The following Combat History was compiled in 1945 and is the official
history of the 628th T.D. Bn.
PRESS CENSORSHIP DETACHMENT
P & PW, NINTH U.S. Army
7 June 1934
SUBJECT: Clearance of Book
TO : Commanding Officer, Headquarters,
628th T. D. Bn., APO 339 U.S. Army
All the material contained in this book has passed through censorship
channels and is approved for publication with no restrictions by the SHEAF
Combined Field Press Censorship Group.
James A. Robbins
Capt., FA Press Censor
THE HISTORY OF THE 628TH TANK DESTROYER BN. IN
TRAINING AND COMBAT, PREPARED BY AND FOR THE
MEN WHO SAW ACTION WITH THE BATTALION IN FRANCE,
BELGIUM, LUXEMBOURG, HOLLAND, AND GERMANY.
628th Tank Destroyer Battalion
APO No 758 U.S. Army
9 May, 1945
TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE BATTALION:
As I write this little message to you, my comrades of the 628th, the war
in Europe has just ended; and in my heart there is both joy and sadness. There
is great joy for those of you who have gotten through this hell, sound of mind
and body; but there is deep sadness for our men and officers who have fallen.
In all humility, I salute our lads who are no longer with us. In all instances,
they died willingly, as do men for a cause that is just and right; and they died
bravely as can only an American soldier. We, their buddies who served by their
side, shall always remember them with a sweet reverence which can be felt only
by comrades in arms. It is my earnest prayer that the peace, for which the
Conference at San Francisco strives, will be so lasting and honest, that none of
our splendid men shall have died in vain. And I salute, too, those of you who
have gone through the many strenuous months of combat with the Battalion. The
amazing amount of enemy material and men which you blasted out of the war is but
a tribute to your courage and skill at arms. The Break-through in Normandy...the
Falaise Gap...EureSeine Pocket...Compeigne Forest...Sedan...Wallendorf...Hurtgen
...the Ardennes...the Rhineland...the crashing offensive to the very banks of the
Elbe River...all these and countless minor battles and campaigns you can, in the
years to come, remember with a quiet pride. Whether it is your destiny soon to
return to civilian life, or to help finish off our remaining enemy, the Jap, I
wish you luck and Godspeed. Believe me, it has been a grand privilege and an honor
to have commanded such a fine Battalion in combat. Again, I salute you all...and I
shall never forget you.
William J. Gallagher
Lt. Col., F.A., Commanding
Editorial and Business Staff
Capt. Elmer V. Sparks, Hq.
Lt. Glenn O. Garber Jr., A Co.
Assistant Editor Proof Editor
2nd Lt. Homer R. Lindler, B Co. S/Sgt. Gilbert N. Moser, B Co.
T/5 Morley Cohen Hq. Co.
Pfc Herman C. Fowler A Co.
S/Sgt. Gilbert N. Moser B Co.
Cpl. Victor P. Gamma C Co.
T/5 Harold R. Austin Jr. Recon. Co.
1st Sgt. Claude L. Wielenga Hq. Co.
Sgt. Charles B. Smith A Co.
Cpl. George T. O'Brien A Co.
Sgt. John R. Ross B Co.
Cpl. Charles J. Sarnecki C Co.
T/5 Vincent L. Sacus Recon. Co.
Art and Photographic Staff
Capt. John S. Wright, Hq.
1st Lt. Charles H. Geissel, Recon. Co.
ASST. PHOTOGRAPHIC EDITOR OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER
Sgt. Frank W. Satchell, Recon. Co. T/5 Harold R. Austin Jr. Recon. Co.
T/5 Calvin N. Hayhow Hq. Co.
Sgt. Walter W. Conner A Co.
Sgt. Freemann P. Caretti B Co.
T/4 Leonard Itzkowitz C Co.
T/4 Oscar J. Schneider Recon. Co.
PHOTO LABORATORY STAFF
Sgt. George H. Fieldhouse Hq. Co.
Cpl. William G. Kitt A Co.
Pvt. Michael L. Kaskas A Co.
"LEST WE FORGET"
..........The world will little note nor long remember,
what we say here, but it can never forget what they did
here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated
here to the unfinished work which they who fought here
have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to
be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us
-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion
to that cause for which they gave the last full measure
of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead
shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God
shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government
of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall
not perish from the earth.
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
LEST WE FORGET
William M. Hernandez
0191305, Lt. Col. F.A.
Killed In Action Douains, France
Aug. 20, 1944
|Pfc. Samuel A. Augustine
33028869, A Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|T/5 William Mayers
34385822, B Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Cpl. Herman Harth
20315041, C Co. KIA
30 Nov. 1944
|T/4 Donald F. Beck
36400303, A Co. KIA
30 Jan. 1945
|T/4 William L. Boswell
34173763, Hq. Co. KIA
19 Sept. 1944
Thomas W. Bowman
34371375, A. Co. KIA
15 March 1945
|T/5 Clyde C. Broom
34386824, A Co. DOW
26 Aug. 1944
Wellington E. Brundage
36400080, B Co. KIA
4 Sept. 1944
|Cpl. Floyd E. Burge
33034922, A Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Pfc. Randy B. Carpenter
34425461, B Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Sgt. George A. De Lia
33161296, B Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
John J. Devine Jr.
01822679, A Co. DOW Argentan, France
13 Aug. 1944
|T/5 Louis P. Di Orio
20315035, C Co. KIA
11 Dec. 1944
Lawrence W. Elmore
20315803, B Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Cpl. Henry Goffart
33161233, C Co. KIA
6 Dec. 1944
|Pvt. Willie B. Greene
34371005, C Co. KIA
19 Sept. 1944
|Pfc. Earl F. Higley
33161282 C Co. KIA
23 Sept. 1944
|Pvt. Charles W. Hill
33161172, B Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Cpl. John A. Hydu
33028902, C Co. KIA
23 Sept. 1944
|Sgt. Gerald W. Joner
39396408, Recon. Co. KIA
19 Sept. 1944
|Sgt. John Kalis
36015718, B Co. KIA
17 Sept. 1944
|T/5 Peter Kowalchik
33161252 C Co. DOW
6 Dec. 1944
|Cpl Chester W. Kuta
26016238 B Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Sgt. Stanley J. Lada
32071189, A Co. DOI
3 Nov. 1944
|Sgt. Martin P. Lally
32084601, C Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Pvt. John I. J. Lawler
33028880, C Co. DOI
10 Dec. 1944
|Sgt. Charles A. Leo
35020246, C Co. KIA
6 Dec. 1944
|Pvt. John P. Loncaric
33161105, Recon. Co. DOW
17 Sept. 1944
|Cpl. Ashley C. Long
34386198, C Co. KIA
6 Dec. 1944
|Sgt. James W. Luvender
20317374, C Co. KIA
6 Dec. 1944
|Pfc. Mario A. Mastro
33029156 B Co. DOW
4 Jan 1945
James A. McClintock, Jr.
34386127, B Co. KIA
21 Sept. 1944
|Pfc. Edward Mickacinich
33035715, B Co. KIA
6 Sept. 1944
|T/4 George F. Morgan
34110685, B Co. DOW
4 Aug. 1944
|Pfc. Frank L. Mozina
33161228, C Co. KIA
6 Dec. 1944
|Pfc. William Nicholson
33161356, Recon. Co. KIA
15 Sept. 1944
|T/5 Jesse A. Pannell
34425825, A Co. KIA
15 March 1945
|T/5 Floyd J. Robinson
32046621, A Co. KIA
3 March 1945
|1st Lt. Ben J. Smith
01824384, C Co. KIA
6 Dec. 1944
|Pfc. Theodore Spalte
32065342, B Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Sgt. Doyle E. Swilley
36014268, A Co. KIA
12 April 1945
|Pvt. Leo Tovar
39564912, A Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|T/5 Thomas Vender Veen
36400270, C Co. KIA
6 Dec. 1944
Nicholas Van Handel
32154633, A Co. KIA
3 March 1945
|Pvt. William T. Walden
34370625, Recon. Co. DOW
4 Jan. 1945
|T/5 William J. Walters
34386105, B Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
|Pfc. Earl V. Ward
34071761, C Co. KIA
19 Sept. 1944
|Pfc. Michael H. Welsh
33161359, Recon. Co. KIA
4 March 1945
|Pfc. Cecil Wilson
34707801, A Co. KIA
15 March 1945
Woodrow W. Woods
34071626, C Co. KIA
6 Dec. 1944
Casimer A. Wydrzenski
33161329, C Co. KIA
26 Nov. 1944
Joseph G. Yakaitus, Jr.
