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    Combat History of theEighth Infantry Division

    in World War IIPrepared and Edited by Lieutenant Marc F. Griesbach,

    Historian of the Eighth Division

    Normandy Northern France Rhineland Central Europe

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    Of The



    This account was written during the period of combat from official reportsand personal interviews with commanders and men of the Eighth Division.


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    To the Officers and Men of the 8th Infantry Division:

    The proud record of the 8th Division in battle andservice is unsurpassed.

    You won your battles in the recent war by courage

    any by devotion; by the bravery of the men, and by

    the peerless example of the leaders.

    With great pride in your accomplishments and

    with humility before the heroic self-sacrifice of theofficers and men of this great Division, I subscribe


    Yours very respectfully,

    Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.,

    24 September, 1945

    Major General, U.S. Army,Commanding.

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    Eight Infantry Division

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    INTRODUCTIONThis is the story of the 8th Infantry Division of the American Army in

    World War II. It is, however, a story which begins long before the Nazi versionof German militarism struck down the peoples of Europe, before Japanese

    imperialism ravaged China and imprisoned the islands of the South Pacificbefore the world was thrown into this greatest of all wars.

    History records January, 1918 as the activation date of the 8th InfantryDivision.* Camp Fremont, Palo Alto, California, was its first station, and thereit remained in training until September, 1918. Units of organization were the8th, 12th, 13th and 62nd Infantry Regiments, the 2nd and 81st Field ArtilleryRegiments, the 319th Engineer Battalion, 320th Field Signal Battalion andthe 8th Supply Train.

    None of the units of what was then the 8th Division saw combat service in

    World War I, for they were still enroute to France when the Armistice wassigned. One of them, the 8th Infantry Regiment, was attached to the Army ofOccupation and served on German soil until August, 1919. The other ele-ments of the Division returned to the United States in January, 1919, andduring the following month the organization was disbanded. In March, 1923,it was reconstituted as an inactive unit, and on July 1, 1940, at Fort Jackson,South Carolina, it was again brought into active service.

    That day marks the beginning of the present 8th Infantry Division. MajorGeneral Philip B. Peyton was named its first commander, and from the 8thInfantry Brigade, Fort McPherson, Georgia, came the cadre for a division head-quarters. Original units of the organization were the 13th, 28th and 34th In-fantry Regiments, the 28th and 83rd Field Artillery Regiments, the 12th En-gineer Battalion, 8th Medical Battalion, 8th Reconnaissance Troop, 8th Sig-nal Company, and the Headquarters and Military Police Company. Of these,only the 13th Infantry Regiment had been a member of the 8th Division of1918.

    Before relating the story of the 8th as a division, it might be well to go backinto the history of the units which make up the organization. Although theDivision is still comparatively young in American military history, its infantry

    units bear traditions of long and meritorious service.

    * Available records indicate that there probably were one or more divisions designated as the 8th pr iorto 1918, but there is no connection between them and the present organization.

    C H A P T E R 1

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    13th Infantry RegimentJohn Adams was President of the Nation, and George Washington had just

    retired to his home in Mount Vernon, when the 13th Regiment of Infantry was

    formed on July 16th, 1798. This was in accordance with the first plan for theexpansion of the United States Army after the War of the Independence. The13th was mustered out in January, 1800, but was reconstituted in the first yearof the War of 1812, and took part in a number of engagements during thatconflict.

    The 13th first went into action on the Canadian border at Lewiston, NewYork, which fell to the American forces on October 10, 1812. Three days later,Queenstown Heights was also taken by the newly-formed regiment. In com-memoration of its service, the city of Buffalo raised a monument to the 13th atFort Porter, New York. The annals of the Buffalo Historical Society contain

    the following passage concerning the battle at Queenstown Heights: Outsideof the casualties of warthe death of the distinguished British General Brockit had no military significance except the introduction into history of the gal-lant 13th Regiment of U.S. Infantry, so dear to the whole frontier.

    The next engagement in which a unit of the 13th is known to have takenpart was at Black Rock, New York, where a company of the Regiment, afterconsiderable losses, captured a British battery. A few days later, the 13th, bythis time for some obscure reason known as the Jolly Snorters, was teamedwith Lieutenant Colonel (later General) Winfield Scotts artillery. Attacking

    the British at Fort George, New York, the Americans forced them back toTwelve-Mile Creek.

    During the remainder of the war, the 13th was engaged almost constantlyin skirmishes along the northern frontier. Then, on September 11, 1814, camethe final battle of Plattsburg. American General Macomb with 1,500 men anda small naval detachment, defeated a mixed army and navy command com-posed of 15,000 of Wellingtons veteransand the war was over. In May, 1815,the 13th was consolidated with the 5th Infantry Regiment, and it so no moreactive service until the Mexican War. Although a roster of officers during thatconflict is still in existence, no record is available of the Regiments role inbattle.

    War Between the StatesReconstituted in May 3, 1861, with General W.T. Sherman as its commander,

    and Philip Sheridan as one of its captains, the Regiments service from thatday to this is continuous. President Abraham Lincoln had issued a call for75,000 volunteers, and with the assignment of some of these men, the 13thRegiment of United States Infantry was brought to full strength. In October,1862, seven of the eight companies of the Regiment were assigned to General

    Shermans command at Memphis, Tennessee. On one occasion when Sherman,then a temporary Brigadier General, was asked his permanent rank, he proudlyreplied, I am Colonel of the thirteenth Regiment of United States Infantry.

    It was under Sherman a few months later that the 13th saw its first actionin the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Union forces, had decidedthat the West must be wrested from Confederate control. The Mississippi had

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    already been forced, and now it became necessary to reduce the fortress atVicksburg. Grants plan was to hold Pemberton, while Sherman, with the 13thRegiment of the United States Infantry, crossed the Black River in rear of theConfederate forces. After much difficulty, Sherman succeeded in landing his

    forces near Walnut Hills, Mississippi, on December 22, 1862. A week later,the heavy fire of the 13th assisted the 6th Missouri in crossing ChickasawBayou. The main attack failed, and Grant was driven back; but the 13th washighly commended. It was then withdrawn from this sector and, on January11, 1863, participated in the capture of the Arkansas Post, where it receiveda citation for gallantry.

    Beginning with the Battle of Haynes Bluff, on May 1, 1863, the 13th tookpart in a series of engagements in Mississippi which culminated in the assaultat Vicksburg. Then on May 19, 1863, the colors of the 13th Infantry flew brieflyatop the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg. Seven men carried the colorsthat day, and all seven lost their lives. Grant had greatly underestimated thestrength of the enemy, and the attacked was repulsed with heavy losses.

    Though the price they paid was high, the officers and men of the 13th thatday won for the Regiment the motto that it still retains. Their valor so im-pressed General Grant that he directed that the 13th Regiment of United StatesInfantry be permitted to carry on its colors, from that day forward, the legend,First at Vicksburg.

    Although hard hit by casualties, the 13th fought through the remainder ofthe campaign until July 4 when Vicksburg finally surrendered. There was an-

    other hard fought battle at Collierville, Mississippi, at which the Regimentearned General Shermans commendation. Then on November 23, 1863, the13th took part in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, its last engagement in theWar. Casualties had taken over 60 percent of its strength. Three time the thanksof Congress were bestowed upon former members of the 13thtwice to Gen-eral Sherman, and once to General Sheridan. General Sherman always re-tained his affection for the Regiment, and later, to show his esteem, he ap-pointed it the Headquarters Guard.

    Post-Civil-War YearsIn the years immediately following the Civil War, the Government again

    reduced the Army. In 1869, only four regiments of infantrythe 12th, 13th,20th and 23rdremained intact. These were frequently broken up into one ortwo company units and sent to fight Indians or assist in the development of theWest.

    There were, however, many colorful episodes during this period. The 13th,on one occasion, was given the mission of quelling the Mormon uprising. WithColonel De Trobriand in command, the Regiment marched into Salt Lake Cityand took over the streets. The Colonel then invited himself to lunch with

    Brigham Young. He dared the legendary leader of the Mormons, with his thou-sands of Nauvoo warriors, to attack. Brigham Young, seeing the men of the13th at uncomfortably close range, reconsidered. There were no more armedclashes, and the Morman uprising had been crushed.

    Next stationed in New Orleans, the Regiment on January 4, 1875, pro-ceeded, under official orders, to arrest the Louisiana State Legislature. Later

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    Burning of Siboney, CubaJuly 14, 1898

    there came a call for volunteers to take a boatload of medicine and suppliesthrough the yellow fever-infested area between Vicksburg and Memphis. Twolieutenants of the Regiment volunteered; one died.

    Companies E, F, and H had the honor of forming part of General Shermans

    funeral escort in 1892. Company F represented the Regiment at the openingof the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The next year the13th was garrisoned at Fort Niagra, Fort Porter and Governors Island in NewYork, and there remained until the Spanish-American War.

    War With SpainWhen war broke out with Spain, the 13th was assigned to the 1st Division,

    V Corps. The Regiment arrived off Santiago, Cuba, on June 20, 1898, and wasengaged in battle at El Caney shortly thereafter. Advancing unexpectedly towithin 800 yards of the hostile trenches, the Regiment suddenly came under

    heavy fire from the Spaniards and suffered heavy casualties. It succeeded,however, in driving the Spaniards from El Caney, and then joined in the attackof San Juan Hill.

