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B Company 56th Engineers


It was shortly after midnight 30 December. The moon shone bright and the night was clear and cold. In the distance could be heard the occasional "krump" of a heavy artillery piece or the chatter of a machine gun. On the nearby highway an intermittent stream of vehicles moved, for the most part in one direction. Closer observation would show that the great majority of these vehicles were ambulances loaded to capacity moving back to a hospital area. To one side of the highway a company of men .slept, wearied to exhaustion by the strain of a continued forced march over hundreds of miles with a goal that could only be combat. This was the picture on the eve of battle for Company B of the 56th Armored Engineer Battalion, commanded by Capt. Will C. McMasters.

A sudden flurry of activity, broke the quiet of the scene as the second platoon, commanded by Lt. Spiros Pantazi, moved out of the area. To one squad had fallen the job of accompanying a troop of the 41st Cavalry Rcn. while the other two joined Company A of the 21st Armored Infantry Battalion.

The pattern was already taking shape. The Company was divided, since the task force was made up of several units of Combat Command B of the 11th Armored Division. The platoons were moving out to join the outfits to which they were attached, and all was being made ready to .jump off at the appointed hour. Shortly thereafter the first platoon, commanded by Lt. S. A. Scearce, moved to join the 41st Tank Battalion and the third platoon, Commanded by Lt. Remo Pirolo, moved with the reserve units.


H-hour was 0730. The first platoon advanced with the tank companies as they went into the attack. Moving through Lavaselle the tanks struck at and captured Houmont toward the end of the day. The first platoon set up defensive positions squad of the third platoon was left at a damaged bridge to make repairs. Artillery shells falling in that area struck a building in which some tankers had taken refuge. Pvt. Arnold Pogodin, on outpost nearby, rushed through the shellfire to the building and administered first aid to the wounded men. For this action he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. As the squad moved up to join the remainder of the platoon, a bursting shell wounded Pvt. Vincent J. Todesco and T/5 Charles T. Justensen. All during the night the units received continuous shell fire without being able to retaliate. At daylight the third platoon pulled back a short distance to continue working on the bridges and roads. Minutes after they had left, the Krauts opened up with a terrific artillery barrage in preparation for a counterattack which later drove the first platoon out of town. During the barrage Pvt. Robert B. Bounds and Pvt. Theodore J. Mamola were killed, and T/5 William J. Stoutt was wounded. The counterattack was stopped just short of the bridge where the third platoon was -working, and, after regrouping their forces, the task force again attacked the town and drove the Krauts out. This time for good. Once again the third platoon moved up to join the first in the defense of the town. As the task force moved again on New Year's Day, both the first and third platoons were in their respective places .and it wasn't until the .evening of the next day that their services were needed. The infantry was preparing a dusk attack on the final objective, Mande-St. Etienne, and the first and third platoons of engineers were called upon to hold the flank as the infantry moved up. The artillery and small arms fire were severe but the town was taken and the two platoons moved in to aid in its defense for the night. A terrific artillery duel raged throughout the night and in the morning the body of T/5-Johnny T. Davison was found amid the ruins of a building, victim of a sniper's bullet.

Meanwhile the second platoon had also encountered difficulties. The one squad of this platoon which had been sent out with the cavalry ran into a counterattack and was forced to withdraw under very heavy fire. Pinned down for several hours they managed to get all of their vehicles and men out with the exception of their squad leader, Sgt. Frank E. Learned, who was missing. Unbeknown to them he had gone to the aid of a very seriously wounded cavalryman and stayed with him under murderous enemy fire until the medics could reach him. For this action he was awarded the Silver Star.

The remainder of the platoon followed the infantry task force toward the town of Jodenville which, although reported to be in Allied hands, had been counterattacked and retaken by the Krauts during the night. By the "time the engineer unit got to the town it had been cleared, and a terrific tank battle was raging on the gentle slopes in the foreground. The platoon pulled of to the left of the town to await orders which, were slightly mixed up due to the counterattack. The infantry, to which the second platoon was to have been attached, was dug in several hundred yards back in the woods and the platoon was very nearly in the middle of the tank battle. Just as they made ready to pull out, an 88mm. shell, one of the many that had fallen in the area that afternoon, hit the peep in which Lt. Pantazi and his driver, Pfc. Harry E. Mibbs, were sitting, wounding them both. Several men from the first squad went to their rescue under heavy fire. As evening drew nigh the second platoon moved into town after several unsuccessful attempts to rescue their vehicles and formed part of the town's defense. That night nothing was to be seen except the red glow of a burning town far over the horizon. The stillness was broken only by the whistling of an occasional shell from our artillery, harassing the enemy who were lying in wait for our attacks the following day.      

