83d DIVISION CROSSES
With the surrender of Barby and the evacuation by the enemy of adjacent areas, the 83d Infantry Division was to lose no time in exploiting their gains. In anticipation of this advance, Lt Col Tim O. Cook, commanding the 1st Battalion, 329th Infantry, made a personal reconnaissance of the west shore of the river. His command passed through the 2d and 3d battalions, which were taking up positions along the east side of Barby, closing on the river line by 1300 hours. These latter two battalions, who were to provide fire support, were just engaged in setting up as the 1st Battalion moved forward; and they were barely in position when the time came for the battalion to deploy along the river. The engineers, preceding the column with their heavy equipment, launched the assault boats immediately upon arriving at the waters edge, and within 30 minutes
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the 1st Battalion was moving across the river. Upon dropping the assault boats, the engineers moved upstream and started construction of the ferry proper.1
In a rough line of 34 boats with "A" Company on the right and "C" on the left, the assault force began crossing the Elbe (D862-823) at 1330 hours. Although the river is about 200 yards broad at this point, not a single enemy weapon opened fire on the battalion during the crossing and there were no Germans seen in the vicinity. Cook led his men right into Walternienburg against meager resistance after partially clearing the wooded area confronting him, closing on the village and establishing a defensive position by 1500 hours.2 This crossing was described by 1st Lt William Stout, Asst. S-3, as being, "just like a Sunday afternoon picnic."3
(As he brought his men into the river bank for the infantry crossing, Col Edwin B. Crabill, Regimental Commander, had gone up and down the line exhorting his men with these words: "Don't waste
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the opportunity of a life time. You are on your way to Berlin. You can get across without having a shot fired at you. But you have to move now. Don't wait to organize. Get going. Get over there in any shape that you can." It was in this fashion that the battalion crossed the river. It proceeded without order and with the men scrambling for the boats as fast as they could. Crabill said that he actually booted some of his men in the pants to make them go faster.4)
Now it is to be said that the crossing in the assault boats was made close to 600 yards down-stream from the potential ferry site. This was an intentional deception which added immeasurably to the success of the operation.
About 1430, or a little later, the first ferry went into operation and before long, two more were being serviced. It was just about this time that the enemy started shelling the area adjacent to the initial assault site and the railroad bridge area. This
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shelling was maintained partly by big guns and partly by assault guns throughout the remainder of the afternoon, and during the hours of darkness. The enemy, however, did not shell the ferry site at any time. It had happened that a German reconnaissance plane had flown across the Elbe at the time of the assault crossing, strafing the troops and puncturing one of the boats. It is believed that this plane carried back information about the early crossing.5
Over two hundred heavy vehicles including medium tanks and TD's were ferried across on the treadway ferries. This contributed immensely to the success in repelling several counter attacks.6
About 1500 the engineers started rolling the bridges material in, however, the work on the bridging did not actually get under way until about 1900, and the bridge was not completed until 0730 on the second day.7
The 2d Battalion, 329th Infantry, crossed the river about an hour and a half after the 1st Battalion had completed their assault,
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proceeding along the same general route to Walternienburg. Here, the battalion swung north and dug in along the Walterneinburg-Flotz road. During the night the Germans made repeated fanatical counter attacks against the battalion's sector of the bridgehead with infantry, tanks, self-propelled guns, and mortars. Friendly machine guns and rifle men held off the infantry, and the armor was kept its distance by the constant firing of anti-tank guns. The attackers were finally driven off on the morning of the 14th. It was later found that the enemy troops used in these counter attacks were young Nazis from an OCS Company. Since that time, there being very little action, the battalion was pulled back to Walternienburg during the early part of the period, on the 15th, and placed in regimental reserve.8
