CHAPTER VIII   VICTORY                                     [1] prev contents next

 

But there were many days of war left before
the folks back home would go crazy . . .   Long, miserable days . . .


CHAPTER VIII

VICTORY


The infantryman squirted a couple of drops of oil on the small square of white cloth and then slipped a corner of the patch through the narrow slit at the tip of the metal ramrod. He looked at it for a moment and then shoved the ramrod into the muzzle of his M-1.

"Wonder how much longer?" he said to the other GI watching him.

"Dunno," his buddy answered as he flipped an empty shell up and down in the air.

He pushed the ramrod back and forth. "It will end though and the papers back home will have big black headlines and everybody will go crazy." He pulled the rod out and patted the stock of his M-1. "And when that day comes I'm going to shoot this baby of mine up in the air at just nothing at all. I'm going to shoot a whole clip at nothing."

The other GI threw the shell at a tree. "Yeah, that'll be the day."

But there were many days of war left before the e GI would shoot a clip of ammo at nothing at all and the folks back home would go crazy. Long, miserable days of tracking down the enemy and destroying him. Grim days of marching along never-ending roads, through woods, pushing over hills; of bitter fights in towns and riding pell-mell along Hitler's autobahn; of dodging 88-s and air strafings.

Newspapers proclaimed:

American armies advancing on all fronts. Superforts blasting targets at will. Russian armies driving forward.

The world knew that the Germans were whipped but when would the Germans admit it? Wehrmacht was being battered and mauled Goebbels' propaganda machines were directing their force at the nazi youth. A werewolf radio station went into operation and broadcast to the German people:

"Hate must be our prayer. Our starving women west of the Rhine and our murdered men and raped women in the East have taught us to hate the enemy. The new werewolf movement will not rest until every British, every American, every Jew, every Bolshevik who is these days walking through German streets as if he owned them, is either killed or driven out of Germany. Men, women,. boys and girls of the werewolf, kill every enemy soldier on our soil. Do not be led by the consideration that he may have a wife and children at home. He has no consideration for you. Werewolves, take advantage of every day, or, better yet, every night. Woe to every enemy soldier. Three times woe to every traitor in our midst. Long live the National Socialist Werewolf movement. Long live our Fuehrer Adolf Hitler. Long live our people."

And there was the "Redoubt", the mountainous country in Austria where reports told of a new Hitler fortress and how there the nazis would make their last stand. For many months long convoys of supplies had been reported going in that direction. Slave laborers had been shipped to that vicinity to speed up the building of powerful fortifications in the steep, almost impassable mountains.

Cutting through enemy defenses the
columns pressed forward . . . .

No, the fight was not over but there was no stopping the steady, deadly onslaught of Allied might as it pressed forward for the kill. Spearheads had slashed across the Rhine, cutting great sweeping paths through the enemy defenses. In the 76th Division zone, while the 304th's 2d Battalion was guarding the vital Rhine bridges at Boppard and St. Goar, the 385th, on the north, had advanced as far east as Pfaffenwiesbach, Kransberg, Friedrichsthal, Ziegenberg and Münster. On the south, the 417th had advanced to Oberreifenberg, Arnsbach, Wehrheim, and remaining 304th elements had achieved Idstein, Oberseelbach and Steinfischbach.

The mission of the powerful U. S. Third Army was to strike swiftly across Central Germany and link up with Russian forces thereby splitting the Reich in two. The main effort would be by divisions of XX Corps along the axis Hersfeld, Eisenach, Erfurt, Weimar, Gera, Chemnitz and Dresden. Four top flight divisions had been selected to accomplish this history-making drive. The lineup paired the 76th and the 6th Armored

http://76thdivision.com/76th_170_map012.jpg (39909 Byte)

Divisions in the northern half of the Corps sector and the 80th Division and the 4th Armored Division in the southern half. The Third Army assignment to the 76th reached Maj. Gen. Schmidt at Division Headquarters via VIII Corps order: "76th moves by motor and shuttling commencing 2 April 45 to assembly area vicinity Homberg and passes to control XX Corps upon arrival."

Once again the 76th packed its bags and fast. It was no longer "On to Berlin" for ONAWAY doughboys but '"On to the Russians". Troops were recalled from their mission of combing woods and towns in the present division area. Orders were issued and advance parties from all organizations took off to reconnoiter assigned portions of the new division sector. Military Police raced ahead to mark the routes. The move covered 110 miles; to insure motorized speed two quartermaster truck companies were attached to the 76th while ninety additional trucks were borrowed from the 87th Infantry Division. Top speed was the order of the day in this final phase of the battle against Germany. Late in the afternoon of 3 April the 76th received orders from XX Corps to press forward from the Homberg area at 0800 the following day. While the 80th Division on the 76th's north flank was ordered to attack north against Kassel, the 1st Battalion 385th Infantry, at 0730 4 April, jumped off in an attack toward the east. The 2d and 3d Battalions began attacking at noon the same day. Meanwhile the 417th was advancing northeast to the vicinity of Gensungen.

 


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