Bad Bergzabern


Abstract from the 125th Amored Engineer Battalion

First contact with the Siegfried Line in December 1944

On December 16 1944

the 62nd lnfantry and the first platoon of the engineers moved on to Wissembourg and took the city after a heavy artillery barrage. 

The city was strategically located near the German border and was naturally important, consequently, the l4th received a good write up in the newspapers back home. The ist platoon was then put into reserve and stayed in town while the other columns moved on toward the border. In the main part of the town, a canal was bridged, and a few days' rest was enjoyed by the men. While the first platoon was being held in reserve, the second platoon with the 25 Tanks, moved through the town and entered the town of Schweigtıofcn near the line. lt was here that their job was begun. Demolition charges ,were prepared and a crew of 22 men was pieked to blow a row of dragon's teeth to allow the passage of armor. The crew moved to Kapsweyer where lighting was still in progress. Only a few streets of the town were taken; riile and maclıine gun and rifle fire were received from the other end of the town, 'and the jerry artillery had them spotted. Refuge was sought in a house until the fire let up. At December I8, the demolition crew moved out to do the job, eaclı man carrying 50 pounds of TNT, and protected by one squad of Co "C",62nd lnfantry. The teeth were half a mile away and the going was tedious. En route, machinegun and artillery fire was entountered, and within sight of the objective, the party was halted and fired upon by a German sentry. This drew more artillery fire and the party was forced to evacuate the area after taking one prisoner. The attempt to assault the line was abandoned and the column returned to Schweighofen. However, the engineers returned daily to Kapsweyer to flush out snipers that had infiltrated during the night. The column was relieved by Doughfeet of the 79th lnfantry Division, and the second platoon returned to Wissembourg, then to Rechtwiller where they spent a quiet Christmas Day. During this time, the third platoon as by no means inactive, for they pushed on past Wissembourg and the border of Germany, building bridges and clodging artillery fire until they entered the town of Rechtenbach, Germany. lt was a farming community, completely deserted except for a few cows, chickens, and rabbits, which were quickly founded up as pleasant change from dry rations. 

The situation on the whole Western Front had changed considerably during the past few weeks. The Germans were counterattacking along the entire front from Holland to the Swiss Border. The men of the platoon busied themselves with convcrting some of the 2300 pounds of explosives into charges suitable for use against pillboxes and anything else the might encounter on their way through the Siegfried Line. While the men worked on the demolitions, three shells came in, one hit the house on the enemy side, another went over the trailer, used to carry the demolitions, and hit a building about 50 yards behind. The third was a dud; it passed over the men, missing the load of explosives by about ten feet. Later in the day, a call ame through for a squad of engineers, who were needed to move some timber which had to be made accessible to the tankdozer. Tlıe infantry, supported by tanks, were to make an attack on the town of Ober-Otterbach. This town was the gateway to the Siegfried fortitications and was well defended. The tanks were being held up by a demolished bridge and a crater. A tankdozer was on hand to fill in the crater. The only material available, for the bridge was some timber which the tankdozer couldn't get to. The engineers were to place the timbers in a workable position. As the first squad, led by Sgts Seyfarth and Me Clure approached the site, several pieces of enemy self-propelled artillery fired at the American positions. The engineers had been spotted; one of the first shells hit the halftrack in which the men had been riding. At the same time, the artillery opened fire and the Germans began a fierce counter-attack against our troops. The infantry on the left flank of the engineers were pinned down, enabling the enemy to almost encircle the town. Despite the heavy fire encountered during the entire operation, the engineers did accomplish their mission, the stream crossing was made, and the tanks used the ford later in the day when a new thrust was made. One man was lost during the withdrawal from the encircled town, Pvt Frank DiLorenzo. The squad was ordered to withdraw under the heavy fire. A search was made for the missing man, but to stay longer meant certain capture, so they were forced to leave without him. They moved back to Rechtenbach and remained there until the 23rd of December. 





