The Breakthrough To The Rhine
By Hal Steward
With the arrival of the 4th Infantry Division Artillery a reorganization followed to comply with the support plan for the breakthrough to the Rhine. The 490th and 58th Armored Artillery Battalions were formed into Group Davitt and shifted to the South, accompanying CC A across the Kyll and supporting the advance from Pelm to Kelberg. The most drastic fires were laid on Kelberg during the attack and around the town after nightfall. The 333rd Field Artillery Group, including the two medium towed battalions, was detached by VIII Corps. Division Artillery Headquarters, with the 491st and 492nd Armored Field Artillery Battalions, initiated a movement across the Kyll with CC B.
Late in the day CC A was directed to stay on the route through Mayen and Andernach and CC B was ordered to turn North at, or West of, Kelberg and continue to the East on the route through Bannebach and Brohl. These changes were made due to alterations of plans. Word was received about 7:45 p.m. that the 4th Armored Division had reached the Rhine in the XII Corps zone and the 9th Armored Division had also reached the Rhine in the V Corps zone to the North.
VIII Corps issued urgent verbal orders during the evening stating that all combat elements would be moved East of the Kyll River before daylight. They moved slowly through the night in a single, long, rain-drenched column as the fight against road obstacles continued. Third Army passed down insistent orders to complete the advance to the Rhine, at all costs, not later than March 8.
ORGANIZED ENEMY RESISTANCE VANISHES
The Division's exploitation was so speedy at this period that any organized enemy resistance vanished rapidly. Enemy positions that had been previously prepared were found unmanned or crushed. Thousands of Germans gathered along the axis of advance and were waved to the rear for evacuation and surrendering soldiers poured into Kelberg.
CC A moved out at daylight on March 8, 1945, with Troop A of the 41st Cavalry leading, followed up by Task Force Brady. At Beinshorn enemy resistance was encountered and was held by Troop A, 41st Cavalry, as Task Force Brady by-passed it. At 1:25 p.m. leading elements reached Maven. At the West edge of Mayen a viaduct over the main road was blown and Task Force Brady was forced to by-pass on a cross-country route while Company A, 56th Armored Engineer Battalion, installed a treadway for the remainder of the command. Shortly after troops entered and seized the city against light resistance. At 6:15 p.m. contact was made with the 4th Armored Division, six kilometers to the East of Mayen, establishing a temporary operational boundary between divisions. The command assembled in the vicinity of Plaidt for the night while Task Force Brady was sent toward Andernach to determine enemy dispositions. Forward elements reached Miesenheim at 11:00 p.m. and assembled there for the night.
CC B continued to move throughout the night and cleared Gerolstein at 3:00 a.m. while the bulk of the command gathered near Kirchweiler. Movement was resumed at daylight toward Kelberg following the path of CC A.
Shortly after noon the CC B column turned North just East of Kelberg and attacked Northeast on the Mullenbach-Kempenich axis. Two enemy pillboxes were reduced and one SP gun knocked out as CC B broke through the lightly held defensive crust to the North of Kelberg pushing forward rapidly along the good road. A total of 200 prisoners of war were taken. At Nurburg a complete 200-bed German hospital unit was overrun.
ENEMY TROOPS BOTTLED UP
Enemy troops bottled up between the First and Third Armies offered heavy resistance in the vicinity of Hannebach shortly after dark. Unsuccessful attempts to bypass this resistance were made. Twenty pieces of artillery were seized intact and an enemy horse-drawn column including some 25 vehicles were overtaken, split in two, and destroyed by fire on the approach to the town. At least 1,500 prisoners were accumulated in small groups along the route during the action and marched toward Kelberg. The command was reorganized and re-supplied and prepared to resume the attack at daylight the following day.
Division troops and CC R, following CC B, cleared the Kyll River by dawn. An advance Division command post was operated from Kelberg throughout the day.
At dawn on March 9, CC B resumed its attack with the command divided into two task forces. Task Force Wingard moved through Nieder Durenbach, Nieder, Zissen and Nieder Lueingen against only slight resistance and at 12:10 a.m. reached the high ground overlooking the Rhine River near Brohl. Task Force Sagaser moved through Kempenich and Wehr to capture Burgbrohl. Resistance during the day was light and scattered, roadblocks in towns being the principal obstacles. Firing could be heard from the direction of the Remagen bridge across the Rhine River which troops of the 9th Armored Division and seized. Reconnaissance Company of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion was sent North from Burgbrohl but was unsuccessful in contacting these elements of the First Army. About 3,500 prisoners were taken during the day, including Major General Viebig, commanding general of the 227th Volksgrenadier Division and his staff. At least 100 75mm horse-drawn artillery pieces were overrun or destroyed and 50 motor transport vehicles.
Patrols returning from the outskirts of Andernach early in the morning reported that some resistance had been encountered without the offer of surrender. A strong infantry task force was organized and at 1:30 p.m. an attack was launched. By 3:45 p.m. the West bank of Rhine river was reached through Andernach. Considerable isolated resistance was met by troops in various sectors of the city. Numerous snipers were active and from the Northwest and East bank of the Rhine mortar and artillery fire rained on the city. At least 700 prisoners were captured and 500 head of horses, uncounted wagons and motor transport, and quantities of miscellaneous material which had been abandoned on the West bank of the Rhine were recovered.
After reaching Kelberg about 6:00 a.m. CC R was directed to operate a prisoner of war collecting point there. Unescorted German soldiers, walking back along the routes of advance in small groups and in lots of 100, were temporarily placed in wired enclosures and evacuation to the rear was initiated. In clearing the city a further 300 prisoners were taken. A cavalry troop was left to continue this function while CC R moved forward to Mayen during the afternoon.
