Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
It is only by the indomitable spirit displayed by each of you and a grim determination to lick the best of the Boche under any conditions of terrain, weather, and other obstacles that we have succeeded. I have often stated that I am proud, very proud of this Division, and I feel deeply honored to have been its commander through all these actions. To those of you who are old members, I express my grateful appreciation -- to those who receive this pamphlet as new arrivals, I welcome you to the Division. I trust that as you glance through the pages of this booklet and learn more of our history, you will be imbued with the spirit of this Division, a spirit which cannot be downed and which is bound to carry us to victory on any field of battle. A spirit to attack the enemy whenever and wherever found.
Paul W. Baade
Major General, Commanding
This is one of a series of G.I. Stories of the Ground, Air and Service Forces in the European Theater of Operations, issued by the Orientation Section, Information and Education Division, ETOUSA... Major General Paul W. Baade, commanding the 35th Infantry Division, lent his cooperation to the preparation of the pamphlet and basic material was supplied to the editors by his staff.
Fresh from their classic crossing of the Blies River into Germany's rich Saar region, the 35th's Santa Fe men slipped into Luxembourg and Belgium during the Christmas holidays. They crossed the Sure River Dec. 27, 1944, then hit hard into the thick Nazi bulge.
Four elite Nazi units composed the iron fist of the German surprise blitz: The Fuehrer Brigade (Hitler's bodyguard troops), 1st SS Panzer Div., 5th Paratroop Div., 167th Volksgrenadier Div. The 35th met elements of each, smashed them back, and secured the vulnerable right flank of the Bastogne highway. Beaten back by Yank courage and skill, the Nazi blitz faltered, sagged, then collapsed entirely.
When the fighting men of the 35th turned von Rundstedt's blitz into Nazi disaster, they symbolized the spirit of all soldiers who have worn the Sante Fe patch.
Originated during the Indian Wars, the shoulder patch is a white cross on a blue field to honor the men who blazed the old Santa Fe Trail. In the last war, the 35th distinguished itself on the same French soil where Santa Fe troops now battled in World War II.
With a strong nucleus of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri National Guard, the division was mobilized Dec. 23, 1940, at Camp Robinson, Ark. A year later it became California's adopted army when it was assigned to defend the West Coast after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Officers and men of the 35th were thoroughly prepared for war when they left the POE May 12, 1944. The division had learned a lot in the tough Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 and the cold, wet Tennessee Maneuvers of 1943. It had trained diligently at Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif., Camp Rucker, Ala., and Camp Butner, N.C., as well as at Camp Robinson. And it was a fresh, eager outfit, representing every state in the union when it landed in England two weeks later.
A month after the 35th arrived in southwest England it was inspected by Gen. Eisenhower. The general was impressed with its fighting potential. He transferred the 35th from Third Army, sent it to France to join Gen. Bradley's First Army in the fight for Normandy.
Anchored in the base of the narrow Cotentin Peninsula, St. Lo was surrounded by the toughest offensive, best defensive terrain. Here was the gateway to the French interior.
To smash through the heavily defended thick hedgerows, root Nazis from deeply-entrenched positions and take the city was a mammoth task. Spearhead of the
Col. Butler B. Miltonberger's 134th Inf. Regt. was first to attack. Second Bn. moved into front line foxholes near St. Nicolas,
The division's first casualty was recorded that night. While Co. H, 137th, was moving into position, a shell killed Pvt. Owen J. McBride, an ammunition bearer.
Just before dawn July 11, more than 200 division guns and supporting Corps artillery pounded Nazi positions in a thunderous barrage. Then, at 0600, infantrymen stormed "over the top" of hedgerows.
The 137th rushed along the area following Highway 3 where the Germans awaited the attack on a small road leading from the highway to the Vire Canal. Dungeon-deep foxholes, connected by underground tunnels and heavily protected by mines, lined the road.
