It was March 25, Sunday. On the rolling green fields around Birkenbach where the 354th I CP was located the Regimental chaplains were holding services. But these were not the usual I Sunday services. On this day the prayers, the hymns, the sermons had more than ordinary meaning to the men sitting on the grass around the chaplains. The day before Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery's 21 St Army Group and Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson's American 9th Army had crossed the Rhine above and below Wesel in a combined operation second only to the Normandy landing in magnitude. For days before, artillery and air bombings had paved the way. Far to the south Lt. Gen Alexander Patch's 7th American Army had pushed across the Rhine north of Mannheim on the same day. And Lt. Gen. George S. Patton's tank columns were even then bursting out of the bridgehead made a few days before opposite Oppenheim.
The men of the 354th who went to worship that day had these events in their minds. But over it all hung a fact much closer to each one of them--tonight it was to be their turn. After the services they would march down to the forward assembly area in the woods west of St. Goar. And then in the small hours of the next morning their time would come.
The plan was to have the 1st and 2nd Battalions carry the attack with the 3rd in reserve. The 2nd Battalions would shove off from St. Goar and take the town of St. Goarshausen on the opposite bank while the 1st, pushing off down river a bit, would take Wellmich. Little was known of any opposing forces which might be on the east shore but reconnaissance from the west bank that afternoon revealed very little enemy activity. Because of this, it was planned to take the Germans by surprise. Consequently no pre-attack artillery barrage was scheduled by Division. The artillery was to be held off until the first troops had made their way across and set up guide lights. Late in the afternoon the CP was moved forward to a house in a gorge on the edge of St. Goar which led right down to the river. The OP was established in a castle high on the steep bank which veers up from the Rhine. By midnight the 1st and 2nd Battalions were moving silently out of their wooded area down a barren slope to the crest of the river bank. There engineers were waiting with assault boats.
At St. Goar the 1st platoons of E and F Companies crawled down the bank to the water's edge, pulling their boats with them. They slid the boats into the water, climbed in and started paddling. Co. F was to land at the right end of St. Goarshausen and take the town. Co. E's job I was to hit the left side of the town and take the high ground behind it.