Combat Lights

Action This Hour! -- On No. 1, Fire 1! -- On No. 2, Open 3! -- Advance! -- Kill or be killed! -- Geronimo! -- Spinner! Contact! -- Pilot to Bombardier! -- Open bombay doors! -- Bombs away! -- Gung Ho! -- 1000, 2000, 3000, Yank!
Yep, in the movies it sounds dramatic. But "breaking in" at the front with doughboys on patrols through the snow -- that's another story. That is the true story. The story of Recon on reserve. The story of the battle of the defense of Hofen, Germany, Nov. 9th to Dec. 12th.
On Nov. 10, 1944 the 99th Reconnaissance Troop through intermittent rain and snow moved 40 miles to the south and east on slippery surfaced roads from St. Jean Sart, Belgium to Elsenborn, Belgium. The 3rd Platoon continued on up to Kalterherberg, Germany and dug in on a hill and created that now famous thing "The Hole" -- two machine-gun emplacements dug in and under enemy fire, here for the next month, to be exact until Dec. 11th, they held out there on a defensive line as reserves.
In this month much was learned both by the men at Elsenborn and those that Kalterherberg. At Elsenborn every day at least two members of each platoon, making a 10 man total, accompanied the 395th Infantry Regiment patrols into the Siegfried Line. The experience was invaluable. On one occasion one of these patrols was to seize a Siegfried pillbox knocked out by a rocket round fired by their patrol. This gave promise of bigger things yet to come. The Second Platoon, while digging in additional defensive positions at Kalterherberg for the reserve line of the 3rd Platoon, received eight rounds of Jerry mortar fire "coming in" as also did the 3rd. It was then the Troop as a unit received its baptism of fire -- Nov. 15, 1944.
On the lighter side of things, although the drama of the movies was missing and the Reconners were coming one by one to admit Gen. Sherman's dictum on war, with the added qualification "frozen hell", Roberts and Birdsong got themselves into the movies during a patrol, on which a cameraman came along and kept them candid company, thus even the glamorous had become the same hell to live with and the disillusionment of a frozen life became complete. Yet on Thanksgiving Day the 3rd Platoon mortar crews were not to be daunted from the traditions of the Pilgrims. Turkey, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, peas, celery, pineapple pie and candy sat upon a white tablecloth with shining silverware, napkins, serving bowls, glistening china in their appropriate places, beneath them, around them, or on them. Also toothpicks! All this within a stones throw of "the hole"! It was a tribute to American ingenuity and faith in the future. Based on a couple of old military truisms: "to the victor belong the spoils" and "an army moves on its belly", the supply problem had been relatively easily solved. McCoy, Ancona, Perkins, Grant, O'Brien, Crawford, Gates, Greer and Marcincavage did the honors. Little did they know that less than a month later they would have even more to be thankful for -- something more than just individually passing through fire or taking potshots on patrols -- something more than just being Americans, having earned the title, Combat Soldiers, Defenders of a Line.
While at Elsenborn 1st Lieut. Roser, fresh from the 16th Armored, had joined the troop as Communications Officer and it was thus at full strength that the Troop on Dec. 11th negotiated the slippery, snow-covered three miles to Kalterherberg, across the German border to Germany. Two days later, and 0830 the 99th Reconnaissance Troop went into attachment to the 2nd Infantry Division, displacing the 2nd Battalion, 395th Infantry. Realistically now then, for them the Rhineland Campaign was on. Authorized by W.D.G.O. No. 80 Sect. VI October 5, 1944. It had begun Sept. 15 and the 99th Division itself had been active in it since Nov. Here however, it was that the 99th Reconnaissance Troop finally came out of reserve into "action". In the next three weeks the 99th Recon was to play an integral part in two battles: Attack on the Siegfried Line, Sonntagshugel, Germany, Dec. 13 -- 18; Defense of Elsenborn, Belgium December 19 to February 4th, in fact, a very essential part in the latter, the Defense of Elsenborn. The 395th Infantry had just jumped off to the northeast against heavy artillery concentrations to seize its objective. Without, however, its 3rd Battalion, which was holding the north flank as an anchored defense at Hofen. To the south the 393rd and 394th in that order were pushing north and east as well. More than three battalions of artillery were in support. They were driving for a combined thrust east with 2nd Infantry on their left. Elements of the 2nd Infantry went into reserve with 2nd Battalion 395th. This was no doubt made possible by the fact that at the north end of the anchor or Hofen hinge was the 38th Cavalry in Monschau and at the south flank of it the 99th Recon was deployed over at least a 1500 yard front. Recon being in attachment to the 2nd Infantry, this directly released at least two companies of foot soldiers from the 2nd Infantry into the 2nd Battalion, 395th Infantry. This was the situation as of December 13.
The next two days brought increasing enemy resistance but the front continued moving northeast. Enemy patrols accompanied by dogs were encountered and heavy artillery began along the moving front. Back at Hofen and to the south all was quiet on the defensive line. Recon remained in contact with the 2nd Recon to the south and the 395th to its north. 0525 Dec. 16th began a new phase of the battle and another campaign: the Ardennes Campaign ending as already world famous by January 25, 1945. In the 99th Division area from Hofen to northeast of Hunningen, began intense enemy shelling and then enemy battalion spearheads of armor and infantry nosed out along the 30 kilometer front. Behind these fingers of steel and mud lay six divisions of Nazi strength and assorted paratroopers outfits. In a three day seesaw battle the 99th Recon saw and heard the Battle of the Bulge range around them. This offensive beat like a tidal wave against the rocks of Monschau, Hofen and Butgenbach. Much of the spray now and then fell around the intrepid Recon. Many times doing vital liaison work Recon men broke right into the teeth of the storm. At the end of four days the Eupen, Malmedy, Butgenbach, Elsenborn road net remained intact, its southern members had become bastions of defense. Recon had on 16 Dec. at 0630 received light 88mm enemy fire for about an hour. On the 17th the CP was strafed by hostile aircraft, presaging a later foray by ME109's against C Company 394th Infantry at 1145 that day. On its right flank Recon received mortar and light small arms fire during the day. On the 18th of December the 99th Reconnaissance Troop had gone into attachment to the 3rd Battalion 395th Infantry and had also lost contact with the 2nd Recon on its right or southern flank. It now more than ever like the vital axle of a wheel in the center of the fury of a great storm. At 1915 hours that day Recon relayed the vital news that the Hofen area of December 18th was about to be under an attack by enemy armor.
