35th Infantry Division Memory

For never forget...
Santa Fe
flagfr flagus

Central Europe Campaign

2 April 45 - 9 May 45

Chapter 13

Over the Rhine and into the Ruhr


The Rhine River cut a wide, sullen barrier between the 35th and the Ruhr. To cross Germany's greatest waterway would culminate a long list of successes for the "River-Crossing" 35th.

On 24 March under devastating concentrated allied artillery fire, the 30th and 79th Infantry Divisions crossed the river against moderate resistance, the former aided by supporting fire from 35th Division artillery.

On 25 March, Task Force Miltonberger was formed. It consisted of Combat Team 134th, 127th Field Artillery; Company A, 60th Engineer Battalion; Company A, 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and Company A of the 784th Tank Battalion. The force closed into an area in the vicinity of Rheinberg and passed to control of the 79th Division. The 137th and 320th patrolled their areas and made plans to move the next day.

During the great allied air attack on the night of 25 and 26 March, Task Force Miltonberger crossed the Rhine and launched an attack at 0800 on the 26th. This attack gained two and one-half miles in only four hours to take its objective. At 1800 that evening the task force was relieved from attachment to the 79th Division and reverted to 35th control.

Meanwhile, the 137th and 320th crossed the Rhine on "Doughfoot Bridge" east of Rheinberg followed by the 216th and 219th Field Artillery Battalions. The Division Command Post then moved to Dinslaken, east of the Rhine, and preparations were made to increase the tempo of attack.

With the 320th in division reserve, the 134th, 137th and attached tanks and tank destroyers pushed into the Ruhr. At first, only scattered resistance was encountered but later this increased and enemy small arms, mortar, artillery and self-propelled fire fell in the ranks of the Santa Fe. The division's own artillery followed up the advancing attack closely, firing numerous missions on enemy mortars, self-propelled guns, machine gun positions and enemy assembly areas. By the end of the day, 27 March, the 35th had gained approximately three and one-half miles through wooded terrain.

On 28 March, the 320th joined in the attack and met heavy fire as it fought through woods to reach the Autobahn Highway. By 1800, leading elements of the regiment captured part of the Autobahn, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 134th crossed the railroad tracks north of the highway. The 137th met very heavy opposition in the woods in their zone, but continued to advance slowly.

Next day the 134th secured positions along the railroad west of the town of Gladbeck against moderate mortar and artillery fire. That afternoon the 2nd and 3rd Battalions seized the town. In the Gladbeck suburb of Rentfort, 134th Infantrymen that night found more than 6,500 German civilians in the shafts of a coal mine. The civilians had huddled in the mine for five days in fear of allied bombings.

The 137th and 320th made progress against heavy resistance and managed to advance one and one-half miles on the 29th.

On 30 March, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 134th, advanced into the city of Buer despite heavy small arms and direct fire, while the 3rd Battalion of the regiment overran five enemy direct-fire anti-aircraft guns west of the city. The 137th cleared the town of Eigen and leading elements made an advance of four meters for the day. The division was now fighting in a very thickly-settled zone best described as "Pittsburgh-like terrain." The 320th's advance was especially hampered by intense fire from buildings and factories. Advancing steadily the regiment completely cleaned the enemy from the city of Bottrop by dark of the 30th.

Near Bottrop, all around teamwork between units of the 137th and supporting organizations cut the Autobahn by fighting through a blocked portion thus depriving the Nazis of the use of a two mile stretch of the vital highway. The plan and execution was rather unique.

Calling for smoke from artillery and throwing smoke shells from his own mortars, Lieutenant Colonel Albert Butler ordered K and L Companies of the 137th to feint an attack by increasing fire against the enemy. Then he called on the engineers to remove the cement slabs blocking the Autobahn.

T/5 James A. Williams, Albany, New York, of the 60th Engineers, moved his bulldozer up while 12 Company I riflemen went through the debris to the other side of the Autobahn to cover removal of the block. Working seven minutes behind a smokescreen and under enemy fire, Williams shoved the slabs away and Company I, followed by Company G, pushed through with elements of the 784th Tank Battalion.

Fire from three sides met the Yanks as they moved from the Autobahn toward Bottrop, a city with a prewar population of 87,000. Returning the fire as they moved forward, infantrymen and tanks forced the Nazis to withdraw to the outskirts of the city. The Germans on the flanks were forced to abandon positions along a two mile stretch of the Autobahn.

Pursuing the Nazi through unfamiliar streets, Company I, 137th, made contact with the enemy at the Rheinbaden Factory. Here a fire fight again took place, the Yanks moving through the plant and shooting everything that moved. The Germans pulled out after a two-hour fight and the huge works fell into the hands of the 35th.

Driving south toward the Emscher and Rhein-Herne Canals, advancing elements of the 134th encountered small arms, artillery and direct fire on 31 March, but the 2nd Battalion cleared Backum and Stucken-Busch, while the 1st Battalion drove the enemy from Buer-Resse and mopped up the north portion of Herten. The 137th also met moderate opposition, but captured Buer-Erie.

Against heavy small arms and machine gun fire, the 2nd Battalion of the 320th then crossed the Emscher Canal and assaulted the factory area. The 1st and 3rd Battalions also attacked and reached the Emscher. The regiment took Karn Ap and Horst, as Company F engaged in a fierce fight for the Prosper Coal Mine along the Emscher. An estimated 100 Germans were emplaced in a huge slag pile, in mine shafts and buildings, while a reported eight to ten thousand civilians - Germans and foreign workers - were kept below in the tunnels by armed guards. Other 2nd Battalion troops on the flanks also encountered last-ditch opposition from heavily armed Germans in houses and buildings.