    Next the regiment was given the task of guarding prisoners of war, and inSeptember, 1898, embarked for its home stations in New York. In May, 1899,it was sent to the Philippines. Until October, units of the Regiment were en-gaged in frequent minor forays against the insurrectos in the environs of Ma-nila. Later it was ordered north to San Fabian in the province of Pangarian,where it joined in the drive to cut Aquinaldos retreat through this district.

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    Although the complete history of the Philippine campaign has never beenwritten, it is known that the 13th took part in the remainder of the action andreceived the thanks of the Commanding General of the Islands.

    In July, 1900, the Regiment returned to the United States, where its units

    were sent to various West Coast stations. In May, 1903, Company I was or-dered to Fort Liscum, Alaska. From 1905 to 1907, the Regiment was again inthe Philippines. In October, 1911, after four years garrison duty at FortLeavenworth, Kansas, it made a third trip to the Islands, where it remaineduntil the outbreak of World War I.

    Leaving the Philippines in July, 1917, the 13th Infantry returned to Cali-fornia and was immediately sent to Camp Fremont. In January of the followingyear, it became a part of the 8th Infantry Division. As a member of that orga-nization, it did not participate in battle during World War I.

    After the war, units of the 13th Infantry were stationed at one time or an-other at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Boston Harbor Forts, Fort Ethan Allen,Vermont and Fort Adams, Rhode Island. In October, 1939, the Regiment wasordered to the Canal Zone. There, in June, 1940, its personnel, with the ex-ception of the band, was transferred to other organizations. In July, the Regi-ment was reconstituted at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, as a member of thepresent 8th Infantry Division.

    28th Infantry Regiment

    Organized in 1901 at Vancouver Barracks, Washington, the 28th InfantryRegiment earned its spurs in the Philippine jungles of Mindanao and added toits laurels during World War I in the forests of Cantigny. Shortly after its orga-nization, the Regiment was sent to the Philippines. For two years it remainedon the Island of Mindanao, building military roads through the dense jungleand suppressing the Moros, savage inhabitants of that land. Raids and am-bushes by these treacherous headhunters were a constant danger. Moros, withtheir bolos, crept up on lone sentries and small groups of soldiers in the black-ness of night, and at dawn the slashed bodies of the victims would be found.Disease followed the men of the 28th from camp to camp of the malaria-in-fested swamp. In spite of the hardships, they continued on their mission.Through Jolo, Pantar and Marahui the road was rushed to completion. TheMoros were conquered, pacified or killed, and the 28th returned to the UnitedStates.

    For the next ten years, the Regiment performed ordinary garrison duties.It was stationed for a time at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and later in Texas.Little information is available of this period. Then, in 1913, there weer seri-ous outbreaks along the Mexican border. President Taft ordered the Regimentto patrol the Rio Grande rover. The city of Vera Cruz was seized by the United

    States Navy in April, 1914, and later taken over by the Army. The 28th Infan-try was a member of this expedition. Until November, 1914, it remained in thecity, patrolling the streets and guarding public utilities.

    Hardly had the Nation entered World War I before the 28th, as a memberof the 1st Infantry Division in General Pershings American ExpeditionaryForce, was on its way to France. On June 28, 1917, the Regiment arrived at

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    the port of St. Nazaire, and early the next morning, the men of Company Kbecame the first American combat unit to set foot on European soil.

    Immediately the Regiment entrained for the province of Lorraine, where itbegan a program of rigorous training under the famous French Blue Devils,

    the 52nd Battalion of Chasseurs. All through the following winter the 28thwas in training, and when spring came it had been moulded into a rugged,hard-hitting combat team.

    CantignyThe Regiment had occupied the trenches before the city of Toul when the

    Germans drove a powerful salient between the British and French forces inthe vicinity of Montdidier. To the American 1st Division was given the task ofovercoming this dangerous drive which was aimed at the all-important Chan-nel ports. The first American offensive of the war began near Cantigny on May

    28, 1918. Fighting was vicious, and the battle lasted three days; but aftercounter-attacking five times, the Germans withdrew.

    American forces had gained their objective. No longer was there any doubtin the minds of the British and French as to the fighting ability of the Ameri-cans. Not only was their victory a military success; the psychological effectupon the Allied armies was tremendous. On that day the tide of battle turnedin favor of the Allies. The Regiment was cited for gallantry in action by Mar-shal Petain, and Colonel Hanson Ely, its commander, was rewarded by promo-tion to the rank of Brigadier General. The 28th had already made an important

    contribution to the complete victory that was to come.

    SoissonsThere were more victories for the American forcesand the 28th Infantry.

    On July 18, 1918, the 28th, despite heavy artillery bombardment and strongresistance, succeeded in cutting the German line of communication in theBattle of Soissons. Despite severe casualties56 officers and 1,760 enlistedmenthe Regiments spirit remained unbroken. After a brief respite, it wentinto action again, taking part, on September 12, in the destruction of the St.Mihiel salient. For three years the Germans had maintained this wedge deepwithin Allied lines. Now, in spite of the enemys tenacity, and in the face ofbitter cold and rain, the Americans smashed through.

    ArgonneThen came the Battle of the Argonne, a month of steady slugging in the

    tangled underbrush and dense thicket against a stubborn enemy. Again theGermans were driven back. There was more bloody fighting before heavilyfortified Sedan; and when the Americans had fought their way into position totake the City, they stepped aside and allowed the French to march in and

    reclaim the prize when they had lost to the Germans in 1871.The War had been won, and the 28th Infantry had played no small part in

    the victory. To the French, no display of gratitude seemed too great, as theydecorated the members of the Regiment with the Fouragerre. More than 5,00officers and enlisted men of the regiment were war casualties.

    After the Armistice was signed, the 28th began its triumphant entry into

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    Germany. Marching through the Duchy of Luxembourg, the Regiment crossedthe Rhine on December 13 and entered the American bridgehead area. Thereit kept the Watch on the Rhine until the treaty of peace was signed.

    Returning to the United States in September, 1919, the 28th paraded in

    New York and Washington D.C., and then took up its station in Camp ZacharyTaylor, Kentucky. In 1920, the Regiment was transferred to Fort Dix, NewJersey, and in June, 1922, it was moved to the State of New York. There, onebattalion was stationed at Fort Niagra, another at Fort Ontario. The 1st Battal-ion garrisoned Fort Porter until it reverted to inactive status in 1933.

    The 28th remained a member of the 1st Division until October, 1939, whenthe Army was reorganized, and divisions became triangular. During 19391940, the Regiment underwent a period of winter training in northern NewYork, testing skis, snowshoes and other equipment for use in cold climates. Inthe summer of 1940, the 1st Battalion was re-activated at Fort Niagra, and theentire Regiment was brought to peace-time strength. It then proceeded to FortJackson, where, on July 1, 1940, it was assigned to the 8th Infantry Division.

    Vincit Amor PatriaeLove of Country Shall Conquer is the motto of the28th. The Regimental emblem is a shield emblazoned with the Lion of Cantigny.

    121st Infantry RegimentAmong the Confederate forces opposing Union troops during the Civil War,

    were a number of colorful units of the Georgia militia. In January, 1891, more

    than twenty years after the close of the ear, a number of these small units werecombined to form the 2nd Infantry of the Georgia National Guard. It was thisorganization which, on August 5, 1917, was redesignated the 121st Infantry,and become popularly known as The Old Gray Bonnet Regiment.

    Unraveling a few of the strings that went into the making of the Old GrayBonnent, we come again to pre-Civil War days. In May, 1810, there was orga-nized in Milledgeville, Georgia, a company of volunteers known as the BaldwinBlues. During the Civil War, this company, as part of the Confederate Army ofNorthern Virginia, participated in the battles of Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg,Spottsylvania and Gettysburg.

    In September, 1841, volunteers from Macon, Georgia, organized the FloydRifles, who later fought at Tanners Creek, Seven Pines, Malvern Hill andGettysburg. The Barnesville Blues were organized in February, 1861, andserved as part of the Western Army of the Confederacy under Generals Braggand Johnson. It was this company which most probably was engaged in com-bat at one time or another with units of the 13th Infantry, at the Battle ofChickamauga.

    Most of these units were disbanded for a time after Appomattox, and reor-ganized a few years later. Other units of the Regiment were formed shortly

    after the close of the Civil War. Among them were the Macon Hussars, TheSouthern Cadets of Macon, the Jackson (Ga.) Rifles and Albany (Ga.) Guards.

    On the Rio GrandeThe 2nd Infantry of the Georgia National Guard was mobilized in June,

    1915, because of the trouble with Mexico. The Regiment went into training at

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    Camp Harris, Georgia, and remained there until October when it entrained forTexas. Arriving at Camp Cotton, Texas, on October 27, the Regiment was as-signed the task of patrolling the border.