The regiment lunged forward with bayonet, grenade and point-blank fire. Green troops fought like veterans as they punched along the narrow road until reaching La Meauffe. There they ran up against Germans barricaded in houses and shops, where every building was a converted pillbox. Yank artillery crashed in and levelled the strongest points with deadly accurate salvos. Doughs rushed other positions, driving Nazis from the town.
The 137th continued up the road to "Purple Heart Corner," pushed the Germans from a solid stone chateau used as Gestapo headquarters, then took the Chateau of St. Gilles, key defense in the area. When Col. Layng was wounded by machine gun fire during the battle, Col. Robert Sears took command. Lt. Col. John N. Wilson, 219th FA Bn. CO, was killed.
The 320th had been fighting from an
The 137th smashed through to the north bank of the Vire July 18. Meanwhile, the 134th, with elements of the 737th Tank Bn.; the 654th TD Bn.; Co A, 60th Combat Engrs.; Co. A, 110th Medical Bn., launched a drive north of St. Lo. Immediate objective was tall, forbidding Hill 122, dominating the town.
The strength of the attack carried the 134th to Emilie which was taken in a house-to-house fight. Here the regiment was held up by extremely heavy German resistance. Between July 15 and 17, Nazis counter-attacked 12 times, netting only 100 yards.
On July 18, the 134th, with 2nd Bn., 320th, attached, coordinated an assault with air power and tanks on Hill 122. While aircraft bombed and strafed, tank-infantry teams destroyed machine gun nests, other
That evening, 134th's I&R platoon entered the city. Under 1st Lt. John F. Tracy, Brooklyn, the platoon consisted of Cpl. Joseph Stefansky, Cleveland; T/5 Charles Piercy, Elgin, Tenn.; Pfc Eutimio Espinoza, Blanca, Col.; Pfc Arthur Peck, St. Louis; Pfc Robert Lee, Newberg, Ore.; Pfc Elgin Wilkinson, Venice, Calif.; Pvt. Edgar Hale, Little Rock, Ark. Maj. Dale Godwin, North Platte, Nebr., also was in the scouting party. Under constant mortar fire, the platoon reconnoitered the center of town and returned. Next night, the 134th entered St. Lo in force. After 11 days of fierce, exhausting combat, the first mission was completed.
Next morning, both 320th and 134th attacked southwest of St. Lo, then pushed southeast along the main highway. Task Force S was created with the 137th as the basic infantry unit, under Brig.. Gen. Edmund B. Sebree, Asst. Division Commander. The force included the 219th FA Bn.; one platoon from the 35th Cav. Recon Troop; a detachment from the 35th Signal Co.; Co. B, 60th Combat Engrs.; Co. B, 110th Medical Bn.; one company of the 654th TD Bn.; the 737th Tank Bn.
Santa Fe men no longer were green. Battle-wise and tough, they had thinned enemy ranks, had taken many prisoners. After 2nd and 3rd Bns., 320th, had enveloped the strategic town of Torigni sur Vire, Maj. Frank W. Waring's 1st Bn. buttoned up the town July 31. Meanwhile Task Force S reached its first objective, the high ground southeast of Brectouville.
The task force pushed cross-country Aug. 1, steam-rolled Germans from Brectouville. The enemy now defended a line from south of Mt. Hebert to the west of Pituanay.
Running into heavy resistance, Gen. Sebree outmaneuvered the Nazis, cut the Tessy-Torigni Road and smashed through to Domjean in a vicious night attack.
Capt. William C. Miller, Athens, Tenn., Co. B CO, 137th, won the division's first Distinguished Service Cross by wiping out two machine gun nests, coordinating the attack of Cos. B and C, and turning an apparently hopeless situation into victory for his battalion.
Task Force S pushed down the east bank of the Vire, and reached the double bend in the river south of Le Mesnil. German mortar and artillery west of the river shelled troops fiercely, but the attack rolled on. By Aug. 2, the task force had cleared the high ground north of the Vire and crossed the river, contacting the 29th Division at La Touberie.
