The Hitler Hinterland
All companies performed maintenance on 31 March as well as on I April 1945 when the 89th Infantry Division was on Corps reserve. During the day of the 2nd companies continued maintenance. Then at dark Company A with the 353rd Regiment and Company C with the 355111 Regiment made rapid progress eastward through the northern suburbs of Frankfort past the barracks of the German Military Officers School that could be seen from the highway. The sweet taste of victory and the feelings of revenge about the Battle of the Ardennes seemed to give new vigor and purpose to men in the third Army poised to reach Berlin as they went east from Kernel to Hersfeld and beyond.
During April 1945 all Units of the 602nd Tank Destroyer Battalion were assigned to the 353rd, 354th, and/or 355th Regiments of the 89th Infantry Division. The route taken and the many towns and villages liberated with varying degrees of resistance were in the middle of the central western territory that from roughly Eisenach to Zwickau became part of West Germany. The territory of combat involvement was immediately south of the Autobahn running from Frankfort to Chemnitz, Dresden, and up to Berlin. The Battalion Headquarters moved on 5 April from Wolfterode to Wahlwinkel Grosbockedra, Kofeln, and on 22 April Zwickau. Headquarters Company moved from Wolfterode on 5 April to Wahlwinkel, Gutendorf, Kofeln and on 20 April to Zwickau. On 13 April the 602nd had completed its first month of combat with the 89th Infantry Division having sustained 10 battle casualties, including one KIA. On 13 April Joseph H. McPeek, C Company was seriously wounded and died later that day. William A. Sallee, Recon Company was slightly wounded in action. On 14 April, Tilford Cline and Chester L, Myres were slightly wounded. On 16 April Donald G. Austin, C Company was seriously wounded in action.
At each end of the route traversed between 2 and 2O April there was unexpected resistance. First, after reconnaissance elements of the 602nd had gone through Eisenach early on 3 April with machine guns firing to keep heads down and to observe whether there was any concentration of enemy armor, unexpected resistance was encountered as other units of the 602nd and Infantry came in to secure the area. The other least expected point of resistance was on 17 April when C Company 602nd TD Bn attacked Zwickau (which had refused terms of surrender) with the 355th Infantry Regiment made a bold dash through the streets of the town. Although all avenues of approach were defended by German riflemen and bazooka teams, the platoon's speed enabled them to reach and secure a vital bridge over the Mulde River in Zwickau. While the platoon was dismounted, trying to cut demolition wires and secure the bridge, they were subjected to rifle and machine gun fire. Recon Company Vigil A. Scourlock was slightly wounded, but Earl F. Stevens, who only three days earlier had been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his heroic action in saving two of his wounded comrades shortly after the Rhine River Crossing. was shot dead while cutting a demolition wire out on the bridge. Company B also secured bridges across the Mulde River farther south in the zone of the 354th Infantry Regiment. Company A with the 353rd Infantry Regiment advanced to the Corps restraining line in the south of the Division sector. The next day Reconnaissance Company was assigned to protect the Corps Command Center near Zeulenroda. Company B was at Ebersbrunn; Company C was located at Lichtenstein; Company A was at Oberheinsdorf; and the rest of the Battalion was in Zwickau.
Combat conditions in this period, location) and time were quite fluid with various elements of units taking full advantage of opportunities to seek, strike, and destroy at will. With light resistance generally several towns/villages would be captured/liberated each day, equipment destroyed and personnel captured or killed. Names marking the route include Honebach, Wolfterode. Womman, Unterellen, Wartha, Eisenach, Wutha, Sattelstadt, Gotha, Walterhausen, Friedrichroda, Georgenthal, Grafenhain, Ohrdruf, Holzhausen, Arnstadt, Marlishausen, Elxleben) Hohenfelden, Tonndorf. Gutendorf, Bad Berka, Neckeroda, Tromlitz, Milda, Altenberga) Gumperda, Kahla, Hummelshain, Grosbockedra, Trobnitz, Lichtenau, Linda, Triptis) Munchen-Bemsdorf, Weida, Meni, Zeulenroda, Langen-Wetzendorf, Greiz, Reichenboch, Waldkirchen" and Zwickau and vicinity.