The 2d Battalion, 331st Infantry, secured Cable (D7875) by 0940 of 13 April, after which the battalion moved to Barby and crossed the Elbe in the near proximity of 1600. By the end of the day the
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battalion had established positions in the vicinity of Walterneinburg, the woods (D890814) south of the town.9
That night the forward positions were at a depth of about 2,000 yards from the bridgesite. Although this country is perfectly flat, it is quite well wooded and studded with small villages. At that distance and from the positions along the bridgehead perimeter, there was practically no chance for enemy observation of the bridgesite upon the coming dawn.10
Two platoons of TD's and all the anti-tank guns of the regiment had been moved across the river by dark, as well as one platoon of tanks. The destroyers and the tanks were put in the perimeter around Walterneinburg except for one platoon of destroyers which were covering the positions around Flotz. They were used to back up the infantry line, directly covering all tank approaches.11
The infantry companies were in contact, and all the Battalion Command Posts were in Walterneinburg, as the enemy counterattacked
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four times during the first night with an infantry force of approximately battalion strength supported by an unknown number of assault guns. The method of assault seemed quite novel. Firing only a few rounds from the assault guns, the infantry would come on in and charge under cover of intense machine gun fire. To make the shortest approach on the center of the American positions, they deployed from out of the woods to the east and north of Walterneinburg. These attacks were made by the 2d Battalion of the Langemaier Regiment, Scharnhorst Division, a specially constituted outfit largely composed of OCS men, who fought intelligently and persistently.
About 2300, Company E at Flotz began to receive fire from forces which had filtered in on both sides of their position. Finally the enemy managed to get into houses of the village and the company drew fire from close up. The Company thereupon asked for artillery to be turned directly against its own position, the men dropping into the basements of the houses as this concentration fell among them.
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The fire from two battalions of Division artillery and their own supporting artillery effectively checked the attack and the enemy infantry withdrew from Flotz.
At Walterneinburg the attack was pressed to a point where several squads of the enemy got in among the houses of the village, but these were driven back by supporting fire from the destroyers and by riflemen working at close range. A check of the ground on the following morning showed that five of the enemy's assault guns had been destroyed. But because of the darkness it was not possible to establish whether this result had been obtained by the destroyers or by the supporting artillery fire.12
The rather strong enemy counterattacks against the elements already across the river necessitate reinforcing the bridgehead. One of these counterattacks was an attempt to emulate the American
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marching fire technique, but the enemy was mowed down and the attack completely broken up.13
"B" Company, 331st Infantry, being in Barby, was alerted and attachment to the 2d Battalion, 331st Infantry, and ordered across the river as quickly as possible. Upon arrival at the 2d Battalion area, 0300, they were given the mission of protecting the right flank of the battalion. The 3d Battalion, 328th Infantry, was also alerted and consumed the remainder of these early hours crossing the river, assembling in Walterneinburg at 0930, where they stayed until the next day. Shortly after the battalion had completed its crossing, 0730, the pontoon bridge was reported as having been completed, and at once the remaining tanks of the 736th Tank Battalion were alerted and started crossing to reinforce the Bridgehead troops.