By the next evening the attack had moved forward and the second platoon had dug in on the rear slope of the hill above Chenogne. It was New Year's Eve. As the next day dawned bright and clear the tanks rumbled forward to strike at the foe holed up in Chenogne. The task of the second platoon was to set up a rear guard defense line on the ridge of the hill overlooking the town. Their positions were attacked several times by barrages of mortar fire and Pfc. Henry W. Nelson was wounded by a sniper as he was patrolling a nearby woods. As dusk fell the platoon was assigned the mission of entering the town, clearing the buildings of snipers, blowing captured field pieces and setting up another rear guard defense. Slowly, building by building, two groups of men led by Sgt., Lombardi and Sgt. May cleared the town, followed closely by a demolition party led by T/5 Winget who placed TNT charges in the breeches of the captured field pieces. Darkness had set in and there was an eerie feeling that they were being watched, but no trouble from snipers was encountered. The following morning the platoon moved out with the infantry as the attack progressed toward the now famous town of Mande-St. Etienne. The second platoon dug in on the, edge of the woods just below the town, and after sweating out several artillery and mortar barrages, during which Pfc. Thomas Clifford was killed, pulled back to a safer area. That evening just after the town had been taken, the platoon was ordered to enter the town and mine all the approach roads and to help set up the defense of the town together with the first and third platoons who were entering the town from the flank. Some sporadic sniper fire and a false cry of "counterattack!" sent the platoon racing out of town to set up a defense line after abandoning several trailers in haste. Some moments later the platoon again entered the town and joined with the remainder of the company in setting up a defense. Early the following morning, 3 January, the (first squad) of the second platoon was sent out to cinder an icy slope. In spite of artillery fire which dropped all around them, the job was completed and they headed their track for the company CP.


Cheers of joy echoed in the town as long columns of the 17th Airborne Division came trudging up the road to take over the positions. About 1500 3 January a company of tired, unshaven and ragged-looking men pulled into a bivouac area in Massul, Belgium, after having spent five as grueling days in combat as ever faced green men. They were veterans now and their only thoughts for the moment were of the delicious turkey dinner that S/Sgt. Steffero was cooking for them in the shelter of a barn.


Darkness had fallen over the little town of Massul and the night was clear and very cold. For the past ten days the company had rested up, repaired their vehicle and personal equipment, had eaten well and had caught up on their sleep. They were ready to go after the enemy again. Many of those who had started out the last time weren't present for the start of this trip due to enemy action and subzero weather. The company had been alerted early that afternoon and at 2000 mounted up and prepared to move to an assembly area. The roads were icy, the traffic heavy, and the trip, which was to have taken the unit a little over an hour to make stretched on through the night. The next morning, 13 January, each platoon moved out to join its respective task force. The first platoon moved again with the 41st Tank Bn. and dug in on the edge of the woods to the left and slightly to the rear of Foy on the Bastogne-Houffalize highway. The second platoon joined with headquarters company of the 21st Armored Infantry Bn. and entrenched in the woods to the right and some distance to the rear of Foy on the main highway. The third platoon remained with CCB Headquarters on the outskirts of Bastogne.


The attack was scheduled to jump off at 0630 14 January but Foy, which was being held by the 101st Airborne had been retaken by the Krauts the previous night and the plans had to be changed. Finally at 1230 the task force jumped off and attacked the town of Foy, retaking it. Swinging to the left of the highway, it attacked the town of Cobru below Noville. The first platoon was following a platoon of infantry and went to the outskirts of the town under a terrific barrage of mortar and artillery fire which killed T/5 Arthur J. Jacobsen. After having taken the town, the task force pulled out leaving the first platoon of engineers and a platoon of infantry to hold it. The engineers mined the approach roads to the town under cover of darkness and dug in to defend them.

The second platoon, now under the command of Lt. J. E. Andersson, had moved to the positions previously occupied by the first platoon the night before and awaited orders. Shortly after dark they were ordered to move to the reverse slope of a hill to the east and slightly to the south of Noville and to set up a defense line connecting with the infantry. To support this defense line the tank companies of the task force moved out of Cobru and pulled up to where the second platoon was dug in. Flares were darting through the air and the sound of tanks maneuvering put everyone on his guard, for a severe counterattack was expected at any minute. The first squad was sent out to put in and defend a mine road block, while Lt. Andersson and Lt. Young along with several men of the second and third platoons went into enemy territory on a stream reconnaissance patrol. Meanwhile the first squad of the third platoon stayed back with two Brockways waiting on a call that would send them to the point where the stream was to be bridged. The call never came through because the proposed bridge site was too far into enemy territory to permit safe working conditions. The remainder of the third platoon went but to look for a mine field which was reported to be in the Vicinity of Noville.

The next morning the task force again jumped off and attacked the woods to the left of Noville, swinging around and crossing the main highway from Bastogne to Houffalize, and digging in for the night with their guns pointing toward the key communications center of Houffalize. The first platoon followed the lead infantry company and underwent the most terrific artillery and mortar barrage they had ever encountered. One halftrack was knocked out when a shell burst and sent a screaming piece of shrapnel into the radiator. A second shell burst ripped the gas tank from the platoon tool truck. The first squad track was ordered to withdraw to the rear. They approached Noville from the southeast and entered the town turning into the main highway toward Houffalize. Scarcely had they reached the outskirts of the town when a 57mm shell struck the side of the halftrack and seriously wounded Lt. Scearce, Cpl. Fitzgerald and Pvt. Walker. As they attempted to back up, a Tiger Royal tank mounting an 88mm gun hit the track again. This time squarely in front, the shell tearing through the motor and ripping under the back seat. The men all jumped out as the track started to burn and the ammunition began to explode. T/4 Schoonover of the first platoon and T/5 Dennis of the battalion medical detachment rushed to the aid of the wounded men in the burning track. Pvt. Deshazzo who had sought cover, returned to lend assistance. Under heavy small arms and artillery fire they carried the men to safety. For this action the three were awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

Meanwhile the second platoon had pulled back to Foy in the early morning, waiting for the infantry to move up. Later in the day they moved up into a draw to the left of Noville and engaged in road maintenance and assisting the infantry tracks over the bad spots. During this action several barrages of artillery and "screaming meemies" were sent in. After darkness had set in, the third platoon moved down to the draw where the second platoon was located and the two platoons built several bridges over a small stream. The work was finished about midnight and the third platoon was ordered to the 21st Infantry to replace the second platoon which, in turn, relieved the first platoon with the 41st tanks.


