Combat Chronicle of a Rifle Company
No two 'war-stories' are identical. Even two soldiers in the same foxhole will remember a different sequence of events and certainly no two units, involved in the same battle, recorded the same happenings. The following is the combat history of one unit, perhaps typical in a sense, yet unique in detail.
Company I, 413th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division
Our "war-in-brief", as recorded in excerpts from the "Combat Journal", 3rd Battalion, 413th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division with additions (in italics) from the 413th Infantry Unit History and After Action Reports, as originally filed with the Adjutant General's Office, The Pentagon, Washington, DC, 1944-45.
"On one occasion a private (Joe Schallmoser) from Company I asked permission of his Commanding Officer to be allowed to accompany a PW officer to one of the pill boxes ( to negotiate their surrender) - -."
"This was the first convoy of American troops to land (Tuesday, 7 Sept. '44) directly in France from the United States in World War II."
"- -, 23 October 1944, this Battalion went into line at LOENHOUT, Belgium. - - (and) took it's position in the line relieving the Second Essex Battalion, 96th Brigade, 49th Division (British), (1st British Corps), (1st Canadian Army), 21st Army Group."
"This relief made the 413th Infantry the first Regiment of the Division to take its place in line, the first regiment of the American Army to relieve an allied unit on the Western Front, as well as the first American Regiment to fight under the command of an Allied Army on this front."
"At 1100 (25 October) patrols were going past phase line 'B', line 'A' having been occupied. The 3rd Battalion ran into sniper and mortar fire in occupying line 'A' with three casualties occurring, our first losses from enemy action."
"At 1630, 25 October 1944, this Battalion moved forward as a component of the 413th Combat Team with the mission of moving in the general direction of ZUNDERT, Holland through TERBECK and HEILBLOOM, Belgium."(KIA: Arnold Skuza, Leon Littrell & Ronald Bush. Marvin Williford died the next day of wounds).
"Before midnight of the 26th had passed, our Battalion had succeded in completely breaking the BREDA defense line." (KIA: Milliard Mabe, Aldon Wentworth & David Wilkinson. Herbert Roster died the next day of wounds).
"On the morning of the 27th, advancing in the general direction of ZUNDERT, our Battalion moved forward."
"By 1630 it was apparent that the enemy had retreated to the North making the planned artillery barrage on ZUNDERT unnecessary; therefore, it was canceled."
"the 3rd Battalion entered ZUNDERT at 1715 - -." "The attitude of the people of ZUNDERT seemed to be one of genuine appreciation - - Allied flags were seen on the buildings of the city."
"Company L started across the MARK river at 2300, 2 November, followed by Company I and Company K."
"It was here that we (3d Bn) suffered our heaviest casualties of the campaign - but NOORDEHOOK was not denied us."
"The results of the Holland Campaign were gratifying."
"On 7 November this Battalion moved by trucks from Holland to AACHEN, Germany."
"Our Battalion relieved the Third Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment of the First Division, being part of the 1st Army (VII Corps). By 2400, 9 November our line companies had completed the relief - -." (KIA: Harvey Kelly, Floyd Molandes & Edgar Wichard).
"On 16 November, at 1145, the 'big push' in our sector was started. It was preceded by a huge artillery barrage and an air mission composed of some 2500 planes."(Operation Queen, 2,807 planes was the largest air attack in support of ground forces ever. (Per Timberwolf Tracks, "This was the beginning of the biggest air assault of World War II - - 2400 medium and heavy bombers passed over the front line to bomb - Eschweiler, Duren, and Julich".) "This day marked the initial engagement of the regiment in offensive combat in Germany."
"Our greatest obstacles were, of course, the pill boxes that had to be eliminated one by one - a slow and tedious task."
"The artillery poured 155 rounds of time and ordinary fire into the pillbox areas between 1600 and 1800. - - Anti-tank Company attachments supported the battalions by fire against the pillboxes also, while Cannon Company located machine gun and anti-tank gun positions of the enemy."
"Pillboxes were blasted with TNT, eight inch guns and flame throwers, - -." "At 1755 an assault platoon from I Company seized pillbox 52, including 30 prisoners. This was the first pillbox taken by assault."
"- - a renewed attack on the 17th mopped up the remaining houses and by 1230 all pillboxes were secured." "This operation was highlighted by close coordination between Infantry, Tank, and Artillery teams and the excellent work of the first platoon of Company I - -."
"At 0800 on the 22nd of November, the attack jumped off against PUTZLOHN. - - and Company I moved to positions south of the city of FRONHOVEN."
"Lead by the 3rd Battalion, the regiment began its fight for the strategic town of Putzlohn."
