles). Almost had a bad crackup on our way back! Such fertile farms with long strips of grass alternated with blackest soil I've ever seen. Through Mussbach and Mecklenburg in the Rhine Valley. Funny to see farmers plowing with horses and oxen. We kept moving north to Hochdorf and Darmstadt with its large rail depot. Good roads in the country, but cobblestones in the towns. Mutterstadt partially destroyed along with its factories, but a very old stone church was preserved - and street car rails. Frankenthal, another large city with destruction, but stone arches and German memorial intact. Much industry here and street cars again.
Now came a real new sight; i.e., the superhighway, "Reichsautobahn Kaiserlautern". It is two lane each way of concrete with modern overheads and interchanges. Nothing like this in the Midwest. More towns - Roxheim and Bohnheim.
Now we saw lots of French forces, mostly armored units. On the outskirts of Worms were neat, white bungalows. A large iron and steel works took hits, but cranes still stand. Many people living in tar-paper shacks surrounded by white- blossomed trees. In the center of Worms there was row on row of rubble and bricks. But to the credit of our bombardiers, many monuments still stood, including a large 4-towered cathedral and a smaller 2-towered church. Part of the city wall with old towers is standing - as did some old mansions. After leaving 409th C.P. we went down on the Rhine River near where the large old bridge with its Roman architecture used to span the river. The approaches on both sides still stood, but the center span of this centuries-old bridge was down. Several pontoon bridges now cross the river - some 200 yards wide here. A barge, "Manheim", was tied up at the side. We made a fast return to Neustadt in the rain, getting back around 5 p.m. Read Stars And Stripes and wrote letters after big chow. We now have POW's doing some fatigue details.
Friday, April 6, 1945 - Neustadt - Went on crypt' guard of the Segaba encoding unit. On a trip to Annweiler, I noticed the destruction in western Neustadt. We traveled southwest. Edenkaben had a small cathedral, then Ediesheim with a power plant and high tension lines. On into Landau, followed by Godramstein (large farm town) and Albersweiler with iron ore, railyards and factories (well- bombed). A herd of sheep grazed outside Quiechambach. A railroad ran at the cliff base. Anweiler is at the base of a red mountain. The C.P. was by the depot - about all not destroyed. On the way back to Neustadt we saw a large castle atop one of the mountains. Farms and trees are everywhere.
OUR MEN: EVANS
On April 7th we moved across the Rhine at Ludwigshaffen and Mannheim. After crossing the Rhine the 103d was kept in SHAEF reserve and continued occupation duty. Its area of responsibility was long and narrow running all the way from Darmstadt down through Heidelberg with Division HQ in Bensheim.
In Bensheim, like Landau, we were billeted in homes that were taken over from the Germans.
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Saturday, April 7, 1945
Across the Rhine at Ludwigshaffen to Mannheim - Stood guard in cold by textile factory from 10 to 1 a.m. Advance went out at 5 a.m. We loaded up a 2½-ton truck and left Neustadt and its mansions on the hills. At Mussbach we took left fork, following the mountains towards Worms. Countless farm towns with red roofs and church steeples at the base of the mountains. Deidersheim was next and more French units. Surprised to see Shell and Standard Oil signs. We rode in heavy dust. Forst, followed by heavily-bombed and shelled Wachenheim. Again, the minaret-topped church about all that stood - and an old stone tower. Farms and Bad Durkheim with wide streets and street cars. Ungstein and Kallstadt with cobblestone streets (long). Farmers out planting, in the sun and seemingly unconcerned about war. Many have vineyards for the noted German thirst. Kircheim followed by Grundstadt, passing under the Autobahn and by a large iron/steel works. Our engineers are repairing major roads. Also saw an ordinance depot with many of our destroyed tanks. On through Albesheim, Mulsheim and rail center of Offsheim. Noted U.S. rail battalions operating trains. Train control round towers are at all crossings. Better roads as we came to the outskirts of Worms with rows of neat yellow homes. The six-towered Worms cathedral stood intact, except for the roof. Wrong turn and part of convoy went back towards Neustadt through Royheim, Bobenheim and Frankenthal (2 road arches). Back to Worms and crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge to the left of the partially- destroyed stone bridge. The river flowed swift in the center. Quite a ways on the other side we came to Burrstadt.
