In order to insure the bridgehead's security, it was decided to construct an additional treadway bridge over the Elbe River, at the ferry site, four kilometers south of Barby. To accomplish this however, it was necessary to make an assault crossing of the Saale River and drive the enemy from the pocket between these two rivers. Thus, during the early afternoon of 15 April, the engineers supported an assault crossing made by the 320th Infantry of the 35th Infantry Division. There were only 17 boats used, one battalion crossing on a partially destroyed railroad bridge at (D803763). Although the enemy was well dug in on the opposite shore, the crossing was made without a shot being fired.1
The 2d Battalion, in an assembly area at Forderstedt
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(D6873), was ordered by regiment, at 1100, to effect a crossing of the Saale River. The unit moved by motor to a detrucking area (D800785) from which it proceeded in a column of companies, the order being G, F, & E, with the intention of crossing on the destroyed railroad bridge. This bridge was preamble, with difficulty, for foot troops and was being improved by the engineers at the time the leading elements of the battalion arrived at the foot thereof.2
Prior reconnaissance and observation of the ground, soon to be covered, disclosed numerous enemy positions along the levee, 100 yards from the south bank. The enemy, from their position, apparently did not observe the work of the engineers at the north aide of the bridge for there was no fire directed at them while feverishly working against time. However, patrols sent to the south edge of the railroad bridge, entering on that portion raised above the ground, had been sniped at. Thus the column
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was therefore stopped short of the bridge in order to make necessary arrangements for the supporting fires, which took several hours because of the necessity of establishing communication and getting the weapons in place.
Both heavy machine gun platoons of H Company were emplaced on the north bank of the river, from which they could bring frontal and flanking fire on the enemy positions generally observed along the south levee. The mortar O.P. from an excellent position in a water tower at the north end of the bridge, was prepared to adjust fire on numerous observed targets, one of which, a house along the railroad, had been previously spotted as an enemy command post.
At 1600 all preparations for the attack were completed, and the supporting fires opened up together as G Company in platoon column started across the bridge. The bridge stretched 200 yards, and in 15 minutes all of Company G was across. They methodically
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cleared the south levee and advanced toward Trabitz (D8175) to allow the remainder of the battalion to cross. The only resistance met consisted of scattered small arms and sniper fire, two casualties being suffered.3
Proceeding along the railroad tracks, the Company stopped approximately 800 yards outside of Trabitz, sending an eight man patrol from the 1st Platoon forward to reconnoiter the town. The patrol returned soon thereafter stating that they had found no trace of the enemy. Thus by 1900, the company had moved into Trabitz, taken 9 PW's who voluntarily surrendered, and set up a perimeter defense for the night.4
Company F, meanwhile, had started across the bridge behind George Company, at 1630, in platoon column without incident, assembling in a draw immediately south of the bridge. The 3d Platoon from this position, moved forward in column under cover of the dike (D8076), toward the town of Gottesgnaden (D788749), with
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the mission of reconnoitering the town and occupying it if possible.
Reaching the outskirts of town, a canal too deep and too wide to wade was encountered although upon close observation, two locks with foot bridges offered the desired means of approach. Clearing the shelters of the dykes, and approaching immediately short of the bridges, automatic and small arms fire was received from the far side of the bridges killing the squad leader of the forward squad, and wounding three others. The entire column, hit the ground, returned the fire, but because unable to advance further, withdrew a 100 yards to the cover of the dyke.5
2d Lt Vivian C. Palmore reorganized his platoon and sent a five man patrol under the leadership of PFC Charles J. McKruen, a volunteer, forward with the mission of reconnoitering the area adjoining the footbridges for a covered route of approach thereto, and finding the enemy machine gun in that vicinity. The patrol, having accomplished its mission, returned with the exact location
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of the machine gun position and a covered route of approach to the bridges, offered by the embankment of a near by road.