From its position south of Walternienburg, the 2d Battalion, 331st Infantry, launched an attack, 0930, to the southeast, objective
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Badetz. The familiar 2-1 formation was used, G Company being on the right, "E" Company on the left, and "F" in reserve. Resistance being non-existent during their rapid march, the wooded areas encountered were easily swept. Upon reaching the approaches to the town of Badetz, moderate small arms fire was met. This neither held up nor impaired the attacking forced, and by 1230 the town was not only cleared, but the forward two elements of the battalion were in defensive positions on the far side of the town (D925790). "F" Company being in reserve, established itself at (D918796). A short time after the battalion had settled down in anticipation of a few hours well earned rest, G Company was alerted and ordered to move to the vicinity of Tochheim (D9079). Preparations were male immediately and shortly thereafter G Company moved out. They partially cleared the northern edge of the woods (D9179) without meeting a bit of opposition, while en route. Easily and rapidly the company reached its objective and dug in (D903790) approximately
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one kilometer from the town, remaining the rest of the night.14
B Company under direction of 2d Battalion, also jumped off at 0930 with the mission of securing Tochheim. The extensive wooded area that had to be dealt with hindered the company slightly; for although there was no resistance, a thorough combing operation took a great deal of time. The town was reached and cleared however, in the late afternoon without a shot being fired. Security measures taken, patrols were sent to feel out the wooded areas in the close vicinity. The company remained here the rest of the night not knowing that friendly troops were merely one kilometer out of town on the main road leading to the east.15
The 1st Battalion, 331st Infantry, less B Company, moved to Barby and had completely crossed the river by 1155, using the recently completed pontoon bridge. The unit moved through Walternienburg and then southeast, clearing the wooded areas to their front. "C" Company, preceding "A" Company, moved forward very aggressively;
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but upon penetrating the woolen area (D900818), resistance made itself known and grew heavier. As the forward elements pressed on, they encountered heavy mortar, artillery, and automatic weapons fire, to say nothing of six enemy tanks. Close coordination with artillery was responsible for the elimination of three. The others seeing their fate drawing closer, withdrew to the rear. The withdrawing of the remaining armor left but one alternative for the supporting infantry, thus the woods were cleared to (D906817) by 1425 hours. The battalion remained there the rest of the day, consolidating and improving their positions against a possible c/a from the north.16
The 3d Battalion, 331st Infantry, having been operating under Task Force Biddle, returned to regimental control at 1100 hours. They moved to an assembly area initially at Brumby (D7474) at 1600, prepared to cress the Elbe river to reinforce the bridgehead area. The battalion was again on the move at 2000, crossing and closing into their new area (D885808) at 2130 hours. In this general vici-
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nity, the battalion remained throughout the operation, in regimental reserve.17
Plans were made to continue the attack at 141600 April. But this was called off, probably because of the elimination of the 2d Armored Division Bridgehead to the north.
All this time the 330th Infantry (83d Div) was constantly fighting not only road blocks but rugged terrain and the elements in the Harz area while under corps control.
CCR, commanded by Lt Col Russel W. Jenna, CO, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, was placed under the operational control of the 83d Division on 14 April. This force consisted of the 2d Battalion, 119th Infantry; 3d Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment; a platoon of TD's and Company "C", 17th Armored Engineer Battalion. The mission of CCR was to cross the Elbe River in the 83d Division sector at Barby, secure the line Dornburg-Prodel-Leitzkau and protect the left flank of the 83d Bridgehead. The force being broken down to three
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teams of one rifle and tank company plus an attachment of heavy weapons, jumped off at 1530, and by 1830, Prodel had been reached against moderate resistance. Because of a possible counter-attack threat, the Commanding General, 83d Division, ordered a withdrawal and a tightening of the defense network.18
CCR, having crossed the river via the Barby bridge a little after noon moving to Walterneinburg, thence north to Flotz with F Company, 119th Infantry plus tanks leading followed by E and G Companies in that order. F Company crossed the LD, railroad tracks in the vicinity of Flotz, at 1530, passed through Godnitz and continued driving hard to the north clearing a path in the wooded area on either side of the road to Prodel.19 Shortly after 1600, E Company preceeding G Company, arrived in Godnitz. They received word of a possible German counter-attack and also orders to return to Walterneinburg and set up a strong defensive position.20 G Company continued to move forward through Godnitz and had searched
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the better part of the wooded area, including that which had already been investigated by F Company, capturing three Germans, when their mission was changed, ordering them south to Kameritz.21
F Company, mounted on a Company of Medium Tanks during this time, had been meeting comparatively no resistance; however at (D868887), they encountered dug in infantry firing bazookas and small arms. One tanker was unfortunately killed by a lucky hit, this being the only casualty. The remainder of the woods were cleared and the objective, Prodel, was easily occupied and cleared by 1830. The company completed their defensive plan and remained in position until 2000 when they were ordered to drop back to Flotz.22
As F Company continued forward, G Company returned to Godnitz, mounted their trucks, and started south to occupy Kameritz. When the company was about a half mile from town, they were informed by infantrymen along the road that the town was still in enemy hands.
