35th Infantry Division Memory

For never forget...
Santa Fe
flagfr flagus

Chapter 12

To the Rhine River


Early in February, the 35th Division relieved the 52nd British Infantry Division along a line just short of the Roer River in Germany. Plans were drawn for the Division to cross the Roer on 10 February, but D-Day for the attack was postponed pending probable demolition of the Schormel dams across the Roer River near Schmidt, Germany.

On 11 February the retreating enemy opened the dam outlets of the two largest dams, loosing 160 million cubic feet of water down the Roer River Valley. The river rose several feet over night, inundating the surrounding countryside. There was also an unusual amount of rain in the Ninth Army sector and engineers worked hard to maintain road nets.

As soon as the river receded to normal level the original plan - "Operation Grenade" - would go into effect. The 60th Engineers assembled Bailey Bridges, heavy pontoon equipment, floating treadways, several miles of road base, more than 50 tons of explosives (for destruction of the Siegfried Line), and assault boats at Geilenkirchen. This was a centrally located point from where equipment could be transported to any crucial spot on the river in a minimum of time.

To prepare thoroughly for the attack, selected infantrymen attended assault schools and engineer troops attended special schools on enemy mines and booby traps.

On 23 February, the Ninth Army launched its drive across the Roer. The 320th jumped off at 0330, crossed the Wurm River on improvised foot bridges and moved 1500 yards in three hours to the west bank of the Roer. Achieving its objective, the regiment sat tight.

The 134th first sent strong patrols into Hilfarth, located on the west bank of the Roer River. Then, at 2200 on the night of 25 February, the 1st Battalion stormed Hilfarth in force and cleared the town completely by the next morning. Passing through Hilfarth the 134th had captured intact a stone bridge crossing the river to the east of the city. The bridge had been denied to the enemy by the 161st Field Artillery's skillful use of artillery interdiction fire for several days. Hundreds of shells, fired at the rate of one per minute, kept the enemy away from the approaches and left the bridge virtually undamaged when foot troops later dashed across. Then two enlisted men from Company A, 60th Engineers, T/5 James Stanislau, Lynbrook, N. Y., and Pvt. Harold Wright, Jersey City, N. J., slipped through enemy automatic fire, cut demolition wires on the bridge, removed the charges and dropped them harmlessly in the river.

In addition to keeping the Hilfarth bridge under continuous fire, 35th artillery fired smoke missions on a feint bridgehead area in order to confuse the enemy. It also hit likely enemy observation posts and smashed nine enemy batteries.

On the right flank of the 134th, the 137th pushed its entire regiment, plus tank destroyers and tanks, across the river, using a bridge in the 84th Division zone. It marched to the vicinity of Doveren and attacked from there to the northeast.

Between 26 and 27 February, fighting within the Siegfried Line, the division captured 23 towns, routed the Nazis out of cellar strong-holds and surged forward against moderate resistance. Santa Fe doughboys and tankers of the 784th Tank Battalion teamed to drive the Germans out of strong positions in wooded areas and towns on the road to the Rhine.

As the 35th's drive gained impetus, Task Force Byrne, under the command of Colonel Bernard A. Byrne, Commanding Officer of the 320th, was formed on 28 February. Its first mission was to advance to the Dutch city of Venlo near the German border about 20 miles due north and beyond the Ninth Army's zone. The force was motorized and consisted of the following units: 320th Infantry, 216th Field Artillery, 275th Field Artillery, 784th Tank Battalion (less Company A), Company C, 654 Tank Destroyer Battalion, Company C, 60th Engineer Battalion and Company C, 110th Medical Battalion.

On 1 March, doughboys of the 320th's 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph D. Alexander, Chicago, Illinois, mounted tanks to spearhead Task Force Byrne and dash past the Roer's Siegfried defenses. Two assault engineer soldiers were attached to each infantry platoon, and, while riflemen covered them with small arms fire, the engineers moved up and planted demolition charges near the entrances of all pillboxes encountered. The 35th's Reconnaissance Troop furnished left flank protection and captured Herkenbosch and Roermond.