The 16 January dawned bright and cold and the men, although tired and hungry, were ready to push on the final objective, which was. the severing of the supply route to Houffalize and the junction with the First Army driving down from the north. After a short artillery barrage to soften up the enemy, the task force moved out cross-country with the second platoon trailing on the heels of the lead tanks. No resistance was encountered until the platoon rounded the woods on high ground above the little town of Wicourt, just off the main highway.' Suddenly shells and mortars began landing among the vehicles. The men dismounted and ran for foxholes which were conveniently located on the edge of the woods. The barrage continued until the lead tanks had silenced some of the guns. The platoon mounted up and continued to the other side of the woods where they were again pinned down for an hour by direct-observation mortar fire. Pvt. J. W. Hawkins was wounded from a tree burst and Pfc. George Eversman was evacuated with battle fatigue. Then came the mission of dismounting and entering the town of Wicourt. With Lt. Andersson in the lead, the platoon moved across the snow-covered ground toward the town. Their advance was impeded numerous times when the area was shelled and mortars were dropped into the already burning buildings, but the town was cleared. Many mines were found and removed from the main highway near the junction of the approach road to Wicourt. The platoon set up its CP in Wicourt until it was ordered to move up to the high ground overlooking Houffalize and form part of the task force defense line. During this action the first platoon remained in the rear reorganizing and later that night swept the main highway for mines from Noville to the approaches of Houffalize. The third platoon remained on call with the 21 st Infantry until they moved up to join the second platoon at Houffalize late that night. Morning dawned and rumors spread that relief was on its way! Everyone kept watching and waiting for the first signs of a relieving force. Shortly after noon the same column of doughs that had once relieved them at Mande-St. Etienne, the 17th Airborne, again made its appearance, coming down. a wooded trail and disappearing out of sight over the horizon. Once again vehicles loaded with tired soldiers wended their way back toward rear areas for a much-needed rest.

This time the rest consisted for the most part of a comfortable place to sleep and good warm food. Considerable territory had been retaken during the past few weeks, all of it a potential mine field. Consequently the entire company spent the two days of rest sweeping roads for mines, checking buildings for booby traps, and blowing enemy equipment. The first platoon was also re-equipped during this time so that each platoon was ready for the alert which sounded 20 January.

The third platoon moved out first to take over the job of maintaining the icy roads as the heavy equipment of the command moved over. The first and- second platoons joined the 41st Tank and 21st Infantry Battalions in the vicinity of Noville. Under cover of darkness the third platoon joined the second and the two moved through Bourcy to sweep the snow-covered roads for mines. The morning of the attack several members of the third platoon went with bulldozers to clear the roads of snow, knee deep in some places, while the remainder of the- platoon sanded many icy places. However, the morning passed and the expected advance didn't materialize. It was soon learned that the Krauts had withdrawn completely from the area, leaving the division in battle formation with no one to fight. The remainder of the day and the 'next day were spent in the never-ending job of road maintenance. With new tactics to be planned the company moved back to the little town of Isle de Pres, west of Bastogne, for a two week break.


Much had to be done during this period besides catching up on eating and sleeping. There were many battle-scarred vehicles to be repaired, new clothes to be issued, and reinforcements to be initiated into the outfit. It was here that the men saw their first movie since leaving the shores of England and many were just getting their Christmas packages for which they had waited many weeks. Showers were available for the first time. It was toward the end of this break period that the men of this command first practiced their breakthrough tactics. Several days were devoted to this and to the swift building of treadway bridges. One of the highlights of this period was the ceremony one bright February afternoon when Brigadier General Charles S. Kilburn, CQ of the 11th Armored Division, presented medals to those men who had won them in the two previous engagements.


On 8 February about 0600 the Company moved out onto the Bastogne highway, turned southeast in Bastogne, and headed for the village of Steffenhausen, Belgium, on the fringe of the vaunted Siegfried Line. Since the breaching of the Siegfried Line was a matter primarily for the infantry and a few engineers, the next three days were spent in maintaining supply lines for the infantry units who were cracking the defensive positions of the Krauts. An early spring thaw had turned the secondary roads into a quagmire and had swollen the Our River and smaller streams into raging torrents, overflowing their banks in many places. Day and night, through drenching rain and knee-deep mud, the men of B Company labored to keep the trucks with their vitally needed supplies rolling toward the front. Mines carelessly placed along the edges of the road demolished a bulldozer and slightly injured T/5 Truman K. Jessee, the operator. Still dazed but determined to finish the job he obtained another bulldozer and continued to clear the almost impassable roads.