    Late in March, 1917, the Regiment returned to Camp Harris, Georgia, and

    began training for participation in World War I. In August, it was redesignatedthe 121st Infantry, and was assigned to the newly-formed 30th Infantry Divi-sion. Beginning in January, 1918, the Regiment received frequent calls forinfantry replacements, and by June, nearly every enlisted man who was physi-cally fit had been sent overseas with some other unit. Soon, however, a newdraft again brought the organization up to full strength.

    EuropeThe long-awaited orders to sail came at last. The Regiment embarked at

    Hoboken, New Jersey, on September 29,1918, and landed at Brest on October

    18. Colonel J.A. Thomas, the regimental commander, died aboard ship in theFrench harbor. Four days later, at Le Mans, France, the 121st was broken upand its men sent to the front as replacements. There was bitter disappoint-ment among the officers as they saw the Regiment disintegrate. Major Wildertook possession of the Regimental colors, and refused to give them up until hereturned to Atlanta where he presented them to the Governor of Georgia.

    The Regiment was reorganized in 1919 as a member of the Georgia Na-tional Guard. For a brief period in 1934, it was called into active service toquell riots in the Georgia textile strike. Finally, on September 16, 1940, the

    121st Infantry was again inducted into Federal service at Fort Jackson, SouthCarolina, where on November 22, 1941, it replaced the 34th Infantry as amember of the 8th Division.

    The Old Gray Bonnet remains to this day the emblem of the 121st, as wellas its Regimental song. Faciendum EstIt Shall Be Done is its motto.

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    When the 8th Infantry Division was re-activated on July 1, 1940, two regi-ments of field artillery were also reconstituted as active units. One of them,the 28th, was reorganized as a battalion in October of that year, and in the

    following June, furnished cadres for three more battalionsthe 43rd, 45thand 56th. Headquarters Battery of the 28th became Headquarters Battery, 8thDivision Artillery. The other regiment, the 83rd, was similarly divided intobattalions, and then transferred from the Division. Some of its personnel, how-ever, was re-assigned to the remaining artillery units of the 8th Division. Theother elements of the Division, with the exception of the 208th Ordnance Com-pany, were activated at Fort Jackson during July, 1940. The 708th Ordnance(originally designated the 208th) was activated on July 1, 1942.

    These are the units which were brought together at Fort Jackson, South

    Carolina, to form the 8th Infantry Division. To recount all the events in thefour years from its Day of Activation to its D-Day, July 4, 1944, would besimply to list the innumerable steps in the training routine of an Americaninfantry division. There are, however, highlights and a number of unusuallyincidents during this long period of training and preparation, and these forman essential part of the history of the 8th.

    Beginning in September, 1941, the 8th Division, then under command ofMajor General James P. Marley after a brief period under Brig. General Wm.E. Shedd, and already well through its preliminary stages of training, tookpart in the Carolina Maneuvers. For more than two months, a large proportionof the Nations armed forces was engaged in extensive operations throughoutthe Carolinas, and the men of the 8th took a major part in them.

    Atlantic Coast Patrol DutyThen came Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had crippled the American Navy,

    and with packs of German submarines roaming the Atlantic, there was theconstant threat of an attack against the American mainland. The 8th Divisionwas ordered to patrol the Atlantic coast. For six weeks during the Winter of1942, units of the Division ranged along the eastern shores of the Country

    from North Carolina to the Florida Keys.Returning to Fort Jackson late in March, the Division resumed its training.

    During the following month, by an order of the War Department, it became the8th Motorized Division. The 8th Quartermaster and 208th Ordnance Compa-nies became battalions; the 8th Reconnaissance Troop became a squadron,and the 8th MP platoon, a company. Between March and July, the Division

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    furnished cadres of 1280 men each to the 77th and 80th Divisions, and acadre of 200 men for activation of Headquarters Company, XII Corps. On July1, 1942, Brigadier General Paul E. Peabody succeeded Major General Marleyas Division Commander. In September of the last year, there was a motor march

    to the area of the Tennessee Maneuvers. Two more months of war games fur-ther hardened the troops of the 8th. Then, after a brief stay in tents at CampForrest, Tennessee, the Division set out for its new station, Fort Leonard Wood,Missouri. From December, 1942, to March, 1943, there was another period ofcomparative calm. Again the Division changed commanders, Major GeneralWilliam C. McMahon assuming the post on January 24, 1943.

    In March, 1943, the 8th moved to Camp Laguna, Arizona, for six months ofdesert training. During the latter part of this period, it was de-motorized, re-verting once more to its original status as a standard infantry division. It wasalso during this period of desert training that the 8th Division Band was orga-nized from the 13th and 121st Regimental bands. The band of the 28th Infan-try was transferred to the 65th Division at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

    THE VOYAGEUpon completion of desert training, the Division returned to Camp Forrest.

    Preparations were begun immediately for an overseas movement. Late in No-vember, the 8th arrived at the staging area at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Then,on December 5, 1943, a convoy, bearing the 8th Infantry Division, sailed fromNew York Harbor.

    Ten days later, after crossing uneventful except fro the severe Winter storms,the Division arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Headquarters were estab-lished at Omagh, County Tyrone. The 13th and 28th Regiments were billetedat Ely Lodge and Drumcose estates in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. The1st Battalion, 121st Infantry, was stationed at Shadow Camp in Fintona, andlater at Bally-Northland in Dungannon, while the remainder of the Regimentwas sent to Ashebrooke-Colebrooke, the property of the prominent NorthernIrish statesman, Sir Basil Brooke. Other elements occupied surrounding terri-tory, spreading out over an area approximately thirty miles square. This pre-sented a difficult problem for supply, training and administrative supervision.

    Training in Northern IrelandTraining in Northern Ireland was as varied as the limited terrain permit-

    ted. Greatest emphasis was placed on small unit tactics. There was an abun-dance of scouting and patrolling, with one third of all training conducted atnight. A rigorous physical conditioning program was put into effect. Firing ofall kinds was stressed throughout the entire period. Florence Court andCarrickawick combat ranges and the Gorton known distance range were fre-quently used. At St. Johns Point, troops fired on anti-aircraft targets, and at

    Mayar, they were training in the assault of fortified positions.General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Division in April, during one of

    his tours of inspection of Allied troops. The Supreme Commander witnessed anumber of small unit problems by members of the 13th Infantry, firing byDivision Artillery and a regimental review by the 28th Infantry at Enniskillen.Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Third Army Commander, also inspected

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    troops of the 8th Division in Northern Ireland. He commented favorably on ademonstration of an attack on a fortified position staged by the 1st Battalion,121st Infantry, on Sleive Beigh range. Later, at Castle-Coole, he addressedthe assembled Division.

    Every two weeks during the period in Northern Ireland, the Division sentseventy-five enlisted men and fifteen officers to the British 55th Division andreceived an equal number of United Kingdom troops for a two-week period.This was in accordance with an exchange plan worked out my military au-thorities of both nations. It proved beneficial from a training standpoint, andhelped promote better understanding among Allied soldiers.

    Final PreparationAs the time for the invasion of Western Europe drew near, the training

    program was expanded to include battalion and regimental combat exercise,

    command post problems, and the study of German tactics. Elementary am-phibious training was given to all troops. Some units began language classesin French and German. Several weeks before sailing to France, the 121st In-fantry conducted a dry run of the embarkation. So secret and realistic wasthe operation, that the discovery that it was only an exercise came as a tre-mendous surprise to officers and men alike.

    General Dwight D. Eisenhower joins a group of men of the 28th. Infantry regimentattending a land mine school in Northern Ireland.

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    On July 1, 1944, a convoy of four troop ships and twelve motor transportssteamed out of Belfast Harbor, carrying the 8th Division to the continent ofEurope. On July 4, twenty-eight days after D-Day of the Normandy invasion,

    the Division began debarking at Omaha Beach on the Cherbourg peninsula.Two days later, it had assembled in the vicinity of Monteburg, where finalpreparations for battle were completed.

    Allied invasion armies, at this time, held only a few square miles of theterritory of France. The city of Cherbourg had recently fallen, and the Ger-mans were driven from the northern tip of the peninsula to a point a few hun-dred yards north of La Haye du Puits. From there, the enemy line stretchedwestward through Carentan and St. Lo to Caen and the Orne River estuary.German resistance in most sectors was heavy, even against already achieved

    air superiority.The plan for the VIII Corps, to which the 8th Division was assigned, was to

    attack to the south toward La Haye du Puits. The 8th Division was to passthrough the 82nd Airborne Division, taking over the center of the Corps front.The main effort of the drive was to be made in this sector.

    FIRST ATTACKEarly on the morning of July 8, the Division jumped off on its first attack

    in the Battle of France. The 28th and 121st Regiments were on line, the 13thin reserve. A last-minute change in the VIII Corps order made it necessary forthe men of the 121st Infantry to make an eight-hour march and go into theattack without rest. The first objective, the Ay River, was strongly defendedby the Germans, and progress was slow. The Division had only advanced 1,000yards, when enemy resistance stiffened. A counter-attack hit the 121st Infan-try, but was repulsed with a night attack by the reserve battalion without lossof ground.

    The attack began again the next morning. Again the enemy counter-at-tacked. During the afternoon of the third day the advance tempo quickened.There were indications of local withdrawals by the enemy. Troops of the 8th

    were quick to take advantage of this opportunity. Infantry elements isolatedsmall pockets of Germans, by-passed them and forged ahead. Corps Cavalrythen cleaned up the disorganized enemy elements.

