Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
This is one of a series of G.I. Stories of the Ground, Air and Service Forces in the European Theater, issued by the Orientation Branch, Information and Education Division, Hq., USFET. Major General Frank L. Culin, Jr., commanding the 87th Infantry Division, lent his cooperation and basic material was supplied by his staff.
I am truly and humbly grateful for the high privilege of command of this fighting division. With a mounting pride in the achievements of the past, I ask the living, determined that our noble dead shall not have died in vain, to turn firmly toward the future, "Stalwart and Strong."
THE STORY OF THE 87th INFANTRY DIVISION
That's the battle path of the 87th Infantry Division during 154 days of action in the European Theater of Operations—154 days from Dec. 6, 1944, when 1st Bn., 345th Inf., and Div Arty moved in on Metz until May 8, 1945, when German Armies surrendered unconditionally.
Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., Third Army Commander, in commending VIII Corps personnel, wrote:
The relentless advance to the Kyll River, thence to the Rhine, your capture of Koblenz and subsequent assault crossing of the Rhine at its most difficult sector, resulting in the rapid advance to the Mulde River are events which live in history...
Wrote Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton, VIII Corps Commander:
It has been my duty to assign the 87th Division difficult tasks while it has been in VIII Corps. I am pleased to say the division has always accepted its assignments with the spirit "Can Do."
The "Can Do" spirit, consistently proven in the Golden Acorn Division's every battle, was born of the training, determination, courage and exceptionally well-coordinated teamwork in which every man played a vital role.
Hitler's West Wall—the Siegfried Line—was designed to stop any enemy from setting foot on the "holy soil" of Germany. Massive steel and concrete pillboxes would stop invading infantrymen; dragon's teeth would rip the treads off the toughest tanks; mine fields were planted, and artillery positions zeroed in. Behind these solid-defenses waited the vaunted Wehrmacht, ready to defend to the last man.
But Hitler didn't reckon with the determination, courage and training of the American infantryman and his supporting teammates. He didn't reckon with the fighting spirit of the 87th Golden Acorn Division in particular.
Jan. 27, 1945: With battles in the Saar, the Belgian Ardennes and Luxembourg behind them, 87th doughs poised for a new battle, a fight that would test the mettle of every man. From Third Army and VIII Corps came the order: Drive the enemy from Belgium and crack the Siegfried Line.
First to shove off in the new sector between Houffalize and St. Vith was 1st Bn., 346th Inf., which quickly overran Thommen and Grufflange. Three days later, the entire division was under way, moving' east through deep snow and mountain forests. Pace setter was the 346th Inf., commanded by Lt. Col. Donald C. Clayman, Rochester Junction N.Y., which executed an end run to capture German supply bases at Schonberg and Andler.
When Lt. Col. Robert B. Cobb, Usk, Wash., 1st Bn., CO, 347th, entered a house in a small Belgian village during the drive, a German corporal handed him an old letter which had once recommended the Nazi for a commission in the U. S. Army. The German previously had lived in Cleveland and had taken C.M.T.C. training.
Using the seat of his frozen pants for a sled, Pfc Marvin C. East, Summit, Miss., 345th, slid down, a steep slope to wipeout an enemy machine gun nest with his automatic rifle. East had waded an icy stream and climbed the hill so he could improve his position to attack.
As the 345th and 347th pressed forward, the 87th Recon Troop captured Roth, last remaining town before the Siegfried Line. By Feb. 4, the 345th's I & R platoon, led by T/Sgt. Honree E. Ethridge, Aurora, Mo., probed the outer fringe of the Line.
Partially hidden by the snow-cloaked forests of the Schnee Eifel Mountains, the defenses loomed ominously in the light of pyrotechnic bursts laid down by Brig. Gen. William W. Ford's Div Arty and attached Corps units.
The sector of the Line to the division's immediate front formed a huge Y with the two prongs leading northward from Ormont. Two other towns, vital links in the defensive chain, were Olzheim and Neuendorf, both several kilometers south of Ormont.