Then on 11 February the Company moved south along the Our River to the village of Malsheid, Belgium. Here they continued their road work, hauling gravel and rock to fill huge craters made from heavy artillery shells and bombs. The first platoon had gone toward the Our River at Peterskirch and swept the existing roads for mines in preparation for a river crossing. They drilled holes in the sides of the cliffs and planted demolition in case of a possible counterattack. Then on 18 February the entire company was sent to Peterskirch to erect a "double-double" Bailey Bridge. The third platoon went across the river in assault boats to act as security for the other two platoons who were working on the bridge. The launching site was narrow and there was considerable difficulty in getting the bridge under way. Later that afternoon a platoon of infantry came to replace the third platoon as security, releasing them to work on the bridge. But at 2100 the third platoon was again called away and sent to Lutzkampen, Germany, to guard civilians while the infantry reduced the pillboxes in the vicinity. The following afternoon at 1600 two platoons of tired, hungry men drove back to their bivouac area with the satisfaction of having completed a bridge which was later to carry the entire division into Germany for the first time. While the first and second platoons were finishing the bridge, the third platoon was patrolling the Siegfried Line and sweeping roads virtually into the jaws of the famed "dragon's teeth". On one. particular stretch of road they laid a double lane of corduroy for about 3/4 of a mile. This road has come to be known as the "Eightball Highway".


The infantry had run into a group of tough pillboxes and on 23 February the first platoon joined a small task force on a mission of reducing these pillboxes. Armed with bazookas, machine guns and several types of prepared demolition charges they attacked, destroying 46 pillboxes and taking 200 prisoners. During the action Lt. Frank Toczola, now leading the first platoon, and his peep driver, T/5 Pasquale Potente, were blown into the air when their peep struck a mine. The vehicle was severely damaged but neither of the men was injured. Another accident occurred several days before, when Lt. John Ducey, leading the second platoon, and demolition specialist T/5 John R. Bichoff were blown to bits while attempting to destroy a stack of mines which had been removed from a nearby field.


Early 1 March the company, now completely equipped with halftracks, moved through the Siegfried Line as part of the CCB column to the village of Neidermehlen, near Prum. All along the march route small groups had been dropped off to maintain bad spots in the road, and finally regrouped in the assembly area. The company had scarcely had time to dig in when word came that there were several mine fields which had to be cleared before other units could move in to their bivouac areas. By nightfall the areas had been swept for mines and although sporadic long range artillery fire had fallen in the area, there were no casualties. The following day was spent in road maintenance and mine field clearing in the path of the proposed attack.


As dawn broke on the morning of 3 March a task force composed of the 55th Armored Infantry Battalion and the 22nd Tank Battalion with the second platoon of B Company of the engineers, all under the command of Lt. Col. Hearn, moved through Prum. Crossing the Prum River, they assembled on the high ground overlooking the river. Six men from the third platoon joined the 21st Infantry and followed the main task force on foot. The remainder of the third platoon was dispatched to a huge road crater with orders to make it passable. The attack jumped off at 1255, the tanks storming the town of Schwarzheim and moving on down across the open fields toward Budesheim. In the middle of the afternoon four of the lead tanks ran into a mine field, which disabled three of them. A call was immediately sent for the engineers:. The second platoon, answering the call, pulled out of their position in the assembly area and sped toward the scene of the action. Dispersing their vehicles behind a ridge occupied by friendly infantry forces, two squads of mine field specialists and demolitionists skirted the edge of the ridge and set to work with mine detectors to breech the field and clear a portion of it so that a tank recovery vehicle could reach the knocked-out tanks. The men had hardly gotten underway when the Krauts opened up with a terrific mortar barrage zeroed-in on the field. A screaming piece of shrapnel struck T/5 Martin R. Murphy, detector operator, killing him instantly. T/5 Earl F. Cameron, seeing one of the detectors out of action, rushed to the side of his dead comrade, picked up the detector and completed the job in spite of continued heavy shelling and occasional small arms fire. For this gallant action he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. As the barrage let up, the remainder of the men again went to work marking the mines and preparing them for demolition. Several men were dispatched to either side of the broad field to attempt to locate a bypass. Again the mortars came in, fatally wounding Pfc. Charles Stoops. The mine field had been marked and the demolition placed for breaching when one group of men came back with news that they had discovered a bypass. This information was radioed to the task force commander. Almost immediately the task force again began to move toward the objective, while the engineers, one by one ducked, crawled or ran through the continued heavy fire to their concealed vehicles. Several moments later a blinding flash and explosion told them that the field had been breached.

The next morning, after a K-ration and a cup. of coffee, the second platoon moved out again toward the objective of Budesheim. Traveling cross-country through mud and rain, struggling to keep its heavy bridge trucks from bogging down, the platoon finally arrived in Budesheim on the morning of 5 March. Farther down the road, near the town of Oos, several bridges, were blown and the second platoon moved into that vicinity waiting for the other two platoons to join them for the bridging job ahead.