    During the following three days, however, the enemy continued to resist allattempts to break through his lines. German machine gun fire was heavy, andmortars were accurate. During a break in communications, the 3rd Battalion,

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    28th Infantry, advanced approximately 1,000 yards beyond its adjacent units,thereby exposing its flanks. Before contact could be re-established, the en-emy counterattacked in strength and badly mauled Company L. On the morn-ing of July 13, the 28th Infantry was placed in Division reserve. The 13th

    Infantry passed through that zone of action and went into the attack for thefirst time. Progress was still slow, but on the following day, both assaultingregiments reached the north bank of the Ay River. Here, under instructionsfrom VIII Corps, they held their positions.

    Battle-TriedThe 8th Division had been through its first action of World War II. It had

    reached its first objective and suffered its first casualties. The territory it hadtaken was slight; the advance had been slow. The lessons learned, however,were many. Commanders and troops had become battle-wise to the enemys

    tactics. Hedgerows had become as familiar as the hills of Missouri and North-ern Ireland.

    When the Division first went into action, artillery laid down a heavy bar-rage immediately before each days attack. Soon it was discovered that thisfire only alerted the enemy. The barrage was omitted, artillery laying downheavier harassing fires until the time of attack, and then continuing its sup-

    French residents flock to streets of Sartilly, in Normandy, to welcome 8th Divisiondoughboys moving through in pursuit of fleeing Germans.

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    port by neutralizing and knocking out strongpoints uncovered by attackinginfantry. It was also learned that contact between adjacent units was frequentlylost; flanks were exposed; and enemy counterattacks took a heavy toll in menand material.

    Casualties throughout the action were heavy, as might be expected amongtroops in combat for the first time. The Assistant Division Commander, Briga-dier General Nelson Walker, was seriously wounded while at the front, duringthe second day of action. He died early the following morning. Maj. James P.Mallory assumed command of the 2nd Bn. 121st Infantry that spearheadedthe attack of that regiment until he was killed in action. Lt. Colonel AugustineD. Dugan, battalion commander of the 121st infantry, though seriouslywounded, refused to be evacuated until the action had ended. On July 11, theDivision Commander, Maj. General William C. McMahon was succeeded byBrig. General Donald A. Stroh. Shortly after this, Colonel John R. Jeter andKenneth B. Anderson succeeded Colonels Albert H. Peyton and Lester A.Webb as regimental commanders of the 121st and 28th Infantry respectively.

    During the following eleven days, the Division continued to hold its posi-tion, waiting for the VIII Corps under which would begin a new general offen-sive. Artillery continued to shell enemy positions across the Ay River. Airbombardment leveled numerous German strongpoints. At night, Division Ar-tillery lifted its fire to allow patrols to reconnoiter south of the River and toclear gaps in enemy mine fields. The 709th Tank Battalion and the 644thTank Destroyer Battalion were attached to the Division. Members of the 8th

    Division Band became combatants, serving as military police or signal com-pany linesman during the period of fighting.

    Each night, shortly after darkness, the enemy sent over lone aircraft, usu-ally reconnaissance planes, which attempted to detect troop movements bydropping flares. Occasionally there were also strafing attacks. Enemy artil-lery continued to harass the troops, and on one occasion it became necessaryto shift the Division command post to avoid the nightly shelling.

    THE AY RIVERFinally, after several tentative dates for the offensive had been announced

    and subsequently cancelled, the attack was set for 0530, July 26. The line ofthe Ay River, from its mouth to the bridge at Lessay, was so swampy and sostrongly defended that an advance southward by the 79th Division, which heldthis sector, was impossible. The Lessay bridge had been destroyed, and theonly ford crossing the River was so heavily mined and covered by hostile ma-chine gun fire that it could not be used.

    Similarly, along the eastern flank of the line, the sector of the 90th Divi-sion, the ground was swampy and strongly held by the Germans. On the entireCorps front, only a segment in the center, approximately two kilometers in

    width, was practicable for an attack. This was the front of the 8th Division.The VII Corps plan of attack was to have the 8th Division push forward, over-

    come the strong enemy defenses to the south, and established a bridgehead be-tween the south bank of the Ay River and the Lessay Perier railway. The 79thDivision was to follow the 8th through this gap, fan out to the southwest, and takeout the German defenses along the western sector of the river line from the flank.

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    Similarly, the 90th Division was to take advantage of the breakthrough bythe 8th Division, by-pass the German strongpoints to the east, and continue toattack to the southeast. The success of the entire Corp attack depended on theability of the 8th Division to break through the German defenses.

    BreakthroughBoth assaulting regiments, the 28th and 121st, jumped off as scheduled.

    The enemy established observation post in the tower of a church which af-forded observation of most of the Division sector of advance. Requests for airbombardment of the church were denied. Corps and Division Artillery firedon the tower for two days before it was finally relinquished by the enemy.

    The 28th, attacking with the 1st and 2nd Battalions forward, met resis-tance immediately. As it advanced, its front lines became irregular, and it wasnecessary to halt for reorganization. A second attack penetrated the enemys

    defensive position, and the 28th reached the Lessay-Periers road, makinguntenable the entire enemy position across the Corps front.*

    The 121st Infantry reported no resistance initially, but in the afternoon itwas evident that the report was overly optimistic. One battalion had actuallybeen pushed back across the Ay River to the original line of departure. It was

    * For their part in this action, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 28th Infantry have been recommendedfor the Presidential Citation. At this writing, recommendation has not yet been acted upon.

    French civilians and men of the 8th Division look at the damage caused duringthe liberation of Rennes, France, from German yoke.

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    planned that on the following day the 28th Infantry would hold its positionuntil the 121st came abreast. At this time both regiments were to attack again.

    The plan was carried out. The 121st, meeting little resistance, came abreastof the 28th at 1400 that afternoon. At 1500, the coordinated attack began, and

    the only resistance encountered was light artillery and mortar fire, and heavymine fields. This day was the beginning of the mass retreat of the GermanSeventh Army.

    The mission of the 8th Division had been completely accomplished. The79th and 90th Divisions followed through the gap in the enemy lines, fannedout to the west and east respectively, and joined in the pursuit of the fleeingenemy. American Armor drove into the breakthrough area created by the in-fantry elements and began lightning thrusts through Brittany and EasternFrance, which were to sweep beyond Paris to the frontiers of Germany.

    PursuitResuming the advance on the morning of July 28th, the 8th Division pro-

    ceeded rapidly against light resistance, until it had taken all objectives. Inthe days immediately following, pursuit of the enemy continued. The 4th and6th Armored Divisions had passed through the VIII Corps sector. Closely fol-lowing them, in route column, was the 8th Division. South through Coutances,and Avranches the march continued, until the Division, less Combat Team 13,reached an assembly area southeast of Avranches. The 445th Anti-AircraftArtillery Battalion, attached to the Division, assisted the advance by protect-

    ing the advancing columns from air attack. Combat Team 13, which had beenmotorized and attached to the 4th Armored Division, was sent ahead to securethe towns of La Jourdaniere and La Mourdraquiere. It rejoined the Division inthe assembly area on August 1st.

    During the following days, the Division continued to move southward, clear-ing out small pockets of resistance and securing road nets and vital installa-tions along the route of march. Combat Team 13 was again attached to the 4thArmored Division on August 2nd, and transported south to St. AubinDAubigne, eleven miles north of Rennes. By nightfall of August 3rd, the 8thDivision, less Combat Team 13, had reached St. James.

    On the morning of August 4th, the Division continued the movement bymotor. Combat Team 13, having reached St. Aubin DAubigne, and discover-ing that the enemy had withdrawn from Rennes, passed through that city andoccupied the heights south of it. By 1100, the situation was so favorable thatthe Division Commander ordered the remaining elements of the Division tomove to an assembly area near Betten, slightly northeast of Rennes. By 2200,outposts were set up defending all roads and railroads leading into the city.

    Until August 13th, the 8th Division, less the 121st Infantry, which remainednear St. James under VIII Corps control, continued its mission of holding and

    defending Rennes. During this period, it maintained road blocks, cleared rubbleand obstacles from the streets, and engaged in extensive patrolling. Althoughsome prisoners were taken, no contact was made with organized enemy forces.On August 8th, the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, was attached to the 6th Ar-mored Division, operating in the direction of Brest.

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    121ST TAKES DINARDThe 121st Infantry, under VIII Corps control, was attached, on August 6th, to

    the 83rd Infantry Division, and immediately began movement by motor to Dinard.Near Tremereuc, on the following day, it encountered determined resistance. Road

    blocks and heavy machine gun fire forced the Regiment to detruck and fight itsway forward. Scarcely was the attack underway when the enemy showed that hewas prepared to offer the most determined resistance. From concrete pillboxes,protected by formidable tank obstacles and numerous minefields and barbed wireentanglements, the Germans fought back. Enemy mortar and machine gun firewas severe, and several tanks were encountered.