31038937, C Co. DOW
6 Dec. 1944
|T/5 Arnold B. Zeigler
34425469, A Co. KIA
7 Jan. 1945
HISTORY OF THE 628TH TANK DESTROYER BATTALION
INDIANTOWN GAP PENNSYLVANIA
In 1941 General Drum, then
Commanding General, First United States Army, decided to form six
provisional anti-tank battalions for experimental purposes to be tested
in the First Army Maneuvers held in North and South Carolina in October
and November, 1941.
The 28th Infantry Division Pennsylvania's National Guard,
Keystone Division, which had been federalized and on active service at
Indiantown Gap Military Reservation since 17 February 1941, was one of
six Divisions ordered to form a provisional anti-tank battalion.
General Martin, Commanding General, 28th Infantry Division,
issued orders whereby the personnel of the 53rd Field Artillery Brigade
Headquarters, 107th Field Artillery Regiment, 108th Field Artillery
Regiment, 109th Field Artillery Regiment, 110th Field Artillery
Regiment, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 112th Field Artillery
Regiment, 103rd Engineer Regiment and 103rd Medical Regiment were
transferred for this purpose. On 10 July, the 28th Davison Anti-Tank
Battalion (provisional) was formed under the command of then Major Carl
L. Peterson, and moved into its first quarters at Tent City, Indiantown
In addition to Major, now Colonel, Carl Peterson, 112th
Infantry, as Battalion Commander, the original Battalion Staff was
composed of Captain, now Lt. Colonel, William P. Davis, III, 108th Field
Artillery, Battalion Executive Officer and S-3; 1st Lt., now Lt.
Colonel, Thomas B. Roelofs, 112th Infantry, Adjutant and S-1; Captain
now Lt. Colonel John J. Gilfilan, Headquarters 28th Infantry Division
Intelligence Officer, S-2; and 2nd Lt., now Captain William Young, 107th
Field Artillery, Supply Officer, S-4.
Headquarters Battery was commanded by 1st Lt., now Major
Joseph A. Patlive 108th Field Artillery, who was both Battery Commander
and Battalion Communications Officer. Other officers were 2nd Lt., now Captain
Richard H. Reeve, 108th Field Artillery, Battalion Motor Officer, and
2nd Lt., now Capt. Robert H. Meisenbelter, 108th Field Artillery,
Battalion Personnel Officer.
"A" Battery had 1st Lt., now Major Marcus L.
Hoover, 111th Infantry; as Battery Commander, with 2nd Lt., now Captain
Eugene Swanheart, 109th Field Artillery, 2nd Lt. Robert I. Ivey, 107th
Field Artillery, and 2nd Lt. Richard J. Fitzgerald, 111th Infantry, as
"B" Battery was formed with 1st Lt., now Lt.
Colonel Charles A. Corcoran, 107th Field Artillery, as Battery
Commander, assisted by 1st Lt., now retired, Leonard Dotson, 108th Field
Artillery, 2nd Lt., now Captain Daniel L. Thomas, 109th Field Artillery,
and 2nd Lt., now Captain Jessie B. Schooley, 109th Field Artillery.
"C" Battery had 1st Lt., now Major Robert Gaynor,
109th Infantry, as Battery Commander, with 1st Lt., now Captain Thomas
W. Scott, Jr., 110th Infantry and 2nd Lt., now Captain John S. Wright,
55th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, as Battery Officers.
"D" Battery included Captain, now Major Harry A.
Overholtzer, 108th Field Artillery, as Battery Commander, and 1st Lt.,
now Lt. Colonel William J. Gallagher, 108th Field Artillery, 2nd Lt.,
now Captain James H. Lloyd, 108th Field Artillery.
"E" Battery had Captain, now Major William B.
Munhall, 107th Field Artillery, as Battery Commander, assisted by 2nd
Lt., now Major Hampton C. Randolph, 108th Field Artillery, and 2nd Lt.,
now Captain James Clement, 108th Field Artillery.
Medical Detachment included Captain Donaldson, 103rd
Medical Regiment as initial Detachment Commander, assisted by 1st Lt.,
now Major Eugene W. Hodgson, 103rd Medical Regiment, who later became
Battalion Surgeon, and 1st Lt. Charles Perleman, 103rd Medical Regiment,
as Battalion Dentist.
Early in the Battalion's history Company "B",
103rd Engineer Regiment under Captain Maurada and assisted by 1st Lt.
Forrest Bocock and 2nd Lt., now Captain Stanislas Starzinski, were
attached to the Battalion. In January 1942, Headquarters Battery, 109th
Field Artillery was transferred on to the Battalion and formed the
original Pioneer Company which ultimately was redesignated as
Reconnaissance Company. Lt. Bocock and Lt. Starzinski were also
transferred to the Battalion in January 1942, and became Pioneer Company
Commander and Company Executive Officer respectively.
Other officers who joined the Battalion shortly after it
was formed were 2nd Lt., now Major Paul L. McPherran and 2nd Lt., now
Captain Lawrence W. Merz, both Reserve Corps Officers, who were
initially assigned as Liaison Officers, Headquarters Batter, also 2nd
Lt. Benjamin C. Manderville, 112th Infantry, initially assigned to C
Battery, and 2nd Lt. Nathan N. Tyson, 108th Field Artillery, who replace
2nd Lt. Meisenhelter as Battalion Personnel Officer when Lt.
Meisenhelter was transferred back to the 108th Field Artillery.
A. P. HILL MILITARY RESERVATION, VIRGINIA
At the end of July 1941, the
Anti-tank Battalion moved to A.P. Hill Military Reservation near
Fredricksburg, Virginia, for its first tactical field training which was
a two week problem conducted by the entire 28th Infantry Division.
Equipment at that time consisted of 3/4 ton weapons carriers as prime
movers, with towed guns made out of miscellaneous pieced of pipe, wood,
and other materials to represent an Anti-tank gun. No ammunition was
expended, but the Battalion did raise a lot of dust on the back roads of
Virginia, and soon became known as an up and coming organization that
was going places, a prophecy, which was fulfilled as time marched on.
After Labor Day, 1941, the Battalion returned to Indianatown Gap,
and then in the latter part of September 1941, moved with the entire
28th Infantry Division to the Carolina Maneuver Area, establishing a
base camp near Wadesboro, North Carolina.
Early in November 1941, Major
Peterson left the Battalion, and Major William M. Hernandez, 108th Field
Artillery, assumed command. Carolina Maneuvers ended after two active
months, and the Battalion was on its way back to the Gap when word was
received on Sunday, 7 December 1941 near South Boston, Virginia, that
the Japs had attacked Pearl Harbor and that War had been declared.
After returning to Indiantown Gap and enjoying a period of
furloughs and leaves, orders were received to reorganize the provisional
28th Division Anti-tank Battalion as of 15 December 1941, into a
permanent organization officially designated as the 628th Tank Destroyer
Battalion. The re-organization involved absorbing D and F Batteries into
A, B. and C Batteries, and redesignating all Batteries as Companies,
effective 3 January 1942.
CAMP LIVINGSTON, LOUISIANA
Shortly after the first of
the year 1942, the entire 28th Infantry Division moved by motor convoy
from Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, to Camp Livingston, near Alexandria,
Louisiana, which at that time was regarded as one of the longest motor
convoy movements undertaken by the Army.
In March 1942, the first group of new men totaling
approximately 240, arrived direct from induction stations and were
welcomed to the Battalion by the 300 "old men". A basic
training program was established, and the work of whipping the Battalion
into shape for combat began in earnest. Twenty-five mile hikes in the
boiling Louisiana sun were merely a part of this training.
CAMP HOOD AND CAMP BOWIE, TEXAS
In September 1942, the entire
Battalion was moved by rail to the newly formed Tank Destroyer Center,
Camp Hood, Texas, to undergo advanced unit training in Tank Destroyer
tactics, After progressing thru the infiltration course, street and
village fighting to platoon and company tactics, a Battalion field
problem was finally held and successfully passed. It was here in
November 1942, after fifteen months of diligent training with dummy
guns, that the Battalion gun crews had their first opportunity to fire
live ammunition, using borrowed 75 mm guns on half tracks, the original
TD vehicle and weapon. It was here also that the Battalion received its
last large group of inductees, over 300 in all, for basic training and
assignment in the Battalion.
Early in December 1942, the Battalion moved to Camp Bowie,
Texas, for additional tactical training and for completion of the first Army
Ground Force test. It was successfully passed after the most complicated
"dead reckoning" motor march thru Texas sage brush ever
experienced by a Battalion.
On January 3, 1943, the Battalion furnished a complete
officer and enlisted cadre of about 85 men who later formed the 648th
Tank Destroyer Battalion.
