134th Infantry Regiment
"All Hell Can't Stop Us"
By Major General Butler B. Miltonberger, Former Commanding Officer, 134th Infantry Regiment
and Major James A. Huston, Assistant Professor of History, Purdue University
Transcribed by Roberta V. Russo, Palatine, Illinois
. . . crossed the Roer on a foot bridge and attacked toward Huckelhoven.
The third decisive phase in the campaign consisted of the battles west of the Rhine during February and March. Once again the enemy played into our hands by his insistence upon fighting the battle where he stood . . . . The war was won before the Rhine was crossed.
- General Eisenhower,Report of the Supreme Commander.
With the collapse of Wesel pocket yesterday, when 134th Inf on 35th Div. reached Rhine opposite the city, Germans lost their last foothold west of the river.
- The Stars and Stripes (Liege Ed.)
In moving northward, the 134th Infantry not only was leaving the 6th Armored Division, but the III Corps and the Third Army, and even General Bradleys 12th Army Group. It was on its way to rejoin its own 35th Division and the Ninth Army of its old division commander Lieutenant General William H. Simpson, (and the 21st Army Group of Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery). There were cloudy skies and some light rain as the column proceeded, 1 February, through Bastogne, Marche, Liege, to the area around Gravenvoeren Belgium (about eight miles south of Maastricht, Holland). Five days later - days of training (including a training film on non-fraternization with the enemy), USO shows, clubmobiles, movies - the Regiment resumed its journey northward to relieve the British 155th Infantry Brigade (52nd Division) in the quagmire of Bocket, Germany, and vicinity. Here it went into position while the 137th and 320th Regiments went into the line behind the series of streams paralleling the Roer River in the vicinity of the thoroughly destroyed city of Heinsberg. This was the northern flank of American forces in Europe.
Hardly had the Regiment established itself in the new area (35th Division was now attached to Major General John B. Andersons XVI Corps) when orders came warning of new adjustments. At first this was to involve but one battalion, and the 1st Battalion was assigned the mission of relieving the 1st Battalion, 406th Infantry (102nd Division) in the vicinity of Randerath, Germany, (about five miles southeast of Heinsberg, and a similar distance northeast of Geilenkirchen); but before this relief began on the night of 7 - 8 February, the Regiment itself had been ordered to that area, and the mission was extended to include relief of a part of the 320th Infantry. It was a move executed on short notice. Less than half an hour after Lt. Col. Warren C. Wood issued the 3rd Battalions order at Nachbarheide, that units motor column was moving through the soupy mud to Randerath. Regimental C.P. also moved to Randerath, 2nd Battalion and Cannon and Anti-tank Companies moved (8 February), to a neighboring area around Nirm and Hoven, and Service Company - the Regimental Train Bivouac - to Geilenkirchen. In its defensive organization, while the other two battalions remained in the Regimental Reserve, the 1st Battalion had C Company, on the right, in Himmerich, B Company, on the left, in Horst, and A Company, in reserve, in some pillboxes just north of Randerath. Germans still occupied Hilfarth on the near side of the Roer River, but the Teich creek and over 2,000 yards of open, muddy bottomland separated it from Himmerich; a somewhat larger stream, the Wurm River, which flowed through Randerath and between Horst and Himmerich, and then turned north parallel to the course of the Roer before joining that stream at a point several kilometers to the northwest, lay between Horst and Hilfarth. The 320th Infantry remained on the Regiments left, and the 84th Division, operating under conditions of secrecy as "Control Peter" was on the right.
For that matter, the 134th Infantrys movement into the Roer River sector had been effected under strict secrecy orders which had included such measures as removal of unit designations from vehicles, removal of divisional insignia from uniforms, news release blackout. Radio nets of the 406th Infantry, with their own operators, continued transmission in an effort to achieve signal deception. The British 692nd Field Artillery (25 pounders) continued firing the same missions which had been used in the past.
