Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
THE STORY OF THE 3rd INFANTRY DIVISION
But the ceremony was a shocking insult to Nazism. The troops were American; the flag, the Stars and Stripes; the general, an officer in the United States Army.
This was a small measure of the 3rd Infantry Division's contempt for the Nazis -- the 3rd which began its war against the Germans early Nov. 8, 1942, off the coast of French Morocco.
Thirty months later, May 8, 1945, when the Nazis surrendered unconditionally, the 3rd boasted three additional amphibious landings, eight campaign stars, 33 Congressional Medal of Honor winners and such memorable milestones as Casablanca and Tunisia in Africa; Palermo and Messina in Sicily; Monte Lungo and the Volturno River in southern Italy; the Anzio beachhead, Cisterna and Rome in central Italy; the Riviera, Rhone River Valley, Montelimar and Besancon in southern France; the Vosges Mountains, Strasbourg, the Colmar Pocket, Siegfried Line, Rhine River, Bamberg, Nurnberg, Munich, Berchtesgaden, Salzburg.
There were few veterans of the initial D-Day on hand for V-E Day in Salzburg and Berchtesgaden, a solemn day for both veterans and recruits alike. For during those 30 months, the 3rd had sustained 34,000 casualties -- more than any of the 60 divisions in the European Theater -- in its 3200 mile trail from Casablanca to Salzburg.
April 16, 1945: Nurnberg was the goal and the 3rd knew it would have a tough fight on its hands. Captured Wehrmacht and Volksturm troopers indicated a stand would be made at Nurnberg which Hitler had selected to play host to the yearly celebration of the Nazi party.
The same 150 AA guns which protected the city against air raids were put into use as the 3rd closed in from the north and the 45th Inf. Div. swung up from the east and southeast. Approximately 80 of the guns were in the division's sector.
Under cover of darkness, 1st Lt. Sherman Pratt, North Little Rock, Ark., who was a first sergeant only four months previous, led Co. L, 7th Regt., against the outer ring of the 88s. A terrified gun crew put up a sharp fight, then folded under the relentless pressure. The first position of 12 guns was kaput.
Simultaneously, 2nd Bn., 15th Regt., under Lt. Col. Keith L. Ware, Glendale, Calif., slashed into the city from the northeast, with 3rd Bn., commanded by Lt. Col. John O'Connell, New York City, entering on its right. In the next 36 hours, 45 dual-purpose 88s were captured and the Blue and White patch troopers were well inside the city.
Veteran campaigners never experienced more accurate enemy sniper fire. Luftwaffe troops, crack SS panzer grenadiers and Volksturmers held on for three days, finally retiring behind the old city's 20-foot thick wall. A 155 howitzer, hauled into position 500 yards from the wall, could no more than nick the outer plaster.
The job was one for the doughs again. Scaling the walls, rushing the two gates and probing their way through pitch-black, narrow passageways, infantrymen reached the inner city, then raced for Hitler Platz and the royal castle in the northwest corner of the old town.
At 1000 hours on Hitler's birthday, April 20, a scout from Lt. Col. Jack Duncan's 2nd Bn., 7th, reached one side of the Platz and met a member of the Lt. Col. James Osgard's 2nd Bn., 30th Regt.
Two hours later, Maj. Gen. John W. "Iron Mike" O'Daniel, division commander, was notified that Maj. Kenneth B. Potter's 1st Bn., 15th Regt., had cleared the last resistance In the old city. Engineers swept rubble from the streets with a tank dozer, then erected a flag pole at one end of the square at Hitler Platz.
At 1800, "Iron Mike" addressed the men who had captured the city. His remarks were short, merely thanking the men for again accomplishing their mission and noting that the twilight of Nazism was approaching total blackout.
Two days later, in Zeppelin Stadium, a regiment of the division stood at attention while more history was made. Five heroes of the 3rd received the Congressional Medal of Honor from Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, Seventh Army commander. Never before had five men of one division been awarded the Medal of Honor at a single ceremony.
After taking Nurnberg, the 3rd was promised a rest, but orders were switched when the 12th Armd. Div. captured a Danube River bridge at Dillingen. The division was picked to exploit this entry into the Redoubt area. Within three days, the 3rd moved 140 miles on organic transportation and was again in contact with the enemy.
