DIARY ENTRY #13
By Don R. Marsh
21 January 1945
19 January 1945, Major General Ernest N. Harmon had departed to take over as CG, XXII Corps. Brigadier General Isaac D. White, 2AD CG Combat Command "B," was appointed the new 2AD Commanding General. (White, in later years would rise to the rank of four-star general). The 2AD was once again transferred back to the Ninth Army. The Division was assembled southeast of Liege in Aywaille and Esneux for rest and rehabilitation. Liberal passes to Paris, Verviers and Hasselt were granted to all ranks.
On 21 January 1945, Glenn E. Springer and Clovis Waldroop, drove up from the Signal Company looking for Larry Hull and me to join them in locating the old 143rd from the 3rd AD, bivouacked near Huy, also in the rear. We drove over in a jeep to find the 143rd spread out in various locations. Following the wire lines led us right to the Wire Section. When some of our old friends recognized us we got the customary razzing and comments like "Look what the cat dragged in. Or, here come the heroes. We heard you guys were still back in France someplace guarding the rear. When did you leave Paris?"
When the GI trash talk ended we shook hands with our close friends and learned who had been killed and wounded. Among those killed in action at Mons, Belgium were Bob Rosenberg and Lowell P. Dillard, two men who sailed with Larry Hull and I coming overseas on the Charles Sharswood. Others, including Ken C. Speers and Sgt. Hans J. Loeffler had been wounded defending Hotton, Belgium. The Company had suffered many other casualties, including T/Sgt. John Myers, the Section Wire Chief who had been shot in the neck in a firefight in which Sgt. Len Wilson shot and killed Myers' shooter - emptying the full magazine from his Thompson submachine gun on him.
Fortunately, I did not see my nemesis, Captain Wilson to exchange pleasantries. I learned that Captain Wilson had busted Staff Sergeant Russ Kane to Private and that Sergeants Murdo McCloud and Herman Mueller had been transferred out, among others. We spent about an hour with them and said our final goodbyes. Harry Tuttle, my old buddy shook my hand for the last time and gave me his fatherly advice "Kid, don't be a hero." At the time, Harry was 41 years old with a son my age in the Navy. Pop Schmidt also had a son in the Navy. Neither of these two "old" men were in top physical condition and never should have been drafted. But, there they were, serving as wiremen in a combat division.
On 3 February 1945, CC"A" moved to a new assembly area near Hagelstein, Belgium. Preparations were being made for further operations and continued to 22 February. All units were receiving new replacements. The Division losses for the month of December had exceeded 2,300 men. In mid-February, the Division moved to a secret assembly location near Gulpen and Aachen. The assembly was completed on 26 February and the following day, the Command crossed the Roer River at Julich and then assembled in the vicinity of Mersch, Germany.
On 28 February 1945, CC"A" attacked East and North from a line of departure at Garzweiler, Germany. During this attack, near the village of Titz, an artillery shell exploded near our column and a fragment struck Corporal Bill Veno, riding next to me. He was struck in the helmet about an inch over his right eye. The red-hot piece of a shell fragment had completely pierced the helmet and penetrated his forehead. When he hollered, "I'm hit!" I took one look at him bleeding profusely; I figured with a head wound like that, the odds were he wouldn't make it. I stopped the vehicle and quickly applied a compress from my first aid pack. Within minutes a 48th Medics ambulance in the column stopped and loaded him on board and took off for a field hospital in the rear. I thought that was the last we'll see of him and I hope he makes it. Lt. Moll told me to take over the wire team, as I was the oldest man and the driver. For the next few days, I felt both lucky and at the same time guilty that the exploding shell fragments missed me, but guilty that they hit Veno sitting a few inches to my right.
CC"A" captured Glehn and on 1 March 1945 seized crossings intact over the Nord Canal. The towns of Priester-Rath, Juchen, Hoppers, Seldich, Steinforth and Schlich all fell on the first day's advances. The attack continued and on 5 March 1945, the Command passed between Krefeld and Uerdingen, having passed east of Munchen-Gladbach and having over-run or outflanked the enemy defense sector after the initial breakthrough. Just north of the Krefeld-Uerdingen Road, elements of CC"A" overran and destroyed thirty -six 88 mm dual purpose guns in an area of about two thousand square yards after having already over come a fanatical defense in the built-up area immediately southeast of Krefeld where the enemy employed bazookas and panzerfausts in very close and desperate fighting.