But the 134th Infantry had not come to this region to bolster its defenses. There still was the great offensive to be launched which the Ardennes counter-drive had delayed. This became clear in a command meeting at the division forward C.P. that afternoon (8 February), when plans were made and orders issued for the launching of an attack across the Roer River. It was to be part of the Ninth Armys Operation GRENADE, an operation complementary to Operation VERITABLE which the Canadian First Army had launched that very day in the north toward Kleve and Goch, and which shared in the common objective of nothing less than elimination of the German Army between the Roer and the Rhine. D-day for the Ninth Army was scheduled for 10 February.
A rise in the waters of the Roer and its tributaries, however, forced repeated postponements of the operation. One factor in the high waters was the thaw, but another was the release of water through the dams at the headwaters of the Roer. The U.S. First Army had received instructions to concentrate on the capture of those dams prior to the launching of GRENADE, and during the first ten days of February, the 78th Division was able to capture the series of seven dams. The last and most important one, however - the Schwammenauel Dam - was not taken until 10 February, and the enemy had opened the sluices. The waters poured down the valley, and brought a rise of about four feet in the level of the Roer.
Postponements probably meant greater resistance in front of the advancing British and Canadian troops, but they did afford more thorough planning and reconnaissance as well as time for further training and consolidation of unit organization. Days in waiting on the Roer were busy days. Vigorous patrolling around Hilfarth - that would be the Regiments first objective whenever the attack came - already was underway.
A 12-man patrol - prepared to fight - from Company C filed out of Himmerich at 2200 that night (8 February), bent upon reconnoitering the river in the vicinity of Hilfarth and taking some prisoners if the opportunity presented itself. The men walked quietly forward until they reached the strands of barbed wire - it seemed to be tangled in every way, and was anchored to trees and bushes. The patrol worked its way through three rows of wire, then across a system of trenches, and waded through the knee-deep water of a small stream near the Roer itself at a point about 300 yards west of Hilfarth. Here members of the patrol discovered enemy on three sides - right, left, and rear. The patrol leader ordered the patrol to assemble at the rallying point - at the stream. The men made their way across the stream and were in the trenches when Pfc. Joseph E. Kelsoe of Texas noticed a German coming along the trench from the left; he was calling to someone. Now it was seldom that men of the 134th Infantry, in the scores of attacks in which they had participated, ever experienced very much of the "hand-to-hand fighting" and the bayonet charges which frequented the news accounts. In combat patrols, however, there sometimes was the life-and-death grappling of hand-to-hand struggle. Kelsoe seized the German by the throat, but his grasp was not firm enough to prevent a loud outcry. The patrol leader turned and quickly fired a shot at the Germans head, but it was only sufficient to bring agonizing screams. Out of the desperation of self-preservation someone plunged a trench knife into the prisoners throat. But already his comrades were arriving. Most members of the patrol were able to make their escape, but Pfc. Kelsoe lay unconscious among Germans. He awoke to see two enemy soldiers talking over him. They took him over to a small building, and then to the bridge at Hilfarth. They had his rifle, but made no effort to search him. For the benefit of a number of guards at the bridge, they pulled off Kelsoes helmet and wool helmet liner and started making fun of him. He was seething within, but was helpless to do anything. His captors escorted him past the bridge, and a short distance up the road to a house. They marched the Texan prisoner into the house where an officer was sitting at a desk. They took him to a small room behind the officers desk, and there he remained under guard of a soldier who was guarding him with his (Kelsoes) own rifle. There he sat all day. His requests for food were ignored. Late that evening, as darkness approached, the guard escorted Pfc. Kelsoe before the officer at the desk. The officer asked the prisoners name, rank, serial number, company, and strength of his company. Following rigidly the discipline of his training and the requirements of the Geneva Convention, Kelsoe answered only his name, rank, and serial number. The Nazi interrogator sprang to his feet and struck the prisoner a backhand blow across the mouth, muttering "I will kill you." Just then the guard leaned Kelsoes rifle against the wall and stuck his head in another room. It was a fleeting opportunity, but the Texan jumped at it almost automatically. He grabbed his rifle and felled the guard with a blow against the side of his head. The officer turned around, and Kelsoe shot him through the head, and then jumped out the window where he shot the guard who was standing at the door. That ended immediate activity around the German C.,P., but there remained the problem of finding his way back to his company. He started crawling. Flares were coming up all around, and he hugged the ground to escape detection. He was startled to see flares coming up from a dugout almost beside him. It was a machine gun emplacement. Thankful for the failure of the Germans to search him, he pulled a hand grenade from his field jacket and threw it directly into the hole; there was no more danger from that particular spot. Kelsoe crawled into a hole to rest a while, but he was disturbed when he heard Germans talking in the next hole. After things quieted down a bit, he ventured out across open ground to the barbed wire. Water was nearly knee deep around the wire entanglements, and then he was caught in a barrage of 60mm mortar shells. Concussion, exposure, and fatigue numbed his feelings, but he worked through the wire and sat down in the mud to try to take a compass reading. The compass failed to function, however, and he wandered back and forth across the fields, trying to find Himmerich. He lay down in a weed patch, and exhaustion forced a short sleep. Awakening, he stood up; nobody fired at him, and he began wandering across the fields again - up a hill - through more trenches - to a destroyed building - back across muddy ground. A stream of machine gun bullets started following him. At last he got across the creek, and arrived at the concertina wire before his own lines. Tired and bedraggled, Kelsoe arrived at his company with information highly valued for the Regiments attack.
