April 30 1945
By nightfall, the 82-A/B had established a small bridgehead east of the Elbe River in the vicinity of Bleckede. This bridgehead had been established by the 505-PIR in a splendid example of coordination and river crossing technique by a veteran regiment. During the night of April 30 – May 1, the plan was to build up sufficient forces from the 504-PIR, which was arriving by train approximately five hours from the Elbe River, so as to attack out of the bridgehead with that regiment by daylight. One battalion of this regiment arrived at the bridgehead by 0430 and with a full appreciation of the value of time it jumped off at 0500, the regiment being reinforced during the day by the later arrival of its other battalions. Troops completing the 4-6 day train trip from the Köln area were immediately en-trucked and taken into the bridgehead. Then, after being briefed and issued ammunition, they were committed to the attack. It was obvious that the German was disintegrating rapidly and it was of the utmost importance that regardless of the physical condition of our troops, the momentum of our drive be maintained until the enemy was completely destroyed or overrun.
With characteristic speed and courage, the 504-PIR arrived at its objective by mid morning and shortly after noon had reached the Forst Correnzien. On its left the 505-PIR, despite the fact that it had been constantly moving for almost a weeks drove ahead and reached its objective, the Forst Correnzien, by mid afternoon of May 1. Speed was the keynote, and the pressure was kept on the enemy during the night of May 1/2. The Division Recon Platoon seized the very important bridges at Sückau and Rosien and held them until relieved by advancing forces the following morning. Recon was pushed eastward by all units, the 504-PIR engaging its armor with some enemy in the Forst Leussow at approximately 2100, May 1.
The 325-GIR had been brought up during the night of May 1/2, briefed and prepared for commitment. It and the 504-PIR jumped off before daylight after a short night of reorganizing and preparation, and advanced with the mission of seizing the line Dömitz & Ludwigslust, some 25 miles distant. Sufficient tanks and trucks were made available to the 504-PIR to motorize a battalion. CCB-7-AD, was to be used with the 325-GIR after the initial breakthrough and the seizure of Lübtheen. The troops had been driving hard for some time and all the units were going to the maximum of their ability. The German resistance in spots was intense and bitter, costly in lives. In other places none existed.
Overall, it appeared that our plan of attack was justified. The developments of May 2 confirmed this, although in the form they took they were surprising. Jumping off at 0500, May 2, all units roved ahead aggressively. Resistance was spotty to negligible. By mid morning units arriving generally east of Forst Leussow found themselves overrunning groups of bewildered enemy with hardly any will to resist, who thought that we were still at the Elbe River while they were fighting what appeared to be a retrograde action with the Russians. By noon CCB-7-AD and the 325-GIR had captured Ludwigslust and the 504-PIR had captured Dömitz. Both units immediately moved to gain contact at Eldena. Many units of the German 21.Army were being cut off and surrounded. The hospitals and rear installations of the German Army were apparently endeavoring to continue functioning. Many German service units, hindered by thousand of refugees, found themselves within our positions. With very few exceptions they surrendered without resistance. After two years of intense and at times, very costly fighting with the German Army the spectacle that began to unfold itself was a unbelievable one. German command and control became entirely paralyzed and entire units were being captured intact.
By late afternoon a group of staff officers of the German 21.Army representing Gen Tippelskirch, commanding that army, arrived at the 82-A/B Command Post at Ludwigslust and endeavored to arrange the surrender of their casualties, allied prisoners, and some service units. Since these had already been captured, the offer was ridiculous on its face, and they were told so. They were further told that the attack would be continued and their army would be destroyed when we gained contact with our advancing Russian allies. I was informed at this time that the Russian forces were approximately 10-20 miles to the east. They then offered in the name of the commander of the German 21.Army, the surrender of that army to our forces, but not to the Russian they were told that this too wee impossible that since the Russians were our allies they would surrender unconditionally to both of us and, they were again told that there was to be no delay since we were continuing the attack with the purpose of destroying their army. The staff departed stating that they would transmit this information to Gen Tippelskirch. During the late afternoon and early evening German units continued to be overrun. Many came into our lines to surrender. There appeared to be no control of the German forces within their ranks, except in small formations.
At about 2100, Gen Tippelskirch arrived at my Command Post in Ludwigslust and after some discussion unconditionally surrendered his army to the 82-A/B. He to desired to stipulate that his army would surrender on the ground where it was and that upon cessation of hostilities this division would accept his troops as their prisoners. This was rejected and he was told that his Army would be destroyed by ours in conjunction with our Russian allies and that his unconditional surrender would be valid when his troops were physically within our lines and not until then. An added paragraph stipulating this was added to the unconditional surrender, which was signed at about 2200.
