The History of the 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Training and Combat prepared by and for the men who saw action with the Battalion in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and Germany.
Headquarters – 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion
APO 758 US Army – May 9 1945.
To all the Members of the Battalion.
As I write this little message to you, my comrades of the 628th, the war in Europe has just ended; and in my heart there is both joy and sadness. There is great joy for those of you who have gotten through this hell, sound of mind and body; but there is a deep sadness for our men and officers who have fallen. In all humility, I salute our lads who are no longer with us. In all instances they died willingly as do men for a cause that is just and right, and they died bravely as can only an American soldier.
We, their buddies who served by their side shall always remember them with a sweet reverence which can be felt only by comrades in arms. It is my earnest prayer that the peace, for which the Conference at San Francisco strives, will be so lasting and honest, that none of our splendid men shall have died in vain. And I salute, too, those of you who have gone through the many strenuous months of combat with this Battalion.
The amazing amount of enemy material and men which you blasted out of the war is but a tribute to your courage and skill at arms. The break-through in Normandy, the Falaise Gap, the Eure and Seine Pockets, the Compiègne Forest, Sedan, Wallendorf and the Hürtgen Forest till the Ardennes Battle, the Rhineland, Germany’s Heart and then the crashing offensive to the very banks of the Elbe River, all these duel countless minor battles and campaigns you can, in the years to come remember with a quiet pride.
Whether it is your destiny soon to return to civilian life, or to help finish off our one remaining enemy, the Jap, I wish you luck and Godspeed. Believe me, it has been a grand privilege and an honor to have commanded such a fine Battalion in combat. Again, I salute you all, and I shall never forget you.
William J. Gallagher
Lt Col, F. A.
The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full assault of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom … – and that government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
(Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address)
In 1941 Gen Hugh A. Drum, then CG of the US 1-A, decided to form six provisional AT battalions for experimental purposes to be tested in the 1-A Maneuvers held in North and South Carolina in October and November 1941.
The 28th Infantry Division, the Pennsylvania’s National Guard and the Keystone Division, which had been federalized and on active service at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation since Feb 17 1941, was one of the six divisions ordered to form a provisional AT battalion. Gen Edward Martin, CG of the Division, issued orders whereby the personnel of the 53-FAB-Hqs, the 107-FAR, 108-FAR, the 109-FAR, the 109-IR, the 110-IR, the 111-IR, 112-IR, 103-ER (Engineer) and the 103-MR (Medic) were transferred for this purpose.
On Jul 10, the 28-ID AT Battalion (provisional) was formed under the command of the then Maj Carl L. Peterson and moved into its first quarters at Tent City, Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. In addition to Maj Carl Peterson, 112-IR, as battalion commander, the original 12-IR Staff was composed of Capt, William P. Davis, 108-FAB, Battalion Executive Officer and S-3; Lt Thomas B. Roelofs, 112-IR, Adjutant and S-1; Capt John J. Gilfilan, Hqs 28-ID Intelligence Officer and S-2; and Lt William Young, 107-FAB, Supply Officer and S-4.
Hqs Btry was commanded by Lt Joseph A. Patalive 108-FAB, who was both Battery Commander and Battalion Communications Officer. Other officers were Lt Richard H. Reeve, 108-FAB, Battalion Motor Officer, and Lt Robert H. Meisenbelter, 108-FAB, Battalion Personnel Officer.
A Btry had Lt Marcus L. Hoover, 111-IR, a Battery Commander, with Lt Eugene Swanheart, 109-FAB, Lt Robert L. Ivey, 107-FAB and Lt Richard J. Fitzgerald, 111-IR, as Battery Officers.
B Btry was formed with Lt Charles A. Corcoran, 107-FAB, as Battery Commander, assisted by Lt Leonard Dotson, 108-FAB, Lt Daniel L. Thomas, 109-FAB, and Lt Jessie B. Schooley, 109-FAB.
C Btry had Lt Robert Gaynor, 109-IR, as Battery Commander with Lt Thomas W. Scott Jr, 110-IR, and Lt John S. Wright, 55-IB-Hqs, as Battery Officer.
D Btry included Capt Harry A. Overholtzer, 108-FAB, as Battery Commander, and Lt William J. Gallagher, 108-FAB, Lt James H. Lloyd, 108-FAB, and Lt John B. Stokes, 108-FAB.
E Btry had Capt William B. Munhall, 107-FAB, as Battery Commander, assisted by Lt Hampton C. Randolph, 108-FAB, and Lt Capt James Clement, 108-FAB.
Medical Detachment included Capt Donaldson, 103-MR as initial Detachment Commander, assisted by Lt Eugene W. Hodgson, 103-MD, who later became Battalion Surgeon, and Lt Charles Perleman, 103-MD, as Battalion Dentist.
Early in the Battalion’s history Baker 103-Engineer under Capt Maurada, assisted by Lt Forrest Bocock and Lt Stanislas Starzinski, were attached to the battalion in January 1942. Hqs Btry, 109-FAB was transferred to the battalion and formed the original Pioneer Company which ultimately was re-designated as Recon Company.
Lt Bocock and Lt Starzinski were also transferred to the battalion in January 1942 and became Pioneer Company CO and EO respectively. Other officers who joined the Battalion shortly after it was formed were Lt Paul L. McPherran and Lt Lawrence W. Merz, both Reserve Corps Officers, who were initially assigned as liaison Officers, Hqs Btry.
Also transferred were, Lt Benjamin C. Manderville, 112-IR, initially assigned to C Btry, and Lt Nathan N. Tyson, 108-FAB, who replaced Lt Meisenhelter as Battalion Personnel Officer when Lt Meisenhelter was transferred back to the 108-FAB.
At the end of Jul 1941, the AT Battalion moved to AP Hill Military Reservation near Fredericksburg, Virginia, for its first tactical field training which was a two week problem conducted by the entire 28-ID. Equipment at that time consisted of 3/4 ton weapons carriers as prime movers, with towed guns made out of miscellaneous pieces of pipe, wood, and other materials to represent an AT gun. No ammunition was expended, but the Battalion did raise a lot of dust on the back roads of Virginia, and soon became known as an up and coming organization that was going places, a prophecy, which was fulfilled as time marched on.
After Labor Day, 1941, the Battalion returned to Indiantown Gap, and then in the latter part of Sep 1941, moved with the entire 28-ID to the Carolina Maneuver Area, establishing a base camp near Wadesboro, North Carolina.
Early in Nov 1941, Maj Peterson left the Battalion, and Maj William M. Hernandez, 108-FAB, assumed command.
Carolina Maneuvers ended after two active months, and the Battalion was on its way back to the Gap when the word was received on Sunday, Dec 7, 1941, near South Boston, Virginia, that the Japs had attacked Pearl Harbor and that War had been declared.
After returning to Indiantown Gap and enjoying a period of furloughs and leaves, orders were received to reorganize the provisional 28-ID AT Battalion as of Dec 15, 1941, into a permanent organization officially designated as the 628-TDB. The reorganization involved absorbing D and F Batteries into A, B, and C Batteries, and re-designating all Batteries as Companies, effective Jan 3 1942.