From Rechtenbach, they moved into Rechtwiller with the company, where Christmas dinner was had. Meanwhile, the first platoon,on December I3, was committed with the 62nd Infantry to form Task Force Shedd. They moved out from Wissembourg and arrived at Altendorf at dusk. There was sporadic shellfire during the night, not close enough to do any damage, but enough to force the civilians lnto their cellars. That day, the task force had entered Germany, but were ordered to withdraw while Thunderbolts of the Air Corps strafed and bombed the German defenses along the Siegfried Line. Everyone hoped that this would be the deciding factor in demolishing the approaches to the Line itself. At midnight, an engineer patrol was sent out to reconnoitcr the positions of the Siegfried Line and to determine the dimensions of the dragons’ teeth which had to be demolished before the attack could be made. Lt May and Sgt Spring led the patrol, and Cpl Roger Austin, Pvts Eppler, Dixon, and Hillis constituted the remainder of the patrol. They left at midnight, carrying nothing but their slingless rifles. All excess equipment was left behind to prevent any unnecessary noise. They retumed safely about 0400 not having contacted the enemy and brought back the necessary information. lt was found later that the enemy was there in too great a force for our small combat command, consequently, the column moved back to Wissembourg. The situation became grave --- the enemy was counter-attacking on all fronts, and the systematic shelling of Wissembourg was going full swing. Frequently, shells of a heavy caliber fell on the outskirts of town at night, (it was said that the Germans were shelling us with a 290 mm piece). On the moming of December 15th a call came to the engineers reporting a shell hole in the center of the main road from Wissembourg to Soultz. The third squad of the first platoon was immediately dispatched to the scene with picks and shovels, expecting to do the job in an matter of minutes however, the hole was much larger than the expected size. lt was fifteen feet across and approximately ten feet deep, substantiating the story about the heavy gun the enemy was using. A squad of engineers with picks and shovels would have taken all day and perhaps more to fill the crater, so the bulldozer was called out, and the job finished in a half-hour. The other companies, also in Wissembourg at the time had moved out, leaving Co “C” as rear guard, but the following day, the first platoon moved out, leaving the town nearly vacated of American troops adding much to the anxiety at the civilians. It will always be remembered how the long -line of sobbing, tearful Frauleins waited to say “Auf Wiedersehen” to the Casanovas of Co “C”. Perhaps the girls were more worried over their leaving than they were over the expected arrival of the Wehrmacht. The company assembled in the tiny town of Rechtswiller, where it spent Christmas Day, having Christmas dinner cooked for them by the kitchen and also by obliging civilians. There was plenty of turkey and chicken, and, with rest, quiet, and mail from home, it was not such a bad  Christmas after all, considering how bad it might have been. 


On March 11th I945 the 14th Armored Division took over the defensive position along the Moder River relieving the 36th Infantry Division. This was a signal for the coming attack on the “impregnable" Siegfried Line. The first action in the battalion came with “C” company's attachment to CCB. CCA was already on line having relieved CCB during our stay at Schweinheim. However, when CCA had moved up, “B” Company remained in position and attached to this combat command.
It was not until the whole division moved up into position that “B” Company returned to their usual attachment with CCB, and “C” Company reverted to CCA control.
In order to facilitate the telling of a series of events covering the actions of the various units 'in the battalion it will be necessary to take up each company separately. Starting with Hq, whose actions were for the most part of a supervisory nature. On the 19th of March, Hq, the last unit to leave Schweinheim, moved to Oberbetschdorf and the following day passed through the lifeless ruins of Rittershofen to Obersecbach. Here they remained during the breaking of the Siegfried Linc. lt must be realized that a number of elements of Hq’s were utilized on the front lines by the various companies. Action by men attached to these units, will be mentioned as the chapter proceeds. lt may be well to mention some of the work that preceeded behind the lines in Hq. An experiment was made at Oberseebach with new contraption as an aid in breaking the Siegfried Line. Three sections of treadway were welded together and attached by cables to a tank retriever unit. The purpose for such a unit was for the tank retriever to drop the treadways across a crater or anti-tank ditch. The armor on the retriever acted as a protection to  personnel under heavy concentrations of small arms fire thus insuring a reduction in the risks entailed in such actions. The rig was never used but it has since then proved successful in the Philippine Islands. As far as we know, this was the initial venture. It was suggested by Capt Wallace and materialized by the efforts and ingenuity of Capt ‘Joe’ Mangan and the Battalion Shop. On the 25th of March, Hq moved to Altenstadt and the following day into Germany. The first of the line companies to be considered will be “A” company. On the 16th of March its lst platoon was attached to Task Force “England”, which included the Troop of Cavalry, a platoon of Tanks and a platoon of Engineers. They moved up to the area of Morschwiller. 

