Moselle Crossing: Going On Line

In this highly abbreviated and introductory version of our history intended as a background for what follows, it is not possible to acknowledge the many acts of valor and sacrifice taken by individual enlisted men and officers of the 89th. Many of such will appear in Unit Histories and Personal Stories included in this website.

Going On Line Excitement spread up and down the convoys and tension mounted as the 89th starting rolling across the Sauer River east of Echternach and into the battered Reich. Combat Teams (CT) were deployed and by March 11 the Division was in position to strike its initial blow against the enemy. After nearly three years of training and preparation, the Rolling W was at last to meet the test of battle. Its first mission was to seize and hold the north and west banks of the Moselle River near the town of Alf.

The 89th was committed March 12. At 0900, rifle companies supported by artillery, launched the attack. The battleground ahead was the forested Eifel highland, cut by deep river canyons; roads were poor and the retreating Germans had blown key bridges. Machine-gun nests, roadblocks, and hasty minefields studded the fields and hillsides, an ideal region for German defense. Intelligence had identified remnants of the 2nd Panzer Division and seven Volksgrenadier Divisions plus many other miscellaneous units but it was known that these delaying forces were small and their rear communications already had been disrupted by U.S. tank spearheads.

In general, the Germans had no cohesive front and units on either flank of the 89th had lost contact. Third Army armor was advancing simultaneously abreast or ahead of the Division, and resistance along the entire army front was scattered and disorganized, as the enemy fought ineffectively to cover a withdrawal to the Rhine. The 89ers, scouts out front or commanding officers in CPs (Command Posts), agreed that this was the best way for green troops to enter combat.

Resistance was negligible during the first twenty-four hours, although mine fields slowed the advance. Already the roads were jammed with foreign workers, or displaced persons, liberated by the Third Army advance, and Division ordered them to remain in place. Only PWs (prisoners of war) were to be evacuated to Regimental collecting points. Debris of a retreating army littered the roads and hillsides, burned out tanks and trucks, felled trees intended for roadblocks, half-dug slit trenches. German engineers had notched entire avenue of trees for demolition which they never had time to blast. As troops drove into the shell-smashed and bullet-pocked towns of Fortress Germany, they saw for the first time the devastating effect of their own weapons. The retreat was turning into panic and rout.

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