Through a pine forest with lumber mills and across the Autobahn again. In Lorsch we passed ten trucks of German POW's going toward the Rear. Civilians were waving at them. Bensheim had large rail yards and RR viaduct over the road. In Bensheim at the foot of the hills was our C.P. in a shaded residential area. I don't think the Division is back in the Line again, but we're just moving to keep up with 7th Army. The heavily-wooded mountains have lookout towers atop them.
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS - APRIL 7, 1945 BENSHEIM 12 NIGHTS
Another Occupation set up and we spent a lot of time out picking up wire and Kraut cable. We went to Darmstadt often and did a lot of traveling around. Some of the boys went deer hunting in Matricardi's amphibious jeep (German?) and the group got about five deer out of a game reserve near Mannheim. Life is easy and the sweat and toil of combat are dim memories.
A strange incident of "friendly fire" occurred in our first hours in the house we occupied. It was part of our routine that sometimes when we arrived in a town to have one or two of the men on the team stay behind to pick a house and set it up while the rest of the team went out to lay wire.
ANANIA and Bill found an "empty house" and had spent an hour or two "checking it out" when "Pop" KRUEGEL came arrived after having had more than enough to drink to confuse him and make him mad thinking we had abandoned him. When he heard us at the top of a wide staircase, he came up the stairs firing his carbine at us. After about 3-4 shots, John and I were able to tackle him and vent our wrath on him.
At a later time, "Pop" again gave ANANIA and Bill a real scare. We had been sent to a place where the 155mm Artillery had been set up for a firing mission. The firing was being controlled from a central point. The gun crew men told us that the firing was about to commence. "Pop" for some reason had walked down the road in front of the guns and was walking back toward them. We called and yelled for him to run back behind the guns. For some reason, he chose to be very casual and continued to walk slowly dragging our wiring "Pike Pole" behind him.
When he was about fifty feet in front of the cannons, they fired!! Pop was knocked to the ground in an envelope of fiery debris, smoke and sonic-boom. He lay there until we could pick him up and bring him back to the truck. The gun crew and all of us were concerned for him. He was completely dazed and did not respond to anyone.
Back at the CP, hours later, and for days after that he could not hear, respond are do any useful moving around.
OUR MEN: DONLAN
Sunday, April 8, 1945 - Bensheim - The town is returning to normal with civilians out for spring walks. A large road junction has big array of signs pointing to many other towns. Several of us walked along a creek with green all around. Chow and duty from 6 to 12 p.m.
Monday, April 9, 1945 - Our regiments are getting further and further apart and 409th now being serviced by air. No mail for days, but we keep on writing.
Tuesday, April 10, 1945 - Bensheim, Heidelberg - Pancake breakfast and morning duty. POW's doing much work now in C.P. Went on a duty run to Heidelberg - south on the Neckar River. Mountains and strip crops on the way on our left. Lots of farmer families walking the fields. Through Heppenheim and a large factory and a stop at Quartermaster. Next is Laudenbach with narrow, cobblestone streets. On through Weinsheim (more of a city). It had factories, wide streets, well-landscaped homes, boulevards, hotels and restaurants. There was a large depot with freight and passenger yards, street cars, large U.S. rail engines and camouflaged German engines. There was lots of business going on. Through Grossersachen and noticed small shacks out in the farm fields. At Kriescheim began a street car line all the way into Heidelberg. A very large gravel works near Bobensheim and finally the wide, cobblestone streets of Heidelberg. The city was well-preserved (by and for the Air Corps). Large church towers, businesses, parks, and the University. Apartment buildings are huge, and again, hotels and restaurants. The city is in a valley of the beautiful Neckar River, with hills above. Pretty German girls smiled at us . Completed our mission and returned to Bensheim and midnight shift duty.
