The Rhine: Co A's Crossing
A little way downstream the 1st Battalion was also making a crossing, led by Co. A. Before the Battalion started its crossing a patrol led by S/Sgt. Wallace Maxfield of Co. B crossed to guide the Battalion. Although subjected to fire and grenades, the patrol succeeded in its mission. S/Sgt. James Morello had the closest call. His raincoat was riddled by shrapnel. As the 1st platoon of Co. A started across, many of the boats were caught in the crossfire of the enemy who had the prospective landing area well covered. A building in the company's assembly area on the west bank had been set on fire by enemy tracer bullets. A short time later artillery burst set a building afire on the east bank. Between them they set the river ablaze with light. Casualties were heavy. Capt. John A. Hetherington, 1st Battalion Surgeon, worked his way along an exposed road on the west bank under heavy enemy fire treating the wounded and supervising their evacuations. Then, still under constant fire, he reconnoitered for a suitable aid station and returned down the open road for his men. He operated the aid station until his unit was able to cross the river.
Another medic, TIS Damon H. Postel, attached to Co. A, was about to board an assault boat to cross the river when heavy enemy fire was placed on the launching site. Postel's boat was sunk with several casualties. After giving first aid to as many of the wounded as he could reach, I he set up an aid station in a house near the river's edge. Under heavy fire, he directed the emergency litter bearers who brought in the injured, redressed the wounds of men who had been given preliminary first aid and supervised the evacuation of the wounded.
Under the devastating blast on enemy weapons, several boats of all platoons of Co. A were struck. Notwithstanding this fire, Lt. Leonard J. Michelson ordered his platoon's boats to shove off. They crossed amid a hail of fire and attacked on hitting the shore. One boat met such intense enemy fire that when it reached the east shore only three men remained uninjured. Two of the men, Pfc. Max J. Borion and Pfc. Veril D. Ross, immediately set out to evacuate the wounded to a nearby seawall. Although the enemy was so close that they hurled hand grenades at the two men, they made four round trips over the completely exposed terrain. On one occasion a hand grenade exploded so close to Borion that it staggered him and killed the man in his arms. Another grenade blinded a man who Ross was carrying. Michelson's platoon reorganized and worked their way from the separate landings to the company's prearranged meeting point. One hour after the platoon moved out Michelson radioed back "All right, A Co. We're here. Where are you guys?"
Lt. Harvey Miller with the 3rd platoon was having more trouble. One of his boats had been sunk by the German's initial burst and those men had to go back. Another was sunk in midstream will all men lost. Lt. Miller's own boat arrived safely but as soon as they landed they were met by fire from a concealed machine gun nest a few feet to their left. Miller was the first one out of the boat but he stayed with the boat until the last man had made his way to the I meeting point. Then he moved off but he had waited too long. German machine gunners by this time had zeroed in on him. They killed him as he moved forward.
As the men of Co A moved toward the reorganization point, some of them were in a gully next to a railroad track. They saw a German machine gun squad moving down the track fully exposed to the enemy. One man yelled, "Get off that skyline!" The answer was a surprised, "Vas?" Before the German machine gunners realized what happened they had been shot down in their tracks by the 1st platoon. The company then started to clean out Wellmich under a cover of smoke. Operations were delayed then because no boats were able to reach the west shore. At 0430 a motorboat tried to reach the east shore but was sunk.
T/3 Paul G. Kleve, an A Co. medic, reached the east shore in a boat which carried six
casualties. He gave them first aid in the boat and then directed their evacuation when the boat landed. Kleve carried several of the men to the boat himself. Despite heavy 20mm and automatic weapons fire and hand grenades hurled from behind the seawall, he continued to evacuate and attend all the other wounded at the debarking site. Moving on toward the company's rallying point, he stopped six times to administer aid to other wounded men lying along the water's edge.