134th Infantry Regiment
"All Hell Can't Stop Us"
Unit: 2nd Battalion, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division.
Action: 9 November to 18 December 1944.
Source: Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Charles Roecker, Battalion Commander at the time of the action.
Interviewer: Capt. Jacob Goldman
Place and Date of Interview: 3rd Battalion CP at Vellern, Germany, on 27 May 1945.
Maps: Series 4471, Sheets: XXXV-13 and 14; XXXVII-12 and 13; XXXVI-12, 13 and 14 and 15; XXXIII-13; XXXIV-14.
Comments: The person interviewed expressed difficulty in remembering events. The after action reports were used as a guide and to refresh his recollection.
Transcribed by Roberta V. Russo, Palatine IL, 8/30/2011
2nd Battalion, 134th Regiment
Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Charles Roecker, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 134th Regiment, CP Vellern, Germany on 27 May 1945.
At 1300, 9 November, the 2nd Battalion, 134th Infantry, jumped off as part of the general offensive, with the initial objective, the ridge at 0827, 1000 yards away. It was a frontal assault by Company F on the right, Company G on the left and Company E in reserve. A section of heavy machine guns were attached to both Companies F & G. The attack was opposed by mined and booby trapped fields, withering small arms and automatic fire and artillery fire. According to G-2 reports, an estimated 3 companies of infantry held the line in front of the battalion. The attack was successful and the objective seized by 1800. The battalion reorganized, consolidated its positions and went into a defensive position for the night.
On the following day, 10 November, at 1300, the battalion attacked in column of companies, generally northeast in its zone, along the eastern edge of Forest De Chateau Salins. It was a regimental attack with the 2nd Battalion leading, followed by the 3rd battalion. The 1st Battalion was in reserve. The 2nd Battalion reached the vicinity of 085278 where it met determined resistance by enemy troops which were apparently retreating from the attack of the 320th Infantry which was moving due east in the Forest De Chateau Salins. Our regiment was coming up behind them. The enemy was sighted digging in a ridge approximately 700 yards across open terrain from our leading company.
An attack was launched at approximately 1330 by Company G after a 15 minute artillery preparation, and it was supported in its advance by the combined fires of all the machine guns available in the battalion. Using assault fire, Company G overran the objective and secured it with the loss of one man. Approximately 40 Germans were captured, another 15 wounded and the remainder withdrew. Company E then moved up on the left of Company G and Company F went into reserve. The 3rd Battalion, coming up on our rear, moved up on line with us on our left. These positions were consolidated, and because of the direct fire from the enemy tanks to the front, the battalion remained in that defensive position for the night.
On 11 November the Battalion attacked northeast in its zone along the edge of the forest of Gremercy with two companies abreast, Company G on the right, Company E on the left and F in reserve. After clearing the town of Gerbecourt without resistance, the battalion continued to advance until approximately 1500, when it was stopped by strongly entrenched enemy positions in the vicinity of 108305.
At 1630 the 2nd Battalion and the 3rd Battalion on its left launched a coordinated frontal attack on this position. The advance was made with Company G on the right, Company E in the center and Company K on the left. The objective was seized with little difficulty and the battalions went into defensive positions for the night.
This night will illustrate the unsatisfactory policy of attacking when there is only an hour to an hour and a half of daylight left, where the attack could easily have been held up until the following morning. The resulting consequences were that neither battalion managed to get into a solid defensive position and were not resupplied until approximately 0200 the following morning, putting them in constant danger of not being prepared to meet a counterattack should it have come in the early hours of the night. It also proved the difficulty of supplying in darkness. During that night the supplies, including ammunition, water, and food, were hand-carried approximately 1000 yards, thus depriving a part of the fighting unit of the rest which is normally necessary in order to continue the attack the following day.
On 12 November at approximately 0900 the battalion attacked along the edge of the Foret de Chateau Salins northeast toward Bellange (1534). The first intermediate objective was the vicinity of 113318, and this point was reached without opposition by approximately 1130. The enemy was fighting a delaying action, holding a pre-arranged position during daylight and pulling out during the night to a new previously prepared position.
Company G was then dispatched with the mission of seizing the town of Vannecourt (13-32). No resistance was encountered in this town, although there was evidence that the enemy had left very recently. For example, several German ambulances which drove into the town expecting to find their aid station there, surrendered.