Wednesday, April 11, 1945 - Bensheim - Went on a day run for Message Center to Darmstadt. It is bigger than Worms or Heidelberg. At Zwingenberg the rich Rhine soil changed to poorer grade. Through Jugenheim and onto a good highway to Darmstadt. There were miles and miles of forests being timbered. Passed a large hospital now used by our troops. What a contrast: flowering trees and homes on the outskirts, but rubble and ruin in the city center. A statue of Ludewig on a doric column looked down on the destruction. A large public building dated 1730 still stood. Returned another route through Eberstadt where we stopped to see 411th. Back to Darmstadt. Took the Autobahn part way and 2 winged liaison planes were maneuvering overhead. The overhead bridges and ramps amazed us - and how the Autobahn bypasses towns. Many G.I. supply trucks northbound. Off the Autobahn at Lorsch, continuing east to Bensheim. Back just in time for chow and radio duty. House up the street vacated by Marlene Diedrich.
Thursday, April 12, 1945 - Bensheim - Sorted out a few souvenirs I obtained. Rain came as I was on duty 12-6 p.m. A good sign - there is a large blooming rose in front of our place - a nice fragrance. P.X. rations, but no mail - front line troops have priority - fair enough!
Friday, April 13, 1945 - Awakened late and quick breakfast
before going on duty. I noticed a black-rimmed teletype notice on
the wall. President Roosevelt had died suddenly yesterday afternoon.
Fittingly, the overcast and mist hung over the mountains. Took messages
to Darmstadt, through Zwingenburg, Bickenbach and Seasheim. White
flags hanging out of many homes. Found the 411th at Nederranstadt.
Saw shell holes in some German freight cars. The roads are as bad
as the farms are trim and neat. Ramstadt had multi-levels of homes
and factories separated by walls. Reinheim was a large farm town.
To the right of Lindfield was a castle on a large hill. Our destination
town was Gross Unstadt, smelly with cobblestone streets, two churches and
freight yards and factories. Back to Bensheim through Dieberg with
strings of idle freight cars. Heavily-forested again. Through
Gunderhausen and a gravel mill at Rossdorf. In Darmstadt one other
tower besides the church standing. Onto the big Rheinstrass through
the city, a boulevard down to Griesheim and back to Bensheim very late.
OUR MEN: BECK - Germany 9 April 1945
You probably have read considerably about the Nazi underground factories. I had the occasion to visit one some time ago. Not exactly to visit, but more to investigate.
For one thing it is an engineering feat that I haven't seen since Rockefeller Center was constructed ten years ago. The entrance is a small narrow passage way built into the side of a mountain. And that entrance was the only visible part of the factory, providing you stood no more than 100 yards from it. Since we already had the Kraut ammunition owner at the point of a trusty carbine we used him as a guide to show us what the place looked like. (By we, I refer to myself and an undercover man)
The power system had been "caput" [sic] so we had to use flashlights and a lantern. It was inky black inside. A long winding passageway led us to several large rooms. All contained the most elaborate and up to date equipment in use now. As if we were in a large factory above ground, this appeared the same except that there were no windows. A perpetual draft blew all through the plant, but this was due to a recent bombed out hole rather than an engineering deficiency.
The passageways were the eeriest of all. I felt as if I were somewhere in the ancient caves of prehistoric man. Only this was modern. There were aid stations for those that got sick or hurt, mess hall, office space and storage vaults for both food and supplies.
We went through a number of floors until we found ourselves on the bottom floor, approximately 75 to 100 feet below the earth's level.
The boss of the joint was proud of his factory and never hesitated a moment to point out some especially favorite piece of equipment. He was a pretty smart man, too. He was a scientist, an engineer, a draftsman and a business man all rolled into one. He used his talents for the wrong cause, that's all.