The Germans method had been to seek to achieve pincers, striking first in the Honsfeld, Murringen, Butgenbach sector then flashing out at Hofen and Monschau. The most favorable road net lay to the south and Butgenbach. Here it was that they had made the most progress. Hofen had become an impenetrable bastion. Dec. 17th at dawn elements of K. G. Von der Heide paratroopers had been dropped in the Honsfeld area (this was amidst the other enemy air activities of that day: the strafing of the CP of the 99th Reconnaissance Troop and the bombing and strafing of C Company 394th Infantry by ME109's all of which occurred between two and four hours later). These paratroopers had been dropped for the purpose of demolition, demoralizing communication and destruction of our tank destroyer forces in that area in order to soften up our southern flank. But Butgenbach never fell. Reinforced by the Red One, the Checkerboard Division again held.
At 1800 Dec. 18 the entire 99th went into attachment with the 2nd Infantry Division which had moved southward closing the front. The following day the remainder of the Division assembled a straggler line at Elsenborn with the exception of the 395th 3rd Battalion at Hofen and the 99th Recon at Kalterherberg. The bitter German attacks continued all through the 19th and 20th but the 2nd Division, the 99th and the 1st had held their ground. During the nights of the 18th and 19th Recon had received heavy enemy artillery fire. By the 20th all was quiet with Recon again. It seemed that the road net had been saved and all was safe. To the north the 38th Cavalry and the 9th Division were both in contact and a solid wall or northern promontory into the Ardennes salient had been maintained. Back toward Malmedy, Stavelot, and Dinant westward to Bastogne and even northward to near Liege the poisonous torrent of Germans had been seeping recklessly through. All along its fringe, terrific fighting had gone on and was continuing; the gold of combat training was being tried in the furnace of vital battle responsibilities. Anywhere, a crack in the dam, and another flood. Such was the combat situation.
The Germans in the Division area quieted suddenly down -- either abashed or willing to let others who had stabbed further through bear the brunt of their fighting. However, Jerry was not to let the 99th Cavalrymen sit in the middle relaying messages, holding down over a mile of front and the forward observation post for the 38th Infantry, 9th Division (thereby releasing almost 1000 other men for combat elsewhere) without a taste of the Heinie brand of hell. Seemingly in a desperate last attempt to try to find a weak spot and avenge the former failures, at 0630 Dec. 22 the enemy struck again, this time at the 99th Reconnaissance Troop, first at her First Platoon. By now since December 20th this Troop had been forward outpost line in the main line of resistance of the 38th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division which had moved south and also since December 21st had been in attachment with the 47th Infantry of the same division which had just moved into Kalterherberg behind them.
Let us reflect again on the bigger battles in the Monschau, Butgenbach, Bulingen, Rocherath, Ardennes sector just described earlier. The Troop as has been said was acting as a forward outpost line dug in on a battalion front along a slow reverse curve in the Schwaln River in front of Kalterherberg, in which the Troop CP was. Their placement in comparison to that of the bigger front, as of December 16th was on the right flank of headquarters provisional combat platoon (the 393rd had been situated north in the Rocherath sector). The First Platoon was just to the south of the Third Platoon, on the extreme north or left flank (the 395th had been just south of the 38th Cavalry, defending in Monschau) . Why this device of comparative placement is being used is to fit this far smaller, even minor engagement of the 99th Reconnaissance Troop into the big divisional picture where it belongs.
It was at Hofen in the northern sector at 0525 December 16th that the enemy had laid in a barrage and then thrown its full weight against the 395th Infantry on the entire front in that sector. (The Bulge seemed characterized by the German propensity to attack at dawn similar to the Jap's love of night operations in the Pacific). Since the 394th and the 393rd Infantry Regiments had been forced slowly back to their rear like a swinging gate they were all back on this same main line of resistance which now in one tiny sector had come under attack (the sector being the outpost line of the 99th Reconnaissance Troop in front of the 9th Division and yet still to the left flank and north of the 99th Division itself).
At times during this buildup of a main line of resistance the Second Battalion of the 395th Infantry Regiment at Hofen and the 38th Cavalry at Monschau were threatened with being cut off from the 9th Infantry Division and other divisions on their right flank (it was for the Hofen area that the 99th Reconnaissance Troop have performed so vitally in relaying communications). Now this little liaison unit itself was out there under the threat of the enemy and in danger of being cut off also. Were Recon not to hold out in this subsequent action, despite the bigger scale and successful withdrawal of the Monschau, Bulingen, Rocherath, Ardennes arc, Hofen and Monschau might possibly yet become at least temporarily cut off. That at least was the most daring possibility in the enemy's attack: to wipe out Recon and then turn north to Hofen and attack it on its weak western underside.
Thus with a flare bursting in the dark winter sky at 0600 was the signal of attack given. T/5 John Farone saw it and immediately reported it to Sgt. Heber M. Cargile. The men got ready but the Jerries had two machine guns set up across the river on the east bank. Without hesitation they had started to infiltrate through the platoon, having waded the creek in the predawn, icy winter haze. In one case an enemy soldier crawled to within five feet of Pfc. Owen Whitehead's foxhole in the icy murk before he spotted him and toppled him. The situation was very difficult in the darkness. The enemy had already infiltrated through the trees. Now all this had occurred while darkness still remained, so back in the woods the 1st held up and reorganized for fear if they went back further that their own forces, on the main line of resistance, not recognizing them might shoot at them. Thus the efficiency of the 99th Division men had again steered clear of danger and a near disaster. December 16th the 99th Division had captured a document of Field Marshal Von Rundstedt's which gave the proof that the German's stiffening resistance was the beginning of a large-scale German offensive over an extended area. Likewise the Recon's rocket flare, which had been attached to a defensive booby-trap across a bridge in such a way that disarmament of the booby-trap set off the flare, had given the warning of another attack, this time much smaller, even insignificant by comparison, but by the same German methods. This attack later proved to be at least two companies if not a battalion of the 277th Volksgrenadier Division with concealed horse-drawn artillery in support to the rear in a higher wooded area. Headquarters Platoon with Captain Lueders and Lieut. William Worley mounted into their seven armored vehicles after dawn and counterattacked against intense small arms fire, rifle grenades and panzer fausts, only to be repulsed.