Division troops, including the Division command post arrived at Kelberg at 1:00 a.m. Supervision of the civilian authorities was promptly taken over by the Military Government. Following closely, motorized elements of the 90th Infantry Division occupied towns along the main route of advance until Mayen was reached late in the day.
Although the allowed time had been exceeded the assigned Division mission was accomplished with the seizure of Andernach. VIII Corps Operations Memo No. 30 was received at 4:00 p.m. repeating part of the assignment and calling for further local action. Seizure of bridges across the Rhine was ordered, plus lateral contact, particularly to the North, and a general clearing operation.
Brigadier General Dager arrived from the 4th Armored Division about mid-afternoon and relieved Brigadier General Kilburn as Division Commander.
ADVANCE 40 MILES IN 51 HOURS
Since leading elements of CC A started crossing the Kyll River at Lissingen on March 7, at 10:00 a.m. an advance of 40 miles in 51 hours had been made to capture Andernach on the Rhine River. From Kelberg CC B had advanced 36 miles in 24 hours to the Rhine River at Brohl. The rapid breakthrough and exploitation action that followed overshadowed the muddy memories of hardships and delay to the Kyll River crossing. The Thunderbolts, in their first action of this type, had captured 33 towns, including Mayen and Andernach. Large and varied quantities of enemy materials were captured destroyed or overrun. Uncounted hundreds of horse and motor transports were included in these, also I 00 horse-drawn artillery pieces and six ranks. At least 10,000 prisoners of war were taken and evacuated, these coming from a large number of dissolving enemy units and including a Division Commander and his staff.
On March l0, 1945, at 5:00 a.m. VIII Corps Memorandum No. 31 was received developing the Corps mission further and covering a shift Southward of the First-Third Army boundary. All other divisions were directed to clear the assigned zones between the Kyll River and a North-South line through Mayen. In addition to the mission assigned them on March 9, the 11th Armored Division was ordered to move elements South of the new Army boundary and defend the Rhine River in the Corps zone.
The 11th Armored Division Operations Memo No. 32 was distributed at 10:00 A.M. confirming verbal orders issued. The division zone was parceled out to CC A, CC B, and CC R based on current locations in order to minimize movement. CC A along the Rhine River, was directed to clear its zone, defend the river line and to maintain lateral contacts. CC B in the North and Northwestern portion of the zone, was also directed to clear its zone, establish and maintain contact with V Corps elements to the North, and subsequently move South to conform with the Army boundary change. CC R was charged with clearing a Southwestern zone in the division area.
Despite the fact that a portion of the city of Andernach had been captured and occupied by CC A on the afternoon of March 9, occasional resistance by civilians and hold-out SS troops was still being put up. A large number of the enemy attempted to escape across the Rhine River in barges during the early morning but direct fire from tanks destroyed the barges and drowned several hundred Germans. A small group of enemy troops on wooded high ground to the West of Andernach was liquidated. Cavalry cleared the town of Eich and by afternoon all resistance in Andernach had ceased. CC R of the 4th Armored Division on the South flank was contacted along the Rhine at Zurnette about 2:30 p.m. Rapidly accumulating prisoners continued to be evacuated and the Military Government personnel, in taking over the City government at Andernach, discovered Displaced Person slave labor camps near the city.
CC B made contact with the 2nd Infantry Division at Dedenbach around 2:00 p.m., closing the gap between the First and Third Armies. Contact was also made with the 9th Armored Division at Bad Neuenacher around 4:00 p.m. The towns of Wassenach, Wehr, Niederzissen, Bell, Kell, and Ober Durenbach were all cleared and a second German hospital unit was taken over in Maria Laach.
Towns entered and cleared by CCR were Ettringen, Ober Mendig, and Thur. The command post moved m Kottenheim at 1:00 p.m. after its clearance.
The roads from Kyll were again made serviceable after favorable weather and considerable repair being done on them.
CC A stabilized and got the town of Andernach under control on March 11, and then cleared Nichenich, Krerz, Namady and Kruft, while CC B regrouped in preparation to moving South to its assigned area. Elements of the command systematically cleared ten towns. At 6:00 p.m. CC B was relieved by elements of V Corps at Brohl, Nieder Lutzingen, and Burgbrohl. Both major commands reported during the day that bridges across the Rhine River were not intact.
Division artillery was assigned to an area in the vicinity of Ober Mendig for later assembly. The woods between Ettringen and Ober Mendig were cleared by CC R.
The Division command post was moved from Mayen at 3:00 p.m. on March 11, and opened an hour later at Nieder Mendig. Train Headquarters and the 133rd Ordnance Maintenance Battalion arrived at Nieder Mendig about 11:30 a.m., the 81st Medical Battalion moved to Ober Mendig, and the 56th Armored Engineer Battalion continued its move to Ettringen during the afternoon, completing the concentration of Division control and service elements.
CC A completed clearing its zone at noon on March 12, and established a command post at Kruft about four hours later. CC B cleared Engein, Galenberg, Kempenich and Forhich, completing the clearance of its zone at 12:25 a.m. and capturing approximately 100 prisoners of war. At the same time relieved troops were moved into the prescribed area South of the new Army boundary.
