Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
THE STORY OF THE 89th INFANTRY DIVISION
At three points along the west bank, men of the 89th Infantry Division pushed off in assault boats, huddled low and paddled vigorously against the current. The division's second big river crossing in less than two weeks of combat was under way at Wellmich, at St. Goar and Oberwesel. The mission: to secure and hold a bridgehead at all cost; to climb the sheer cliffs; to drive into the wooded heights beyond. For a green outfit, many of whose men were under fire for the first time, this was a tough assignment.
An 88 shell wiped out three boats and an engineer launching crew on the beach at St. Goar. As the frail craft slipped to midstream, German flares floodlighted the gorge from shore to shore. Camouflaged 20mms slammed shells at the oncoming boats, tore paddles from the men's hands, blew one boat to bits and tossed the doughs into the water. Somehow, the boats kept coming.
The men swam or waded ashore. Reorganizing quickly on the waterfront, they crawled up the stone embankments, carved out a toe-hold and hung on. Boatload after boatload fought its way across the 250 yards of open water, battling drift as well as Nazis. By noon approximately five battalions were across the river. The bridgehead was secure.
Of the operation, Lt. Gen. (then Maj. Gen.) Troy H. Middleton, VIII Corps Commander, wrote:
The almost insurmountable obstacles of terrain would have tested a veteran division; it was all the more outstanding when executed by a new division, relatively untried in combat.
This was a proud beginning for wearers of the Rolling W patch. They were latecomers to the European Theater of Operations, but with them they brought leadership, know-how and a spirit of individual aggressiveness developed in nearly three years of training. This spirit and teamwork carried the 89th deep into the Reich as a spearhead of Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army.
Three and a half months after landing in France, the Rolling W came to a halt within a few miles of the Czechoslovakian border in Saxony. By blasting open two vital bridgeheads, the 89th played a major role in the conquest of Germany. At the Moselle, it opened a route for the 11th Armd. Div. to slash enemy remnants still west of the Rhine. Across the 89th's Rhine bridge, under the shadow of fabled Lorelei Rock, poured a stream of infantry and armor to speed Hitler's final collapse.
In 57 days of action, Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Finley's men advanced 350 miles and captured 43,512 prisoners. "We know for certain that they can't give us a job we, can't lick," Gen. Finley said at the end of the campaign.
Another generation of 89ers had proved just as unbeatable in World War I. Known then as the Middle Western Division because most of its men came from Kansas and Missouri, the 89th was activated in 1917, and trained at Camp Funston, Kan. Landing at Le Havre in June, 1918, the division first went into the line in the Toul Sector, later fought through the savage St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives.
By Nov. 11, 1918, the Middle Westerners, serving with the American First Army, had shattered the Germans' toughest trench defenses and cleared the entire left bank of the Meuse River south of Sedan. Following the Armistice, the division occupied a portion of the Rhineland near Trier. Among its distinguished veterans, the 89th claimed such leaders as Lt. Gen. Brehon V. Somervell, Commanding General, Army Service Forces, and Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee, Commanding General, Communications Zone, ETO.
The 89th was reactivated at Camp Carson, Colo., July 15, 1942, under the command of Maj. Gen. (then Brig. Gen.) William H. Gill, who was succeeded the following March by Maj. Gen. (then Brig. Gen.) Thomas D. Finley, Asst. Division Commander.
Basic training got under way in the heat and dust of Colorado's "mile-high" plateau country, rugged terrain for doughs who were to beat the Wehrmacht's best. Highlight of the first year was in inspection by the late President Roosevelt, April 24, 1943.
In August, 1943, the 89th was reorganized as one of three experimental light divisions, designed to operate in areas where roads and trails were non-existent. T/O strength was cut to 9000 men; transportation and artillery were reduced proportionately. Jeeps gave way to push carts; pack boards replaced blanket rolls.
