35th Infantry Division Memory

For never forget...
Santa Fe
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Chapter 14

To Berlin's Doorsteps


 

The 35th, on April 13, began its greatest blitz of all, from the Ruhr to the Elbe River. While elements of the Santa Fe were still pounding the Nazis in the Ruhr region, the Division moved its combat teams along the Autobahn which had only recently been the scene of hard fighting. In one day the Santa Fe dashed from Herne, in the Ruhr, to the vicinity of 220 miles. The next day 75 miles were covered. The Santa Fe was on the Elbe, nearest of all the American troops to Berlin.

By the 16th, the Division had sent patrols across to the east side of the Elbe. Also on that day the Santa Fe was relieved from the attachment to the XIX Corps and placed under control of the XIII Corps.

Combat Team 320th was then attached to the 83rd Infantry Division and participated in sharp fighting to maintain the 83rd's bridgehead across the Elbe at Zerbst.

On April 15 the Division Command Post moved to Burgstall and, on the 16th, a total of 1,759 prisoners were taken for the day, a new record for a 24-hour haul. On the 15th at 1300 Combat Team 320th, on orders from the 83rd Division, made the last coordinated attack, by a unit of the 35th, to cross the Saale River.

Artillery remained active, however, firing on enemy vehicles and positions across the Elbe. The Nazis sent patrols across to the west side of the river and the 137th Company E was attacked by a 50-man patrol on 17th, near Grieben, but drove the attacks off. Next day, a combat patrol from Company F met a five man enemy patrol near Scelldorf and annihilated it.

The division continued to improve its positions along the Elbe, taking increasing numbers of prisoners both in forward and rear areas. In one week the 35th Reconnaissance Troop captured 430 Nazis. One patrol captured 120 in one day. On the 20th the Division Command Post moved to Tangerhutte. Company G, 134th, and Company F and K, 137th, were closer to Berlin than any American troops on the western front.

On 23 April, Companies A and B of the 134th, combined with elements of the 60th Engineers, cleared the woods and destroyed enemy equipment in the vicinity of Colbitz and Angern. Meanwhile, the 320th having been relieved from attachment to the 83rd Division, remained in division reserve and reconnoitered the division sector for defense against possible counter-attack.

In one day, 24 April, Santa Fe troops captured SS Major General Heinz Jost and the Clauswitz Task Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Unrein. Jost, listed in Shaef's "Who's Who in Nazi Germany," and head of the Gestapo in foreign countries, was captured by 2nd Lt. Darrel Droslem and S/Sgt. A. Rohleder of Counter-Intelligence Corps, who found him in a house at Magdeburg. Unrein, in civilian clothes and riding a bicycle, was captured by a 35th Reconnaissance Troop patrol under Cpl. Mike Waseline.

A party of seven MP's headed by Major Hal Briggs took an entire Hungarian airfield near the Elbe. The garrison was carrying on with all the routine of an American army camp and included families of the Hungarian officers and a detachment of "WACS."

In the 83rd Division bridgehead, 320th's zone, Pfcs. Oswald D'Amadio and Erwin Danielack captured a veritable "Man from Mars" after he swam down the Elbe in an attempt to place a 500-lb bomb to destroy the pontoon bridge near Barby. Another Nazi, from the same Nazi Swimmer Unit, was also captured by the 60th Engineers. The "Man from Mars" was dressed in a tight-fitting rubber suit resembling a coverall. Attached to the suit was a long hood-like veil. His face was blackened and he was equipped with a pistol, knife and waterproof watch.

The Anti-Tank Company of the 137th discovered three hundred railroad cars filled with V-1 and V-2 bombs, ammunition, arms and medical supplies.

Near Weferlingen a party of twenty-four heavily armed Nazis in two trucks were captured by eight 35th Signal Corps men. The signal group was about to drive past the trucks when T/Sgt. Earl Combs spotted the German driver in the lead vehicle. He fired a few shots in the air, the other signal men covered the trucks and the SS, Gestapo and Wehrmacht soldiers gave up, although they were armed with ten P-38's, two Lugers, ten Schmeissers, three .30 cal. machine guns, rifles and grenades.

