Central Europe: Beginning of the End

The surrender negotiations were undertaken by the1st Battalion. German soldiers lounging along the street waved at the Americans and SS troops were in the vicinity as the surrender party approached the Kaiserhof. An American Major related the terms of surrender, indicating Eisenach would be heavily bombarded and attacked if his stipulations were not adhered to. Properly impressed, the German authority indicated every willingness to surrender but pointing out that he was not in contact with his troops in the outlying sections of town, and since he could not notify them of the terms, he would not want the town bombarded in retaliation for any shooting they might do. Mass confusion followed and the negotiations fell through. A German officer, believed to be a three-star general, appeared and declared he was under orders from Berlin not to surrender the city and the party returned to its battalion CP.

The promise was made good. Division Artillery completed fire plans for their most concentrated effort since the Rhine crossing. Care was taken that the target area excluded a known hospital area in the north of the city. At 0200, April 6, five battalions of field artillery let loose on the town. By 0630, 2,100 rounds had been thrown on Eisenach by the Division Artillery. In support, corps artillery groups fired some 3,000 additional rounds. So carefully had the artillery targets been plotted that all hospital and similar areas were immune while every military target was thoroughly covered. Most important of all was the thorough target plotting which resulted in complete fire coverage of every road exit from the city. The unrelenting hail of shells covered every exit so thoroughly that the Germans could only flee to the nearby woods or remain trapped in the city. At 0700 the two battalions attacked, soon reinforced by the 353rd's Company I, and the 1st, 354th. Four hours later, Eisenach was cleared and 400 prisoners taken.

After capturing Eisenach, the 353rd advanced to the southeast and met stiff opposition in clearing Wutha and Farnroda. B Company took Franroda after crawling 400 yards through heavy enemy machine gun fire to kill 25 soldiers and capture 198 prisoners. The 3rd Battalion cleared 10 villages and took 730 prisoners, including a hospital at Wilhelmstahl, at a cost of but 21 wounded and nine killed. Opposition continued to be strong April 7 and 8, especially in the Thuringian Forest. By April 9, the Division was along the general line Waltershausen-Friedrichroda. The 345th continued to screen the Division front from Ohrdruf southeast to Wolfis. Companies E and G moved against Crawinkel and were forced to withdraw in face of strong fire from the wooded heights west of the town. The next morning, planes dropped 500-pound bombs on the town and the ground attack was resumed shortly after noon. Company G fought its way into Grafenhain from the southwest. The 3rd Battalion captured Englebach, changed direction to the southeast and in costly fighting took Altenbergen, Katterfeld and Georgenthal. When sniper and machine-gun fire, which wounded the platoon leader, held up his platoon PFC Timoteo Soto, Company K, and two comrades advanced. Despite warnings from his platoon leader after his two comrades were wounded, Pfc. Soto continued and rubbed out the enemy machine-gun nest with four shots from a standing position, and then killed the sniper.

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