A combat platoon was immediately dispatched from Vannecourt to Dalhain (1433) to determine whether it was occupied by the enemy. The town was found unoccupied, and the 2nd Battalion moved in route column from Vannecourt to Dalhain.
A combat platoon was then dispatched to the town of Bellange to determine the degree of enemy resistance there. The remainder of the battalion moved out in column of Companies, with Company E leading, followed by Companies F and G, respectively, advancing behind the Combat platoon at an interval of approximately 600 yards. A small enemy rear guard opened fire from Bellange as the forward elements approached the town, but it was immediately pushed back, and the battalion moved into Bellange, the final objective, and set up a defensive position for the night, approximately 600 yards ahead of all other units in the regiment. During this operation Captain George Creech, Commanding Company G, was wounded.
The holding of Bellange was difficult, not only because of the counterattack policy of the Germans, but because it was located in a valley, and the high ground on the far side was still under enemy control and observation. Therefore, from the time the battalion entered the town to the time it left the town the following day, it was under severe mortar and artillery fire, and a great many casualties were sustained.
The following morning, 13 December (note: original document shows this date as 13 December, but this date should be 13 November) the battalion attacked with the initial mission of seizing the town of Achain (1635). The battalion moved out with two companies abreast, Company F on the right, Company G on the left and Company E in reserve. Withering small arms fire overtook the battalion as it crossed over the open ground. Company F received heavy casualties, lost every officer in the Company and was very seriously disorganized. Company E was committed on the left of G at that time. By 2200 one third of the town was in our hands, and 150 PW's were captured. House to house fighting continued throughout the night and by 0900, 14 December (should be 14 November) , the town of Achain was cleared of all enemy. Determined enemy resistance in the battle for Achain cost the battalion 106 men.
At 1000, 14 November, the battalion attacked with the initial mission of seizing the town of Rode. The town was entered without opposition. Numerous casualties were sustained by the battalion, however, from heavy mortar and artillery fire, including time bursts both before and after it entered the town. The battalion remained in Rode, that day and was ordered to attack the following morning, 15 November, with the mission of seizing the town of Morhange (20-36). Company A of the 1st Battalion was attached to the 2nd Battalion for this operation.
At 0900, 15 November, the battalion jumped off from the vicinity of 185363 after an intense artillery preparation fired on Morhange and moved across approximately 700 yards open terrain. Encountering no opposition, it moved through the town of Morhange toward the eastern edge thereof where it ran into light opposition consisting mainly of automatic fire. The resisting enemy was forced by the battalion beyond the railroad track east of Morhange, which was the Division objective, and the battalion went into a defensive position.
During this period 8 to 15 November, 85 men were evacuated as non-battle casualties. The large number was due to the continual exposure to adverse weather conditions which caused numerous cases of trench foot and respiratory ailments. During this operation the battalion was not equipped with overshoes, although it rained and was muddy continually. The men withstood some of the hardest exposure in fighting that could be experienced.
From 15 November to 21 November, inclusive, the battalion remained in the town of Morhange with the regiment as Division reserve and on the 22 November was attached as part of the regiment, to the 6th Armored Division and moved to a new assembly area in the vicinity of Linstroff (2741).
On 24 November, the 2nd Battalion moved to a new assembly area Division reserve to the vicinity of Hillsprich (40-46).
On 26 November the 2nd Battalion was committed to the southeast of Hillsprich, with the mission of seizing the towns of Castvilller, (41-46), Hirbach, (43-46) and Hinsing (43-44). Company E was to seize Hirbach and Castviller, Company G was to seize Hinsing. The towns were taken without opposition and the positions were consolidated. Bridges were constructed and plans were made for the crossing of the Maderbach River, but the move was called off because of the fact that the regiment was to be relieved by elements of the 6th Armored Division. Relief was effected on 28 November, and the 2nd Battalion, moving as part of the 134th Infantry, closed into an assembly area in the vicinity of Lixing (4662) where the battalion started to train for future operations.