This ended for this division approximately two years of very hard and costly combat, combat in which many lessons were learned lessons that were applied and paid handsome dividends in the closing days of the fighting. The combat discipline of the units of the division, their appreciation of the need to drive ahead, and their willingness to drive ahead, regardless of their physical condition, particularly in the infantry regiments, was never more apparent. Once his initial covering forces along the Elbe River were overrun, the German was never given an opportunity to offer an organized defense, and the lives saved and complete victory achieved were far beyond any measure of value in terms of sweat and labor. CCB-7-AD under the command of Col Haskell, participated brilliantly in the final day of the attack. Throughout the entire three-day attack, the division was very ably supported by A Squad of the 4th Royal which provided 25 Buffaloes to assist in the crossing at Bleckede.
Section 2 – Chronology
May 1 1945 – The attack moved from right to left, the 504-PIR jumping off at 0500, the 505-PIR at 0552 and the 121-RCT(R) at 0600. The attack gained up to nine miles in an easterly direction against light opposition, and the division front at the end of the day was along the general line Sückau – Stapel – Zeetze – Privelack. The Division Recon Platoon captured Rosien and kept contact with the 6th British Airborne Division at 0630, the 121-RCT (Reinforced) was relieved from attachment to the 82-A/B and reverted to control of the 8th Infantry Division. The 82-A/B CP moved from Bleckede to Neuhaus. By the close of the day all remaining elements of the Division had de-trained and were en route to forward assembly areas. Corps engineers completed a bridge at Darchau by 1830, and the 82-A/B traffic was diverted to that bridge. Artillery fired 20 missions, 1128 rounds during the day. Total of 696 prisoners were counted during the period. Operations Instructions #9, issued during that day, provided that the attack continue on May 2 with the 325-GIR passing the 505-PIR. CCB, attached from the 7-AD, was to prepare for offensive action in the 325-GIR.
May 2 1945 – The attack was continued at 0500, and both the 325-GIR and 504-PIR reached initial objectives by 0615. The 2/325-GIR attached CCB (Task Force Haskell) attacked at 1000 along the main road toward Ludwigslust and seized the city by 1210. The Division Recon Platoon suffered some casualties but succeeded in clearing the Ramm, Uast, Leussow Forest area of enemy. The Division established a general line along the Neue Krenzlin Canal North and prepared to link up with Russian forces as contemplated in Operations Instructions #10, issued May 2 0300. The Division Forward CP moved to Ludwigslust. The CG 82-A/B, accepted the unconditional surrender of the German 21.Armee at 2130 from Gen Von Tippelskirch. The surrender terms were signed at Ludwigslust. A total of 1420 prisoners were counted during the day, but the mass movement of the German 21.Armee through the line had begun before the period ended. Because of the rapid advance, few artillery rounds were fired during the day. The remainder of the organic artillery closed whit the forward elements bu the end of the day. The task of handling the large numbers of prisoners and of displaced persons began with establishment of the Zeetze Camp under control of the 505-PIR as outlined in preparation Instructions #11 issued at 02400.
May 3 1945 – Firm contact with advancing Russian forces was made during the day. First Contacts were made by B Troop, 87-CRS attached, with the 191st Russian Infantry Division at Repptin at 0925 and by the 82-A/B Recon Platoon with the 8th Brigade of the 8th Russian Mechanized Corps at Grabon at 1025. A conference was held late in the day between the CG 82-A/B and Gen Firstovich, CG 8th Mechanized Corps. The Division CP was consolidated at Ludwigslust. The Division’s main activity during the day was the direction of prisoners and displaced persons to the rear. No count of prisoners taken was possible, but it was estimated that the surrendered German 21.Armee totaled approximately 144000 men. Operations Instructions #12 established the front line and a cleared area between the American and Russian Forces.
May 4/19 1945 – Operations Instructions #13, issued May 4, divided the Division area into sector of responsibility, and systematic searches of the area to screen all personnel were begun. Normal military governmental duties were carried out. A Division Memorandum dated May 7 provided for establishment of additional Displaced Persons Centers. Minor changes were made in the Division front and the cleared area between the American and Russian lines through consultation of commanders concerned. Among events during the period were the following :
(a) : Public funeral services on May 7 in Ludwigslust for 200 of the approximately 1000 bodies found in a concentration near Ludwigslust. German civilians performed the necessary labor, and citizens of the city were ordered to attend the services which were held by American army chaplains
(b) : Formal meeting at 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters on 0700 by Gen Dempsey, Commander of the British Second Army and Gen Grashin, Commander of the Russian 49th Army
(c) : A formal exchange of visits at American and Russian Headquarters, including dinners at the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters on May 17 for the CG of the Russian 5th Guards Cossack Division and his staff and on May 18 for the CG of the Russian 385th Infantry Division and his staff.
