Central Europe: Ohrdruf

By April 10 the 353rd completed mopping up in its zone. Arnstadt, Gossell, Espenfeld were taken. Near Witzleben, the 2nd Battalion, 354th, ran into heavy fire from artillery, automatic, and 20mm weapons. Company E was pinned down for six hours by heavy artillery and automatic weapons fire. Company G took up the attack with fixed bayonets from the woods near the neighborhood town of Wullersleben and, in spite of withering fire which wounded the Company Commander and three rifle-platoon leaders, continued across the 900 yards of open field by leaps and bounds and occupied the town. In the attack, Company G sustained twenty-one wounded and seven dead. Company E lost three killed and seventeen wounded. These types of actions were repeated often. On several occasions, small enemy forces under the cover of darkness reoccupied towns already cleared, harassing troops, communications, and supply points. Another problem of an entirely different nature, which gave the Division some concern at this time, was that of liberated foreigners, or displaced persons (DPs). The Division had freed thousands of these unfortunate men and women. Streams of Russians, Poles, French, Belguims, Italians and other nationalities heading for their homelands on foot and in every available conveyance thronged the roads and in many cases congested traffic. Although they were grateful to the Division troops and the Military Government detachments, their anti-German demonstrations occasionally threatened military security.

The Division CP meanwhile moved to Waltershausen and then to Arnstadt, where Task Force Crater was formed April 12 from the 1st Battalion, 353rd, 89th Reconnaissance Troop, Companies A and D, 707th Tank Battalion, 340th FA Battalion, Company A, 602nd Tank Destroyer Battalion, one platoon of Company A, 314th Engineers, and a detachment from Company A, 314th Medical Battalion. Liaison planes from the Division Artillery air section were made available for reconnaissance and fire-adjustments missions. The task force assembled near Richkeim and moved up to Hohenfelder with the mission of advancing through Bad Berka and Blankenhain, then east to seize and hold five bridges over the Saale, up and down the river from Kahla. After passing through Bad Berka, the task force split into two columns. The northern column took several small towns in reaching the Saale. The other column, ordered to bypass Blankenheim, ran into heavy resistance there and therefore reduced the town. More tanks and infantry were encountered in clearing Kessler. More towns, too numerous to be included here, were taken and/or occupied. Surrenders were more frequent and the prisoner count rose rapidly, reaching 15,000, including high-level Nazi ministers. Sniping and some minor damage continued but, thanks to the vigilance of security and intelligence elements, the highly advertised werewolf movement never made headway in the 89th's zone. German factories were also located. Many of these were new and moved back from the German frontiers for protection from Allied strategic bombers. Among them were: at Grossepersdorf and Kahla, underground plane assembly plants; at Neustadt, burp-gun assembly and aerial camera factories.

Despite the widely circulated possibility of a final German stand in the National Redoubt area of Bavaria and the Tyrol, there was no doubt now that the Wehrmacht was in its death throes, and the war could last only a few weeks longer. Gera, Glachau, Neustadt, Schornbern, Geisanhain, Trobonitz were amongst those taken by the 89th. From this point to the limiting line, opposition was practically non-existent except in the larger towns. Advance was so rapid that within five days the Division CP moved three times from Arnstadt, Bad Berka and Kahla, to Weida. More than a score of towns were taken April 16 as the Division advanced to and crossed the Weida River and pushed into Polsehen and crossed the Weuda, and captured Lichtenberg.

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