CHAPTER VII   THE THIRD STAR                      [3] prev contents next

 

Tearing enemy resistance to shreds,
the troops went after strategic towns . . . .

S/Sgt Stanley T. Ichiki [ASN -- 39085080], Japanese-American, was on his way with five other enlisted men and their air officer to make a reconnaissance for an air strip near Idstein. They were all members of the Air Section of the 302d FA Battalion. Suddenly the party was ambushed by a group of about twenty Germans. Both groups opened fire and the Americans succeeded in capturing five of the nazis. The remaining Germans suddenly opened up with such intense machine gun fire that the Yanks and PW's were forced to take cover behind a bank.

The situation was extremely critical; the outnumbered Americans soon would be surrounded by German riflemen and grenade throwers while the machine gun kept them pinned down. Ichiki didn't wait to be told. He saw something had to be done quickly. Locating the source of the machine gun fire which was coming from the edge of the woods across the road he slipped from the protection of the bank and crawled to a better but more exposed firing position. From there he silenced some of the enemy riflemen but still could not put an end to the relentless machine gun fire. Armed with only his carbine he arose and walked across that open road in the face of the blazing machine gun, firing as he walked.

Somehow he managed to outshoot the machine gunner without getting scratched and once their main weapon was neutralized the Germans quickly withdrew. One retreating nazi pulled a grenade and tossed it back. Ichiki was killed by a fragment . . . . .

By midmorning of the 29th the 3d Battalion of the 385th was approaching Camberg. From outward appearances the town was not any different than others that had been taken during this latest drive, but inside there was a hornets' nest of SS troops who had full intentions of fighting "rear guard action."

A monotonous staccato of rifles and machine guns, then a sudden painful cry . . . . .   Armed only with the crosses on his helmet, the medic moves forward . . . . .

The American patrol was moving cautiously forward. The lead scout spotted him as the nazi came out of the woods waving a white flag. There was nothing unusual about seeing a nazi waving a white flag. He came steadily toward the American patrol. "Kamerad" he said and with that he pulled up his burp gun and' pressed the trigger. His shots went wild but not the Yank's -- a split second later the nazi fell on his white flag -- cut to ribbons by the accurate fire of the patrol.

And then the fighting really got under way . . . . .

All escape routes out of Camberg were covered by the 3d Battalion. The mortar section went into position and laid in on the town with deadly precision.  The men fed those stovepipes with shell after shell for two solid hours; more than three hundred rounds hit the nazi-held town. From the other side of Camberg ONAWAY

machine gunners were picking off enemy snipers and nazis in machine gun nests. Riflemen were adding their share of fire power. The town held on. By midafternoon the 76th Division Artillery was lobbing in shells. The men, looking down on the town, could see the buildings fold in and crumble from the impact of the explosives. The town held on. It was nearing 1730 hours. For nearly six hours the battle had been raging. The Battalion Commander gave the orders to enter the town. Two companies moved in with marching fire. It was house-to-house fighting then, hour after hour all through the night. At 0800 a message was sent to the rear: "Camberg cleared of enemy."

There was plenty of "take" going on in the 385th's 2d Battalion sector. The battalion moved in on Reidelbach. The enemy threw back an intensive fire barrage. The battalion made a second attempt and again it ran into a curtain of steel. Mortars and artillery laid into the houses and then for a third time the battalion swarmed down into the town. This time the men continued against the withering fire of the enemy and as in Camberg it was house-to-house fighting until the early hours of the morning before the town was finally cleared.

Despite the increased resistance ONAWAY had successfully taken all objectives assigned, captured numerous towns and hundreds of prisoners. In some of the towns, fallen without much fight, real action took place after the troops had moved on. Take Engenhahn for instance . . .

Displaced persons slaves of the nazis -- speechless at the sight of Americans and freedom . . . .

White flags were fluttering from the windows. The battle was over in Engenhahn.

Sgt Ralph Williams and his squad of eight men stood and watched the last of their battalion disappear over the horizon. The men had been left in the town to guard forty-one PW's until relief arrived to take them off their hands. Without warning a bullet whined overhead; the men ducked as they heard the sharp crack of the rifle. Williams pointed to two of his squad. "You two guard the PW's, we're going after that kraut." Six men and Williams made a house-to-house canvass. Four hours later they returned with the kraut and ninety-nine more. That brought the PW toll to 141.

The Yanks wished the relief outfit would be along soon. Night was coming on, the PW's had to be guarded, security patrols had to be organized in case some SS troops decided to stage a rescue. Williams started to appoint security patrols when one of the men noticed a German soldier on a nearby hill. More troubles. Leaving three men to guard the prisoners, Williams took off with the other men through dense woods, surrounded another group of Germans and came marching back to town with a lieutenant colonel and thirty-five men. Williams learned from the officer that still another lieutenant colonel and his staff were in the adjacent hills, so taking five men Williams started back for the second time. On the way up the squad seized a German private who could speak English. The German told the squad leader that he had been sent by the colonel who wished to surrender to an American officer.

"You tell that colonel of yours that he has to surrender to me," Williams said. The private clicked his heels and moved into the woods. Within a few minutes the officer, still proud and arrogant, marched down the hill with sixty-one more nazis.

The small group of Americans had so many prisoners that they had to establish two PW cages. But it wouldn't be for long, the Yanks told themselves; the other 76th outfit would be along shortly. Food was scarce, sleep out of the question. The relieving outfit did not arrive that night. "It'll get here tomorrow," Sgt Williams said, "and then we'll have the krauts taken off our hands."

Prisoners poared into the PW cages by the hundred . . .

Next day the expected unit did not arrive. The squad equipped a captured German truck with a bazooka and roamed the streets, capturing eleven more German soldiers. For four days the nine Yanks guarded the prisoners and kept order in the town. Finally the relief rolled in and Williams turned over a total of 252 German soldiers, including two lieutenant colonels, one Major, six lieutenants and fifty-two non-commissioned officers. The action in Engenhahn was finally over . . . . .

Two objectives for the 417th Infantry Regiment were the towns of Schmitten and Dorfweil. Not far apart, both were assigned to the 3d Battalion. On the morning of the 30th the attacks were launched. Company L, supported by a tank platoon from Company C, 735th Tank Battalion, spearheaded the attack on Dorfweil. An enemy bazooka knocked out one of the tanks as it swung into position and then a second. Krauts were everywhere, in windows, basement s and behind road blocks. Another tank was knocked out and another captured. Company L was reinforced, went into the town and by 1000 Dorfweil had been cleared except for sniper fire and occasional machine gun fire. The enemy that wasn't captured or killed retreated toward the southeast.

 


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