OUR MEN: FADER
Another incident: April 12 in some town in Germany. I was manning the radio. We had picked up a standard broadcast radio which we kept tuned to the Armed Forces Network to relieve the boredom of sitting at an often quiet transmitter. Again the door was open and a group of people were a few feet away watching. The AFN music was interrupted by the announcement that FDR had died. One of the townspeople who understood English translated the news to the others. And, to my amazement, some of them began to cry.
OUR MEN; EVANS
On April 13th, word reached us that President Roosevelt had died. For most of us he was the only president we had ever really known. However we might feel about him now, we were all greatly saddened by his death. He left enormous shoes to fill and we wondered if Harry Truman would be able to fill them.I think that the ultimate verdict of history will be that he filled them quite capably.
We lowered the flag at Division Headquarters to half mast, the beginning of a month of official mourning.
Military life in Bensheim was just as "chicken" as it had been in Landau, -- if possible, more so. Some G.I.s started griping about it and said that they would rather be back in action (but deep inside, they didn't really mean it).
Around the 15th of April I had a minor change in mailing address. After nearly two years in the Army, someone made a monumental goof and I was promoted from Private to Technician Fifth Grade (T/5).
It would be a while before I would have time to sew on the stripes because things were starting to heat up again.
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Sunday, April 15, 1945 - Bensheim - Slept late
and afternoon duty. Good news was lots of mail - but none for me
on a cloudy day.
Monday, April 16, 1945 - Awakened at 6 for 6 to 12 a.m. duty. In afternoon I went with the Company on a gun-searching detail and we found quite a few. We have Retreat now. Hit the jackpot and got an Easter package from home.
OUR MEN: EVANS
On about April 16, 1945 our radio team was returned, once again, to the 411th CP and everyone there realized that the First String was back on the field and the picnic was over.
On April 19th, the VI Corp achieved a major breakthrough southward, spearheaded by the 10th armored division. The Cactus Division was committed just a few miles northeast of Stutgart with a mounted attack, clearing pockets of resistance behind the 10th Armored and then catching up with the 10th Armored on April 20th near Kirchheim. The 103d relieved the 10th Armored Division on April 21 enabling them to leap ahead again and close off major escape routes for a large German force retreating eastward through the Black forest.
OUR MEN: DONLAN
Tuesday, April 17, 1945 - All night duty followed by reveille and drill. You can tell we're in reserve! But it's also getting monotonous for all of us. Stars AndStripes indicates good war news though.
Wednesday, April 18, 1945 - Rumors circulating of a move soon. Hit the jackpot with three letters from home. We had a one plane German raid on our C.P. tonight.
Thursday, April 19, 1945 - 6 a.m. to noon duty. Our Advance pulled out today. Heard 103d will be back in line. New job today - biggest other event was reading Yank and Stars And Stripes.
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS - APRIL 19, 1945 PFEDELBACH 2 NIGHTS
We came into this small dusty town of Pfedelbach after a long ride down the Rhine River valley in a convoy. This place looked more like the front-line towns that we had seen. The 10th Armored Division was rolling over the country fast and strong. We started laying lines in four different directions and every time we got a good start, the unit on the end would move and we would have to cut off and leave a flock of wires. "Pop" KRUEGEL had a few to drink and he and Mike MATRICARDI took a three-quarter ton truck out and turned it over. It was very warm and everybody was under the weather.