The next six months produced a series of grueling maneuvers under conditions that tested the stamina of every man. From Nov. 22, 1943, to Jan. 25, 1944, the 89th slogged through the mud and swamps of Louisiana in Third Army maneuvers.
The 89ers next moved to Hunter Liggett Military Reservation for two months of strenuous training against the 71st Light Inf. Div. in the mountains and canyons of California. Sweating Joes hacked trails through the brush, packed supplies and water up back-breaking grades. This conditioning paid off in battle performance.
As the 89th rounded into shape, 4500 men -- half the division's strength -- were shipped to overseas reinforcement pools. Replacements streamed in from the ASTP, Air Corps and other branches as basic training began anew.
The next move was to Camp Butner, N.C., where the 89th was reorganized as a triangular division, June 15, 1944. The Rolling W now was composed of the 353rd, 354th and 355th Inf. Regts.; the 340th, 341st, 914th and 563rd FA Bns.; 314th Engr. Combat Bn.; 314th Med. Bn.; 405th QM CO.; 714th Ord. Light Maintenance Co.; 89th Recon Troop.
Most of these units had seen action with the 89th in 1918. Training was intensified, with emphasis on forced marches, proficiency tests and combat problems. By November, 1944, the division once more was ready for overseas. Inspections by Lt. Gen. Ben Lear, then CG, Army Ground Forces, and by Gen. George C. Marshall, climaxed preparations.
The advance party, commanded by Brig. Gen. John N. Robinson, Asst. Division Commander, sailed from New York for England, Dec. 26, 1944. After staging at Camp Myles Standish, Mass., the remainder of the division embarked at Boston, Jan. 10, 1945. In the bitter cold night of Jan. 22, 1945, the first units of the 89th stumbled down a landing stage into the waiting LSTs headed for Le Havre. T/Sgt. Leon C. Mounts, Long Beach, Calif., was the first 89er of World War II to step onto the soil of France.
KILL GERMANS AND GO FORWARD
Mid-February, the division moved to an extensive training area east of Dieppe, near Blangy-sur-Bresle, for further maneuvers. Long-awaited orders arrived, assigning the 89th to Third Army's XII Corps under Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy. By jeeps, two and a half-ton trucks and ancient French 40-and-8s, the division crossed France, halting near Mersch, Luxembourg,
Three days later, the 89th crossed onto German soil to relieve elements of the 5th and 76th Inf. Divs. Taking up positions along the Sauer River, east of Echternach, all units were in position, poised to strike the initial blow, late March 11.
The 89th lunged forward the next day. Its first combat mission; to advance to the north and west bank of the Moselle River, seize the sector between Kochem and Burg. The enemy was withdrawing under Third Army's hammer-like smash, fighting rear-guard actions to cover a withdrawal across the Rhine. The Eifel battleground was forested highland, cut by deep river canyons; roads were poor and the Germans had blown key bridges. Machine gun nests, road blocks and hastily-planted mine fields studded the fields and hillsides.
In their two days' baptism under fire, the rifle companies swept through eight villages. Combat Team 3, under Col. Frank R. Maerdian, West Point, N.Y., stormed into Wispelt and Krinkhof. Gevenich and Dohr fell to Combat Team 5, commanded by Col. Jesse T. Harris, Atlanta, Ga. The first prisoners were ushered into the division cage.
Imbued with confidence born in battle, doughs pressed ahead at top speed. By dusk, March 14, they reached the Moselle Gorge and mopped up the river towns of Alf, Eller and Aldegund. The 89th raced 50 miles during those first three days.
While treating wounded on a hillside near Kochem, Cpl. Joseph H. Johnson, Meridian, Miss., 355th, won the division's first Bronze Star. A near hit lifted him bodily from the side of a patient, but Johnson continued to give first aid to his buddies while undergoing continuous heavy fire.