There was little chance of forgetting the proximity of the enemy in any part of the Regiment. Artillery shells - and sometimes of the weirdest functioning - descended repeatedly upon Randerath. A particularly vicious variety, estimated by artillery officers to be of 280mm size, had a duel action in that fragmentation seemed to be obtained by an airburst or by a super-sensitive point detonation, with a secondary explosion like that detonated by a delayed-action fuse. On 18 February, shortly after midnight, an artillery barrage described as "the most severe since the days of St. Lo" hit Randerath, Nirm, and Geilenkirchen. An estimated 300 rounds fell on Randerath alone within 30 minutes.
There was some concern lest such artillery barrages prove to be the prelude of a new German offensive effort. In order to forestall any such eventuality, a detailed defensive plan was prepared: the 2nd Battalion, without changing its location was designated as division reserve; the 3rd Battalion, as regimental reserve, laid out a secondary defense line several kilometers to the rear and prepared counterattack plans; the 161st Field Artillery, reinforced by the 127th Field Artillery (155 how.) and Cannon Company, prepared elaborate defensive fire plans.
There was training in the attack of fortified positions (with engineer teams), in river crossing operations - for which the battalions went back to a site on the Maas River near Sittard - in tank-infantry cooperation - with members of the newly-arrived 784th Tank Battalion. Motion pictures and "Jeep Shows" of radio and screen celebrities broke the long training periods. The 3rd Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion on the night of 19 February, and the latter battalion had a three-day period of training and recreation before it returned to its former position.
One other development of note during the training period was the conversion of the anti-tank gun squads into bazooka (anti-tank rocket launcher) teams. There long had been a feeling that the 57mm guns had not been playing the important role in the combat in which the Regiment had participated to warrant the men and equipment assigned to them. At the same time, the anti-tank rocket launcher was a new weapon which was assigned to all companies, but for which there was no specially designated personnel. According to the Regiments new plan, two men and the driver would be left with the gun and truck, and keep it available for immediate call, while the other members of each squad would be organized into two bazooka teams for the close support of attacking companies in combat in towns or against tanks (one platoon attached to each battalion). Under the direction of Captain Magruder, the men showed a high proficiency in rocket marksmanship at the end of an intensive three-day training period - and 1200 rounds of ammunition. The system was extended then to the three battalion anti-tank platoons. In this manner, the two assault companies in a normal attacking situation could each have a platoon of trained men with rocket launchers.
An order came on 22 February, which called for the Regiment to attack across the Roer the next day. A change in plans, however, held the 134th back for a "delayed buck" while the 320th, on the left, and the 84th Division, on the right, jumped off, after a tremendous artillery preparation, at 0330 on the 23rd, in the general offensive being initiated by the Ninth Army and the First Army. Companies A and B, designated as assault companies for the attack when it should come, sent strong combat patrols forward that night. The B Company patrol was able to occupy a farm about 1000 yards west of Hilfarth, and then the company took advantage of the situation by sending a machine gun section and the remainder of the platoon to hold the position. The other patrol got within about 75 yards of Hilfarth, but then came under heavy small arms and artillery fire; this patrol suffered four casualties before it was able to withdraw under the cover of friendly artillery fire.
