Moselle Crossing: Smashing the Tear Drop
Shortly after daybreak the 84th Chemical Smoke Generator Company laid down a smoke concentration over the bridge site, and the 133rd Engineering Battalion and the 87th Heavy Pontoon Company started to construct a Class 40 bridge. Sporadic artillery fire fell in the area throughout the day while the engineers rushed the job. Meanwhile, on the 353rd right the 3rd Battalion had run into a pocket of resistance, the most stubborn encountered by the Division so far---at a narrow neck of land where the Moselle doubled back upon itself, promptly dubbed the "The Tear Drop". Here, an estimated sixty Germans of the 6th Battery, 14th Nebelwerfer Regiment, were dug in atop a steep ridge and fought fanatically to hold the position. The morning of the 15th, Company I began working its way up the exposed slopes, only to be pinned down by a blast off machine-gun and small-arms fire. A castle and a ruined tower on the crest afforded the enemy perfect observation and a clear field of fire. The 563rd Field Artillery Battalion's 155s pounded both targets but the Germans still clung. The regiment then requested an air strike on the castle. A flight of P-51s dove on the target at 1340, but because troops were too close to the castle they could not release their bomb loads. Instead they dropped them on the nearby towns of Zell and Merle, staring fires, and strafed Punderich. Three times isolated Germans waved white flags, and then opened fire on the 3rd Battalion, 353rd, when they emerged from cover. Casualties were heavy among platoon leaders and noncoms, so all insignia of rank and grade were removed. Step by step, 89ers fought up the slope, smashing one pillbox and pushing on towards the tower. The 4.2 mortars were brought up to hammer the castle, which was soon overcome. The first prisoners disclosed that their unit had been converted to infantry when their vehicles had run out of gas. Their one escape route was cut off when the Rolling W destroyed the ferry at Merl. Overnight Company L relieved Company I and pressed the attack the next mooring while the river crossing was underway below.