Camp Livingston, Louisiana
Shortly after the first of the year 1942, the entire 28-ID moved by motor convoy from Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, to Camp Livingston, near Alexandria, Louisiana, which at that time was regarded as one of the longest motor convoy movements undertaken by the Army. In Mar 1942, the first group of new men totaling approximately 240 arrived directly from induction stations and were welcomed to the Battalion by the 300 old men.
A basic training program was established, and the work of whipping the Battalion into shape for combat began in earnest. Twenty-five-mile hikes in the boiling Louisiana sun were merely a part of this training.
In Sep 1942, the entire Battalion was moved by rail to the newly formed Tank Destroyer Center at Camp Hood, Texas, to undergo advanced unit training in Tank Destroyer tactics. After progressing through the infiltration course, street and village fighting to platoon and company tactics, a Battalion field problem was finally held and successfully passed.
It was here in Nov 1942, after fifteen months of diligent training with dummy guns, that the Battalion gun crews had their first opportunity to fire live ammunition, using borrowed 75-MM guns on half-tracks, the original TD Vehicle, and weapon. It was here also that the Battalion received its last large group of inductees, over 300 in all, for basic training and assignment in the Battalion.
Early in December 1942, the Battalion moved to Camp Bowie, Texas, for additional tactical training and for completion of the 1-A Ground Force test. It was successfully passed after the most complicated dead reckoning motor march through Texas sagebrush ever experienced by the Battalion.
Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida
On Jan 3, 1943, the Battalion en-trained at Camp Bowie, Texas, and after one of its most enjoyable train trips, arrived three days later at Camp Carrabelle, sixty miles southwest of Tallahassee, Florida, later designated as Camp Gordon Johnston.
Here the Battalion returned once again to the control of the 28-ID for intensive Amphibious Training in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Amphibious training was successfully completed by the end of Mar 1943 and after a period of leaves and furloughs, during which time the Battalion received its first combat vehicles, 36 M-10 Tank Destroyers.
The entire Battalion moved to Camp Rucker, Alabama, in May 1943. Just prior to moving, however, the Battalion furnished a small cadre of eight men to the 645-TDB and volunteers, who immediately left for overseas duty, the first members of the Battalion to enter combat. At Camp Rucker, an intensive period of M-10 driver training was initiated for all officers and enlisted men, and preparations commenced for the impending Tennessee Maneuver period which commenced Jul 4 1943.
Tennessee Maneuvers lasted until Aug 28, 1943, and furnished an excellent opportunity for the men to learn how to use the M-10’s over various types of terrain and simulated combat conditions. After the first few problems, the Battalion Billeting party and the Battalion Commanders party also learned how to avoid being captured, a well-learned lesson.
After completing the Tennessee Maneuvers, the Battalion returned to Camp Rucker for a period of artillery range practice, where both direct and indirect firing methods were taught and executed on the firing range. Early in Oct 1943, the Battalion moved to Camp Pickett, Virginia, and then left for Camp Bradford, near Norfolk, Virginia, for a week of Amphibious training which was principally devoted to the technique of loading LST’s (Landing Ship Tank).
After Bradford, the Battalion returned to Camp Pickett and then within a week’s time left for the West Virginia Maneuver Area, arriving at a bivouac on top of Mount Canaan near Davis, West Virginia early in Nov 1943.
The purpose of this assignment was threefold, first, to have experience in mountain driving, second, to become toughened to winter conditions, and third, to take another Army Ground Force test.
In due time all three purposes were successfully fulfilled as the Battalion lived on a mountain and was completely surrounded on all sides by the Blue Ridge mountain range. Then almost immediately after the Battalion’s arrival, it snowed and continued to snow most of the remainder of the time there, and finally, after spending days building a corduroy road over swamps, the Battalion managed to move it’s M-10’s to the firing range and successfully passed its Army Ground Force firing test.
In spite of these various and sundry difficulties, however, the hospitality of the people of Thomas and Davis West Virginia was such that the men of the Battalion will long carry a warm feeling in their hearts for them.
Camp Dix, New Jersey
The Battalion left West Virginia early in Dec 1943 and proceeded to Camp Dix, New Jersey, the last Camp in the United States before arrival at the POE staging area. All heavy vehicle equipment was turned in, and new clothing issued, then after final leaves and furloughs over Christmas and New Years, the Battalion moved to Camp Shanks, New York, on Jan 17, 1944, awaiting shipment overseas on the HMS Aquitania which left New York on Jan 29, 1944.
On arrival at Greenock, Scotland on Febr 6, 1944, the Battalion moved by rail to Packington, England located midway between Birmingham and Coventry. New M-10’s and other necessary equipment were received and all men and officers were kept busy on all phases of military training, particularly field artillery indirect fire, as the secondary role of a Tank Destroyer Battalion in combat.
Sub-Area X, Dorchester, England
At the end of Mar 1944, the Battalion moved to the vicinity of Hirwaun, Wales, where it enjoyed two weeks of artillery firing on the Brecon Range. The Battalion returned to Packington Park early in April, and on Apr 11, 1944, moved to Dorchester, England, on special assignment, to handle the Marshalling Camps for the invasion troops. The Battalion was assigned to Sub-Area X, Marshalling Area D, and from Apr 15 to Jul 4, operated Camps D-4 (Camehouse) D-7 M (Marabout) and D-7 P (Poundbury).
It was in these camps that the troops of the 1-ID and the 29-ID lived until the time of their D-Day. On Jul 5, the Battalion was relieved of its Marshalling Areas assignment and moved to Camp D-2, Piddlehinton, near Bournemouth. There, last-minute preparations were completed and after celebrating the Battalion’s Third Anniversary at a banquet held in Bournemouth on Jul 10, the 628-TDB moved to Camp D-3, Puddletown on Jul 26, loaded on Navy LST’s and embarked from England on July 28. After three years of training, the Battalion was finally on its way to combat.
Having landed on Utah Beach in Normandy, France, on Jul 30, the Battalion was peacefully bivouacked in an apple orchard near Le Valdécie until 1730, Aug 2, when word was received that the Battalion was assigned to the 5-AD,
XV Corps, 3-A and would prepare to move at once. At this time the 628-TDB was assigned the code name Victory which was used throughout the period of combat.
It was for this moment that the unit had trained since Jul 1941, and once tactically committed on Aug 2, there were very few days when some members of the 628-TDB were not on a combat status in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, and Germany, until the unconditional surrender on May 8 1945.
Initially, the entire Battalion was kept intact, however, as orders were received to commit one company after another, it became normal operating procedure to attach one Recon Co Platoon to each of the Tank Destroyer Gun Companies, which in turn were attached to each of the three Combat Commands as Able to CCA, Baker to CCB and Charlie to CCR. Battalion Hqs, Hqs Co, Med Det, and Recon Co Hqs, with Pioneer Platoon being attached to Hqs 5-AD Artillery.
The Battalion Personnel Section was attached to Administrative Center in Division Rear Echelon.
The initial mission of the 5-AD, given after the Battalion arrived in the division Rendez-vous area at 2145 on Aug 2 in the vicinity of Périers, was the taking of Fougères, with the main objective Laval. The Battalion route of the march went through Noirpalu (Le Tanu) via St Martin des Champs to St James.