On the right flank Headquarters Platoon had fallen back under orders of the Troop Commander and formed on the road to the CP. The Second Platoon after holding off longer to their rear formed in the same assembly area and returned to the Troop CP per the same order. Thus in a few hours the entire right flank had moved back and reformed on the main line of resistance east of the CP in alternate defensive prepared positions almost a kilometer to their rear (alongside the 38th Infantry which flank the 394th and 393rd Infantry further south near Elsenborn at the Division CP assembly area). By 1300 that afternoon all this had occurred including counterattacks by Headquarters Provisional Platoon and the First Platoon made into that part of the forward outpost line which was still being manned. (Although the First Platoon had by this time apparently lost some of their personnel -- today they are all back again -- be it liberated or discharged from hospitals).
Thus elements of the remainder of the first 11 enlisted men and the entire Third Platoon still now remained on the original forward outpost line. Being cut off and surrounded their predicament became critical. Starting toward dusk the Third Platoon under orders commenced to withdraw. It was here that we might well retrace our steps and size up the situation which between dawn and midday had brought up so many and varied tactical difficulties. While the First Platoon was sizing up the initial German thrust and seeking to disengage themselves, the Third Platoon had become cut off by enemy infiltration on both flanks. While endeavoring to establish messenger contact with one of their platoon outposts they captured six paratroopers of the K. G. Von der Heide element, all well within their lines. Thus a problem arose, the evacuation and interrogation of these dangers prisoners of war. By wire communication with the CP a volunteer patrol was made up by 1st Lieut. William K. Worley there in order to move to the Third Platoon area and evacuate the prisoner bag of that platoon. Initial contact was easily made but the removal of the prisoners over the same terrain by this patrol revealed the full extent of enemy penetration into the Third Platoon sector. (It was this action that prompted the Troop Commander to withdraw Headquarters and the Second Platoons). It became necessary to knock out two enemy machine gun positions, add one more prisoner of war to the bag of six and kill or wound six more enemy. Called for reinforcements came up from the Third Platoon during this operation and the patrol finally disengaged itself successfully and without casualty. In their forward outpost the remainder of the First Platoon had lost communications and contact could not be made although both the First Platoon and later in the day Headquarters and in the afternoon the Second Platoon with the Third Battalion 47th Infantry counterattacked vigorously toward theirs and the Third Platoon's positions.
However after darkness by 2300 the Third Platoon under Lieut. Richard E. Staley had successfully infiltrated through the enemy lines bringing two of their wounded with them, leaving one behind (Lieut. Staley being the last man out), having held out for 12 hours, capturing six prize prisoners of war and in many ways having saved the situation. Certainly their courageous resistance and ability to stand up under enemy fire after friendly contact was lost facilitated the displacement of the other platoons to their alternate defensive positions all of which also had occurred without a casualty.
By this time the Troop had been reinforced by the Third Battalion of the 47th Infantry which had counterattacked in the late afternoon and continued until dark in conjunction with the Second Platoon in endeavoring to clean the enemy out of the hedgerows near the CP and around the Third Platoon area in order to re-establish the forward outpost line. Finally observation posts were set up to the left of the CP extending north to the First Platoon's last armored car along the road facing the field where the action had just taken place against the same enemy who at dawn had boldly wadded through the Schwalm River through our positions on the west bank and almost succeeded in cutting off two platoons. The Third Platoon was therefore not in the Troop line that night. In the center of the line was the Second Platoon and in front of the CP, Headquarters Platoon. It is well to point out here that while there had been a main line of resistance back of the Troop's positions, this had ended behind the First Platoon and had not extended as far north as the Third Platoon area. Right now as the Troop was extended along this road where it remained for the next two days it was filling in this same gap in the main line of resistance -- a gap of some 1000 yards. The following day the 47th Regiment of the 9th dug in also on our left. That night the troop remained under heavy fire. The radio in the Second Platoon armored car was knocked out but the operator stayed on his set. Communications and liaison of the 99th Reconnaissance Troop remained superior.
Taking stock at this time of the events that had transpired and against the background of the bigger theater of action around them, we find that Recon in its forward outpost position had more than served its purpose. That one flare that pierced the dark wintery sky had fulfilled Recon's objective to seek, see and report. They had gone beyond this and they had captured a compliment of 10 prisoners which gave lie to enemy operations on a broad scale and including six paratroopers, who once in contact with their other forces might have been extremely dangerous. An entire Troop of four platoons had extricated itself from an extremely critical predicament with admirable individual resourcefulness and timing. Within their ranks examples of heroism and devotion to duty had been born that the entire Division was later to pay tribute to. They had with their Third Platoon held a numerically superior enemy at bay and disengaged themselves efficiently to the extent that the enemy in the following two days was reluctant to attack the main line of resistance of which Recon was now a part. They killed an estimated 50 of the enemy. Their communications and liaison had been excelled only by the courage and dexterity with which they fulfilled its demands and orders.
On Dec. 24 at about 2400 the entire Troop in vehicles moved through the snowy six miles to Hofen. Here they joined the Third Battalion of the 395th Infantry Regiment in attachment for the perimeter defense of Hofen. They moved into a creamery and accompanying houses. Their lines were drawn along the southwest of Hofen facing back toward their former positions at Kalterherberg and flanking the Hofen woods where large elements of the 277th Volksgrenadier Division were still known to be bivouacked. At 0430 on Christmas Day a bridge and observation post to their front was reported captured by the enemy. With a squad of infantry and two armored vehicles they advanced to reconnoiter the position. Behind a screen of their own fire bracketed on and between two houses on the north bank of the creek they moved in on the positions. Artillery had already done its work and while earlier our infantry observation post had apparently lost its toehold here the enemy had also already withdrawn leaving behind one casualty who had been attempting demolition of the bridge, this telltale equipment laying scattered around him.