The Stars and Stripes reported April 28: "A German underground anti-Nazi organization came into the open this morning and handed the city of Augsburg to the 3rd Division, just as news of the Munich revolt against the Hitler government swept the city."
Attacking so rapidly the enemy didn't have time to blow bridges, the 3rd raced toward the scene of Hitler's abortive beer hall putsch of 1923, and three days after the fall of Augsburg, troops of Lt. Col. MacKenzie Porter's 1st Bn., 30th, and Maj. Ralph Flynn's 3rd Bn., 7th, entered Munich's outskirts.
The city was the scene of weird fighting. Along one block the 30th received wild acclaim from the civilians; on another block the 7th fought what Col. John Heintges termed "more like a game of cops and robbers" against 14 to 16-year old Hitler youth.
There Was no hesitating at Munich; a 30th task force rolled southeast along the autobahn, covering 30 miles in a single day to capture intact a bridge across the Inn River at Rosenheim.
Prisoners were taken by the thousands. Rear echelon troops took charge of them because fighting men were in too much of a hurry. When Maj. Jim Watts, Eugene, Ore., Division Provost Marshal, spotted an air field that he could use for a PW cage, he found three generals, 100 German Wacs and 1500 Luftwaffe personnel inhabiting it. They were promptly made prisoner. Lt. Col. George Fezell, Pittsburgh, Division Signal Officer, captured three towns, a corps headquarters and 2200 prisoners as he sought a division CP site.
Most of the glory of the last two days of the war went to Col. Heintges' 7th Regt. Second Bn. rolled into Salzburg, while 1st and 3rd Bns., commanded by Lt. Col. Kenneth Wallace and Maj. Flynn, raced to capture Berchtesgaden. There they raised the American flag at Hitler's Eagle's Nest while in Salzburg, Lt. Col. Duncan waited with Brig. Gen. Robert N. Young, Asst. Division Commander, to accompany a German armistice commission to division headquarters.
When Gen. Young had all but given up hope of the Germans appearing, Lt. Gen. Roertsch, German First Army Commander, arrived at the Bristol Hotel and was rushed to Ober Siegsdorf, division CP.
Next morning he was taken to Munich, where Gen. Jacob Devers dictated surrender terms. The surrender complete, Associated Press Correspondent Howard Cowan wrote:
"'It's all over on my front,' beamed Devers.
"Grasping Gen. Patch by the hand, he said, 'Sandy, this is a joy to me. Congratulations. You've done a magnificent job -- and you, too, Mike.'
"Devers took two strides and shook hands with O'Daniel, whose veteran 3rd Division Friday smashed into Salzburg and Berchtesgaden."
After 30 months of campaigning, after fighting through seven countries, eight separate campaigns, the war was over for the 3rd. No wonder Lt. Richard Ford, 10th Engr. Bn., said: "It's amazing to think it's over. I feel a little let down."
"ROCK OF THE MARNE" -- A TRIBUTE TO STRENGTH
Both the 3rd's history in World War I and its state of readiness in this war governed its selection. Along the banks of the Marne in 1918, the 3rd stood fast while two German divisions pounded it from three sides. But the 3rd held, the enemy was forced to retreat and the peril to Paris was eliminated. Thereafter, the 3rd became known as the "Rock of the Marne" Division.
The 3rd took part in the fighting at the Somme, Chateau-Thierry, Champagne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Aisne-Marne. In August, 1919, after a stretch as occupation troops, the division left France for the States and was demobilized.
Reactivated in September, 1921, at Fort Lewis, Wash., the 3rd remained in Washington and California until it went to Camp Pickett, Va., in September, 1942, to prepare for the invasion of North Africa.
The division's background was rooted in the history of its regiments. Their battle honors include the campaigns of 1812, Spanish-American War, Indian Wars, Mexican and Civil Wars. The 7th Regt. was first organized in 1798, mustered out in 1800, reorganized in 1808 and has had continuous service since. Its long list of battle honors begins with the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.
The 15th Regt. was organized as a regiment of volunteers to fight the British in 1812. It also saw action in the Mexican War and took part in six major battles during the Civil War. The regiment served twice in China, first during the Boxer Rebellion and later for a 26-year period ending in 1938, when it returned to the States and was assigned to the 3rd.
The 30th Regt. participated in the War of 1812 and in the Civil War, but the history of the present regiment began with its formation in 1901 at Fort Logan, Colo. It and the 7th were part of the division in World War I.