CC R completed clearing its area before noon and concentrated in and about Kottenheim. The 491st Armored Field Artillery Battalion assembled in Rieden at 2:10 p.m. and the 492nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion arrived at Ober Mendig shortly afterward. At 2:30 p.m. Division Artillery Headquarters also moved into Ober Mendig. The 490th and 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalions continued to support the defense along the Rhine River line; Headquarters VII Corps Operations Memo No. 32 received at 4:00 p.m. directed the relief of the Thunderbolts along the Rhine by the 6th Cavalry Group on the North and the 87th Infantry Division on the South. This expansion of the Corps zone to the South along the Moselle River indicated an impending action to seize Coblenz, where the Moselle and Rhine Rivers meet.
The 11th Armored Division, upon being relieved, was to assemble in the Corps reserve, maintaining contact with the First Army on the North flank and protecting the Corps North flank. Also, all the cities, towns, and villages within the assigned divisional area were to be checked periodically to be cleared of enemy stragglers. The assigned division assembly area was generally in the vicinity of Nieder Mendig.
Operations Memo No. 33 issued at 8:30 p.m. on March 12, allocated the major assembly areas and assigned tactical responsibilities. CC A was to return Company B of the 55th Armored Infantry Battalion to CC B and elements of the 41st Cavalry with the exception of Troop A was to go to CC R. CC B was directed to maintain contact with the 2nd Infantry Division to the North and to protect the Corps North flank. Division Artillery, minus the 491st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, was to support the Rhine River line defense.
The following day found CC A still occupying Andernach and maintaining patrols along the river front throughout the morning. Occasional contacts were made with the 4th Armored Division on the South flank. The 6th Cavalry Group relieved elements along the Rhine River at 1:30 p.m.
CC B kept in contact with the 2nd Infantry Division on the North and Company B rejoined the 55th Armored Infantry Division at 8:00 p.m.
At 3:45 p.m. CC R moved to its Langenfold-Kirchesch-Waldesch assembly area and contacts were established with the 55th Armored Infantry Battalion and the 22nd Tank Battalion prior to assuming jurisdiction over these troops. Approximately 500 rounds were fired on targets of opportunity by Group Davitt who continued to support the Rhine River defense operation. Division Artillery moved up into position to coordinate and reinforce the defense with two additional battalions.
The Division completed its assembly in the Corps reserve on March 14, 1945, maintaining contact with the 2nd Infantry Division on the North. CC A's 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion moved to Thru at 1:05 p.m.
CONTACT WITH FIRST ARMY
The 490th Armored Field Artillery Battalion fired on 50 infantry personnel and three machine guns East of the Rhine, destroyed the guns and inflicting severe casualties. The plan for the Third Army operation to follow began to show as information was received from adjacent units. Contacts made with the First Army in the North were being solidified from the Kyll to the Rhine. To the South, between the Moselle and the Rhine, a large pocket separating the Third and Seventh Armies remained to be liquidated before the Rhineland Campaign could actually be called complete. Third Army's XII Corps was already in the process of crossing the Moselle River in the Neighborhood of Treis. VIII Corps on the North flank was also turning to the Southeast, meanwhile the 11th Armored Division planned and prepared for what was sure to be a significant part of this operation.
At 9:45 a.m. on March 15, VIII Corps Field Order No. 15, dated March 14, 10:30 p.m., was received. The order directed the 87th Infantry Division to make an H-hour D-day attack to capture Coblenz. The 11th Armored Division was to remain in Corps Reserve and prepare plans to repel any counterattacks within the Corps zone or from the North flank.
Divisional units were principally engaged in rehabilitation and maintenance activities. CC A's 42nd Tank Battalion moved into the assembly area at Ettringen and CC B completed movement into its area and opened its command post at Ober Mendig. Division Artillery, supporting the 6th Cavalry Group, fired 16 missions, expending 225 rounds. During the day enemy aircraft were active in the area but no casualties were received.
At mid-day on March 15, major unit control over all troops assigned the previous day were made effective. CC A was charged with the responsibility for repelling any counterattacks in the Corps zone and CC B for repelling all possible counterattacks from the North flank.
A telephone message from VIII Corps at 10:35 a.m. on March 16, informed the Division that it was on a four-hour alert status for movement, and directed the G-3 report to Headquarters XII Corps for instructions. XII Corps then advised G-3 that the Thunderbolts would pass to its control at noon for a breakthrough and exploitation operation, involving a push to the Rhine River at Worms and a crossing of the Moselle River at Bullay.
From North to South XII Corps had under its control the 2nd Cavalry Group, 90th Infantry Division, 4th Armored Division, 5th Infantry Division, 89th Infantry Division, and the 76th Infantry Division. The Corps mission was to seize the West bank of the Rhine River between Mainz and Worms. At the time the 11th Armored Division was attached, the 4th Armored Division had broken through the enemy's defenses South of the Moselle River and was approaching Bad Krouznach with the mission of seizing Mainz. The 5th Infantry Division was mopping up following the 4th Armored Division and the 90th Infantry Division on the left and the 89th Infantry Division on the right had small bridgeheads established over the Moselle River. XX Corps was situated on the XII Corps South flank.
CROSSING THE MOSELLE
The 11th Armored Division was directed to cross the Moselle River at Bullay beginning at midday on March 17, pass through the 89th Infantry Division's bridgehead, and operate on the right of the 4th Armored Division to seize Worms on the Rhine and any bridges across the Rhine which were left intact. The 555th Infantry Regiment of the 89th Infantry Division was placed under operational control of the Division for close follow-up purposes. The 33rd Field Artillery Brigade, composed of the 58th, 945th, and 775th Field Artillery Battalions was directed to reinforce the Division.
It was necessary for the 11th Armored Division to move 40 kilometers to the South that night on an assembly area near Lutserath and Buchel, in order to carry out this plan. At 2:00 p.m. major unit commanders were warned verbally of the general plan and a march order was issued. The only change in the composition of troops was the attachment of the 490th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and Troop B, Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron to CC A, and the 491st Armored Field Artillery Battalion and Troop C, 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron to CC B.
