35th Infantry Division Memory

For never forget...
Santa Fe
flagfr flagus

Rhineland Campaign, 15 September 44 - 21 March 45

Chapter 9

Into Germany

Looking across the Blies River into Germany gave the men of the Santa Fe a feeling that few will ever forget. For over five months they had been fighting on French soil. And it hadn't been to their liking to destroy the homes and churches of the French people. Every devastated French village, every bridge that had been destroyed, every dead cow or horse had increased the hatred against the Germans. Now the destruction would be Germany's own. Now the division could really begin to pay back for the wanton destruction that had been inflicted on the allied countries.

Patrolling of Hitler's "sacred" land began at 0100 on 12 December when Lieutenant Clarence R. Sprague, Pfc. Richard Iles, Pfc. Charles Golumbek and Private John Friday, all from the 137th Infantry, became the first men in the division to cross into Germany.

On the night of 12 December the 60th Engineers assembled 986 feet of footbridge in the forward assembly area. Company C constructed a footbridge in the vicinity of Blies Ebersing and on the morning of the 12th, at 0500, Company C, Company B, and 1st and 2nd Platoons, Company D of the 134th, crossed and entered the town of Habkirchen, Germany.

These two units held this bridgehead alone for 48 hours against repeated counter-attacks by 300 SS troops with tanks. During this period casualties were high. The Company Commander and all but one officer of Company B were lost. Company C made one of the most dramatic defenses of a bridgehead in the division's history. For this heroic work Company C and the 2nd Platoon, Company D were honored with the Distinguished Unit Citation.

On the same day, the 3rd Battalion of the 320th inched forward against machine gun and tank fire to the outskirts of Bliesbruck. Resistance was fierce and even with aid of an air strike the battalion was unable to enter the town.

During the early morning hours of darkness on 13 December the division began a large scale offensive. If a successful river crossing could be made in strength, it would place the Santa Fe at the gates of the Siegfried Line.

At 0400 the attack began. The 137th passing through the hard won enlarged 134th bridgehead, turned to the northwest and pushed to the high ground north of Fravberg. Small gains were made.

The 320th, in the meantime, managed to get its 1st Battalion across and by nightfall had captured Hill 312, northwest of Bliesbruck. The 3rd Battalion by afternoon cleared a portion of the German-filled houses in Bliesbruck. Tank Destroyers from the 654th and tanks from Company C of the 737th Tank Battalion were also employed but little gain could be made.

The Germans were fighting ferociously, and the 35th was paying a heavy price. Habkirchen, Bliesbruck, Gersheim, Reinheim and Nieder-Gailbach had to be cleared house by house. The Nazis were forced out of each by hand grenades, rifle grenades, and bazookas. In six days of fierce fighting only an average of two miles were gained, but another bridgehead - this time into Germany itself - was established and secured.

On 19 December the 35th was ordered to hold and consolidate. During the night of the 20th and 21st the division was relieved by the 44th and 87th Divisions. It then moved to Metz on the 22nd and 23rd of December and was attached to the XX Corps.

This ended a period in which the division had fought continuously for 162 days. The artillery battalions had maintained fire direction centers 24 hours a day. Staff sections had not ceased operations except to move - 3,888 consecutive hours of operation. This was a record that few, if any, divisions surpassed in World War II.

The following letter is another attestation to the fine achievements of the Santa Fe:

Major General Paul W. Baade
Commanding, 35th Infantry Division
APO 35, U. S. Army

My dear General Baade:

I want you to know that the 35th Infantry Division, when it transferred from the XII Corps, took with it the respect and admiration of our entire Corps.

Your record in combat has been a distinguished one on the Western Front. Beginning with your unforgettable drive from Le Mans through Chateaudun and Orleans, the 35th Division conducted itself with the greatest distinction through one brilliant success after another. Your spectacular operations against the city of Nancy, and your part in the securing and exploiting of our bridgehead across the Moselle, were forerunners of an even more difficult advance over 45 miles against most stubborn resistance by some of Germany's finest fighting forces. The manner in which you battled across Lorraine to cross the Saar and Blies Rivers in the face of bitter opposition, and finally to smash across the border into Germany, was even more remarkable when we consider the frightful conditions of weather you were forced to endure. Your gallant and determined fight against record rainfalls, floods, bitter cold and the pillboxes of the Maginot Line is in the highest traditions of the military service.

Every officer and every soldier of your Division will share your pride in the enviable standards of courage and professional skill you have set during these past bloody months. Please accept for yourself, and for all members of your command, my sincere appreciation of the heroic achievements of the 35th Infantry Division.

Very sincerely yours,
/s/ M. S. Eddy
/t/ M. S. EDDY
Major General, U. S. Army

1st Ind.
HQ. 35th INF. DIV., APO 35, U. S. Army, 9 Jan. 1945

TO: Officers and men 35th Infantry Division.

The glory of the historic achievements of this Division during the past six months now belongs to the ages. It is a brilliant page in the history of the military forces of the United States. To each of you, and to our fallen comrades, I can add nothing but to express my deepest appreciation and humble pride in being your commander. Proud of our past, confident in our future, let us go forward to even greater heights as we drive on in this our greatest test.

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

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