On Aug 4, Lt John J. Devine, Platoon leader Able Co, went on a recon mission in the vicinity of La Pélerine, and made the first contact by a member of the 628-TDB with an enemy force. Lt Devine subsequently died of wounds received in the vicinity of Argentan, on Aug 12.
The battalion left the bivouac near St James at 0930, Aug 6 and proceeded through Fougères, Vitré, Cuillé, Saint Poix, Méral, Crossé le Vivien to Houssay. Near Méral the column was fired on with small arms by enemy snipers and three German prisoners were captured by the Recon Co, in the vicinity of Crossé le Vivien. The following day the march was through Poillé sur Végre, where an enemy machine gun nest was encountered and subsequently knocked out by direct fire from two M-10’s from Able Co.
From Poillé, the column proceeded through Chantenay-Villedieu, Maigné, Louplande, Spay to Arnage in vicinity of Le Mans. At Arnage sniper fire and enemy 88-MM Artillery fire was directed against the column, and Maigné was the first of many towns to be seen completely on fire. Thus, at this early stage in its progress across Europe, did the battalion receive its baptism of fire in combat, a baptism which continued in an ever-increasing crescendo until the banks of the Elbe River in Germany were reached.
On Aug 10, still assigned to the XV Corps, 3-A, 5-AD, the 628-TDB moved out of the bivouac area in the vicinity of Le Mans, to participate in the attempt to close the Falaise – Argentan Gap. The column passed through Briosne-lès-Sables, Le Mêle-sur-Sarthe up to the vicinity of Sées, at 2145, Aug 12. During the march on Aug 11, 2nd Platoon Able 628 was acting as rearguard to the CCA’s column. Sometime during the night, an unidentified column approached the route of march of the CCA’s column from the west. S/Sgt Koczan, Able 628, challenged the leading vehicle and when it failed to stop, Koczan fired his .45 ACP and killed the driver. He then destroyed the next two vehicles with hand grenades and brought .30 and .50 Cal MG fire to the remaining five vehicles, while the M-10’s opened fire on the rear of the column with 3 inches HE to prevent a withdrawal.
In all, 8 enemy vehicles and 240 enemy troops were destroyed. For this action, S/Sgt Koczan was awarded the first Silver Star Medal presented to a member of the battalion and subsequently was decorated with the Croix de Guerre by the French Government, the only award from a foreign government received by any member of the 628-TDB.
First reports of enemy tanks in the area were received on Aug 10, in the vicinity of Bonnetable, although no contact was made on this date. On Aug 11, however, S/Sgt Flynn, Platoon Sergeant, 1st Platoon, Charlie 628, acting as gunner, engaged a Mark IV tank at 500-yard range in the battalion’s first direct fire duel in the vicinity of Le Mesle and successfully destroyed the first of a total of 56 enemy tanks credited the battalion.
Other successful tank duels followed in quick succession. At 0630, Aug 12, Cpl Koetje, TD gunner, 2nd Platoon, Able 628, destroyed a Mark IV tank at 150 yard range in the vicinity of Ballon. At 1100, 4 miles northeast of Ballon, Cpl Kee, 1st Platoon, Able 628, the battalion’s only TD gunner from Chinatown, New York City, one of the best trained gunners in the organization, engaged two Mark IV tanks at the same time and at about a 1200 yard range. Kee destroyed both enemy tanks with direct hits.
On Aug 14, while on recon, the Battalion Commander’s armored car was fired on by heavy artillery near Bourg St Leonard, east of Argentan, at 1345. At 1500, in the vicinity of La Corbette, this vehicle struck a German Teller mine at a curve in the road injuring T/5 Flora, driver, and Capt England, the Battalion Surgeon.
The Battalion Commander escaped injury. These were the first casualties sustained from enemy mines experienced by the Battalion. 1st Platoon, Baker 628, attached to CCB knocked out one Mark VI Tiger tank at 300 yards at 1430, Aug 15, in the vicinity of Vitré.
At 1730, Aug 15, still attached to 3-A, XV Corps, 5-AD, the 628 left the bivouac area in the vicinity of Sées, and moved east en route to Dreux. After arriving in the vicinity of the city, all of the units then swung north to prevent the enemy from crossing the Eure River and the Seine River. The 628 left the bivouac area near Faymonville (France), at 1230 on Aug 18 and proceeded through Germainville, to Le Hay and Les Bossus.
On Aug 17, 3rd Platoon, Baker 628, working with the 47-AIB moved north, crossed the Eure River near Bourg L’Abbé and knocked out two Mark IV and one 88-MM AT gun at a ranges from 1600 to 1800 yards near Muzy, then returned south of the river.
From Les Bossus, the CP was moved north to Cravent, arriving there at 1650, Aug 19. The 628 CO, Col William M. Hernandez, went out to contact Able Co on Aug 20, and while directing indirect fire on enemy tanks was killed at 1630 near Douains. He was replaced by Maj William J. Gallagher at 1700. In the same action in which Col Hernandez was killed, Cpls O’Brien and Tartaglia, 3rd Platoon, Able 628, each destroyed a Mark V Panther tank at 1700 yard range just west of Douains, while the platoon had one M-10 knocked out.
This was the first of 18 TD vehicles which the 628 totally lost as a result of enemy action. Gun Companies attached to the combat commands continued to advance generally north, destroying enemy vehicles and personnel fleeing from the Falaise-Argentan Gap trapped between the Eure and the Seine Rivers.
Panzer IV: (left) Number built 8800. The Panzer IV was the workhorse of the German tank force during World War II. It saw combat in all theaters and was the only German tank to remain in production for the entire war. The Panzer IV was originally intended to be a support tank. It was thus armed with a 75-MM howitzer intended primarily to fire high-explosive shells in support of other tanks or infantry. By Mid 1942, it was rearmed with a longer 75-MM dual-purpose gun that could defeat most Soviet tanks. In the second half of the war, about half of all German tanks were Panzer IVs.
On Aug 21, the 3rd Plat, Able 628, reported knocking out at 1800 yard range one Mark V Panther and one Mark IV tank, one truck and one AT gun four miles north of Douains. On the 23, the battalion CP moved north from Cravent to Gallion. It then moved southeast arriving at a new bivouac area at Guerville, at 0200, Aug 25. Thus the Battle of the Seine River was completed, and for five days the battalion saw no action except for an indirect artillery fire mission which Baker 628 drew. This breathing spell was used well by the men. They got some much-needed rest and also made the equipment ready for the next mission.
On August 30, the 5-AD was given the mission of marching directly to the Belgian border with the least possible delay. The 628 left the bivouac near Guerville – Mantes-la-Jolie at 0730 on Aug 30, with CCB. It passed through the outskirts of Paris and continued on through Senlis, Compiègne and the Compiègne Forest, Noyon, Guiscard, Valenciennes arriving at Vieux-Condé – Bernissart on the Belgian border at 2330 on Sep 2.
On arrival at the Belgian border, orders were changed and the division was instructed to clear the area for the pending arrival of British troops. The division was given the new mission to move south and seize Sedan (France) and then east to enter into Luxembourg. The battalion left the area along the Belgian border at 1300 on Sep 4, and moved south to La Romagne (France), arriving there at about 2200.