For the next two nights, patrols paddled across the river and probed German positions, while plans for the crossing were rushed. The 354th, commanded by Col. Robert C. Aloe, San Francisco, Calif., swung up to the right flank. Attached to the 11th Armd. Div., the 355th was to pass through the bridgehead and stab southeast toward the Nahe River. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. John T.B. Bissell's Div Arty softened up targets near the crossing points at Burg, Bullay and Neer.
Two hours before dawn, March 16, four battalions jumped off into a hail of small arms fire from snipers hidden in the trellised vineyards on the east bank. The 354th carved out a one and a half kilometer deep bridgehead and cleared Burg and Punderich. On the left, the 353rd punched inland three kilometers against scattered resistance.
At daybreak, the 314th and 133rd Engr. Bns. launched vehicle-carrying ferries. Enemy artillery lobbed shells onto the site until noon, but the 87th Heavy Ponton Co. worked steadily on a Class 40 bridge to link Alf and Bullay. Several hours after the initial waves crossed over, infantry pounded on the heels of the fleeing enemy.
With light casualties, the 89ers had made their first major river assault crossing. Gen. Finley's battle charge -- "Kill Germans and go forward!" -- had become fact, wrought in blood and courage.
Lt. Col. James W. Hawkins, Waynesburg, Pa., led 3rd Bn., 353rd, into a vicious fight at the "Tear Drop," a steep, narrow ridge north of Punderich where the Moselle doubles back in a gooseneck. Fanatic remnants of the 14th Nebelwerfer Regt., holed up in a ruined tower, held off the doughs for two days with machine guns and grenades. German snipers exacted a price for every yard advanced. Time after time, the Nazis waved white flags, then opened fire.
This was frontier style in-fighting, a test of marksmanship, nerves and endurance. Step by step, the 89ers fought up exposed slopes, clearing the crest in a final charge. Five hundred pounds of TNT reduced the tower to a pile of rubble, a monument to the Rolling W. The Moselle crossing was secure; the road to the Rhine lay open.
But now the weight of attack swerved southeast to catch the enemy off balance and disrupt his line of retreat. Two armored divisions -- the 4th and the 11th -- and the 5th, 89th and 90th Inf. Divs. plunged in the new direction and fanned out in fast-moving columns. From the south, Seventh Army sprung the lower half of a giant nutcracker that was to crush all Germans west of the Rhine in record time.
The 89th surged from the Moselle Gorge into Enkirch and Briedel, March 17. Through rolling farm country and patches of pine, the division spurted ahead to take Walhausen, Loffelscheid, and Schwarzen. Troopers of the 89th Recon, commanded by Capt. Andrew H. Engel, Jersey City, N.J., seized more than 100 prisoners at Rhaunen.
Deserters, stragglers and small units isolated by the tankers surrendered in increasing numbers. Town after town -- Dickenscheid, Dillendorf, Kirchburg, Dill and Laufersweiler -- fell as the Germans reeled back under the one-two punch of armor-infantry teams. P-47 and P-51 fighter-bombers battered enemy convoys.
Twenty miles in advance of the division, the 355th crossed the Nahe River, March 19. For directing fire in eliminating one machine gun nest and single-handedly wiping out another near Kirn, S/Sgt. Joseph G. Gruz, Alliance, Ohio, was awarded the Silver Star. Gruz crawled forward under murderous fire, hurled a grenade into the position and killed two gunners, then jumped in the hole and bayoneted a third 6erman.
Two days later, the remainder of the division swarmed across the river against moderate opposition and sprinted for the next water barrier, the Glan. Merxheim, Kuppchen, Otzweiler and Hundsbach fell in rapid succession. On the heights of Limbacher Hohe, a stubborn pocket held up 2nd Bn., 353rd, nearly a day. T/Sgt. Max J. Markley, Mabelrah, Ark., led his platoon over exposed ground under a storm of small arms fire to capture 47 Germans and rout the others.