The destination in mind was Lauterburg. The jumpoff was to occur on the moming of the l8th; but for some reason or other, it fell through. With that, the platoon rejoined the company at Schweinheim. On the moming of the 18th, company “A” left Schweinheim for Schwabwiller, arriving there at 2300. Due to the attack of the Siegfried positions, this town was congested with soldiers. The company experienced great difficulty in establishing billets. That night the 3rd platoon went out between Schwabwiller and Surburg to repair roads and fill in craters. At this time Lt McKeon, who had recently received a commission from lst Sgt, and three men set out in a peep to investigate bridges between Hatten and Birhl. They found both of the bridges out. On the followin day long after their reports had been brought in, the men discovered that the bridges were mined, and somehow, they had managed to miss all of the eighteen mines in the area. On the 19th “A” company proceeded to Oberbetschdorf to be with Battalion and Hq company. The lst platoon swept the road between Hatten and Salmbach of mines. During this action, they located the afore mentioned eighteen mines, one was a box mine and seventeen were S mines. The 2nd platoon worked the road between Surburg and Hatten, removing three road blocks in Neiderbetschdorf. The men also cleared rubble, the remains of tanks and various types of debris from the streets of Rittershoften and Hatten to enable two-way traffic clear passage. That night CCR was alerted to move. This meant more road repair from Buhl to Trimbach, Oberseebach, Niederseebach, Aschbach, and hence to Stundwiller to facilitate two-way traffic. Timber was obtained to fill in five craters and cover the area with planking. The work was finished by morning. The following day was spent maintaining and improving roads in the vicinity of Oberseebach. That night thirty Satchel charges and thirty pole charges, each weighing approximately forty pounds were prepared for the use of company “C”. On the morning of the 21st the lst platoon built a fixed bridge at Altenstadt. This was at the site of a bridge they had built three months previously. The bridge was constructed beneath an existing treadway, so that traffic would not be interrupted until it was absolutely necessary. Thus convoys were halted, only for the brief period when the decking was laid. Meanwhile the 3rd platoon checked buildings division was to occupy in Oberseebach for any possible booby traps, mines or bombs; they found nothing, as usual. Trees were also cut down north of Aschbach to make room for an artillery observation plane landing strip. The 2nd platoon swept the road from Trimbach to Altenstadt but found it clear. Later in the day they were put on a thirty minute alert to support “C” company, this failed to materialize. More road work was accomplished by the lst platoon with mine sweeping in the vicinity of Oberseebach and also along the road from Altenstadt to Kapsweyer. The latter road was subject to scattered artillery fire, fortunately no casualties occurred. Along this stretch a new type of magnetic mine was found. This device was carefully taken back for examination and study by proper authorities and ordnance. On the 23rd the company took off, with the exception of maintenance vehicles and drove to Schweighofen. At this place all three platoons went to work removing debris and wreckage, that was impairing traffic through the town. They removed road blocks and repaired the road as far as Steinfeld.     


The 2nd platoon swept and cleared debris as far as Schaidt. The lst platoon was engaged in welding closed the steel doors on pill-boxes throughout the area. That night the 2nd platoon remained in Schaidt and the lst _and 3rd in Schweighofen. The next day road work was continued as far as Minfeld. Later in the day the entire company gathered at Freckenfeld. The citizens had deserted the place leaving most of their possessions, thus the boys amused themselves rumaging through various effects, trying on top hats, chasing liberated chickens “that attacked them" and in general keeping off the border line of mischief. 

That night they returned to Altenstadt where battalion was located, and moved with battalion to Germany on the 26th. “B” company once more was attached to CCB moving to Berstheim on March 15th. It was on this date that the company was relieved from CCA and attached to CCB, departing from Ringendorf at 1400 hours, changing places with ‘C” company at Berstheim. The next day the lst platoon left for Huttendorf while the rest of the company remained where they were. The l8th found the company moving in support of CCA with CCB to Reimerswiller. They were engaged in the usual job of mine sweeping removing a great number of S mines. In this action T/5 john Critchley stepped on an S mine and was injured severely. The detail of clearing the roads of mines and checking booby traps continued through the following day. lt may be here mentioned, as to the disposition of the platoons: The lst platoon was attached to the l9th infantry, the 2nd platoon attached to the 47th Tank Battalion with the 3rd remaining with company Hq. The road march carried these units through the Hatten-Rittershoffen area to Siegen. A rather pearliar circumstance occurred in as much as the lst platoon was orderded by division to return to battalion control. This was neither 60 convenient or possible at the time, so the 2nd platoon was relieved from the 47th Tankers leaving the lst platoon with the l9th Infantry at Altenstadt. On the 21st of March the lst platoon was ordered to support "A" company in bridge construction over the Lauter River at Altenstadt. This was due to the fact that the tremendous drive ahead left a shortage of available personnel in the area. Meanwhile the company remained at Siegen. The following day Lt Eddington was transfered to “C” company due to the shortage of Officers there. The 23rd found the company leaving Siegen with CCB at 0600 hours to support the breakthrough of the l03rd Division at  Silz,Germany. They reached Silz about 0900 where a road crater delayed the column for two hours. Finally the convoy was on its way. lt proceeded through Rohrbach. While in this town, awhile phosphorous grenade was thrown from a window into the half-track in front of the company's radio car  killing two and seriously injuring three men. it was observed at this point that people here had better food and clothing than in Alsace. That evening, for security reasons, the CP was set up in an open field in the vidnity of Billigheim. As a side note one might mention some observations made in this locality. It was here that a German convoy had been caught between artillery cross-fire. The rapidity of our advancing spearheads and air-craft had caused an inestimable slaughter. Most of the German vehicles were horse drawn,although many of them had formerly been motor propelled. lt was evident that the supply of fuel was becoming acute in the German Army. An estimated nine hundred to one thousand horses were left dead or roaming in the fields. ln fact, it was necessary to remove dead horses, dead Germans and wrecked equipment with tank dozers from the road. Heaps of horses and men in various stiffened postures covered the fields and ditches. While seemingly unbelieveable one of the nearby streams ran red to rusty with the blood of dead horse and corpses mingled with mud and gasoline. German soldiers in bewildered confusion gave up in little groups, white flags flying from sticks or limbs of trees. 