    On August 9th, the 3rd Battalion was cut off from the Regiment. For threedays it withstood almost incessant artillery bombardment and repeated attemptsby the enemy to annihilate it, suffering many casualties, but throwing the enemyback every time he attacked. Two artillery liaison planes flew over the position,successfully dropping blood plasma, and then collided in mid air, destroying bothplanes and killing all occupants. Late in the afternoon of August 12th, contactwith the lost Battalion was regained. The Regiment then drove through the re-maining enemy defenses, occupied Dinard on August 14th, mopped it up on the15th, and reverted again to 8th Division control.

    The Division, meanwhile, had moved to an assembly area near Dinan, whereit remained until August 17th. On August 14th, a task force, composed mainlyof the 3rd Battalion, 28th Infantry, moved to the Cap Frehel peninsula, farthereast in Brittany, to take over positions held by French Forces of the Interior,

    and reduce the enemy. It was joined on August 15th by the remainder of Com-bat Team 28. Before noon of that day, the enemy surrendered. Three hundredprisoners were taken.

    On August 17th, the remaining elements of the Division began movementto an assembly area near Brest. There, for three days, operations were con-fined to patrolling. Then, on August 21st, the Division closed into its sectorand awaited orders to attack.

    BRESTAt Brest, an estimated 50,000 enemy troops were trapped within an arc

    drawn tightly around the city and its port, the second largest in France. TheGerman Commander of the port, Lt. General Hermann Bernhard Ramcke, wasa ruthless soldier who had previously led the German airborne invasion of theIsland of Crete. He was under direct orders from Adolph Hitler to hold out forat least four months, and had already refused two Allied demands for his sur-render. The troops under his command included three German divisions, the266th, 343rd and 2nd Paratroop, and a number of marine units and laborbattalions. The defenses of the old city on the top of the Brittany peninsulawere as formidable a series of strongpoints and obstacles as were encountered

    anywhere in France. They were bolstered by numerous heavy coast artilleryguns which had been turned around to fire inland.

    The three divisions of the American VIII Corps, the 2nd, 29th and 8th,were assigned to the battle for Brest. Tremendous artillery strength was broughtin to assist in the attack. The Corps plan of attack was to use all three divi-sions to close in on the German defenders from three sides. The 2nd Division

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    was to attack from the northeast; the 29th from the northwest; and the 8th wasto make the main effort with a frontal attack from the north.


    Shortly before midnight on August 24th, elements of the 13th and 28th Regi-ments, on line for the 8th, began infiltrating toward preliminary objectives fromwhich the attack was to jump off. The offensive began shortly after noon of thefollowing day. Before nightfall, an advance of 1200 yards had been made againstheavy resistance. The next morning, the attack was resumed. In the face of anenemy deeply entrenched and employing intense small arms automatic weapons,mortar and light artillery fire, only slight gains could be achieved.

    Enemy resistance increased during the succeeding three days. After slightadvances, the 13th and 28th Infantry Regiments consolidated their gains andstrengthened their positions. They repulsed numerous counterattacks and sent

    out patrols to the south. On August 26th, Lt. Colonel Edmund Fry, commanderof the 12th Engineer Combat Battalion was captured by the enemy, only toescape by sea and rejoin his battalion on the Crozon peninsula nineteen dayslater. On the morning of August 29th, the enemy in the sector of the 3rd Bat-talion, 28th Infantry, called a truce to evacuate wounded. Previously, two com-panies of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry, had advanced beyond their adja-cent units, been cut off and captured by the Germans. Following the truce, itwas found that communications with these two companies had been cut. Sev-eral weeks later, after Brest had capitulated, these two companies were freed

    by men of their own unit from a German prisoner of war enclosure on theCrozon peninsula, south of the harbor of Brest, and returned to their unit.

    On August 30th, Brig. General Stroh was promoted to the rank of MajorGeneral. That day and the next, the 8th Division consolidated further smallgains and regrouped. The 121st Infantry, which had been in reserve, wentforward to relieve the 28th. On August 31st, the 8th prepared for a coordi-nated Corps attack which was to include also the 2nd Division. A road in thevicinity of the town of Kergroas was the objective.

    Men of the 12th Combat Engineer Battalion complete a Bailey Bridge over a ravinenear Lambezellec, France, on the road to Brest.

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    On the following day, when the attack was begun, this objective was quicklyseized. Besides cleaning out strong enemy pockets of resistance in the villag-ers of Kergroas and Kergaclet, this action materially assisted the 2nd Divisionin the capture of the town of Fourneuf.

    Lambezellec RidgeThe next day, attacks by the 13th and 121st Infantry Regiments forced the

    enemy to withdraw. A serious limitation in artillery ammunition prevented thecarrying out of any large scale offensive action. Because of this, activities forthe next three days were confined to patrolling and holding of occupied posi-tions. On September 8th, with an improvement in the supply of artillery am-munition, the 121st Infantry attacked and seized the eastern end of the stronglydefended Lambzellec ridge. The 121st then advanced toward the town ofLambzellec, and by noon was fighting in the streets. The 13th Infantry ad-

    vanced abreast to positions from which it supported the attack of the 121st.On September 10th, having passed through Lambzellec, the 121st was con-

    fronted with Fort Bouguen. This was a formidable work of thick walls, twentyto thirty feet in height, surrounded by a dry moat, twenty feet deep. Within theDivision zone, the western extremity of those walls rested on the Penfeld River.It was pierced only by one narrow entrance. Once through this wall, it wouldstill be necessary to pass through two tunnels and across two narrow ridges.Moreover, between the river and the inside of the wall was a steep cliff.

    Such an obstacle could not be assaulted by infantry without artillery fire or

    extensive engineer demolitions having first breached the wall. Detailed examina-tion of the plans of the fort and photographs of it indicated that engineer demoli-tions were impracticable. Therefore, on September 11th, heavy artillery fire wasdirected on the wall. This fire failed to make an appreciable breach and the VIIICorps Commander decided to suspend further operations against that portion ofthe inner defenses, and to contain the enemy within Fort Bouguen, while effortswere renewed farther east. He therefore directed that elements of the 2nd InfantryDivision relieve the 8th Division in front of the fort.

    Accordingly, on September 12th, the 13th and 121st Infantry Regimentswithdrew to a temporary assembly area near Plouvien. Two days earlier, the28th Infantry, less the 2nd Battalion which remained in Division reserve, hadbeen moved toward Guilorn to relieve elements of the 29th Division, whichhad been making only limited progress in its sector. When the 29th had re-grouped, the 28th Infantry rejoined the other elements of the 8th Division.

    CROZONAt this time, the 8th Division was sent to the Crozen peninsula, reportedly

    a strongly-held finger of land which would menace the port of Brest even afterit had been taken. On the Crozon peninsula, Tank Force A, under command of

    Brig. General Herbert L. Earnest, had been holding the Germans west of aline about fifteen miles from the four tips of the peninsula. The enemy forceshad prepared strong defenses. Crozon was expected to be a tough nut to crack,and when the Division moved into its attack positions on September 14, it hadattached, in addition to its normal attachments, Task Force A. This organiza-tion consisted of the 1st Tank Destroyer Group, the 35th Field Artillery Group,

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    the 83rd Armored Field Artillery, and the 15th and 17th Cavalry.West of the line of departure, two main ridges ran parallel to the axis of the

    peninsula to a point where it branched into four fingers. A stream ran between

    the two ridges. The 28th Infantry was given the mission of advancing along thenorth ridge. An air field near Lanvenoc was expected to be stubbornly de-fended. The 121st Infantry was to take the south ridge, passing through thecity of Crozon. The 13th Infantry was in reserve. Task Force A, with a zonedown the center of the valley, was to advance as infantry elements cleared thedominating ridges, and mop up remaining pockets of resistance.

    On the morning of September 15th, after a strong barrage by heavy andlight artillery and chemical mortars, the attack began. In the zone of the 28thInfantry, the 3rd Battalion led the attack. By 0930 it was approaching thehamlet of St. Eflez. The 3rd Battalion and the 1st following it were underheavy flanking fire from the south ridge. All officers of Company L becamecasualties. Tech Sergeant Charles E. Ballance reorganized the company andtook command. He was killed by a sniper the next day. In the vicinity of St.Eflez, resistance grew so fierce that it was apparent that the main line of en-emy defenses had been reached.

    On the south ridge, Company G, 121st Infantry, led the column of compa-nies in which the battalion attacked. After a short advance, the attacking troopsmet small arms and automatic fire of such intensity that it left no doubt thathere the enemy intended to hold to the last. The ground was flat and open,

    giving the enemy good observation.On the night of September 15th, German counterattacks on both ridges

    were repulsed. At 0700 the following morning, the attack was renewed undercover of a dense fog, which was to furnish an effective mask for each morningof the Crozon action. In the 28th Infantry sector, the 1st Battalion was movedup on the right of the 3rd. Although the advance for the day was slight, it

    13th MedicsBronze Star AwardsNormandy.

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    penetrated the enemys line. Numerous strongpoints had been reduced and150 prisoners taken.