The 89th reached the Glan River March 22 and was ordered to assemble in the Kirn area. Combat Team 5, which had knifed to Worms on the Rhine behind the 11th Armd. Div., rejoined the 89th. The first phase of the division's operations ended with a complete enemy collapse throughout the Palatinate. The next operation was the trans-Rhine drive for Central Germany and the Nazi vitals.
In its first 10 days of combat, the 89th hastened the Germans' defeat. The division had opened up a vital supply route over the Moselle, taken more than 5000 prisoners, cleared more than 100 towns and villages and several hundred square miles of territory.
The 89th was transferred to VIII Corps, March 23. In a letter to Gen Finley, Gen. Eddy wrote:
The 89th Infantry Division... takes with it our admiration for the commendable manner in which it so quickly acquired the spirit of veterans in its first major engagement.
Your advance to the Moselle River, followed by your notable assault river crossing at Bullay, established a new... route vitally essential to the successful operation of this Corps. The courage of your troops in their baptism under fire, and the promptness with which your staff and combat leaders grasped their new responsibilities, surely mark the beginning of a gallant record for your division.
Let me express to you, and to all the members of your command my appreciation for your splendid performance with the XII Corps.
The 89th shifted to a new sector northeast of Simmern between Kestert and Kaub, March 24, to prepare for the Rhine assault.
BRAVE MEN WIN RHINE BRIDGEHEAD
The 89th MP Platoon unsnarled traffic, kept convoys moving. By H-Hour, every man was in position, awaiting the signal. This task of precise timing and detailed organization was expedited by the staff work of Col. Norman M. Winn.
At Wellmich, Lt. Col. Thomas G. Davidson's 1st Bn., 354th, pushed across two Co. A platoons in the first rush, then was pinned down for hours by withering automatic weapons fire. Anti-Tank Co.'s 57mms raked the hillsides. Cpl. Walter Giles, Ogden, Utah, picked off an enemy machine gun nest in a culvert at 1500 yards. Behind wharves and a railroad embankment doughs laid down a blanket of M-1 fire. By noon, Cos. B and C were storming up the east bank and into the town.
When one of the lead boats was sunk by machine gun fire, Pvt. Joseph Martin, East Providence, R.I., Co. A, swam about in the bullet-sprayed water, applying tourniquets to the wounded. His action helped save the lives of several of his comrades who were marooned for six hours on the enemy-held side of the river.
Upstream at Oberwesel, Lt. Col James S. Morris' 1st Bn., 353rd, caught the Germans by surprise and sneaked across the river with light casualties in the first wave. Third Bn., 353rd, followed, then wheeled south into Kaub. Lt. Col. Harry L. Murray's 2nd Bn., 353rd, scaled the cliffs and jabbed toward Bornich.
When the Germans stopped Co. L, 353rd, in the north section of Kaub, Co. I squeezed in on the flank and TDs cut loose from across the Rhine. Block by block, the enemy was pushed back. In a costly day-long fight, 89ers cleared the town.
In the hills east of Kaub, Capt. Gerald Fortney, Morgantown, W. Va., Co. K, outwitted the Nazis. A PW volunteered to guide him to an enemy pocket. Instead the captain chose his own route, surprised 14 Germans waiting in ambush and took them prisoner.
Bitter fighting raged at St. Goarshausen. Smoke generators couldn't be used to screen operations because the wind was in the wrong direction. Germans fought with furious determination to hold this key bridge site. Cos. E and F of Lt. Col. Henry K. Benson's 2nd Bn., 354th, fought to the far side of the town through a storm of bullets and shells, then methodically went to work flushing snipers and machine gunners from the battered buildings.
Pvt. Anthony Miano, Bronx, N.Y., 334th radioman, crossed the river twice during the height of the battle, carrying messages and directing artillery fire. For several hours, his radio was the only link between battalion headquarters and St. Goarshausen.