CAMP GORDON JOHNSTON, FLORIDA
On 8 January 1943, the
Battalion entrained at Camp Bowie, Texas, and after one of its most
enjoyable train trips, arrived three days later at Camp Carrabelle,
sixty miles S.W. of Tallahassee, Florida, later designated as Camp
Gordon Johnston. Here the Battalion returned once again to the control
of the 28th Infantry Division for intensive Amphibious Training in the
waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Amphibious training was successfully completed by the
end of March 1943, and after a period of leaves and furloughs, during
which time the Battalion received its first combat vehicles, 36 M-10
Tank Destroyers. The entire Battalion moved to Camp Rucker, Alabama, in
May 1943. Just prior to moving, however, the Battalion furnished a small
cadre of eight men to the 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion all volunteers,
who immediately left for over seas duty, the first members of the
Battalion to enter combat.
At Camp Rucker an intensive period of M-10 driver training
was initiated for all officers and enlisted men, and preparations
commenced for the impending Tennessee Maneuver period which commenced
July 4, 1943.
Maneuvers lasted until 28 August 1943, and furnished an excellent
opportunity for the men to learn how to use the M-10's over various types
of terrain, and simulated combat conditions. After the first few problems,
the Battalion Billeting party and the Battalion Commanders party also
learned how to avoid being captured, a well learned lesson.
After completing Tennessee Maneuvers, the Battalion returned
to Camp Rucker for a period of artillery range practice, where both direct
and indirect firing methods were taught and executed on the firing range.
Early in October, 1943, the Battalion moved to Camp Pickett,
Virginia, and then left for Camp Bradford, near Norfolk, Virginia, for a
week of Amphibious training which was principally devoted to the technique
of loading LST's.
After Bradford the Battalion returned to Camp Pickett and
then within a weeks time left for the West Virginia Maneuver Area,
arriving at a bivouac on top of Mt. Cannan near Davis, West Virginia early
in November 1943. The purpose of this assignment was threefold, first, to
have experience in mountain driving, second, to become toughened to winter
conditions, and third, to take another Army Ground Force test. In due time
all three purposes were successfully fulfilled, as the Battalion lived on
a mountain and was completely surrounded on all sides by the Blue Ridge
mountain range. Then almost immediately after the Battalion's arrival, it
snowed and continued to snow most of the remainder of the time there, and
finally after spending days building a corduroy road over swamps, the
Battalion managed to move it's M-10's to the firing range and successfully
passed its AGF firing test. In spite of these various and sundry
difficulties, however, the hospitality of the people of Thomas and Davis,
West Virginia was such that the men of the Battalion will long carry a
warm feeling in their hearts for them.
CAMP DIX, NEW JERSEY
The Battalion left
West Virginia early in December 1943, and proceeded to Camp Dix, New
Jersey, the last Camp in the united States before arrival at a Port of Embarkation
staging area. All heavy vehicle equipment was turned in, and new clothing
issued, then after final leaves and furloughs over Christmas and New
Years, the Battalion moved to Camp Shanks, N.Y., on 17 January 1944,
awaiting shipment overseas on the R.M.S.
Aquitania, which left New York on 29 January 1944.
PACKINGTON PARK, ENGLAND
On arrival at
Greenock, Scotland on 6 February 1944, the Battalion moved by rail to
Packington, England, located midway between Birmingham and Coventry. New
M-10's and other necessary equipment were received, and all men and
officers were kept busy on all phases of military training, particularly
field artillery indirect fire, as the secondary role of a T.D. Battalion
SUB-AREA X, DORCHESTER, ENGLAND
At the end of
March 1944, the Battalion moved to the vicinity of Hirwaun, Wales, where
it enjoyed two weeks of artillery firing on the Brecon Range. The
battalion returned to Packington Park early in April, and on 11 April
1944, moved to Dorchester, England, on special assignment, to handle the
Marshalling Camps for the invasion troops. The Battalion was assigned to
Sub-Area X, Marshalling Area D, and from 15 April 1944 to 4 July 1944
operated Camps D-4(Camehouse) D-7 M (Marabout) and D-7 P (Poundbury). It
was in these camps that the troops of the 1st Infantry Division and the
29th Infantry Division lived 'til the time of their D-day landing on the
On 5 July 1944 the Battalion was relieved of its Marshalling
Areas assignments and moved to Camp D-2, Piddlehinton, near Bournemouth,
England. There, last minute preparations were completed and after celebrating
the Battalions Third Anniversary at a banquet held in Bournemouth on 10
July 1944, the Battalion moved to Camp D-3, Puddletown on 26 July, and
loaded on Navy LST's and embarked from England on 28 July 1944. After
three years of training, the Battalion was finally on its way to combat.
BAPTISM OF FIRE:
Having landed on
Utah Beach in Normandy, France, on 30 July 1944, this Battalion was
peacefully bivouacked in an apple orchard near LeValdecie, France until
1730 hours, 2 August 1944, when word was received that the Battalion was
assigned to the 5th Armored Division, XV Corps, Third Army, and would
prepare to move at once. At this time the Battalion was Assigned the Code
name "Victory" which was used throughout the period of combat.
It was for this moment that the Battalion had trained since
10 July 1941, and once tactically committed on 2 August 1944, there were
very few days when some members of the organization were not on a combat
status n France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and Germany, until the
unconditional surrender on 9 May 1945.
Initially the entire Battalion was kept intact, however, as
orders were receive to commit one company after another, it became normal
operating procedure to attach one Reconnaissance Company Platoon to each
of the Tank Destroyer Gun Companies, which
in turn were attached to each of the three Combat Commands, Co.
"A" to CCA, Co. "B" to CCB, Co. "C" to CCR.
Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Medical Detachment and
Reconnaissance Company Headquarters, with Pioneer Platoon, being attached
to Headquarters 5th Armored Davison Artillery. The Battalion Personnel
Section was attached to Administrative Center in Division Rear Echelon.
The initial mission of the 5th Armored Division, given after
the Battalion arrived in the Division rendezvous area at 2145 hours, 2
August 1944 in the vicinity of Perier, France, was the taking of Fougeres,
with the main objective of Laval. Battalion route of march went thru
Noirpalu via St. Martin to St. James. On 4 August 1944, Lt. John J.
Devine, Jr., Platoon Leader, Co. "A", went on a Reconnaissance
mission in vicinity of La Pelerne, France, and made the first contact by a
member of this Battalion with an enemy force. Lt. Devine subsequently died
of wounds received in the Argantan, France on 12 August 1944.
The Battalion left bivouac near St. James, at 0930 hours, 6
August 1944 and proceeded thru Fougeres, Vitre, Meral, Crosse-Le-Vivien to
Houssay, France. Near Meral the column was fired on with small arms by
enemy snipers and three German prisoners were captured by the
Reconnaissance Company, in vicinity of Cross-Le-Vivien. The following day
the march was through Poille, where an enemy machine gun nest was
encountered and subsequently knocked out by direct fire from two M-10's
from Company "A". From Poille, France, the column proceeded thru
Louplande, Arnage, Maingne to Les Sommeres, in vicinity of Le Mans,
France. At Arnage sniper fire and enemy 88 mm Artillery fire was directed
against the column, and Maigne was the first of many towns to be seen
completely on fire. Thus, at this early stage in its progress across
Europe, did the Battalion receive its baptism of fire in combat, a baptism
which continued in an ever increasing crescendo until the banks of the
Elbe River in Germany were reached.
FALAISE ARGENTAN GAP
On 10 August 1944,
still assigned to the Third Army, XV Corps, and 5th Armored Division, the
Battalion moved out of the bivouac area in the vicinity of Le Mans,
France, to participate in the attempt to close the Falaise-Argantan Gap.
Route of column passed through Briosne, and Le Melse, arriving in the
vicinity of Sees, France, at 2145 hours, 12 August 1944. During the march
on 11 August 1944, 2nd Platoon, Company "A" was acting as rear
guard to CCA's column. Sometime during the night an unidentified column
approached the route of march of CCA's column from the west. S/Sgt.
Koczan, Company "A" challenged the leading vehicle and when it
failed to stop, S/Sgt. Koczan fired his .45 caliber pistol and killed the
driver. He then destroyed the next two vehicles with hand grenades and
brought .50 caliber and .30 caliber machine gun fire on the remaining five
vehicles, while the M-10's opened fire on the rear of the column with 3
inch H. E. (High Explosive) to prevent a withdrawal. In all, eight enemy
vehicles and 240 enemy troops were destroyed. For this action S/Sgt.
Koczan was awarded the first Silver Star Medal presented to a member of
this battalion and subsequently was decorated with the Croix de Guerre by
the French Government, the only award from a foreign government received
by any member of this unit.