Although at Hofen the Troop was still as much as ever on the front, action had finally subsided. True, the CP was bombed the evening of New Year's Day, every day contact patrols went through to the Second Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Division, on their left flank, to the rear and south of Hofen, and guard was never worse or colder or conditions more difficult. Yet a new phase of the battle in defense of Elsenborn and the Ardennes campaign had begun. The 277th Volksgrenadier Division of the German Wermacht had withdrawn along a line to the front of our divisions in a heavily wooded area and was making capital of all plateaus and elevated areas. They had apparently at some earlier date well studied this region for the defense and were using self-propelled artillery to good advantage on their elevated areas of observation, being at all times screened by wooded fronts. Their activity according to all available information was chiefly harassing and their objective strictly defensive as formerly of the Siegfried Line in the Sonntagshugel sector. They were during this period reinforced by some new units, seven companies, one battalion and the 89th Volksgrenadier Division of the German Wermacht. Their armament was being replenished with individual automatic weapons; burp guns, machine guns and machine pistols for the defense of this heavily wooded area between Wirtzfeld and Alsen.
Before we study how the 99th Reconnaissance Troop fitted into this new phase of activity, let us appraise the action just terminated. Here the outfit that the 99th Reconnaissance Troop had either relieved or filled in for had done some vital fighting. It is only right that some of the merit for this should reflect back upon the outfit whose presence in the line made it possible. This fighting outfit was the Second Battalion 395th Infantry Regiment less Companies E and F which were replaced by elements of the Second Infantry. The Second Infantry in turn had the 99th Reconnaissance Troop in attachment to it in place of its two companies attached to the Second Battalion 395th Infantry, which in turn had been displaced in the line by the Recon. This same battalion coming out of reserve made the northernmost thrust into the Siegfried Line contacting the 38th Infantry, Second Division on the left flank even after the German offensive had already begun. Dec. 16th, two days later at Rocherath, it defended its position against vicious infantry attacks at dawn supplemented by enemy armor thrusts to its right flank. Having performed its functions it withdrew to the straggler line at Elsenborn and withstood two more attacks before the intense enemy action subsided. Recon had played a vital part in the Bulge both tactically and physically.
Jan. 3, 1945 the Third Platoon of Recon went out on a patrol with the Second Battalion, 47th Infantry to recover lost equipment and reconnoiter the area of the battle of Dec. 22, 1944 into which they had previously so unsuccessfully counterattacked. On this patrol an attached medic of the 99th Reconnaissance Troop again performed heroically under intense artillery fire and saved more lives while the patrol itself reached the objective. On the 30th of Dec. a similar patrol had gone out with the Third Platoon as an integral part. From the third of January to the 14th, 24 men from Recon were attached to Second Battalion 395th for observation post work on their front line. From the 11th to the 16th heavy mortar and artillery fire fell around the Troop CP. On the 15th the motor maintenance section was moved for safety's sake to the rear to Fouir, Belgium. The Third Platoon on the 15th of January was relieved of attachment to the 9th Division which it had been in since Dec. 21st. And on the 17th went into position at Sourbrodt, Belgium for the 99th Division forward Command Post as a defense platoon. On the 27th of January through deeply rutted roads heavy with snow the Troop traveled 14 miles due west to close in on Sourbrodt, Belgium. Here the First Platoon had relieved the Third as defense platoon for the Division forward Command Post, two days earlier, January 25th. The following day or so motor maintenance had rejoined the Troop moving some seven miles southeast to Sourbrodt were the Troop went into bivouac in engineer dugouts. Once again it was Recon on reserve! All Recon was now once again in attachment to the Checkerboard Division.
The fifth of February, rejoined by its First Platoon just relieved of attachment as defense platoon to the Division forward Command Post, the entire Troop moved a cold, rainy 19 miles into Honsfeld. Here they watched the 82nd Airborne displace. The entire 99th had now been in attachment to XVIII Corps for three days during his transfer and displacement. They now reverted back to V Corps again. With this move began a new battle: the defense of Hollerath, Udenbreth, Losheim sector, Germany. Here for a week the three infantry regiments broke into the outer ring of Siegfried defenses along the sector, while Recon still in reserve reorganized and conducted a few classes for specialist personnel. The 69th Infantry, first to contact Russia before V-E Day in the now famous "East Meets West" saga, relieved the 99th on the 13th. This same day the Recon Troop moved back to the west to Montenau, Belgium. Near here the entire Division conducted reorganization and rehabilitation for about a week and then on the 20th through rain and mud on a five-hour, 25 mile jaunt into Aubel, Belgium -- not very far from St. Jean Sart from where the Recon had originally entered into the campaigns of the Ardennes and the Rhineland, one of which was now successfully terminated.
This constituted the first real rest that the 99th Division had in four full months of the severest fighting. They were now in First Army reserve there to stay for about 10 days of intensive reorganization and rehabilitation which included test firing, motor maintenance, an inspection by the General, and adjustment of personnel. The same time the Division passed from the V Corps into control of Maj. Gen. Joseph (Lightning Joe) Lawton Collins' VII Corps. Task Force X was made up of Recon Company and Headquarters and Headquarters Co., 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Co. D., 786th Tank Battalion and 99th Recon. It was to be commanded by the Commanding Officer of the 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Instructions were issued on non fraternization with German civilians. All was about to be in readiness for big things to come.
Task Force X had been formed, instructions on non fraternization had been given, the latter were used, the former was not. In its place Task Force Lueders on March 4 more than amply "filled in". Moving in from Aubel, 60 miles eastward through the smashed ruins of Aix la Chapelle or Aachen and through Duren, Recon arrived in Elsdorf, Germany March 1st on a parallel with Julich and Cologne, in attachment to the 393rd, first for movement then for operations. These began that same night at 2400. The 393rd Infantry Regiment moved out northeast to cross the Erft Canal at Glesch. Their Command Post was bombed and strafed that night and flares were dropped on Recon's bivouac area. Recon followed northeast on the heels of the doughs and in the vicinity of Bedburg, Germany, recently captured by the 125th Cavalry, went into attachment with Third Battalion 393rd Infantry Regiment along with two platoons of Co. A, 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion and two platoons of Co. A 786th Tank Battalion with the mission of maintaining contact with the 4th Cavalry Group to the north and the 394th Infantry Regiment (moving on a parallel to it on the north) and the 393rd Infantry Regiment (moving on a parallel to it on the south and toward Dusseldorf) and acting as rear security. Working with the Antitank Co. 393rd Infantry attached, Bucholz was taken late that evening. A Mark IV tank with 88 was knocked out by the Antitank Co. and Recon billeted the night in the Bucholz schoolhouse. The platoons were in outposts forming a triangle about the town: the First being on the road approach in the southern end of town with observation posts; the Second to the east towards Delrath on the roadside of Grammershaven in a field with two large haystacks overlooking Bucholz while the Third was on the outskirts of Grammershaven, northward and Rhineward. Here the Third was attacked "hit and run" by tank but that day they took Grammershaven and the Second Platoon the accompanying town -- bag 10 PW's in all. Neurath, Allrath and Barrenstein fell in short order to either the Infantry Regimental Combat Team bringing up the rear or the Recon guarding the front. By the afternoon of the third the Infantry Regimental Combat Team had moved still further north eastward and eastward opening out prongs toward Delrath and Dusseldorf.
