THE GERMANY CAMPAIGN
On March 8 the division was assigned to the Seventh Army for what was to become the Germany Campaign and was assigned to the XV Corps along with the 3rd,
44th, 45th, 71st and 100th Infantry Divisions. Its mission was to exploit the XV Corps' attack through the Siegfried Line and secure exits to the Rhine Plain and eventually to seize the west bank of the Rhine and secure a bridgehead across the river.
The 86th moved out on its trip south on March 10 and marched 140 miles to Lucy, France. Troop A was attached to CCA and Troop B to CCB while the squadron was designated as the 86th Combat Command (Brindle), with CT Bridges (composed of Troop D, Company F, a platoon of the 603rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, two Platoons of the 50th Infantry Battalion, a squad of the 25th Engineer Battalion and Battery C of the 342nd Field Artillery Battalion) and CT Browning (composed of Troops C and E, a platoon of the 603rd TDs, a rifle platoon and heavy weapons platoon from the 50th and a squad of 25th Engineers).
The 86th moved to Mimbach, Germany, via Herbitzheim in two columns, CT Bridges and CT Browning, with squadron Hq., a platoon of 603rd TDs a squad of 25th Engineers and the 342nd Field Artillery Battalion (-) in reserve. The two columns followed separate routes to Bockenheim with the 86th CC Reserve following CT Bridges.
On March 23 the 86th CC was placed under control of CCA, regaining Troop A and losing the 342nd Field Artillery Battalion. The division was reassigned to XX Corps, Third Army, Twelfth Army Group, and with CCA operated a counter-reconnaissance screen from Rhein-Durkheim through Worms to the Autobahn on the south.
The following day division was assigned to XII Corps at 1800 and XII Corps, with two bridges across the Rhine at Oppenheim, was to exploit the breakthrough with armor, using the 6th Armored Division on the north and the 4th Armored Division on the south. The 6th was to cross the Rhine in one column, following the 4th and drive northeast to cross the Main River at or just east of Frankfurt.
The 86th CC was back on its own now and followed the route of CCB across the Rhine to the vicinity of Gross Gerau on March 25. In a swift enveloping move to the east through Ober Roden and Jugesheim the following day, the command approached the Main from the southeast and upon reaching the river conducted reconnaissance for possible routes and crossing sites.
The 86th CC moved to Neu Isenburg on March 27 and the next day crossed the Main behind CCB and raced north against scattered enemy resistance. The command smashed through Niederdorfelden and secured a bridge over the Nidder River there. Spearheading on north, it captured Rendel, Klein Karben, Gross Karben, Ober Karben, Niederwoellstadt and Oberwoellstadt, closing near Friedberg.
The command bypassed Friedberg March 29 and CT Browning cleared the towns of Fauerbach, Dorheim, Schwalheim, Wisselsheim, Steinfurth, Oppereshofen, Rockenberg, Ober-Hoergem, Eberstadt and Hof Guell.
Leading elements of the command swept through Steinbach and Garbenteich, overrunning and either destroying or capturing fleeing enemy columns.
The 86th CC moved out at 0630 on the 30th and advanced down the Autobahn to Romrod, there the column met resistance from ground troops and was bombed and strafed. Bypassing Romrod to the north, the command kept on minor roads to Homberg, meeting scattered resistance along the route. Resistance increased until at Wabern the command received all kinds of smallarms, mortar and artillery fire.
In a heavy fire fight that lasted for several hours, four enemy 47mm ack-ack guns were destroyed and approximately 3,000 slave laborers of the French Colonials were liberated.
In the two-day period March 29-30 the CC killed 149 enemy, wounded 10 and captured 1,145 prisoners.
A sad note, however, was the loss of 2nd Lt. Casey J. Rodgers of Troop A, who was killed when his armored car was hit by an 88 while he was leading the point for TF 15.
Troop D, meanwhile, reinforced by Company C, 50th Infantry; Company D, 68th Tank Battalion; Company A, 603rd TD Battalion; and a platoon of Company C, 25th Engineers, led the advance on Wabern and Zennern and moved boldly against fanatical resistance to seize the only bridge intact over the Eder River before the enemy could get off prepared demolition.
Capt. Bridges' command, under murderous fire of all types, battled its way into Niedermoellrich and TF 68 and TF 9 made their way across the bridge to establish a bridgehead for the attack on Kassel.
Troop D was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its action.
When Kassel proved to be too heavily defended, the division was directed to cross the Fulda River at Malsfeld. Reconnaissance by the 86th found a partially destroyed railroad bridge north of Malsfeld and the 86th used it for a crossing while another bridge was built for other units.
By now promoted to lieutenant colonel, squadron CO Brindle had the following summary for the period:
"During this period the squadron showed the effects of continuous and arduous combat. The squadron's efficiency has decreased slightly due to the large number of reinforcements which, only naturally, can not take the place of the key NCO proper training that was lost during the long period of continuous combat (221) days.
