Pushing out from the Saar Bridgehead
After the 301st and 302nd expanded their bridgehead on February 24th the Armor from the 778th tank battalion and other vehicles started ferrying across the Saar. Now that the Americans were firmly across the river they could concentrate on clearing the area east of the river and advancing towards the Rhine River, which was 80 miles away. The 1258th Engineer Combat battalion was attached to the 94th and relieved the 3rd battalion 101st, Infantry which reverted back to XX Corps. That same morning the 3rd battalion made a coordinated attack to seize the high ground near Serrig. After meeting stiff enemy resistance in the pillboxes and strong points in the woods near Beurig. After outflanking the pillboxes the battalion managed to secure the high ground by late afternoon. At noon the CO of the 301st Colonel Hagerty ferried across the river and took command of all troops in the Serrig area. The next two days the regiments occupied the high ground surrounding the bridgehead, and put up a second treadway bridge at Stadt. Once the bridge was finished the Combat Command B of the 10th Armored rolled across the bridge and moved north Towards Trier. The Americans pushed outwards taking the towns of Beurig and Irsch. On the 25th Company A of the 1st Battalion, 301st came under attack from the 506th SS Panzer Grenadiers. This was the first time the division had fought against SS Troops. The Germans penetrated to within 75 yards of the front lines before they were halted. After this attack the Americans refortified their positions. By now the Division had established a bridgehead 11,000 yards wide by 5000 yards deep, and the towns of Saarhausen and Lampaden were taken. The next objective for the regiments was to take the surrounding hills. After a few days and some minor battles the hills were secured. After securing the Hills all the pillboxes on them were destroyed by the 319th engineers using explosives and enemy ammunition. From February 27, to March 3, 1945 the division captured 1719 prisoners.
After the debacle with getting the assault boats to the front line the 10th armored and the 376th managed to finally get in place at 2300 for their river assault. Stationed near Ayl the division and the attached 376th battalion were poised for a night crossing. Two separate crossings were imposed as to give the mission a greater chance of success. The men jumped into the boats and paddled furiously across the river. No sooner than when the boats reached the shore did the infantrymen jump off them and fan out in all directions the boats then returned across the river to pick up more men. The men didnít have to wait long for the enemy to open fire. Men from 3rd battalion approached one of the pillboxes; no sooner than they got within a 100ft it erupted in a hail of machine gun fire directed at the GIís. Enemy artillery shells soon came soaring in and exploded all around the men. As the shells fell all around, the assault squads began reducing pillboxes one after the other and gradually expanded the beachhead. Back at the Regimental Command post the regimental commander Colonel McClune came out to observe the crossing. No sooner he did than an intense mortar barrage fell all around his position. He was seriously wounded and when the barrage lifted evacuated. Lt. Colonel Anderson assumed command of the 376th and proceeded with the directing of the assault. By this time, more and more troops were ferried across the river and the Americans began to advance deeper into Ockfen the closest town. As the 2nd battalion moved through the town, they began searching the houses for Germans. Suddenly a strange rumbling was heard. Just as the dawn sky was breaking no less than sixteen enemy tanks with supporting infantry counterattacked the men in Ockfen. Bazooka teams went immediately into action firing at the tanks while the Germans fired back. The Panzers fired rounds point blank into the houses. Crashing wood, plaster, and concrete upon the GIís heads. After consulting the command 2nd battalion withdrew from the town. As they withdrew, the tanks roamed the streets firing at anything that moved. The Americans countered by calling artillery in on top of the town. The artillerymen fired hundreds of rounds of every caliber from 105ís to 240ís into the town. The shells smashed the houses and the literally blew the tanks and enemy troops into the air. After the barrage lifted the Americans advanced into the town again and easily rounded up 76 prisoners. Ockfen was secured so the Americans set their sites on the next objective the pillboxes just south of the town. These proved to be very troublesome and held up the advance of the 376th for two days. Not until the 10th armored crossed the bridges established at Taben and Stadt could the 376th take the pillboxes and move on.
