"Pfc Oliver Poythress dodges a dud". -- Brodie.
The Germans had blown the bridge across the Roer River to Korrenzig, twenty-five
miles southwest of Dusseldorf, the night before last and the Ozark Divisionís
commander had sent patrols into Brachelen and a pillbox nest near here.
When patrols reported meeting no resistance, the veteran 102d Division jumped off
several hours ahead of a scheduled attack, moving across the snow fields in
moonlight in their white capes and trousers.
The first regiment to enter this town was the 406th, in the center of the attack.
A Company commanded by Capt. Paul Estes of East Orange, N. J., moved in
The captured sector, making up a bridgehead across the Roer, was triangular in
shape. General Keating and Maj. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem Jr., commander of the XIII
Corps, had planned a large-scale attack, believing the Germans would fight savagely
to save their toehold across the Roer."
Major General Keating commended both men and officers "for their thorough
preparation, spirit of enthusiasm, high morale, and outstanding professional
qualifications displayed during the operation".
The first two weeks of February brought disaster to the Nazis. Von Rundstedt
withdrew from his Ardennes pocket, desperately switching panzer battle groups
this way and that in a futile effort to bring his operation
to a neat conclusion. The Russians advanced spectacularly in the
east. Along the Ozarks' front, enemy lines were stretched dangerously
thin. He had lost all semblance of initiative.
He could only continue to labor on his defenses east of the Roer and wait for
the allied attack which would sooner or later sweep him backwards to the Rhine.
In this unhappy predicament, however, the Germans had two Allies -- the weather,
and the dams in the Hohe Venn highlands south of Duren at the headwaters of the Roer.
From foxholes to Division CP, weather was a major preoccupation. First came
snow, then rain, more snow, fog. An early Spring sun thaw-ed the surface frosts.
Soils became quagmires, paving blocks disappeared under traffic. Melt-ing snows
swelled the narrow Roer. It spilled over muddy banks and the flow grew hourly
more swift until it was impassable even to our daring patrols. Many a boat was
lost, many a valiant Ozark disappeared down the raging stream while attempting
to contact the enemy.
406th Infantry, maintaining its record of stubborn persistence, sent patrols into
the valley No-Mans' land, directly under the snouts of 88s. There on 1 February a
raiding party consisting of I Co supported by a platoon of Co B, 327th Engineer
Battalion, demolished a troublesome fortress disguised as a barn, inci-dently
taking six prisoners. Other patrols were sent into Hilfarth where they made
life miserable for the Heinies who had stayed behind to guard a bridge. Meanwhile
plans were afoot to cross the Roer. D-day was to be 10 February.
By evening, 9 February, all plans were suspended while GIs gaped at the raging river.
Already over its banks from normal Spring runoff it had suddenly leaped four feet in
as many hours. And it continued to rise one foot, two feet -- ten feet, and there it
paused. The key to this phenomenon lay, of course, in the dams. As First Army developed
its attack south of Duren, and the Germans saw that capture of the headwaters was only
hours away they had jammed open the floodgates. Efforts to control the flood were of
no avail. Two weeks were to elapse before the stream subsided. On the other hand the
enemy had now shot his bolt. If the flood was his best hope, it was also his last.
At 0245 23 February our Division Artillery opened up with a thunderous barrage that was to
continue for forty-five minutes. After months of planning, waiting, and training the push
to the Rhine had started.