88's at Herxheim

These men showed little enthusiasm. Even first aid men were bringing prisoners in. Company “B” took in approximately fortyfive prisoners at the time. The removal of wounded and dead presented a huge problem, for example, at Herxheim ten Germans were found in bed, willing to surrender but unable to move under their own power. On the 24th the CP moved to Rohrwiller and occupied another field. At this time two men in the lst platoon were wounded by shrapnel, Cpl Moliaro and PFC Harmon. The 2nd platoon had returned to the 47th Tank Ba and was engaged in removing demolition charges from bridges left by the retreating Jerries who lacked the time to blow them.,March 25th found the CP in a field  near Bellheim. Everyone dug deep slit trenches for a heavy artillery barrage was expected. The 2nd platoon went into Germersheim to clear debris caused by artillery barrages. That night when low flying planes dropped flares in the field close to the CP, it was found advisable to move immediately and another area close by was chosen. The following morning the company was relieved of its attachment to CCBand left Bellheim for the battalion assembly area at the German cantonment near Dierbach,Germany. 

Company “C” took on the major part of the activity for this period. On the 11th of March the lst platoon left Schweinheim when elements of the company were attached to CCB at Berstheim. They were followed later in the day by the remainder of the company. The work in this region was primarily road maintenance which extended as far as Pfaffenhofen.The men observed tremendous amounts of heavy equipment moving up the roads,something big was up. On the l5th of March, orders changed, “C” company reverted to CCA control. The lst platoon was attached to the68th Infantry and moved to Grassendorf, the 2nd platoon returned to its “old friends" the26th Tankers at Ettendorf and the 3rd platoon was attached to Task Force Blue at Kerrwiller. Action finally came on the 18th when the l03rd infantry Division jumped off at Pfaffenhoffen with an intent to carry the attack through Soultz sous Foret. At this time, due to its location, the lst platoon had an excellent opportunity to view the attack on the area west of Hagenau just beyond the Moder River. From the hill where they were bivouaced they could see at least five towns of varying sizes scattered in the greening spring landscape. By the end of the first day of firing all were aflame. P--l7’s of the Air Corps dove and straffed at enemy emplacements, it was a spectacular sight -- gradually the big guns moved up, the roar of motors could be heard as the tanks advanced and columns of dust could be seen along the roads as the attacking forces advanced. At night, the towns burned weirdly, casting a red glow into the sky, the whole, scene not unmindful of  Dante's 'lnferno’ .The attack proceeded well and the 19th of March found the road march proceeding in order. By the evening of the 19th, the 1st platoon proceeded to Schweighofen, Germany. This period found the following disposition—- the 36th Division on our left flank and a French Division on our right; which gave usa reasonable feeling of security as both outfits were made up of battletested men. On reaching Schweighofen it was considered advisable to hunt a house with a damned deep cellar to protect men from those dreaded 88's. At an early hour of the morning the menwere roused to make a march to the town of Kapsweyer. lt was one of those beautilful days of early spring, but any chance to appreciate it was out of the question. Inactuality, it was a horrible nightmare deeply effecting the lives of all concerned. Occasional shellfire was audible above the roar of the halftrack. Suddenly it seemed that all hell broke loose. The men cleared the track for cover landing in the nearest muddy cellar available.This was the beginning of a bad day. An old veteran in the battle-scarred 30thDivision seemed tot be taking the situationcalmly as the “screaming meemies” whined and crashed about all day. They had grown used to it. Yes, the cellars the soldiers occupied shook and heaved from the tremendous concussion outside, dirt flew in at doors and windows crashed, plaster and dust fell from the ceiling. For several hours not a dozen words were spoken by the men, 36th Division or l25t Engineers. Lt Hewett came into the main group and said, “lt’s too hot to accomplish anything up the line now, we