The night of the third found Recon in Neurath having captured 10 PW's in the farm district of Grammershaven as already noted. March 4th Task Force Lueders as a part of the 393rd Infantry Combat Team spearheaded out from its IP at 0800 and in three hours had accomplished its mission. Three towns were captured and cleared: Hoisten, Norf, Derikum in that order, three enemy half tracks, three 88's, a supply point, one ammunition dump and 2000 or so small arms plus 140 prisoners (the equal of the total personnel in Recon) were all captured under command of Capt. Lueders of Recon Troop. The Task Force was made up of: F Co. 393rd Infantry, D Co. 786th Tank Battalion and a platoon of A Co. 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Four hours before it started in on its mission, the Third Armored in embattled Cologne under Gen. Maurice Rose, later killed in action, had smashed through to a contact point on the west bank of the Rhine River. The more conservative infantry of the 99th chose instead to make Task Force Lueders spearhead within 1000 yards of the Rhine, then capitalized. By the following day they had secured the entire west bank on a five-mile front from south of Dusseldorf with the exception of Delrath. This town, which the Germans were using as a bridgehead for their escape fell shortly after midnight of the 5th. By this time Recon had spent the night of the 4th in Spech, and had cleared it and 15 other towns assembling at Gubbisrath on the night of the 5th, situated between the towns of Gohr and Neukirchen. The following day Recon cleared the towns of Okoven, Uckinghaven, Dellan and Rommerskirchen to their rear. Artillery was "coming in", but "going on over" the first night and an air raid had taken place along the road before the troop, having fully reconnoitered the area, pulled out.
On the ninth of March Recon traveled 59 miles south to the vicinity of Rheinbach west of Bonn to the town of Stadt Mechenheim into 9th Armored territory. The following day the infantry elements of the 99th started to move over the ill-fated Ludendorf Bridge and started pushing on the southern flank of the slowly expanding bridgehead. On the east bank of the Rhine also were the spearheading 9th Armored, and on the other flank, the Lightning Division, the 78th, and the 9th Infantry just north of the 99th, also very elements of 4 Panzer Divisions, 4 Volksgrenadier Divisions, three anti-aircraft battalions and three other units of the German Wermacht. In command of this motley mass of Nazi power was the so-called "crack Nazi division of the Western front", the 11th Panzer. By the 11th the infantry had pushed this mass about two kilometers east. On the 12th as Recon pushed 16 miles through Ahrlweiler to Erpel, across the slowly crumbling Ludendorf Bridge into Linz, the 99th went over the east Rhine ridge out of the valley into the clear. The next day at dawn the enemy counterattacked at Ginsterhahn and Honningen with tanks and infantry fully confident they could "pincer" the Americans from the southern and northern tips off the commanding ground. That their confidence was not without some basis in fact was the 15 minute alert and Task Force of: 99th Reconnaissance Troop, Co. C. 324th Engineers Battalion and a Co. of light tanks of 766th Tank Battalion and an assault gun section, that Recon went into as of noon that day. And 1500 that afternoon Linz was struck with antipersonnel bombs and the Recon CP and adjoining billets were damaged. Recon remained on a 15 minute alert until the 15th when the infantry moved another two kilometers southeast and turned back into Honningen from the north which was still held by the enemy. Honningen was at the northern extremity on the riverbank of the bridgehead. Recon then went on a one-hour alert. It had changed over to the III Corps from the VII the day previous. The tactical situation had changed.
By the 17th Honningan had fallen and Weissfeld, which protected a road junction leading to the autobahn in the center of the Division zone, was also captured. The Division now drove to the ridges overlooking the Weid River against stiff but regionalized enemy defenses. During all this time, the CP had been bombed and strafed several times more: on the 14th at 1600, on the 18th at 1630, and once again at night by jet propelled DY262's. The Ludendorf Bridge had collapsed, having become tired of being the object of so much attention, and on March 17th hurtled into the Rhine, which it had helped to capture, with a score of engineers, partners in its tragic demise. However, by this time several engineer pontoon bridges were already across and the Germans had lost well over a hundred airplanes in a useless attempt to kill a bridge already dying of old age and defunctness.