Operations Memo No. 36 was issued at 7:00 p.m. outlining the plan for the river crossing and attack. The operation zone assigned the Division for its second breakthrough to the Rhine was from 20 to 25 kilometers wide. Extending Southeast from the Moselle River 40 kilometers to the Nahe River, the zone then turned East for 70 kilometers to the Rhine and Worms. The Nahe, Glan and Alsenze River lines were assigned as intermediate successive objectives. Two axes of advance were chosen, along which the entire Division was to be employed in a balanced block formation. The routes chosen were designed to allow for mutual, following ridges, avoiding villages and favoring a firm footing wherever practicable. CC A was directed to attack Southeastward along its axis, protect the left flank of the Division and seize the bridges across the Rhine found to be intact and CC B was to attack along a parallel axis, seize Worms and also take any bridges found intact.
Division Artillery with the 492nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion and the 945th Field Artillery Battalion was directed to provide general support for CC B while the 33rd Field Artillery Brigade was placed in support of CC A. CC R was prepared for clearing bypassed areas and to protect the exposed Division South flank. Advancing along both axes the 355th Regimental Combat Team prepared to mop bypassed areas, or to seize and secure critical intermediate river crossing points. Following CC B, the 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron was prepared to establish and maintain liaison with the 10th Armored Division of XX Corps on the Division's right flank.
Coordinated with the 89th Infantry Division, a derail traffic control plan was set up to insure unimpaired movement across the Moselle River at Bullay bridge. In order to streamline the Division during the breakthrough, major units were directed to allow only A trains East of the Moselle River, with B trains prepared to follow up on order.
At 5:00 p.m. on March 16 the march to the Lutzerath-Buchel assembly area commenced. The column was strafed by enemy fighter bombers while forming. CC A lead out and the 33rd Field Artillery Brigade joined in behind. The Division command post following next in line left Nieder Mendig at 9:00 p.m. CC B, Division Artillery, 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, CC R, and Division control and supporting troops, in order, joined the line of march. Extreme darkness impeded the night march, with heavy counter-marching military traffic, the narrow streets through towns and steep grades through the Endert River canyon further complicating the procedure. CC A stopped for the night near Driesch and the command post opened there at 9:05 p.m.
The Divisionís major elements completed assembly in the Lutzerath-Buchel area during the early morning hours of March 17. Final preparations for the Moselle River crossing and a second breakthrough to the Rhine River were started immediately. CC A completed its move at 1:30 a.m., CC B at 6:30 a.m., and CC R at 10:00 a.m.
To insure a smooth river crossing the Engineers established a radio network and Military Police guard setup for traffic control through the Bullay bridge site bottleneck. The route to Bullay was reported clear at 11:15 a.m. and the 11th Armored Division was assured it would have road priority through the infantry elements South of the river at midday.
INTO THE MOSELLE RIVER VALLEY
CC A started rolling into the Moselle River valley towards Bullay at 11:30 p.m. The entire command cleared the bridge by 3:00 p.m. despite some traffic delay due to assembly area regrouping.
Elements of the German 159th and 246th Volkegrenadier Divisions manned a series of well-selected roadblock defense positions along the Division front.
About 4:00 p.m. CC A was directed to continue its attack as far as Gemunden and CC B was to set Rhaunen as its goal for the day. The Third Army relayed verbal orders down to the Division at 5:20 p.m. ordering the Thunderbolts to continue the attack as far as possible that night. The order was subsequently issued to both CC A and CC B.
CC B made the first contact at Altay about 3:30 p.m. The town was passed through by reducing a roadblock and high ground gained East of the Moselle River valley. Lauzenhausen was seized at 4:00 p.m. Shortly thereafter the command was delayed by a blown railroad underpass and small arms fire near Buchenbeuren. A long, steep bank, cut perpendicular to the axis of advance made an obstacle around which maneuver was prohibited. Dismounted infantry, supported by artillery and tank fire attacked across the obstacle. They pushed South to clear the woods beyond and established a small bridgehead after dark. The Engineers made repairs on the blown bridge while the remainder of the command reorganized and prepared for the next day's operation.
During the day Troop C, 41st Cavalry, was released to Squadron control and Company C, 56th Armored Engineer Battalion was attached.
Meanwhile, CC A had moved Troop B, 41st Cavalry, ahead with CC B's column to establish contact along CC A's axis of advance. The remainder of the command starred for the bridge at 2:40 p.m. The head of the column climbed out of the Moselle valley to reach Kappen at 3:40 p.m. after passing through the 89th Infantry Division bridgehead. No resistance was met.
Kirchberg was approached at 4:45 p.m. where the first resistance, consisting of a defended roadblock and enemy infantry in the woods three kilometers to the North, held up the advance. However, by 5:45 p.m. all resistance had been overcome. The command post opened at Kappel at 7:30 p.m. Kludenbach was captured during the night, patrols were sent into Kirchberg and trailing elements climbed slowly out of the Moselle valley and coiled for the night in the vicinity of Kappel.
Although officially under Division control for concentrated emergency use, Division Artillery and the 33rd Field Artillery Brigade, to all intents and purposes operated as organic elements of the two major commands, commencing with the Moselle River crossing. Division Arrillery integrated into the CC B column, closing into positions at 4:00 p.m. The 33rd Field Artillery Brigade, followed the CC A column, went into positions in the vicinity of Kappel after nightfall.