During the period 1 to 3 December, the 2nd Battalion moved to an assembly area at St Jean Rohrbach (3847) where it reconnoitered for crossing sites on the flood swollen Maderbach River. At 0500, 4 December, the 2nd Battalion attacked across the Maderbach River with 2 companies abreast to seize the high ground east of Puttelange (4150). The crossing was made in complete darkness in order to effect complete surprise. The battalion encountered light opposition and used the policy of moving very fast, to the objective. They waded the Maderbach through water up to their necks and by-passed everything in order to seize the objective. The reserve company cleared the area in the rear of the assault companies. The Battalion objective was seized by 0600, numerous PW's being captured asleep in their fox holes. Only one man was lost in this operation. This attack illustrates the advantage of well made plans in surprising the enemy and lessening the casualty rate of the attacking force.
The 2nd Battalion continued the attack at approximately 1300 that same day, seized the town of Guebenhouse (42-53) and cleared the woods to the northeast thereof against scattered small arms fire.
On 5 December, the Battalion jumped off with the mission of sweeping the Furstwald woods (44-53). It moved by route march with no enemy opposition to the Bois de Welferding (4955). The battalion was then ordered to seize Sarregemines (51-57). It attacked at 1500 with Company G on the right, Company F on the left and Company E in reserve. Company G, entering the town from the right, met moderate resistance consisting of scattered arms fire and firmly entrenched itself in the outskirts of town. An 88mm gun, intact, and its crew were captured. Company F, entering the town on the left of Company G, encountered heavy 20mm ack ack fire and was badly disorganized. However, it was able to gain foot-hold in the outskirts of town. Company E was then moved into the town, so that now the 2nd Battalion was firmly entrenched in the edge of Sarreguemines.
The following morning, 0900 6 December, the battalion jumped off, cleared the town of Sarreguemines to the Sarre River with little opposition and set up a defensive position. Reconnaissances were then made for possible crossing sites.
At 0530, 8 December, the 2nd Battalion crossed the Sarre River behind the 1st Battalion on an old railroad bridge and moved in on the left of the Regimental sector pushing forward on the far side of the Sarre River to approximately 533563, where it went into a defensive position on the left of the regimental sector.
In the afternoon, following an enormous enemy mortar and artillery barrage, eleven enemy tanks pulled up directly in front of 2nd Battalion. It appeared to be an enemy counterattack but was stopped by a barrage of eleven FA battalion on the German artillery position and tanks. The tanks, however, remained in the vicinity and fired direct fire at the 2nd Battalion positions throughout 8 and 9 December. The 2nd Battalion was in a precarious position during this period, as the enemy occupied that part of Sarreguemines, east of the Sarre River. Severe artillery, small arms and mortar fire was constantly received from the east, north and west upon the battalion's positions and numerous casualties were suffered. The CO of Company E, Captain Byron Blackburn was killed and Captain Vaughn, commanding Company F, severely wounded. The strength of each company was reduced to approximately 30 men. Company F had 22 men and 2 officers left. The great number of casualties suffered was due to the battalion being caught in the woods underneath the heavy enemy barrages of artillery and mortar fire.
The attack was continued by the regiment on the afternoon of 9 December and the 2nd Battalion went into regimental reserve, and moved to an assembly area in the vicinity of 545565 where they remained for the night. On the evening of the 10 December the battalion still in regimental reserve, moved into the town of Blies-Ebersing (57-58). On 13 December the 2nd Battalion crossed the Blies River against very little enemy opposition and seized Hill 30? (570-596), and on the morning of 14 December found themselves entrenched on top of the hill with enemy between them and the friendly troops. The enemy, hastily discovering their situation, moved out of their positions, while heavy enemy artillery fell on the 2nd Battalion positions. It is estimated that 600 rounds fell in 30 minutes upon the hill where the 2nd Battalion was entrenched. The battalion suffered 44 casualties and was reduced to a fighting force of approximately 80 men and four officers. The battalion continued to probe toward the front, until 18 December, when it was relieved by the 1st Battalion and moved to an assembly area in the vicinity of Habkirchen as regimental reserve.
Clothing worn and equipment used by the 2nd Battalion during this operation was not the type that should be used in winter fighting. The clothes were insufficient, and the overshoes were not in any way liked by the men, since they impeded movement. Evacuation during this period was very satisfactory. However, during the time of the crossing of the Sarre River and the period the battalion was under heavy barrage on the far side of the Sarre River, every company aid man in the battalion was lost, resulting in a severe drain on the battalion aid station.
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