    Two enemy documents were secured which had a far reaching effect on thecampaign. Pfc Ervin D. Lammley of the Intelligence Section, 3rd Battalion,

    recognized at once the importance of a map he found while searching prison-ers. It showed complete gun positions of all enemy artillery on the peninsula.Before daylight, 8th Division Artillery had laid effective fire on these posi-tions. In the opinion of senior officers of the regiment, the resulting loss to theGermans of their artillery was a decisive factor in their swift defeat.

    On the evening of the same day, a complete field order, giving the enemyplan for defense of the peninsula, was taken from a captured German officer.With it went the enemys confidence and reliance on his defense plan.Strongpoints remained to be broken, but through bypassing them, the Divi-sion advanced at such speed that the Germans never succeeded in reforming aline of resistance. A fort which had been considered formidable fell to the fireof one machine gun. Once having broken the main line, the 121st took objec-tives with a speed that baffled and harried Germans. Before the town of Crozonwas reached, effective enemy resistance had collapsed.

    By the afternoon of Sept. 17th, the shaft of the peninsula was in 8th Divi-sion hands. It was time to plan the cleaning out of the branching fingers of thewestern extremity. The ground was dominated by Hill 70, in the zone of ad-vance of Task Force A. The task force had been following up the advance ofthe two regiments, but was hampered by the nature of the terrain and the lack

    of a road not in its zone. Consequently it had fallen behind. The 3rd Battalion,13th Infantry, was therefore given the mission of securing this key to the lastphase of the Crozon campaign.

    On the night of December 17-18, a reinforced platoon of Company L, 13thInfantry, outposted Hill 70 without finding evidence of any Germans. The firstlight of dawn, however, revealed the position of the enemy, who had believed him-self in a secure position. In their bewilderment at finding themselves infiltrated,the Germans became panicky. Sergeant Will R. Wheeler of Company L, in chargeof a combat patrol of little more than a squad, took more than a hundred prisoners,

    and marched them down the hill to where the main body of Company L was ad-vancing to attack. Before 0900 on the morning of September 18th, the 3rd Battal-ion had occupied the essential hill. The mop-up of the fingers of the peninsulaproceeded as planned. Later that day, Lt. General Erwin Rauch, Commander ofthe Crozon peninsula force of Germans was captured.

    Four forces, acting almost as independent combat commands, accomplishedthe final phase of the campaign. Task Force A reduced the Cap du Chevresub-peninsula to the south. The 28th Infantry, driving west, cleared the CamaretPoint. On the north, the 2nd Ranger Battalion, which had been attached to theDivision on September 17th, mopped up the Le fret area, and the 13th took

    over the task of smashing through the massive wall and Old Fort guarding thelarge north finger, the Point Des Espagnoles.

    These are My CredentialsThe 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry, attacked after an artillery preparation of

    an hours duration. The doughboys caught the Germans coming out of their

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    Lt. General Herman Bernhard, commander of the German garrison at Brest, isbrought before Major. General D. A. Stroh and members of the 8th Division staffafter his capture on the Crozon peninsula.

    shelters and took them captive before they could reach their positions. As theassault companies drove north, the reserve company, Company I, was left toclear out a strip of beach containing pillboxes and coastal guns. A platooncommander, 1st Lieutenant James M. Dunham, leading his men through these

    knolls and emplacements, saw Germans waving white flags. A German medi-cal officer announced in perfect English that General Ramcke was in a dugoutbelow, and would like to talk terms with the American Commanding Officer.Ramcke, Commander of the Port of Brest until its surrender a few days previ-ous, was rumored to have fled to the Crozon peninsula.

    Brig. General Canham, Assistant Division Commander, and Colonel Rob-ert A. Griffin, 13th Infantry Commander, together with Dunham and Lt. Colo-nel Earl L. Lerette, 3rd Battalion Commander, arrived at the dugout. Theywere escorted down a concrete stairway about seventy-five feet underground,where General Ramcke was waiting.

    The Nazi commander addressed General Canham through his interpreter:I am to surrender to you. Let me see your credentials.

    These are my credentials, Canham replied, pointing outside to doughboyscrowding the dugout entrance.

    Early that evening, a truce was signed, and all German resistance on theCrozon peninsula ceased. In four days of swift advance, the units of the 8thDivision took more than seven thousand prisoners.

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    While the 8th Division was taking part in the fight to destroy the Germanstrapped on the Brittany peninsula, other Allied forces had exploited the break-through in Normandy to its fullest. Caught within an Allied ring of men and

    steel, Von Kluges German Seventh Army was all but obliterated by air andartillery bombardment, its scattered remnants sent in headlong flight acrossthe Seine. The British Second Army, thrusting northward to the Dutch border,had trapped the bulk of the German Fifteenth Army along the Channel coast,where it was methodically destroyed by the Canadians.

    The American First Army swept into Belgium and Luxembourg, and moppedup the stragglers from the disintegrating enemy units fleeing toward the Germanborder. American Third Army troops drove eastward to the Moselle, leaving a trailof charred enemy armor, weapons and vehicles strewn across France. From the

    south, a new landing by the American Seventh and French First Armies clearedthe Germans from most of southeastern France and developed rapidly into a driveto a junction with the Third Army near the Swiss-German border.

    More than three hundred thousand prisoners had been taken in the Alliedonslaught. Most of France, Belgium and Luxembourg, and part of Holland,had been liberated. Allied armies had breached the Siegfried Line, the vauntedGerman border defense, and along a continuous front from The Netherlands toSwitzerland, American, British, French and Canadian forces were poised forthe thrust into Germany to complete the destruction of the Nazi military ma-chine. On this front, the 8th Infantry Division was now to resume its part inthe fight to crush the enemy.

    LUXEMBOURGOrdered to the Ninth Army sector of the West Wall, the 8th Division began

    the long move from the Crozon peninsula to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourgon September 26th. Foot troops and trucked vehicles made the journey byrail. Motorized elements drove in convoys, arriving near Ettelbruck, Luxem-bourg, on September 30th. The 3rd Battalion, 121st Infantry had been re-tained at Rennes, France, and was assigned to temporary duty with Communi-

    cations Zone, for the purpose of guarding Allied rail and motor supply routesfrom Cherbourg to Paris.

    The front assigned to the 8th Division was a stretch of more than twenty-threemiles along the Our River, which was the German-Luxembourg boundary.

    It was divided into three general sectors. In the southern sector, which wasapproximately ten thousand yards wide, troops of the 5th Armored Division

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    had previously penetrated the Siegfried Line, inflicting heavy losses on theGermans, and then withdrawing to a line generally along the southwest limita-tions of the enemy fortifications. Reasonable activity was expected here, butsince the Germans had regained the ground they had lost, it was believed that

    they would confine their activities to patrolling, and that there would be littledanger of serious offensive action.In the central sector, approximately thirty thousand yards wide, no Ameri-

    can offensive action had been undertaken. The Siegfried Line remained intactacross its entire front, and it was anticipated that it would remain quiet, withpatrols of both sides operating rather freely in a no mans land. A long north-south ridge, approximately in the center of the area commanded observationof the German lines and was the logical line of defense.

    In the northern sector, a wedge had been driven half way through the Siegfrieddefenses. Because here the German doctrine of defense called for an attempt torecapture the terrain and fortifications lost, heavier enemy action was expected.

    In consideration of these factors, it was decided to employ the entire 13thInfantry, reinforced by normal combat team attachments and one company oftank destroyers, along the northern front, and to support this regiment withone battalion of medium artillery.

    The 28th Infantry, strongly reinforced by two companies of the 64th Tank De-stroyer Battalion, one light tank company of the 709th Tank Battalion, and the 8thReconnaissance Troop, was assigned to the central sector. An additional battalionof light artillery was to support it. The situation, it was believed, called for a series

    of small outposts, connected by foot and motor patrols, operating also to the east.The bulk of the Regiment could then be centrally located and maintained as amobile reserve in event of an enemy attack. Additional vehicles were attached tothis force for greater mobility, and the terrain was thoroughly reconnoitered formost suitable positions and routes of movement.

    The 121st Combat Team, reinforced by one company of tank destroyers, wasassigned to the southern sector. It was planned to use one battalion on line, one inreserve. The bulk of the 709th Tank Battalion was to be held mobile on a goodroad, prepared to move to any portion of the Division front. This plan was later

    amended to place one medium tank company in rear of each regimental position,while maintaining the Battalion under Division control. This enabled the tanks tomove more swiftly to any threatened point. Additional Corps artillery was to rein-force the Division front. Wide employment of the roving guns of the Tank Destroy-ers and, if necessary, the Tanks, was planned to give the impression of greaterartillery strength than actually existed.

    Provisional Defense BattalionBy October 3rd, this plan had been put into effect. Since the Division was

    essentially without a formed reserve, and because the line was so thinly held,

    it was decided to form a provisional battalion from the administrative units.Organization of this unit was completed on October 8th. Training began thefollowing day, with 1,538 officers and enlisted men available. They were armedfor the most part with rifles, automatic weapons and several anti-tank guns.Eight companies of approximately 200 men each compromised the battalion.Five of these were rifle companies. In addition, there was a reconnaissance

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    company, a communication company and a transportation company. Trainingof this unit was continued, for two hours daily, until October 20th, under com-mand of Lt. Colonel Henry B. Kunzig. At that time, it was believed that theunits was sufficiently trained to repel any possible enemy threat to the Divi-

    sion command post area in Wiltz, Luxembourg.