The 320th and 134th, operating on the left of the task force, advanced and the entire 35th reached its objective. The Cotentin Peninsula had been cleared.
In the word of the 35th's Chief of Staff, Col. Maddrey A. Solomon, the Santa Fe was "literally flagged off the road" to fight for Mortain. Combat teams were formed on 30 minutes' notice. Scouts reported Germans dug in solidly at Barenton, Mortain and in the Mortain forest.
Combat Team 137th drove Nazis from Barenton after a sharp clash, then moved toward the forest. The division was attached to VII Corps Aug. 8 as both 134th and 320th teams aimed an attack to split the Germans east of Mortain. The 30th's "lost battalion" had to be rescued. Food and ammunition were running out.
While 2nd and 3rd Bns., 320th, pounded the crack SS Das Reich Div. back toward Mortain from the west, Maj. William G. Gillis' 1st Bn. rode 737th Bn's. tanks in the now famous thrust from the south, cut through the center of the Nazi pocket and joined 3rd Bn. in taking the high rugged Hill 317 overlooking Mortain from the east.
Capt. Homer W. Kurtz, Troy, Ill., led a five-man patrol which located the lost battalion Aug. 12. Later, 320th doughs effected the rescue of the 30th Div. unit which was too weak to continue fighting.
Cpl. Verlin D. Young, Lexington, Nebr., and T/5 Hans Gehlsen, Gross, Nebr., 35th QM Co., loaded a truck with supplies and water, headed for the surrounded battalion position convoyed by three tanks. They dodged enemy fire, raced down rutted roads to reach the battalion with supplies intact. On the return trip, 20 seriously wounded men were evacuated.
The 137th, with 3rd Bn., 134th, attached, continued its rapid encircling move, pushed Nazis from the high ridge north of le Gil Bouillion, and forced a panicky German withdrawal. American P-47s pounced on fleeing Germans and strafed them with precise artistry as the finishing touch to the 35th's destruction of Hitler's last chance to balk the invasion.
When Third Army made its record run from the Croton Peninsula across France, the 35th swept forward with it, protecting Army's right flank.
Attached to XII Corps, Aug. 14, the division moved east of Le Mans, formed combat teams.
Task Force S, teamed with Combat Command A of the 4th Armd. Div., set out for Orleans Aug. 11. Spearheaded by CC A's tanks, the task force raced down the Le Mans-Orleans highway, overwhelmed Nazis, drove them to rout. Unable to cope with the speed of the advance or replace battered guns and tanks, Germans fell back fast, left huge stores of equipment.
CT 320th, with the 35th Recon Troop, attacking under heavy mortar and artillery fire, seized Chateaudun and occupied Cloyes Aug. 17.
Orleans, where Jeanne d'Arc gave her life for liberty, now was rid of Nazi shackles. The 35th aimed at Sens, 60 miles southeast of Paris on the Yonne River. To take this central supply point and vital communications center required a 90 mile thrust without flank protection.
The 137th, attached to the 4th Armd. Div., left Artenay Aug. 21, sped from Orleans to Ingrannes, then wheeled east through Chene Pointu Forest and raced to Villeroy. It moved so slickly into Sens that Germans were completely surprised. Not a single casualty was sustained by the regiment as it captured the Nazi garrison and a mountain of supplies. Sens was further east than any other Allied troops yet reported.
The 134th and 320th struck sharply in other directions. On Aug. 21, CT 320th grabbed Pithiviers then went on to join CT 134th in taking Montargis. Both teams mopped up the Cheroy-Bouchy-Montargis sector Aug. 25, netting 1134 prisoners. Backed by 35th doughs, armored spearheads took Troyes and completed the sweep around Paris. The heart of France now was liberated.
Setting its battle sights northeast to Nancy, ancient stronghold and fifth largest city in France, the 35th went into attack Sept. 10, synchronizing its assault with Third Army's blow at Metz and the German border.