While 2nd Bn., 345th, launched a surprise attack on the crossroads formed by the intersection of the Kobschied-Olzheim road and the main military highway extending south from Ormont, Sgt. Ethridge's patrol made a reconnaissance of the intersection where the Roth-Olzheim road crossed the military highway.
When 2nd Bn. gained its objective, 3rd Bn. rushed through the hard-won position and lashed ahead to the crossroads probed by the patrol. Pillboxes camouflaged by the dense forests, mine fields hidden by the snow, tree bursts from enemy artillery and stubborn German infantry made the going extremely difficult and costly.
When leading elements of 3rd Bn., 345th, were pinned down by machine gun fire, Lt. Col. Robert B. Moran, Eagle Pass, Tex., battalion CO, advanced through the mines and enemy fire to spot the Nazi machine gun nests. Under his direction, two TDs roared in to destroy the positions. Col. Moran was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action.
The second road intersection fell to the battalion with Co. C, 346th, protecting the left flank of the main attack along the Roth-Olzheim road. S/Sgt. Joseph M. Benicky, Chicago, 334th FA Bn. forward observer with Co. C, earned a battlefield commission as a result of his superior fire direction during the fight.
As the attack shifted southeast towards Olzheim, 1st Bn., 345th, swung south around the town to capture the surrounding high ground while Cos. F and G surged in from the northwest, west and southwest.
T/Sgt. Joseph Schaetzl, Astoria, N.Y., acting platoon, leader in Co. G, assumed command of the company when his CO was killed. He was awarded a battlefield commission. Olzheim fell to the two companies by nightfall, Feb. 6.
Neuendorf, north of Olzheim, was the next objective. After a 3rd Bn. patrol under Lt. James T. Callen, Madison, Wis., moved into the town during the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 9, the remainder of the battalion rushed in and captured the town.
Following closely on the heels of the infantrymen, Lt. Col. James B. Evans, College Station, N.M., Division Signal Officer, and a crew of six men, located the Siegfried cable—main communications line between two widely separated centers along the West Wall—and cut the wires in two places. The cable was located after evidence of recent repairs had been spotted. Working with Col. Evans were Lt. Richard A. Dunn, St. Paul, Minn.; T/5 Robert C. Miller, Toledo, Ohio; T/5 John J. O'Donnell, Chicago; Pfc Anthony B. Nardone, Newton Highland, Mass.; Pfc Raymond E. LaPlante, Berlin, N.J.; Robert L. Freeman, Hazelhurst, Miss.
CRASHING THE SIEGFRIED LINE VIA "GOLDBRICK HILL"
Div Arty softened up the opposition with a heavy preparation as the division resumed the attack Feb. 26. Ormont was the initial objective for the 346th and 347th Inf. Regts. while the 345th headed for Reuth, Schonfeld and Lissendorf, key towns along the mad extending east from Neuendorf and Olzheim.
Co. I, 346th, pointed the attack on Ormont, moving along the heavily mined and booby-trapped road until it encountered a road block covered by two pillboxes. The company was pinned down for 36 hours.
Hit on a wrist by a burp gun bullet, 1st/Sgt. Charles Register, Baltimore, had the wound dressed at an aid station, then went back up the road to kill the German who fired at him. The sergeant was acting platoon leader for three days before allowing himself to be evacuated. For that action, he was awarded a battlefield commission.
Under 1st Lt. Vincent L. McCarty, Hartley, Ia., a platoon of combat engineers from the 312th Engr. Bn., attached to 3rd Bn., 347th, relieved pressure on Co. I. Working their way forward under covering fire from doughs and tankers, the engineers blasted the road block with 500 pounds of high explosives. Then they rushed ahead to a bridge, neutralizing explosive charges before the enemy had time to blow the span.