The entire TD Battalion was detached from CCB and attached to CCR on Sep 5 and left the bivouac area at La Romagne at 1200. The same day, the 628 arrived at the new bivouac area near Charleville-Mézières at 1430 the same day.
On Sep 6, Able 628 was attached to 10-TB, Baker 628 to the 47-AIB and Charlie 628 to CCR trains while Battalion HQs, Recon Co, Headquarters and Medical Detachment were attached to CCR Headquarters.
The group left the bivouac at 0845 and moved through Charleville-Mézières, Donchery and arrived in a new bivouac area near Sedan at 1630 the same day. The 628 proceeded then to a new area near Florenville (Belgium), Sep 8, with the mission of liberating the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.
The 628-TDB left Florenville, Belgium, at 0800, Sep 9, arriving at the new assembly position southeast of Useldange, Luxembourg, at 2100 the same day. The column was fired upon by enemy AT guns and machine guns in the vicinity of Metzert (Belgium), but no casualties were sustained. The battalion left Useldange (Luxembourg), at 0835 on Sep 10, had a temporary halt northeast of Mersch (Luxembourg) at about 1000 when the leading elements ran into enemy resistance.
The advance continued at 1800 to the new area at Schrondweiler (Luxembourg) arriving there at 2045. We left Schrondweiler at 1915, Sep 11 for a new area northwest of Ermsdorf (Luxembourg), at the Brucherhof Farm, arriving at 2100 the same day. Plan for the breaching of the Siegfried Line at Wallendorf (Germany) along the Luxembourg border was started.
First Penetration of the Siegfried Line
On Sep 13, CCR announced the mission of breaching the Siegfried Line installations at Wallendorf, Germany and advancing east in an effort to capture Bitburg. CCB was to assist and cover the advance of CCR with artillery support.
Prior to the launching of the attack, artillery fired both direct and indirect missions on targets in Germany. On Sep 12, the 3rd Platoon of the Recon Co, established in Luxembourg, an Observation Post overlooking the Siegfried Line installations 1/4 mile west of Ammeldingen an der Our, Germany. Enemy patrol crossed the Our River and passed within 100 yards of the OP however the OP did not open fire as it would have revealed the position.
On Sep 13, the 2nd Platoon Baker 628, in position on a hill near Bigelbach (Luxembourg) used direct fire methods at 2000 yard range on German pillboxes and other enemy targets in the vicinity of Wallendorf and Biesdorf. On the same day, the 2nd Platoon Charlie 628 moved across the Moselle River and fired on enemy pillboxes northeast of Hoesdorf (Germany). Direct fire methods were used and six pillboxes were knocked out after which the platoon returned to the bivouac area.
Baker 628 with the Recon Platoon attached, moved with the 47-AIB into firing positions on a high ground east and north east of Reisdorf (Luxembourg), on fire support to the 47-AIB attack on the German fortification of the Siegfried Line northeast of Wallendorf. Charlie 628 with the Recon Platoon, still attached to the 10-TB moved to an assembly area 5 miles east of Gilsdorf (Luxembourg) at 1315. The 1st Platoon Charlie 628 then moved to Wallendorf (Germany) crossing the Our River and set up road blocks to protect the main body of the CCR.
The 2nd Platoon Charlie 628 assisted the 1/112-IR (28-ID) also attached to CCR, in the seizing of Reisdorf (Luxembourg), and the establishing of road block there. The 3rd Platoon Charlie 628 moved to a position one mile north of Wallendorf to guard the right flank of CCR while the Pioneer Platoon of the Recon Co was attached to Charlie 22-AEB (Engineer) for a bridge building mission. Charlie 628 was in Germany and Maj Burgess, (then Capt), go the honors of being the first man in the battalion to set foot on German soil.
The remainder of the 628-TDB, except Able Co, working with CCB crossed into Germany on Sep 15 and at 1700 the 628-TDB’s CP was established on Hill 408 one mile east of Frelingen (Germany), approximately 6 miles into Germany, and which later proved about the deep of the penetration CCR was able to make on this mission.
At about 1030, on Sep 16, the CCR area in which Battalion Hq, Recon Co Hq, and the Medical Detachment were also located, came under enemy artillery fire so these units withdrew to a new bivouac area west of Frelingen. Able 628 with CCB moved into Germany this day, and went into direct and indirect artillery positions protecting CCR lines of communication and flanks. The 1st and 3rd Platoons of Baker 628 was in position southeast of Hill 408 while the 2nd Platoon of Baker 628 was in position supporting 1/112-IR (28-ID) on Hill 298 near Stockem (Germany). The 1st and 2nd Platoons of Charlie 628 were in AT defense of the 10-TB positions southeast of Stockem (Wettlingen – Peffingen) and northeast of Halsdorf (Bettingen), respectively, while the 3rd Platoon of Charlie 628 had AT defense of CCR trains near Hommerdingen (Germany).
On Sep 17, enemy small arms, mortar and artillery fire increased in intensity in all areas occupied by American troops. The 2nd Platoon of Baker 628 repulsed three enemy attacks against their position east of Wettlingen, inflicting an estimated 150 casualties.
The 1-112-IR (28-ID) and the 2nd Platoon of Baker 628 also suffered heavy casualties from enemy mortar and artillery fire, all personnel and vehicles were evacuated to safety.
Lt Rennebaum, Platoon Leader, was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross as a result of this action, the highest award received by any member of this Battalion during its entire period of combat.
For their outstanding work in this sector of action, T/4 Claycomb, Medical Detachment, was awarded the first Silver Star in the Medical Detachment and T/5 Coschignano the first Bronze Star Medal. The work of the men in the Medical Detachment throughout the entire period of combat was exemplified by courage, daring, and skill. The names of Barnes, Baker, Burden, Beam, Dewey, Davidson, Edlin, Estanish, Gura, Fittery, Kauffman, McCall, McCann, Macke, Rhodes and Youngs will long be remembered by the men of the firing companies.
The fact that in this group of men a total of five Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, and nine Purple Heart Medals were awarded is ample demonstration of the superior record achieved by the Battalion Medical Detachment.
Sep 19, was the high point in the Battalion’s combat history in so far as knocking out enemy tanks during any single twenty-four hour period is concerned. Starting at 0930 of this eventful day, CCR’s CP area, as well as the Battalion CP area, came under intense artillery fire from the northeast and south, forcing the CP installations to be moved from one protective terrain feature to another until it was finally decided to withdraw all units back into Luxembourg, a movement which was successfully completed by 0500 on Sep 20.
Prior to the withdrawal however, both Baker and Charlie 628 had an artilleryman’s field day. 1st Platoon of Baker with Lt Jones commanding, while in position north of Frelingen, protecting the left flank of CCR knocked out six Mark VI (Tiger) tanks attempting to approach their position from the vicinity of Huttingen bei Lahr (Germany) by direct fire at ranges from 1500 to 3600 yards. Cpl Rice, TD gunner, knocked out three enemy tanks in quick succession at 1800 yards, Cpl Milliman also destroyed one at 1800 yards while Cpl Tomaszewski and Cpl Kiwior knocked out tanks at 3600 and 3200 yards respectively. Two unidentified enemy tanks were also knocked out by the 2nd Platoon. In addition, this platoon assisted the tanks attached to the 47-AIB in knocking out an additional five enemy tanks of undetermined designation while Cpl Giacomino knocked out two other enemy tanks but was unable to identify the tanks due to enemy fire.
