Rhine Crossing by Ed Quick
"B" Battery left its last position west of the Rhine, near the village of Damscheid,
on the morning of March 27, 1945. The convoy moved slowly along the twisting road
leading to the riverside town of Oberwesel. As we reached the crest of the
hill and looked down into the Rhine valley, I saw a crudely printed sign, painted
with a whitewash brush, on the side of a building. "SEE THE RHINE AND
LEAVE YOUR SKULL THERE," it said, and a skull and crossed bones
were painted beneath the words to magnify the unsettling message.
The two and a half ton gun trucks, pulling the battery's four howitzers, whined in low gear as they made their way down the steep hill to the Rhine. Only the smaller vehicles were able to traverse the final switchbacks to the river itself, however, and the gun trucks had to turn right onto a road that led upstream to a better crossing site.
Darrel Carnell, the Battery Commander's driver, drove his Jeep onto a navy landing craft that had been moored at the steep cobblestoned riverbank in Oberwesel. His was probably the first of our battery vehicles to cross the river. On the shore opposite the town, a German 20 mm gun, emplaced in a railroad tunnel, had just been silenced. For some reason, upon reaching the other shore, the captain wanted to drive down stream, and looking back on it today, Darrel thinks he may have been just sightseeing. Eventually, the old man had Darrel turn the Jeep around and drive upstream to our gun truck crossing site.
As we towed the howitzers upriver, we passed a number of gray painted landing craft parked beside the road on large flat bed trucks. Navy personnel in blue dungarees and hats accompanied the boats and we shouted jibes at the sailors, pointing out to them the general direction of the ocean and asking them if they were lost.
The first gun section (truck, crew and howitzer) and our #2 gun truck and crew were loaded onto the first LCVP. As we left shore, we could see right ahead of us an island in the middle of the river and a castle on it we later learned was called "The Pfalz." The current was very swift and carried us rapidly downstream as the propellers on our craft churned the muddy water, driving us forward at the same time. We passed the island on our starboard side and saw our landing site ahead of us, the paved sloping bank leading up to the village of Kaub.
Our landing was without incident, but as we climbed the ramp to the village, we had to step over a dead German soldier, lying on his back at the top of the slope. There, beside his corpse, we waited for the next LCVP to bring us our #2 gun. Near the riverbank, we could see the black and white cylinders of riverboat steamship funnels rising out of the water. The Germans had sunk the boats to deny us their use. When all of the trucks and guns had been ferried across the river, and the captain's jeep arrived to lead the convoy, we headed up out of the valley to the town of Weisel, where we went into our first firing position on the other side of the Rhine.
Ed Quick, #2 Gun Section
November 18, 2001