Task Force Byrne roared through town after town. As they approached Venlo, General Baade advised Corps that Venlo itself could be taken. General Anderson, XVI Corps Commander replied, "Take it!" On 2 March the Yanks were cheered by thousands of liberated Hollanders wearing orange colors of freedom. The force then wheeled eastward, conquered Straelen and a score of other German towns, capturing hundreds of prisoners by driving almost 50 miles in three days. The climax was a swift night assault on Sevelen where troops seized stacks of Nazi propaganda leaflets addressed to the 35th. The leaflets warned that the Roer Valley defenses were impregnable!

When Task Force Byrne turned east to knife a quick passage through enemy defenses, the 134th's 1st Battalion continued north in order to advance and occupy Geldern and to secure the vital road-net just west of the city. Company C 134th, here made first contact with the British Forces driving down north at 1350 on 3 March in a dramatic and historical meeting.

The 35th then unleashed more power to take large groups of prisoners and gather up cities such as Lintfort which housed one of the largest coal mines in Germany.

On 25 February, Colonel Butler B. Miltonberger, Commanding Officer of the 134th, was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed Assistant Division Commander of the 35th, turning over command of the 134th to Lieutenant Colonel Alford C. Boatsman of the 1st Battalion, 134th Infantry. General Miltonberger replaced Brigadier General Sebree who joined the 28th Division.

By 6 March, the 137th (Task Force Murray) drove through Rheinberg as far north as the south edge of Ossenburg where they consolidated their position following a severe battle. According to on-the-spot observers, the bitterest battle west of the Rhine took place north of Rheinberg, which became known as "88 Alley."

Wedged between the Ninth Army and British and Canadian forces, the Nazi bridgehead on the west side of the Rhine opposite Wesel was now squashed into a tight fist holding on to the flat land past Ossenberg. In this pocket, eight units of Hitler's best troops were identified, including elements of three paratroop divisions. Unable to withdraw heavy guns and ammunition across the Rhine, the Germans were throwing it all in a desperate effort to hold off the Santa Fe.

Battling against fanatical resistance, the 3rd Battalion of the 137th pressed in on Ossenberg and won a hard-fought battle in the huge Solvay Works on the outskirts of the city. On 8 March the 2nd Battalion occupied all of Ossenberg and other elements of the regiment swept through between the city and the Rhine River. This cut off the important Nazi escape route from a ferry crossing point near Ossenberg.

On the night of 9 March, after 3 days of advancing against stiff resistance from Kamp through Millingen and Huck, Task Force Byrne took the town of Drupt in a swift attack preceded by a heavy artillery bombardment. Drupt protected the center of the road net of the Nazi bridgehead at Wesel.

The 134th then passed through Task Force Byrne and stabbed swiftly forward toward two remaining bridges over the Rhine in the Ninth Army sector. The 35th plan was to capture intact the Wesel Bridge. But on 10 March, the Nazi's pulled their shattered remnants back to the east bank and blew the two magnificent bridges just before the 134th reached them. Farther south, the 137th captured the town of Wallach.

The Santa Fe was on the Rhine! The last Nazi troops facing the division had been driven across the river in the Ninth Army zone by the attacking Santa Fe, leaving 4,775 prisoners. Operation "Grenade" was successfully completed and the 35th looked across the Rhine to its next objective, the Ruhr.

The following letters were received and transmitted by General Baade to the men of the Santa Fe:

APO 197, U. S. Army

12 March 1945

TO: Commanders of all units participating in Operation "Grenade."

On March 10, 1945, the XVI Corps successfully completed its mission in Ninth Army's Operation "Grenade." From 23 February until the completion of this operation, this Corps has undergone many types of combat, including a river crossing, rapid pursuit of the fleeing enemy, and tough, slow fighting against a determined enemy who, by every form of defensive fighting, was attempting to protect his last escape routes across the Rhine in the Wesel Area.