Friday, April 20, 1945 - Bensheim - Heilbronn - All night guard duty (12 to 6 a.m.) with another fellow down by the creek. We did have a fire going. We moved after chow. Besides being sleepy, it was the dirtiest ride so far. Took the same route past farms and orchards down to Heidelberg. Large locomotives at Weinheim. Through the east section of Heidelberg near the mountains. Lots of bikers and not much destruction. Large churches, apartment buildings and neat homes. We crossed the Neckar River on a pontoon bridge, while engineers construct a large wooden one next to it. Several of the old stone bridges with towers on the banks are destroyed. River has fishing boats and canoes. On the opposite side is the railway station with several passenger sheds. A tunnel disappears into the hills. Saw the famous Heidelberg Castle with its towers on the hills. The Heidelberg University is up there too. Green slopes and blossomed trees dot the river banks. The river is clear and shining. Heidelberg suburbs turn into hilly farm country once more. At the town of Neckar we left the river. Passed through quite a few towns while I dozed. Rich black dirt farms interspersed with green pastures. Many roads are tree-lined. Meckberg had factories and a water mill on the outskirts. Climbed gradually into the hills and looked back at green valleys, crisscrossed with railroad tracks and patches of evergreens. Mauer, a farm town in the forests with narrow streets. High tension lines at Hoffensheim (partially destroyed). Large town of Sensheim and smaller Heilbraun followed. It was fought for over a week by the 100th Division. Like Worms and Darmstadt, it is completely destroyed, including factories and railroads. Crossed Neckar River once more and looked back at Heilbroun ruins.
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS - APRIL 21 MURRHARDT 1 NIGHT
In this town the CP took over a large hospital building and the local citizens had to get out their fire truck and paint the red-cross off the top of it. We stayed in a nice place on a side street and seemed to be rather happy until we got called in the evening to go out and lay a line to the engineers across the river some place. It turned out to be a SNAFU. The engineers wouldn't be there until the next day and so, after losing a lot of sleep on the road, we came back into town.
Coming into town, we met Joe ATERNO who was jeep driver for Lt. Colonel BROWN. Joe had several Red Cross girls with him - maybe the first we had seen. Some of us crowded into the jeep, lots of fun until Capt. BECK saw us and expressed his displeasure. He continued to be unhappy until the girls started helping serve the supper at the mess hall.
APRIL 22 OBER URBACH 9 HOURS - We came into this place in a convoy of Signal trucks through the woods. The trip was pleasant enough except that it rained and the fellows along the road kept telling us that the Krauts were just ahead and putting up ambush action.
The 10th Armored Division had cut a narrow path through the countryside and the area away from the road contained Germans who had been bypassed and cutoff and American patrols were out there fighting them.
One of the convoys that had preceded us was saved by the action of a GI in civilian clothes; his patrol had been ambushed, shot to pieces, and he had been captured and then escaped. He had gotten into civies to come back and warn those behind of the danger and there he stood with an M3 machine gun and a wild look wondering what a convoy of Signal trucks was doing so close to the front. He didn't know just how eager our Mr. TARDIFF could be.
We had a few K rations in the rain and then took off to find SGT. LEE and his crew and lay a line to help them. They had the line in already by tapping into the German commercial lines.
SGT. FRAZIER, our section chief, sent us off working on the road again until late at night when we worked our way into Kircheim.
OUR MEN: "SMITTY"
GRANT and CARVER remained behind on the next move, for reasons I only guessed at. On the 20th of April the Division PO and DSSO and Signal Repair all parked in the middle of a green, wet field just outside of Windesinbach. For reasons I never discovered, much of the equipment was unloaded and PFC. SCHMITZ was left on the equipment to await the return of GRANT and CARVER. The following day they arrived and we all boarded an amphibious vehicle (a duck) that hauled us and a great deal of equipment to the bahnhof at Murrhardt on the 22nd of April.
The moment was memorable because most were cold and hungry, few were sober and our available rations consisted of boxes of steak and eggs... no salt or vegetables... just those steaks and eggs. The explanation was that the division was moving so fast that S4 could not keep up. Repair gave up trying to unload. Some wag remarked that unpacking was done only to find a bottle opener. On the 23rd, repair's somewhat undisciplined convoy pulled into a stocking factory at Kircheim. I think we gave away countless pairs of stockings to displaced persons who arrived at the gate. As it turns out, the interior of the stocking factory housed what appeared to be a ball bearing factory. The next day we moved again, this time to Geislingen. There was considerable confusion because the SAR (Small Arms Repair) van hadn't been unpacked since Heppenheim. Sgt. WILLEBRAND of T&T repair (affectionately referred to as Father Time) appeared to be at a loss for what to do about all this disorder. Sgt. GRANT began discarding civilian radios that had accumulated in order to make room for still more public address equipment.