"Blue and White Devils" is only one of the nicknames belonging to the 3rd. That name is a grudging tribute from the Germans who were defeated at the Anzio beachhead. Nazis also called the 3rd the "Sturm" Division, a name often applied to their own units.
The 3rd's invasion off Fedala, French Morocco, in the inky blackness of Nov. 8, 1942, was far from being a perfect landing. Amphibious landings were new and when the ships' deployment in the transport area became mixed, H-hour was set back 45 minutes. A dangerous shore line, rocks and a heavy sea, capsized many boats. Once inland, friendly naval gun fire occasionally hit advancing troops.
But it was a start and it was successful. While the division prepared its assault on Casablanca, Nov. 11, the French asked for an armistice. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., commanding Western Task Force, told Maj. Gen. J. W. Anderson, then CG of the 3rd: "Thanks for the birthday present, Andy."
Next followed a long period free from combat. The 30th sent troops northward to patrol the borders of Spanish Morocco. One battalion commanded by Col. (then Maj.) Charles E. Johnson, acted as honor and security guard at the Casablanca conference.
Gen. Anderson left the division Feb. 22 and was replaced by Lt. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, later Fifth Army Commander. A vigorous training program followed Gen. Truscott made it his business to see that the division could march five miles an hour for the first hour, and four miles an hour thereafter. The pace was called the Truscott Trot; it made the 3rd famous.
Other American divisions, the 1st, 9th, 34th and 1st Armored, were fighting for Tunisia. When the Afrika Korps was about to collapse, the 3rd's 15th Regt. was committed to action. It hadn't fired a shot when the Germans surrendered.
"Hell," said 1st Lt. Don G. Taggart, current division historian. "We got that battle star for maneuvering into position."
That star was the only gift the 3rd ever received without working for it.
SICILY -- SPRINGBOARD TO ITALY
Licata was the scene of the 3rd's invasion. Marne-men exhibited their Truscott Trot immediately. In the drive for Palermo they covered 90 miles in three days, all on foot. During the attack, the 30th's 3rd Bn. covered, by marching over mountainous terrain, 54 miles in 33 hours -- a record the division believes still stands -- then attacked the town of San Stefano Quisquina.
Outside Palermo the Army commander drew a line where foot troops were to stop; entry was to be made by armored forces. Gen. Truscott received permission to "patrol" the town, however, and 3rd Bn., 7th, entered the city to be met next morning by tankers from the 2nd Armd. Div.
He called himself "The Old Goat" but there was nothing old about the way Lt. Col. Lyle Bernard loaded his 2nd Bn., 30th, into Higgins boats and Ducks to make two landing behind enemy lines as the 3rd pushed up the Sicilian coast toward Messina. For these two invasions, the battalion won the Presidential Unit Citation.
Again, at Messina, Marne-men were first into the city. Again it was the 7th, climaxing a drive against stubborn German rear guards that resulted in the bloodiest fighting of the entire campaign.
Thirty days after the fall of Messina (Sept. 17, 1943), the 3rd headed for Italy and crossed the recently won Salerno beachhead. Three days later, elements of the 30th met German troops south of Acerno. Forgotten was the Truscott Trot in the rugged mountains, the biting rain, and against the powerful, stubborn German army.
The division made an audacious crossing of the Volturno River Oct. 13. The river valley was perfectly flat, fringed with mountains affording the enemy excellent observation, cross fire and strong artillery support. Without stopping to take a breather, the 3rd plunged into the icy waters, crossed the river. Casualties were high. The situation was tense once during an enemy tank counter-attack, but the division crunched ahead to the mountains to upset the German timetable.
It was in the mountain approaches to Cassino that the division met its toughest opposition and displayed its greatest offensive prowess. Heavily reinforced, the Germans sat on Monte Rotundo, Monte Lungo and Monte la Difensa, ringing Mignano on the north, determined to hold at all costs.
Every foot of the way was heavily mined. Jeeps were replaced by pack mules. Men died who might have lived if they could have been transported over the long and tortuous trails to aid stations. Co. K, 7th, once had 23 casualties from AP mines while climbing a hill to relieve another company. Mules were forever straying off the paths, exploding mines and wounding badly needed men.
As winter approached, the 3rd captured Monte Rotundo, the south nose of Lungo and all of steep, barren La Difensa, except one summit guarded by a 200-foot cliff.