"Material, as well as personnel, shows the stress and strain of war conditions. Engine operational hours have been exceeded in 70 percent of the squadron vehicles.
"Reinforcements were inadequate at the middle of the period, but at the end of the period were much improved."
The 86th CC cleared the railroad bridge north of Malsfeld at 1600 on April 1, moved north to the vicinity of Melsungen and then turned east to assemble near Schnellrode on the division's north flank. Troop B screened the north flank for CCA.
The squadron moved to Frankenhain on April 2 and due to enemy resistance was forced to bypass strong points and take alternate routes, undergoing bombing and strafing by enemy aircraft. The next day it continued reconnaissance along the Werra River near Bad Sooden and as far north as Ellershausen. A patrol found a bridge over the Werra, but it was defended and subsequently blown by the enemy.
On April 4 the 86th CC moved to Struth in the wake of CCA and sent out patrols to screen the division's north flank. When the division cleared Muehlhausen of enemy resistance the following day the 86th CC raced north and east to continue to screen the north flank, clearing Keula, Holzthaleben, Wiedermuth and Ebeleben. The CP was moved to Urbach and only Troop C, under CCA, was not with the squadron.
The command was reinforced by the Recon company of the 603rd TDs on April 6 and continued its screening mission. The following day, aggressive patrols reported increased enemy activity and vehicular movement on the entire front. The CC received fire north of Holzthaleben and Troop B met considerable fire at Abtsbessingen. By the end of the day, however, the situation was well in hand and the squadron continued to hold its line.
Capt. Eickhoff, the S3, and his driver, Pvt. William L. Leinbach, were ambushed and seriously wounded while going to Troop A to check on the situation. Capt. King moved up from S2 to S3 and Lt. Harris advanced from liaison officer to S2.
Meanwhile, squadron trains, bivouacked at Struth, were attacked by a German patrol at 0200 and a heavy counter-attack followed at 0515 by a force that had heavy mortars, tanks, halftracks, self-propelled guns and approximately 800 Infantry. Trains battled the attackers until help come from the 3rd Battalion of the 304th Infantry Regiment, which fortunately happened to be in the area. The doughboys, reinforced by a company combat team from the 69th Tank Battalion, counter-attacked and restored the situation as Trains withdrew to Muehlhausen. However, T4 Christian M. Betancourt and T4 Erwin H. Zietz of Headquarters Troop were killed and Hq Troop CO Capt. Robert M. Cuming and 13 enlisted men were wounded. Six 2 1/2-ton trucks, two armored cars, a halftrack, a 10-ton wrecker and five 1-ton cargo trailers were among equipment destroyed.
1st Lt. Jack R. Eyman replaced Capt. Cuming as CO of Headquarters Troop.
On April 8 Maj. Kennon was evacuated and Capt. Tillemans took over as squadron executive officer. 1st Lt. Kenneth E. Mower replaced Capt. Tillemans as CO of Troop B.
The 86th went under control of CCB at this point and on April 9 the command repulsed Infantry attempting to infiltrate its lines between Toba and Ebeleben and seized Toba. Troop B and five light tanks from Company F were assigned to division control and a day later the squadron moved to Grossengottern, where it, too, was placed under division control. Troop B, screening the north flank of the 76th Infantry Division, contacted reconnaissance elements of the 9th Armored Division at Bothenheilingen.
The squadron resumed its mission of screening the division's north flank and continued its advance northeast, crossing over the Weisse-Elster River behind CT 44 on April 12. Heavy artillery and anti-aircraft fire was encountered at Groitzsch but the command remained in the area in contact with CT 44 to guard the bridge and outpost Pegau.
Troop A established contact with the 9th Armored Division on the north flank near Lastau on April 15 and the next day the 86th closed in an assembly area one mile south of Gross-Milkau, where it put into effect an extensive program of maintenance, cleaning and refitting.
The division was under XX Corps order prohibiting advance beyond the Zwickauer Mulde River and direction that the present front line be held pending arrival of the Russian Army. Consequently the situation remained static until the division was ordered to withdraw to positions west of the Zwickauer Mulde. The 86th, under control of CCB, marched 50 miles to Osterfeld on April 19 and was given the mission of patrolling, policing and keeping main supply routes open.
On April 25 the squadron was relieved by the 11th Armored Group and marched to Nobitz, where it organized its area for police and security. On April 30 Chaplains Homer Milford and Manuel Falcao conducted memorial services for the 86th's honored dead, and Col. Brindle delivered a fitting address.
Meanwhile, Capt. Berg received an R and R leave back to the United States and 1st Lt. Harold R. Lenahan took over as CO of Troop A. Also, 1st Lt. Willis S. Norton, executive officer of Troop E, replaced Lt. Eyman as CO of Headquarters Troop.
Hostilities in the ETO officially came to an end at 0001 on May 9, 1945 under terms of unconditional surrender signed by the German High Command.
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