The 3rd Platoon of Charlie 628, with Lt Feldman commanding, established an OP and firing positions on the reverse slope of a hill 1500 yards north of Hommerdingen. Considerable enemy movement was observed in the vicinity of Huttingen bei Lahr and brought under fire at ranges from 1000 to 2000 yards which resulted in one enemy Mark V Panther tank knocked out and observed hits scored on six Mark VI Tigers and one other Mark V Panther, which the enemy either recovered or else completed the destruction.
Thus, in one twenty-four hour period, the 628-TDB received credit for six Mark VI Tigers, one Mark V Panther, and four unidentified tanks destroyed; six Mark VI Tigers, and one Mark V Panther probably destroyed and assisted in the destruction of five unidentified tanks. Thus did the Battalion acquire itself on this historic initial penetration of th Siegfried Line into Germany. The fact that a withdrawal became necessary after the German Army moved a greatly superior force from other fronts to offset this threat, only further proved the success of the operation.
The Battle of the Huertgen Forest
After withdrawing from Germany back into Luxembourg on Sep 19, the battalion was committed to a various roadblock and indirect artillery missions during the months of October and November. The entire battalion moved from Luxembourg to the vicinity of Faymonville (Belgium) on Oct 5.
Able 628 was attached to CCR (5-AD) on Oct 11, moved to an area north of Elsenborn (Belgium) for AT defense and indirect fire artillery missions and on Oct 13, moved to an indirect fire position near Kalterherberg (Belgian German Border).
Baker 628 was attached to CCA (5-AD) on Oct 13 and moved to the vicinity of Heerlen (Holland). Charlie 628 was attached to CCB (5-AD) on Oct 15 and moved to the vicinity of Oberforstbach (Germany).
CCA and Baker 628 were in reserve with the XIX Corps while CCB and Charlie 628 were in reserve with the VII Corps in the attack on Aachen (Germany), but were not committed prior to the fall of that city. Thus it was that during this period that the battalion had elements in Belgium, Holland, and Germany at the same time.
On Oct 23, the battalion moved to the vicinity of Kalterherberg where for the first time since entering combat civilian homes were utilized for billets, a policy which was continued from that date until the end of hostilities. On Nov 1, the new M-36 TDs equipped with the 90-MM guns arrived to replace the M-10’s with the 76-MM guns in the three firing companies. By Nov 18, all companies were located in the vicinity of Roetgen (Belgian German Border), the gun companies having either roadblock or indirect artillery missions.
On Nov 25, Charlie 628 moved with CCR to the vicinity of Huertgen (Germany) with the mission of providing AT defense for CCR attached to the 8-ID (V Corps), in the impending battle of Huertgen Forest. On Nov 29, the 5-AD with 628-TDB attached, less CCR and Charlie Co respectively, were relieved of attachment to the V Corps and attached to the VII Corps.
The Battle of the Huertgen Forest in Germany was by far the most intense period of combat experienced by any unit in this battalion and full credit can be paid to CCR and Charlie 628 for their outstanding combat record in this engagement. This was the area that the enemy had been able to strongly fortify and was determined to protect, as it controlled the approach to the vitally important network of dams that fed into the Roer River area.
To the north British and American unit were approaching the west bank of the Roer but could not cross until the network of the dams in the hill above their position were held by our forces. It was known that the German plan of defense was based on their ability to hold these dams to the last possible minute, and then release this vast supply of water to flood the entire Roer River valley. It was for this reason that the American army had to have those dams and in our area, it took the 28-ID, 8-ID and 78-ID supported by CCR and Charlie Co weeks of stubborn fighting through the mine fields and innumerable counter-attack.
The enemy made extensive use of his air element during this period strafing and bombing both forward and rear elements of the battalion. On Dec 3, near Roetgen, Baker 628 was attacked and strafed by ME-109s while in indirect fire position and received credit for the first of four enemy planes destroyed by the 628-TDB.
On the same day one mile east of Roetgen, Charlie 628 bivouac area was strafed by an enemy plane which became the second plane to the credit of the 628-TDB. Enemy artillery employment in the Hürtgen Bergstein area was the heaviest encountered. The artillery fire was much as to confine tank crews to their tank for hours at a time and air burst and shrapnel caused many casualties to the men in the open M-36 turrets. One Charlie 628 M-36 hit a min in the vicinity of Bergstein on Dec 6 and the crew climbed into another M-36 for protection.
Shortly afterwards however this other M-36 with both crews aboard received a direct hit in the open turret with a white phosphorous hell. As the result of this experience, plan were immediately started to build an armored turret top for all TD vehicles. This modification for all M-36 Tank Destroyer vehicle was finally completed in Jan 1945 and proved invaluable in combat on a number of subsequent occasion.
At one time, Charlie 628 had only one M-36 out of twelve operational either due to being destroyed, knocked out by mines, or lacking crews. However, largely because of the untiring and aggressive effort of the men in the company and the effort of the Company and Battalion Motor Maintenance crew, recovery and repair were completed so that seven M-36s were operational the next day.
While this was a difficult and hazardous period for our men they, in turn, had been making the enemy pay heavily at all times. Innumerable casualties were inflicted on enemy troop as counter-attack after counter-attack was repulsed by our forces. Elements of the 272.Volksgrendaier-Division and 246.Volksgrenadier-Division, other elements of three Paratrooper Division, some armor of the 116.Panzer-Division and even other units of the 5.Panzer-Army were employed but once if the American unit took an objective they held it.
On Dec 6 in Bergstein, Charlie 628 destroyed five enemy tank when Sgt Wood knocked out one Mark VI Tiger and one Mark V Panther at a 1000 yard range, Sgt Balough knocked out on Mark V Panther and one Mark IV at a 1200 yard range and Sgt Leo, destroyed on Mark IV at a 75-yard range.
On Dec 8, CCR and Charlie 628 were relieved and pulled back to the vicinity of Rabotrath, Lontzen, Kettenis (Belgium), for a much-needed rest. The Battle of Huertgen Forest was not over, but the foothold on the commanding terrain controlling the approach to the Roer River dams was secured with the capture of the towns of Kleinhau, Brandenburg, Bergstein, Strauch, and Gey. Credit for the capture of these towns can be claimed by CCR and CCA (5-AD) with Charlie and Able of the 628-TDB.
The Battle of the Bulge
Early in December 1944, intelligence reports showed that there was a considerable increase in enemy troop movement and that the German 5.Panzer-Army (Manteuffel) and the 6.SS-Panzer-Army (Dietrich) were in reserve between the Roer and the Rhine Rivers. Further, by looking at the friendly situation map, it could be seen that the American troop between Roetgen and Kalterherberg were spread fairly thin. The entire sector from St Vith, south to Wiltz and Diekirch (Luxembourg) had been quiet since September, and it was generally felt by those who were located at these points that the area was fairly safe.