It was on Monte Rotundo that Capt. Maurice L. "Footsie" Britt, Lone Oak, Ark., former Detroit Lions' football star, CO Co. L, 30th, became a legendary figure through his exploits. Despite painful grenade wounds, he inspired his company of 40 to stand off three separate counter-attacks, throwing "at least 30 grenades," firing his carbine, a Tommygun, anything he could shoot to beat off the enemy. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Previously, Capt. Arlo Olson, Baton Rouge, La., 15th, drove his men through a vastly superior force in 13 rugged days. Killed by a mortar fragment at San Felice, he also was awarded the CMH. This type of grim fighting had its results. The first approaches to Cassino were forced, a toe hold gained for succeeding troops.
The 3rd came out of the line Nov. 17, 1943, rested until the end of December in the knee-deep mud near San Felice. Practice river crossings on the Volturno indicated that Marne-men would force the issue at the Rapido which flowed through Cassino.
ANZIO AND THE RACE TO ROME BEGINS
Three regiments landed abreast, each speared by an assault battalion. By mid-afternoon next day, they were 10 miles inland. The enemy's reaction was swift. Instead of withdrawing, he raced fresh troops from the Rome vicinity and northern Italy and hurled them into battle. When a 45th Inf. Div. combat team landed on the beachhead D plus 6, an equivalent of three divisions loomed in front of Cisterna on Highway 7 as the 3rd regrouped for its first assault.
The brick-wall defense stopped the attack which began Jan 29 and ended early Jan. 31. When the 7th's 1st Bn. finally was relieved, less than 200 men were left; 2nd Bn. had 400; 3rd Bn., 600. Closest to Cisterna were 1st Bn., 30th, and 2nd Bn., 15th, which had to swing to the defense only 1500 yards from the objective.
Anzio was barely 14 miles wide and 10 miles from sea to front at its deepest penetration. The enemy squatted around the beachhead's perimeter and in the Colli Laziali Hills with perfect observation of every square inch of beachhead.
Sally, the Berlin broadcaster, knew what type of rations men ate. Among songs she dedicated was, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Among her remarks was, "As long as there is blue and white paint, there'll always be a 3rd Division," The blue and white paint outlasted Sally.
When VI Corps ordered defensive emplacements dug along the Mussolini Canal -- the beachhead line -- weary, battered Marne-men doggedly refused to let the Krauts push them back. The Mussolini Canal plan was discarded. That line, won during the first Cisterna assault, was to be held. Men like T/5 Eric Gibson and Pfc Lloyd Hawks would have approved the decision, the former if he hadn't been killed when he left his field kitchen to lead a squad of recruits into their first battle; the latter, if he hadn't been near death in a Naples hospital after saving the lives of two buddies although he had been wounded in the head, suffered a shattered arm and leg. Both men won the Medal of Honor.
The first defensive battle occurred Feb. 16 when Hitler tried to remove the thorn in the side of Italy. Main weight of the attack was pressed against the 45th Div. and British 1st Div. near Aprilia. When the line receded but didn't disintegrate, Col. Lionel C. McGarr's 30th Inf. and the 1st Armd. Div. counterattacked across the flat Pontine marshes to steady and re-establish the beachhead line.
Maj. Gen. (then Brig. Gen.) John W. O'Daniel assumed command Feb. 17 when Gen. Truscott went to VI Corps. Men well remember his classic retort to Field Marshal Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander's question in the War Room. "I believe it is true that your division did not give an inch. Is that right?" asked the Commander of Allied Armies in Italy. "Not a God-damn inch!" replied "Iron Mike."
For a while, the fight simmered down, then flared again Feb. 29. Field Marshal Kesselring flung three divisions and elements of a fourth against the 3rd. Wave upon wave of enemy infantry stormed positions. Supported by seven tanks, a regiment struck a company Of the 7th, only to be whipped back in retreat. Next morning, two tanks from Ponte Rotto barreled through Co. L, headed for the battalion CP. Co. K stemmed, their advance. It was the same all along the line.
Fourteen tanks grinding from Cisterna toward Isola Bella, held by the 15th, were slapped down by TDs or turned tread and fled. Because reserves were thin, front line doughs had to hold. Second Bn., 30th, made the main attack, wiping out an enemy penetration of 1000 yards at Carano; the 5th restored its positions between Carano and Ponte Rotto. Krauts stacked their dead, covered them with a bulldozer.