First reports of enemy tanks in the area were received on 10
August 1944, in the vicinity of Bonnetable, although no contact was made
on this date. On 11 August 1944, however, S/Sgt. Flynn, Platoon Sergeant,
1st Platoon, Company "C", acting as gunner, engaged a Mark IV
tank at 500 yard range in the Battalion's first direct fire duel in the
vicinity of Le Mesle, France, and successfully destroyed the first of a
total of 56 enemy tanks credited to the Battalion. Other successful tank
duels followed in quick succession. At 0630 hours, 12 August 1944, Cpl.
Koetje, Tank Destroyer Gunner, 2nd Platoon, Company "A",
destroyed a Mark IV tank at 150 yard range in the vicinity of Ballon,
France. At 1100 hours 12 August 1944, 4 miles northeast of Ballon, Cpl.
Kee, 1st Platoon, Company "A", the Battalion's only Tank
Destroyer Gunner from Chinatown, New York City, one of the best trained
gunners in the organization, engaged two Mark IV tanks at the same time at
1200 yard range and destroyed both enemy tanks with direct hits.
On 14 August 1944, while on Reconnaissance, the Battalion
Commander's armored car was fired on by heavy artillery in the vicinity of
Bourg St. Leonard, France at 1345 hours, and at 1500 hours in the vicinity
of La Corbette, this vehicle struck a German Tellermine at a curve in the
road injuring T/5 Flora, driver, and Capt. England, the Battalion Surgeon.
The Battalion Commander escaped injury. These were the first casualties
sustained from enemy mines experienced by the Battalion. 1st Platoon,
Company "B", attached to CCB knocked out one Mark IV tank at 300
yards at 1430 hours, 15 August 1944 in the vicinity of Vitre.
BATTLE OF THE SEINE RIVER
At 1730 hours, 15
August 1944, still attached to Third Army, XV Corps, 5th Armored Division,
the Battalion left the bivouac area in the vicinity of Sees, and then
moved east enroute to the vicinity of Dreux, France. After arriving in the
vicinity of Dreux, all of the units then swung north to prevent the enemy
from crossing the Eure and Seine Rivers. The Battalion left the bivouac
area near Faymontville, France, at 1230 hours, 18 August 1944 and
proceeded through Germainville and Le Hay, to Les Bossus. On 17 August
1944, 3rd Platoon, Company "B", working with the 47th Infantry
moved north and crossed the Eure River near Bourg L'Abbe and knocked out
two Mark IV tanks and one 88 mm anti-talk gun at ranges from 1600 to 1800
yards near Muzy, France, then returned south of the river. From Les
Bossus, the Battalion CP was moved north to Cravent, arriving there at
1650 hours, 19 August 1944. The
Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. William M. Hernandez, went out to contact
Company "A" on 20 August 1944, and while directing indirect fire
on enemy tanks was killed at 1630 hours near Douains, France. Major
William J. Gallagher, Battalion Executive Officer, assumed command of the
Battalion at 1700 hours same date. In the same action in which Lt. Col
Hernandez was killed, Corporals O'Brien and Tartaglia, 3rd Platoon, Co.
"A", each destroyed a Mark V tank at 1700 yard range just west
of Douains, while the Platoon had an M-10 Tank Destroyer knocked out. This
was the first of 18 Tank Destroyer vehicles which this Battalion totally
lost as a result of enemy action. Gun Companies attached to Combat
Commands continued to advance generally north, destroying enemy vehicles
and personnel fleeing from the Falaise-Agentan Gap trapped between the
Eure and Seine Rivers. On 21 August 1944, 3rd Platoon, Company
"A" reported knocking out at 1800 yard range one Mark V and one
Mark IV tank, one truck and one anti-tank gun four miles north of Douains.
On the 23 of August 1944, the Battalion CP move north from the Cravent to
Gallion, France. It then moved southeast arriving at a new bivouac area at
Guerville, France at 0200 hours, 25 August 1944.
Thus the Battle of the Seine River was completed, and for
five days the Battalion saw no action except for an indirect artillery
fire mission which "B" Company drew. This breathing spell was
used well by the men. They got some much needed rest and also made the
equipment ready for the next mission.
DRIVE TO THE BELGIUM BORDER
On 27 August 1944,
5th Armored Division, with 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion attached, was
relieved of assignment to Third Army and XV Corps. On 30 August 1944, 5th
Armored Division was given the mission of marching direct to the Belgium
border with the least possible delay. The Battalion left bivouac near
Guerville, France at 0730 hours on 30 August 1944, with CCB. It passed
through the outskirts of Paris and continued on through Senlis, Compiegne
Forest, Noyen, Guiscard, Villeneuve and Valenciennes arriving at Conde,
France on the Belgium border at 2330 hours on 2 Sept. 1944.
On arrival at the Belgium border, orders were changed and the
Division was instructed to clear the area for the pending arrival of
British troops. The Division was given the new mission to move south and
seize Sedan, France and then east to capture Luxembourg. The Battalion
left Conde at 1300 hours on 4 September 1944 and moved generally south to
La Romagne, France arriving there at 2200 hours on 4 September 1944.
The entire Battalion was detached from CCB and attached to
CCR on 5 Sept. 1944 and left the bivouac area at La Romagne at 1200 hours
on 5 September 1944 arriving at the new bivouac area near
Mezieres-Charleville at 1430 hours the same day. On 6 September 1944
Company "A" was attached to 10th Tank Battalion, Company
"B" to 47th Infantry Battalion, Company "C" to CCR
trains while Battalion Headquarters, Reconnaissance Company Headquarters
and Medical Detachment were attached to CCR Headquarters. Left bivouac at
0845 hours on September 6, 1944, and moved through Mezieres-Charleville,
Le Theux and arrived in a new bivouac are near Sedan, France, at 1630
hours the same day. Then proceeded to a new area near Florenville,
Belgium, 8 September 1944, with the mission of liberating Luxembourg.
LIBERATION OF LUXEMBOURG
diary continues: Left Florenvill, Belgium, at 0800 hours on 9 Sept. 1944
arriving at new assembly position southeast of Useldange, Luxembourg, at
2100 hours same day. Column was fired upon by enemy anti-tank guns and
machine guns in the vicinity of Metxert, Belgium, but no casualties were
sustained. Left Useldange, Luxembourg, at 0835 hours on 10 Sept. 1944, had
temporary halt northeast of Mersch at 1000 hours when the leading elements
ran into enemy resistance. Advance continued at 1800 hours to the new area
at Schrondweiler, Luxembourg, arriving there at 2045 hours on 10 Sept.
1944. Left Schrondweiler, Luxembourg, at 1915 hours on 11 Sept. 1944 for
new area northwest of Ermsdorf, Luxembourg, (Brucherhof Farm) arriving at
2100 hours same day. Plans for the breaching of the Siegfried Line at
Wallendorf, Germany, on the Luxembourg border were started.
FIRST PENETRATION OF THE SIEGFRIED LINE
On 13 Sept. 1944,
CCR announced the mission of breeching the Siegfried Line installations at
Wallendorf, Germany, and advancing east in an effort to capture Bitburg.
CCB was to assist and cover the advance of CCR with artillery support.
Company "A" was attached to CCB for this purpose, the rest of
the Battalion was attached to CCR. Prior to the launching of the attack,
artillery fired both direct and indirect missions on targets in Germany.
On 12 Sept. 1944 3rd Platoon Reconnaissance Company, established an OP in
Luxembourg overlooking the Siegfried Line installations 1/4 mile west of
Ameldingen, Germany. Enemy patrols crossed the Our River and passed within
100 yards of the OP, however, the OP did not open fire as it would have
revealed the position. On 13 Sept. 1944, 2nd Platoon, Company
"B" in position on hill near Bigelbach, Luxembourg, used direct
fire methods at 2000 yard range on German pill boxes and other enemy
targets in the vicinity of Wallendorf and Biesdorf. On the same day, 2nd
Platoon, Company "C", moved across the Moselle River and fired
on enemy pill boxes northeast of Hoesdorf, Germany. Direct fire methods
were used and six pill boxes were knocked out, after which the Platoon
returned to the bivouac area.