It was thought the enemy could not afford to make the sacrifice in troops and material which a large counter-attack would entail. The German Army could not afford such an expenditure as was later proven by the ease with which the Allied armies in the west crossed the Roer River, the Rhine River, the Weser River and on to the banks of the Elbe River in March and April 1945.
Afford it or not, however, on Dec 16, the German Army did launch an offensive on a grand scale which was not stopped until their spearhead elements had nearly cut Belgium in two from the German border to the French border and until most of the US 1-A and 3-A together with elements of the British Second Army had been shifted to meet this threat.
Around Dec 8, all companies in the Battalion with exception of Baker and Charlie moved north to the Hahn – Zweifall area located approximately six miles south of Aachen. Preparation was being made for the crossing of the Roer River as soon as the Roer River dams could be secured.
On Dec 17, the first news of the German counter-offensive in Belgium was received, enemy air activity increased and we learned that harassing enemy paratroopers had landed in the area between Hahn (Germany) and Eupen (Belgium) which was the main supply road. Anti-paratrooper patrols were organized by the Battalion.
On Dec 19, the Battalion was relieved of its attachment to the VII Corps and the 5-AD and was attached to the XIX Corps and the 78-ID. The 628-TDB’s CP returned to Roetgen, to be in closer touch with the Hq of the 78-ID. On Dec 23, however, all companies reverted to Battalion control, the Battalion itself being relieved from attachment to the XIX Corps and the 78-ID and attached now to the VII Corps and 3-AD. The 628-TDB alerted for the immediate movement was instructed to take over an area in the vicinity of Barvaux sur Ourthe (Belgium). The Battle of the Bulge was on.
Upon the arrival of all units in the new area around 1400 on December 21, Able Co took up a defensive position in Soy (Belgium). Baker 628 was attached to the 83rd Recon Bn (3-AD) and took up defensive positions in the vicinity of Grandmenil (Belgium). Charlie 628’s Recon Co and the Battalion forward CP were established in Erezée (Belgium), while Hqs Co and the Battalion rear echelon elements moved to Bomal sur Ourthe (Belgium).
No one knew just how near the enemy has approached but it did not take long to find this out. Able Co’s position in Soy came under artillery fire shortly after their arrival and the enemy launched a small infantry counter-attack which approached to within 200 yards on the company’s first defenses before withdrawing. At 0130, Dec 25, the 2nd Platoon of Baker 628, had a roadblock established in Grandmenil when an armored column was heard approaching the concealed position. Sgt Moser, TD Gun Commander, permitted the leading vehicle coming up to 25 yards of his position before opening fire and then in quick succession knocked out the first two tanks at almost point-blank range, both of them being later identified as two Mark V Panther.
This action caused the other enemy vehicles in this column to withdraw and no further attempt was made by the enemy to utilize this Grandmenil, Soy, Erezée road network which they needed to properly protect their northern flank. Later, during the same day, members of Baker 628, found two other Mark V Panther abandoned by their crews because the tanks were out of gas. Both Panther were prepared for destruction and detonated a little while later, adding two more Mark V Panthers to the destroyed German vehicles by the 628-TDB. Thus did the Battalion celebrate Christmas Day 1944.
The Battalion remained on the roadblocks and protective AT missions in this area until the 3-AD was relieved on Dec 31, all companies were in reserve with the 3-AD. Battalion Hq was in Seny; Battalion Hqs and Recon Co was in Bomal; Able was in Les Avins while Baker and Charlie were in Ahnée.
On the first day of 1945, the 628-TDB was relieved from attachment to the VII Corps, 3-AD and attached to the XVIII Corps (Airborne), and the 82nd Airborne Division. These guys from the All American Division were truly fighters. A single squad of the Airborne soldiers would go against an entire German company while a single Company would do the same against a entire German battalion. Besides this, it is to know that assigning an objective to any unit of the 82-A/B, this meant, objective had to be taken and held.
The mission of the 82-A/B during the time the 628-TDB was attached to it, was to clean up all enemy resistance in the Division area west of the Salm River. The mission was successfully completed in eleven days, but those eleven days were filled with excitement and pathos. During this period, Able 628 had two M-36 TDs destroyed by AT fire, one M-36 TD, and one M-8 Armored Car knocked out by enemy mines, while Charlie 628 had one M-36 knocked out by enemy mines.
The vehicles hit by AT fire burned and were total losses, however, those vehicles damaged by mines were recovered and repaired. In addition to the vehicle losses, fourteen enlisted men in the battalion were killed in this action, nine from Baker, and five from Able. Eighteen were wounded. That the enemy paid dearly for these losses is without question and on Jan 4, the 1st Section, 2nd Platoon, Baker 628 destroyed one Mark V Panther in the vicinity of Arbrefontaine. During the same day, east of Odrimont, Sgt Moser and Sgt Marrapese, both of Baker 628, teamed up to knock out a Mark IV at 600-yard range.
On Jan 7, southeast of Goronne, Cpl Kiwior, Baker 628, knocked out one Mark VI-2 King Tiger at 350-yard range, while southeast of Goronne, a little later that day, Cpl Olsaheck and Sgt Koczan, Able 628 teamed up to knock out another Mark VI-2 King Tiger at 700 yards. These two tanks are the two King Tigers to the credit of the 628-TDB.
On Jan 8, Cpl O’Brien and Cpl Salamone, Able 628, teamed up to knock out two Mark IV tanks at 800 yards to make a total of six enemy tanks on this mission. In addition to these tanks, the battalion also received credit for destroying one 88-MM towed gun, two armored vehicles, one half-track, one machine gun nest, one Panzerschreck team (Bazooka) and one OP in a stone house. The 628 inflicted approximately 75 casualties of which 54 were known dead, and captured 41 prisoners of war. Upon the conclusion of the operation, Baker 628 received a citation from the Commanding General of the 82-A/B (Gavin) for the aggressive spirit displayed by the members of that company during this period.
On Jan 11, the battalion was relieved of the attachment with the 82-A/B and attached to the 75-ID. However, no actual contact with the enemy was made after this date while the battalion was with the 75-ID. On Jan 16, the battalion was relieved of attachment to the 75-ID and moved to the vicinity of Francorchamps in the status of Corps Reserve. On Jan 27, the battalion was relieved of the attachment to the XVIII Corps (Airborne), 1-A, and attached once again to what all members of the battalion have come to regard as the parent unit the 3-AD which had recently been transferred from 1-A to 9-A control.
The battalion, less Able Co moved to Herbesthal for a rest period and needed maintenance. Able was attached to CCA-5-AD, and moved to an assembly area in the vicinity of Rott, with the mission of assisting CCA in their attack on Eicherscheid (Germany). The mission was successfully completed with the loss of only one man and Able 628 returned to Battalion control at Herbesthal, on Feb 1.
The battalion moved then to Voerendaal (Holland) on Feb 3, and there enjoyed the hospitality of the people of Holland until the plans for the crossing of the Roer River, with the XIII Corps, 9-A, could be completed on Feb 25.