The push of Yank forces on the southern front of the Italian boot was the signal to break out of the beachhead. The date was May 23, an indelible mark in the minds of Marne-men. The 3rd bore the brunt of the attack. Cisterna, key to the enemy's defense, its approaches sewed with mines and anti-tank ditches, latticed with trenches and emplacements, had to be taken.
Late May 21, all three regiments shifted into place, spent a restless day under the scant cover of the Mussolini Canal and adjacent ditches. H-hour was 0630, May 23. The plan demanded the 30th encircle Cisterna from the left, the 15th to by-pass it to the right; the 7th to crash it head-on.
On the 23rd, the division suffered 995 battle casualties, believed to be the highest ever sustained by a single division in one day's fighting. Marne-men kept slugging it out. By nightfall, most companies had lost key personnel; less experienced carried on. Heroes were legion, four won the Medal of Honor for the first two day's fighting. Pvt. Henry "Kraut-an-Hour" Schauer killed 17 Germans in 17 hours with his BAR; Pvt. Johnny Dutko wiped out two machine guns, then charged and silenced an 88; Pvt. James Mills, first scout, led his platoon in his initial combat; Pvt. Patrick Kessler charged an enemy gun after 20 of his buddies were killed or wounded, knocked out a strongpoint, picked off two snipers to help his company advance.
The 7th plowed into Cisterna. By noon of the 25th, the city belonged to the 3rd Div. while the 30th raced ahead to Cori. Pushing on to Artena, "Blue and White Devils" ripped into the crack Hermann Goering Division, crushing it in a battle that matched Cisterna for ferocity, Next, Highway 6 was crossed, cutting the enemy's escape route from the south; Valmontone, taken. The race to Rome began. Preceding the capture of Valmontone was an incident that is an epic in the pages of the 3rd's history.
Pvt. Elden J. Johnson and Pvt. Herbert Christian were in a patrol from the 15th ordered to scout enemy positions. No sooner did the patrol run into an ambush than the leader was killed, a 20mm slug tore off Christian's left leg, machine gun bullets ripped into Johnson's stomach. Born men went down. In the blackness of night lit only by the vivid scars of red and green tracers and German flares, both men struggled to their feet to charge the enemy while 11 uninjured doughs withdrew. They were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
First Lt. Frank Greenlee, Nashville, Tenn., led his platoon of the 3rd Recon Troop into Rome at 0800 June 4 in a photo finish with the 88th Recon Troop. By nightfall, the first capital of a Nazi nation had fallen. To the 3rd fell the honor of garrisoning the city. New uniforms were issued to troops who became garrison for the first time in 14 months.
June 6 was D-Day in Normandy, but for Marne-men, who experienced four D-Days, it was just another invasion. The Rome interlude was brief. The time had come to stab at "the soft underbelly of Europe." To gird itself for the assault on southern France, the 3rd, along with the 36th and 45th Divs., returned to the familiar staging grounds at Naples.
BLUE AND WHITE DEVILS PIERCE "UNDERBELLY OF EUROPE"
Lt. Col. Clayton Thobro's 2nd Bn., 7th, by-passed Montelimar, which fell to the 15th, and was scrambling along the ridges east of the Rhone when the men's attention was gripped by a scene below them. Within easy 60 mm, mortar range, Germans were fleeing northward in more than 1000 vehicles, jammed bumper to bumper, 1000 horse-drawn carts, on foot. The frantic retreat had been caused by Task Force Butler's action in partially blocking their escape route to the north. Pounded relentlessly by the 3rd's Div Arty and the Air Force, the 18-kilometer stretch of highway soon was littered with the smoking hulks of wrecked vehicles, dead men and animals. Nine hundred Krauts were captured.
The German 159th Inf. Div. was rushed into Besancon to man the seven Vauban forts surrounding the city. Its orders: hold for 10 days to protect the retreat. As they approached, Marne-men were deployed for action. The 15th snagged a bridge across the Doubs; 7th Regt. and 3rd Bn., 30th, crossed to Besancon's north side; 1st Bn., 30th, closed in from the south.