By Febraury 25, 1945 the two bridgeheads were joined, permitting a heavy pontoon bridge to be put in at
Saarburg. The bridgehead was firmly
secured and XX Corps began moving large quantities of troops and material across
the river. Meanwhile, the 10th armored moved ahead toward Irsch. The tankers
with out their own infantry for support picked up a stray company of men from the 5th Ranger battalion
enroute. The column of Shermans then advanced towards the town. As they approached
Irsch they came to a roadblock. Blasting through it with cannon fire the Shermans started to
advance forward. No sooner than the tanks passed by the roadblock than a 88mm gun opened fire and knocked out one of the
Shermans. Enemy bazookas knocked out two more tanks and just as all this was going on a German
Tiger Tank moved up and fired into the column knocking out two light tanks farther back in the column. The Rangers seeing all this quickly detrucked and were ordered to clear the town. They soon cleared three roadblocks and chased the Tiger out of the town, as it did not wish to engage the Rangers unprotected. Soon the task force, which was named Riley after the Commanding Officer, moved into Irsch aided by the newly arrived 20th Armored Infantry Battalion. They began to clear the town one house at a time. After securing the town Task force Riley moved east and to relieve the rest of the 5th Rangers holding the town of Zerf. As they left Irsch another Tiger tank opened fire and destroyed several Shermans and Half-tracks. The force withdrew back into Irsch for the night. The next morning the task force once again headed out towards Zerf but with infantry leading the way. But, by this time the German tank had withdrawn during the night. As the column progressed an observation plane reported enemy positions of anti-tank guns ahead so the infantry outflanked them and captured the guns. Led by the infantry Task Force Riley finally entered Zerf on February 25th and secured the town relieving the 5th Rangers.
With heavy German opposition the Americans managed to take the area around Zerf and continually moved towards the objective of Trier. As the 10th Armored struggled against stiffened opposition towards Trier the rest of the 94th managed to move the rest of XX Corps across their bridgeheads at Taben and Stadt. As the 94th moved north to link up with the 10th Armored division and proceed towards Trier the Germans threw another division into the battle to stop them The 2 Gebirgs (mountain) division was sent in to defend Trier and stop the advance of the Americans. The 2nd Mountain under the command of Generalmajor Hans Degan was for the most part an Austrian unit originally formed from the 6th division of the Austrian army. It was made up of the 136th and 137th Infantry regiments and the 11th artillery regiment. It fought with distinction in Poland, Norway, and Finland before it was sent to Trier. Also assisting in the defense of Trier was the 212th Volksgrenadier division. To assist the Americans in the offensive was the 76th Infantry division. When the 76th attacked further north they drew the bulk of the 212th VG division away from Trier so that all that was remaining to defend it from the south were a few Volksturm battalions and some 88mm AA artillery batteries. The town was protected by the usual minefields and pillboxes which the GIís reduced as they advanced towards the city. Meanwhile, the 10th Armored divisionís CCB under the Command of lt. Col Richardson departed Zerf and advanced towards the Trier. Under a cover of darkness raced ahead through Irsch and advanced unopposed into the city itself. After finding one of the main bridges blown the task force moved quickly towards the sole remaining bridge across the Moselle River. The Americans completely surprised the Germans guarding it and quickly capture the bridge intact. Once the bridge was secured the rest of the 376th arrived to mop up the city. General Patton was thrilled at the report of Trier being taken. He sent out messages to Generals Bradley and Eisenhower gloating of his success.