Men who remember the Bulge for its deep snow, withering cold and the cynicism of its Christmas like pine forests deep in death and horror and suspense, will remember Remagen for its big barrage balloons floating in the deceit of a smiling spring sky from which night and day sped the roar of airborne Nazi death merchants, for its big blue searchlights at night blazing by the bridges under construction, and its rolling plains and wooded hills and slow streams and fine road work into Germany beyond. By the 16th all the 99th had celebrated by movies and showers; for the Troop, also hikes over the ridge that had taken five days for the doughboys to climb bullet by bullet and man by man. On the 22nd, the Recon Troop moved the three miles between the Linz -- Erpel -- Remagen Bridgehead and the front to Steinhardt. This was done under observation of enemy artillery without mishap. Here they displaced the First Battalion of the 395th Infantry on a Battalion front. Once again as on the 11th of December when Recon had displaced the Second Battalion of the same regiment, the 99th Cavalrymen were back in the "hot seat" of a pincer hinge. Once again the tactical situation was much the same: the 99th was attacking to the right; the 9th coming in off the left flank. Once again an important objective ahead -- the Weid River. Once again there might be "action ahead" if anything misfired; Recon was again in the neck of the secondary funnel. There were three big differences. This time Recon was in observation posts instead of dug in on an extended front. This time there was nothing back of Recon but the artillery, Linz, Remagen and the Rhine. This time the American drive clicked and while the sound of battle can be heard during the attack between midnight and 0300 all around Recon Observation Posts, no enemy contacted the Cavalrymen. On the 23rd Gen. Hodges had his three Corps over the Rhine; General Patton's men in the form of the Fifth Division crossed at Oppenheim midway between Mainz and Worms followed by the Abrams end of the Cohen - Abrams partnership -- Lt. Col. Creighton Abrams of the Fourth Armored. In the north, huge airborne operations and smokescreens secured the east bank of the Rhine for Field Marshall Montgomery's forces -- the 9th U.S. and the 2nd British. Close on the heels of the slogging, slugging "Battle Babies" came the Reconners into Waldbreitbach, transferred from attachment to the First Battalion 395th to attachment with the 393rd. At 1600 they had covered the eight miles to the south and east. Here they became the first motor convoy across the Weid, fording it at around 1630. The Regiment, being relieved, moved out of the smoking smashed town and jumped off again in the same southern route on a 4800 yard front at midnight, still attacking parallel to the Rhine well down now past Honningen which was to the west. Recon held on here protecting the bridgehead, running the town for military government in maintaining Observation Posts: the First being at the main treadway bridge into town and at the fields on the main approaches to its capture. The Second was clear out on the other end of town on the main road eastward to Kurtscheid and on the second bridge across the Weid. The Third was flanking the town on both sides: on the other side of the river near the ack-ack and armored outfits and near the church and hospital on the high ground overlooking the town. This lasted but for a scant 26 hours. Again they were called out to go into the jaws of a pincer attack to hold the fulcrum fast. Going into attachment to the 395th Infantry Second Battalion instead of the 393rd Regiment they moved up to Breischeid displacing the battalion there and holding the town. Again the attack succeeded, with Recon protecting the regimental left flank. On the left was the 9th Infantry and scattered armor. From this point in the spreading fan of attack parallel to the Bendorf -- Giessen line the 7th Armored is jumping off for its spearhead into Wetzlar and Giessen where a junction was made with the 3rd Army forming the more easterly of two pockets, (the other one being formed by a similar junction further south and west by the First Army's 9th Armored and the 3rd Army near Wiesbaden). From here Recon took up its leisurely way in the vanguard of equipment breaking out of the bridgehead into the Ruhr Valley. The traffic was so heavy and the tactical situation changing so fast that after an eight mile jaunt out of Waldbreitbach the Troop moved into Kurtscheid in a wooded bivouac area for two days and two nights. They moved in after four hours of bucking the traffic until after midnight. The "Long Toms" were still close by. By that time on the 27th theTroop had gone into non-tactical assignment with First Battalion 394th Infantry for reconnaissance and patrol work. As far as Langendernbach, 40 miles off, only Ordinance Third and Fourth Echelon maintenance and Corps vehicles remained in the vicinity. Screening up to five miles in advance of the regiment netted the Troop 22 prisoners of war that afternoon, taken in Willmenrod, before the Troop closed into the CP around 1800. Several firefights occurred in the woods flanking the main highways but Recon did not get involved. Earlier that day Recon had hit the Reichs Autobahn amidst supporting armor and its vanguard of supply which the "Battle Babies" had made possible over ten days previous at Weissfeld. Along this road were thousands of prisoners of war including the now famous "Foxhole Sally". Clearly conditions were very fluid as the Allied breakthrough was being accomplished by an enemy breakdown. That night D Co., 786th Tank Battalion moved into Langendernbach to prepare for attachment. Their night guard encountered three snipers. Both outfits manned the town that night.
With D Co. 786th Tank Battalion attached on the morning of the 28th of March Recon was still leading the Division in the wake of the armor and cleaning out the area as far as Neustadt of prisoners, weapons and military supplies. While many prisoners of war were taken and several supply dumps found as well as small arms and a large motor park they were all either destroyed on the spot or turned over to the Division forces coming up to the rear. Therefore, no official credits for a job well done were available. That night at 1600 a light tank was knocked out by SS men armed with panzer fausts operating in the town of Wetzlar as partisans. Heavy sniping was encountered along the river and road leading to the town. The Third Platoon at this time was on the left flank already in a firefight in the town of Altenberg without casualty. The Lahns River on its southern bank had proven to be the focal point for snipers harassing the Troop's progress into Wetzlar. It was on this road that the Troop rescued one of the Division G-3 Staff who had been pinned down for over three hours. The withdrawal of the Troop and attached light tank company from Wetzlar was accompanied by more sniping, this time from the town itself -- civilians. This amounted to about the last time the German populace ever attempted to carry out Der Fuehrer's orders to strike back in the "lesson Russia taught us" -- partisanship. The Second Platoon all this time remained on the northeast side of town amidst the 7th Armored rear elements on the main highway north to Giessen, capturing 30 or more prisoners of war in a factory for the 7th Armored.
The day following in attachment to the 393rd Infantry the Troop moved ahead of the Division and behind the fast spreading fingers of armor, 20 miles to Blasbach (actually 30 miles recovered in road reconnaissance) 44 prisoners of war from a flak outfit, an assembly factory, part of the Nazi "putting out" production system were all bagged. While D Company 786th Tank Battalion moved up to the south eastern end of town, the Third Platoon of the 99th Reconnaissance Troop took over on Observation Post a mile and a half northwest of the town near a woods. Here at 2100 enemy activity was observed with an enemy officer wounded in the jaw and taken prisoner. That same night, the Troop reverted back to divisional control and moved eight miles east to Krofdorf the following morning early through rain and hail. With the light tank Co. D of the 786th Tank Battalion in attachment again the Troop moved to the northeast again operating as reconnaissance patrol according to the training formulas. Its mission was to reconnoiter to the division area in the vicinity of Rosenthal and Gemunden. Liaison was maintained between the 7th Armored moving further north toward Kassel, the Third Corps to the east toward Fulda, and the 7th to the west toward Siegen. Recon was now headed to the North Sea, but in front bordered by Dortmund -- Essen -- Siegen lay the famous Ruhr Pocket. In here were trapped 400,000 Nazi troops, the industrial strength of the Western Front, with AA men and Luftwaffe fighting as embattled infantry. The Recons closed in at Rosenthal after 36.5 miles of reconnaissance on March 31st plus 1 prisoner of war the Germans were already minus. Here for five days each platoon conducted by turns security patrols daily to the west in reconnaissance of the tactical situation of both our troops and the enemy. Meanwhile the Division order changed. It was no longer enroute to Berlin or the Red Army. It moved west to Schwarzenau, 20 miles from the Gemunden area and lined up for a drive jointly with the 8th and 9th Divisions into the Ruhr Pocket toward Dortmund.