Those 10 days were whittled down to three. By the time the last bit of resistance was crushed in Besancon the 15th was lashing out towards Vesoul. It took only one day for Vesoul to fall, but its capture wasn't easy for 1st Lt. John Tominac, Lincoln, Nebr., Co. I, 15th. When his platoon ran into bitter opposition, Lt. Tominac mounted a blazing Sherman rumbling driverless down the road and poured .50 caliber slugs into the enemy. Wounded in the shoulder, he led his platoon's remaining squad in an assault on the town. Lt. Tominac was awarded the Medal of Honor.
In 30 days, the division covered 400 miles, its units stretched more than half that distance. Tracks fell off tanks, trucks begged for repairs, men plowed ahead, hot on the enemy's heels. The division had reached an area on D plus 10 that was scheduled to be taken on D plus 40.
Associated Press Correspondent Kenneth Dixon once quoted an officer to the effect that winter campaigns were the acid tests of a division. The Marne Division reached the Vosges Mountains for its second winter in. combat. It rained, it snowed. Vehicles slid slowly over icy, mountain roads. Tree bursts made enemy mortars doubly effective. Progress was agonizingly slow.
A sneak crossing of the Mortagne River was followed by a drive that put Marne-men, who had scaled the rugged Italian heights, on high ground overlooking St. Die before Germans were aware of the breakthrough. Unopposed, 3rd Bn., 30th, made an 8000 yard dash to strike a position deep in the enemy rear. First and 2nd Bns. followed, sustained innumerable counter-attacks in savage mountain fighting.
The battles for Les Rouges Eaux and Les Hautes Jacques came next, the latter wrenched from a highly efficient mountain outfit hurried from Austria to stem the drive down the valley to St. Die. The four-day stalemate finally was broken by Co. E, 2nd Bn., 7th in an action which earned the company the Presidential Citation.
The 15th, meanwhile, swung north onto the Meurthe River plain. When white flags appeared in La Salle, 1st Lt. Charlie Adams led Co. L. onto the plain to accept the surrender. Krauts unleashed withering fire but a TOT artillery shoot crashed into LaSalle, enabling Co. L to walk in. Other cunning devices employed by the enemy were treated similarly until all territory west of the Meurthe was free.
With another river crossing in prospect, with no bridges intact, 15th patrols probed the river line nightly until two companies of the 10th Engrs. succeeded in erecting pontoon bridges under the Krauts' noses late Nov. 20. When one crew lost its boat, a staff sergeant grabbed the heavy anchor chain, leaped into the river, waded to the opposite shore.
Two regiments, the 30th and 7th, crossed the ponton foot bridges without tipping off the enemy, then jumped off in the attack next morning. Seven days later, they reached the Rhine, first troops to reach the river banks.
A night assault through bunkers and trenches at Saales and Saulxures broke the enemy's back. Civilians later said Germans had prepared to stay in Saales all winter. A sensational one-day dash to Mutzig by 3rd Bn., 15th, set the stage for the final drive to Strasbourg. Policing and garrison duties in Strasbourg were comparatively pleasant for Marne-men, but this mission was short-lived, lasting only three weeks. Yank Magazine chose T/Sgt. Joe Hodgins, Detroit, 7th, as its "Man of the Year" and ran his picture on the cover of its Jan. 1 issue. Highlight during this period was the 7th's scrap in "The Battle of the Apartments," a tense room-to-room struggle for an enemy-held bridgehead in Strasbourg.
In mid-December, the Wehrmacht launched its last, desperate counter-attack. While von Rundstedt broke through the Ardennes, the enemy increased his pressure north from the Colmar Pocket toward Strasbourg. Third Division was transferred to the First French Army, relieving the hard-pressed US 36th Division, inheriting a sector 20 miles wide on the perimeter of the Colmar Pocket. It was Anzio in reverse.
Snowshoes, skis, white snow suits, Goum mule teams, everything suitable for winter warfare, made its debut. Some sectors were so thinly held, a foot patrol required three hours to go from one platoon to another. Towards the close of January, the 3rd was selected to spearhead the attack to nip off German troops in the Colmar Pocket. The Ardennes flare-up rated so much news space that the Colmar front was termed "the forgotten war." When the fury of the battle subsided, however, and the 3rd's part of the action revealed, it was called "the best bit of maneuvering on the Western Front."
Kick-off was Jan. 22, anniversary of the landing at Anzio. The play was a double feint, and went something like this: first, 30th and 7th spanned the Fecht, then Ill River and struck east toward the Rhine-Rhone Canal. When the enemy shifted to meet this thrust, 7th and 15th swung south across the Colmar Canal. A lightning jab at Colmar, resulting in the capture of Horbourg, led the Germans to believe a subsequent drive on the city was imminent. But Marne-men turned southeast toward Neuf-Brisach and Colmar was spiked by the 28th Division and French armor.