Meanwhile the first platoon accompanied the 41st Tank Battalion and advanced through Prum past the third platoon as they were working on the crater. Topping the hill above Prum the task force ran into mine fields covered by artillery and small arms fire. The first platoon breached the field under fire, being pinned down several times by snipers. Throughout the afternoon and night and the whole next day the platoon worked on mine fields. It was also at this time that a patrol of men led by Sgt. Tulio Leonardelli was sent out to try to capture and hold an important bridge. The distance and the number of enemy troops in the area prevented the mission from being accomplished. While the first platoon was striving to keep the task force moving, the third platoon was also having its trouble with mine fields. Having been relieved at the crater by C Company of the engineers, after the task force and supply vehicles had passed, the platoon followed up and dug in with the infantry. The next morning, as the infantry again moved out on foot, the first squad followed with mine detectors sweeping the roads. The Krauts were using the wooden box mine very cleverly, so that they were most difficult to discover. The explosion of one of these mines brought on a terrific artillery barrage which caught the remainder of the platoon. T/4 William R. Lindsey and Cpl. Clark Bennett were seriously injured by the first shells. When the second rounds fell T/4 Lindsey was hit again, this time fatally. T/5 Fred W. Peterson who was attempting to move the platoon tool truck and trailer, containing several hundred pounds of explosives, was killed instantly. In the meantime Cpl. Bennett, in spite of his wounds, was supervising the unhitching of the trailer from his track so that his squad could move out easily. For this action Cpl. Bennett received the Bronze Star Medal. The platoon withdrew to reorganize, towing one vehicle which had been knocked out. Later the two squads with vehicles moved out to continue the road sweeping job far into the rainy night. The next morning they moved up into the vicinity of Oos where the entire Company assembled to replace the blown bridges previously mentioned.

In preparation for the coming operation, the third platoon sent one squad to sweep the roads to the bridge site. However, a fierce battle for the high ground near the site halted all activities for the moment and the Company dug in to await developments. just as the men were getting settled for the night the order to "Load up!" was given and the Company moved out toward the bridge site. The first platoon and engineer section were chosen to lay the treadway over a crater in the road, after the second platoon completed the road sweeping. The third platoon swept from, the crater to the blown bridge with a small patrol moving farther ahead to reconnoiter the road conditions. Upon the return of the patrol it was learned that another bridge further up the road had also been blown and a unit from C Company, then attached to B Company, went up to lay that treadway and were left behind to put up a Bailey Bridge over the blown railroad overpass. B Company's bulldozer cut a bypass over the railroad tracks to allow traffic to move while the Bailey was being built.


On the morning of 6 March the two task forces moved out. The force to which the second platoon was attached attacking to the right toward the Kyll River, and the task force to which the first and third platoons were attached attacking to the left in a two pronged drive to seize a crossing site. Each platoon was engaged in road maintenance since recent rain's had made the dirt roads almost impassable. The second platoon swung to the left through a patch of woods to construct a bypass near Kalenborn. The first platoon with their task force swung to the right in a pincers move coming down the road towards Kalenborn. One of the first platoon's halftracks struck a mine as they attempted to pull off the road to assist in making the bypass. That evening the Company assembled in the town of Ober Bettingen on the Kyll River. This had been selected as the site of the crossing. After a thorough artillery concentration on the woods and possible defense lines on the far side of the river, part of the 21st Infantry assaulted the river under cover of a dense smoke screen and set up a defense line for the protection of troops who were to bridge the river. The third platoon, which had been attached to the 21st, pulled out of the column and waited on the remainder of the Company.

Night fell and the Bailey Bridge which had been ordered failed to arrive. Therefore it was decided to put a treadway with a bent across the stream. The steel bent was put into place, but when the huge Brockway came down to the water's edge to unload its cargo of treadway, it sank to the hubs of the wheels on the soggy, rain-soaked bank. The .project had to be abandoned. It was decided to build a treadway on land and drag it into the water forming a reinforced ford. The entire Company worked all night and when dawn came C Company came up to help with the work. Shortly before noon on 7 March the crossing was discovered and the site was subjected to mortar, artillery, anti-tank and sniper fire. Lt. John E. Andersson and T/5 Donald LaPatra were slightly wounded by sniper fire. Shortly after noon the project was abandoned due to increased enemy activity and the task force moved back through Budesheim and then south, crossing the Kyll River at Gerolstein where CCA had made a surprise crossing the night before. The task force drove all night under pale searchlights known as "artificial moonlight" and contacted the 90th Division which had cracked the German line east of the Kyll. Thus the stage was set for the inauguration of a new type of "blitzkrieg" warfare that was to send armored spearheads deep into the Reich as fast as 40 to 50 miles a day.


Early on the morning of 8 March CCB with the third platoon of B Company on the point, moved swiftly down the highway, towards the Rhine River. The Germans, caught completely by surprise, offered almost no resistance and throughout the day long columns of prisoners were seen trudging back along the column toward the PW cages far in the rear. By morning the Krauts had managed to collect their forces and present a more organized resistance. The column faced intermittent artillery fire which grew heavier as it approached the Rhine and reached a climax in a barrage which fortunately fell slightly wide of its mark. At 1400 on 9 March the third platoon reached Brohl on the Rhine, after dashing some 50 miles in 30 hours. All platoons had been engaged in removing road blocks and maintaining roads and the first long drive was completed. The Company assembled at Neideroberweiler and later moved to Bell for vehicular maintenance and road work.