Notifying higher headquarters of this, orders were to establish a defensive position along the 90 grid line for the night.23
Plans at that time were being formulated for the construction of a bridge south of the existing one. The Commanding General of XIX Corps indicated that the 320th Infantry (35th Infantry Division) might be attached to the 83d Infantry Division for the operation of clearing the triangle of untouched territory south of Barby and establishing this second bridge. This task would however involve the construction of a bailey bridge over the Saale River northeast of Calbe.24
An attack was launched at 0930 by the 329th Infantry for the purpose of enlarging the bridgehead area. The 1st Battalion, on the right moved six or seven kilometers, occupying Nutha (D9482), while the 3d Battalion, attacking to the northeast and on the left, advanced to a line roughly even with the 1st Battalion. The 2d
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Battalion, having been draw back, was being held in reserve in Walterneinburg at that time.
The 1st Battalion moved out with A & B Companies forward, "A" being on the left, followed by C Company. Upon reaching and cautiously proceeding through the wooded area at (D905825) fanatical resistance was met at different points. The defending forces, although only a few in number at each successive point, were found to contain numerous young Hitler Jugend, all fighting from well concealed foxholes and dealing out very accurate small arms fire. Between 0930 and 1630, the 1st Battalion spent these hours minutely checking the woods, sustaining heavy casualties in doing so. Before this area had been completely cleared, it had to be combed twice more. Continuing the advance, Nutha was attacked and surrendered soon thereafter, the enemy making no attempt to defend this point. Thus having completely cleared the town, A Company moved slightly north setting up a defensive position, as Company B moved forward digging
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in on the road leading south out of Trebnitz. C Company was ordered into Nutha to establish a defensive position along the eastern edge of town.25
The 3d Battalion attacked to the northeast toward Guterluck in a column of companies, K Company leading followed by L Company. As "King" Company came within 400 yards of the town, the Germans opened up with small arms and mortar fire. The company deployed and attempted working forward out of the mortar fire. Love Company, receiving intense mortar fire, while in the vicinity of (D900837), was unable to move for a short time. Company K began working into the edge of town against heavy S/A fire as Company L infiltrated to the left side of the railroad embankment. Paralleling the main road, the company followed the railroad to the crossing at (D919857) from whence it hit the town from the north west. Resistance at this point collapsed.26 The air support was excellent during this maneuver, and without it Company K would not have been allowed to
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move into town frontally across the open fields.
Shortly after clearing Gutergluck, K Company, one platoon of I Company attached, was ordered forward to establish a defensive position generally on line with the 1st Battalion. The main line was established in the vicinity of (D943846). The platoon from I Company was ordered to (D943840) for the purpose of not only contacting the 1st Battalion, but maintaining it after made. This was accomplished without a shot fired.