While the 1st and 2d Platoons, together with the light machine guns, supported by fire from positions along the dyke, the 3d Platoon again moved out along the left side of the embankment, crossed over the footbridge, and moved into the town without meeting resistance, the Germans having already hurridly [sic] withdrawn. This was carried out without a mortar or artillery preparation proceeding the attack because friendly troops were in Calbe, approximately 400 yards to the right. The support platoons then moved in on the heels of the 3d Platoon and undertook the clearing of the buildings. 11 PW's including one officer, were captured and the town was completely cleared by 2100 hrs.
A perimeter defense was organized in addition to a heavy guard on each of the foot bridges, consisting of a rifle squad reinforced with a Light Machine Gun Squad, as preparations were
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made to advance on the town of Schwarz (D793734).6
At 2030, G Company was ordered by Battalion to continue their advance and secure Patzetz (D853727), approximately two miles southeast of Trabitz. The unit moved out shortly thereafter in the track to the southwest, the road running parallel with the Saale River, one half mile northwest of Patzetz, was reached in good order. Word was received from Battalion, at that time, to stop and establish a defense along the road and railroad tracks with special attention to the flanks which were exposed, the adjacent units on either flank being at least a mile distant. Thus a strong perimeter defense was set up on this flat and open expanse with the 2d Platoon on left, 1st on the right, 3d in the center. Meanwhile, an eight men patrol from the 3d Platoon was sent forward to reconnoiter the town of Patzetz. This patrol was fired upon on entering the town. Its mission, accomplished, the patrol worked its any back to friendly lines, leaving two of its buddies, dead, in the town.7
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At 2230, F Company was again alerted and 2d Lt John Scully, 1st Platoon leader, moved out with his men in platoon column toward Schwarz. Preceded by a squad as a point, they moved cautiously and quietly across the open field, reached the town by 2400 without incident and immediately set up a perimeter defense. A runner was dispatched to the company command post at Gottesgnaden and at approximately 0100, the 2d and 4th Platoons entered the town to widen the defenses. The 3d Platoon had been left in Gottesgnaden to hold, however at 0400, when it was decided by Battalion that holding this town was unnecessary, the platoon moved forward and joined the rest of the company.8
Company E was initially in Battalion Reserve at (D802765) preparing to cross the Saale River, relieve G Company, and occupy Trabitz, on order. In the late afternoon word was received and the Company moved off, entering the town close to 1930 hours.
The 3d Battalion closed into its rear assembly area, the town
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of Ulluitz (D705736) at approximately 0200; and at 0900, moved to a forward assembly area at Tornitz (D8378) prepared to effect a crossing of the Saale River coordinating with the 2d Bn, and establish a bridgehead on the south bank thereof.9
The Battalion plan called for a crossing of the river at 1600 with two assault companies in the vicinity of (D846766). This move was to be coordinated with the engineers of the 83d Division. The initial crossing was to be made by Companies K & L, in assault boats, after which a pontoon bridge would be constructed for the crossing of heavier equipment. After the bridgehead had been established, Company K was to secure Gr Rosenburg (D8576), Company L was to secure Kl Rosenburg (8577) and Company I was to remain in reserve and protect rear installations, occupying positions to the west and east along the north side of the Saale River. The 113th Cavalry Squadron was to support the crossing from positions north and west of the Saale River by firing on the wooded area in the vicinity of (D850775).
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Company K started across the river in assault boats on time, and as soon as the 1st Platoon was over, small arms fire opened up on these leading elements from the direction of Gr Rosenburg. The attack continued slowly, despite this fire, and as darkness fell the town had been partially secured. By 2030, all of K Company had entered the town, although scattered enemy fire continue to stream in from the east edge of the town.
Company L, after crossing the river with little opposition, reaches the vicinity, (D852762) by 1835, where it was ordered by Battalion to move north to clear the wooded area at (D845778) and secure Kl Rosenburg, despise the fact that Company K had still not completely cleared the town of Gr Rosenburg. To ease the situation slightly, I Company was brought forward from Werkleitz to help K Company gain and occupy the town, thus enabling L Company to continue with its mission. By 2230, Company L had secured the town without incident and cleared the woods, sending one platoon east to
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establish, a road block at (D872782).
