The Rhine: A Co. C Boat Is Sunk
Shortly after Co. A started across, Co. C began its assault. By this time the river was brilliantly lighted by the burning buildings. Enemy fire was coming in with considerable accuracy. However, C's 1st platoon under Lt. Sidney Rothenberg attempted to make the crossing, leading the way for the company. One overloaded boat, carrying 25 men, capsized. S/Sgt. Robert B. Johnson, the squad leader in the boat, tore off his rifle belt, threw his weapon away and, in the face of heavy machine gun fire, swam around the boat trying to assist his men. He refused assistance from an engineer crew brought out by Capt. John E. Owens, the company commander, until all of his men who could be found were pulled to safety. Twelve men in the boat were drowned. While the rescue work was going on S/Sgt. James W. Gent, S/Sgt. Charles J. Restle and Pfc. Jesse R. Hovis provided covering fire from an exposed position in the east bank Five of the wounded men managed to swim to a sand bar in the river. Pfc. Forrest E. Wolf tried to reach them in an assault boat, but failed because of the heavy current. Returning to shore he got a motorboat and set out for the sand bar again. This time he was driven back by accurate enemy machine gun fire. Returning to the shore for the second time, he delivered covering fire while Capt. Owens, Gent, Restle and Hovis went out in a boat, succeeded in reaching the men and evacuating them. Lt. Jules J. Friedman, 1st Battalion Communications Officer, crossed the river with one of the assault companies and personally directed the wire teams, working under searing enemy fire, in connecting up the communications for the Battalion.
About dawn a couple of TDs rolled up to knock out the most damaging targets on the east bank A house on the left flank was the first target. After a few shots the house was silence except for the roar of the blaze and the explosion of ammunition from within. The TDs then moved over to the right flank to fire on a castle high on a ridge where a 20mm was firing. After a few rounds the 20mm opened up from its position further down the slope. The 20mm worked its way along the west bank searching for the TDs. Co. B was assembling there preparing to follow Co A and Co across. A 20mm shell ricocheted off a gas pump and hit Captain Elton Edmiston, CO of Company B, in the chest, killing him instantly.
When Capt. Edmiston fell, Maj. Frank L. Willis, 1st Battalion Executive Officer, helped Co. B's Executive in moving the company into action. Despite heavy enemy fire directed on the launching sites, Maj. Willis repeatedly risked his life to go to the water's edge to supervise personally the loading of the boats. He directed the flow of men and supplies, controlled the supporting fire and assisted in the location and evacuation of the wounded.
Meanwhile the 1st platoon of Co. A was working its way up through the tangle of vineyards on the east slope of the Rhine. At the summit three 20mm guns were captured and their nine crewmen taken without a fight. The company assembled on the high ground overlooking the Rhine and defended it while the rest of the Battalion crossed. It took Co. C nearly four hours to cross and by 0915 they were all on the other side. At 1000, the first men of Co. B hit the east bank.
When Co. C reached the enemy shore they reorganized, by-passed Wellmich on the right and advanced on their first objective, a castle on high ground overlooking the river. Moving swiftly and taking advantage of all possible cover, the company moved into position to take the castle. However, the enemy had withdrawn just a short time before and the castle was taken without the firing of a shot. The company then smashed inland as far as it could without unduly exposing its flanks. Maintaining all-around security to prevent an ambush, the company moved ahead rapidly and had reached Nochern by dark Capt. Owens sent an ultimatum to the Burgomeister: "Surrender the German soldiers to us or have your town razed to the ground." Within ten minutes 41 German soldiers rushed from the town and surrendered. The capture of the town put the company too far forward of the rest of the battalion so they withdrew to some woods and set up a defensive position for the night.