On 13 September 1944, Company "B" with
Reconnaissance Platoon attached, moved with the 47th Armored Infantry
Battalion into firing positions on high ground east and northeast of
Reisdorf, Luxembourg, on direct fire support, for 47th Armored Infantry
Battalion, attacked fortifications of the Siegfried Line northeast of
Wallendorf. Company "C" with Reconnaissance Platoon, still
attached to the 10th Tank Battalion move to an assembly area 5 miles east
of Gilsdorf at 1315 hours. 1st Platoon, Company "C" then moved
to Wallendorf, Germany, crossing the Our River, and set up road blocks to
protect the main body of CCR. 2nd Platoon, Company "C", assisted
1st Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division also
attached to CCR., in the seizing of Reisdorf, Luxembourg, and the
establishing of road blocks there. 3rd Platoon Company "C" moved
to a position one mile north of Wallendorf, Germany, to guard the right
flank of CCR. Pioneer Platoon, Reconnaissance Company, was attached to
Company "C", 22nd Armored Engineer Battalion for a bridge
building mission. Company "C" was in Germany and to Major
Burgess, then Captain, go the honors of being the first man in the
Battalion to set foot on German soil. The remainder of the Battalion,
except Company "A" working with CCB, crossed into Germany on 15
September 1944 and at 1700 hours the Battalion CP was established on Hill
408, one mile east of Frelingen, approximately six miles into Germany, and
which later proved about the deepest penetration CCR was able to make on
About 1030 hours on 16 Sept, 1944, the CCR area in which
Battalion Hq., Reconnaissance Company Hq., and the Medical Detachment were
also located, came under enemy artillery fire so these units withdrew to a
new bivouac area west for Frelingen, Germany. Company "A" with
CCB moved into Germany this day, and went into direct and indirect
artillery positions protecting CCR lines of communication and flanks. 1st
and 3rd Platoons, Company "B", in position southeast of Hill
408, 2nd Platoon Company "B" in position supporting 1st Bn.,
112th Infantry Regt., 28th Infantry Division on Hill 298 near Stockem,
Germany. 1st and 2nd Platoons, Company "C" in anti-tank defense
of 10th Tank Bn., positions southeast of Stockem and northeast of
Halsdorf, respectively, while 3rd Platoon, Company "C" had
anti-tank defense of CCR trains near Hommerdingen, Germany.
On 17 Sept., 1944, enemy small arms, mortar and artillery
fire increased in intensity in all areas occupied by American troops. 2nd
Platoon, Company "B" repulsed three enemy attacks against their
position east of Wettingen, Germany, inflicting an estimated 150 causalities.
1st Bn, 112th Infantry Regt., 28th Division and 2nd Platoon also suffered
heavy casualties from enemy mortar and artillery fire, all personnel and
vehicles evacuated to safety. Lt. Rennebaum, Platoon Leader, was later
awarded the Distinguished Service Cross as a result of this action, the
highest award received by any member of this Battalion during its entire
period in combat.
For their outstanding work in this sector of action, T/4
Claycomb, Medical Detachment, was awarded the Silver Star in the Medical
Detachment and T/5 Coschignano the first Bronze Star Medal. The work of
the men in the Medical Detachment throughout the entire period of combat
was exemplified by courage, daring and skill. The names of Barnes, Baker,
Burden, Beam, Dewey, Davidson, Edlin, Estanish, Gura, Fittery, Kauffman,
McCall, McCann, Mackey, Rhodes, and Youngs will long be remembered by the
men of the firing companies. The fact that in this group of men a total of
five Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, and nine Purple Heart Medals were
awarded is ample demonstration of the superior record achieved by the
Battalion Medical Detachment.
19 Sept. 1944 was the high point in the Battalion's combat
history insofar as knocking out enemy tanks during any single twenty-four
hour period is concerned. Starting at 0930 hours of this eventful day,
CCR's CP area as well as the Battalion CP area came under intense
artillery fire from the north, east and south, forcing the CP
installations to be move from one protective terrain feature to another
until it was finally decided to withdraw all units back into Luxembourg, a
movement which was successfully completed by 0500 hours on 20 Sept. 1944.
Prior to the withdrawal however, both Companies "B" and
"C" had an artilleryman's field day. 1st Platoon, Company
"B" with Lt. Jones commanding, while in position north of
Frelingen, Germany, protecting the left flank of CCR knocked out six Mark
VI tanks attempting to approach their position from the vicinity of
Huttingen, Germany, by direct fire at ranges from 1500 to 3600 yards. Cpl.
Rice, Tank Destroyer gunner, knocked out three enemy tanks in quick
succession at 1800 yards while Cpl. Tomaszewski and Cpl. Kiwior knocked
out tanks at 3600 and 3200 yards respectively. Two unidentified enemy
tanks were also knocked out by the 2nd Platoon. In addition, this Platoon
assisted the tanks attached to the 47th Armored Infantry Bn., in knocking
out an additional five enemy tanks of undetermined designation, while Cpl.
Giacomino knocked out two other enemy tanks but was unable to identify the
tanks due to enemy fire. The 3rd Platoon, Company "C", with Lt.
Feldman commanding, established OP and firing positions on the reverse
slope of a hill 1500 yards north of Hommerdingen, Germany. Considerable
enemy movement was observed in the vicinity of Huttingen and brought under
fire at ranges from 1000 to 2000 yards which resulted in one enemy Mark V
tank definitely knocked out and observed hits scored on six Mark VI's and
one other Mark V, which the enemy either recovered or else completed the
destruction. Thus, in one twenty-four hour period, the Battalion received
credit fro six Mark VI's, one Mark V, and four unidentified tanks
destroyed; six Mark VI's and one Mark V probably destroyed, and assisted
in the destruction of five unidentified tanks.
Thus did the Battalion acquit itself on this historic initial
penetration of the Siegfried Line into Germany. The fact that a withdrawal
became necessary after the German Army moved a greatly superior force from
other fronts to offset this threat, only further proved the success of the
BATTLE OF THE HURTGEN FOREST, GERMANY
from Germany back into Luxembourg on 19 Sept. 1944, the Battalion was
committed to various road block and indirect artillery missions during
October and November, 1944. The entire Battalion moved from Luxembourg to
the vicinity of Faymonville, Belgium, on 5 October 1944.
Company "A" was attached to CCR on 11 October 1944
and moved to the are north of Elsenborn, Belgium, on anti-tank defense and
indirect field artillery missions and on 13 October 1944, moved to an
indirect fire position near Kalterherberg, Germany. Company "B"
was attached to CCA on 13 Oct. 1944 and moved to the vicinity of Herleen,
Holland. Company "C" was attached to CCB on 15 October 1944 and
moved to the vicinity of Ober Forseba, Germany. CCA and Company
"B" were in reserve with XIX Corps while CCB and Company
"C" were in reserve with VII Corps in the attack on Aachen,
Germany, but were not committed prior to the fall of that city. Thus it
was that during this period the Battalion had elements in Belgium,
Holland, and Germany at the same time.
On 23 October 1944, the Battalion moved to the vicinity of
Kalterherberg, Germany where for the first time since entering combat
civilian homes were used as billets, a policy which was continued from
that date until the end of hostilities. On 1 November 1944 the new M-36
Tank Destroyers equipped with the 90 mm guns arrived to replace the M-10's
with the three inch guns in the three firing companies.
By 18 November 1944, all companies were located in the
vicinity of Rotgen, Germany, the gun companies having either road block or
indirect artillery missions. On 25 November 1944, Co. "C" moved
with CCR to vicinity of Hurtgen, Germany with mission of providing A.T.
defense for CCR attached to 8th Inf. Div., V Corps, First U.S. Army, in
the impending battle of Hurtgen Forest. On 29 November 1944, 5th Armored Davison
with 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion attached, less CCR and Company
"C" respectively, were relieved of attachment to V Corps and
attached to VII Corps, First U.S. Army.
On 3 December CCA with Co. "A" attached was further
attached to 4th Infantry Div. in their attack on Strauss, Germany, while
Co. "B" was attached to CCB on indirect fire missions. The
Battle of the Hurtgen Forest in Germany was by far the most intense period
of combat experienced by any unit in this Battalion and full credit can be
paid to CCR and Co. "C" for their outstanding combat record in
this engagement. This was the area that the enemy had been able to
strongly fortify and were determined to protect, as it controlled the
approaches to the vitally important network of dams which fed into the
Roer River area. To the north British and American units were approaching
the west bank of the Roer but could not cross until the network of dams in
the hills above their positions were held by our forces. It was known that
the German plan of defense was based on their ability to hold these dams
to the last possible minute, and then release this vast supply of water to
flood the entire Roer River area. It was for this reason that the American
Army had to have those dams and it took the 28th Inf. Division, 8th Inf.
Division and 78th Inf. Division supported by CCR and Co. "C"
weeks of stubborn fighting thru mine fields and innumerable
counter-attacks. The way was cleared thru Hurtgen, Kleinhau, Groshau,
Brandenburg, Bergstein, Strauss, and Gey so that our forces were in a
position where they could successfully launch an attack to capture these
The enemy made extensive use of his air elements during this
period, strafing and bombing both forward and rear elements of this
organization. On 3 December 1944, near Rotgen, Germany, Co. "B"
was attacked and strafed by ME-109's while in indirect fire positions and
received credit for the first of four enemy planes destroyed by this
Battalion. On the same day one mile East of Rotgen, Company "C's
bivouac area was strafed by enemy planes and the second plane to the
credit of this Battalion was destroyed.