Capt. Joseph Giacobello, Mt. Union, Pa., and a small group from Co. F, 137th, crossed the river next day but were given up for lost when the remainder of the battalion was forced to abandon a crossing. Although elements Of 3rd Bn. forded the river further south, they were pinned down until late afternoon. In a coordinated attack by the entire regiment, 1st and 3rd Bns. each put two companies across in assault boats manned by Co. B, 60th Engr. Bn., near Lorey and St. Mard. The attack developed in fury during the night but 1st Bn. had cleared all Nazis from the Lofey area by morning. Second Bn. crossed the river next afternoon, then worked back along the east bank to be greeted by Capt. Giacobello and his men.
Same day, 320th crossed the Moselle, attacking on the right of the 137th. Tank-riding doughs took the high ground between Saffais and Coyviller, cleared Rosieres and the Boche belt between the Moselle and the Meurthe. Frantic Germans reeled, fell back. By Sept. 16 most of the division's armor and infantry not only had crossed the Meurthe but also the Le Sanon River and the Rhine-Marne Canal. That evening CT 320th pushed to Haraucourt and Buissoncourt. The task force chased Nazis from Mazerulles next day, cutting the main supply route and highway from the east and clearing the approaches to Nancy by swinging into Azelot, Mononcourt and St. Nicolas.
Task Force S, commanded by Gen. Sebree, with the 134th as the major unit, flowed down the Toul-Nancy highway, its south flank covered by Task Force T, under Lt. Col. Robert S. Thompson, 127th FA Bn. CO. The rough spade work had been done; Nazis were too groggy to put up a fight for Nancy. The task force rolled into the city without opposition and was greeted joyfully by grateful Frenchmen. The 134th then forced a crossing of the Meurthe, capturing high ground to the northeast.
In the thick Champenoux Forest south of the Nancy-Saarbrucken highway were stubborn Nazi concentrations which had to be erased. Second and 3rd Bns., 137th, attacked across open ground Sept. 20. But the Germans had an ideal defensive position, fought grimly and held. Two days later, impatient with delay, doughs mounted 737th Bn's. tanks, rode to the edge of the woods, then jumped off to annihilate Germans in a bloody hand-to-hand fight. Nazis fled to Gremercey and the Chateau Salins Forest, another stronghold. They reorganized, counter-attacking Sept. 16 along the Chambrey-Pettoncourt highway, and threatened to encircle 3rd Bn. with tanks and infantry. For three days the fight see-sawed viciously, but the Nazis were thrown back with heavy losses. The 137th attacked with support from 6th Armored, cleared the Bois de Chambrey and took shell-battered Chambrey, Sept. 31.
During the next week, the division pushed and prodded the Nazis without letup. It established a firm line from Ajoncourt through Fossieux to the Foret de Gremercey down to Chambrey. The 35th now prepared for the next big push.
As the regiment seeped through the heavy woods, the remainder of the division attacked north and northeast. Coutures, Amelecourt, Oriocourt, Laneuville,
Spurrier shot the first three Nazis with his M-1. Then, picking up BARs, Yank and German bazookas and grenades wherever he found them, he systematically began to clean out the town. He crumbled one stronghold with bazooka shells, killed three more Nazis with a BAR, captured a garrison commander, a lieutenant and 14 men. Another defense point was silenced when he killed its two occupants. Out of ammunition and under fire from four Nazis, Spurrier hurled a Nazi grenade into the house, killing the four Germans.
That night, the one-man army had charge of an outpost. While checking security, he heard four Germans talking in a barn. He set fire to a supply of oil and hay, captured the four as they ran out. Later, he spotted a Kraut crawling toward a sentry, killed him when there was no reply to his challenge.
According to 25-year-old Lt. Col. Frederick Roecker, his battalion CO, Spurrier killed 25 Germans, captured 20 others. In March, 1945, Sgt. Spurrier was awarded the division's first Congressional Medal of Honor.