The operation was more difficult than words convey. Two battalions of the 30th had crossed the Ill River and the first tank was lumbering across the Maison Rouge bridge when the span collapsed. Lacking tank support, temporarily out of communication with their artillery, doughs of the two battalions suddenly were struck by waves of enemy tank-infantry forces. Lashing out with a fury born of desperation, the men inched back to protect the dwindling bridgehead while some companies held until overrun by Nazi armor. The clothes of men who waded and swam the flooded rivers turned to ice. Despite the disastrous turn of events, the bridgehead held, and the 15th Regt. snapped out of reserve to attack through the battered 30th.
During this action 2nd Lt. Audie L. Murphy, Farmersville, Tex., 20-year old CO, Co. I, 15th Regt. leaped aboard a burning TD, and manning its 50 caliber machine gun, turned back an assault of 250 Krauts and three tanks. Reorganizing his company, he audaciously chased the enemy. For this action, Lt. Murphy added the Medal of Honor to his decorations that included the Bronze Star, Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross. When he later was awarded the Legion of Merit, he became the most decorated soldier in the Army, topping Capt. Britt, who lacks the Legion of Merit.
The 3rd wound up the Colmar Pocket campaign by capturing Neuf-Brisach, site of the Germans' main bridges across the Rhine from the Pocket after all three regiments had sealed the escape routes leading to the Rhine bridges east of the city. A former fortress, Neuf-Brisach was surrounded by a moat and wall. Finding the moat empty, a patrol from 1st Bn., 30th, raced through a tunnel located in the wall, emerged in the town's center, captured its garrison with ease.
For its work at Colmar, Gen. de Lattre de Tassigny, First French Army Commander, presented the 3rd with the Croix de Guerre with Palm Unit citation. A second Croix de Guerre was awarded for its achievements in the Vosges. With these honors, Marne-men earned the right to wear the French fourragere.
Six months after the Southern France invasion, on Feb. 18, after 188 days of constant contact with the enemy, the 3rd's last troops were pulled out of Neuf-Brisach to a quiet area at Pont-ousson, halfway between Nancy and Metz.
GERMANY -- THE END OF 1942-45 VICTORY MARCH
Since the attack was secret, patches and vehicle markings were removed. Second Bn., 7th, infiltrated through enemy mine fields to reach the town of Utweiler, just inside the border south of Zweibrucken.
Then disaster struck. Reported the Chicago Tribune, March 18, 1945:
"Five of our tanks had been knocked out by mines trying to enter Utweiler, and the rest of the column had to turn back," related Lt. John Ananich, Jr., Flint, Mich., one of the survivors.
"The Krauts rolled six of their tanks to the high ground north of the town. They had us caught, and caught bad. We had only the weapons infantrymen carry. One of the German tanks worked its way down into the town and the others followed and started knocking down the buildings with direct fire. Some of our men were being buried alive in those buildings.
"We tried to get some men out of the trap to guide our own armor, but those men never got through. The Krauts were chasing us from one building to another. Finally, there were no buildings left. Now our men, made attempts to dash across the open ground for refuge in a wood on the ridge south of the village. Some of them made it."
The battalion had 600 men when it started the attack. Two hundred got back. Third Bn. came to the rescue shortly before noon of the same day and drove the enemy from Utweiler, killing more than 200 foot troops and capturing 200 others.
Simultaneously, 1st Bn., under Lt. Col. Don Wallace, Modesto, Calif., successfully maneuvered to pocket a group of the enemy, then swept forward in a coordinated attack with 3rd Bn., 30th, herding 200 more prisoners to the cage. So fast did the 30th move up on the right, Nazis had no time to counterattack.
Although the Germans spent two months preparing positions along the border, the 3rd nullified this labor by hurtling into the Siegfried Line a few miles south of Zweibrucken.
Then, after a three and a half hour artillery preparation during which 15,000 rounds ripped the pillboxes and dragon's teeth the final 30 minutes, the 7th and 15th Regts. roared forward.
There still were plenty of the pyramidal concrete molars remaining so combat engineers moved up, blasting the teeth and pillboxes under a smoke screen. By noon, a 1600-yard breach had been effected, pillboxes silenced in the immediate area.