On April fourth the Division jumped off again on a new mission -- the most costly the German army was ever engaged in. At 0615 in advance of the Division, 99th Recon moved out and entered the town of Berleburg in advance of the Division itself. Here outposts of the 9th Infantry were relieved by the Troop and the 8th Division contacted to the south. All civilians were screened and all movement by them out of the pocket arrested. On the fifth toward the 8th Division zone to our rear the Troop reconnoitered an area in the vicinity of Raumland and Schwarzenau. The result: five more prisoners of war.
By the following day, April 6 the Troop still on the extreme left flank moved to Wingeshausen about a kilometer to the rear of where enemy tanks, P-38's and the 393rd Regiment doughs were tangling. All around this area were heavily wooded hills and fast running mountain streams. By this time the Third Infantry Division had fanned out from the vicinity of Schwarzenau -- Berleburg into an immense arc moving west away from Berlin and gravitating toward Dortmund in the north. Here between Gliesbrucecke and Wingeshausen the pocketed divisions of Germans were staging what proved to be virtually their last consolidated effort to stave off annihilation of their united resources of petrol. The fighting became slow and tedious for the next four days. By the 6th of April 2,039 prisoners of war had been already taken. On the 7th the Platoons went on road reconnaissance in the area of Wingeshausen, Berghausen, Raumland, Hemschlar, Scharider and Ane. The First Platoon captured one prisoner of war and killed one enemy in a short fire fight. At 0900 the following day the Troop lost contact with the 8th Division which had moved further southwest but kept liaison to the 393rd. On the 9th, Oberhunden, Berkefehl, Berkelbach were screened to the south. This was definitely a battle fought in the objective of men not land. Once the defending force could be engaged and demoralized and its short handedness in equipment short-circuited then the entire rich land and productivity of the Ruhr and its industry would be officially in Allied hands. The Germans within the pocket had lost contact with their main armies which were slowly splitting north and south on the western front.
April 10th found the Troop 10 miles further northwest on the road to Plettenburg and billeted in Gliesbrucecke. Immediately they established liaison with 86th Division which had joined into the fanning out of forces, north of the 8th Division and south of the 393rd and 395th Regiments. The First Platoon with two sections secured Altenhunden and the Platoons setup checkpoints on the road net and screened the areas in the vicinity of Fleckenberg, Saalhausen, Wurdinghausen, Bracht, Brenschede, Werntrop, Weggen, Burbecke, Halbesbrackt for the next two days. Contact with the 86th Division was lost at 1300 on the 11th.
April 12th, keeping pace with the infantry advance of nearly five miles a day, Recon moved 10 miles through rolling plains and farmland into Deutmecke near Plettenburg. The liaison mission remained the same as on the 11th. Neubruck, Ostentrop, Fretter, Oberelspe, Barbeck, Laringe, Maumke and Grevenbruck areas were screened. By this time armor and artillery were beginning a mad chase to close off the pocket. On the 13th Recon moved to Altenhoffen over a winding hilly 25 kilometers of road. Thirteen prisoners of war was that day's bag. With D Co. 786th Tank Battalion attached the next day, the 14th, found Recon moving through sporadic enemy artillery fire into Leveringhausen. Road blocks were set up by the Second and Third Platoons to the front and covered the road ahead from Observation Posts some 400 -- 500 yards apart. Small SS bands had been checking our tanks' progress. The Troop mission was liaison between the 393rd and 395th Infantry Regiments. Thirteen prisoners of war were the days bag. Continuing on the next day through heavy enemy artillery fire the 3 1/2 miles to Ihmert near Iserlohn were completed in about three hours. Recon reached Ihmert in advance of the infantry almost losing a couple of jeeps to direct fire in the bargain. The next day the Division Command Post arrived. The Ruhr pocket was almost at an end. That night the prisoner of war bag was 114 men three officers and one good SS guard dog (now a member of Recon Troop known as Sgt. Nero). By nightfall on the 15th Iserlohn fell. The Platoons went out the following day detached to the Provost Marshal to guard some of the 21,089 prisoners of war who surrendered with 8 of their Generals and one Admiral who belonged to nobody. The prisoner bag for the rear elements of the Troop was only 55 soldiers, 50 vehicles and assorted engineer, ordnance and signal equipment on the 16th. A prelude to V-E Day had arrived but not for long.
On the 17th the Troop was relieved of its attachment to the 99th Division Provost Marshal and returned to the Command Post Area to prepare for the 318 mile trip to Tretzendorf in the vicinity of Bamberg to fulfill a new mission and to get ready for attachment to the Third Corps of the Third Army on April 19th. That day of preparation netted 97 prisoners of war.
The 18th, and until early morning the 19th, were consumed in convoy en route. The convoy was strafed the night of the 18th and closed on Tretzendorf through the morning hours up until 0730 without casualty. After rehabilitation of vehicles, on the 21st in attachment to the 394th Infantry Regiment since 24 hours before Recon shoved off through the rain and sleet. It was forced to circumvent one roadblock but screened 32 miles through Puschendorf, Roth, Wendelstein, Schwand. It stopped in Schwand in a cloud burst and set Observation Posts up around the town in a tactical perimeter. Four prisoners of war were taken en route; four more and two officers were taken during Observation Post work the next day. With the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoons of 394th Infantry attached at 1500 since the 22nd of April 1945, and on the 23rd delivering a prisoner of war bag of three, the Troop moved into bivouac area at Guggen-Muhl six miles away. From here, Apr. 24th, it lost its attachment to the 394th and its attached elements from the same Regiment and moved out, a Platoon per infantry battalion, keeping liaison with the 32nd Cavalry and 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 394th.The Troop followed the front to Sulzkirchen 17 miles on that day. From Sulzkirchen to Schweigersdorf, 15 miles, Recon moved alone to recontact the infantry which was putting up a stiff battle of it to cross the Ludwig Canal and Altmuhl River west of Bellingries.