Nazis ferociously defended their garrison and supply depot at Morhange. But the 134th closed in and squeezed the Nazis from the city Nov. 16. Racrange fell the same day. Completing its initial objective, the Santa Fe, chalking up victories near Morhange and in the Chateau Salins Forest, netted more than 1500 prisoners and considerable enemy supplies. Morale was sky-high.
Two days later, the division renewed its attack, seizing Harprich, Berig-Vintrange, Vallerange and capturing Bermering, Bertring, Virming, Gros-Tenquin, Erstroff and Francaltroff.
At Freybouse, Nazis twice attempted to burn out Lt. Thomas R. Travis and 20 Co. K, 137th, doughs from their shelters. The "Travis Twenty" had killed 15 Germans and captured eight others in taking the first house in town. Germans threw phosphorous grenades on the roof of a second house to set it afire. When the roof collapsed, the men moved downstairs and continued to fight until the flames seared their window positions.
The group fought its way back to the first house, prisoners in tow, and held out all night against automatic and bazooka fire. Next morning, the Yanks were told to surrender or be burned. Lt. Travis' reply was "Go to Hell!" Enraged stormtroopers set fire to the roof. The group was completely surrounded when the lieutenant spotted a tank destroyer edging into the outskirts of town.
"Watch my tracers!" he shouted. "Watch me!"
TD men spotted the SOS. Following tracers, they knocked out four machine gun nests, forcing the other machine gun and bazooka teams to pull out hurriedly.
The 35th continued its assault northeast, grabbing nine more towns by Nov. 23. The 320th took Nelling, Rening and Insming next day. To wrest the key town of Uberkinger from the claws of German armor, Co. A footsloggers acted as their own engineers and TDs. Crossing on a hand bridge improvised during the pitch black hours preceding the dawn assault, the company, led by 21-year-old 1st Lt. Charles W. Bell, Valentine, Tex., mauled armor with bazookas and Molotov cocktails. Aided by artillery, doughs blasted tanks and half-tracks.
In the sector facing the swift, wide Saar River, the 35th was blocked not only by thick natural defenses, but by mammoth concrete pillboxes of the Maginot Line. Troops prepared for the new attack with realistic training in pillbox assault and river crossing.
Cold and muddy, the division moved out against the rough defenses in the dawn mist Dec. 4. Hoping to catch Germans by surprise, artillery fire was withheld. The ruse worked. The 134th swept into Puttelange without a casualty, capturing 75 sleeping Nazis. The 320th met an enemy column which had just arrived. After a sharp fight the regiment pushed on to take Diderfing, Bettring, Helving, Richelling, Grundviller, Ballering and Hambach by dark Dec. 5, exactly five months after the 35th's first elements landed in France. The anniversary was observed by Btry. B, 127th FA Bn., firing the first Santa Fe shell into Germany near Harweiler. Infantryman Col. Miltonberger pulled the lanyard.
The same afternoon, Lt. Col. Botchin's 60th Engrs. planned crossing sites. At Saareguemines, a railroad bridge had been partially destroyed by retreating Nazis, but the bridge-building veterans of Co. A under 2nd Lt. John S. Parker made the necessary repairs. An assault crossing was prepared at Zetting.
The attack began before dawn Dec. 8. First Bn., 134th, ran top speed across the repaired railroad bridge, soon was followed by the entire regiment. Meeting strong opposition, the 134th was counter-attacked by 15 tanks carrying infantry. This tank attack was broken in 15 minutes by what terrified Nazi prisoners described as "automatic artillery." Second Bn., 320th, crossed the river in assault boats, stormed a fortified hill and grenaded Nazis from their trenches. In the middle of the regimental sector, 1st Bn. made an assault crossing and pushed east to take Didering.
Once a foothold had been established on the east bank, engineers began to build supporting bridges. The 81st Chemical Smoke Generating Co. covered the Saar River valley with thick smoke. Under this screen, engineers put a treadway bridge over the canal at Saaremensing and began construction of two Bailey Bridges.
Although engineers were constantly under fire by SP guns, they worked 48 hours without let-up to complete the bridges. Tanks, TDs, vehicles loaded with supplies raced across the bridges; the bridgehead was Gibraltar-strong.