After the 912th FA Bn. blasted the small town of Ormont with a 540-round concentration, Co. K., 347th, commanded by Capt. Howard Jennings, San Diego, Calif., moved in to win this important stronghold in a brisk, 20-minute action.
Simultaneously, a 345th task force under Capt. John E. Muir, Sioux City, Ia., composed of Co. A, the 87th Recon Troop, 735th Tank Bn. and 607th Tank Bn., roared through the towns along the Lissendorf road. Infantry followed, clearing the enemy from the forests and towns.
The task force raced through Reuth at breakneck speed as the last HE shells from the 334th FA Bn.'s 800-round barrage exploded. Fired within 20 minutes, the concentration set the whole town ablaze; Co. L shoved in to mop up. First Bn. marched through the town while fighting still progressed and attacked Nazi defenders who attempted to reorganize along the road to Schonfeld.
Second Bn. captured enemy reinforcements headed for Reuth as Task Force Muir buttoned up Lissendorf and won the first bridgehead across the Kyll River.
After Ormont fell to Co. K, 347th, the entire regiment pushed north to destroy or capture all remaining pillboxes and fortifications in the division sector. The 346th prepared to move against "Gold Brick Hill," highest point of the Siegfried Line, whose defenses the enemy considered impregnable.
The 335th and 336th FA Bns. fired a heavy concentration to "dig" foxholes for 3rd Bn. doughs advancing up the pillbox-studded slopes. Tanks and TDs maneuvered among infantrymen who charged from shell hole to shell hole up the open hillside. Capture of the hill presaged the collapse of the entire Siegfried Line in the Schnee Eifel area.
Following this success, 3rd Bn., 346th, continued northeast to bottle up the town of Stadtkyll where Nazi Gens. Model and von Rundstedt had met several months previous to execute plans for the Battle of the Bulge.
Early March 6, the Golden Acorn fighting men jumped off from positions along the banks of the Kyll to follow the trail blazed by Task Force Muir, rapidly advancing to the Ahr River, 25 miles inside Germany.
Weather disrupted the 87th Division's schedule only once. This occurred when the Golden Acorn was reactivated at Camp McCain, Miss., and ceremonies were postponed a week to Dec. 22, 1942, because of rain. As part of the A.E.F. in France during World War I, the 87th's prime mission was to train reinforcements.
Maj. Gen. Percy W. Clarkson commanded the division as it began training for the new conflict, with Brig. Gen. Raymond G. Lehman as Asst. CG and Brig. Gen. Russell G. Barkalow commander of Div Arty.
Officer and enlisted cadre came from the 81st "Wildcat" Inf. Div. and replacements, arriving in February, 1943, included a portion of the first draft of 18-year-olds. Basic, unit and advanced training was staged at Camp McCain until November 1943, when the division moved to the Tennessee Maneuver Area for six weeks of intensive field work.
Fort Jackson, S.C., was the next stopover as several thousand junior officers and men were transferred from the division for overseas shipment. Vacancies were filled by ASTP, Air Corps and AAA personnel, many of whom had volunteered for the infantry.
In May, 1944, Maj. Gen. (then Brig. Gen.) Frank L. Culin, Jr., who had distinguished himself in the battle of Attu, assumed command of the 87th following the transfer of Maj. Gen. Eugene Landrum, who had succeeded Gen. Clarkson during maneuvers. Brig. Gen. John L. McKee was Asst. CG while Brig. Gen. (then Col.) William W. Ford commanded Div Arty. In early October, the 87th left for the Camp Kilmer, N.J., staging area.
The bulk of the division sailed from New York City aboard the Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 17, landing near Glasgow, Scotland. Assembling in England, the division moved across the Channel to France the last week in November. By Dec. 6, the 87th had reassembled near Metz and the 345th Combat Team went into action as an attached unit of the 5th Inf. Div.
