Into Central Germany: Task Force Hart
The next day the 1st Battalion was in reserve and moved forward to Stenn. However Co. A, as a part of Task Force Hart under the leadership of Capt. David Hart of Co. B, 602nd TO, was kept busy. They surprised the Germans in the Mulde River valley and captured intact a six-lane autobahn bridge spanning the Mulde at Wilkau-Hasslau. This half-mile long span rose nearly 150 feet above the river and under it passed the Mulde, two highways and a railroad. The Nazis had enough explosives set to drop the span into the valley. They had already blown bridges at Zwickau. East of Cainsdorf a bridge was blown just a short distance ahead of the Task Force's leading tank, slightly injuring two men.
Capt. Daniel F. Hughes, commanding officer of Co. A, was in charge of the infantry troops of the force. Scouting parties were sent up and down the river in search of a bridge to cross the Mulde. In Wilkau a small bridge was found that connected the two sections of the town divided by the river and the railroad. Units of the 2nd platoon of C0 A were deployed arround the bridge and railroad to safeguard the moving of part of the task force to the east bank of the river. Then the task force proceeded up river to within several hundred yards of thee huge autobahn. Here the first platoon under Lt. Leonard Michelson dismounted from the tanks and fanned out towards the eastern approaches of the span. Hurriedly climbing the steep embankment, the platoon found the bridge unguarded. Lt. Michelson quickly dispatched a squad to cross the western end. Here two Nazi soldiers were nonchalantly awaiting the approach of the American troops from the west so that they could withdraw to the east and blow the bridge. After due consideration, the two Nazis reconsidered their blowing plans and took off, leaving their detonator, which is now a Co. A. trophy.
Meanwhile the 2nd Battalion was moving forward, hitting numerous road blocks. By 11200 they were in the vicinity of Schonfels. At 1430 Co F was at Hottelesgrun and Co encountered the enemy in strength at Ebersbrunn. One hundred and fifty prisoners were taken in or near the town while the company sustained two casualties. 1900 the Battalion relieved Task Force Hart at the autobahn bridge ay Wilkau and continued to advance to the east.
The 3rd Battalion moved through Teichwolframsdorf early in the morning and relieved the 1st Battalion. A Gern=man civilian, apprehended while telephoning the enemy in the forward zone, was taken care of. A full German company surrendered to the Bataillon. After interrogation they were sent back to Regiment in several Anti-tank Co. trucks. When the Battalion reached Werdau it came under artillery, machine gun and sniper fire. The town was cleared by 13000 after heavy fighting/ T/Sgt. Campbell of Co. I was killed during this action.
The Battalion moved on to Stenn, near Zwickau. While Co. I was leading the 3rd Battalion in an approach march formation on Zwickau, it was hit by a motor fire and machine guns from well dug-in positions to the south. Co I had one platoon of the 707th Tank Battalion attached. To get to the machine guns the company had to cross open ground extending about 500 yards. With the tanks supporting the 2nd platoon, they worked their way forward, knocking out three double-barreled machine guns. The platoon continued to work forward In to Stenn and there started fighting house to house. At the far end of the village the remaining part of the company joined up with the 2nd platoon, reorganized and turned north toward Zwickau. At Lichtentanne an airfield had been hit badly by bombings but was still being used by the enemy. As Co. I fought its way through the airfield from bunker to bunker, three men were killed and two wounded. As the attack continued into the city, it was learned that an enemy prison camp was located within the boundary. The prison contained American, British and Canadian troops, 150 in all. They were liberated. They were in poor physical condition after being worked and starved for period ranging from eight months to five years, The Battalion gave some of their rations, including all their PX rations. The Battalion reorganized on high ground near Obi and set up the CP there.
Outside of Ortmannsdorf Lt. William H. Jones, Co. M Platoon Leader, was given the mission of leading a motorized patrol in reconnaissance of the town. He entered the outskirts in the first vehicle. White flags were flying from the buildings
But he advanced the patrol cautiously. Suddenly snipers let go a heavy barrage of small arms fire. Lt. Jones was hit. Although mortally wounded, he contained to direct hiss men in the attack. T/4 Moroni Westbrook, a medic with the patrol, went to Lt. Jones aid. In the face of direct fire he started to give him first aid. Just as Westbrook began to administer aid, an enemy bullet killed him.
By 1700, Co. I was two kilometers north of Neudorfel and Co. K was on the north edge of the Planitz. The Regimental CP moved forward to Schonfels. Here Col. Robert C. Aloe, Regimental Commander, left the Regiment to go to Division. He was replaced by Col. Curtis D. Renfro who came from the 87th Division.
On April 19th the 2nd Battalion moved out a 0700. By 0900 Co. F had reached Wildenfels and Co. G was in Wisenburg. These positions were beyond the Division limit as given at 0830 on April 18 so the Battalion wass ordered to withdraw. During the rest of the day foot and motor patrols were sent into the forward zone. The 3rd Battalion started out at 00700 and two hours later Co. K was one kilometer west of Freidrichsgrun. They also sent foot and motor patrols forward.
The regimental CP moved across the Mulde to Hohndorf. For a little more than a week it remained there while the Battalions remained in position. The Regiment, along with all other units up and down the front, was waiting to make contact with the advancing Russians. Foot patrols were operating in the forward zone both day and night, while motor patrols operated during daylight.