Late in the evening of 16 March the company pulled out of Bell and made a night march to an assembly area west of the Moselle River. The following morning about 1000 a task force moved out to the southeast, crossing the Moselle River at Bullay. In the evening, the head of the column encountered a road block a few kilometers northwest of Lauferswin. A hurried call for the engineers was sent out over the radio and the first squad of the first platoon responded. Carefully a shaped-charge was affixed to the logs across the road and with a terrific explosion the road block seemed to vanish as. if by magic. Only then was it learned that on the other side of the road block, just a few yards ahead, was a railroad overpass which had been demolished. Another hurried call was sent out and the first squad of the second platoon plus two bridge trucks came to the site. Working with all possible speed the two crews began to lay the treadway. No sooner had they gotten the first section across the gap when the Krauts, who were dug in at the edge of the woods across the tracks, opened fire with small arms, 20 mm ack-ack guns, Panzerfausts and mortars. The men all scattered and hit for the ditch, but even that was not enough protection for some. S/Sgt. Louis Lombardi, second platoon sergeant, was hit twice in the leg by fragments from two separate mortar shells. Pfc. Q, L. Anderson, who lay beside the stricken man, gave him first aid and then helped him into a peep in which he was driven to the rear. Realizing the area was entirely too "hot" for safety, these two squads retired to a small group of houses nearby and waited for the cover of darkness. That night, with the aid of the third platoon, the job was completed and the site was ready to carry the Combat Command the following morning.


The next stop was at the outskirts of Kirn, on the Nahe River. After driving unmolested all day, the head of the column was racing down a long hill in an attempt to capture a bridge across the river intact, but as they approached their goal it suddenly blew up in their face. B Company of the engineers was again dispatched to the scene and it was decided to ford the river with smaller vehicles going over a small wooden bridge that was intact. C Company had arrived at the scene by this time and under cover of darkness the combined units made the river crossing, half of the men being employed in improving the approach roads to the site.

The following morning the task force moved out again and this time drove to Kaiserlautern where the Company bivouacked for the night. A peep driven by Pfc. Nick Terrizzi and carrying S/Sgt. Patsy LiSanti our on a night mission failed to return. It was later learned that they had made a wrong turn and were ambushed by aa group of SS men. By feigning death by their vehicle until the Krauts had left, Sgt. LiSanti managed to crawl into the damaged peep and drive it into the next little town in spite of severe leg wounds. Help was summoned there and members of a friendly infantry force in that town went back to the aid of the other wounded man. Both were evacuated.


The next day proved to be the last, and uneventful leg of the journey to the historic city of Worms which was captured on 20 March. The third platoon was sent out with the infantry to clear a mined road block on 21 March. This day also saw the beginning of increased air activity when about 25 ME-109’s attempted to strafe the bivouac area. Later that afternoon the company moved into Gross Neidersheim, south of Worms, and spent a few days in maintenance of vehicles. The Luftwaffe attempted to bomb the town on the night of 22 March but no hits were registered. On 25 March the company moved to Gau Heppenheim where several days were spent on resting up and preparing for the next drive which was to take these men across the great Rhine River.

Across the Rhine

Utilizing the Third Army’s bridgehead over the Rhine near Mainz, the company began their trek into the heart of Germany on 29 March. No resistance was encountered until the lead units faced a large road block several miles outside of Hanau. A squad from each of the first and second platoons went up to do the work. Civilians around the area were drafted to help. Suddenly a terrific explosion rent air. When the dust settled, four of the civilians lay motionless on the ground, victims of a booby-trap intended for the engineers. The remainder of the road block was cleared and the column moved on, the Company stopping for the night in the field. The next morning with the first and second platoons traveling with the point, the task force moved out in the direction of Fulda, which was defended by a large contingent of SS officer candidates stationed there. The Company stopped in the town of Grossenluder just north of Fulda for the night.


On Easter Sunday, 1 April, it was decided to bypass Fulda and move on to the north and east in the direction of Arnstadt.. As the column moved along the road, organized rifle fire from the hills and woods on either side began to sweep the vehicles. Immediately "the machine guns and rifles of the column opened fire and raked the area with a deadly hail of lead, leaving hundreds of Germans dead and wounded along the side of the road. Shots fired from a point blank range of 50 to 75 yards penetrated {the peep driven by Pfc. David Burnett, seriously wounding him and slightly wounding Capt. Will C. McMasters riding with him. Most of the other peeps and unarmored vehicles were scurrying to get into the protecting shadow of the halftracks' armor while the machine gunners and riflemen fought off this threat to the column's progress. Late that evening the company moved into the town of Kaltensundheim where they received some shelling from German artillery and mortars.


The following morning the company again moved out toward the Werra River. As they approached the town of Wasungen the cavalry reported a bridge blown and the engineers were called up to remedy the situation. Several ME-109's attacked the column at this point and bombed the service park where S/Sgt. Steffero and his kitchen crew were located. Two of the attackers were shot down. Meanwhile C Company had been called up to put in a treadway bridge with the second platoon of B Company assisting on the approaches. That night after the bridge had been completed the remainder of the Company moved into town and laid a corduroy road of railroad ties in a driving rain. Thoroughly drenched and with no sleep, the Company moved out again the next morning, 3 April, driving deep into the Thuringen Mountains to the resort town of Oberhof. Just on the outskirts of the town another road block was encountered and the second squad of the second platoon moved up to the front to clear it. Using a tank recovery vehicle and cross cut saws the abatis was removed and the cavalry began to move out. Hardly had they gotten started when a, barrage of 88's and mortars began to fall in the vicinity of the road block. A tree burst just above the second squad halftrack seriously wounded Pvt. Robert L. West who was lying on the floor of the vehicle. Artillery was called in and soon the enemy shelling stopped, as the enemy tanks lumbered out of town. About 2200 that night the task force with the first and second platoons of B Company moved into the town, cold and wet from the snow and hail that had persisted most of the evening. During the next few days the first and second remained at Oberhof while the third platoon, with the Brockways, was left a few miles to the rear at Steinbach-Allenberg.