Before the attack was launched, a change came in the command of the 134th Infantry. The regimental commander was called to the post of assistant division commander; at first it was to be to the 104th Division, but a change in orders kept him in the 35th Division where he could still keep an eye on his old command. The announcement was made to the assembled battalion and company commanders and regimental and battalion staffs at the Regimental C.P. on 25 February. It was a parting of old friends, but it was one which could be interpreted in no other way than an honor to the Regiment and a tribute to its achievements in combat. It was a separation which could be made with the full confidence that the Regiments discipline, skill and esprit would carry it forth under new leadership to other accomplishments no less worthy. Such results would continue to be a source of unceasing satisfaction to the old commander. Responsibility to direct that activity now devolved upon Lt. Col. Alford C. Boatsman.
Men of the 60th Engineers had been working on the night shift in no-mans land to put in a road bridge over the Teich creek. In another of its well-coordinated night attacks, Lt. Col. Dan E. Craigs 1st Battalion jumped off at 2000 on 25 February, for Hilfarth. It was another two-directional approach. Company A, on the right, was attacking toward the southern edge of Hilfarth, while B Company, attacking from the farm which it had seized earlier, was attacking from the west. Guiding on the main road from the south, A Company moved swiftly toward the town, and was able to get men into the first buildings before it was stopped by intense automatic weapons fire.
B Company, meanwhile, had encountered a more treacherous obstacle. The thaw had revealed widespread mine fields in this whole area; many had been harmless when the ground was frozen, but with the thaw they had recovered their vicious danger. Now darkness enveloped the landscape, and men of Company B walked into an anti-personnel mine field. Pfc. Robert Pankratz of Wisconsin was advancing with an anti-tank bazooka team. He heard a loud explosion ahead of him, and, almost instinctively, the men hit the ground - but the comrade ahead had been killed instantly when he stepped on a mine; a medic was on his way up to see if he could help the man, but he too stepped on a mine, and was killed within five yards of Pankratz; the mine explosions invited mortar shell explosions, and these killed two of the anti-tankers where they lay. Pfc. Elridge C. Huffman saw a close friend step on a Schu mine; the left leg was blown off just below the hip, and the right foot was blow off just below the ankle, and no efforts could save his life. Wherever the mines exploded, wherever the shells fell, medics defied the same dangers to give first aid. Several, like Pfc. Mike P. Butkovich of Illinois, a litter-bearer attached to the 1st Battalion aid station, gave their lives. T/5 Almon N. Conger, Jr., of Washington, a surgical technician, left the comparative safety of the aid station to go out to give first aid to the wounded; he was hit in the back while doing so, but, in order to protect the other wounded, he lay between them and the continuing grazing fire. When a B Company aid man was killed, Pfc. James T. Lawton of D Company, went into the mine field repeatedly, and remained at his duties in spite of the concussion of near mine explosions. An Associated Press dispatch described it as "the worst nest of mines the Americans have had to cross on the western front in two months." Disorganization threatened to stop the attack as casualties mounted, and the leading platoon leader was hit, but Captain George Melocheck hurried forward to restore control - when his radio was destroyed he personally returned for another - and led his company forward; a near burst of a mortar shell knocked him unconscious, but when he came to, he refused evacuation, and led his company on to the objective.
C Company was committed on the left of A, and both companies then continued through Hilfarth. In the course of Company As attack, Pfc. Halbert E. Olson of Minnesota was in a room with two other soldiers preparing to clear out the enemy. The pin pulled from a hand grenade, and the mechanism beginning to function, Olson found that it was entangled in his clothing, and he could not get rid of it; he ran to the other side of the room and fell upon the deadly explosive; in thus giving his life, he saved those of his comrades.