The 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, on reaching the high ground East of the Moselle, swung South from the CC B route and made an advance along a separate route on the South flank of the Division, seizing Lotzburen at 5:12 p.m. and Wahlenau against only light resistance. CC R made its river crossing movement at 8:00 p.m. reached Bullay about 10:45 p.m. and was still enroute at midnight. All elements of the Division had crossed the Moselle River at the end of the day and were headed for open country beyond the 89rh Infantry Division bridgehead. Resuming the attack at 6:00 a.m. on March 18, 1945, both CC A and CC B advanced rapidly throughout the day. Resistance increased during the day, varying from isolated sniper activity to scattered heavy mortar, small arms, artillery and anti-tank fire.
CC A's leading Calvary elements, on the Northeast flank, passed through Kirchherg without incident and first encountered resistance of intense mortar fire near Dickensheid. This was quickly neutralized by artillery fire and progress was resumed over an alternate route to the East, with Task Force Ahee in the lead. The command reached Gehweiler at 9:25 a.m. where the direct fire of two 150 mm guns, nebelwerfer, small arms, and mortar fire was encountered. While tanks neutralized the heavy weapon fire, infantry elements cleared Gehlweiler. Blown bridges were bypassed at Gemunden and Gehlweiler as CC A continued the advance. Lateral contact was established with the 5th Infantry Division forces North of Gemunden at 11:10 a.m Light resistance was met at Kellenbach when it was entered at 2:20 p.m. The command's progress was slowed near Dhaun where two blocks, created by blasting the hillside into the road, hindered the advance until 5:00 p.m. when dismounted infantry bypassed the obstacles to enter Simmern. The day's progress was completed when, at 8:00 p.m., the town was cleared and the high ground dominating Simmern and the Nahe River was secured.
Meanwhile, in the CC B sector, engineers completed laying a treadway across the blown railroad underpass at Buchenbeuren in time to permit resumption of the attack at 6:00 a.m. Gosenrother was reached at 6:55 a.m. As CC B's advanced elements pushed through a deep canyon approaching Rhaunen a stiff local action developed. The command forced the enemy to retreat and then overtook the fleeing German column as it climbed out of the canyon to the South of Rhaunen. Twenty miscellaneous vehiclff were destroyed, plus several anti-tank and 20 mm antiaircraft guns. One hundred German prisoners were taken. After side-stepping the main canyon road for a ridge route to the Southwesr, Sulzbach was taken at 9:15 a.m. and three hours later Griebelscheid was also seized. Bergan was seized at 3:30 p.m. to place the command on dominating terrain overlooking Kirn and the Nahe River.
It was found that German demolition squads had destroyed bridges over the Nahe River before considerable enemy troops and transport had been able to cross. This gave the command a good opportunity to clear the area quickly, so, capitalizing on the enemy's misfortune, a fighter-bomber strike, coordinated on the ground by CC B's Tactical Air Liaison Officer, was able to destroy scores of German horses, horse-drawn transport, motor vehicles and enemy soldiers in the narrow, congested streets of Kirn. Following up the air strike, CC B assaulted Kirn from the Southwest to complete the round-up of hundreds of disorganized and demoralized forces isolated there. Meanwhile another air strike was directed against retreating enemy horse-drawn transport columns to the East of the Nahe River inflicting devastating results.
MOPPING UP IN KIRN
At 7:00 p.m. tanks and infantry began mopping up in Kirn. Covered by artillery fire, dismounted elements crossed the river in order to protect the bridge site for engineer repair work. These forces were relieved during the night by following elements of the attached 35Sth Infantry Regiment Late in the afternoon reconnaissance elements located a ford across the Nahe River to the East of Kirnsulzbach and at 6:20 p.m. a small task force crossed the river to establish a bridgehead and secure the high ground to the South of Kirn. This completed the day's action for CC B.
Meanwhile, the 4th Armored Division on the left flank had successfully assaulted Bad Kreuznach and established crossings over the Nahe River at several points. The 10th Armored Division on the right was reported to have progressed from the vicinity of Kirkinfeld to Baumholder also across the Nahe. The 89th Infantry Division to the rear had been ordered to resume its advance late in the day, mopping up the Division zone.
The 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance who were progressing slowly on the Division's Southwest flank reported no contact during the morning, meanwhile, the two troops released the night before from CC A and CC B were rejoining. Hottenbach was reached at noon. The Squadron was temporarily blocked at 4:25pm. by a blown bridge near Herrstein and much abandoned horse-drawn equipment there gave evidence of the enemy's retreat. The squadron pushed forward to reach the Nahe River near Fischbach at 8:15 p.m., only to find another bridge blown. A command post was established at Herrstein for the night.
CC R, following CC B's axis of advance, completed its river crossing march to an assembly area near Hahn, and at 2:00 p.m. bounded forward to Laufersweiler for the night. The 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion completed its march across the Moselle to Atlay at 6:50 a.m. and remained in location with reconnaissance out to the Southwest for protection of the Division rear throughout the day.
When no release came through from XII Corps directing the attack to continue, plans were made late in the evening to gather up the Division along the Nahe River line while the major commands were completing the establishment of a solid bridgehead for the following day. Elements of the 355th Combat Team which were following CC A and CC B were attached to these major units for closer coordination of action. The 41st Cavalry was directed to attempt lateral contact with the 10th Armored Division at Baumholder. CC R was ordered forward to Greibelscheid, Division Troops were to be moved forward to Kirm, at least, and Division Trains were to come forward at Kirchberg.