Then, without warning, on 7 April, the course of the drive was altered and the task force drove south through Zella-Mehlis and Suhl meeting only scattered resistance for two days. Another short layover was spent in a little village along the route of march and in the evening of 10 April the Company pulled into the town of Meeder, near Coburg. By this time the vehicles were beginning to wear and S/Sgt. Vance, company motor sergeant, and his maintenance crew were kept busy keeping them rolling. The third platoon moved out the next morning toward Coburg with the mission to sweep the roads for mines. The first and second squads dismounted in the suburbs and advanced with the mine detectors while the third squad removed demolition charges from the trees lining the road and examined bridges for demolition. When the detector crews reached the city proper the civilians had disappeared from the streets and all that could be seen or heard was the gentle movement of the white flags hanging from the windows of the buildings. As the platoon assembled in the center of the town they received a startling surprise, for up the road they had just swept, came a double column of doughs from the 71st Division advancing with fixed bayonets to take the town! The third platoon, after finishing the job of sweeping the roads, returned to the Company to prepare for the next day's move.


As the drive got under, way, on 12 April, with the first platoon and the third squad of the second platoon on the point, the latter acting as security for the bridge trucks, anticipation ran high at the prospect of being the first GI's in Czechoslovakia. The task force continued on its way against only scattered resistance until the leading elements came upon a blown bridge across the Main River. Again the engineers were called upon to fill the gap and keep the task force rolling. Due to the shallowness of the stream a ford was considered the quickest method of crossing. C Company and several squads from the first and second platoons of B Company were dispatched to the scene and before many minutes had passed, armored vehicles were again rumbling toward Kulmbach. The Company spent the night in Markteuzen, near the river crossing. Shortly before dark the Company was sent to the ford to put up a Bailey Bridge, but one company of the 133 Combat Engineer Bn., attached to battalion headquarters, came up to do the work. It was a happy bunch of tired engineers that went back to their billets that night with the prospect of -some much-needed sleep. The next morning the Company continued on its way and pulled up at Seidenhol just outside of Kulmbach. On 14 April the point units, including the first platoon and one squad of the second, moved down the highway to support the 71st Division's drive into Bayreuth. The entire Company moved into Bayreuth on 17 April and remained there two days guarding hospitals and banks, and performing maintenance on themselves and their vehicles.


On 19 April, with the second platoon, now commanded by Lt. Bert O. Young, on the point, the task force moved out to attack and capture the Panzer Training Center at Grafenwohr. The remainder of the company dug in outside of Hermannshof. Several days later both the first and third platoon moved into Grafenwohr to guard a chemical-ammunition dump, reported to be the largest chemical warfare dump in Europe. Meanwhile the second platoon had moved to Mantel supporting the artillery in their move through virgin territory. On 22 April the task force moved out again and captured Schwarzenfeld, including three bridges intact. On approaching the town a hurried call sent the second platoon peep with two demolition specialists, T/4 Carl O. Thor and Pfc. Q. L. Anderson aboard; roaring past the column to the bridges to remove several hundred pounds of TNT before the Krauts had a chance to touch it off. Moving out the next morning, the task force drove toward Cham. The second platoon peep driven by T/5 Wallover Nellis and carrying two demolition specialists, T/4 Carl O. Thor and T/5 William Ludwig was dispatched to the 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance group to check all bridges for demolition. As the task force moved down the highway a radio message gave out the information that 6,000 Hungarians completely equipped were anxious to surrender. Orders were instantly given not to fire on them lest they decide to fight. The first and second squads of the third platoon dropped out of the column to guard these Hungarians. Proceeding further along the road the column met over 2,000 political prisoners with their SS guards. When the column hove into sight the SS men turned on their heels and ran leaving the prisoners behind, many of them so weak they could not stand, and many others lying in the ditches along the road, murdered by their guards because they could not keep up with the crowd. As the task force approached the outskirts of the city the liaison cub reported that the town was alive with civilians and that the white flags were flying. Two tanks, a reconnaissance car and the engineer peep were sent into town alone to capture the bridges and take the town. No resistance was encountered until this small party reached the far side of town where a well-built log road block impeded the advance. A call from the peep radio to the remainder of the platoon brought a squad with a shaped charge to the scene. A sharp blast mingled with the sound of breaking glass from nearby windows reduced the road block to rubble and the tankers moved on to hold the high ground outside the town.

After a good night's sleep the task force again moved out and captured Regen. A large bridge on the Reichsautobahn leading into Regen had been blown and prevented the vehicles from entering the town. The infantry dismounted, went in and cleaned up, despite heavy casualties. The Company of engineers spent the night erecting a small treadway bridge across the stream and corduroying the approach road.

