After almost two months in Europe the Regiment finally moved into position for combat on March 15. The CP was moved to Bengel, two miles from the Mosel River. 354's first taste of action was to be a river crossing. Early in the morning reconnaissance of the west side of the river began. Field order 1 was issued at 1600. At 2300 the forward CP moved to Riel on the banks of the Mosel. The 1st and 3rd Battalions were to make the crossing with the 2nd in reserve.
The 3rd Battalion moved into Bengel on trucks and then marched to Riel. Co. K under Capt. Charles Brosseau, with the first machine gun platoon of Co. M under Lt. William Jones, led the way down into the River valley under a dense cover of fog to relieve elements of the 76th Division. Riel was located on a bend of the Mosel which was some 200 yards wide at this point. The valley had been hued into a V shape over centuries of carving by the stream. Co. M set their machine guns up in a perimeter defense. Enemy mortar, rocket artillery and machine gun fire harassed the town from the heights across the river. Observation posts were set up by the Battalion scouts, Co. M and each rifle company. The west bank of the river became so hot with fire that orders were given for the men to stay off the waterfront and keep under cover. Sniper and machine gun fire kept this order in effect all day. The Anti-tank guns were set up in the streets of the town in order to bring effective fire on designated targets. One gun took care of a pillbox with three rounds. Corrections and new targets for Cannon Co. and the 341st Field Artillery were relayed by the OPs through the Artillery Liaison Officers, Capt. Reynolds and Lt. Robert B. Carpenter Jr. T/Sgt. Warrer G. Ray's platoon of Co. K was brought under direct fire while trying to dig in on a small bluff overlooking the crossing site. A forward artillery observer was killed during a barrage of 88mm fire while trying to secure a shelling report for the 3rd Battalion.
A patrol, to be led by Lt. Cyril D. Garr of Co. L, was to attempt a crossing at 1600. This was cancelled because of heavy fire on the river at the time. However, at 1600 Cannon Co. set afire the north end of Burg, the next day's objective, located to the south on the east bank. A group of Germans dug in on the west bank across from Burg at that time. Some of the woods fringing the ridge top of the east bank were set aflame by phosphorous shells of the artillery and mortars of the 3rd Battalion. T/Sgt. Floyd A. Hoerrmann and Pfc Allan Jones of Co. M were wounded during counter-battery fire. The artillery and mortars fired incessantly all night.
Crossing The Mosel At 0330 the next morning, March 16, Co. L slipped out of the shadows and cellars of the buildings along the water front and moved to the assault boats near the ferry landing. The Engineers under Lt. Luther T. Harper, working with Maj. Elmer J. Ricker, Battalion Executive Officer, were set to take the first wave across, including Lt. Col. William Burton, Battalion Commander and Capt. John Howard, Battalion S-3. Noise discipline and coordination were superb. Not a sound could be heard by the second wave, waiting tensely in the shadows. Co. I, under Capt. Donald L. Robertson, quickly followed to support the bridgehead. The Engineers shook hands with the Infantry and wished them good luck. Later that day some of those Engineers were hit by machine gun fire as they were working on a pontoon bridge. Co. I passed through Co. L and moved forward. The terrain across the river offered little cover in its terraced vineyards on the steep slope, so the companies dug in. Co. K and Co. M then crossed. By 0830, when 3rd Battalion Hq Co. reached the other side, the push was on. As yet there had been no enemy fire. The crossing was apparently a complete surprise to the Germans. As soon as the enemy discovered that the crossing had been made, they opened up with machine gun fire on Co. I and Co. L. Sniper fire from the ridge hit them in the rear. Enemy mortars started working over the whole Battalion but the spread formations being used made it possible to keep advancing with no casualties. The crossing site was hit by long bursts of machine gun fire. The Engineers were forced to stop their work on the pontoon bridge and the ferrying of vehicles. Upstream about 300 yards the Battalion A & P platoon kept the ammunition supply flowing across the river. Rations followed.
Some of the fire came from the west side of the river. The TO platoon was sent down into the 76th Division area to silence it. S/Sgt. Parks of Co. K was able to kill a sniper by walking backwards and keeping his eyes to the rear. Fire from the front forced the lead companies to shift position higher on the slope to gain covered routes. Col. Burton ordered Co. K to move in and take Burg while Co. L set up a base of fire. Co. K worked its way up close to the edge of the village and took it by an enveloping movement, one group working along the railroad track and into the town, the other maneuvering from the upslope vineyards into the eastern edge of Burg. The white flags made the village look like wash day in about five minutes. Large quantities of enemy arms and ammunition were found and destroyed. Communications were quickly set up security preparations made. Co. K moved through the town and the Battalion CP was established there. The first PWs were handled and interrogated and then sent to the rear.