When the 7th and 15th fought their way forward, the 30th went into action on the division's left and was the first regiment to penetrate the Line completely. Zweibrucken, key city and actually a part of the Line, fell the third day. Meanwhile, Gen. Patton's Third Army was on the loose to the north and Marne-men hastened to Kaiserslautern where a junction had been made between the Third and Seventh Armies.
GI vehicles raced over the mountain roads, past dazed civilians and freed slave laborers. White flags appeared in hundreds of small villages. Kaiserslautern was a picture of utter confusion -- wrecked buildings, homeless civilians, troops from at least four infantry and two armored divisions, and thousands of German prisoners.
All opposition west of the Rhine in Seventh Army's sector had collapsed.
Moving as rapidly as it could be fed gasoline, Seventh Army's one-two punch -- the 3rd and 45th Divisions -- swept across the Rhine late March 25. The Remagen bridge gave First Army a foothold, while Ninth Army and British troops had crossed after a thunderous barrage. Third Army sneaked across. Now it was Seventh Army's turn.
Preceded by a 10,000-round artillery barrage, the 3rd raced northeast through the Odenwald Forest near captured Worms. The snaky Main River was tackled four times, first at Worth, twice near Lohr and again at Haszfurt. Operating with the 14th Armd. Div. was a new experience for the 3rd, which had provided its own armored spearhead and infantry mop-up teams.
Lohr, Gemunden and Bad Kissingen fell. Regiments leap-frogged forward, division CP advanced from 15 to 25 miles daily, wire communication was a luxury when obtainable.
Enemy resistance stiffened. The German high command ordered fanatical "last man" stands at every town in order to give the Nazis time to prepare defenses in larger cities. The rapid push continued after the 3rd held up two days while the 42nd Inf. Div. reduced Schweinfurt.
Bamberg was next. When it elected to fight, the 3rd and 45th left the town a smoking ruin. This was the last bastion before Nurnberg where the division had a mock celebration of Hitler's birthday. It was only a matter of days before Augsburg, Munich, Salzburg and Berchtesgaden belonged to the 3rd.
At noon, V-E Day, men of the division broke into Hitler's private champagne stocks outside Salzburg and Berchtesgaden. Combat was over. Four days later, the first group Of 500 men left for the States.
The division newspaper, The Front Line editorialized:
Now that the active campaigning is over in Europe, we must look back and tally the cost of all this glory. All of us have lost someone in this war; a friend, a brother, a son, someone whom we loved. It is to these men whom we look back today in our moment of triumph. We cannot look back to them with honor if we do not look forward to the future for which they fought -- and died.
The cost has been great -- almost at times, it seemed, too great. It is now our task to build the future on the solid foundation laid by those who have left us... We shall go forward in our traditional way, never forgetting those who march with us in memory.
Proud wearers of the Blue and White patch were the division's attached units, the 756th Tank Bn., 601st TD Bn. and 441st AAA Bn. The mediums of the 756th always worked in support of the doughs. When 2nd Bn., 7th, was cut off at Utweiler, it was chiefly because the entire platoon of supporting tanks had been immobilized by a mine field; when the battalion was rescued, it was chiefly because the tanks were able to get through and knock out six more SP guns.
The 601st, which was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its work at El Guettar, lived up to its reputation in its 20 months with the division. In two days at Anzio, the battalion knocked out or stopped an estimated 20 enemy tanks, one downed a plane. At Cisterna, one platoon knocked out three AT guns at less than 50 yards.
The 441st, one of the first ack-ack units to lend close support to ground troops, performed nearly 200 ground support missions in France and Germany. One flak-wagon attached to the 39th FA Bn. was the big punch in rounding up 132 Germans near Vesoul, France. Seven Nazi planes in one day was the battalion record on the Volturno in October, 1943.
During the Italian campaign, the division was supported by the 751st and 191st Tank Bns. Another unit was the 36th Engr. Regt., which formed the nucleus of the beach group for each of the four amphibious operations.
Today, the 3rd Inf. Div. holds its head high. Victory is no hollow word for only fighting men know the real meaning of the word. Men of the 3rd know full well the meaning of victory from 1942 to 1945. Victory was paid for in full.
The 3rd Division says to the world: "Let us not swerve from our determination that never will it be necessary for us to do this kind of job again."