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Both 1st and 2d Battalions, 331st Infantry, attacked at 0930 the morning of 15 April while the 3d Battalion remained in reserve. E Company, from its position outside of Badetz made a limited objective attack to position (D932793) receiving no fire. G Company, being approximately a kilometer outside of Tochheim, moved slowly northeast toward Hohenlepte (D938814). By 1810, the town was completely cleared. The only evident resistance consisted of two or three snipers
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which were quickly eliminated.27 F Company, from position (D918796) attacked northwest at 1030, with the mission of securing Kameritz (D9181). The company followed the main road having two platoons forward, on either side of the road, with the supporting tanks and TD's rolling along in the center of the two columns. Upon reaching a point four or five hundred yards from the town, intense fire was received. Both forward platoons deployed as skirmishes and at the same time, the support platoon was also committed. The platoon of tanks and TD's that were attached to the company, took positions to the immediate rear of our friendly forces and supported them to the uttermost. Although the resistance was stubborn, the third platoon led by Lt Irving Drucker gained a foothold in town by the use of marching fire and the supporting armor. With a sector of the town in friendly hands, it was a comparatively easy matter for the remainder of the company to move forward using the same tactics. While this process was going on, small groups of Germans kept surrendering and the fire grew lighter;
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thus by 1800 the town had not only surrendered, but had been cleared. Upon completion of this mission, F Company swung balk east, moving to Hohenlepte from whence it moved to the right flank of G Company at (D940811) and extended to (D936788) where they dug in and contact was made with members of E Company.28
B Company, under the operational control of the 2d Battalion, also jumped off at 0930 with the mission of clearing the wooded area south of Tochheim towards Stockby. At 1355, CO, 1st Battalion, was informed that B Company again reverted to his control, however continuing on their present mission. This attack toward Stockby being a tedious task due to the extensiveness of the area and not resistance met, the company had merely worked its way to (D9278) by 1800, at which time they were relieved by A Company. The relief being completed, B Company moved to Tochheim where they have remained since.29
The 1st Battalion, less B Company, also received orders to
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further the attack at 0930. C Company's given mission was to clear an enemy pocket in the vicinity of (D906813). The enemy defending this point yielded immediately upon sight of our advancing forces; thus Battalion Headquarters, when informed of this, ordered the company to support, using their tanks or TD's to the best advantage, the 2d Battalion's attack on Kameritz. This fire was maintained until elements of the 2d Battalion requested it lifted. C Company then moved slightly forward although not entering the town. Upon completion of their mission 1800, when the town completely surrendered, they received orders to clear the canal west of the town. This was shortly done, there being no opposition, and word was received to fall back into Kameritz for the night. At the same time, C Company jumped off, A Company moved around Walterneinburg and then south toward Tochheim. Continuing past this town, they moved through the wooded area to a position to the rear of Baker Company, remaining there until approximately 1800, at which time the relief of "B"
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Company was completed. Here A Company remained in the same relative position (D9278) until the next morning.30
The 3d Battalion, still in regimental reserve, continued to dig in and improve their positions. At 1100, orders were received to move K Company to Tochheim for the purpose to guard the approaches to a new bridge site to be used in that vicinity.31
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CC R also had a series of limited objectives to deal with, as was ordered by the Commanding General, 83d Division. Company F and armor being in Flotz, jumped off at 0630 and soon had occupied and cleared Gehrden (D899873) without opposition. The objective being reached, and no further orders given, the company established a defensive position and settled down to await new developments.32 G Company, defending along the 90 grid line south of Walterneinburg, was ordered to Godnitz. Around 0800, mounting a company of light tanks and a platoon of TD's, moved to the stated town to protect the
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northern flank of the bridgehead. The entire column arrived in Godnitz slightly before noon, having not been molested at any time during the motor march.33 E Company, 119th Infantry, Armor, and Company C, 17th Engineer Battalion, at that time in Walterneinburg, jumped off at 0930 in an attack on Gutergluck (D920852). E Company, leading, moved north to the railroad, thence east toward the town, keeping the railroad on their left. The village of Molk was reached shortly after noon, without a shot fired, it being remembered that the 3d Battalion, 329th Infantry had already neutralized all resistance in that sector. Contrary to normal procedure, the Engineer Commanding Officer was put in command of Molk and its defense. The orders he issued placed his company and armor in a defensive position slightly short of the railroad crossing at (D919857), and E Company was in reserve within the town proper. The engineers established only normal local security except for the 1st Platoon, E Company, which outposted the road from
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the railroad crossing to Gehrden, where F Company was located.34
At the first break of day, the enemy counter-attacked Hohenlepte and Nutha. The attacks, directed from the east, consisted of an estimated two companies of infantry and ten assault guns. This venture was short-lived due to the close in artillery support, which was responsible for inflicting terrific casualties on the attacking forces. Three assault guns were knocked out, one by C Company, 329th Infantry, and two by the attached Tank Destroyers. Being in a state of confusion, the enemy withdrew the remnants of its command as rapidly as possible, without loss to our men.35
The 2d Battalion, 331st Infantry, whose left flank was in Hohenlepte, also took part in repelling this attack. Early in the morning, the sleep of the men on the MLR was disturbed by the crackle of gun fire from the outposts. Through the complete telephone communication set up, the entire battalion was quickly alerted, and artillery fire called for and received. This fire, combined
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with accurate tank destroyer, mortar, rifle, and machine gun fire, stopped the enemy infantry in their tracks. Shortly after the counterattack began a number of enemy self-propelled guns were observed coming from the vicinity of Neiderlepte, but the deadly fire of the artillery and tank destroyers knocked out fire of these guns within a few minutes after they were first observed. At the cost of one man killed in G Company, our troops had killed 40 Germans, taken 70 prisoners, and destroyed five SP guns.36
As the early light of dawn broke the horizon of 16 April, CC R was preparing to jockey into a slightly different position. G Company was prepared to leave a platoon in their present position, at Godnitz, and move the rest or the company to Gehrden after F Company jumped off on their attack to Shora. However, these plans did not materialize because of a counter attack sustained by E Company in the vic of Gutergluck.