"We threw everything at that mine. Cannon Company alone fired 950 rounds," declared Captain John Roberts, Company F's Commander. "But after a barrage the Nazis would still be firing."

Sgt. William Chambers said the mortars fired 500 rounds and Sgt. Loren McKinney and Thomas Bending, manning two .30 caliber machine guns, fired 12,500 rounds. 2nd Lieutenant Vivian Palmore led a platoon of infantrymen who cleared the mine buildings after a nine-man patrol led by S/Sgt. Glen Metcalf crossed the Emscher over a railroad bridge under protection of a smoke screen with machine gun cover,

On 1 April, against considerable small arms, mortar and artillery fire, the 134th cleared both Hochlar and Recklinghausen before noon and later mopped up all of Herten and Suderwich. The 137th also met heavy artillery, self-propelled and mortar fire, but broke up all organized resistance in Recklinghausen-Sud and advanced as far as the Rhein-Herne Canal. The 320th also pushed ahead in its zone just north of the canal. Division artillery fired on towns, factory areas and Nazi strongpoints and hit a moving train, setting it on fire. Some batteries were firing within mortar range, using charge No. 1 for the first time since the 35th landed in France.

For the next week the regiments held and improved their positions along the Herne Canal. On the 6th, the 320th was attached to the 75th Division which was aiming at Dortmund.

On the morning of 9 April, both the 134th and 137th secured bridgeheads over the canal against fairly heavy resistance but by evening, patrols of the 134th Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon had entered Gelsenkirchen after a gain of three kilometers.

As in every division water crossing, the 60th Engineers worked like beavers. A railway bridge over the Emscher, converted for vehicular traffic by Company B was used by so much 35th traffic that it was called "Remagen Jr." At this site one company captured 19 Germans who had fired at the engineers. Twelve of the Germans gave up quickly when a 748th Tank bulldozer opened fire.

Company A of the 60th had to build a culvert across the deep Emscher. 390 feet of culvert were used and two powerful dozers, working eight hours straight, pushed enough dirt over the culvert to pass traffic. Both A and B Companies threw treadway bridges over the Rhein-Herne Canal to complete the crossings.

On 10 April the 134th took the city of Gelsenkirchen, one of the largest Ruhr cities which had a prewar population of more than 300,000. The 137th continued its steady push to the south.

By the 11th, the 134th had reached positions along the north bank of the Ruhr River and the 137th had swept through the rail-rich cities of Herne and Wanne-Eickel to reach the river in its zone. The following day, the 1st Battalion of the 134th continued to attack to the south, clearing the enemy from the finger-shaped bend in the river. In their sectors along the bank of the river, both the 134th and 137th were mopping up the last of the enemy resistance.

Meanwhile, the 320th had linked up with elements of the 95th Division near the town of Lunen and had reached the outskirts of Dortmund. Then the 35th was ordered to move to the XIX Corps sector near the Elbe River on a direct line to Berlin. This was the 12 April, 18 days after the Santa Fe had crossed the Rhine. In that time it had captured 3,779 prisoners, including prisoner number 20,000, a baby-faced 16-year-old less than five feet tall who hardly measured up to the Division's first prisoner, a burly 23-year-old Wehrmacht soldier.

APO 35, U. S. ARMY
21 April 1945

1. COMMENDATION. The following congratulatory message from the Commanding General, Ninth United States Army, 12 April 1945, is published for the information of all troops:

Chief of Staff.

2. It gives me great pleasure to pass to you and the personnel of your command this congratulatory message from General Marshall.

I wish to add my own congratulations and commendations to you, your officers and men for superb manner in which you have accomplished these great tasks. The advance to the Rhine and the crossing into the Ruhr will undoubtedly rank high in the annals of history as an outstanding military achievement.

I desire that this communication be read to all troops as early as practicable.

Lieutenant General, U. S. Army

APO No. 35, U. S. Army

1. ORDER OF THE DAY. The following Order of the Day issued by the Supreme Commander will be brought to the attention of all troops of this command:
To Every Member of the AEF

The Battle of the Ruhr has ended with complete success. Following hard upon the final destruction of the German forces west of the Rhine, the Twenty First Army Group thrust powerfully across that river with the U. S. Ninth Army under its command.

Simultaneously, rapid drives across the Rhine and from the Remagen bridgehead by Twelfth and Sixth Army Groups provided the southern arm of a great double envelopment which completely encircled the entire German Army Group "B" and two Corps of Army Group "H," whose mobility was rendered almost zero by our magnificent and tireless air forces. Thereafter, in the pocket thus created the twelfth Army Group eliminated twenty-one enemy divisions, including three Panzer, one Panzer Grenadier and three Parachute divisions. Over three hundred seventeen thousand prisoners of war were captured including twenty-four Generals and one Admiral. Many tanks and more than seven hundred fifty guns were destroyed or taken. Booty is immense and still being counted. The enemy's total losses in killed and wounded will never be accurately known.

The rapidity and determination with which this brilliant action was executed tore asunder the divisions of Field Marshal Model, and enabled all army groups without pause to continue their drive eastward into the heart of Germany.

This victory of allied arms is a fitting prelude to the final battles to crush the ragged remnants of Hitler's armies of the west, now tottering on the threshold of defeat.

(Signed) DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, 20 April 1945.

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