GOLDEN ACORN READY TO FACE THE FOE'S BEST
Radio flashed the target directions. As Gen. Culin stood by, Pfc Donald F. McCabe pulled the lanyard of a Btry. A 105mm. The shell ripped into the target.
Two days later, the 345th accepted the surrender of Fort Driant. By Dec. 9, the 346th and 347th Inf. Regts. had shifted to the vicinity of Gros Rederching, near the Saar-German border, where they relieved the 26th Inf. Div. The 346th launched the 87th's first attack next day, storming a hill overlooking Rimling.
Gen. Patton visited the division CP at Oermingen and welcomed the 87th as a new addition to Third Army. The division officially was committed to action Dec. 13 when Gen. Culin assumed command of the sector. Special units attached were the 549th AAA Bn., 761st Tank Bn., 602nd and 610th TD Bns. Rimling fell to the 346th as the 347th pointed its sights toward Obergailbach.
The 347th's attack moved slowly as four enemy rifle companies, supported by tanks, offered sturdy opposition. Third Bn. was the first division unit to fight on German soil when it captured a heavily wooded hill 1000 yards west of Obergailbach.
Pfc Harry D. Ellis, Riverside, Calif., was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action when Co. G was pinned down on a hillside near the German border. Advancing 100 yards across open ground, automatic rifleman Ellis knocked out two machine gun nests, killed five Nazis and captured four others.
The same day, 1st Bn., 346th, punched inside Germany while 2nd Bn. captured Guiderkirch, France. Cpl. Irving D. Carpenter, Mabank, Tex., Co. F, earned the division's first battlefield promotion when he was upped to a sergeancy for leading a patrol behind enemy lines and pinpointing infantry and tanks so accurately that one artillery concentration destroyed the positions and knocked out the tanks.
The 345th waged a vicious three-day battle in a wood inside Germany after pulling abreast of the other regiments following its assignment with the 5th Div. at Metz. Second Bn. shoved ahead to capture a sector of woods approximately a mile long but only 50 yards wide in places. The battalion held this strip against repeated counter-attacks from three sides.
When the Germans launched their do-or-die winter offensive in the Belgian Ardennes, Third Army shifted to the south side of the salient. The 87th, pending movement orders, dug in and fought a defensive action for five days while waiting to move to Belgium.
In its 10 days of combat, the 87th had advanced across the German frontier, captured several towns and gained more than 10 miles. Now, Golden Acorn doughs were ready to face the Nazis' best legions.
Under the direction of Gen. McKee, the movement to Belgium—a distance of 350 miles—was made in three stages with bivouacs at Dieuze and Pont Faverger, France.
TILLET TOPPLES AFTER BITTER BATTLE
After 20 hours of continuous riding, the nearly frozen 345th RCT arrived at Seviscourt. There wasn't time for rest or food. The enemy approached along the road from Pironpre in an attempt to encircle Bastogne from the west. Leaping into action immediately, the 334th FA Bn. prepared gun emplacements. First Bn., 345th, was ordered: "Go get 'em!"
With Co. A leading the attack, 1st Bn. met the Germans head on the next morning at Moircy. Cos. B and C swung to either flank and slammed into battle from east and west. Moircy was captured late the same day as reconnaissance patrols reported Germans coming from Pironpre in considerable strength to counter-attack. Col. Douglas Sugg, Clayton, Mo., 345th CO, ordered the battalion to withdraw from the town.
Division and Corps artillery went into high gear. The 334th FA Bn fired 474 rounds at ranges decreasing from 7000 to 1500 yards as the enemy pushed forward. During the night, other artillery units plastered the Nazis who had moved into Moircy. The town was recaptured next morning in what was the Germans' first sound defeat west of Bastogne on the southern side of the salient.
The 345th wheeled east and grabbed Remagne Dec. 31. Meanwhile, the 346th had marched nine kilometers to take up positions along the roads leading into St. Hubert and Vesqueville. The 347th passed through the 345th in advancing on Jenneville, one of three villages clustered near the Moircy-Houffalize-St. Hubert road junctions.