    TreacheryConsiderable enemy activity and construction of several foot bridges across

    the Our River, near the towns of Roth and Bethel, led to assumption that pos-sibly the enemy was preparing to cross the Our River in force. Action wastaken at once to reinforce this area. One company of the 709th Tank Battalionwas alerted for possible utilization. Artillery fire and air bombardment wasdirected upon the bridge site. The threat failed to materialize.

    The hilly, wooded terrain of Luxembourg afforded the enemy ample oppor-

    tunity for infiltration, ambushes and the more treacherous methods of Naziwarfare. During daylight on October 7th, a vehicle bearing Lt. ColonelsFrederick J. Bailey, Jr. and John P. Usher of the 28th Infantry, was travellingwell in rear of the front lines when it was flagged down by what appeared to bea U.S. Army captain and sergeant, standing beside a halted American FirstArmy jeep. Pulling alongside, and hearing the captain talking wildly inGerman although he wore an American combat jacket and helmet, the 28thInfantry officers opened fire and killed the two men.

    An enemy machine gun and at least one rocket launcher opened up from

    Major General Donald A. Stroh at his desk at the 8th Division Command Post inWiltz, Luxembourg.

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    the edge of the forest. Realizing that they had driven into an ambush, theAmerican officers dismounted and started shooting it out with the Germans.

    Lt. Colonel Usher was killed. Bailey continued to fire back until the Ger-mans withdrew. The driver of the 28th Infantry vehicle had disappeared, pre-sumably captured by the enemy.

    Photographs of the American-clad Germans were taken, so that this viola-tion of international codes of warfare could be substantiated. The DivisionCommander ordered that in the future no vehicles would go forward of theDivision command post without at least two armed passengers in addition tothe driver. During the hours of darkness, no vehicle was to proceed beyondthose limits without another vehicle following it.

    Also during that period, flying bombs, the Nazi V-1 rocket propelled weapon,began to fall in the 8th Division area. There were numerous reports of these pro-jectiles flying over front line positions. Several of them landed in the regimentalinstallations and near the city of Wiltz, causing some damage, but no loss of life.

    Marshall and Eisenhower Visit DivisionAmong the many high military commanders who visited the 8th Division

    during this period in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg were General George C.Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and General Dwight W. Eisenhower,Supreme Allied Commander. General Marshall, who in World War I had served

    as an officer with the 28th Infantry, discussed immediate problems of the Di-vision with Major General Stroh and his staff. Later he appeared before a groupof officers and enlisted men of the 8th, explaining to them the broad picture ofworld battlefronts.

    While visiting the Division, General Marshall presented the Silver StarMedal with Oak Leaf Cluster to Major Donald R. Ward of the 28th Infantry, for

    8th Division men entering one of Clerveaux, Luxembourgs cages in rest camp.

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    courageous exploits on the field of battle.General Eisenhower, accompanied by Lt. General Omar S. Bradley, 12th

    Army Group Command, remained withe the Division long enough to pin SilverStar Medals on seven members of the unit, join in a brief discussion with

    Major General Stroh, and chat informally with a group of enlisted men.

    Changes in Defense PlansFrom time to time during this relatively static period, minor changes in the

    Division plan were required. In the broad central sector of the Division front,the 8th Reconnaissance Troop and the Reconnaissance Company of the 644thTank Destroyer Battalion had been, between them, outposting and patrollingan area approximately 12,000 yards wide. This required virtually all person-nel to be on continuous duty. Men were beginning to show the strain of re-peated contact with the enemy. A plan was worked out to rotate the troops.

    Beginning on October 19th, one platoon at a time was relieved. To accomplishthis, the Reconnaissance Platoon of the 709th Tank Battalion was attached toCombat Team 28, which was responsible for this sector.

    On October 20th, the 9th Armored Division, recently assigned to the VIIICorps, closed into the area. Although the newly arrived organization was intendedprimarily as a Corps reserve, its elements, it was believed, could be given valu-able battle indoctrination by attachment to front line divisions in the VIII Corps.For this reason, the 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion and the 89th Reconnais-sance Squadron, less Troops C and D, were attached to the 8th Division.

    The 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion was attached to Combat Team 121,where it was assigned to one of the front line battalion sectors. This made itpossible to move one of the battalions of the 121st to the town of Diekirch,where it was held in regimental reserve.

    The four troops of the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron were attached toCombat Team 28, and assigned to the northern portion of that sector. Thismade it possible to relieve the 8th Reconnaissance Troop, the ReconnaissanceCompany of the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and elements of the 709thTank Battalion. The 8th Reconnaissance Troop was placed in Division reserve,and the 644th and 709th elements reverted to their respective units. The re-serve battalion of Combat Team 28, no longer needed in the southern sector ofthe front, was moved to the town of Alschoid and held motorized for possibleuse to reinforce the 9th Armored Division.

    Elements of the 9th Armored Division remained attached to the 8th Divi-sion until November 9th. At this time, they reverted to their parent unit, andthe original plan for holding the Our River was again put into effect.

    RelaxationIn the town of Clerf (or Clerveaux) in Luxembourg, the 8th Division estab-

    lished a rest camp to provide relaxation for the battle-weary front line troops.To this pleasant village, which in pre-war years had been a popular touristcenter, each combat unit of the Division was permitted to send a quota of 300men every three days. Soldiers were given clean, comfortable rooms in thetown hotels, provided with adequate recreational opportunities, and grantedfreedom to spend their time as they saw fit.

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    C H A P T E R


    THE HURTGEN FORESTWhile the 8th Division continued its holding mission on the Luxembourg-

    German border, a large scale American offensive had developed in the Aachenarea. The Siegfried Line has been breached, and the fortress city of Aachenencircled by powerful First Army pincers, reduced to rubble by air and artil-lery bombardment, and taken in bitter house to house fighting.

    Large scale German counterattacks were beaten back, and American strengthrapidly built up for a renewal of the assault upon Germany, Southeast of Aachen,in the V Corps sector, the 28th Infantry Division began a limited objective attack

    early in November. The plan for the 28th was to take and hold the towns ofVossenack and Schmidt to the east, and to uncover the enemy defenses near Hurt-gen, in preparation for a general attack in this sector by the VII Corps.

    By November 3rd, both Vossenack and Schmidt had been taken, and a line ofdeparture for the attack upon Hurtgen secured. So difficult was the terrain, how-ever, that only foot troops could get through to Schmidt. There was no road be-tween the two captured towns over which armor and anti-tank guns could move.

    The enemy reacted promptly and violently, throwing one panzer and twoinfantry divisions into a counter-drive to retake the towns lost. Heavy artillery

    shelled the 28th Division positions. German tanks, instead of overrunning theinfantry, who were well dug in, stopped short of the foxholes and fired pointblank at American doughboys.

    Still unable to get armored units through to the foot troops, the 28th Divi-sion was forced to withdraw from Schmidt on November 7th. At one time, theGermans also recaptured half of Vossenack, but here their counterattack wasagain driven back.

    Hurtgen Forest Area, Germany

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    Casualties had crippled the 28th Division, and it was decided by higherauthority that the unit should be withdrawn. The 8th Division was transferredto the V Corps and ordered to relieve the 28th. The latter division took theplace of the 8th as a member of the VIII Corps on the Our River front in


    The ForestOn November 16th, the 13th Infantry and the 8th Reconnaissance Troop

    began the motor march of the 8th Division to the V Corps front, and by night-fall, November 19th, all elements of the Division had closed into their posi-tions in the area southeast of Aachen. The 3rd Battalion, 121st Infantry, re-leased from temporary duty in France, had rejoined its parent unit. The 2ndRanger Battalion, 893rd Tank Destroyer Battalion and the firing units of the86th Chemical Battalion were attached to the Division for its new mission.

    Orders had already been received from the V Corps Commander, Maj.General L. T. Gerow, to undertake an important offensive. One regimentthe121st, strongly reinforced, was to break out of the Hurtgen forest and seize theHurtgen-Kleinhau ridge, considered by the enemy the key to his defenseswest of Duren and the Cologne plain. That this was the German belief wasevident from the elaborate barriers and the strength in men and guns massedin this area. The terrain west of Hurtgen was heavily wooded, boggy and ir-regular, with numerous gullies and steep cliffs. German engineers had laid

    After their truck slipped off the icy highway into a ditch in the Hurtgen Forest Area, Germany, T/5 Melburn Brodbeck, Kinsley, Kansas, and Pvt. MarionButterfield, Livermore, California, both members of the 8th Infantry Division, getbusy and reload equipment which shifted with the accident.

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    anti-personnel mine fields across most of the zone of Advance. Heavy wireentanglements blocked possible routes of approach. Enemy automatic weap-ons were well situated to cover all obstacles. Mortars and artillery batterieswere zeroed in upon habitable assembly areas and possible points of penetra-

    tion and supply routes. Combat Team Wegelein (later Weinen) and other Ger-man elements of the 985th and 1056th Infantry Regiments, all seasoned unitsreinforced with stragglers, were committed to the enemy defense of Hurtgen.