OUR MEN: DONLAN
April 21 - May 4, 1945 - I do not have a record of this two weeks except that we moved south and east very rapidly into and through Bavaria, often on the Autobahn, as the 103d Division was recommitted to combat and the Nazi War Machine began to crumble and leave behind surrendering POW's, war material and more death and destruction.
We passed through Pfedelbach, Murrhardt, Ober Urbach and C.P.
at Kircheim. We kept moving - hundreds of miles - Geislingen, Lonsee
Horvelingen and crossed the Danube at Ulm on April 26, 1945. April
28-30 we entered Krumbach, Ketterschwang, Bidingen and Steingaden.
The closer to Austria we got, the less destruction since the enemy was
retreating so fast. We saw wrecked and abandoned German fighter planes
off the Autobahn
They planned to use the Autobahn for landings/takeoffs. We examined these first jet planes in wonder. High-roofed alpine homes dotted mountainsides with roads growing steeper, more curving and sometimes mined and roadblocked.
MONTHLY REPORT OF ACTIVITIES - APRIL 1945
103D DIVISION SIGNAL OFFICE
During the month of April the activities of the 103d Signal Company varied from the quiet of occupational duties to the intensive activities incident to spearheading a Corps attack against a disorganized enemy.
On 1 April, the month's operations began with the establishment of an advance CP at Neustadt, Germany, in preparation for occupational duties in Army reserve. Practically all communication was handled through commer cial wire or cable rehabilitated by the construction platoon. Due to distances involved, use of field wire was impractical. As an experimental measure, the Division Signal Office took over the local telephone exchange and started all civilian rehabilitation crews to work for rehabilitation of facilities needed by the division and the local military government officials. In addition to wire, messenger service was extensively used. All radio was silent and shut down in compliance with orders of higher headquarters.
In most cases the signal company manned road-blocks as part of the Division Command Post Defense Plan and also in conjunction with the operation of Military Government.
In Shifferstadt and Bensheim, signal personnel conducted a house to house search for weapons, cameras, knives, etc.
For a short period in Bensheim, formations were held to include reveille and retreat. However, this was during a quiet period of occupation. All other functions of the company orderly room were normal.
Radio operators were given additional training as switchboard operators to fit them for occupational duties where radio could not be used. Occupa tional duties ended on 19 April with receipt of order placing Division under control of VI Corps with assembly area in vicinity of Pfedelbach, Germany.
During the month CP's were installed and operated at the following places on dates indicated. In addition several advance CP's were placed in operation and leapfrogged by the main CP.
Operations in Germany were by comparison to date, the most rapid the 103d Signal Company has encountered in combat.
With the virtual collapse of enemy resistance during April 1945, our problems centered about the establishment of CP's and the movement of supplies to said CP's.
The selection of CP sites has become habitual to the signal personnel. During the month as many as four CP's were laid out in a day. In some locations it was very difficult to billet the entire company; in others, it was relatively simple. In these movements, the company occupied the following towns:
29 March - Shifferstadt, Germany
2 April - Neustadt, Germany
7 April - Bensheim, Germany
20 April - Pfedelbach, Germany (AM)
20 April - Murrhardt, Germany (PM)
21 April - Ober Urbach, Germany
22 April - Kirchheim, Germany
25 April - Loncee, Germany (AM)
25 April - Horvelsingen, Germany (PM)
27 April - Pfaffenhoffen, Germany (AM)
27 April - Krumbach, Germany (AM)
27 April - Ketterschwang, Germany (PM)
28 April - Bidingen, Germany
30 April - Garmisch, Germany
Message center vehicles operated an average of 834 miles per day.
In order to adequately feed
the personnel and refuel transportation, supply and mess trucks rolled
continuously. Although, Class I and III dumps were as far forward
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