The Germans had set up elaborate defensive positions at Jenneville, Bonnerue and Pironpre to protect their main supply road from Houffalize. The entire area was heavily mined and booby trapped, the mountainous terrain covered with dense evergreen forests. In places, snow was waist deep; the temperature neared zero. Battling this weather and a desperate foe, 3rd Bn., 347th, spurted forth to crack Jenneville before noon, Jan. 1, 1945. Heavy fighting raged as the Nazis retaliated with a strong counter-assault.
Next day, Co. L, 347th, kicked off for Bonnerue after the 912th FA Bn. had fired a barrage to soften the opposition. Cos. I and K advanced to the woods west of the town. Three tanks supporting Co. L were knocked out and a fourth forced to withdraw during the bitter house-to-house struggle. At daybreak, Germans launched the first of a series of counter-attacks. Co. G rushed into the town to give support as Co. K repulsed an attack in the woods 35 minutes after it was launched.
Cos. E, F, and G tossed the Germans out of Pironpre as the Nazis prepared a next counter-attack on Jenneville and Pironpre. Elements of all 347th's battalions rushed to stem the drive which was spearheaded by eight tanks. When the column of tanks was trapped in a deep road cut, artillery destroyed two of the vehicles before the column could disperse. The threat was turned back by the infantry and 1st Bn. drove 200 yards into the woods as the Nazis pulled back.
The 345th relieved the 347th late Jan. 7, and 2nd Bn. was called out of reserve the next day to help repel a German drive to regain Bonnerue. Lt. Col. Frank L. Bock, 1st Bn. CO, was severely wounded in the action. The fight for the town raged three days until enemy resistance collapsed all along the line. During the final phases of the battle the 912th FA Bn. fired approximately 1500 rounds.
The battle for Tillet was launched early Jan. 7 by 3rd Bn., 346th, when Lt. Glenn J. Doman, Manoa, Pa., serving his first day as platoon leader, led a 21-man assault platoon from Co. K into the south portion of the town and attacked a house concealing more than 40 Germans. The attack was coordinated with Co. I's approach on Tillet from the east.
In a free-for-all fight, Lt. Doman's men fired rifles, machine guns, bazookas and tossed grenades into the house. A German officer, running from the building, attempted to choke Sgt. Don Corbin, Zanesville, Ohio. Running to Corbin's assistance, Sgt. Emil Piger, Allen- town, Pa., emptied a full "grease" gun clip into the German.
Pvt. Warren Horton, Madison, Kan., walked up to S/Sgt. George Blankenbacker, Borden, Ind., with a grenade in either hand. "Here, Sarge, pull the pins for me," he said. Pins pulled, Horton heaved the grenades inside the house. A Nazi, stepping up to a window to fire his burp gun, walked directly into a bazooka shell. Nearly every German in the house was killed.
When enemy reinforcements arrived at daybreak, the platoon withdrew, took up positions in a house across the street from the building it had attacked. When the platoon was surrounded, Pvt. Horton radioed the company CP, while Lt. Doman called on the 335th FA Bn. for support. An enemy tank spewed 88 fire directly on the house and the platoon fired its remaining bazooka rounds at the armor without effect. The tank moved to within 20 yards of the house to fire point blank through the thick stone walls.
German reinforcements, taking up positions in the building across the street, surged forth in several attacks to take the house. Assaults were repulsed with the aid of accurate artillery fire. Some artillery rounds, with an 80-yard blast range, landed within 15 yards of the house. The tank withdrew after firing 19 rounds, but the fight continued for seven hours until the lieutenant was ordered to withdraw.
Splitting into two squads, each covering the other, the platoon succeeded in passing the enemy's outposts at the edge of the town. During the battle, the platoon killed more than 60 Germans while losing only one killed and one wounded.