Dusk had fallen and the fading daylight was bad as I drove through the city streets of Krefeld, dodging the massive holes in the streets from the bombings; when at the last split-second too late, I saw the cable hanging perilously low across the road directly in front of me. Unable to react that quickly, the cable hit my helmet, knocking it off my head and giving me a helluva headache. It just missed Larry Hull seated next to me. Chalk up another close call.
CC"A" then assembled in the vicinity of Korschen-Broich, Germany. This area had numerous wineries with barrels and barrels of the stuff. Leave it to the GIs to find an ample supply of wine. Men were dumping the vehicle spare five-gallon water cans and filling them with the wine. Many of the men were walking around half drunk, with more than one or two acting stupid.
Another surprise drunken offender was one of our wire team, Walter Hogan - our quiet Indian from Florida. I had never seen him take a drink until that day. Now he was walking around with a canteen cup full of wine throughout the day and thoroughly drunk. I would describe him as being a happy drunk and jovial. Hogan, a true introvert, was a normally very shy person and avoided contact with all officers. For some unknown reason, well after midnight, while alone, Hogan decided to pay General Collier an unsolicited visit. Officers, especially generals, frown on this practice. General Collier's caravan quarters was a compact trailer made on a four-wheel flat bed trailer frame, towed by a supply truck when on the move.
We never did get the full story, but Lt. Moll told us afterwards that Hogan knocked on Collier's door after midnight, woke him up and asked him to come out. For what purpose, we'll never know, but the whole headquarters buzzed the next day that "A drunken Indian from the wire team woke General Collier up to give him a piss call." Knowing Hogan, he probably wanted the General to share a sip of the nectar of the gods. Hogan was placed under arrest. Rather than ordering Hogan court-martialed, General Collier said to give him a week's KP with the kitchen crew. Far better punishment than being sent to the 41st Infantry Regiment. He never served the full "sentence" as we moved out in the next few days.
In the same block of German houses we occupied, connected with common walls, many contained women, children and elderly men. After the first day or two in these buildings, one morning out stepped a young German Wehrmacht soldier in full uniform, who had been home on leave when we captured the area. His family had hidden him in the basement of our building directly under our apartment! He was holding his youngest child, while his wife and another child walked next to him as he volunteered to surrender in uniform. It was a smart move on his part. He was now an official Prisoner of War. We were tired of war too, so he had nothing to fear from us. We permitted him to say goodbye to his family and hustled him off to the POW cage, knowing one day he would live to see his family again.
Our next surprise, or rather a shock, was when a jeep pulled up and there was Bill Veno! The medics had sewn him up and did a good job on the stitching, kept him in the hospital, then sent him to a replacement pool and here he was back on duty. We teased him that we always knew he had a hard head and this convinced us that it was proven beyond a doubt this time. One very lucky guy! Bill got back just in time to go to war again.
The night of 27-28 March 1945, the Command crossed the Rhine River on a pontoon bridge just south of Wesel and assembled in the vicinity of Hunxe and Peddenburg prior to making the final breakthrough to the Elbe River. Crossing the Rhine day or night on a pontoon bridge is not as easy as it may sound. As the driver, you keep your eyes focused on the vehicle in front of you and maintain your proper interval. Your wheels are in the bridge tracks and you just pray nothing goes wrong to dump you over the side and into the river. And no, the Army did not permit us to stop in the middle of the pontoon bridge to piss in the river as General George Patton had done.
On 29 March 1945, CC"A" jumped off across a line of departure between Dulmen and Haltern, bridged and crossed the Dortmund-Ems Canal and continued that attack east. The Ninth Army was given the assignment of meeting with the First Army's 3rd Armored Division at Lippstadt to encircle over 350, 000 trapped German troops. The enemy threw in everything they had to stop our advance with Hitler suicidal youths firing panzerfausts at close range.
The Command fought day and night to reach Teutoburger Wald in the Harz Mountains on 31 March where three mountain passes were forced in heavy fighting against fanatical resistance. CC"A" Hqs bivouacked in the dense forest area at the top of a rise overlooking a valley with a scattering of farm homes spread out on the plateau. We found a large barn and opened a 10-in-one box of rations that night. Charlie Tichacek had picked up two huge German blowtorches from a Kraut supply train to use as our "stove." We got out the gear to start cooking when we turned to face one of our own guys with a .45 pistol in his hand threatening to shoot us all. His name was Steve (last name unknown), assigned as the M5 Stuart tank driver guarding the Headquarters. He was incoherent and waving his weapon at all of us until cool Charlie talked slowly and persuasively that we were all his friends. I believe the guy just snapped as he backed out of the barn with the .45 still pointed at us. He then got into his tank and just took off down the hill. We never saw nor heard from him again. If it hadn't been for Tichacek talking the guy into calming down, who knows what might have happened to us all?