Counterattack at Lampaden
Despite the capture of Trier the Germans were determined to resist. A hastily organized defense was thrown in front of the advancing third army. The 256th Volkgrenadier Division along with a couple of fortress battalions, reinforcement battalions, and rear area units were thrown into the defenses opposite the 94th. The balance of the 2 Gebirgs Divisionen (Mountain) had arrived from their recuperation in Denmark. The 2nd Mountain attacked on the morning of the 4 March against the under strength L Company 3rd Battalion, 301st. A reinforcement group was held in reserve in Zerf. AS the attack progressed and casualties mounted the reinforcements were filtered into the front lines as needed. This proved to be a very difficult way to enter combat. After a few Hours the Mountain troops managed to knock out Company Lís machine guns and Company Mís as well. By morning there was only one 60mm mortar left in the weapons company. At dawn four self-propelled assault guns moved up the hill where the companies had their positions. The GIís from 3rd platoon withdrew and the tanks roamed the hill firing at will. Two Tank destroyers from the 778th TD battalion engaged the SP guns, but they were not equipped with night sights and had to disengage. The battle raged as the mountain troops followed the SP guns up the hill. The Americans countered with artillery fire and broke up the attack. Meanwhile the 376th Infantry regiment was returned to the 94thís control after its attachment to the 10th Armored division for 12 days. General Malony immediately sent them into division reserve along with the 5th ranger battalion. The 94th had been fighting on the line non-stop for 51 days and was in need of a rest and refit. Back in Division plans were made for relief of the troops from the bridgehead. The 65th was scheduled to relieve the 26th Infantry in the south and the 26th was scheduled to relieve the 94th on the 6, 7, and 8th of March. The plan was to move the 94th into Luxembourg for a rest the 778th was to remain with the 26th and the 774th TD and 465th AA battalions were accompany the 94th. But the Germans had other plans for the 94th. On March 3rd Generalmajor Hahn, commanding officer of the LXXXII Corps was assigned the 6th SS Gebirgs Division ĒNORDĒ. This mountain division was under the command of Gruppenfuhrer Brenner and was composed of two Infantry Regiments, and Artillery regiment, one TD battalion and various support units. The division strength was at approximately 3000 men. These troops had about 3 years experience fighting the Russians in Finland before that country signed a peace treaty with the Russians in September. After the failed ďNORWINDĒ offensive in January the division was refitting in Bitche, Germany. General Hahn planned a coordinated attack on the bridgehead consisting of the remnants of the 256th Volksgrenadier Divisionen and the 2 Gebirgs Divisionen. The plan was to seize the high ground around the Zerf- Pellingen road and to seek out any isolated German units left in that area. The 6th SS was thoroughly trained in infiltration tactics which is based on the idea of approaching as close as possible to an objective under the cover of darkness, capturing isolated posts and moving up heavy weapons and then launching an attack at dawn. However the 94th had already been exposed to these tactics two months before by the 11th Panzer division along the Siegfried Switch. At 2300 hours the 6th SS moved from their assembly area and crossed the Ruwer River towards the American lines. 45 minutes later, the 2nd battalion, 12 SS Mountain Regiment closed up on Company G, 2nd Battalion , 302nd. The Germans infiltrated the outposts and captured them. Once it became apparent to the company they began withdrawing their outposts only to have some of them captured. Artillery rounds soon began crashing in on the area. The Germans slowly advanced up to the lines. Further south the 11th SS Mountain Regiment closed up to Company I just south of Lampaden AS they advanced the company withdrew itís outposts. Soon it was apparent that the attacking force was of considerable size. By 0130 the Germans were infiltrating all over the lines of the 302nd the password had been compromised and several GIís found themselves taken prisoner. At 0400 the rest of the Divisionís SS assault troops attacked with full force. The Germans managed to push back some American positions but failed on their attacks in other areas. The Assault on the town of Baldringen failed. To the north the 256th VG division had managed to push back the outposts of the 3rd Calvary Group but were repulsed when they came in contact with the concentrated fire of the group. The fight had gone out of many of the Germans and many willingly surrendered if given the opportunity. General Maloney after receiving reports of ďgood troops of a mountain divisionĒ attacking his positions decided to order forward the 376th from itís reserve. General Maloney also postponed the scheduled relief until things could get stabilized again. After the 376th joined in the battle the front stabilized and the men were relieved from their positions. Just when it look as if the Americans were going to a rest, events up north took place that would change everything. The First Army's 9th Armored Division managed to capture the Remagen Bridge intact. This made the effort for the Rhine a priority for General Patton, he cancelled all plans for the 94th and sent them off to the Rhine. The race was on.