The Division had made a 25 kilometer advance during the day, an undetermined amount of enemy material had been destroyed and 700 prisoners taken. Two German Panzer Divisions and the 9th, 79th, and 559th Volksgrenadier Divisions were added to the bedraggled units in contact. Demolished bridges and strong positions on dominating terrain South of the Nahe River indicated that the enemy would put up a decisively strong defense on the following day.
At 1:35 a.m. on March 19, a message was received from XII Corps directing the attack to continue but shifting the Division's final objective to the West bank of the Rhine River to the South of Worms. It was the 4th Armored Division's mission to seize Worms proper and the West bank of the Rhine, North of the city. The 90th Infantry Division was to take up the attack on Mains. The Corps also specified that the 11th Armored Division was not to advance beyond a lane between Oberweisen-Kircheim-Bolanden-Mornheim-Ballheim and Eisenberg until released by further orders from the Corps. CC A and CC B were advised of the order and CC B was warned of a possible diversion to assist CC A in crossing the Nahe River.
CC B made a spectacular drive during the day of more than 30 kilometers, being greatly assisted by well-coordinated fighter-bomber support operating immediately in front of the armor.
CROSSING THE NAHE RIVER
Remaining combat elements of CC B, led by the 491st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, started crossing the Nahe River at 4:40 a.m., utilizing the Kirnsulzbach ford. At daylight the attack was resumed. The spearheading 41st Tank Battalion, pushing forward rapidly against air strike softened resistance, seized Schmidthachenbach at 8:00 a.m. and gained the high ground to the South of the Nahe River around the West flank of the enemy defense position. So, in breaking through the last strong position the enemy had time to man, progress was quickened as the exploitation began. Hundsbach at 9:57 a.m. and Raumbach at 11:15 a.m. were passed through in rapid succession. Meisenheim and the first bridge found intact across the Glan River fell at 12:15 a.m. As leading elements entered Gangloff at 12:45 a.m. orders were received to hold up the attack with the view toward assisting CC A. Approximately 1,000 German troops, principally from the 352nd Volksgrenadier Division, were overtaken in the area and a request was made for assistance to handle them.
CC B was ordered to resume attack at 1:00 p.m. when it was sure that CC A was fording combat elements until a bridge across the Nahe River could be constructed. The enemy found no time for manning roadblocks or blowing further bridges as several air strikes added to the confusion and destruction of other rapidly retreating enemy columns. Pushing ahead over side ridge roads, CC B seized the town of Nusbach at 3:30 p.m. and Rudolphkirchen fell 45 minutes later. Rockenhausen on the Alsenz River was seized and cleared at 5:50 p.m., a second bridge was found to be intact and the locality was secured. The command then commenced to coil for the night.
Upon clearing a roadblock North of Simmern about 1:00 a.m. and completing a treadway bridge, CC A's Task Force Ahee moved into the town for the remainder of the night. At daylight small forces were dispatched in an effort to seize crossings over the Nahe River. At 7:45 a.m. an attempt was made to rush the bridge as a lead l/4 ton truck of the 42nd Tank Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon was making the crossing.
Meanwhile, the bulk of CC A was concentrating in reducing an enemy pocket still holding out in the vicinity of Rohrbach.
The advance resumed about 11:00 a.m. when Task Force Ahee forded the stream with full-track vehicles near Martinstein. The heavy mortar fire encountered was neutralized by artillery. Fighting its way down the Nahe River valley and through the main enemy defense line at Herxheim, the task force advanced up and out of the valley to the Southeast, all the way encountering heavy direct fire from anti-tank guns, small arms, and automatic weapons. When Meinsenheim was reached about 4:35 p.m. contact was made with elements of CC B. CC A's Task Force Brady started fording the Nahe River at 4:05 p.m., mounting its personnel on full-track-laying vehicles, and then continued along the axis of advance securing towns in the rear of Task Force Ahee. A 96-foor treadway bridge was completed across the Nahe River near Martinstein at 9:40 p.m. and then wheeled traffic started moving across it through the night.
CC R, following the axis of CC B, left Laufersweiler at 9:00 a.m. and marched to Griebelscheid, arriving at noon. A fast column of 55th Armored Infantry Battalion elements was dispatched forward to Gangloff to take over the mounting horde of German soldiers that had surrendered to CC B. The remaining elements, assisted by the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion, cleared the towns of Raumbach, Odenbach, Rehborn, and Becherbach, along CC B's route of advance, arriving at Meisenheim at 9:00 p.m. Meanwhile, the 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron which was delayed at a necessary ford across the Nahe, reached Mittlereidenbach at 8:00 a.m. and advanced to Sien at midday. The Squadron then passed through Hoppstaden meeting light resistance and capturing numerous prisoners, reached Kappeln at 12:45 a.m., Medard at 3:00 p.m. where a bridge across the Alsenz River was secured, and then on to Odenbach at 3:50 p.m. During the day's action a German medical station was overrun and captured intact at Schweinscheid. Remnants of an artillery unit equipped with four 150mm guns, and four antitank guns being hopelessly outflanked and helpless, were captured near Breitenheim at the close of the day.
The 10th Armored Division turned South during the day but made no contact. The 12th Armored Division came up from the South, however, the elements which reached Worsbach turned East during the day. The 89th Infantry Division in the Thunderbolt's rear, completed clearing up to the Nahe River line. On the North flank, the 4th Armored Division gathered its forces East of the Nahe River and at 11:00 a.m. started an attack through Alzey towards Worms. CC B of the 4th Armored Division had reached Wendelsheim at 8:00 p.m., placing the leading elements roughly the same distance from Worms as the corresponding major unit of the 11th Armored Division. Reports from the Tactical Reconnaissance flights overhead indicated that all the bridges across the Rhine in the Division zone had been blown.