When Co. I struck Tillet from the east, the enemy pinned down the company with devastating fire from well-protected machine gun positions. Firing his automatic rifle from the hip, S/Sgt. Curtis F. Shoup, Buffalo, N.Y., charged forward and rushed one nest. Although hit and suffering severe wounds in his body and legs, the sergeant crawled within throwing range of the house sheltering the gun crew and killed all of the occupants with a grenade. A sniper killed Sgt. Shoup as he crept toward another house.
After three days and nights of bitter fighting, Co. I won the town by ferreting out the enemy, house by house. Determined that the men get hot food, 1st/Sgt. Register and T/5 Peter M. Buyas, Portland, Ore., the company's second cook, left their CP positions to move into the town. Buyas prepared the food, then he and Register hauled it on a sled through enemy lines at night.
First Lt. John E. Connolly, Pittsburgh, forward observer with the 336th FA Bn., often fought with the infantry. Noting that an enemy machine gun fired from a basement window couldn't be dealt with effectively by artillery fire, the lieutenant borrowed an M-1 and killed the machine gunners. On another occasion when Lt. Connolly wanted to set up his OP in an enemy occupied house, he joined doughs in capturing the building.
Three squads under Lt. Robert Watson, Watertown, N.Y., Lt. Harold Lamont, Springfield Gardens, N.Y., and T/Sgt. Wardlaw Watson, Birmingham, Ala., mopped up final resistance in Tillet Jan. 10. Sgt. Watson, who had transferred as a corporal to the division from the Air Corps, earned a commission for his leadership. Of the 85 Co. I men who originally attacked the town, only 32 marched out when relief came. Of the 53 casualties, seven were killed. T/5 Erasmus Pistone, Yonkers, N.Y., company aid man, was directly responsible for saving many lives
Simultaneously with Co I's battle was the successful attack on the Hais de Tillet woods ,by 1st and 3rd Bns., 345th, while 1st and 2nd Bns., ;346th, attempted to gain the high, barren ground northeast of Tillet. Thwarted when their tank support was unable to drive up the steep, icy hillside, 346th doughs gained their objective in a second attack.
On the western fringe of the sector, 3rd Bn., 347th, occupied St. Hubert. The center of the area—in the vicinity of Jenneville, Pironpre and Bonnerue—was won after a hard, sustained fight that lasted from Jan. 1 to Jan. 10, in which nearly every combat battalion in the division participated.
By Jan. 11, the 347th had driven the remnants of a beaten foe from Bonnerue and Pironpre. Next day, Co. E, 347th, captured Tonny and Amberloup, while 1st Bn., 347th, occupied the division objectives, a double road junction northeast of Amberloup and a bridge across the Ourthe River two days later.
ACROSS THE MOSELLE AND INTO KOBLENZ
Taking up defensive positions along the Luxembourg-German boundary on the Sauer River, the division's sector extended from Echternach on the left to a point below Wasserbillig on the right.
Worn out after their bitter fight in Belgium, doughs referred to the Luxembourg action as "a front line rest area." Reinforcements arrived, trained and equipped as the men were given three-day passes to Luxembourg City and Paris.
The major action during this period was a river crossing designed to divert the enemy from full-scale assault crossings of the Sauer made by three divisions on the 87th's left flank. Two 3rd Bn., 346th, patrols with forward artillery observers from the 336th FA Bn. assaulted and captured the large city of Wasserbillig and held it until the division was ordered back into Belgium Jan. 27.
Clearing Germans from Belgium and cracking the Siegfried Line followed. These actions lasted until March 6 when the division was given a week's rest and resupplied. Then, on March 13, the 346th RCT moved to a new sector on the west side of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, opposite the historic city of Koblenz. The remainder of the 87th followed next day.
A city of nearly 100,000 population, Koblenz was situated on a triangle formed by the Moselle and Rhine. With the 346th on the left flank and the 347th on the right, patrols crossed the Moselle during the next three days to probe the city and vineyard-covered mountains to the south.