"Today (22 November) the objective of the regiment was to seize PUTZLOHN with the 3rd Battalion in the attack. At 0800, Lt. Col. Summers' troops crossed the line of departure, in column, L, I, K Companies. - - By 1055, I Company, advancing south of FRONHOVEN toward the objective, received heavy mortar fire and observed three tanks, supporting enemy infantry, moving toward them in a counterattack - -. Company I at the edge of PUTZLOHN had to withdraw 200 yards due to the fact that the 120th Infantry - -withdrew - -. Our artillery failed to neutralize the fire of the enemy tanks." (KIA: Sooren Alemian, John Dyrdahn, Joseph Gernan, Kenneth Nelson, Robert Stenger, Francis Sullivan, Richard Tiburzi & Carl Widhalm. Jack Vevers died the next day of wounds).
"Prisoners of War taken in today's action (23 Nov) amounted to approximately 100, but the operations proved most costly to the 3rd Battalion with losses placed at 16 killed, 50 wounded, and 50 missing."
"On 28 November, Company I went into action again attached to the First Battalion, 413th Infantry, then engaged in the opening phase of the struggle to take the town of INDEN. - The battle of INDEN promised to be a difficult and costly task." "The volume of artillery fire received, at times, reached fifty rounds per minute." (Per Stars and Stripes "- the heaviest artillery concentration ever experienced by American troops") (KIA: Kenneth Brennen, Leslie Kovala & Wilbur Warnock).
"The resistance of the enemy had not slackened, but by 3 December, our hold on the town was sufficiently strong to allow a crossing of the INDE river by the 414th Infantry Regiment."(KIA: Julius Waschowski)
"1st Lt Arthur D. Decker was appointed commander (Company I) on 6 December, 1944 (later promoted to Captain)."
"On 20 December, our Battalion received orders to move out immediately to the town of GURZENICH, where we would relieve the Second Battalion, 329th Regiment, 83rd Division."
"By the end of the year, 1944, the Battalion had settled into it's comparatively comfortable positions directly across the ROER River from the town of DUREN."
"During this time large quotas (were issued) for showers and passes to Division Rest Camp at VERVIERS, Belgium."
"The Battalion casualties for this month were exceptionally light - -."
"The Battalion opened the NEW YEAR with a particular greeting for the enemy. At 0600, 1 January 1945, every weapon in the entire Battalion was fired at the enemy."
"On 13 January, our Battalion was relieved by the Second Battalion, 413th Infantry, and went into position at LANGERWERE."
"On 23 January the Battalion returned to its positions at GURZENICH - - ."
"For this Battalion the month of February began as one of intensified observation and speculation, and ended as one of decisive action."
"On 19 February Company I captured a prisoner who had crossed the railroad bridge in their area in order to give himself up."
"We had received all of our reinforcements, and all of our men were fully equipped for the (Roer River) crossing which was finally set to take place on 23 February."
"At 0245 on the morning of 23 February the Artillery preparation for the crossing began, lasting until 0330 -- the time at which the Battalion 'jumped off'."(KIA: Milton Barshop, Thomas Husband, William Jackson, Joe Jones & Raymond Weber).
"Crossing the river in assault boats, Companies I and K led the attack - -. The various phase lines of the assault were reached by the two lead Companies with almost 'clock work' coordination - ."
"By 0730 Company I had taken 20 PW's, - -."
"On 24 February - - the Battalion's mission was entirely accomplished."
"For this action the 3rd Battalion was awarded the Distinguished Unit Badge."
"- - the Battalion moved to MANHEIM on 27 February, where further orders concerning the crossing of the ERFT Canal, and the anticipated advance to KOLN (Cologne), were awaited."
"It is a matter of pride to the Battalion that in all the above action the casualties were not heavy."
"On 3 March, the crossing of the ERFT Canal having been made already, the Battalion moved forward to establish its Command Post in the town of FLIESTEDEN, Germany."
"It was on 4 March, while in the position in GEYEN, that Lt. Col. William M. Summers, the Battalion Commander, was transferred to Regiment as Regimental Executive Officer, and Major George E. O'Conner assumed command of the Battalion (later promoted to Lt. Co.)."
"- - heavy enemy artillery fire and several self-propelled weapons made it necessary for the Companies to button up on the night of 6 March without having reached their objectives in the city of KOLN proper."
"On the following morning Companies K and L again took up the attack, Company I being in reserve, and by noon of that day the Battalion, having reached its objective, was buttoning up in the city of KOLN, on the banks of the RHINE River."
"On 8 March, the Battalion moved up the banks of the RHINE River to the town of RODENKIRCHEN, where we relieved elements of the 8th Division - -."
"On 12 March - - Lt. Col. Summers, our executive officer(413th Inf.) now assumed command (on 3 May 1945 he was promoted to full Colonel)."
"During the period 8 March to 19 March, the Battalion remained in these positions, again taking advantage of the Quartermaster Shower Units and pass quotas to VERVIERS, BRUSSELS, PARIS and the UNITED KINGDOM."
"On the 19th of March the Battalion was relieved by elements of the 8th Division, and two days later, traveling in motor convoy, was removed to the site of the now famous REMAGEN bridgehead, crossing the RHINE RIVER on the pontoon bridges - - ."