The Division command post was retained at Kirchherg during the day in order to maintain constant contact with XII Corps. While all hoped for a release to continue the attack all the way to the Rhine it did not materialize. Information from XII Corps showed that the restraining line would not be lifted until a clear-cut lead over the 4th Armored Division could be established, or, until further progress coordinated with the 4th Armored Division advance. CC A and CC B were issued verbal orders to continue the advance as far as the restraining line on the following day.
During the day the 56th Armored Engineer Battalion supervised bridge building at Kirn and Martinstein but a Bailey Bridge which had been ordered did not reach Kirn until 3:00 p.m. At I 1: 30 p.m. no estimate of the finishing time could be given so CC B trains were diverted to the Kirnsulzbach ford. The material for the Bailey Bridge was requested at higher headquarters and much valuable time was lost which allowed the enemy enough slack to demolish more bridges while the Bailey and treadway material was being brought up from hundreds of miles to the rear. It was necessary to install treadways in a dozen places along CC A's route of advance so as to accommodate wheeled traffic, including the Nahe River bridge.
Train Headquarters arrived at Kirchberg at 10:15 a.m. and the 133rd Ordnance Maintenance Battalion followed arriving at 2:00 p.m. The 81st Medical Battalion moved to Rhaunen.
ENEMY DEFENSE SMASHED
The Division encountered heavy demolition during the days actions, anti-tank guns, mortars, bazookas, nebelwerfer, and some 4.7mm rockets were fired as the enemy tried desperately to defend the Nahe River line. Literally thousands of German soldiers were overrun and captured from 13 general headquarters and 14 separate divisional units. The complete disruption of the enemyís defensive dispositions became evident late in the day when bridges were captured intact, units surrendered en masse, and artillery and medical units were overrun.
The command post started forward from Kirchherg at 8:30 a.m. on March 20, 1945, so as it could maintain absolutely essential contact with advance combat elements. The command had been holding communications with the Corps intact as long as possible, in the hopes of a lift order on the restraining line. There was also a good prospect of reestablishing Corps contact at Meisenheim. A report from CC B at 11:15 a.m., received enroute, indicated arrival on the restraining line at 11:04 a.m. A further report was received from CC A at 12:15 am. indicating their arrival on the restraining line at 11:35 a.m.
When these facts were reported to XII Corps a release was obtained to continue to the Rhine River South of Worms. This was provided only if the route from Alzey to Worms, reserved for the 4th Armored Division, was not crossed, or unless the 4th was unable to make any progress. At 12:45 a.m., about the time of arrival at Meisenheim, orders were given to CC A to continue the attack along the alternate Southern routes which had been designated the night before. CC R was ordered forward to Rockenhausen to clear the main supply route and to protect the Division rear, pending the follow-up action of the 89th Infantry Division. CC R, followed by the Forward Echelon and Division Troops, moved to Winnweiler at 3:00 p.m. and at 6:00 p.m. the command post was established there for the night. All artillery was ordered forward within range of the Rhine River at 9:00 p.m. as the present situation indicated possible sharp action to clear the West bank on the following morning.
March 20, also brought continued relentless advances against isolated local resistance offered by a highly disorganized and confused enemy.
The gathering of forces at Meisenheim was further delayed when remnants of enemy forces situated on the high ground South of the Nahe River attacked rejoining elements of CC A during the night. About 2:00 a.m. a command post was established at Meddersheim for the night. CC A's Task Force Ahee, resuming its attack at 7:00 a.m., followed CC B's route to Rockenhausen and then moved unimpeded through a dangerous gap between two high wooded hills, until reaching Dannefels at 11:05 a.m. where stubborn resistance was met. Dismounted infantry attacked while Artillery and Tank fire neutralized roadblocks which were defended by infantry with anti-tank guns. While the 1st Battalion of the 355th Regimental Combat Team was catching up with Task Force Ahee, it was engaged by dug-in enemy on the high ground dominating the axis of advance just West of Dannefels. Both local actions were successful.
Elements of Task Force Ahee then turned South through Jacobsweiler and Steinbach and established a lateral contact with CC B. Dreisen was reached at 11:35 a.m. by advanced elements where contact was again made with CC B and arrival at the Corps restraining line was reported. Resuming the advance Marnheim was seized and passed through and Albisheim was taken by 3:47 p.m. A blown bridge was encountered North of Harxheim which was defended and could not be bypassed. Continuing East, just North of the Prfimm River, and through scattered resistance, contact was made with elements of the 4th Armored Division just North of Monsheim where a bridge was also found to be blown. Conforming with XII Corps orders to stay South of the main route into Worms further progress to East was halted. Turning South the infantry crossed the Prfimm and seized Monsheim. Engineers spanned the river by 10:30 p.m. and the remainder of Task Force Ahee closed in Monsheim. Remaining elements of CC A cleared and assembled for the night in the Marnheim-Albisheim-Harmbeim area.
Because of CC B's long run the previous day, and the lack of bridges behind it to bring forward trains, resupplying and refueling was delayed until early morning. Starting movement at 9:00 a.m., attack elements crossed the Alsenz River and advanced rapidly reaching Winnweiler at 9:31 a.m. Boorsradt at 10:40 a.m., and Dreisen at 10:50 a.m. where lateral contact with CC A was established. Reaching the restraining line near Gollheim at 10:55 a.m. the command paused and on order at 2:00 p.m. resumed its attack with the mission of capturing the airfield South of Worms. Pushing forward swiftly, Laudersheim was seized at 3:55 p.m., and Heppenheim taken at 6:00 p.m. After seizing and clearing favorable terrain two kilometers South of Horchheim at 6:25, which was within four kilometers of the Rhine River, CC B coiled for the night and prepared for a decisive attack on the airport the following morning.