will come back later.” The lst platoon loaded themselves into the halftrack and took off for safer ground. Back in Kapsweyer again, the men took the little gasoline stoves out and ate their usual supper of K rations. Lovely K rations! We felt so sorry for the poor unfortunate civilians back in the States who were continually complaining about the food situation. When things had quieted down a bit, a trip back was made. The track was parked outside of town on the suggestion of the Lieutenantas there was no use in filling in holes from enemy artillery. The charges were heavy and the men who carried them had no gloves. Lt Hewett decided to find out just what procedure was advisable. The men retired to convenient cellars. When the Lt came backabout midnight, he woke the platoon, saying“Well, men, we’ve got to do it tonight. Now is the ideal time, it's darker than all hell.”Perhaps you've never shaken so much that you can hardly hold a cigarette, -- wellbrother, we have. It was after midnight, the platoon staggered down the street under the weight of TNT. Buildings on both sides of the street were burning and cast an eerie glow of red about the whole scene. They reached the last building in town, the 68th Infantry CP. For a few minutes a bit of conversation was struck up with men of the 68th. Their story wasn’t pleasant. Here it is:“About 2100 that evening the 68th'had sent a patrol out to discover a way of rescuing the rest of their men in Steinfeld. Only a small number of them that remained managed to crawl through the teeth and evade the withering machine gun fire coming from the pill boxes tangent to the line itself. That wasn't all, they were again sprayed with bullets when only three hundred yards down the road from the CP. One fellow ventured to say that the machine gun was firing from a hay stack." This may  have unnerved the boys a bit and even one of the squad squawked, “lt’s suicide." However, there is a certain courage in a soldier that makes him go on despite his better senses. Staying on the shadows as long as they were able, they crouched low and walked as quietly as posible. There was no talking or any other means of communication. The squad proceeded down the darkened road at an agreed thirty yard interval, the silence was broken by continual artillery fire and it was all a man could do to keep track of the man ahead of him. Sometimes they caught sight of the men ahead of them by the reflection of his frosty breathe in the cold air. Carefully laying their charges at the roadside, they walked to the ditch and rested for a minute for the boxes were heavy. This trip into Hell grew endless, it would seem as though they would never get there. A few minutes later they moved on in the same cautious manner. As they rounded a turn in the road the acrid smoke of smoldering timbers burned in their throat. The men gasped for breath. Looming up in the black of the night stood the Dragons teeth illuminated by the blazing buildings like so many gravestones in a cemetery. There it was !! 
Quickly, in the same clockwork manner, the first man was over the narrow low wall in front of the teeth. Then the next man was over and so on. Not a sound was uttered. They tied their charges, a shadow was seen, the sound of a rifle bolt going home — was it Jerry? No, the Lt motioned for the men to stay low, the men could see his helmet now, “Thank God he was an American". The job was finished. Every ounce of strength was necessary to make that final sprint back to the 68th CP. A thousand thoughts went through the men's heads, was the charge tied right, was the fuse going to work, will the enemy see it before it goes off? A few more moments and a lightening flash, three hundred pounds ofTNT illuminated the night — The lst platoon had completed its mission. 

With the lst platoon safely through a dangerous mission let us consider the 2nd platoon
On the 18th of March the 2nd platoon left Ettendorf and proceeded to Oberseebach by way of Surburg and Soultz. At Hoffen it was necessary to put in a bridge. It was the same site where the 2nd platoon of “A” Company 58 had built a bridge on the first drive north in December. The tank had been turned right side up to take out the dead Germans and then moved a short distance from the bridge. Then it was pushed into the stream so it would not block traffic. Now it made an ideal pier for an expedient bridge to permit a speedy passage for our armor. 