One 354th wire crew crossed the river under fire three times. Four 354th AT Co. gunners -- Pfc Paul Mullenix, Flint, Mich.; Pfc Ralph Dyer, Montgomery, Ind.; Pfc Van Maraman, Lockhart, Ala.; Pfc Alphy St. Pierre, Keegan, Me. -- strung vital communication wire from shore to shore.
During the house-to-house battle, medical and ammunition supplies ran low. Pfc Lorenze Gludovatz, Miami, Fla., an ammunition bearer, floundered in deep water 20 yards offshore with a 50 pound packboard of machine gun belts. But he struggled up the bank and kept his gun in action.
Patrolling the streets, S/Sgt. Alex Bejarano, El Dorado, Calif., yelled to his squad: "I've been luggin' this anti-tank grenade through maneuvers two solid years. I'm gonna heave it!" His pitch blasted a machine gun nest in a second-story building.
Teamwork and courage, the will to win, toppled St. Goarshausen in eight hours of toe-to-toe slugging. Nazi homefront broadcasters dubbed the 89th, "Third Army Shock Troops."
As soon as the town was cleared, the 1107th Engr. Group begin erecting a bridge. Engineers worked throughout the night and the next day despite artillery fire. By 2300 hours March 27, the span was completed and a torrent of men and supplies rolled across to the "holy soil" of Hitler's tottering Third Reich.
To exploit the bridgehead and spearhead the 89th drive beyond the Rhine, two task forces crossed the 87th Inf. Div.'s bridge at Boppard and streaked down the east bank late March 26. A task force commanded by Lt. Col. John R. Johnson, Columbus, Ga., and composed of the 1st Bn., 355th; 1st Platoon, Cannon Co.; Cos. B and C, 602nd TD Bn., and one platoon from the 314th Engr. Bn., smashed Kestert in a three-hour battle, then veered east from the gorge toward Struth to relieve an artillery threat to the bridge.
The 89th Recon Troop and Co. A, 602nd TD Bn., cleared the east bank of the river from St. Goarshausen south to Lorch. Heavy fire from 88s dug into the commanding heights was silenced by Maj. Milo B. Gracesa's 2nd Bn., 355th. Next day, the doughs pushed into Stephanshausen.
"Gallant and conspicuous courage" while on patrol near Lorch earned a Silver Star for Pfc John F.J. Hall, Williamstown, Pa., Co. E, 355th. Cut off from his unit, Hall was trapped in a shell hole with a wounded buddy. Firing a BAR from the hip, he killed several oncoming Germans, then dragged his comrade to cover. When darkness fell, Hall located a rowboat and floated downstream with the wounded man to friendly positions.
89ers CRUSH BINGEN BULGE
The 353rd seized Auf der Hohe and moved into Weisel behind artillery. From Kaub, 3rd Bn. pushed southeast onto the high ground between Wolfsheck and Lorchausen.
First Bn., 354th, fought into Nochern and Weyer and knocked out the enemy's northern anchor. Third Bn., 355th, commanded by Lt. Col. Jerome A. Lentz, Denver, Col., captured Harbach and Rettershaim, smashed a nest of 20mms near Presberg, swung southeast through Rudesheimer Wald and into St. Vincentztift.
With gathering momentum, the 89th surged ahead into the heavily forested country of the "Bingen Bulge" on a three-regiment front. Out in front, Task Force Johnson overran Langschied and Kemel, then raced to Bad Schwalbach. Infantry spread over this 250 square mile area and cleaned out the by-passed pockets.
While the 354th maintained contact with the 76th Inf. Div. on the left, the 353rd crossed the Ernst and Wisper Rivers, beat through gloomy Ranseler Wald, cracked German defenses; at Obergladbach, and drove into Hausen. First Bn., 353rd, captured Espenschied.
Geisenheim and Rudesheim, the two largest cities in the area, fell without a shot. The prisoner bag mounted. The 714th Ord. Co. worked around the clock as it processed enemy materiel. By March 30, four days after the crossing, the "Bulge" was free of Germans.