During the morning, CC R scoured the Gangloff area, at the same time rounding up an additional 225 German soldiers. Continuing forward on its mop-up mission along the CC B route, an enemy hold-out pocket was discovered in some woods North of Ginsweiler, this netted a further 91 prisoners. As it progressed clearing Nussbach, Rudolphskirchen, Dormoschel and Dornbach, a total of 604 more prisoners of war were captured. At 7:0.0 p.m. the command post was established in Rockenhausen.
The 41st Cavalry advanced rapidly, beginning at 7:00 a.m. against light resistance. Elements of the 12th Armored Division were contacted in Hefersweiler at 11:15 a.m., and the 94th Infantry Division in Lonsfeld at 1:OO p.m. The Squadron seized Ramsen at 1:50 p.m. and forward elements reached the road center of Grunstadt along the Corps boundary at 6:00 p.m. A command post was established at Eisenberg about 6:00 p.m. and 903 prisoners of war were captured during the day.
The 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion, following CC R and clearing assigned towns, moved slowly East and reached Dormoschel at 5:30 p.m.
The 4th Armored Division entered and seized Worms at 1:35 a.m. on March 21, 1945.
The Thunderbolts completed their assigned mission at 8:00 a.m. on March 21, when CC B took the airport South of Worms and reached the West bank of the Rhine River in a brief, sharp action. The command launched a combined arms assault on the final objective at 7:00 a.m. and the defending German garrison gave way as CC B's forces converged rapidly on the large military installation. Mopping-up operations were commenced immediately after the fall of the airport and were completed within an hour. Although there was considerable air activity from the enemy it failed to influence the action. XII Corps Operational Directive No. 91, was received at 9:55 a.m., oulining plans for clearing the Corps zone of all remaining resistance and directing regroupment of Corps troops in preparation for an early crossing of the Rhine River. The 11th Armored Division was directed to clear all enemy from its zone East of the Glan River and to make preparations for an assembly West of the Alsenz River. The 355th Regimental Combat Team was to be released to the 89th Infantry Division. The Division was also ordered to relieve elements of the 4th Armored Division in Worms and vicinity without delay and not to interfere with the withdrawal of the 4th from Worms. CC B. coordinating with the order, was directed to establish immediate contact with, and relieve the 4th in Worms as early as practicable, and to clear the city.
At 2:00 p.m. Operations Memo No. 40 was received confirming the morning's order. CC A was charged with cleaning a zone along the South flank as far West as the Alsenz River. CC R, strengthened by the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion, was ordered to complete clearing the Division zone between the Glan and Alsenz Rivers.
Contact with the 4th Armored Division was established and CC B entered Worms at 12:05 a.m. The ruined city was cleared of some 200 unresisting enemy soldiers but no elements of the 4th were discovered there. The city was in shambles and unfit for occupancy. Consequently all elements of the command moved South and West of Worms to assemble near Weinsheim. When villages in the area were cleared late in the afternoon a further 100 prisoners were taken.
CC A continued clearing its area of remaining German soldiers in the morning and by noon 14 towns had been thoroughly cleared and searched. The 1st Battalion of the 355th Infantry and Company A of the 285th Engineer Battalion were released to their parent units at noon, and the 33rd Field Artillery Brigade ceased supporting CC A's operations at 2:00 p. m. Towns cleared during the afternoon were, Gauersheim, Albisheim, Herxheim, Bennhausen, Jacobsweiler, Steinbach, Kaudersheim, Kindersheim. and Weitersweiler. CC A's command post moved forward from Marnheim, arriving at Molsheim at 5: 15 p.m. The command captured an estimated 300 prisoners during the day.
Moving forward, CC R continued mopping up towns and intermittened woods. While clearing some 32 towns CC R captured 348 prisoners of war in addition to many small arms, and automatic weapons.
The enemy attempted an early morning air attack but it proved more costly than favorable to them as the 575th Anti-aircraft Battalion destroyed one ME 109 and damaged two others near Worms, driving off fighter aircraft before any damage could be done to Division troops.
Since crossing the Moselle on March 17, the Division's four-day engagement had produced noteworthy results. CC A, although trailing CC B for ten miles, had advanced 44 miles in 48 hours and had passed through 23 towns. CC B had advanced 48 miles in 48 hours and passed through 36 towns to the Rhine River South of Worms. The 41 St Cavalry had advanced 55 miles in 48 hours, passing through 20 towns. At least 12,000 prisoners of war were captured. Hundreds of irreplaceable enemy motor vehicles and horse-drawn transport were destroyed, numerous heavy weapons and a few tanks had been knocked out or overrun and captured.
When the pocket at Moselle had been liquidated the Third Army impatiently regrouped for a crossing of the Rhine River. The First Army's bridgehead to the North had been expanded to a point where the main Rhine Valley, East of the River, had been cut. By crossing the Rhine between Mainz and Worms, pushing East to Hanau, and then North in the direction of Giessen, another juncture of the First Army would seal off the Industrial area of Frankfurt and a long stretch of the Rhine River.
The master plan involved a defense of the river line from Mainz North to Coblenz by VIII Corps: a central zone crossing of the Rhine between Mainz and Oppenheim and a subsequent attack East to Hanau and North to Geissen by the XII Corps; and an initial defense of the River line from Oppenheim South to Worms by the XX Corps.
At 5:25 a.m. on March 22, the Corps directed the Division to move one of its organic artillery battalions to Hillensheim to be attached to Corps Artillery before 1:00 p.m.