While the bridge was under construction, Lt Copes and PFC Olpp proceeded to the other end of town to make a further reconnaissance of the bridges there. The bridges were found intact but several mine fields necessitated the vehicles remaining strictly to the road at that point. Towards sundown it was necessary to remove from a large road crater over aquarter ton of dynamite on the outskirts of Altdorf. ln the same locality, two craterholes of unusally large dimensions had to be filled in; as a result they reached their destination at Oberseebach at a late hour. Early the next morning the platoon proceeded to Altenstadt clearing some of the sideroads and fields of mines to facilitate several paths of progress. On reaching Altenstadt the platoon proceeded to the Lauter River to size up a blown bridge but due to a heavy barrage of rockets and artillery from the retreating enemy, it was inadvisable to proceed with the bridge construction. The platoon proceeded to the outskirts of town waiting there until the barrage quieted down and then proceeded to Wisscmbourg. Quietly bedded down for an hour 'or so on the outskirts of town, the menthought that they would pass the night there.They were mistaken, for at midnight a messenger was sent to find the platoon leader. Their destination was Schweighofen.They readied there at an early hour of the morning. A squad of fourteen men were picked to blow the Dragon teeth. The rest of the men followed them through Schweighofen to be deployed around the tanks on the outskirts of town facing Kapsweyer. The men, at the tank position, preceeded to dig in, however,it was decided to change the tank positions and the men returned to the other end of Schweighofen. Dawn was just breaking and the early hours of daylight added to the weird effects of burning buildings and the confusion of battle. A short while later the men returned from the task of placing their charges of the Dragons teeth. Their story was not ‘unlike that of the 1st platoon. With an exception that they narrowly missed extermination by some close landing shells, that day the men rested up. On the night of the 21st a squad of fourteen men, made up for the most part of the same group that had gone the previous night. returned to the Dragons teeth. Again they struggled with their heavy charges and succeeded in accomplishing their mission without a casualty. This seems remarkable in view ofthe dangers entailed in such an operation. However, the night was not without tragedy. PFC Robert Snodgrass and PFC Nicholas Pusi, like good soldiers, decided to dig themselves a secure position in the field on the south edge of Schweighofen. The men had thought themselves secure, then in dead of night a tank retriever moving up in the blackness struck their fox hole. Pusi received a serious back injury and Snodgrass, before he could be reached, had suffocated to death. The whole platoon keenly felt this unexpected loss. That day the remainder of the platoon was engaged in removing mines from the immediate area of Schweighofen. The following night everyone rest up for a strenuous day promised. The plan for the day was as follows.   






By 0500 hours the Infantry was supposed to take off at Steinfeld and in accordance with this plan by 0600 hours the Engineers were to remove all barriers, clear debris and fill the antitank ditch on the end of town facing Minfeld. in accordance with this plan we arose at 0500 hours, hastily loaded ourselves on the half-track and proceeded through Kapsweyer. At a very short distance outside of this town it was considered advisable to dismount and proceed on foot. ln extended order formation down the road to the haze of battle smoke. About three hundred yards from the Dragons teeth they were forced to the ground by artillery barrages. PFC Bounds was struck by shrapnel. The medical aid man was left to are for him and the men proceeded on their mission. They dropped to the ground again, for at this time the dragons teeth resembled, in the half light of the moming, a fourth of July flower pot or rather a series of flower pots for Jerry had decided to cover it with fire. When they reached the teeth it was fortunately quiet again. Creeping, crawling and running in a crouched position, they cleared the dreaded  obstacle. They proceeded up the road to the north end of town. Some self instinct from previous battle experience suggested a safer course. The men  proceeded close to the road but from house to house and yard to yard instead, as they approached the center of town, they ran into a road barrier defended by a machine gun nest. They were ambushed. Lt Copes was wounded and had to be evacuated. This left S/Sgt Thomas in command of the platoon. The next few minutes proved ticklish. The situation was desperate. PFC Stutz and Tec 4 Scitz went around the right flank of the machine gun position. Sgt Ray Hodson was at the window of a house at the corner of a street intersection and at an oblique angle to the machine gun nest, where he was in a position to fire at the enemy. Seitz rose from where he was in a position to fire at the enemy on the right flank and charged the nest shouting, “Achtung, you Kraut sons of b....” He routed them out of their hole and brought them in, the remarkable part of the feat was this; he had finished firing the clip in his rifle and it was empty. PFC Oldenberg made an attempt to talk several more of the enemy into surrendering, with success. All proceeded down a side street towards the center of town, an incoming shell fragment caught Ooldenberg, who was evacuated. On reaching the main street where the tanks were deployed, and contacting the lst and 3rd platoons, it was thought best to sit tight. All the men retired to cellars, which were the only safe places in Steinfeld. From the surrounding hills the enemy poured in everything they had including the "kitchen sink". Steinfeld was gradually being  reduced to a mass of rubble. Early in the afternoon four men were told to proceed to the south end of town to maintain the road at the treadway bridge crossing. Two of the men, Cpl Shelley and Cpl Breedlove, were injured by shrapnel while maintaining the bridge approaches. The continual barrage of shells and mortars made it practically impossible for men to carry out any activity in the town. Even the moving from cellar to cellar was done at a great risk. As a matter of fact, PFC Rencher caught a fragment of shrapnel in the back of his leg in attempting to move. That evening the men gathered in one of the many fortifications the enemy had erected in the town. When it was considered reasonable, groups moved out of the town on a half-track, under the cover of darkness and by 1100 hours all were safely back in Schweighofen. It is necessary at this point to make a clarification. Normally the 2nd platoon was led  by Lt Charlie Bardwell but due to an unexpected accident, in which Lt Bardwell’s peep ran into a tank in the dusk of evening on the 2lst of March, he sustained minor unjurics which necessitated his removal for several days. Thus Lt Copes had taken over on the morning of the 22nd.