On 25 April the second platoon, now led by Lt. Robert J. Donnell, moved out with the point toward Passau where 20,000 SS troops were reported to be defending the town. The second platoon peep again went up with the cavalry, T/5 Walter Padgett replacing T/5 Ludwig as demolitionist. Resistance was beginning to stiffen as town after town had to be burned almost to the ground before the defenders would capitulate. Late in the afternoon the leading elements came across another log road block stoutly defended by SS men armed with machine pistols and Panzerfausts. The lead tank suffered three bazooka hits before it could withdraw, and a company of infantry dismounted to clear out a portion of the woods and hold it so the engineers could work in comparative safety. The second platoon plus one squad from the first platoon and the bulldozer came up to the sight and cleared the road while the remainder of the column had found a bypass and were moving out of the area. The platoon loaded up and had barely started to move past the road block when the woods on both sides of the road suddenly became alive with burp guns and rifles. The staccato of the pellets bouncing off the sides of the halftracks sounded like hail on a tin roof. The engineers immediately opened up with every available weapon and sprayed the woods with murderous fire. Things seemed quiet and the unit prepared to move on with a tank escort while the second squad track turned around and headed back for an aid station carrying Pfc. Harlow A. Briggs who had been creased in the temple. Hardly had the lead tank gone a quarter of a mile when it took a direct hit from an anti-tank gun camouflaged somewhere in the woods. The tank crew bailed out and scurried down over the hill. The lead halftrack, in command of Sgt. Walter Pagels, tried to back up. The peep which had previously been put out of action by a machine gun burst, was being towed by Sgt. Pagels' track and prevented it from backing up. A second shot screamed over the radiator and this was the signal to get out and get down. Several more shots destroyed the track and the peep and covering fire prevented the rescue of the other vehicles at the time. A defense line was hurriedly set up and Lt. Donnell radioed for help from a tank. A patrol made up of the first squad, led by Sgt. Pagels, moved back toward the road block to contact the security guards for the Brockways, led by Sgt. Gilbert L. Parker. It led them and the trapped drivers of the bridge trucks to the defense line. Presently several tanks came into view and shelled a house where an AT gun appeared to be. Then under cover of darkness the men scrambled on the backs of tanks and in other vehicles which had been recovered and started their trip to rejoin the task force. Shortly before arriving at that area a sniper's shot wounded Pfc. Hollis Ferrill in the leg and he was evacuated. Several vehicles were lost. Had it not been for T/5 Harry G. Hasher who disregarded sporadic sniper fire to rush up the road and drive one of the halftracks which was in the direct line of fire to safety, another precious vehicle would have been added to the casualty list. For this action he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

When the news of the ambush reached the main body of the column, it halted and the third platoon moved on to the point with a company of tanks to secure a bypass. As the task force pulled onto a ridge overlooking the town of Limbach several ME-109's strafed the column. The first plane started his dive but ran into a curtain of lead that ended his career nose first in the hillside. His fate discouraged the others and the column moved on unmolested into Limbach. The next morning the advance lagged while recon sought a new route. When the decision had been made, the first platoon moved to the point to take and pass the town of Rohrnbach and set up a defense line beyond. The remainder of the Company stopped in Rohrnbach where it received increased attention from the Luftwaffe.


The following morning about 1000 the Company was preparing to move on to a new area when the town began to take a terrific shelling from flanking heavy artillery which had been bypassed. The Company quickly moved out to a small town, Atzeldorf, where they remained for several days. On 29 April the third platoon moved out with a task force of tanks and infantry, the infantry moving on foot through the woods on the flanks because of increased sniper fire. Progress was necessarily slow as the infantry cleared the woods and the engineers removed several road blocks. The Austrian border was crossed on 30 April to mark the first entrance of American troops into Austria. 1 May saw the task force reach Lembach with the third platoon going on ahead to remove five road blocks in close succession. The remainder of the company in the meantime had pulled out of Atzeldorf on 30 April and continued down the road to Lembach arriving there in the evening of 1 May. After roadblocks had been cleared it was learned upon further investigation," that a bridge had been blown just beyond the last road block. Several recon vehicles and the third platoon peep started out the next morning to look for- a new road that would take them to the vital highway to Linz, but all the roads that were investigated ended up as nothing but trails. Upon receipt of a radio message of this fact, C Company started to work on the bridge while B Company worked on the approaches. A nearby lumber yard facilitated the construction.

On the morning of the 3 May the third platoon and one squad of the first moved out again on the point with their peep, driven by T/5 R. A. Davidson and carrying Sgt. George Gillespie and Cpl. George Scholl, up with the cavalry. After two days of practically no activity they arrived at Gallneukirchen. On the 5 and 6 May the third platoon set up road blocks and maintained several roads leading in and out of the town. During the preparation of one of the road blocks, using captured enemy vehicles, Cpl. George Scholl was seriously injured when the truck which he was driving went into the ditch. A mine on the back of the truck rolled off and under the wheels, exploding some thirty mines in the truck, completely demolishing it, and throwing the driver clear.


The remainder of the Company moved along with the main body reaching Gallneukirchen on 7 May. The news of the unconditional surrender of all the German armed forces reached the ears of the men of B Company on 8 May as they prepared to move to Urfahr, across the Danube River from Linz, Austria.

To the men of Company B whose worthy deeds and actions are not specifically mentioned in this account, go the highest praise and tribute. Only by their undying devotion to duty and their high regard for their fellow men throughout grueling days of "bad weather and hard fighting could the above action have been accomplished. Three Silver Stars, 23 Bronze Stars and 42 Purple Hearts were won by men of this company during 4 months and ten days of combat. That alone speaks for their brilliant record. These men have now settled down to a sort of garrison life, awaiting orders that will send them on their next move. Where and when —? Only time will tell!

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