The Last "W" . . .
The Last "W" . . .
"Give Me Land"
THIS was the 11th of
March. It was one of those days when it is warm walking and cold if you are riding a
was occupied by the regiment--meaning that Wittlich
was a thing of the past. What lay ahead? It was common knowledge that it was another river.
That, of course, was S.O.P. The summation of this feeling about rivers is to be found in the remark of one anonymous GI who gave birth to the epic remark: "Isn't there any dry land in this b . . . country?"
That just about covered the situation of the Moselle which now lay across the
new path of CT 304. One thing was sure. By this time they had had enough practice in crossing rivers.
This one couldn't be much tougher than any of the rest; a little bit wider, perhaps, a little bit deeper; but so far as reaching the other side--, it was just another job.
THE regimental sector here could be equally well described in either one of two ways.
It was either a rude letter "S" with a trailing tail formed by the Moselle.
Or it was a couple of thumbs, dovetailing each other, one of them sore and one of them awfully well and alive.
The "S" was formed by the tortuous course of the river from Lvsnich and
Erden down as far as Minheim.
Only, the actual regimental sector did not begin as far to the north as Erden.
It ran only so far as a spot about midway between \rzig and
Zeltingen. The two thumbs were German and American and again were formed by the river; the one, from
Lvsnich down to Wehlen gingerly prodding its way into American ribs; the other from
Wehlen down to Kesten pointed sharply at the key town of
Bernkastel. There were woods, hills, mined roads, and some ten odd towns to be cleared out before American flesh and bone could find the room it needed to wiggle around comfortably in their finger of the glove.
That was the mission with which the day started.
The best method is to pin-point the positions of the various battalions at this particular time and state that this is the point from which they made their fresh jump-off. We find the 2nd battalion still busy wiping up some towns to the northwest of Wittlich--Plein, Greimerath, Hasborn, Schladt and Gipperath--and then withdrawing back to Plein again. Blue battalion had by-passed the big town and had landed in the village of L|xem, a little to the northeast. White was in Wittlich itself.
BY approximately mid-day of the 11th of March the 2nd battalion had completed the clearing out and occupation of the five towns in the northern sector outside of the thumb.
On the same day they were relieved by elements of the 89th Division and they withdrew southwards to
Plein and then still farther back into
Wittlich itself for a rest as regimental reserve.
That is to say, all of them did with the exception of E Company which (a few days later) became attached to the 3rd battalion and proceeded with them towards the
Moselle. The remaining three companies remained for a while in
Wittlich and then withdrew again further south to the town of
Altrich until the 15th when they went into active support once more.
It was a well merited rest for this battalion. They had more than deserved it.
"The battalion withdrew . . . tired and battle-worn. Strong defensive positions were, posted that night and every guard was on the alert.
Some men, cracking under the strain, just walked around in a daze; most of them didn't say much at all.
The battalion had been going eleven straight days on practically no food and had fought long hard battles with an enemy determined to hold ground at all costs.
But the bridge-head had been established and armor and supplies were pouring through . . .
The men had done their job. All of them felt a new surge of self-confidence.
Major General Schmidt, the Division Commander, on a visit to the front-lines had declared that the 2nd battalion was the best in the Division at that time.
Morale jumped a hundred percent . . . The jeeps brought up mail and hot food . . . "
Came the morning-and the end of the rest. The battalions were moving and the I & R squads would move with them. This was to be, as usual, front-line reporting; blow-by-blow story telling; candid camera tabloiding. It should prove to be interesting. So the jeeps were packed--spare rations, radios, wire and telephones, extra gas, the 30 cals. were mounted, loaded and manned--maps, handed out to the leaders and a thumb-nail sketch of what the mission was to be--and that was that.
SOAP AND WATER
L\XEM is a little town slightly to the northeast of Wittlich and derives most of its importance from the fact that it is only some two kilometers from the larger city. This day, its greatest significance was the fact that the 3rd battalion occupied it; that it was still, one could say, smoking, with the scars of artillery and battle fresh upon it and PWs being marched through it with their hands atop their heads and the village priest hurrying around the houses of his flock administering to some among them who were in extermis. Amidst these surroundings was the IP of the 3rd battalion's trek to the Moselle.
The action about to take place stretched from the
11th of March until the 19th.
In some spots it was bitter--in others it was not too much so.
At that point no one knew which way any single one of the various
cats-on-the-griddle were going to jump.
It might be this way or that--but everyone had to be ready to jump with it.
The territory being explored now could not be considered completely virgin territory.
But there was plenty about it still unknown. The big question was not so much what lay on this side of the river but
how much still remained--and how close--on the other side.
There could be no doubt trat some did remain. The shelling which greeted any movement or advance was ample proof of the fact.
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