In order to protect the right or south flank of the Battalion, Company I was ordered to establish three squad outposts generally along the line (D850758)-(D860757). Two other squads from the Co were used to protect the bride site (D848766), one being north and the other being south of the site.10
The 1st Bn., during this phase of the operation, was held in Glothe (D7175), as motorized Division Reserve, not to be committed except on Corps Order.11
At 2200 the 83d Div Eng. started the construction of a pontoon bridge across the Saale river, (D847767) although technical difficulties prevents its completion before daylight. Thus, the plan of the 3d Battalion Commander, Col Joseph Alexander, to bring two platoons of medium tanks across the river for direct support of Company K and to protect the bridgehead, was frustrated.12
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During the early hours of the morning, 0500, G Company reported a considerable force of enemy troops, estimated at 150 counterattacking their right (south) flank. Shortly thereafter, word was also heard that the right flank platoon of G Company had been captured.13
The Germans, having literally caught our boys napping, had infiltrated through the lines undetected with a sizeable force, capturing most of the 1st Platoon and a heavy machine gun section without firing a shot. This accomplished, enemy fire of every type opened up in heavy intensity from the company's right rear.
The Commanding Officer, seeing that trying to maintain his present position was too dangerous, again called the Battalion Commander and requested pervasion to withdraw to Trabnitz. This request was granted because of three reasons: (1) the enemy was to the company's rear, (2) both flanks were exposed, and (3) the
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terrain was flat to offer any cover or concealment. Thus, the remainder of the company started pulling back along the main Trabnitz-Patzetz road. Upon reaching the town, having encountered a few minor skirmishes, the company coordinating with and elongated E Company's perimeter defense.14
Shortly after the arrival of G Company, an enemy force, attacking from the southwest toward Trabitz, hit Company E's right platoon. However, having good observation together with determined fighting and the support of Company G, the force was held from breaking through to the railroad, which was later learned to be their objective. As it grew lighter, the enemy was pinned down and practically annihilated by artillery fire directed by a liaison plane and mortar fire directed from excellent observation points.15
During this action it became necessary to abandon, momentarily, the route from the railroad bridge to Trabitz, along the south bank of the river; thus a ferry was established by the 60th
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Engineer Battalion at the Bns. present location.
At approximately 1600, when the situation had cleared, G Company was attached to the 3d Battalion taking over defense of the Gr Rosenburg bridge. The company was ferried across the river at Trabitz and moved along the north bank of the river to its new location, arriving just before dark.16
In the early hours of the morning, Company F, having successfully cleared Schwarz by daylight, reported that the enemy was dug in alone a series of levees, which practically encircled the town, making it impossible to gain contact with the remainder of the Battalion. This in mind, the company was ordered, at 1200, to withdraw to Gottesgnaden, for Company G had suffered a counterattack and it was considered that F Company was too far forward, with flanks exposed, to set up a reasonable defense. The company began moving back in a circuitous route taking advantage of all available cover and concealment. From Gottesgraden, the company followed its previous
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route to the railroad in order to occupy positions supporting the right rear of Company E. Because of the necessary slowness of movement and minor skirmishes on the way, most of the day was required, although by dark, the company was in position from the vicinity of (D810749) extending north to the railroad bridge.17
Closely coordinated with the attack on G Co, Gr Rosenburg was attacked from the front, flank and rear by an estimated 150 enemy infantry who evidently intended to pinch off the town from the bridgehead. The engineers, still working on the bridge, were forced to abandon it because of direct fire coming from the rear, west edge, of town. Company K was receiving heavy small arms, machine gun, mortar and bazooka fire in the town proper. A group of about 50 Germans were observed working their way along the deep ditch that ran along the river dyke in the vicinity of (D852765) toward the bridge site. The squad from Company I, which was attached to the engineer group for close in protection, opened fire on this
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enemy group from excellent positions at the bridge site and prevented them from actually reaching the partially completed bridge.18 This bridge however was completed after this minor action.