SS troops had been congregating into this area north and east of the river and were taking advantage of commanding ground, timing, and surprise tactics to battle through one night and waste another day in counterattacks. Once this northern flank and river block was pierced on the 26th of April, the Troop moved up as on the 24th doing screening and liaison work capturing seven prisoners of war and covering 21 of the 25 miles to the Danube. By nightfall spearheads and infantry combat teams were operating five miles further up on the west bank of the Danube. After moving through a strafed area and over makeshift roads dug into muddy fields and bypassing a roadblock, Recon billeted the night in Tettenwang were it was strafed that next morning. The First Platoon in attachment to the 395th Infantry reached Kelheim under heavy rocket, mortar and enemy artillery fire. They, along with the Second screening to their rear and the First doing liaison for 393rd withdrew to a Command Post a kilometer rear at Arresting later. Then Headquarters following them moved up to the Danube at Arresting, continuing its same mission there. Fourteen prisoners of war were captured and the bitter battle for Eining on the east bank could with some insecurity be watched. The next day the 99th advanced four miles; then 20 the following day and the breakaway was on to the Isar. 1054 prisoners of war had been taken by the Division, 34 by Recon.
On the 29th of April 68 miles was ripped off between Arresting down to Ingolstadt for a crossing of the Danube than up north to Eschenloe, a little farm town. Thirty-seven prisoners of war were taken while the Troop was acting out its mission of security to the left rear flank of the 393rd Infantry.
30 April found the Troop capturing 95 prisoners of war moving in from the left or south side along the Isar River which was in progress of being crossed against what had proved to be heavy artillery concentrations on the approaches to Landshut and lower down at Moosburg. That night while screening the rear of the 393rd and billeted at Pfettrach, Recon ran into a concentration of SS in a nearby woods. Both tanks and infantry jumped off against this concealed pocket the next day at 0800. Recon itself got 95 prisoners of war and secured communications thereby to the Landshut bridgehead.
May 1st Recon crossed the treadway bridge at Landshut within minutes of its completion, drove through the infantry within five or six miles outside of Landshut and spearheaded to the front as part of Task Force Cummings: 99th Recon; a platoon apiece of Companies A of the 786th Tank Battalion and the 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion; Co. L 393rd Infantry ; Co. A 90th Chemical Battalion and a platoon of combat engineers from A Co. 324th Engineer Battalion. The Task Force spearheaded by Recon and in command of Lt. Col. Cummings, 393rd Regiment captured one bridge intact and traveled 15 miles through blustering snow and hail to where blown bridges near Vilsbiburg southeast called for a stop and night billets. Twenty-four prisoners of war were the reward of the drive. Traffic at times was congested due to pockets of resistance and blown bridges and the presence of the 14th Armored in the same approximate vicinity. Thus holding up at the Vils River, Recon put out Observation Posts to guard the town. The First Platoon was set up to the rear toward Rebensdorf on the approaches to the town. All night the Second Platoon stood guard on the bridges while the combat engineers repaired them in time to get the Third Platoon over at midnight. The next day zone reconnaissance was made to a line including Geiselbartz, Rolt, Henkeda, Augenthal and Wolfburg. The Task Force had broken into several small fingers probing ahead and now included another Infantry Company and D Co. 786th Tank Battalion. The prisoner bag was 217 including two general officers and two colonels of the Hungarian Army, 75 other officers and the Nazi W.A.C., and ten motor vehicles. One enemy killed was the result of a small skirmish with the Second Platoon of Recon. The 30 mile return trip to Rebensdorf was made without mishap. It 1730 that same day Recon reverted to divisional control. The order to "cease-fire" and return to vicinity of Geisenhausen had found Recon still charging "ever forward" and just south of Pilsen and Prague.
May 4th brought in eight prisoners of war screened from four traffic control points at Geisenhausen. May 5th duplicated the prisoner of war bag. May 6th brought V-E Day one day closer and still found Recon billeted near Geisenhausen. May 7th; seven prisoners of war and still no word of peace, only rumors. Then on May 8th it happened. Nothing much to a soldier but to the world V-E Day "Victory in Europe". The 10th the Troop moved to Repperndorf 191 miles away to the west and north on a vertical parallel to Kassel, Hanover, Fulda. It lay not too far from the strafed ride to Bamberg. May 13th brought organized athletics, guard, orientation, lectures, and the old soldiers club of "wish" stories opened for business. Beer became plentiful and on the 18th of May 11 suspicious werewolves were rounded up for inspection. 20 May, still in Repperndorf at midnight, the Troop went into attachment to Division Artillery. Movies were getting monotonous. The 21st of May found two more suspicious characters screened and sent on to the proper authorities. On May 22nd four more pesty Nazi characters were screened and one woman civilian caught stealing our equipment. The Third Platoon on May 23rd moved to Gerolzhofen over 20 miles of peaceful, scenic farmland and prepared to take over a prisoner of war camp there. The 24th brought to whole Troop together again at Gerolzhofen. At Teilitzheim five miles away another prisoner of war compound was being put in readiness. This meant work for two Platoons in the compounds at a time with Headquarters functioning at the motor pool and CP. It soon became evident that the policy of two on and one off on which the Troop was operating its weekly guard tours at the compounds had even a bigger meaning. Men began to come to the Troop from the Second Infantry Division, the 84th Division, the Fourth and everywhere that had cavalry and men with points to spare. Slowly Recon started to feel the affects. Capt. Lueders moved on to Division G-2 and bigger and better things. Lieut. Worley took the Troop. Men began to leave in bigger and bigger numbers. As they "jumped off", this time one by one, always spearheading their thoughts will be those days in which suffering or smiling at each others faults, drinking or driving, fighting or forgetting, training or trudging it alone in the rear to evac hospitals, repple-depples, or more P-O-E's, they came to learn what "ever forward" really meant to a small unit. Now the unit is even smaller, more compact. It is an individual soldier. But he will always carry something bigger with him because it cannot be left behind -- the spirit of the 99th Recon. It goes with him as he goes "ever forward". There has been a lot left to add and a lot further to go. But to this day no man has been with the 99th Recon and not gone a little, if ever so little "forward ".
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