In addition to being a target for air force bombings, Koblenz took a heavy pasting from Div Arty for almost a week in advance of the doughs' jump-off.
Gen. Patton, in making a reconnaissance flight over the city, saw a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm in a park at the tip of the city's peninsula and ordered the symbol of Prussian imperialism destroyed. Lt. John W. Stuckey, Jr., Port Tampa City, Fla., who earned a battlefield commission as forward observer for the 336th FA Bn. in the battle for Wasserbillig, directed fire for an eight-inch howitzer battery which destroyed the monument.
March 16, 1945, 0345 hours: Against light opposition, 1st and 3rd Bns., 347th, spanned the Moselle, the 1st at Winningen, the 3rd at Kobern. Seizing the high ground directly to its front, 1st Bn. set out to clear the enemy from the terraced vineyards on the steep hillsides. By evening, 3rd Bn. had swooped east, capturing two small towns.
As a member of the occupation force in World War I, Col S. R. Tupper, Columbia, S.C., 347th CO, remembered these Rhineland hills as picturesque country. Now they appeared as treacherous military obstacles that his men must hurdle.
Second Bn. crossed the river at Kobern and whipped southeast to the division flank. Meanwhile, Gen. Culin ordered the 345th to follow up the 347th bridgeheads and attack Koblenz from the south. By nightfall, two battalions were driving on the city and 3rd Bn. captured Moselweiss next morning to allow 2nd Bn. to cross the river at Guls.
Against increasing resistance, the 345th, deployed in a semi-circle, closed in on the industrial districts from the south and west. Second Bn. skirted along the right bank of the Moselle in a sweeping drive that carried past the Adolf Hitler Bridge in the city's northern section. Third Bn., plunging direct to the industrial center, captured a large railroad marshalling yard and an important airfield. First Bn. turned north through the residential section, clearing a large area up to the Rhine. When Gens. Culin, McKee and Ford crossed the Moselle and entered Koblenz in the afternoon of March 17, Col. Sugg reported half of the city captured.
Meanwhile, elements of the 347th, battling through the mountains to the south, entered Rhens and a 2nd Bn. patrol reached the Rhine south of the town to cut the main highway paralleling the river.
A determined force of Germans held out in Fort Konstantin, atop the city's highest hill, as the 345th continued its fight in Koblenz. Late afternoon, March 18, the German commander came out of the fort under a flag of truce to negotiate surrender.
Col. Moran, 3rd Bn. CO, went forward with an interpreter. The colonel's scarf covered his insignia and the Nazi commander said he couldn't negotiate with a man who didn't have rank.
Col. Moran told the interpreter: "Tell him that I have the rank and that I also have the artillery!"
The fight was resumed. Tanks and TDs brought direct fire on the fort throughout the night. At 0830, March 19, the German commander surrendered unconditionally along with 94 officers and men. All resistance in Koblenz ceased with the fall of the fort. For the next two days, the 347th continued to clear enemy pockets in the hills to the south that had been bypassed in the rapid advance to the Rhine.
"CAN DO" RECORD SPEAKS FOR ITSELF
Gen. McKee was in command of the operation as 2nd and 3rd Bns., 345th, initiated crossings near Boppard. Within an hour, all 3rd Bn. units were on the opposite bank but heavy enemy fire held up 2nd Bn. after two of its companies had landed.
Kicking off near Rhens, opposite Oberlahnstein, 1st and 3rd Bns., 347th, fought their way across the river against heavy resistance. Both Bns. were caught in the light of enemy flares and absorbed heavy shelling. Germans depressed their 20mm ack-ack guns to water level and fired directly on the navy craft and rubber assault boats.
T/Sgt. Charles W. McKeever, Pittsburgh, Co. K platoon sergeant, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action following the landing of his unit. When the platoon was pinned down by machine. gun fire, the sergeant moved ahead to wipe out the nest with a carbine and a grenade, killing five and capturing four Germans.