Recalled from division reserve Dec. 10, Col. William E. Murray's 137th crossed the railroad bridge. Second Bn. was to seize Saareguemines on the east side of the river and widen the bridgehead. Co. F overcame and killed 43 SS troopers, captured 27 others after a rough scrap in a porcelain factory. The last Nazi was ejected from Saareguemines and considerable equipment captured Dec. 11 as 3rd Bn. nabbed Nuenkirch. Nearly a thousand U.S.S.R., Polish and anti-Fascist Italian PWs were freed. Third Bn. captured the airfield and town of Frauenberg. The 35th now had driven to the edge of the swift, icy Blies River, the last barrier before the Fatherland.
First to stay and fight was Co. C, 134th led by S/Sgt. Thomas Wese, Beverly, W. Va., and seven men from the 60th Engrs., who captured 65 Nazis. The company fought and beat off repeated counter-attacks throughout the night. Opposing them was a picked Nazi guard battalion, ordered to die before allowing Americans to remain on German soil. Meanwhile, engineers had assembled nearly 1000 feet of footbridge, the first built near Blies Ebering. Next morning, Cos. B and C, 134th, crossed into Habkirchen, reinforced "Club 21" and held it against attacks of tank-supported SS troops. Both companies were hit hard, but Capt. William Denny told the remaining men they were "the toehold of a bridgehead." Tired doughs clung tenaciously.
Third Bn., 320th, spurted on to Bliesbruck, where it encountered heavily mined areas and fierce German tank and automatic fire. Cos. I and L, 134th, crossed the river north of Habkirchen, then were pinned down.
After a week of constant attack the division was ordered to hold and consolidate. Brave men had carved a bridgehead in Germany. Completing 162 days of almost constant front line action, the 35th was relieved by the 87th and 44th Inf. Divs. Dec. 20-21.
At Metz, massive church bells tolled the peaceful music of Christmas. Within the fortress city, 35th soldiers rested briefly and enjoyed a turkey dinner. Dec. 26, the division launched a deft, miracle-fast move that ended 24 hours later with troops ready to attack from front lines north of Arlon, Belgium. There, tentacles of von Rundstedt's frenzied blitz had clawed as far as the Sure River.
At 0800 Dec. 27, the 35th churned through knee-deep snow and attacked boldly across the Sure into the quivering belly of the Bulge. The 137th crossed to a point southwest of Tintange, reached Surre and captured the town after a hard struggle. The 320th doughs invaded the opposite shore by wading waist-deep in the bone-chilling water. The rushing tide of their attack quickly engulfed Boulaide and Baschleiden.
For attacking soldiers, the freezing cold and snow were foes as brutal as Nazis who had murdered American prisoners. Many Germans wore American uniforms, utilized captured vehicles and weapons, or camouflaged themselves with white hoods and capes.
Third Bn., 137th, inched to a hill southwest of Villers-la-Bonne-Eau Dec. 28, while the 320th occupied an important road junction. Third Bn., 134th, came out of reserve to relieve 1st Bn., 318th Inf., 90th Div.
Next day, 1st Bn., 134th, shot into Marvie, three kilometers northeast of Bastogne. This was one of the first units to break through the Nazi ring around Bastogne and reach the 101st Airborne. Spearheading the battalion were Cos. A and B, led by Lts. William C. White, Millidgeville, Ga., and George Melochick, St. Claire, Pa.
When the iron knuckles of the 35th fist pounded as far as Villers, Lutrebois and Harlange, Germans punched back viciously with armor and infantry. It was in this action that the 310th captured an entire Nazi battalion. Cos. K and L, 137th, which had slashed into Villers alone, were cut off. Germans maneuvered SP guns near houses where the men were holding out, blew holes in the walls and turned on flame-throwers. More than 200 men missing from the regiment Dec. 31 either had been killed or captured.