Scheduled to make the river crossing, Colonel Woods 3rd Battalion kept close contact with the 1st, and, when a path to the river was clear, the 3rd Battalion began its crossing. A few men of L Company went across by assault boat to cover men of the 60th Engineers as they constructed a footbridge across the narrow, but deep and swift stream. By 0700, the 3rd Battalion was striking out for the coal-mining city of Huckelhoven. Company L swung around to the right and seized the approaches to the main stone arch bridge at the northern tip of Hilfarth. With the 1st Battalions seizure of the near side, this gave a bridge to the Regiment whose demolition charges had not been set off, and whose only damage was that resulting from Allied artillery fire.
Lt. Col. Carlyle McDannels 2nd Battalion followed the 3rd across the footbridge, and then turned to the left to attack to the northwest. Later, that same day, tanks from the 784th Tank Battalion, and TDs (from the 654th Battalion) were able to cross the stone bridge and go to the assistance of the attacking battalions. From this point the defenses of the German 343rd Infantry Regiment (183rd VG Division) deteriorated rapidly.
Spots of resistance would develop now and then as the battalions continued their advance the next day - a company in a mineshaft, or around a factory building, or in the shops of a town, or in a camouflaged pill box (fortifications with concrete walls six feet thick were found beneath the innocent facade of a brick fruit cellar) - but there was no coordinated defense. Picking up prisoners after short skirmishes as it went, the 3rd Battalion, on the right (now attacking northwest), pushed on through Siedlung, Schaufenberg, Busch, and Gendorf. After removal of anti-tank rails in the streets of the latter town, men of Company I climbed aboard the tanks of Company A, 784th Tank Battalion, and the colored tankers, full of "vim and vinegar" drove their "iron horses" up the highway toward Wassenberg. When a group of enemy dared fire upon the tanks, it brought on the fire of all the tanks in the column (and in the process they pinned down Company L which was marching along a parallel railway to the right). An anti-tank gun did knock out one of the tanks, but that was the extent of the defense of Wassenberg.
The 2nd Battalion was keeping pace on the left, though road conditions would not permit the use of its tanks, and it cleaned out Doverack, Ratheim, Krickelberg, Vogelsand, Garsbeck, Luchtenberg, Orsbeck, Pletsch. Regimental C.P. advanced to Huckelhoven, and the 1st Battalion, now in reserve, remained in Hilfarth until 1345, when it moved up to Gendorf. A total of 213 prisoners was added to the previous days 68.
Elements of the German 1218th and 1219th Regiments (176th Infantry Division) appeared in the zone of the 134th Infantry the next day (28 February), but it made little difference. The 3rd Battalions K and L Companies marched into Birgelen, and then I Company mounted tanks again. The 2nd Battalion headed through Chewylack, Eulenbusch, Kraffeld, Ophoven, Steinkirchen, Effeld, while the 1st Battalion and the C.P. moved to Wassenberg.
Resistance was breaking all along the line. In turning the main force of its attack to the north and northwest, while the First Army drove across the Cologne plain to protect the right flank, the Ninth Army had caught the enemy off balance. It had developed into break-through warfare, and already it was evident that Operation GRENADE was one of the most skillful tactical operations of the war. Out of the 35th Division Task Force Byrne was formed, basically of the 320th Infantry and the 784th Tank Battalion, and it was racing northward toward Venlo. On 1 March, the Regiment, plus its attachments of armor, artillery, and engineers, received orders to follow Task Force Byrne to Venlo. That Dutch city welcomed its liberators in a manner reminiscent of the race across France. The Regiment moved the next day by shuttling with organic transportation (and the use of armored transportation again).
|Men of the 134th picked up hundreds of propaganda leaflets in the area beyond the Roer, and they became much sought-after as souvenirs. One of the leaflets, to the dismay of intelligence officers, pictured a Santa Fe division insignia and said:
WELCOME MEN OF THE 35th DIVISION!
Considering the fact that you are newcomers, we would like to do everything to make you feel at home. We extend to you a cordial greeting and a hearty welcome to the Rur Valley!
You have tried to veil your arrival here by doing such things as removing your divisional insignias. Nevertheless, a little bird told us all about it.
