The Rhine: Some Didn't Make It
Not all the boats got across. During the early hours of that morning most of them didn't make it. Some were blown up or sunk. Many were forced back to the west shore. The 2nd squad of Co. Ps 1st platoon was one of these. It was F Co.'s first boat out. They were being peppered by fire as soon as they were in the boat but they started paddling out into the river. Hugging the bottom of the boat to escape the fire, the men could get no coordination in their paddling. They floated downstream under the first band of fire. When they were in the clear they paddled like hell. Then the machine guns and 20mms opened up again. They ducked and drifted. Their paddles were being shot to pieces. The engineer in the front of the boat was hit. He fell overboard. All that meant to the men was that one more paddle was gone.
They had drifted about a mile when a 20mm shell went through the left side of the boat close to the water line leaving a hole eight inches in diameter and killing Pfc. Lester Breaux. Somebody shouted, "Everybody overboard!" Some of the men jumped out, started swimming and pulling the boat. They kept going toward the enemy shore. Mortar fire landed in front of the boat, to the left and to the right.
Many of the men in the boat were so shocked they couldn't move. At the time when nobody was paddling, Pvt. Thurman Haynes, who had joined the company only two days before, jumped up and yelled, "God damn it, do you guys want to die out here?" A shell scraped across the side of his face. But the men started paddling. The swift current kept the boat moving, kept the Germans from zeroing in on it. They drifted downstream and finally pulled around the side of a sunken boat. Under this cover they found they were back on the west side of the river. They climbed over a dike in the water, up to the shore, over a railroad track, behind a wall, into a cave. Here they found some wounded men from Co. E. A couple of men went for medics, brought one back. He dressed the man's wounds, made them as comfortable as possible. They stayed in the cave for 10 hours, from 0400 until 1400.
During the morning a Regimental wire crew, working alone the west bank of the Rhine, was subjected to heavy enemy machine gun and 20mm fire which forced them to take cover in a cave. Pfc. Robert B. Bennear, Regimental Hq Co., the crew's driver, heard a call for help from two wounded men who had drifted ashore. He left the cave and went down to the shore to the men amid a hail of enemy fire. One by one he carried them to his quarter ton truck and drove them a mile along a fire-swept road that bordered the river to the 1st Battalion aid station. Then he drove back over the same hazardous route to return to his crew in their cave.
Three Co. F medics were decorated for their work on the Rhine bank at St. Goarshausen. T/4 Robert Rudd, Pfc. George H. Hladun and T/5 Curtis J. Duggan worked on the river bank in the face of enemy fire treating wounded men and assisting in evacuating them. Sgt. Rudd also went to the aid of several men from a Co. G boat in the face of heavy 20mm fire when he saw no other aid man was available. The three men set up an emergency aid center which materially eased the task of treatment and evacuation.
An effective smoke screen was laid by the howitzers of Cannon Co. at approximately 0800 in support of the final elements of Co. F and the main body of Co. G. Sufficient smoke was laid to make the crossings of these units possible with a minimum of casualties. About noon Lt. Robert B. Carpenter Jr., forward observer for Cannon Co., directed fire on targets of opportunity in St. Goarshausen and destroyed an 88m gun, a 20mm gun and an OP. The latter two were eliminated in one salvo.