The pulse of battle beat violently for three weeks but after a 13-day assault, the 137th avenged the men lost at Villers by crushing all resistance in the town. Lutrebois was captured after a fierce five-day fight and Lutremange was taken Jan. 11, the day after Villers fell.
By Jan. 17 the Nazi threat to the Bastogne highway was neutralized. Santa Fe doughs drove to the high wooded ground north of Harlange and gripped important ridges commanding the road net. The 320th captured the road center of Oubourcy, grabbed 215 prisoners, including a Nazi battalion CO and five staff officers who were surprised at a breakfast conference.
The division rounded up 1034 prisoners between Dec. 27 and Jan. 17, captured much equipment, wiped out enough Nazis to wither the salient in that sector. Mission completed, the 35th moved back to Metz Jan. 18. Left behind were the 134th, 161st FA Bn., one company of the 654 TD Bn., and a 448th AAA Bn. battery, all attached to the 6th Armd. Div. to clean out remaining Nazi pockets in the dwindling Bulge.
Stop-over at Metz again was brief. Nazis were attacking in Seventh Army's sector to the south and the 35th sped to Alsace Jan. 23 to tighten snowbound defense lines. Attached to the XV Corps, the division planted itself in the Domaniale Forest. A week later, the 35th made one of the longest infantry shifts of the war. From Alsace it traveled north, picked up the 134th and other elements and continued non-stop to Maastricht, Holland, near the German border. The leap covered nearly 300 miles.
The 35th was assigned to XVI Corps of Ninth Army which was under Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson, who commanded the Santa Fe from Oct. 1941 to spring of 1942.
The 320th kicked off and moved 1500 yards in three hours to the west bank of the Roer, achieving its first objective. The 134th sent strong patrols into Hilfarth across the river. Then it stormed the town in force with a sharp night attack, mopping up next morning. The 137th plus TDs and tanks pushed across the river on the right flank of the 134th.
The regiments knocked out a great many pillboxes of the Siegfried Line and braved heavy artillery, mortar and small arms fire to reach all objectives. Roads and fields were loaded with mines, causing casualties among engineers bridging the river as well as doughs who crossed the bridges to fight against fiercely defended enemy strongholds.
Div Arty supported the attack continuously, firing particularly heavy night missions and blinding enemy OPs with smoke shells. Preceding the jump-off, the big guns threw a tremendous sustained barrage across the Roer.
Crossing the Roer was made easier by capture intact of a strong bridge at Hilfarth, which had been mined but not blown. Steady artillery mortar and small arms fire denied the use of the bridge to the Germans, only partially damaged it, and allowed 35th troops to cross swiftly.
As the 134th cleared towns in its zone, Task Force Murray stabbed into Rheinberg, pushed up "88 Alley" into Ossenberg and drove the Nazis from the Solvay Works in a battle which cost Germans many dead and wounded, two tanks, an SP gun and 63 prisoners. Reduction of Ossenberg allowed adjacent units to cut off Nazi escape routes across the Rhine.
Within touching distance of the Rhine, the 35th now converged on Drupt and a crossroads north of the town which was the roadnet center of the remaining Nazi bridgehead in the Ninth Army sector. Troops encountered the heaviest artillery and mortar fire they had yet experienced. Nazis resorted to every conceivable trick used in the Ardennes offensive. Some clothed themselves in American uniforms and fired on unsuspecting Yanks. Every house and building in the path of the 35th was a fort. By March 11, the 35th had completed the reduction of the Wesel sector and stood before the battered, once magnificent Wesel bridge and the Rhine.
Division officers and men had won approximately 3000 awards including the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Legion of Merit, and had shed blood for many Purple Hearts. Approximately 100 enlisted men had received battlefield commissions.
The fighting men of the 35th looked across the Rhine. Beyond lay the fat Ruhr region, industrial plasma for the bloody German war machine. And, as always, the 35th would not be long awaiting the familiar signal -- ATTACK!
Printed by: Desfosses-Neogravure, Paris
Photos: U.S. Signal Corps