Company K, aware of this threat, brought a single 60mm knee mortar, the only one in its possession, into action against the enemy group. The fire from this weapon proved to be very effective in as much as 15-16 dead Germans were found in the ditch after the fight. Fire from this mortar greater influenced the enemy withdrawal, for several hundred rounds were fired during this period. The fight lasted almost three hours, at which time the enemy withdrew although fourteen casualties were suffered.19
Shortly prior to the German counterattack of Gr. Rosenburg, Bn had bock quite concerned over the absence of word from "I" Co's platoon, which was outposting the right flank, as the evidence of a coming German counter-attack become more pronounced in the direction of this lone platoon 1st Lt Kleber TREGG, Cannon Co observer with the 3d Battalion, 320th Infantry described the action:
"I was with Capt Homer W. Kurtz, Commanding Officer of Company
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K at an observation post, within the southern outskirts of Gr Rosenburg. We observed a general line of approximately 30 or 40 German soldiers firing small arms in the direction of the 1st Platoon from positions in the vicinity of a barn (D859756) approximately 500 yards from us. Approximately 100 rounds of HE were dropped by the guns of cannon company, in the vicinity of the barn, scoring at least seven or eight direct hits. Suddenly 23 men ran out from the barn with their hands over their heads. Thinking they were Germans wanting to surrender, we beckoned them forward across the open field, but they would not come. We then got hold of a German civilian, gave him a direct order to go out under a white flag and advise the enemy troops that they would not be fired at if they came into our lines with their hands over their heads. After a 30 minute conference between the civilian and the soldiers, he returned alone and informed us that most of the men there were Americans and the Germans were using them to make us stop our fire which they could
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no longer endure. Soon thereafter the Germans in a sneaking attempt, tried to withdraw along the road and open field to the south of the barn taking our troops along with them. However, cannon and machine gun fire placed only a few yards to their front stopped and forced them to retreat to the shelter of the barn. We were afraid to fire at them for fear of hitting our own men. Several similar attempts were stopped in the same manner. We then observed a soldier running toward us, whom we recognized as an American. When he reached us he said that a high German officer offered to make the following deal with us. "Let us withdraw to Breitenhagen (8978) and we will let your men go".
After some consideration it was decided to save the captured platoon and the offer was consented to by Capt Kurtz. However, a group of volunteers were armed with automatic weapons, mounted on a truck and moved out to the vicinity short of the barn under cover of a line of trees to insure that the enemy would carry out their bargain. The enemy started to withdraw and took the captured
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platoon several hundred yards with them, after which they released them, we kept our word also."20
Shortly thereafter, 1700, L & I Companies, with two platoons of light tanks attached, continued the attack toward Brietenhagen and by 1900 the battalion reported the town clear of the enemy.21
The 1st Battalion, having reported to regimental control at 1615, moved to an assembly area in Tornitz preparatory to employment on the right flank of the 3d Battalion. This move was dictated by the fact that the 3d Battalion moved east and the 2d Battalion south, thus opening the center of the regimental line as the advance progressed. The Battalion jumped off from the vicinity of Gr Rosenburg at 2045, and by 2355, without difficulty, had advanced to positions vicinity (D9176), where it halted for the night.22
Daybreak witnessed the first phase in the construction of the
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second bridge over the Elbe River at (D898788). By late afternoon 1730, having had no interference all day, the bridge was in full operation.23
During the early hours of the morning, orders were received from regiment reverting Company G to 2d Battalion control and attaching a platoon of light tanks, of the 113th Cavalry Squadron, to the Co. at Gr Rosenburg. Actually, this platoon had only two tanks. The Battalion's mission, as given, was to clear the area between the boundaries shown on the overlay. The Battalion plan called for Company G, with the platoon of light tanks, to move south at 0800 from its position at Gr Rosenburg, secure Patzetz and Sachsendorf, turning west at that time to seize the farm at (D831720), finally moving into Zuchau. Company E at the same time, was to move from Krabitz to Patzetz, immediately behind Company G and take over the clearing of the town, should it be necessary, and prepared to continue its follow up to Sachsendorf, sending one platoon to clear Rajock and one the area in