Memorial services were held throughout the division Easter Sunday for the 89ers who had fallen in battle. The division was ordered to assemble near Bad Schwalbach and the 89th readied itself for the climax offensive.
The division sped north to the assembly area between the 65th and 90th Inf. Divs. at Hersfeld, April 3. The mission was to take Eisenach and drive across the province of Thuringia. Next day, the 89th pushed on to Nesselroden to become the easternmost U.S. infantry division and the one closest to the Red Army troops.
After Combat Team 5, attached to the 4th Armd. Div., roared into the lead and helped seize the ancient city of Gotha, it then held up to wait until the 89th opened the autobahn supply route.
West of the Rhine the enemy had utilized river barriers for defenses. Now, the Germans fell back through the dense Thuringian Forest. Fanatic SS troopers strove desperately to bolster the sagging Wehrmacht morale and slow the Allied tidal wave.
A task force commanded by Lt. Col. William L. Button, Radford, Va.; ran interference. Composed of 3rd Bn., 354th; 341st FA Bn.; 89th Recon Troop; Co. B, 602nd TD Bn.; and a platoon of engineers, the task force sprinted into Wiegleben and Westhausen and seized the area between Henningsleben and Warza.
Combat Team 3 crushed a resistance pocket at Lauchroden April 5, overwhelmed 300 SS troops defending Fortha to clear the approach to Eisenach. First and 2nd Bns., 353rd, closed the net by encircling the city on three sides.
In an effort to spare lives, surrender terms were sent to the enemy commander, who asked for emissaries. Maj. Irving G. Sheppard, Columbus, Ohio, 1st Bn. Executive Officer, and 1st Lt. James T. Towne, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., AMG, were blindfolded by two SS guards and driven to a secret meeting place. In a mouldy, candle-lit chamber, the Prussian general told the officers that the "plans of the supreme command" did not permit him to surrender Eisenach.
The officers were returned unharmed, and at 0215 Div Arty boomed forth, hurling 1900 rounds into the city in a four-hour bombardment. At 0700, the doughs smashed forward. Four hours later, Eisenach was cleared. The 89th took 500 prisoners, 50 vehicles and a freight yard full of supplies.
A change in Corps boundaries April 6, altered the 89th's line of advance; the division swung southeast in a grinding three-day offensive that ended with the fall of Friedrichroda.
Supported by artillery and 707th Tank Bn. armor, the 353rd and 354th pierced the enemy's first defense line between the towns of Wutha and Rhula. Remnants of the Germans' 85th Corps, including the 11th Panzer Div. and the 347th Inf. Div., waged a series of bitter last-ditch battles. As the Nazis crumbled, fighting became confused; battle lines ceased to exist. The stubbornly defended town of Tabarz collapsed under a four-pronged attack, April 8.
"I am in a German hospital in Tabarz. If possible come and release me," read a note signed by Lt. Col. Thomas Buckley, 333rd FA Group, and handed to Maj. Keith Hammond, Paoli, Ind., 353rd Regimental Surgeon, by a German medical non-com. Maj. Hammond dashed into Tabarz under artillery fire while a fire fight raged in the suburbs. Finding Col. Buckley, he had the colonel evacuated by ambulance, then remained behind to treat a badly wounded lieutenant before driving him back through enemy lines.
VETERAN DOUGHS SPEED TO TRIUMPH
Even the division band saw action. CWO Victor H. Steg, Wichita, Kan., and four musicians on a guard mission, ambushed a group of Nazis who had been cut off. During a night-long Vigil, Mr. Steg and his men repulsed two attacks, killing the Nazi leader and wounding several others.
Meanwhile, Combat Team 5 slashed forward with the 4th Armd. Div. to Ohrdruf, liberated a large concentration camp. Several hours previous, SS guards had shot all prisoners too weak to move.