In the Grasleben Salt Mine, Goebel's "morgue," was unearthed 1600 feet underground by 35th intelligence officers, Capt. John S. Foster and Capt. Barnaby Keeney. The files contained information on all Nazi officials together with their photos. Also cached in the mine were the vital financial, realty and historical records of Germany's biggest cities as well as looted rare books and museum treasures. Found buried in four feet of salt were record transcriptions of Hitler's speeches.

More than 1500 Allied prisoners of war were liberated by the division at various points near the Elbe and taken to the Grasleben airfield. There they ate their first good meal since their capture in the Ardennes bulge or as far back as North Africa. The meal was simple: Soup, stew, coffee, pudding and bread. The plain menu was prescribed by Lt. Col. Marvin Mack, Division Surgeon, who examined the men. Their emaciated physical condition prohibited the eating of heavy food. At best, the Nazi diet had provided the Allied soldiers with only 700 calories a day, against a required 1500. Division troops voluntarily contributed two truck loads of cigarettes and candy for them.

After seven months as a prisoner of the Germans, Pfc. Rodger Tipton, North Platte, Nebr., a former soldier in the Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon of the 134th Infantry was freed near Mecklenburg. Tipton spent several hours with Brigadier General Miltonberger, his former commanding officer. He wanted to remain with the division and fight, explaining that he had worn his Santa Fe shoulder patch all during confinement and had refused to take it off. Wounded when captured, he was pale and gaunt and still carried a Nazi bullet in his left breast. General Miltonberger told him he showed the spirit of all 35th Division soldiers and outfitted him in a new uniform complete with decorations. Then with genuine appreciate he told him to go home and recuperate.

The 35th Division captured and destroyed immense stores of enemy equipment in the Elbe operation. The list was so long that it reads like an inventory of the Nazi defeat. A few major items include:

Tanks, all types - 29
Half-track - 9
Trucks (1/2-ton or more) - 145
Ambulances - 9
Railroad locomotives - 50
Airplanes (fighter and reconnaissance) - 100
Barges - 3
Machine guns, 20mm - 239
Machine guns, smaller caliber - 1,675
Machine pistols - 171
Rifles - 9,476
Bazookas - 370
Mortars (50mm, 80mm, 120mm) - 60
Artillery pieces - 167
SP guns - 16
Rocket guns - 20
Railroad guns - 2
V-2 bombs - 65
V-1 bombs - 126
TNT, tons - 101 ¬ľ

Ammunition:
Artillery (rounds) - 1,275
Bazooka (rounds) - 2,000
Small arms (rounds) - 575,000
Grenades - 21,775
Mortar (rounds) - 1,500
Mines (all types, including glass) - 2,001,150
Machine gun (rounds) - 10,000
Searchlights - 120
Range finders - 6
Electric generators - 56
Field radios - 80
Radio receivers and transmitters - 100
Ordnance warehouses, containing 20mm, 30mm, 50mm guns, approximately - 600
Stocks of spare parts, clips, drums - 2
Oil, all grades (gals.) - 100,000
Canned goods (carloads) - 8
Civilian clothing (carloads) - 2
Airplane motors - 20

On 26 April, the Division Command Post moved to Dohren in the Hannover area and by April 27, the entire 35th had moved to new locations in this area. The Elbe operation had netted 5,976 prisoners. The Hannover mop-up began, bringing in more than 3,000 in the first week and flooding the division total well over the 31,000 mark after the first week of May.

In ten months of almost continuous action on the Western Front, from Omaha Beach through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and to within a few hours drive of Berlin, the 35th had traveled a twisting, fighting path of more than 1,600 combat miles. Over 150 enlisted men had received battlefield appointments as Second Lieutenants. Over four thousand battle awards had been won by Santa Fe officers and men, including a Distinguished Medal to General Baade and the Congressional Medal of Honor to S/Sgt. Junior J. Spurrier of Company G, 134th Infantry.

The division had fought under the banner of the First, Third, Seventh, and Ninth Armies and ten different corps. The 35th was awarded five battle stars for participating in the Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Germany Campaigns.

When VE Day arrived, the American flag flew bright and proud in the sun in front of the Division Command Post in Dohren, Hannover, many miles and many battles from Omaha Beach. The 35th Infantry Division had accomplished its great mission.

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