Enemy artillery employment in the Hurtgen-Bergstein area was
the heaviest encountered. The artillery fire was such as to confine tank
crews to their tanks for hours at a time and air bursts and shrapnel
caused many casualties to the men in the open M-36 turrets. One Co.
"C" M-36 hit a mine in the vicinity of Bergstein, on 6 Dec. 1944
and the crew climbed into another M-36 for protection. Shortly afterwards,
however, this other M-36 with both crews aboard received a direct hit in
the open turret with a white phosphorous shell. As the result of this
experience, plans were immediately started to build an armored turret top
for all T.D. vehicles. This modification for all M-36 Tank Destroyer
vehicles was finally completed in January, 1945, and proved invaluable in
combat on a number of subsequent occasions.
At one time Company "C" had only one M-36 out of
twelve operational, either due to being destroyed, knocked out by mines,
or lacking crews. However, largely because of the untiring and aggressive
efforts for the men in the Company, and the efforts of the Company and
Battalion Motor Maintenance crew, recovery and repairs were completed so
that seven M-36's were operational the next day.
While this was a difficult and hazardous period for our men,
they in turn had been making the enemy pay heavily at all times.
Innumerable casualties were inflicted on enemy troops as counter attack
after counter attack was repulsed by our forces. Elements of the 272nd and
the 246th Volks Grenadier Division, three Paratroop Divisions, the 116th
Panzer Division and other units of the 5th Panzer Army were employed but
once the American units took an objective they held it. On 6 December
1944, in Bergstein, Germany, Company "C" destroyed five enemy
tanks when Sgt. Woods knocked out one Mark VI and one Mark V tanks at a
1000 yard range, and Sgt. Leo destroyed one Mark IV at a 175 yard range.
On 8 December 1944, CCR and Company "C" were relieved and pulled
back to the vicinity of Rabotrath, Belgium, for a much needed rest. The
Battle of Hurtgen Forest was not over, but the foothold on the commanding
terrain controlling the approaches to the Roer River dams was secured with
the capture of the towns of Kleinhau, Brandenburg, Bergstein, Strauss and
Gey, Germany. Credit for the capture of these towns can be claimed by CCR
and CCA, with Company "C" and Company "A" of this
BATTLE OF THE ARDENNES
Early in December
1944, intelligence reports showed that there was a considerable increase
in enemy troop movement, and that the German 5th and 6th Panzer Armies
were in reserve between the Roer and Rhine Rivers. Further, by looking at
the friendly situation map, it could be seen that the American troops
between Rotgen, Kalterherberg and Elsenborn, Belgium, were spread fairly
thin. This entire sector from St. Vith, Belgium, south to Wiltz and
Diekirch, Luxembourg, had been quiet since September, and it was generally
felt by those who were located at these points that the area was fairly
safe. It was thought the enemy could not afford to make the sacrifice in
troops and material which a large counter attack would entail. The German
Army could not afford such an expenditure as was later proven by the ease
with which the Allied armies in the West crossed the Roer, Rhine, Wesser
and on to the banks of the Elbe River in March and April, 1945. Afford it
or not, however, on 16 December 1944, the German Army did launch an
offensive on a grand scale which was not stopped until spearhead elements
of the German Army had nearly cut Belgium in two from the German to the
French border, and until most of the U.S. First and Third Armies, together
with the elements of the British Second Army had been shifted to meet this
Around 8 December 1944, all companies in the Battalion with
the exception of Company "B" and Company "C" moved
north to the Hahn - Zweifall area located approximately six miles south of
Aachen. Preparations were being made for the crossing of the Roer River as
soon as the Roer River dams could be secured.
On 17 December 1944, first news of the German counter
offensive in Belgium was received, enemy air activity increased and we
learned that harassing enemy paratroopers had landed in the area between
Hahn, Germany and Eupen, Belgium, which was the main supply route,
anti-paratroop patrols were organized by the Battalion. On 19 December
1944, the Battalion was relieved of the attachment to VII Corps and 5th
Armored Division, and attached to XIX Corps, 78th Infantry Division and
the Battalion CP returned to Rotgen, Germany, to be in closer touch with
Hq. 78th Infantry Division. On 23 December 1944, however, all companies
reverted to Battalion control. The Battalion was relieved of the
attachment to XIX Corps, 78th Infantry Division, and attached to VII
Corps, 3rd Armored Division and alerted for immediate movement to the
vicinity of Barveau, Belgium. The battle of the Belgium Bulge was on.
Upon arrival of all units in the new area around 1400 hours
on 24 December 1944, Company "A" took up a defensive position in
Soy, Belgium, Company "B" was attached to the 83rd
Reconnaissance Bn., 3rd Armored Division and took up defensive positions
in the vicinity of Grandmenil, Belgium, Company "C" Reconnaissance
Company and the Battalion Forward CP were established in Erezee, Belgium,
and the Headquarters Company and the Battalion rear echelon elements moved
into Bomal, Belgium. No one knew just how near the enemy had approached,
but it did not take long to find out. Company "A's" position in
Soy, Belgium, came under artillery fire shortly after their arrival and
the enemy launched a small infantry counter attack which approached to
within 200 yards of Company "A's" position before withdrawing.
At 0130 hours, 25 December 1944, 2nd Platoon, Company "B" had a
road block established in Grandmenil, Belgium, when an enemy armored
column was heard approaching the concealed position. Sgt. Moser, Tank
Destroyer Gun Commander, permitted the leading enemy vehicles to come up
to 25 yards of his position before opening fire and then in quick
succession knocked out the first two tanks at almost point blank range,
both of which were later identified as Mark V's. This action caused the
other vehicles in the enemy column to withdraw, and no further attempt was
made by the enemy to utilize this Grandmenil-Erezee-Soy road net work
which they needed to properly protect their northern flank. Later in the
same day, members of Company "B" found two Mark V tanks
abandoned by the German crews because they were out of gas, and these two
enemy tanks were also destroyed. Thus did the Battalion celebrate
Christmas Day in the Year 1944.
The Battalion remained on road blocks and protective
anti-tank missions in this area until the 3rd Armored Division was
relieved, and by 31 December 1944 all companies were in reserve with the
3d Armored Division. Battalion Hq. in Seny, Belgium, Headquarters and Reconnaissance
Companies in Bomal, Company "A" in Les Avine, and companies
"B" and "C" in Abee, Belgium.
On the first day of the year of final victory in Europe, the
Battalion was relieved of the attachment to VII Corps, 3rd Armored
Division and attached to XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division.
These were truly fighting men, a squad of the 82nd Airborne Division will
take on a Company of the German Army, an 82nd Airborne Division Company
will take on a German Battalion, and to assign any unit of the 82nd
Airborne Division an objective was to know that the objective will be
taken and held.
The mission of the 82nd Airborne during the time this
Battalion was attached to it, was to clean up all enemy resistance in the
Division area west of the Salm River. The mission was successfully
completed in eleven days, but those eleven days were filled with
excitement and pathos. During this period, Company "A" had two
M-36 Tank Destroyers destroyed by anti-tank fire, and one M-36 Tank
Destroyer and one M-8 Armored Car knocked out by enemy mines, while
Company "C" had one M-36 Destroyer knocked out by enemy mines.
The vehicles hit by anti-tank fire burned and were total losses, however,
those vehicles damaged by mines were recovered and repaired.
In addition to the vehicle losses, fourteen enlisted men in
the Battalion were killed in this action, nine from Company "B",
and five from Company "A" and eighteen were wounded. That the
enemy paid dearly for these losses is without question. On 4 January 1945,
the 1st Section, 2nd Platoon, Company "B" destroyed one Mark V
tank in the vicinity of Abrefontaine, Belgium, and on the same day east of
Odrimont, Belgium, Sgt. Moser and Sgt. Marrapese, both of Company
"B", teamed up to knock out a Mark IV tank at 600 yard range. On
7 January 1945, southeast of Goronne, Belgium, Cpl. Kiwior, Company
"B", knocked out another Mark VI Royal Tiger tank at 700 yards,
the only two Royal Tigers to the credit of the Battalion. On 8 January
1945, Cpl. O'Brien and Cpl. Salamone, Company "A", teamed up to
knock out two Mark IV tanks at 800 yards to make a total of six enemy
tanks on this mission. In addition to these tanks, the Battalion also
received credit for destroying one 88 mm towed gun, two armored vehicles,
one half-track, one machine gun nest, one bazooka and an OP in a stone house;
inflicted approximately 75 casualties of which 54 were known dead, and
captured 41 prisoners of war. Upon conclusion of the operation, Company
"B" received a citation from the Commanding General of the 82nd
Airborne Division for the aggressive spirit displayed by the members of
that company during this period.
