Into Central Germany: VIII Corps
On April 19 VIII Corps was transferred from the 3rd Army to the 1st Army.
At 1200 on April 20 an air strike and artillery mission was requested on Hertenstein. This request was based on information secured by the 3rd Battalion. The mission was completed at 1345. Then a Task Force from Co. F moved out at 1600 to clear the town. Near the town a man fell severely wounded Lt. Ernest M. Crowther Jr., Assistant Battalion Surgeon, rushed to his side to administer aid. Although three enemy snipers in a nearby house began firing at him, he remained with the casualty. Because of the nature of the man's wound, Lt. Crowther was unable to move him to cover nor could he desist in his efforts to save the man's life which was obviously in danger. He stayed with the wounded man, administering aid to him with unfaltering effort even though he was an obvious target for snipers.
Co. F entered Hertenstein at 1710 and by 2250 the town was cleared with 30 enemy dead and 27 captured, including two officers. The Task Forces casualties were two wounded and one killed. At 2000 permission was requested to send a Task Force to clear out Stollberg. The Division Air Ground Liaison Officer notified the Regiment that an air strike on Stollberg was planned for 0730 the next morning.
At 0900 the air strike was postponed until 1100 because of poor visibility. At 1130 a Task Force composed of Co. I, a platoon of tank destroyers, a platoon of tanks, a heavy machine gun section and a mortar section moved north and east toward Stollberg through the 355th Infantry zone. Near Neuloelsnitz the Task Force met a German civilian with a white flag in his hand. He reported that he was prepared to surrender the village. Lt. Glenn C. Belew, commanding the Task Force, issued orders to proceed to the objective. On the outskirts of Neuloelsnitz an enemy soldier fired a near miss on the lead tank with a Panzerfaust. Shortly after that a machine gun opened fire, using the street lined with riflemen as its field of fire. Orders were issued to clear all buildings before advancing any further. Pvt. George W. Hodges of Co. I sighted an enemy machine gun nest. He moved forward under opposing rifle, machine gun and bazooka fire to attack the position. A burst of machine gun fire hit him in the leg. Disregarding his injury and the intense fire around him, he continued to drag himself forward until the machine gun hit him again, mortally wounding him. The house to house fighting continued until the enemy saw they could no longer hold out against the onslaught.
When the remaining enemy forces had withdrawn to the vicinity of Stollberg, Lt. Belew radioed the Battalion Commander asking for artillery fire on the enemy position. At 1730 the civilian who had originally offered to surrender the village was ordered to return to Neuoelsnitz and give surrender terms to the enemy commander. After his return the civilian reported that all enemy resistance in the village had stopped. Later it was learned that the enemy soldiers had taken up new positions on the left flank of the village and were placing fire on the Task' Force which was still at its outskirts. White flags were already flying and the Task Force received the order to withdraw due to approaching darkness. During the withdrawal the enemy continued to fire on the troops. The Task Force casualties numbered five wounded and one killed. The enemy suffered 20 killed, eight taken prisoner and an unknown number of wounded.
The next day the I & R platoon was operating in front of another Task Force. It entered Niederwurschnitz about five miles ahead of the Task Force. Cpl. Howard Oakley of Regimental Hq Co. was in charge of the 1st squad as it drove down the main street. Suddenly a machine gun opened on Oakley's jeep. A Panzerfaust hit 10 feet in front of the vehicle and it leaped into the air. Pfc. Frederick T. Shaver of Regimental Hq Co., the driver, pulled the jeep around into an alley behind a fence, out of the field of fire. The four men in the jeep could hear the Germans talking on the other side of the fence. Oakley sent Shaver with the jeep into a field to the rear to 1 get in touch with the platoon leader. The jeep had gone about 100 yards and was just going around a corner when the Germans opened fire on It, but It got away. The Germans crept around the, fence and opened up on the three men remaining. Pvt. Frank Proulx answered with a submachine gun and the Germans took off. Oakley saw some motion in some bushes, fired into them and the motion stopped. The men were in an untenable position and set about getting out of it. Behind them was 100 yards of gardens separated by high chicken wire fences. They decided to withdraw one at a time. Proulx took off first, going over the chicken wire fences. Pvt. Joseph S. James and Oakley moved about 10 feet from where they had been standing and just 'i then five grenades landed in the spot they had vacated. They decided to leave down the main street which was well covered with fire. Breaking out of the alley, they ran 100 yards with slugs flying around them. About 20 feet from a corner which led to safety James was hit in the leg by a ricochet. Oakley pulled James into a Gasthaus. Inside were three civilians -- a woman, an old man and a younger man, a former soldier. The woman helped Oakley take care of James' wound. She brought blankets and a pillow while Oakley slit James' pants and got out his wound tablets. The two German men watched at the window for the German soldiers. Oakley decided to leave James there and go back for help. James had a Luger with him. Oakley took it so it wouldn't be found on him if the Germans should come while he was gone. The former German soldier showed Oakley a covered route back to the spot where the I & R platoon leader was. As Oakley ducked out the back door, Proulx vaulted over a fence and joined him. In five minutes I they were back with the platoon leader and a medic. A few minutes later the Task Force's tanks started rumbling into town.