The 2nd platoon’s final mission in Steinfeld had not been accomplished. It had been intended, that the platoon should move to the edge of town in the direction of Minfeld to fill in an antitank ditch by hand. This task would have been utter suicide, as there were several thousand Germans located in the “bunkers” adjacent to the ditch. Under these circumstances, Lt john Delmay proceeded to the location with a VTR (tank recovery vehicle with a dozer blade attached) to fill in the ditch. The vehicle was an open turret affair. The work in filling in the ditch was accomplished despite enemy fire. As thevehicle was approaching our lines a German 88 scored a direct hit. Both of Lt Delmay’s legs were crushed. Despite valiant effort on his part to recover, he died several days later. 

Lt Delmay has been doubly the hero in this action for he undoubtedly saved the lives of an entire platoon by carrying out a job that he was in no way obligated to do. Lt Delmay, a native of Brussels, had seen his country overrun by the enemy. His actions, therefore, had always been motivated by that driving spirit which makes free men fight for a better world. 

The 3rd platoon proceeded to Task Force Blue assembly area on the 15th of March.
They remained with Task Force Blue until the 20th of March. During this time, the path taken carried them from Oberseebach to Schleital on the German border. Their work was the usual engineer road maintenance, however, there were several unusual features in it. After clearing the town of Schleithal, the engineers worked on a bridge across a series of concrete flood control retaining walls on the Lauter River, which necessitated some three hundred feet of bridging. Also in the region of the Forrest de Mundat and in the approaches to the Beinald Forrest they laid over three hundred yards of corduroy to enable armor
to roll through that region. On the 20th, they were attached to CCA. With the other two platoons of "C" company they were called to blow a gap through the Dragon teeth which were strung before the
fortified town of Steinfeld. The 3rd platoon set up an assembly point in the last building at the town of Kapsweyer approximately three hundred yards from the teeth. The platoon leader, Lt Anthony Wise,
started a reconnaissance accompanied by Cpl Goldapske. The party made its way across the open terrain and reached the teeth. Here as usual, they were met by an intense barrage of artillery fire which caused them to separate. Goldapske went ahead until he reached the last Infantry outpost; but before he could
return, the Germans counter-attacked. As a result, the Cpl remained with the men on the outpost for over thirtysix hours, at which time the enemy made several desperate efforts to take the building where the station was set up. As daylight came, the infantry attack through the line was made, and went well until the
foot troops encountered large numbers of heavily armed pill boxes, tank support was needed badly, it was then that the Col in charge of the attack decided that a path was needed through the teeth immediately. The
Col gave this order after securing all possible information from retuming infantry and radio contact with men already well within the teeth. Three men, Sgt F Johnston, PFC E Lucien, and PFC P DiCicco, members of the 3rd platoons 2nd squad prepared the necessary charges, their orders were to follow behind a medium tank, the tank was to protect them, at least in measure, against small arms fire. As it developed, no tank was available so the men decided to go without it. After advancing some two hundred yards, the three men were pinned down by a terrific rocket barrage and sniper fire from the flanks of the town. The Sgt was determined to reach the teeth until two Infantry men started to cross the road twenty-five yards in front of him, were killed by machine gun fire which raked the area. The engineers were waved back by other infantry men who were dug in nearby. After returning to the CP and explaining the situation they had met, the party increased by four men and a tank was supplied to precede the men up to the teeth. This time they were able to place their charges despite constant shelling of the area which was under direct observation from nearby pill boxes.-
About ten minutes after the charges were set off, the first of the tanks passed through the gap.
This work was not accomplished without casualties to the engineers. The lst squad. had two men, Tec 5 Carlo Cascegno, and Joseph Fallat, killed in action and three men wounded in action. They were caught by the rocket barrage when they were about to crawl over the concrete rim that bordered the teeth.‘ With a lane through the teeth, it was necessary to make possible a path for armored vehicles. The most logical place for such a path was over the original road. However, a ten foot crater had to be bridged. The 3rd squad, under Sgt Lukins drew this assignment and with the aid of men from Headquarters operations section, thirty-six feet of treadway bridge was laid across the crater. The driver of the first brockway truck, Tec 5 Alfred Zimmerman, was hit by a fragment of shrapnel in the lower part of his chest, while operating the crane. He was placed on the truck and one of the men drove it safely" through while the remainder finished he job at hand. For this work at Steinfeld T/Sgt James Beeson, Tec 5 Claude Williamson, Tee 5 Zimmerman and PFC Lewis Daviazr of Headquarters received the Bronze Star awards.