In these operations both battle seasoned units and units with no previous battle experience participated. All have demonstrated the highest degree of courage, energy, aggressiveness and determination. The successful results that have been achieved are a credit to every participating unit. New and bright pages have been added to the histories of your organizations - pages filled with heroic acts of individuals and outstanding accomplishments by units.

I desire to thank every officer and man who participated in these operations for his contribution and assistance in driving the enemy from his positions along the Roer River with the ensuing pursuit for a distance of approximately fifty miles, and, finally, in forcing his withdrawal across the Rhine. I know the same high order of accomplishment will be demonstrated in the future operations necessary to crush our enemies and bring peace to the world.

/s/ John B. Anderson
Major General, U. S. Army

The 35th Division Commander added the following message to Santa Fe troops:

In every campaign in which you have fought you have defeated the Germans handily and elicited the praise of the Corps Commander. To the above glowing tribute I add my congratulations and admiration for the fighting qualities you continue so consistently and so magnificently to display.

/s/ Paul W. Baade
Major General, U. S. Army

APO 339, U. S. Army

330.13 (GNMCS)
15 March 1945
SUBJECT: Commendations
THRU: Commanding General, XVI Corps, APO 197, U. S. Army.
TO: Commanding General, 35th Infantry Division, APO 35, U. S. Army

1. Assignment of the 35th Infantry Division to Ninth Army a few weeks ago afforded me a feeling of particular gratification. I am frank to confess that this feeling is prompted in part by the fact of my previous association as one-time Commander of the organization. Aside from this warm personal interest in the division, I am also mindful of the splendid achievements of the division since the early days of the invasion.

2. With reference to the participation of the division in Operation "Grenade" just concluded, I feel that the performance of your organization was one of the outstanding features of the entire operation and undoubtedly contributed greatly to the speedy reduction of the northern portion of the Army zone of advance. The skill with which the division made its crossing of the Roer River and the speed and power with which it raced up the Army left flank, progressing up to twelve miles a day, was most impressive. Significant also was the staying power evidenced by the division when, after extended operations in the advance, it smashed German resistance in the critical area west of Wesel. It is one of the few of the participating divisions which fought in the operation from H-Hour of D-Day to the completion of the action on 12 March.

3. It is unnecessary for me to point out that the performance of the 35th Infantry Division in Operation "Grenade" constitutes another glowing chapter in the splendid record achieved by the unit in this theater of operations. Please express my most sincere appreciation for their individual contribution toward the accomplishment of a difficult mission in a superb manner.

/s/ W. H. Simpson
Lieutenant General, U. S. Army

AG 330.13 GNMTA
1st Ind.
(15 March 45)
HEADQUARTERS XVI CORPS, APO 197, U. S. Army, 21 March 45
TO: Commanding General, 35th Infantry Division, APO 35, U. S. Army.

1. The outstanding performance of your Division in the "Grenade" operation has been thoroughly covered in the Army Commander's letter of commendation.

2. May I add my sincere and heartfelt thanks for the contributions of your splendid Division on the successful accomplishment of the mission of this Corps in the operations that have recently been successfully completed.

3. I am greatly pleased to forward the Army Commander's commendation, in which I concur wholeheartedly.

/s/ John B. Anderson
Major General, U. S. Army

AG 330.13
2nd Ind.
(15 March 45)

TO: The Officers and Enlisted Men of the 35th Division

It is with distinct pride that I again transmit a letter of commendation to you. Your glorious achievements, challenging as they are, have been surpassed each time you enter a new phase of combat. With the praise of the Army and Corps Commanders ringing in our ears, let us cross the Rhine and enter the heart of Germany with even more determined dash and vigor to FINAL VICTORY.

Godspeed to each of you!

/s/ Paul W. Baade
Major General, U. S. Army

"35thInfantryDivision-memory.com" 2010-2024
The contents of this site and the images belong to their respective owners.