The same day a motorized patrol of the 3rd Battalion, returning from Raum to Thierfeld, was fired on by some enemy with machine pistols and Panzerfausts as they approached some woods. Two of the Germans were killed and one captured. The patrol then bypassed Thierfeld on the autobahn. That afternoon Lt. Robert A. Bauman, CO of Co. L, led a Task Force consisting of four tanks, four TDs, one M-8, two machine gun jeeps and two platoons of riflemen against Raum. In the approach to Raum a road block barred the way. At the right of the road block was a small hill. The jeeps tried to outflank the road block from behind the hill while the tanks and TDs brought fire on it from a rise in the road. The ground between the jeeps and the small hill was impassable due to swampiness and intense undergrowth. Then 88mm fire opened on the Task Force. It was out of range of the tanks. Fire was called for from supporting artillery and a direct hit was made on the 88. Then the Task Force was recalled.
The next morning all units were ordered to include in future patrols an officer, a person who spoke Russian and green flares. T/Sgt. Louis D. Evers and T/Sgt. Howard J. Kelly of Co. B were; given field commissions as 2nd Lieutenants in recognition of their leadership. That night two 1 men were missing from the 2nd Battalion OP. Apparently they were taken by the enemy.
On April 24 there was considerable reshuffling of the Regimental staff. Maj. Alvin A. Swenson Jr., Regimental S-3, was sent to 2nd Battalion as Executive Officer and was replaced by Maj. Frank L. Willis who had been 1st Battalion's Executive Officer. Maj. Joseph N. Berry, 2nd i Battalion Executive Officer, moved over to the same post in the 1st Battalion. Maj. Richard A. Gaskins, who had returned from the hospital, was sent to the 3rd Battalion as Executive Officer and Capt. Thomas H. Brochu, 2nd Battalion S-3, became Regimental S-2, replacing Lt. Anthony Sega who had come to Regiment from 1st Battalion several days after Maj. Gaskins went to the hospital.
During the night of April 24 three more men were missing from the 2nd Battalion forward listening post. At 0900 the next morning a Task Force composed of Co. G motorized, a platoon of tank destroyers, a platoon of tanks, a section of heavy machine guns and a section of 81 mm mortars, started toward Langenbach. Road blocks were cleared en route. They entered Langenbach at 1200 after encountering machine gun and small arms fire in the outskirts and in the woods near the town. Three bursts, presumably from a flat trajectory weapon, were heard but no other artillery fire was encountered. The Task Force killed 15 Germans, captured 28 and took a half-ton truck
The next day another Task Force composed of two platoons of Co. F, a TD platoon, a platoon of tanks, a section of heavy machine guns and a section of 81 mm mortars was sent out at 0900 to Raum. At 1115, approaching the town, the force ran into sniper fire. The town was entered at 1200. Twenty-two prisoners were taken. During the day the Regimental CP drew back from Hohndorf to Planitz.
On April 28 a Task Force centered around Co. C moved out at 1215 to comb the woods in front of the 1st Battalion zone but no contact was made with the enemy. The next day a patrol from the 1st Battalion found a railroad car full of ammunition.
At 1930 on April 29 the Regiment was notified that the commander of a German regiment wanted to discuss surrender terms with an Allied representative at a castle at Friedrichsthal at 1000 next morning. The 1st Battalion was notified to prepare for the Battalion commander and a sufficient supporting force to go with the Regimental commander to meet the German group. However at 1000 the next day a representative of the German commander requested that the meeting time be postponed until 1600. The 1st Battalion tried to locate the German commander's party at 1600 but could not find him. During the morning the units were notified that the Soviet forces would use white triangles on their vehicles and would use white flares.
On May 1st a 1st Battalion patrol was pinned down by heavy machine gun fire 500 yards southeast of Weissbach. Tanks and troops were sent out to clear the enemy. At 1410 the tanks were in Weissbach firing on enemy positions in the vicinity.
Co. B was sent out on a task force to clear the town of Langenbach on May 2. No enemy was found but the task force was subjected to enemy artillery fire.
The Regiment continued to send out day and night patrols. On May 6 the VIII Corps was transferred from the 1st Army to the 9th Army. At noon that day the enemy in front of the Regiment was supposed to surrender. During the afternoon and night no word was received that they had actually surrendered. During the night the Regiment prepared to move forward the next morning if the surrender was not made.
"The division has accomplished with outstanding success a truly difficult operation and has received the congratulations of the Corps Commander. The Mosel was comparatively easy. The Rhine in the sector assigned to us was a man's job. It should be a matter of pride to you for the rest of your lives that you were present at an achievement which will live in history. I commend you and thank you each one for your part in it. I am proud to command you and am sad only at the thought of the brave men we have lost."