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Prior to dawn, K Company, 329th Infantry, was ordered to send a platoon to the town of Toppel (D9585), with the mission of establishing outposts, not only for the company but Battalion front as well. Unfortunately, the attack which was soon to follow missed this group entirely. However, had this unit encountered the attacking force, it is my personal opinion that Molk would have been an entirely different story.
At 0630 the enemy in high spirits and coordinating with the attackers of Hohenlepte and and Nutha, counterattacked Molk with approximately 12 self-propelled guns and a battalion of infantry from the northeast having followed the southern embankment of the railroad. They were to hit the town in three waves, the first striking at 0530 against the engineers. The timing and precision on the part of the Germans was well carried out, for there wasn't a round of friendly artillery opposing them and they completely surprised the engineers.
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Lt Col McCawn, Commanding Officer, 2d Battalion, 119th Infantry, stated, "Only one thing need be said about the engineers defending the town. They Ran! This is understandable, of course, for they were not seasoned troops. The initial wave also terrorized the tankers, who for the most part abandoned their tanks. It became a fight of E Company against the enemy."37
At 0600, the engineer Commanding Officer notified the CO of E Company, 119th Infantry, that his position had been overran and the enemy was entering the town. Lt Hall notified his 1st Platoon, which was outposting the Gutergluck-Gehrden road, to withdraw to F Company's position. The remainder of E Company was alerted and ordered to take up defensive positions directed toward the north for the attack was moving down the main street in town.38
By the time Col McCawn arrived in town, E Company was fighting against very heavy enemy infiltration and the fire of self-propelled guns. The Col again thought, "Our own tanks were very, noticeable
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by their absence."39 He instructed Lt Hall to place his men around the houses and to move back only when forced to. He also told Hall that F Company had been ordered to leave its position in Gehrden and attack the enemy from the west.
F Company, moving down the road from the west, hit the enemy column in the rear, momentarily diverting the enemy's attention, accomplishing the element of surprise. At the same time, the second enemy wave attempted to enter the town directly from the east, however artillery fire called for helped slow it up. E Company was heavily outnumbered and soon the Company Command Post was on line; however, it was the action in the vicinity of the command post that broke up the second wave. A combat team composed of Sgt. William O. Jordan, Sgt. Daniel B. Van Nice, and Pfc Franklin White, commanded by the executive officer 1st Lt Holycross (all headquarters personnel) placed themselves in front of the command post, manning an abandoned tank. The 76mm gun, 50 cal. and 30 cal. MG's, plus a
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bazooka were all brought to bear on the enemy, by these four men. One self-propelled gun was K.O. and the infantry discouraged from continuing the attack. The 3d enemy wave did not enter the town, for the artillery and infantry action discouraged it also.40
As the counterattack became more pronounced, G Company, 329th Infantry, was ordered to (D893843) for the purpose of being in a position for a quick shift to any threatened area or stop a possible breakthrough.