"That afternoon the first Battalion Command Post on the eastern side of the RHINE River was established in the vicinity of STOCKHOUSEN - - ."
"- - during the ensuing days as it followed behind the rapidly advancing armor clearing in quick succession the towns of SHONBERG, HEIDE, NISTER, KELLERSHOF, HEILINGEN, BICKEN, OFFENBACH, COLBE, SCHLAGPFUTZE, MUNCHAUSEN, ERNSHAUSEN, FRANKENBURG, KORBACH, TWISTE, and ADORF - -."
"At 0400 (25 March) elements of the 3rd Armored passed through the regimental sector and broke through the German lines heading toward the east. This was the beginning of one of the most spectacular tank-infantry team dashes of the war - - the 1st and 3rd Battalions moved forward quickely moppin up the bewildered Germans."
"During this entire advance, the Battalion's casualties were remarkably light."(KIA: James Michaels)
"On 4 April the Battalion moved from ADORF to HOLTHEIM, meeting no resistance. From HOLTHEIM we moved by truck to the town of PECKLESHEIM, from where we advanced to GIESELWERDER, on the banks of the WESER River."
"The crossing of the WESER River was begun at 0400 on the following day, 8 April, and by 0500 Companies I and L had completed the crossing - -. At 1700 that day the Battalion had closed into the town of VEISEBACH while Co. I went ahead to clear and occupy WIENSEN - -."
"It was on 12 April that the Companies of this Battalion moved into the town of BAD LAUTERBERG; a town which was to present more difficulties than any other obstacles met since crossing the RHINE River." (KIA: Frank Redinger & Robert Brown).
"In Nordhausen - - a large German concentration camp for political prisoners, discovering 5,000 corpses - -."
"At 1100 that morning (13 April) a German Medical Officer who was brought to the Battalion Command post agreed to accompany a party to the German Battalion Command Post to negotiate a possible surrender for the enemy. First Lieutenant Carl S. Johnson, Battalion S-3, volunteered for this mission, and with him went S/Sgt Walter George as interpreter, and Pfcs Bernard Kline (Co. I) and David Acker as flagbearers." (KIA: David McNeal & Charles Wagner).
"On 15 April the Battalion moved from BAD LAUTERBERG to NIETLEBEN, and on the following day we crossed the SALLE River into the town of REDELBERG."
"The 3d Battalion, followed by the 2d, circled to the north and east of Halle,- -."
"On 20 April the Battalion advanced to ZSEHEPEN, meeting only light resistance, and on the following day we moved to the banks of the MULDE River."
"From 7 to 21 April the regiment had advanced 175 miles deeper into Germany and was now within a few miles of the Russian army - -." (KIA: Linneous Nelson, Kenneth Ross & John Tysinger).
"After buttoning up on the Mulde river, the regiment entered one of the most remarkable phases of its history. Enemy activity across the river sharply decreased daily, until by the 24th of the month it had ceased entirely. - - During this period of virtually quiet warfare, 9,777 enemy soldiers were added to the regiment's ever-growing list of prisoners. The total of allied released prisoners of war added up to 1,885."(KIA: Jewell Dawsey died of wounds)
"On 22 April the Battalion went into reserve positions in the towns of BRINNIS, SPRODA, and LAUE, where we remained for the rest of the month of April."
"On 27 April the Battalion was addressed by Major General TERRY ALLEN."
"The month of May was the (most) welcomed month, so far, in all of our combat experience. On 1 May we received the radio news that HITLER was dead, and then on 8 May the long awaited V-E DAY."
"The Combat Journal for the Battalion closed in May - -." (KIA: Albert Castie)
These recorded events, so important in our youth, seem to deserve more attention & detail than they received in the gross understatements of official records. At first, I wanted to cry out, "There is much more! Didn't they know how devastating 22 Nov. was for our company? And didn't they care that our own Air Force killed three of our men in Inden? And did they forget about all those other days?". - - - However, I realized that each of us have our own special memories surrounding various moments and no one else, no matter how many words are written, can truly retell these experiences in their entirety. Therefore, I felt that it was best to let the brief descriptions rest as written and each of us can add "between the lines" from thoughts that have endured these many years, clustered in the bittersweet memories of days of long ago. It's with the burden of these memories that we gather in reunion, realizing that only unwavering comrades can truly understand. Historian Stephen Ambrose best described the closeness that we developed, in that brief interruption of our youth, when he described those who had experienced infantry combat as a "Band of Brothers". He added, "Within the ranks of the military, a rifle company is unique. Its prolonged exposure to the horrors of face to face combat forges bonds that are virtually unbreakable. -- they would literally insist on going hungry for another, freezing for one another, dying for one another -- a closeness unknown to all outsiders. Comrades are closer than friends, closer than brothers. Their relationship is different from that of lovers. Their trust in, and knowledge of, each other is total".
This page last updated: 27 June, 1999
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