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the vicinity of (D862769). Company F was to move parallel to Company E along the railroad establishing contact with Company G at the farm (D831720), plus protecting the Battalion's right flank, along the railroad, facing to the southeast. The only resistance encountered, at all, was by Company F at the railroad crossing (D828730), which consisted of a few enemy apparently left over from the day before. By this tine, Company F had been passed through by the 83d Reconnaissance Troops which reconnoitered the area to the east of the Battalion and found it to be unoccupied. The Company then moved into the same town with Company G. Patrols of both companies were sent to Dornback and Gramsdorf, each found unoccupied.24 At 1815, two platoons of F Co, were dispatched to Gerbitz to clear the town taken by the 83d Rcn. troop.25
During the days operation, a few enemy stragglers were rounded up, but organized resistance, of any kind, was non existant. The Battalion remained in the positions last indicated until the morning of the following day, 18 April, at which time they became Division
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Reserve for the 83d Division and were assembled in Breitenhagen (8978), prepared to move to the east bank of the Elbe River. At approximately 1400 the Battalion was ordered to send one company to Barby (D8582) to relieve Company C, 330th Infantry in the protection of the bridge site. However at 1700, the Battalion, less Company G, was attached to the 329th Infantry and at 2200 moved to an assembly area in the via of Walternienberg as regimental reserve.26
The 1st Battalion attacked at 0730 and easily reached its successive objectives in good order, having merely encountered scattered small arms resistance. A Company, attacking on the right, cleared Lodderitz by 1330 and Diebzig by 1630 hours. B Company, attacking through the center, had not only cleared the woods (D9273) but was approaching Kuhren at about 1630 hrs. By 1815, B Company had cleared Kuhren, having found it unoccupied, and C Company had reached the limit of the regimental advance. K Company was attached to the 1st Battalion at 1530 and ordered to Lodderitz as Battalion Reserve, thus
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giving support, in depth, to the front line elements.
The 3d Battalion (less Company K & M) was attached to CCR 2d Armored Division at 1500, and at the same tine M Company was attached to the 83d Division Engineers to guard the bridge site at Breitenhagen, relieving L Company. The 3d Battalion (less Companies K & M) began movement to the vicinity of Flotz.27
This particular day was very uneventful for all concerned, consisting of only minor changes for a few of the units. Late in the period, the 2d Battalion was moved to Breitenhagen, in preparation of crossing the Elbe. The following day an order was received by the Commanding Officer of the 320th Infantry Regiment from the Commanding General, 83d Division, dated 190720, which stated:
CT 320 relieves CCR of the 2d Armored Division in zone with mission of defending north flank of Elbe River bridgehead. Being immediately complied with, by the end of the period the relief had
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Having spent a moat peaceful three days, covering the northern flank of the bridgehead, the 320 CT was relieved by the 330th Inf (83 Division), at which time it reverted to 35th Division control. Thus their mission had been accomplished.
* * *
The days following were extremely serene for the 83d Division with few changes being made unopposed. The climax, of course, came then the Russians uncovered completely, XIX Corps front, thus ending the war for these tired but true fighting men.
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(1) 83d Div, A/A Rpt, April '45
(2) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w. CO. 2d Bn.
(4) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w, CO, Co G.
(5) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w Ex. O., Co, F, et al.
(7) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w CO, Co. G.
(8) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w Ex. O, Co F, et al.
(9) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w S-3, 3d Bn., et al.
(11) 83d Div, A/A Rpt, April '45
(12) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w, S-3, 3d Bn., et al.
(13) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w, CO, Co. G
(15) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w, CO, 2d Bn.
(17) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w, CO, 2d Bn and Int/w Ex. O, Co F, et al.
(18) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w S-3, 3d Bn, et al
(21) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) A/A Rpt, April '45
(23) 83d Div, A/A Rpt, April '45
(24) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Int/w CO, 2d Bn.
(25) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Operations Summary, April '45
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(26) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) A/A Rpt, April '45
(27) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) Operations Summary, April '45
(28) 320 Inf (35 Inf Div.) A/A Rpt, April '45
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