With the bridge completed that night, vehicles were moving across before daylight. Then the final task was the clearing of roadblocks within the town. This job was assigned, to the 2nd squad under Sgt Johnston. Tile!’ demolition was brought into town by peep and a good cellar picked in which to make up the necessary charges. The streets were now filled with our troops and tanks all ready to jump off as soon as the road was cleared. The Germans must have discovered what was going on, for they raked the street all night long thus inflicting heavy casualties among those who had to remain in the open for lack of shelter. The first of the charges was prepared by fastening two fifty pound boxes of TNT Io a six foot plank which was placed against the center of the road block and propped up with another pole. Using this system, four other obstacles were later completely removed  our armor was able to speed ahead and complete their mission. By the night of the 22nd all of “C” company was gathered in Schweighoffen. As Gen PATTON’s 3rd Army approached the Rhine to the north of us and swung south, the Wehrmacht in our area was threatened with an encirlcing movement. Consequently, German troops began surrendering first in small isolated groups and later by the hundreds. The old line soldiers and SS troops abandoned the area leaving the old men and the young boy of the Volksturm holding the bag. Resistance staggered and crumbled. 

By the aftemoon of the 23rd we were able to proceed by convoy through Steinfeld and Minfeld, camping that night along the road. On the 24th the convoy reached a divisional "assembly area, the push ahead had become suddenly a rat-race with the Germans wildly retreating to the further banks of the Rhine River. The 14th Armored Division found itself without a front. The night of the 24th “C” comlpany returned to Altenstadt. On Palmsunday we enjoyed our last day of fraternization in that old Alsatian town. On the following day the entire battalion moved to the German cantonment near Dierbach in the rollling hills of the Palatinate region of western Germany. 

Leaving Camp Kraut we crossed the Rhine

Situated in the very back-yard of the Sieg"fried Line, Camp Kraut as it was named soon after the 125ths arrival, was what remained of a German barracks after it had taken a pounding from the air. The surrounding hills were studded with pill boxes that overlooked all strategic positions in such a way that every foot of ground was covered by deadly fire of machine guns or 88's. During off-duty hours, ‘goups oi Gl’s went around inspecting the fortifications, hunting for souvenirs. The general trend of the soldier's conversation could summed up thusly -- “These krauts could have held out indefinitely if they had stayed in these pill boxes; they seem impregnable." Indeed, it would have been difficult to neutralize entirely this extensive line of fortifications. But Jerry, groggy from the potent punches, was hurled from the ring in this particular area. In the machine gun embrasures there wasn't a gun to be found only stovepipes pointed their ugly soot-stained snouts skyward adding a wholly unnatural domestic touch to the grim scene of the battle field. Immediately upon arrival, the men cleaned and fixed up the barracks for living quarters. 

The vehicles and equipment were put in order again. Sleep lost during the past few weeks was made up and good meals were served in the Mess Hall Men were sent out daily on various engineering jobs -- mine-sweeping, road clearing and sealing of pill boxes with acetylene torches. On the 30th of March the lst platoon of “C” company was alerted to join the 68th Infantry in column for the crossing of the Rhine as the advance unit of CCA. It was a beautiful moonlit night with a fierce coldness that pierced to the bone. This was a moment that all had been waiting for. lt was the ambition of everyone to see the Rhine -- from the eastern side. This vaunted bastion had always been held before our invading forces as the final obstacle in our march into Germany, and now, it was to be crossed. lt was a long column and the serpentine pattern of the blackout lights was an im- pressive sight, indeed. We hoped that the people of Germany could see us coming, for they would then realize what was against them. The crossing of ‘the river at Worms on a ponton bridge itself presented a spectacular sight, for the full moon played upon the water, lighting a pathway through the inky night. At dawn, they arrived at Dieburg, a pleasant German town much different from the rambling, dirty farmhouses of farming districts. It was a manufacturing town, and the standard of living showed a marked improvement. It first appeared as though Germany had prospered greatly by the war, but the super race was not to enjoy this prosperity for long. The remainder of company “C" crossed the Rhine early the next momlng with the main body of CCA column and arrived at CCA’s assembly area at Dieburg and joined the advance unit. The remainder of the battalion left Camp Kraut in the early hours of April lst and joined -their respective combat commands -- “B” company joining CCB at Gross Zimmern. “A” company with CCR at Bossdorf. Upon crossing the Rhine, the  14th Armored Division changed from VI Corps to XV Corps. 

Bunkers at Steinfeld