Although this engagement is stated to be a victory, because 150 prisoners were taken, more than a hundred ethers killed, and seven self-propelled guns disabled, "E" Company's losses were considerable with three KIA, eight WIA, and 19 MIA.41 After the action F Company returned to Gehrden, G Company relieved E Company in Gutergluck, and E Company reverted to Battalion Reserve in Godnitz.
The time of the attack having been changed from daylight to 0730, Company C, 331st Infantry had considerably more time to move from
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Kameritz, south, contact A Company and jumped off on time. However, upon passing through "A" Companies defensive position and moving a few hundred yards, the lead vehicle was fired upon by two enemy armed with burp guns. The infantry immediately detrucked, moved against the opposition which withdrew rapidly. Prior to the departure of the enemy a panzerfaust had been directed against the center of C Company's column but failed to reach due to a tree burst.
Having run on this isolated O.P. unexpectedly and not knowing what lay ahead, a platoon acting in the same capacity as scouts, only on a larger scale, was then used to further prevent the entire Company, from again being surprised or ambushed.42 During this time, A Company had been ordered to send a combat patrol to search the woods in the rear of Charlie for infiltrators; but none were found.
Battalion having received similar orders, the companies were told to stand fast, though permission was granted C Company to clear the woods to the canal (D936767), thus the company consolidated
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its position (D923775) and sent the patrol to check the crossings of the canal. Upon the patrols return, having had a slight skirmish with three Germans, killing two, three bridges were reported intact at points (D929767-935768-942769). A Company shifted slightly to the vicinity of Badetz, assuming responsibility for a sector of the wooded area south of the town, which was to be heavily outposted. One rifle platoon of Company A and a tank were ordered to the town of Eichholz (D9578) to establish a strong point.
The Battalion remained in the same relative positions.
At daybreak, construction on the second bridge over the Elbe River was started by the 234th Engineer Battalion and was completed by 1730 hours. The enemy became very sensitive to the new bridge and made several more attempts to destroy both existing bridges. Not only did artillery fire become more pronounced, but for two successive nights concerted aerial bombardment attacks were made. The
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anti-aircraft batteries in the vicinity prevented their hitting the bridges, yet the bombs dropped were responsible for several casualties in the general area.44
Showing increasing concern over these two bridges, the enemy floated numerous mines down-stream. In doing so, he utilized the drifting mine (Type G.L.) which contained approximately 25 lbs of TNT, a telescopic rod, five feet long, with antenna which extends from the top of the mine. This rod remains above the surface of the water when the mine is floating and any deflection of the antenna will detonate the mine. Anticipating this threat, anti-mine booms were installed about 600 yards upstream from each bridge. Engineer riflemen were also stationed at these points and on the bridges themselves, however in spite of these precautions, one mine came within fifteen feet of the bridge before it was destroyed by rifle fire. Although concussion from the mine caused one casualty, no damage was done to the bridge.
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A day or two later, the enemy sent two crews of swimming saboteurs downstream equipped with special rubber suits with amphibious attachments. One of the reported crews was never located; however, the other crew, consisting of one officer and two EM's, was captured. Having experienced great difficulty with the mine boom, they were forced to give up their mine after working an hour to free it. After conclusion of this, there were no more attempts made to destroy either bridge.
Shortly after the bridges were completed, elements of each Engineer Company assisted the infantry in laying and recording minefields along the M.L.R. of the bridgehead. Nearly 14,000 mines were laid and many anti-personnel and trip flare devices were installed.45
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Field Order #33, Headquarters, XIX Corps, 192100 April 45 (Classified Top Secret) stated:46
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At this date enemy units in contact on Corps front from north to south were: 3 battalions (300 each). Combat Team Burg Regiment Langemier, Scharnhorst Division, 2 Battalion (400 each) and Regiment Mahlow. Corps mission, as set, is to defend the line of the Elbe River in its sector, maintain and defend the existing bridgehead and occupy and govern the assigned areas.