On 11 January 1945, the Battalion was relieved of the
attachment with the 82nd Airborne Division, and attached to the 75th
Infantry Division. However, no actual contact with the enemy was made
after this date while the Battalion was with the 75th Infantry Division.
On 16 January 1945, the Battalion was relieved of attachment
to the 75th Infantry Division and moved to the vicinity of Francorchamps,
Belgium, in the status of Corps Reserve. On 27 January 1945, the Battalion
was relieved of attachment to XVIII Corps (Airborne), First U.S. Army, and
attached once again to what all members of the Battalion have come to
regard as the parent unit, the 5th Armored Division, which had recently
been transferred from First U.S. Army to Ninth U.S. Army control. The
Battalion less Company "A" move to Herbesthal, Belgium, for a
rest period and needed maintenance. Company "A" was attached to
CCA, 5th Armored Division, and moved to an assembly area in the vicinity
of Rott, Belgium, with the mission of assisting CCA in their attack on
Eichershceid, Germany. The mission was successfully completed with the
loss of only one man, and Company "A" returned to Battalion
control at Herbesthal, Belgium, on 1 February 1945. The Battalion moved to
Voerendaal, Holland until the plans for the crossing of the Roer River on
25 February 1945, with the XIII Corps, Ninth U.S. Army, could be
THE ROER TO THE RHINE RIVER
October 1944, the Roer River and the defensive positions of the German
Army to its east, had been a formidable barrier. By the middle of February
1945, the U.S. First and Third Armies had not only regained all ground
occupied the German Army in the battle of the Belgium Bulge, but had
succeeded in pushing deep into German territory and seizing the Roer River
dams. The Germans withdrew the remnants of their tattered 5th and 6th
Panzer Armies east of the Roer River and around 15 February 1945, opened
the gates of the dams and flooded the Roer River Valley in order to gain
time to construct their defensive positions between the Roer and Rhine
The build-up of Allied troops waiting for the Roer River
crossing was now complete, and so all that was necessary was to wait for
the flood waters to subside. This took about seven days, and on 23
February 1945, the XVI Corps launched its attack to cross. Company
"A" under Division Artillery control was in indirect artillery
position in the vicinity of Puffendorf, Germany, to support this attack.
From 5 February 1945, Company "A" fired three registrations, 21
interdiction concentrations and 108 harassing concentrations, totaling
2122 rounds of which 1600 rounds were fired in the initial artillery
barrage which lasted ten hours prior to the jumping off of the Infantry attack
on 23 February 1945. This represents the greatest number of rounds fired
by any Company in this battalion in any similar period of time.
Company "B" attached to CCB was the first unit of
the Battalion to cross the Roer at Linnich, Germany on 25 February 1945,
and the remainder of the Battalion followed the next day with Company
"A" attached to CCA, Company "C" to CCR, and Battalion
Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Reconnaissance Company Headquarters
the Pioneer Platoon and Medical Detachment moving with Division Artillery
Hq. The initial assembly area east of the Roer River was in the vicinity
of Koffern-Hottorf, Germany. All elements of the 5th Armored Division then
swung to the north capturing Rath, Erkelenz, Hardt, Rheindalen, Rheydt,
by-passing Munchen-Gladbach and continuing through Vierson, Anrath, Huls,
Tonsiberg, Vluynheide where the Battalion CP was established on 4 March
1945. Company "A" in the meantime had proceeded with CCA in the
attack against Krefeld, while Company "C" continued with CCR in
the attack on Repelen and Orsoy, on March 7, 1945. With the exception of a
pocket of resistance around Wessel, the operation from the Roer River to
the west bank of the Rhine River was completed by 10 March 1945, No losses
in either vehicles or personnel were suffered by this Battalion in this
operation although on 3 March 1945 a friendly plane dropped a bomb in
Company "A's" area which killed two men, and injured several
The enemy troops opposing out troops in early March,
constituted an inefficient group lacking sufficient personnel or equipment
to even delay our advance. The principal obstacles confronting the
Battalion's movement consisted of drainage ditches, supplemented by
numerous anti-tank ditches and occasional mine fields. Enemy anti-tank
guns were, for the most part, 88 mm guns dug in with excellent fields of
fire covering anti-tank ditches, road blocks, mine fields, approaches and
highways. Enemy air elements were scarce but reconnaissance planes were
heard throughout the area with occasional strafing, but no damage was done
to our units. In March 1945, during a movie program in the Battalion CP in
the post office at Vluynheide, a lone enemy plane dove on the CP and
dropped what was estimated to be a 500 pound bomb but missed the building
by 200 yards. Several men were cut however when the concussion of the bomb
blew in all the windows of the building. The movie was continued after the
black-out shades had been repaired. Enemy armor was limited and no enemy
tanks were engaged by the Battalion.
On 12 March 1945, all companies reverted to Battalion Control
and moved in the vicinity of Osterath, Germany. The Battalion CP was set
up at Schweinheim, with three gun companies in indirect fire positions to
the east. From 13 March 1945 to 29 March 1945, under Division Artillery
control, Company "A" fired three registrations of 20 rounds, two
TOT's totaling 77 rounds and 247 harassing concentrations totaling 1528
rounds. All targets were located in the important industrial Ruhr
district, east of the Rhine.
On 15 March 1945, 1st Platoon, Company "A" was subjected
to very accurate counter-battery fire as the result of which two EM were
killed and eight EM wounded. It was believed that some civilians in the
area furnished the information as to the exact position of the Platoon.
The concentration of enemy artillery is also believed to have damaged some
of the ammunition in the company dump, because later in the afternoon
while loading a 90 mm APC shell on a 2 1/2 ton truck a shell exploded in
the hands of Cpl. Jacquinto, Company "A" and set off the entire
load of ammunition in the truck, which was also destroyed. The premature
explosion of the shell in his hands knocked Cpl. Jacquinto off the rear of
the truck. He was revived by the company medical aid man, and after
treatment for slight burns of his hands, remained on a duty status,
unshaken, but richer by the award of an Oak Leaf Cluster to a previously
earned Purple Heart Award.
On 30 March 1945, Co. "A", Co. "B" and
Co. "C" were attached to CCA, CCB, and CCR respectively in
preparation of tactical commitment east of the Rhine River, and on 31
March 1945 the entire Battalion crossed the River over an Engineer pontoon
bridge at Wessel, Germany. The final phase of the war in Europe had
THE RHINE TO THE ELBE RIVER
After being penned
for so many months by terrain and prepared defensive positions which was
only suitable for Infantry, the terrain east from the Rhine River was a
tank man's dream. Flat country and with a good network of highways. Once
the Infantry had seized a bridgehead on the east bank of the Rhine and the
Engineers had installed their pontoon bridges, the only limits on the
armored forces was one of re-supply of rations and gas. Reminiscent of the
hard driving, fast moving, armored slashes following the breakthrough at Avranches,
France, last August, once again the 5th Armored Division and the Tank
Destroyers were on the loose, deep in enemy territory.
In general, the operation was broken into three phases; Phase
No. 1 - 1 April to 8 April, the attack from the Rhine River east to the
Wesser River. Phase 2 - 8 April to 16 April, Wesser River to Elbe River
and phase No. 3 - 16 April to 25 April, the mopping of the rear areas and
the Von Clauswitz Panzer Division.
After crossing the Rhine, the three gun companies during
phase No. 1 moved usually along three separate routes of march with Co.
"C" on the right, Co "A" in the center and Co.
"B" on the left or northern flank, with Battalion Hq.,
Reconnaissance Co. and Medical Detachment moving with Division Artillery
Headquarters, usually along the center route.
Munster, Germany, was by-passed to the south on 2 April and
subsequently was captured by the 17th Airborne Division. The Dortmund Ems
Canal was crossed by some elements on 1 April and the remainder on 2
April. Bielfeld was by-passed to the north on 3 April and the entire
Division went into an assembly area in the vicinity of Hereford on that
date and remained there until 8 April 1945.
On 3 April, east of Bonn Hof Lohne, the CCB column ran into
some enemy resistance. Lt. Duchscherer and the 2nd Platoon, Company
"B" went into action and after knocking out one unidentified
tank, one German Scout car, six 76 mm artillery pieces, two mortar
positions and capturing eight prisoners and inflicting an unknown number
of casualties, the CCB column continued its march. Nine rounds of AP and
twenty-four rounds of 90 mm HE were used by Lt. Duchscherer's Platoon in
this action. On the same date, in the vicinity of Exeter, Germany, Cpl.