May 19 – June 1945 : The 82-A/B relieved the 8-ID and the 7-AD of part of their occupational areas late on May 19. Operations Instructions #14, issued May 18, divided the divisional area into new sectors of unit responsibility. The changes involved some movement of unit Command Posts. During this period the Division Commander presented Legions of Merit and Bronze Stars to a number of Russian officers and enlisted men, and Russian commanders presented Soviet decorations to several 82nd Airborne Division officers and men. The Division’s first quota of personnel to be redeployed to the United States, left for base camp during May, and a second quota left the Division area on June 1. Evacuation of prisoners of war remaining in the Division’s stockade began on on May 27. Approximately 22000 were evacuated daily by train and truck to the British Second Army prisoner of war enclosures during a four day period May 27/30, after which slightly more than 4000 prisoners remained in the Division enclosures. The 82nd Airborne Division was alerted late in the month for movement back to its base areas near Rheims, France. Advance parties were sent out, and movements of the Division’s main body began by rail and truck on 1 June. The 82nd Airborne Division was relieved of responsibility for its area by the 5th British Division at 011200 June 1945.
Section 3 – Intelligence
When the 82nd Airborne Division crossed the Elbe River on April 30, it encountered and identified units of the former Kampfgruppe Erick which by now had been reshuffled and emerged as Brigade Walters, which consisted of Regiments Wuschner and Bauer and Artillery Brigade Jantzen attacked. Interrogation developed information that Regiment Wuschner was made up of 2.Marine-Battalion, operating as Kampfgruppe Klose, and 1.Polizei-Battalion masquerading as Kampgruppe Ahrens. Among units identified on May 1 was Regiment Bauer, composed of Kampfgruppe Kruse, Kampfgruppe Kleve and the 1020.Landeschutzen-Battalion. As the advance progressed, rear elements of the 21.Armee were encountered and overpowered, identification including the 5.Jaeger-Division, the 4.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division SS-Polizei-Kampfgruppe-Solar and the 606.Infanterie-Division. Enemy units were inclined to offer little resistance to our advance, and the end was reached with the surrender of the entire 21.Armee by Lt Gen Tippelskrich at 2130, May 2 1945 at Ludwigslust, Germany, 95 miles northwest of Berlin, to Maj Gen James M. Gavin, CG 82nd Airborne Division.
Troops surrendered by the 21.Armee represented an almost inseparable conglomeration of over 2000 different units. The 21.Armee formerly had been the 4.Armee and was made up of remnants of the 9.Armee and the 12.Armee. The main units included the 5.Jaeger-Division, the 4.SS-Panzergrenadiere-Division, the SS-Polizei-Kampfgreuppe-Solar, and the 606.Infanterie-Division, all making up the 3.Panzer-Korps. Also surrendered were elements of the 27.Korps-Oder consisting of a Fallschirmjäger Division, the one KriegsMarine Division, and SS-Division-Langemark. In and around these units was a heterogeneous mass of station complements, supply troops, cadres, marine personnel, and a large number of units that may be classified only under the heading of miscellaneous. Interesting enough, the commander of the 21.Armee and his ranking staff officers wee poorly informed as to the total troops and units under his command. Gen Tippleskirch estimate of 150000 troops to be surrendered was reduced to 144000 by 82nd Airborne Division estimates. Among the ranking officers who surrendered were the following :
Gen von Tippleskirch, CG 21.Armee and Staff
Gen von Biedermann, CG straggler group and equipment collecting points
Gen Theodor Petsch, CG Vehkreis IX Kassel
Gen Rudolf Schubert, former CG of Wehkreis XVII Vienna
Gen Kurt Keyser, CG of Hamburg, Lower Elbe, Doenitz
Gen Frans Joseph Grobholz, CG Wehrmacht Ordungstruppen (PM) 12.Armee
Gen Rosskoff, CG of 606.Infanterie-Division
Gen Dr. Conrad, JA, 12.Armee
Gen Lusching, CG of Enginneers, 12.Armee
Gen Wagner, CG Artillerie 21.Armee
Col Muller, CoS, 606.Infanterie-Division
Col von G. R. Decker, CO of Division Z.B.V.