    The Division plan was to attack for with the 121st Infantry, through the sectorof the 12th Infantry, 4th Division, on the north flank, and seize the remainingwooded terrain west of Hurtgen. Since the road leading northeast into Hurtgen,and most of the regimental zone of advance were known to be heavily mined andobstructed, the entire 12th Engineer Combat Battalion was attached to the 121stInfantry for this operation. All Division Artillery units, except the 43rd Field Ar-tillery Battalion, were to support the drive of the 121st Infantry.

    Combat Command R of the 5th Armored Division, consisting principallyof one battalion each of tanks, artillery and armored infantry, a company oftank destroyers, an engineer company and reconnaissance, ordnance and medi-cal elements, was attached to the 121st Infantry. Other organic and inorganicattachments to the 121st included Company A of the 644th Tank DestroyerBattalion and Companies B and C of the 86th Chemical Battalion.

    When infantry elements, according to plan, had reached the fringe of theforest, Combat Command R was to move forward from the west under coverof darkness, break out of the woods at daylight, and seize Hurtgen and Kleinhau

    to the northeast. The 121st was then to occupy both towns and the ridge be-tween them.

    These operations were to be strongly supported by air and accompanied byattacks by the 4th Division in the VII Corps zone.


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    AttackOn the morning of November 21st, the 121st Infantry opened the drive on

    Hurtgen. Attacking with three battalions abreast, the Regiment immediatelyran into strong resistance. Enemy mortar and artillery tree bursts shattered

    the forested area and hailed shrapnel down upon infantry units whenever theyattempted to advance, anti-personnel minefields further increased the peril ofmovement through the dense woods.

    Progress was difficult. Only the 3rd Battalion, on the right flank, nearedits objective for the first day. The 1st Battalion, in the center, made only slightadvances, and the 2nd Battalion was held without gain. Casualties, princi-pally from mines and shrapnel, were unusually heavy.

    Three times the Regiment renewed the attack the next day. Except for slightgains by the 2nd Battalion, no progress was made. A platoon of light tanks of the709th Tank Battalion was thrust into the attack the following morning. The 78thand 18th Field Artillery Battalions had been attached to Division Artillery, thebulk of which continued to support the attack of the 121st. Each day at H-hour,the 18th fired a concentration of rocket artillery, while the 56th, 28th, 45th and76th placed 105 and 155 mm. barrages on the German positions.

    Enemy resistance continued to stiffen. Heavy small arms fire, added to themortar and artillery shelling, anti-personnel mines and mud, increased thehardships of the men, who had been able to get little sleep or rest during thelast four days. Medical aid men, litter-bearers, surgeons and all members ofthe 8th Medical Battalion were called upon to work almost continuously with

    little rest under the most trying conditions.The Regimental Commander, Colonel John R. Jeter, and the 2nd Battalion

    Commander, Lt. Colonel James E. Casey, were transferred. Lt. Colonel RobertM. Jones, 1st Battalion Commander, was evacuated as a casualty. The 3rdBattalion had previously lost its commander, Lt. Colonel Gordon M. Eyler, byillness during the units period of temporary duty in France.

    Colonel Thomas J. Cross, Division Chief of Staff, took command of the 121stInfantry, and was replaced at his former position by the Division G-5, Lt. ColonelThomas B. Whitted. Lt. Colonel Henry B. Kunzig, formerly executive officer of

    the 28th Infantry, became 2nd Battalion Commander. Major Roy W. Hogan, amember of the 121st Infantry for eighteen years, had taken over the 3rd Battalionwhen Lt. Colonel Eyler became ill, and remained in command of that unit.

    Attack ResumedOn November 24th, the attack of the 121st Infantry resumed. Except for

    slight gains by the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, no progress was possible. The bulkof the 709th Tank Battalion was thrown into the attack, but the infantry ele-ments were still unable to reach the edge of the woods.

    Meanwhile, the 12th Infantry and other of the 4th Division, on the left

    flank, had progressed eastward sufficiently to be in a position to support the121st. By late afternoon on November 24th, the situation was not yet satisfac-tory for an attack by Combat Command R. It was imperative that the edge ofthe woods be gained, so that the road leading into Hurtgen from the southwestcould be cleared of mines and obstacles at least as far as its first bend.

    German reinforcements, however, were already arriving in the Hurtgen area,

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    and it was necessary that the attack begin without delay. At a conference of Vand VII Corps Commanders, and with the approval of Lt. General Courtney H.Hodges, First Army Commander, it was decided to begin the armored attackon the morning of November 25th. At least three rifle companies were to ad-

    vance astride the road during the night, so the road could be cleared.A strong artillery concentration was to support the attack. The 117st Engi-neer Group was directed by V Corps to assemble on two hours notice as divi-sion reserve. Elements of the 4th Division were to support the attack of Com-bat Command R from the south.

    Since the point where the Hurtgen road emerges from the forest was undercontinuous enemy observation, the Division Commander proposed to use asmoke screen preceding the attack. Since the area was too close to the troopsto allow artillery to place a smoke concentration, it was decided to use smokepots, placed and ignited by hand. Necessary chemical equipment was pro-cured, and during the night, men of the 12th Engineer Combat Battalion placedthe smoke pots. Before dawn, the task was completed, and at 0720, the smokepots were ignited, producing a heavy screen of smoke.

    Tanks of Combat Command R moved forward through the smoke andattempted to break out of the narrow bottleneck. Four tanks were immediatelydisabled, completely blocking the only route armor could use. The armoredinfantry battalion, attempting to advance astride the Hurtgen road, was thrownback. The attack was smashed before it could get started.

    Drive on HurtgenBefore resuming the attack to capture Hurtgen, it was planned to reducethe remaining enemy pockets in the woods in front of the 1st and 2nd Battal-ions, 121st Infantry. This terrain was taken without opposition before noon ofNovember 26th. During the morning, unconfirmed reports that the enemy had

    Camouflaged 8th Division antitank gun emplacement on edge of Hurtgen Forestnear Germeter, Germany

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    evacuated Hurtgen were received. Patrols were sent out that afternoon in anattempt to verify the reports. One patrol managed to work its way into thesouthwestern corner of the town, but all others met heavy resistance, indicat-ing that the town was strongly held.

    Before nightfall on November 26th, Company F, 121st Infantry, had ad-vanced to a point approximately 300 yards southwest of Hurtgen. Here it wasmet be dense machine gun fire. Company F held its advanced position duringthe night, and resumed the attack with the entire regiment the next morning.

    The 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry, joined the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 121st Infantryin the attack at 0700, November 27th. Division Artillery, less the 43rd Field ArtilleryBattalion, again fired prearranged concentrations in support of the infantry units. Com-pany C of the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion was also in close support.

    By noon, the 3rd Battalion had broken through the remaining woods west ofHurtgen. The 121st Infantryand Lt. Colonel Roy Hogans 3rd Battalion, in par-ticularby breaking through these woods had accomplished what three regimentsof other divisions had been unable to do. The 2nd Battalion, with a platoon ofmedium tanks of the 709th Tank Battalion in support, advanced to the southernedge of the town. The 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry, advancing north of Hurtgen,drove through heavy artillery fire on open terrain to the northeast of the town.Here the attack was halted for the day, with the German strongpoint nearly en-circled. During the night, patrols of the 2nd Battalion, 121st, and the 1st Battal-ion, 13th Infantry, went through Hurtgen and again reported it unoccupied.

    On the following morning, Companies A and B of the 13th, with Company

    A, 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion attached, quickly seized the Kleinhau-Brandenberg road, east of Hurtgen, and there organized defensive positionsagainst possible counterattack.

    While Pvt. Eugene Dougherty, right, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, keeps guard witha light machine gun, Pvt. Charles Barlow, left, Waynesborough, Pennsylvania,works building a log cabin near Hurtgen, Germany.

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    When elements of the 121st Infantry, expecting little or no resistance, at-tempted to enter Hurtgen from the west and south, they met strong machinegun fire and were stopped. The regimental commander reorganized and plannedto take the town by storm. At 0800, the 2nd Battalion, 121st, and Company C,

    13th Infantry, closely supported by Company A of the 709th Tank Battalion,fought their way into Hurtgen from the northeast. The 1st Battalion closed infrom the southwest. Doughboys rode the tanks, followed by tank destroyers.They blasted the town building by building, then dug the Germans out of cel-lars and ruins in fierce hand to hand fighting.

    Capture of HurtgenHurtgen fell late that afternoon. Three hundred-fifty prisoners were taken,

    and the remainder of the German garrison destroyed. Bodies of the dead, bothGerman and American, were strewn along the streets.

    While in Hurtgen itself, the enemy defended strongly until the town hadbeen completely taken, the Germans were evidently surprised by the rapidadvance upon the Kleinhau-Brandenberg road, to the east. Resistance waslight. The expected counterattack came late in the afternoon, and was repulsedwith heavy casualties to the enemy. The 3rd Battalion, 121st Infantry com-pleted mopping up the edge of the woods southeast of Hurtgen, and outpostedthe commanding terrain.

    Combat Command R was alerted upon capture of Hurtgen and orderedto move through the town and be prepare