Pouring devastating fire from their positions in the hills, Germans pinned down 2nd Bn. before it could cross the river. Meanwhile, 2nd Bn., 346th, spanned the river at the 345th's Boppard bridgeheads and advanced along the east bank to assist the 347th.
Vicious fighting continued March 25-26 as the division struggled to clear the entire eastern bank of the river immediately opposite its jumping-off positions. As soon as the river towns were buttoned up, two task forces were organized.
Under command of Lt. Col. Harald S. Sundt, Las Vegas, N.M., one was composed of half of his 607th TD Bn.; 87th Recon Troop; Co. K, 346th; Co. A, tanks from the 735th Tank Bn.
The second task force under Lt. Col. William S. Bodner, Corvallis, Ore., was made up of 2nd Bn., 347th, now motorized, along with tank, TD and field artillery units. The 335th FA Bn. was in support of both forces.
With the task forces as spearheads, the division raced 45 miles during the last week of March. During the month, the Siegfried Line was cracked wide open, the Kyll, Ahr, Moselle and Rhine Rivers crossed and the city of Koblenz captured. On March 31, the division CP was set up at Weilmunster, deep inside Germany.
In 31 days, the 87th advanced 165 kilometers inside Germany, captured more than 225 pillboxes and took 10,282 prisoners. Contributing to the division's successes were such attached units as the 607th TD Bn.; 735th Tank Bn.; 549th AAA Bn.; 35th Engr. Combat Bn.; 159th Engr. Combat Bn.; 1012th Treadway Bridge Bn.; 511th Light Ponton Co.; 1102nd Engr. Group; elements of the 991st Treadway Bridge Co.; Co. C, 161st Chemical Bn. Organic units of the division were 312th Medical Bn.; 312th Engr. Bn.; 87th Recon Troop; 87th Signal Co.; 787th Ordnance Co.; 87th Quartermaster Co.; 87th MP Platoon.
One month before Germany's unconditional surrender, the 87th moved from Weilmunster, approximately 50 miles east of Koblenz, to the vicinity of Friedewald, a few miles south of Eisenach. In recognition for his leadership through four rugged months of combat, Gen. Culin was promoted to major general.
The 345th jumped off at 0730, April 7,. pointing its new attack at Tambach. The Germans fighting only delaying actions now, had blown bridges and burned heavy weapons and vehicles as they withdrew and the sporadic resistance was quickly overcome.
The speed of the advance was limited only by the speed with which infantrymen could fan out on foot and search the forests, the towns and cities. Prisoners were taken by the thousands, processed and guarded in improvised enclosures. Increasing numbers of Allied PWs were liberated; some needed hospitalization and immediate medical attention, which they received.
In the 10 days of the push, the division advanced 170 airline kilometers through Thuringen province and into Saxony. Less than one month after the 345th captured Koblenz, 3rd Bn., 347th, took Plauen, a city of more than 111,000 and Europe's pre-war fine lace capital. Heavy duty military trucks, guns and other war machines also were manufactured there. Almost totally destroyed by air bombings, Plauen was a one-day operation for the infantry.
First Bn., 347th, captured Oelsnitz where the division encountered its last determined resistance the same day Plauen fell. Meanwhile, 1st Bn., 346th, cleared Treuen and 2nd Bn., 346th, captured Lengenfeld. Other elements of the division moved to the Czechoslovakian border, six miles southeast of Oelsnitz in the next few days.
May 8, 1945, a notice was placed outside the 1st Bn., 347th, CP. It reads: "Achtung! Season closed on all Germans. By order of Lt Col. Robert B. Cobb."
On V-E Day, the seasoned veterans of the Golden Acorn Division took a break and then adjusted their sights. There were new missions ahead. Stalwart and strong men of the 87th were ready for any assignment. Their "Can Do" record speaks for itself.