On Easter Sunday, 1 April, the 2AD linked up with the First Army's 3rd Armored Division at Lippstadt, Germany, closing the Ruhr Pocket. Only to learn that the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Armored Division, Major General Maurice Rose had been captured in an ambush while attacking Paderborn with his forward Task Force at Hamborn, Germany, at dusk on the night of 30 March 1945; he was killed while in the act of surrendering. His death was something that saddened those of us that served under him at CC"A." However, it was not totally unexpected by us, knowing his insistence and the risks involved in being with his lead Task Forces. Captured and taken prisoner, with Rose, in this ambush were Rose's Division G-3, Lt. Colonel Wesley Sweat, TSgt. John T. Jones, T/4 Wesley D. Ellison, T/4 Neil E. Fleischer, PFC William T. Hatry and the driver of the M-20 recon car, PFC James Stevenson.
From the mountains, CC"A" drove to the Weser River and crossed it within twenty-six hours after having launched a counterattack just east of Augustdorf in the Teutoburger Wald as well as a separate attack against Lage, then regrouping for the forty-mile attack to the Weser River. CC"A" continued the drive to the East after crossing the Weser River and forced crossings at Leine and Innerste Rivers North of Hildesheim, and then moved South of Hildesheim and continued East to Schonebeck. On 7 April 1945 Pvt. Farrell Gordon Schoedel is severely wounded by gunfire at Suhl, Germany while serving as a rifleman with Company B, 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion.
On 11 April 1945 the Second Armored Division became the first American division to reach the Elbe River near Schonebeck, placing us 56 miles from Berlin.
On 12 April 1945 PFC Gilbert F. Lindgren is killed in action at Unna, Germany while serving as a rifleman with Company A, 7th Armored Infantry Battalion.
On 16 April 1945, 143rd Signal Company wiremen Norman W. Steele, and Arthur B. Fischer are killed in action and Donald R. Leineke severely wounded by burp gun fire in an ambush while in their jeep outside of Lingenau, Germany.
Immendorf, Schoppenstedt and Wolfenbuttel fell while capturing the Herman Goering Works south of Braunschweig (Brunswick). The Command paused until 17 April 1945, when the final assault was launched against Magdeburg in conjunction with the 30th Infantry Division.
As our column approached the top of a rise overlooking the city, we came under intense artillery fire, causing us to abandon our vehicles and take cover in a ditch alongside the road. I looked up in time to see both my front tires being destroyed by shell fragments. A young infantryman from the 30th Infantry Division, marching with the troops on the road, dove into the same ditch where Doug Donahue and I had taken cover. A fragment from a shell hit him just as he was making a move to crawl closer to us. The wound began gushing blood in the inner upper thigh region and he immediately began to go into shock. The leg was so badly mangled and so close to the groin that there was no way to tie a tourniquet on the bloody stump what was left of his leg. Apparently, the fragment had ruptured his femur artery for within a very brief time he began to get the telltale blue-grayish color in his face. Tragically, we helplessly watched him slowly die in front of us, begging for help.
The City fell the following day, 18 April 1945. We were now 56 road miles from Berlin. Members of our 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion did get across on a pontoon bridge that our 17th Combat Engineer Battalion had managed to put in place, but the bridge was quickly destroyed by pinpoint accuracy of the enemy artillery. Those already across fought off the fanatical attacks by the enemy and some managed to slip down stream to meet up with other American forces that had successfully crossed the river. However, they did suffer a number killed or captured. Under orders from General Eisenhower, we were ordered to stop our advance - Berlin was conceded and would fall to the Russians.
We were pulled off the line on 20 April 1945, with no one wanting to be the last man shot in this war. When the guns went silent, CC"A" of the 2AD was then assembled in the Wolfenbuttel-Braunschweig area and took over occupation until 9 May 1945. At that time CC"A ceased to exist as a tactical unit.
Publication or reproduction, in part or whole, is prohibited without written permission from the author, Don R. Marsh. All rights remain the sole property of The Marsh Family Trust.