A search disclosed nearly 3000 bodies burned and buried in pits north of the camp. A group of German citizens, by order of Army authorities, were made to witness these horrors -- the whipping block, gallows, crematorium. No member of the 89th doubted Nazi barbarism after Stalag Ohrdruf.
Kicking off between Waltershausen and Friedrichroda, the 89th paced Third Army infantry in the final dash toward Czechoslovakia beginning April 10. The 355th pounded Crawinkel, the blasted the enemy from Grafenhaim and Georgenthal. Next night, riflemen ripped into Arnstadt and seized two bridges over the Gera River.
On the right flank, the 354th was slowed by a tough knob of resistance at Wolfis. Defenses bristled with self-propelled artillery and dug-in tanks. The 2nd Bn. took Espenfeld, and the remainder of the regiment crossed the Gera River April 11, abreast of the 355th.
When German artillery cut 914th FA Bn. communications near Wolfis, Sgt. (then Cpl.) Edward F. Cronk, Grand Rapids, Mich., traced the break by crawling over a hill exposed to massed fire. The enemy adjusted fire on him, but Cronk clung to his post and repaired the wire three times as artillery cut it.
Enemy planes appeared for the first time. ME-109s buzzed supply dumps, strafed moving columns and CPs. Within the next few weeks, 550th Anti-Aircraft Bn. gunners shot down more than 20 attackers.
Intelligence teams roved from town to town, screening civilians and arresting officials who had kept the province a hot bed of Nazism. Night patrols hunted down Germans who attempted to infiltrate and harass communication lines and supply points. Leaders, of Werewolf packs, Hitler Jugend and Madchen and other youth sabotage groups were rounded up.
East of the Gera, a task force commanded Lt. Col. H.L. Streeter, 707th Tank Bn., was formed to race ahead and seize bridges over the Saale River at Kahla. Composed of the 1st Bn., 353rd; 89th Recon Troop; 340th FA Bn.; two companies of tanks and one company of TDs, the task force was split into two columns after capturing Bad Berka April 12. One of the columns overran Grosslohma and Schirnewitz, reaching the Saale in a single day.
The southern column smashed heavy opposition in Blankenhain, then swerved southeast toward Kesslar where it smacked into enemy tanks and infantry. This delay gave the Germans enough time to blow the Saale bridges, but as soon as Kahla was cleared, engineers threw across a treadway bridge.
In the rear, the regiments mopped up swiftly, On April 14, the 353rd and 355th swept across the Saale on a wide front in assault boats, ferries and over footbridges.
The 89th prisoner count passed 15,000. Two notorious Germans surrendered near Kahla, convinced the war was all but over. They were Dr. Manfred Zapp, former Nazi chief propagandist in the U.S., and Richard Walter Darre, Hitler's Minister of Agriculture.
Near the Saale, doughs captured Dr. Richard Hebermehl, director of the Reich Weather Bureau and chief weather advisor for the Luftwaffe, together with his staff, charts and instruments. Cadets and officers of Thuringia's military training schools, armed with bazookas and thrown into the fight, surrendered in droves.
Thousands of liberated persons from slave labor camps crowded the roads on foot and bicycles and in carts, homeward bound. From a Blankenhain camp, 89ers freed 325 Polish women officers, captured in the 1944 Warsaw uprising. Ex-front line soldiers wearing emblems of rank cut from C-ration cans, the women stood at attention behind their commander, Maj. Wanda Gertz, before greeting the doughs with smiles.
Had the Germans been able to slow the advance of American troops, the Saale area world have become a huge secret war production center. Men of the 89th located miles of recently constructed tunnels, underground assembly plants and hidden factories. CIC personnel found facilities for turning out jet planes, burp guns, aerial cameras, other vital equipment.
East of the Saale, the battle of the last desperate elements of the German Army neared the end. The 89th flanked by 80th Inf. Div. doughs, stayed in front of the advance most of the way.