Having completely cleared its assigned area east of the Saale River, the 320th RCT crossed the Elbe River in the vicinity of Barby and relieved CC R, 2d Armored Division. Combat Command R, at this time reverted to its division control. Two days later, the 330th Infantry, having completd its mission in the Harz area, was released from Corps control and joined the 83d Division, relieving the 320th RCT upon arrival at the Bridgehead.
The Division's drive to the Elbe and the establishing of the bridgehead was in no small way dependent on close operation of the air corps. After the division established a bridgehead over the
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river, a constant flow of fighter-bombers protected the area and had much to do with our maintaining this spear-pointing at the heart of the German Reich—Berlin. Between 15 and 20 April as many as 12 squadrons a day worked with the division and succeeded in destroying at least 28 railroad guns and many field pieces, ammunition dumps, and oil cars.47
When the Germans saw that we were not preparing to further the attack, their minds were directed to the Russian drive. An interrogated PW officer revealed that the policy of the German forces at this time was to surrender their unarmed troops to the American forces and continue fighting the Russians as long as possible.
With the capture of Magdebourg by the 2d Armored and 30th Infantry Divisions, there remained in the Corps zone, up to the west bank of the Elbe, no sectors of resistance of any consequence. All zones within the Corps position were consolidated and the 83d Bridgehead across the Elbe strengthened.
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General McLain stated: "When I noticed that both the 2d Armored and 83d Infantry Divisions had a bridgehead and I was sure we could maintain one of the two, I ordered the 30th Division not to attempt to cross for two reasons (1) save personnel for we already had two means of crossing and (2) bridging material was scarce."48
The General continued, "My plan had been to cross to the east side of the Elbe over the bridge and then direct the 83d Division to attack south and east. The 2d Armored Division units on the east side of the Elbe on their own bridgehead would drive to the north and thereby uncover the 30th Division that held the west bank of the river in their own zone. My plan was not even to wait and reduce Magdeburg. At that particular time, I had had the 35th Division attached to my Corps and I was going to utilize them for this, while my three spearhead units continued their drive east. However, as you know, we were ordered to hold up on the west side of the Elbe and maintain the 83d Bridgehead."49
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(1) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w C.O.
(3) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w Asst. S-3, et al.
(4) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w C.O.
(6) 83d Div. A/A Rpt, April '45.
(7) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w C.O.
(8) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w C.O., 2d Bn, et al.
(9) 331 Inf (83d Div) Int/w Exec Off.
(10) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w C.O.
(13) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w Asst. S-3, et al.
(14) 331 Inf (83d Div) Int/w S-1, 2d Bn.
(15) 331 Inf (83d Div) A/A Rpt, April '45.
(16) 331 Inf (83d Div) Int/w Ex. O.
(18) 2d Armd Div. A/A Rpt, April '45.
(19) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w Ex. O, Co. F.
(20) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, Co. E.
(21) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, Co. G, et al.
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(22) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w Ex. O, Co. F.
(23) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, Co. G, et al.
(24) 83d Div, A/A Rpt, April '45.
(25) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w S-3, 1st Bn.
(26) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w Ex.O. 3d Bn.
(27) 331 Inf (83d Div) A/A Rpt, April '45.
(28) 329 Inf (83d Div) Int/w S-1, 2d Bn.
(29) 331 Inf (83d Div) A/A Rpt, April '45.
(32) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w Ex. O, Co. F.
(33) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, Co. G, et al.
(34) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, Co. E.
(35) 329 Inf (83d Div) Sit Rep, April '45.
(36) 331 Inf (83d Div) A/A Rpt, April '45.
(37) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, 2d Bn.
(38) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, Co. E.
(39) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, 2d Bn.
(41) 119th Inf (30 Inf. Div) Int/w CO, Co. E.
(42) 331 Inf (83d Div) A/A Rpt, April '45.
(44) 83d Div, A/A Rpt, April '45.
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(46) XIX Corps, F.O. # 33, 19 April '45.
(47) 83d Div, A/A Rpt, April '45.
(48) XIX Corps, Int/w CO.
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