Before you arrived, there were other divisions here who didnt fare so well; namely, the 84th, the 102nd, the 29th, and, not to be forgotten, the British. They all got knocked about a bit. You can see that you wont have any easy time of it against the Rur defense lines.
As we said before, we shall try to make you feel at home. We hope to make every day here seem like "the glorious Fourth" - therell be plenty of fireworks.
Troops of the First Canadian Army were known to be approaching from the north, and when the 35th Divisions attack turned generally northeast, it fell on the 134th Infantry to seek contact with the "friends to the north." Colonel Boatsman sent the 1st Battalion, with the tanks, to launch an attack on Gelden, Germany (about 5 miles north of the divisions main route of advance), in the vicinity of which it was thought contact ultimately would be made. Tanks bearing men of C Company stopped at the edge of the town because there was only a narrow footbridge over a creek which cut the road there. But already they were drawing fire. A round from a big German bazooka knocked Sergeant Horace E. Gunningham of Alabama and Alfred B. Poppy of Arkansas to the ground. Captain Wallace P. Chappell of North Carolina leaped from a tank, a shell fragment in his hip pocket which had cut his pistol holster and two plugs of tobacco. Second Lieutenant Robert E. Biever of Chicago used bazooka, machine gun, and rifle against suspected enemy strong points - and knocked out a mortar. Germans blew up an ammunition dump in the town. Tanks opened fire. A very British voice called out from the northwest, "Point those bloody guns the other way!"
Lt. William P. Clark of Illinois walked out and shook hands with Lt. Andrew Burnaby-Atkins of the British 8th Armored Brigade.
At about the same time, Ned Nordness, an Associated Press correspondent accompanying the British troops went out with a group of British officers toward the American positions; a tank fired a round near them and emphasized the urgency of their mission. They finally found Major John E. Davis of North Dakota, who had just recently returned to the 1st Battalion from the hospital. As though demanding continuing attention amidst all this, the Germans kept up their sporadic small arms fire, and threw in some nebelwurfer ("screaming meemies") as well. Colonel Craig had been moving about giving his attention both to the capture of the town and to the coordination with the British. Scarcely five minutes after the contact mission had been accomplished, a rocket demolished the radio vehicle, and a fragment hit the 1st Battalion commander, and he had to be evacuated. Colonel Boatsman was present at the time and took command until Major Davis arrived to take over the battalion. The British forces took over the attack against Geldern, and the 1st Battalion returned to the Regiment.
In division reserve, the Regiment moved successively through Straelen and Nieukirk to assembly positions in Sevelen and Horstgen and Oermten to await developments in front of the attacking 137th (on the right) and the 320th. As resistance increased in the contracting enemy pocket on the Rhine before Wesel, members of the 134th wondered if they soon would be called upon again.
An affirmative answer to that question came on 8 March, when a warning order arrived for relief of the 320th Infantry. After reconnaissance already had been initiated, however, division ordered a 24-hour delay in the relief while the 320th continued the attack. New orders came at 1300 the next day and the 1st Battalion moved out at once to relieve the reserve battalion of the 320th Infantry. British searchlights were reflecting against the clouds that night to distribute an eerie "artificial moonlight" over the area as men of the 3rd Battalion mounted trucks whose heavy tires then began to hum over the wet pavement as they moved toward the front.
The 1st Battalion, 320th, still was fighting for Drupt, which was supposed to be the 3rd Battalions area of departure, when this battalion arrived in the area; indeed, that attack continued until about 0200. It must have caused some wonder among German ranks to have that kind of an attack continue all day, and through much of the night, and then within four hours to see a new attack coming against them. Lt. Tom Parris (of Georgia, this is) led his Company L through Huck, picked up a 320th guide, and arrived in Drupt on time (before 0530); the attack was scheduled for 0545 (but Parris had trouble finding anyone in Drupt to show him the route; obviously there had been no opportunity for reconnaissance of an area whose capture had just been completed in the darkness) toward Borth, his company objective. It still was dark, however, when L Company jumped off at 0615. While K and I Companies followed by bounds, L had only a brief fire fight as it moved into Borth. K Company, under Lt. Lawrence P. Langdon of Nebraska, moved in to mop up that town while L Company hurried on to a second objective at a factory a mile north.