Supply problems were tremendous. The 405th QM Co. kept trucks rolling night and day despite strafing attacks. The company later received a Meritorious Service Unit Plaque for "outstanding performance in maintaining a constant flow of supplies" to the front.
The 89th Signal Co. laid and patrolled hundreds of miles of wire, maintained messenger service despite intense enemy sniper fire.
THE ROLLING W -- READY FOR ALL COMERS!
Resistance stiffened as the 89th neared the Zwick-Mulde River. On the right, the 353rd's 1st Bn. captured Zoghaus, then fought grimly for 24 hours to silence batteries of 88s on the heights overlooking Greiz, Reichenbach, plastered by artillery and air bombardment, collapsed the next day under a sustained ground assault. Capture of Zwickau, an industrial city of 100,000 astride the Zwick-Mulde River, was the 89th's last major engagement in the ETO.
On April 17, the 355th, supported by tanks, moved up behind the artillery. Hundreds of hastily-mobilized Volkssturm troops, backed up by the SS and the Wehrmacht, met the thrust with heavy panzerfaust and machine gun fire from a network of trenches.
A task force of three motorized platoons -- units of the 89th Recon, 602nd TD Bn. and the 355th I & R -- was formed on the spot. Guided by two liberated British paratroopers, the task force swooped ahead of the infantry at 50 miles an hour and seized two bridges over the river in the heart of the city.
Fast action saved both bridges. The spans had been mined for demolition, but the 89ers located and cut all the wires that were found. The task force stood pat until infantry drove through to the river bank and cleared the city.
Of the action, the Associated Press commented: "...like a two-gun Western."
For his work as a demolition expert, Sgt. Virgil A. Scurlock, Jackson, Ohio, won a Silver Star. In the face of intense sniper fire, Scurlock volunteered to cut the wires on one of the bridges. A bullet smashed his jaw, but he stayed at his post until the charges were removed.
The 89th took 1700 prisoners in Zwickau and from nearby camps freed 5000 Allied prisoners, including 500 Americans.
By April 19, all three regiments cleared a strip east of the river to reach the Corps' limiting line, which extended southwest from Oberlungwitz toward Lengenfeld.
The entire VIII Corps passed to First Army control, April 23. From then until V-E Day, May 8, 1945, the 89th saw limited action.
Wrote Gen. Middleton, VIII Corps Commander:
The rapidity of your advance through Germany to the Mulde River and the tactical skill with which your units were maneuvered to drive back a shifty resisting enemy as well as to conform to changing objectives and zones of action, were distinguished achievements.
For the next two weeks, foot and mechanized patrols probed enemy strong points. Div Arty pounded German positions to prevent consolidation and to break up counter-attack threats. The three largest towns in the forward zone -- Lossnitz, Aue and Stollberg -- were kept under constant pressure.
One enemy attack in force was smashed by the 355th late April 27. Small local actions continued. Early May 7, the 89th suffered its last combat casualty, just before the "cease fire" order at 0830.
The division's daily newspaper, The Rolling W, printed on a captured German press, heralded the Nazis' unconditional surrender. All ranks shared a feeling of thanksgiving, of satisfaction of a job well done and a sober realization that victory was but half won. The road to peace leads through the Pacific.
The division set up temporary headquarters in Gotha May 12, 100 miles west of the Mulde River, and for the remainder of the month, occupied a large area in Thuringia, maintaining order, patrolling roads and guarding installations. Retracing its steps across Europe, the 89th then moved to Rouen, June 1.
As Headquarters, Normandy Assembly Area, the division operated Camps Lucky Strike, Twenty Grand and Old Gold as it undertook the tremendous task of staging troops earmarked for redeployment.
From a green division the 89th had learned quickly the hard lessons of battle, had matured into a tough, hard-driving outfit. Its men had proved their courage and demonstrated their ability to go forward. The 89th was confident, ready for any future mission.