The Rhine: Co. F Begins Crossing
Meanwhile the 1st platoon of Co. F under Lt. Zealy M. Holmes had started across. Two boats with riflemen and one with a machine gun squad left St. Goar at 0215. Only one boat made it all the way across. Half way over the rudder man in the boat was hit and the boat swung around aimlessly. S/Sgt. Edward O. Evans kept the men paddling by yelling, "Keep it up!" The boat was leaking badly when they were 30 yards from the east shore so they jumped out into waist deep water and waded ashore. Here they joined up with the E Co. men already across and reorganized. The combined unit split in half and started checking houses in the left half of town. The men fired at random into houses and if any sign of life was shown they went in and cleared it out. Nine Germans were killed and four captured.
Lt. Holmes spotted an enemy weapon firing downstream and so placed that it could inflict many casualties on the succeeding waves of troops coming across the river. Working his way toward the gun position, he crossed an exposed area, tossed a hand grenade into the position, killed the gunner and so disorganized the crew that the rest of his squad was able to close in and destroy it.
Co. E's 3rd platoon didn't get started until the river was alive with fire. A house on the west bank of the river near their jumping off point had been hit and was burning. The men pushed off silhouetted against its brilliant light. Machine guns raked the water around them from the start. Half way across a 20mm and two machine guns zeroed in on the boat commanded by Platoon Leader Lt. Elmer Johnson. The engineer in the front of the boat was hit in the knee. Pfc. Lloyd E. Comer, Johnson's messenger, who was beside him, was killed by a 20mm shot in the chest. Sgt. John Ahrns, on the other side of Johnson, has his left arm shot off. The man behind Johnson was hit in the leg. An engineer was thrown out of the boat by a blast. The men dragged him back in. Some of the men leaped overboard and tried the almost impossible job of swimming for shore. Over the gunfire their cries for help mingled with the moans of the wounded men in the boat. The boat was riddled with holes. All the paddles but one had been shattered. Johnson tried to get the boat moving with the remaining paddle but in the swift Rhine current the craft circled crazily, drifted downstream. Ahrns, the man whose arm had been shot off, lay in the bottom of the boat moaning. Johnson told him to shut up. Ahrns bit his lips and kept quiet.
Making no headway with the paddle, Johnson threw it away, took out his entrenching shovel and tried paddling with that. By now most of the able bodied men left with the boat were in the water swimming and trying to pull the boat while Johnson paddled. But it was no use. The boat was sinking. So Johnson, Pfc. Albert Gladden, Pfc. Willard Skaggs, Pfc. Lindbo and Pfc. Horton, who had stayed in the boat, jumped overboard and added their efforts to bring the boat to shore. They passed through a band of machine gun fire, reached an overturned boat, worked their way around it and hit the shore. When they reached land and crawled up a little way, bringing their wounded with them, the enemy continued to fire on the empty boat.
The men were tired and cold. They had been in the water for one hour and 20 minutes, had drifted downstream for about two miles. Johnson and Skaggs bandaged Ahrns arm. Then the men started crawling along the river bank. They crept in the water to take advantage of the shelter of the bank. About 100 yards upstream they met a motor launch with the first elements of Co. A to cross. Johnson's wounded were sent back across the river in this launch. The rest of the platoon joined A Co. with whom they fought the rest of the morning.
In another Co. E boat Capt. Paul O. Wofford, the company's Co. continually shouted to his men in other boats to keep rowing regardless of what happened. Taking a paddle he pitched in to help in the rowing of his own boat. In midstream this boat was hit in the middle by a 20mm. The boat exploded and most of the men in it, including the CO and 1st Sgt. Philip L. Grand Pre, were either killed or drowned.
The remnants of the first two E Co. platoons and the group from Co. F who had joined up in the cellar in St. Goarshausen got in contact with Regiment shortly after dawn. They were told to hold tight. They set up a company CP and started clearing out nearby houses, using a white flag to indicate that a house had been cleaned.