On the right, the 1st Battalion attacked at 0945 from the town of Millingen, and before 1300 it was on its objective and sending patrols to establish contact on the flanks.
Now Company I, under Lt. Warren ("Courtney") Hodges, mounted tanks once again - this time tanks of Company C, 18th Tank Battalion (8th Armored Division) - and rolled toward the final objective - Buderich, on the Rhine. An anti-tank ditch stopped the tanks at the edge of the city, but Company I swept in to complete the capture. Its prisoners brought the days total to 155, and those troops represented the remnants of no less than 31 regiments and separate units - including units from the 6th, 7th, and 8th Parachute Divisions. Artillery fire continued to come in on Buderich, but enemy resistance in the Wesel Pocket had collapsed. All that remained was for a platoon of Company I to move up the next morning and occupy Fort Blucher near the destroyed highway bridge to Wesel - and pick up a company of Nazi home guard (Landespionier) which defended it.
Upon its relief on 12 March - the 157th British Brigade relieved the 3rd Battalion, and the 1st Battalion, 290th Infantry (75th Division) relieved the 1st Battalion - the Regiment moved back to the area around Birlholz (south of Kaldenkirchen), a distance of about 35 miles. For the first time since landing in France, the entire division was going to a rest area.
Battalion commanders took detailed notes at a meeting held at the Regimental C.P. a couple of days after arrival in the new area - mission: maximum rest, cleaning up, rehabilitation . . . cleanup: billets, clothing, equipment, motors, (civilians permitted to be used for area clean up) . . . daily inspections of quarters, kitchens, latrines; two "Saturday morning" inspections . . . shoulder insignia to be on all uniforms . . . laundry and pressing of all clothing (civilian employment authorized) . . . seating arrangements to be made for messing . . . all messes to be improved . . . emphasis on discipline and saluting . . . instructions on calling attention and reporting to inspecting officers . . . helmet and weapons to be worn at all times while out of doors . . . discipline against looting . . . any report of rape to be investigated within six hours, charges, where warranted, preferred within 24 hours, and trial within 48 hours . . .$65 fine for fraternizing with the enemy population . . . no soldier to be quartered in the same house with civilians . . . headlights permissible, but maintain complete blackout of buildings . . .letters of request required for retaining captured vehicles . . .anyone riding bicycle, motorcycle, or driving unauthorized vehicle to be tried by summary court . . . duffle bags on the way to this area . . . turn in all shoepacs . . .
A visitor in the Regimental C.P. would have seen the men of the various staff sections busy at jobs which came to them whether in combat or reserve, and at which they had worked with a skill and a competence growing out of continuity of service from the beginning of combat. Chief Warrant Officer Homer F. Barth, assistant S-1, might have been seen at work on the "Daily Log," or Sergeant Clinton S. Nagel, regimental sergeant major, might have been arranging for a first sergeants meeting, or for some special details of men, or for a quartering party to go with Captain Abbott on the next move. Over in the S-3 section, Master Sergeant Elmer L. Shearer, operations sergeant, might have been plotting the "big picture" on a large wall map, and T/4 John W. Hrnicek might have been preparing an overlay or typing a training memorandum, or T/4 Charles W. Duffy might have been making an entry in the S-2 Journal. And, in another corner, members of the S-2 section would be at work - perhaps Pfc. Douglas W. Patton would be telephoning an intelligence report to the battalions, or Pfc. Robert C. Douglas would be adding items to a voluminous intelligence journal, or distributing maps to the battalions and special units to cover the next operation.
That next operation would be across the Rhine.
|There was training in river crossing operations . . .|
|The assembled regimental and battalion staffs at Randerath . . . a parting of old friends.|
|Prisoners out of Hilfarth.|
|.50 caliber machine guns . . .|
|. . . and heavy machine guns covered the crossing of the Roer.|
|Over ruins of a bridge at Hilfarth.|
|Medics brought wounded back across the foot bridge.|
|They advanced through Hilfarth.|
|Map of Roer River Crossing|
|The 134th attacked . . .|
|. . . against the Wesel pocket.|
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