The Race to Ludwigshaven
After the Battle of Lampaden ridge the 94th made preparations to join the XX Corps on the drive to the Rhine. The XX Corps along with the VII Corps under Maj. General Troy S. Middleton, and the XII Corps under the command of Maj. General Manton S. Eddy. All three Corps, which devised the entirety of the US Third Army, was directed to make a thrust towards the Rhine. The 94th, attached to the
12th Armored Division, moved forward. Loaded into trucks and on tops of tanks, they advanced. German resistance at this point was almost non-existent. With the exception of some isolated pockets, the Germans were too weak to mount a serious defense.
The 10th Armored raced towards the Nahe River and the 12 Armored with elements of the 94th were alongside. Quickly the objectives fell to the Corps advance: Schillingen, Hermskeil, Hinzburg, Zusch, Birkenfeld, and many, many others. Using searchlights to brighten the darkened sky the Americans advanced night and day. In between the racing corps the enemy had no time to form a firm defensive line. The 10th and 12 Armored rampaged through the enemyís scattered units and the 94th mopped up the remains. Then the 10th armored was diverted south to cut off the only escape route of the German units opposing the Seventh Army, while the 12th Armored and the 94th continued towards the Rhine. The 94th continued its advance towards the ĒPrizeĒ of Ludwigshaven. On the last days of the drive the 376th was passing beyond Carlsberg the regiment came under strafing attack by several Jet propelled ME-262ís and
slower piston driven aircraft. In an attempt to halt the advancing Americans the Germans launched several sorties of aircraft to bomb and strafe the Americans but the 465th AA Battalion were able to keep the planes at bay. The Americans continued their advance until they finally reached the outskirts of Ludwigshaven. Ludwigshaven was not to fall so easily to the e Americans.
The City had a prewar population of about 145,000 people, now all that remained of the city was the I.G. Farben Chemical plant and its defenders. The 9th Flak division defended the city and the Germans were able to repel any attacks by the 12h Armored division using their dual-purpose 88mm guns. After the 12th Armored tried unsuccessfully to attack the city, the 94th was called into action. 1st Battalion, 376th led the way but there initial attacks too were unsuccessful. Later General Malony created Task force Cheadle, which utilized the CCB of the 12th Armored and the 778th Tank Battalion to clear the town.
As the task force entered the city the Germans blew all the bridges and the way across the Rhine was halted. On March 23, 1945 General Malony sent the 301st to assist in the clearing of Ludwigshaven. Uncle Freddieís C Company led the way, advancing along the river towards the center of the City. The three companies of 1st battalion advanced through a maze of factories and warehouses. For protection each of the companies had a Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) section with them. The HMG sections consisted of the Browning 50 caliber and the water-cooled 30 caliber machine guns. The advance continued until dark, Company C encountered a German strongpoint at 2100 hrs and caught the unsuspecting Germans manning their positions. They quickly captured 25
prisoners and several heavy machine guns. The Battalion proceeded, Company A came under fire and contact with the other companies became impossible in the rubble and ruins. All through the night the sound of motorboats were heard as the Germans fled the city across the Rhine. At 0600 the men of 1st battalion, 301st resumed their advance. The last of the enemy defenders gone the companies moved ahead and linked up with the 376th. The rest of March 24th was spent mopping up snipers and securing the rest of the city by days end. During the drive to the Rhine the 94th Division with the 10th and 12th Armored divisions spearheaded the drive. They encountered elements of eighteen divisions, and captured large amounts of enemy supplies and material. The division took over Two hundred towns and captured over 13,400 prisoners before finally taking the key city of
Ludwigshaven. The 94th was relieved by the 3rd division and moved to the rear. The town of Baumholder was selected for the HQ elements of the division. The troops rolled into town around noon on March 25th. The rest of the division was to quarter in the smaller hamlets around Baumholder. The 301st was sent to Kirchen-bollenbach, the 302nd to Enzweiler, while the 376th, which was bringing up the rear closed up to Heimbach at 0545. The men of the 94th finally got a well-deserved rest the first since January 7th. But the rest would not be for long.