The Roer River to the Rhine River
Since early October 1944, the Roer River and the defensive positions of the German army to its east had been a formidable barrier. By the middle of Feb 1945, the US 1-A and 3-A had not only regained all the ground occupied by the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge but had succeeded in pushing deep into German territory and seizing the Roer River dams.
The Germans withdrew the remnants of their tattered 5.Panzer-Army and 6.SS-Panzer-Army east of the Roer River, and around Feb 13, opened the gates of the dams to flooded the entire Roer River Valley in order to gain time to construct their defensive positions between the Roer and the Rhine Rivers.
The build-up of Allied troops waiting for the Roer River crossing was now completed and so all that was necessary was to wait for the flood waters to subside. This took about seven days and on Feb 23, the XVI Corps launched its attack to cross the river. Able 628, under Division Artillery control, was in indirect artillery position in the vicinity of Puffendorf (Germany) to support this attack. From Feb 5, Able 628 fired three registrations, 21 interdiction concentrations, and 108 harassing concentrations, totaling 2122 rounds of which 1600 rounds were fired in the initial artillery barrage which lasted ten hours prior to the jumping off of the infantry attack on Feb 23. This represents the greatest number of rounds fired by any company in the 628-TDB in any similar period of time.
Baker 628, attached to CCB was the first unit of the battalion to cross the Roer at Linnich (Germany) on Feb 25. The remainder of the 628-TDB followed the next day, Able 628, attached to CCA, and Charlie attached to CCR. Battalion Hqs, Hqs Co, Recon Co Hqs, Pioneer Platoon, and Medical Detachment moved with the Division Artillery Headquarter.
The initial assembly area east of the Roer River was in the vicinity of Koffern – Hottorf (Germany). All elements of the 5-AD then “swung to the north capturing Hetzerath, Matzerath, Erkelenz, Mehlbuch, Sittardheide, Rheindalen Rheydt, by-passing Mönchengladhach and continuing through Viersen, Anrath, Tönisvort, Hüls, Neukirchen-Vluyn, where the Battalion CP was established on Mar 4. Able 628, in the meantime had, with CCA 5-AD, proceeded in the attack against Krefeld, while Charlie continued with CCR 5-AD, in the attack on Repelen and Orsoy, less than a mile from the west bank of the Rhine River.
On Mar 7, with the exception of a pocket of resistance around Wessel, the operation from the Roer River to the west bank of the Rhine River was completed by Mar 10. No losses in either personnel or vehicles were suffered by the 628-TDB although a friendly airplane had dropped on Mar 3, a bomb in Able Co’s area killing two men and injured several others.
The enemy troops opposing our troops in early March, constituted an insufficient group lacking sufficient personnel or equipment to even delay our advance. The principal obstacles confronting the battalion’s movement consisted of drainage ditches, supplemented by numerous AT ditches and occasional minefields.
Enemy AT guns were, for the most part, 88-MM guns dug in with excellent fields of fire covering AT ditches, roadblocks, minefields, approaches, and highways. Enemy air elements were scarce but reconnaissance planes were heard throughout the area with occasional strafing, hut no damage was done to our units.
In March, during a movie program in the battalion CP in the post office at Vluyn, a lone enemy plane dove on the CP and dropped what was estimated to be a 500-pound bomb, but missed the building by 200 yards. Several men were cut however when the concussion of the bomb blew in all the windows of the building. The movie was continued after the black-out shades had been repaired. Enemy armor was limited and no enemy tanks were engaged by the Battalion.
On Mar 12, all the companies reverted to Battalion Control and moved in the vicinity of Osterath. The Battalion CP was set up at Schweinheim, with three gun companies in indirect firing positions to the east. From Mar 13 to Mar 29, under Division Artillery control, Able fired three registrations of 20 rounds, two Time on Target’s totaling 36 rounds, and 19 harassing concentrations totaling 340 rounds. Baker, fired three registrations of 50 rounds, four Time on Target’s totaling 77 rounds and 246 harassing concentrations totaling 1507 rounds during this same period. Charlie, fired one registration of five rounds, four Time of Target’s totaling 77 rounds and 247 harassing concentrations totaling 1328 rounds. All targets were located in the important industrial Ruhr district, east of the Rhine.
On Mar 19, the 1st Platoon of Able Co was subjected to one very accuratte counter-battery fire as the result of which two EM were killed and eight EM wounded. It was believed that some civilians in the area furnished iuformation as to the exact position of the Platoon. The concentration of enemy artillery is also believed to have damaged some of the ammunition in the company dump because later in the afternoon while loading a 90-MM APC shell on a 1/2 ton truck a shell exploded in the hands of Cpl Jacquinto of Able Co and set off the entire load of ammunition in the truck which was destroyed. The premature explosion of the shell in his hands knocked Cpl Jacquinto off the rear of the truck. Jacquinto was then revived by the company medical aid man, and after treatment for slight burns of his hands remained on duty status, unshaken, but richer by the award of an Oak Leaf Cluster to a previously earned Purple Heart.
On Mar 30, Able, Baker, and Charlie Cos were attached respectively to CCA 5-AD, CCB 5-AD, and CCR 5-AD, in the preparation of tactical commitment east of the Rhine River. On Mar 31, the entire 628-TDB crossed the river over the Engineer Pontoon Bridge at Wesel. The final phase of the War in Europe had started.
The Rhine River to the Elbe River
After being penned for so many months by terrain and prepared defensive positions which were only suitable, if ever, for infantry, the terrain east from the Rhine River was a tank man’s dream. Flat country and with a good network of highways. Once the infantry had seized a bridgehead on the east bank of the Rhine and the Engineers had installed their pontoon bridges, the only limits on the armored forces was one of the resupply of rations, and gasoline. Reminescent of the hard driving, fast moving armored slashes following the breaktru at Avranches in France last August, once again, the 3-AD and the TDs were on the loose deep in enemy territory.
In general, the operation was broken into three phases, (1) Apr 1 to Apr 8, the attack from the Rhine River east to the Wesser River; (2) Apr 8 to Apr 16, the Wesser River to the Elbe River and (3), Apr 16 to Apr 25, the mopping of the rear areas and the von Clausewitz Panzer Division.
After crossing the Rhine River, the three gun companies during phase 1, moved usually along three separate routes of march with Charlie Co on the right, Able in the center, and Baker on the left, northern flank, with Battalion Hqs, Recon Co and Medical Detachment with the Division Artillery Hqs usually along a center route.
Munster was by-passed to the south on Apr 2 ans subsequently captured by thre 17-A/B. The Dortmund Ems Canal was crossed by some elements on Apr 1 and the remainder on Apr 2. Bielefeld was by-passed to the north on Apr 3 and the entire Division went into an assembly area in the vicinity of Hereford on that date and remainded there intil Apr 8. On Apr 3, east of Bonn Hof Lhone, the CCB column ran into some enemy resistance. Lt Duchscherer and the 2nd Platoon of Baker Co went into action and after knocking out one unidentified tank, one German Scout car, six 76-MM artillery pieces, two mortar positions and capturing eight prisoners and inflicting an unknown number of casualties the CCB column continued its march. Nine rounds of AP and twenty-four rounds of 90-MM HE were used by Lt Duchscherer’s Platoon in this action. On the same date, in the vicinity of Exeter, Cpl Crawford, Charlie Co knocked out one enemy artillery field piece at 1500-yards.