Crawford, Company "C" knocked out one enemy artillery field
piece at 1500 yards.
In phase No. 2, all elements of the Battalion crossed the
Wesser River at Hamelin, Germany. The Pied Piper town, on 8 April 1945,
proceeded generally NE, by-passing south of Hannover. On 9 April in the
vicinity of Rosenthal, Cpl. Winget and Cpl. Appling, Company "C"
each destroyed an 88 mm A-T gun at 1900 and 2200 yards respectively. On 10
April in Pattensen, Germany, enemy artillery fired a 200 round artillery
concentration which fell in the 400 yard space between Division Artillery
Headquarters and Battalion Headquarters without incurring any personnel
loss, although two Division Artillery vehicles were hit. The
reconnaissance Company CP building was hit and the roof damaged but no
casualties sustained. Reconnaissance Company screened the town which CCR
had by-passed and picked up 114 prisoners of war in the vicinity. CCR
swung north and CCA continued the attack east thru CCR's old axis of march
thru Peine and east to capture Tangermunde and Stendal, Germany. Battalion
Headquarters continued with Division Artillery Headquarters thru Diddease,
Neuendorf and arrived in Demker, west of Tangermunde, on 11 April 1945.
Enroute to Demker, Reconnaissance Company, while acting as rear guard to
the Battalion, encountered an enemy patrol west of Deetz and engaged in
fighting off and successfully routing the patrol after killing ten of
At this point, CCA in Tangermunde was the closest U.S. Army
unit to Berlin, however, this record was later lost in favor of the 2nd
Armored Division who actually crossed the east bank of the Elbe River the
next day against stiffening enemy opposition.
On 14 April 1945, the Battalion CP Headquarters, and
Reconnaissance Company moved with Division Artillery Headquarters to
Osterburg where these units remained until 16 April 1945.
The only loss on this movement from the Rhine to the
Elbe Rivers was suffered by Co. "A" at Tangermunde, when SS
troopers knocked out one M-36 vehicle, however, the gun sergeant was
killed by small arms fire and the other four crew members were captured by
SS troopers in Tangermunde. These four men with approximately 200 American
Paratroop prisoners of war, were subsequently released the same day prior
to the surrender of the town to CCA. Company "A" succeeded in
destroying one locomotive and eight freight cars by direct fire and after
taking Tangermunde, assisted CCA in the clearing of Stendal, capturing 59
prisoners on this mission.
CCB with Company "B" initially had the mission of
following between CCR and CCA in a reserve status and to protect the
bridge across the Wesser River at Hemelin. The Company subsequently moved
east thru Osterburg to the Elbe River.
CCR with Company "C" had the mission of cutting the
autobahn in the vicinity of Peine and then proceeding north and east toward
the Elbe River and try to secure the bridges over the river in the
vicinity of Sandau, but the enemy destroyed the bridges and ferry before
they could be secured.
After reaching the western banks of the Elbe River on 11
April 1945, and consolidating the position there in anticipation of making
a crossing and marching directly on to Berlin, word came in that the Von
Clausewitz Division had moved south to escape the British and were making
an effort to cut our rear supply line and to eventually tie up with other
German units holding out in the Hartz Mountains in the south. Phase No. 3,
therefore, found the Battalion moving with the various combat commands to
meet this threat. For the first time since the drive started with the
crossing of the Roer River, the Battalion was moving west instead of east,
even though still on the offensive.
Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company and Reconnaissance
Company moved from Osterburg to Klotz on 16 April 1945, then on to
Rohrberg on 18 April, then to Wopel and arrived at Salzwedel on 22 April
Battalion Motor Maintenance Platoon under Capt. Bayer had
been left in the vicinity of Klotz, when Battalion Hq. and Headquarters
Company left for Rohrberg. On 20 April 1945, however, Capt. Bayer and his
entire Platoon reported in unexpectedly at the Battalion CP at Wopel, that
evening. It had been found that an estimated 400 enemy troops had
infiltrated into the woods one mile from Capt. Bayer's area near Klotz.
These enemy troops were subsequently captured and the estimate was found
to be correct.
On 16 April 1945, Division Trains that utilized Battalion
personnel trucks and drivers to haul supplies in a large convoy had
proceeded about 15 miles west of Klotz when it was ambushed, and after the
two lead vehicles had been destroyed, the remaining vehicles were
abandoned and captured by the enemy. On 17 April, however, the truck
belonging to this Battalion and one other truck was recaptured and
returned to the division Rear Echelon. On the Battalion Personnel truck at
the time of its capture by the enemy was the Battalion Standard and the
silk parade flag, both of which were returned with the truck intact.
On 17 April 1945, CCA was relieved of the area in the
vicinity of the Elbe River, and with Company "A" still attached
moved west and then north on 18 April thru Knesbeck, Stiemke and
Wittingen. On 21 April, Company "A" supported CCA on an attack
north from Wittingen thru Kelnze and Hitzack. Opposition in general was
light but Cpl. Rutkowski destroyed a 1/2 ton truck at 400 yard range in
the vicinity of Harlingen on 22 April. In the vicinity of Kiefen, on 23
April, Cpl. Rutkowski, 2nd Platoon. Co. "A" had the honor of
knocking out the last of the total of 56 tanks credited this Battalion
when he destroyed a Mark V tank at 600 yard range. Cleaning up operations
for Company "A" continued until 26 April when the Company
reverted to Battalion Control.
Company "B" moved with CCB on 16 April to vicinity
of Jubar, where it assisted in cleaning up a task force of the Von
Clauswitz Panzer Division which had been harassing the supply lines in
that area. On 18 April, 1st Platoon, Company "B" set up a
defensive position against enemy armor reported moving from the direction
of Ludelsen. The enemy was encountered in the woods north of Ludelsen and
the 1st Platoon, Co. "B", destroyed on half track, two general
purpose vehicles, one Jaeger Panther Tank and killed an unknown number of
the enemy. Third Platoon, Co. "B" also destroyed one enemy half
track and two general purpose vehicles the same day. On 25 April, Co.
"B" reverted to Battalion Control.
On 16 April, Co. "C" with CCR moved in the vicinity
of Salzwedel with a mission of cleaning up small pockets of resistance,
then attacking north thru Luchow to the Elbe River. The entire company was
attached to 10th Tank Bn. (Task Force Hamburg) on this mission, which
moved thru Salzwedel, north to Luchow to Dannenburg. Cpl. Herman, 2nd
Platoon, Co. "C" destroyed one 88-mm self propelled gun at 1500
yards on 22 April in the vicinity of Quicklen. Pvt. Helton took 6
prisoners in the vicinity of Dannenburg on 22 April. Co. "C"
reverted to Battalion Control on 25 April. Thus ended the tactical
commitment of all companies of this Battalion against the German Army in
the European Theater after 266 days of combat.
VICTORY IN EUROPE
On 26 April, the
entire Battalion moved from the vicinity of Salzwedel south and west to
take up military government duties controlling an area of approximately
230 sq. miles located south of the autobahn from Peine east to Wendezelle.
Battalion CP, Headquarters Co. and Medical Detachment were located in
Wendzelle, Reconnaissance Co. in Wendellburg, Company "A" in
Woltorf, Company "B" in Zweidorf and Company "C" in
Schmedenstadt, Germany. On 8 May 1945, when V-E Day was announced as
effective 0001 hours, 9 May 1945, the combat history of the 628th Tank
Destroyer Battalion in the European Theater of Operations came to a close.
SUMMARY OF ENEMY LOSSES CREDITED TO THE
628TH TANK DESTROYER BATTALION, 2 AUGUST 1944 TO 8 MAY 1945
Number Total Number Total
Tiger Royals 2 MACHINE GUNS: 24 24
Mark VI 14 PILL BOXES: 58 58
Mark V 14 OP'S: 16 16
Mark IV 13
Unidentified 13 MISCELLANEOUS
56 56 Buildings 52
Bazooka Nests 2
S.P GUNS: 4 4
88MM 8 AIRPLANES: 4 4
75 MM OR 76 MM 10 TRAINS:
47 MM 1 Locomotives 1 1
40 MM 2 Freight Cars 8 8
75 MM Howitzer 1
Others 2 PW'S CAPTURED
24 24 EM 1487
MORTARS: 7 7 Officers 29
HALF-TRACKS: 22 22 1516 1516
GENERAL PURPOSE ESTIMATED ENEMY
VEHICLES 68 68 CASUALTIES 1231 1231