In phase 2, all elements of the Battalion crossed the Wesser River at Hamelin the Pied Piper town on Apr 8, proceeded generally northeast, by-passing south of Hannover. On Apr 9, in the vicinity of Rosenthal, Cpl Winget and Cpl Appling, Charlie 628, each destroyed one 88-MM AT gun at 1900 and 2200-yuards respectively.
On Apr 10, in Pattensen, enemy artillery fired a 200 rounds artillery concentration which fell in the 400 yard space between the Division Artillery Hqs and the Battalion Hqs without doing any casulaties, although two Division Artillery vehicles were hit. The Recon Co’s CP building was hit and roof damaged but no casualties sustained. The Recon Co surrended the town which CCR had by-passed and picked up 114 POWs in the vicinity.
CCR swung north and CCA continued the attack east thru CCR’s old axis of march thru Peine and east to capture Tangermunde and Stendal. The Battalion Hqs continued with the Division Artillery Hqs thru Diddeise Neuendorf and arrived in Demker west of Tangermunde on Apr 11. Enroute to Demker, the Recon Co, while acting as rear to the Battalion, encountered an enemy patrol west of Deetz and engaged in fighting off and successfully routing the patrol after killing ten members.
At this point, CCA in Tangermunde was the closest US Army unit to Berlin, however, this record was later lost in favor of the 2nd Armored Division who actually crossed to the east bank of the Elbe River the next day against stiffening enemy opposition. On Apr 14, the Battalion CP Hqs and the Recon Co moved with the Division Artillery Hqs to Osterburg where these units remained until Apr 16.
The only loss on this movement from the Rhine to the Elbe River was suffered by Able 628 at Tangermunde when SS troopers knocked out one M-36 Jackson vehicle of the 3rd Platoon with a Panzerfaust. All crew members escapped from the vehicle. however, the gun sergeant was killed by small arms fire and the other four crew members, were captured by the SS troops.
These four men with approximately 200 American Paratroopers prisoners of war were subsequently released the same day prior to the surrender of the town to CCA. Able 628 succeeded in destroying one locomotive and eight freight cars by direct fire and after taking Tangermunde assisted by CCA in the clearing of Stendal, capturing 50 POWs on this mission.
CCB with Baker 628 initially had the mission of following between CCR and CCA in a reserve status and to protect the bridge across the river at Hamelin. The Company subsequently moved east thru Osterburg to the Elbe River. CCR, with Charlie 628, had the mission of cutting the autobahn in the vicinity of Peine and proceeding north and east toward the Elbe River then try to secure the bridges over the river in the vicinity of Sandau, but the enemy destroyed the bridges and ferry before they could be secured.
After reaching the western banks of the Elbe River on Apr 11, and consolidating the position there in anticipation of making a crossing and marching directly on to Berlin, word came in that the Von Clausewitz Division had moved south to escape the British and were making an effort to cut our rear supply line and to eventually tie up with other German units holding out in the Hartz Mountains in the south.
Phase Number 3 therefore, found the 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion moving with the various combat commands to meet this threat. For the first time since the drive started with the crossing of the Roer River, the Battalion was moving west instead of east, even though still on the offensive. The Battalion Hqs, Hqs Company and the Recon Company moved from Osterburp to Klotz on Apr 16, then on to Klotz on Apr 18 then to Wopel and arrived at Salzwedel on Apr 22.
The Battalion Motor Maintnance Platoon under Capt Bayer had been left in the vicinity of Klotz. when Battalion Hqs and Hqs Co left for Rohrberg. On Apr 20, however, Capt Bayer and his entire Platoon reported in unexpectedly at the Battalion CP at Wope that evening. It had been found that an estimated 100 enemy troops had infiltrated into the woods one mile from Capt Bayer’s area Klotz. These enemy troopswere subsequently captured and the estimate was found to correct.
On Apr 16, the Division Train that utilized Battalion Personnel trucks and drivers to haul supplies in a large convoy had only proceced about 15 miles west of Klotz when it was ambushed, and after the two leading vehicles had been destroyed the remaining vehicles were abandoned and captured by the enemy. On Apr 17, however, the truck belonging to this Battalion and one other truck was recaptured and returned to the Rear Echelon. On the Battalion Personnel truck at the time of its capture by the enemy was the Battalion Standard and the silk parade flag, both of which were returned with the truck intact.
On Apr 17, CCA was releived of the area in the vicinity of the Elbe River, and with Able 628 still attached, moved west and then north, on Apr 18, thru Knesbeck, Stiemke and Wittingen. On Apr 21, Able 628 supported CCA on an attack north from Wittingen, thru Kelnze and Hitzack. Opposition, in general, was light but Cpl Kutkowski destroyed a 1/2 ton truck at 100 yard range, in the vicinity of Harlingen on Apr 22.
In the vicinity of Kiefen, on Apr 23, Cpl Rutkowski, 2nd Platoon of Able 628 had the honor of knocking out the last of the total of 36 tanks credited this Battalion when he destroyed one Mark V Panther at 600 yard range. Cleaning up operations for Able 628 continued until Apr 26, when the Company reverted to Battalion Control.
Baker 628 moved with CCB on Apr 16 to the vicinity of Salzwedel with a mission of cleaning a task force from the Von Clausewitz Panzer Division which had been harassing the supply lines in that area. On Apr 18, the 1st Platoon of Baker 628 set up a defensive position against enemy armor reported moving from the direction Ludelsen. The Platoon destroyed one half-track, two general purpose vehicles, one Jagdpanther, and killed an unknown number of the enemy. The 3rd Platoon (Baker 628) also destroyed one enemy half-track and two general purpose vehicles on the same day. On Apr 23, Baker 628 reverted to Battalion Control.
On Apr 16, Charlie 628 attached to CCR, moved in the vicinity of Salzwesel with a mission of cleaning up small pockets of resistance, then attacking north thru Luchow to the Elbe River. The entire Company was attached to the 10-TB (Task Force Hamberg) on this mission which moved thru Salzwedel north to Luchow and Dannenberg. Cpl Herman, 2nd Platoon of Charlie 628, destroyed one 88-MM SP Gun at 1300 yards on Apr 22 in the vicinity of Nebenstedt. This platton had also captured 44 POWs the day before in the vicinity of Quicklen. Pvt Helton took 6 POWs in the vicinity of Dannenberg on Apr 22. On Apr 23, Charlie 628 reverted to Battalion control. Thus, after 266 days of combat, ended the tactical commitment of all Companies of the Battalion against the German armies in World War Two.
On Apr 26, the entire Battalion moved from the vicinity of Salzwedel south and west to take up military government duties controling an area of approximatively 230 sq. miles located south of the autobahn from Peine east of Wendezelle. The Battalion CP, Hqs Co and the Medical Detachment were located in Wendezelle, the Recon Co in Wendelburg, Able Co in Woltorf, Baker in Zweidorf and Charlie in Schmedenstadt. On May 8 1945, when V-E Day was announced as effective 0001 hours, May 9 1945, the combat history of the 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion in the European Theater of Operations came to a close.
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