With the cessation of hostilities on the Division front, intelligence activities were concentrated on the problem of security. CIC and IPW teams concentrated on the task of screening prisoners of war, displaced persons and civilians, segregating SS personnel and investigating war criminals. The CIC and IPW, teams were stationed at or near the different camps to facilitate these activities. A total of approximately 15000 prisoners of war, displaced persons and civilians, all told, were screened.
Close liaison was maintained between intelligence teams and the Military Government detachment. The Nazi Party organization was eliminated in the area, and the higher party officials in each town were evacuated to the British Second Army for further investigation. In each town within the Division area the police force was subject to special scrutiny. The Mayors of Lubtheen and Neuhaus were removed. The Mayor of Ludwigslust committed suicide. There were no cases of subversive activities and no proved cases of sabotage. So-called erewolf (?) activity was not in evidence. Aside from the normal routine of G-1 activities, the G-1 Section was concerned primarily with the problems incident to the capture of many thousands of German prisoners of war, and the supervision of the evacuation of liberated Allied prisoners of war, and the evacuation of displaced Allied nationals. A minimum estimate of the number of German prisoners of war who surrendered to the 82nd Airborne Division has been set at 144000, during the period subsequent to the crossing of the Elbe River and the rapid advance to a Junction with the Russian forces between Ludwigslust and Grabow, Germany. The climatic disintegration of German formations in the area of Division responsibility presented an unparalleled situation. The surrender of enemy units was so rapid that it was impossible to concentrate the defeated foe in Division Collecting Points without seriously depleting its outnumbered strength to provide sufficient men to control and process the tons of thousands of Germans.
Prisoners were disarmed and returned to the rear to the XVIII Airborne Corps PW Cage, vicinity of Bevenson and Himburg, Germany on foot and in such German military vehicles as would run. During the first two days, these vehicles traversed the roads from Ludwigslust to Neuhaus over the pontoon bridge at Blekede and on to the Cage in an apparently endless stream, bumper to bumper, and loaded to overflowing with the bedraggled remnants of the German Army. The concentrations at the PW collecting Point at Himburg were incredible. In single fields, more than 10000 enemy soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder awaiting disposition. Then traffic across the Elbe River was frozen and the areas of Division responsibility were finally delineated, tons of thousands of prisoners taken by the 82nd were already in the area of the adjacent division to the west of the 82nd Airborne Division. Those within the Division area were immediately segregated in numerous PW Camps and counted. The total on hand was found to be in excess of 44000. This number was increased to exceed 69000 when the 82nd took over part of the area of the 8th Infantry Division.
These Camps were organized and operated by Divisional units. Evacuation was organized by the G-1 Section in liaison with 6th British Corps, and commenced on May 27 with rail movements which were completed by May 30. Arrangements for this grand-scale evacuation were effected by the G-1 Section. More than 10000 liberated Allied prisoners of war were processed through Division Collecting Points to American and British Army points at Luneberg, Sildescheim, Hagenow. More than 20000 displaced nationals, both eastern and western, from co-belligerent and conquered countries, were processed through Division DP Camps. These persons were assembled by freezing, all those who lacked transportation, and by arrangement with the Russians. In the Camps they were segregated by national groups, quartered, fed and deloused, At the earliest opportunity, they were moved to various 2nd British Army Distribution Points at Luneberg, Celle, XXX-?, Solingen or Satau, from which Centers they were dispatched toward their homelands. The segregation and transfer of Displaced Persons within the Division area and from the Division area was accomplished with minimum use of Division transportation, although often numbers in excess of 1500 were moved in a single day. G-1 maintained liaison with British-Russian liaison Groups and Contact Points at Schwerinn, Neustat, and Ludwiglust and Grabow. 11 British transport conveying Russian nationals to the Russian lines was reported to G-1 with advice as to the number of lorries expected to return empty. PW Camp commanders had their camps organized so that groups of any nationality could be assembled for movement on an hour’s notice of availability of vehicles. The British would route their returning empties to any designated Camp, receive their Loads and clearance papers to cross the Elbe, and move these people to designated exception Centers. Then the 82nd Airborne relinquished control of the area to the 5th British Division, all displaced Persons were concentrated at TrexS-?. Of the 2000 remaining, 1800 were Italians, no facilities having been arranged by higher Headquarters for the evacuation of Italians.
The sudden and dramatic termination of the war was further xxxxx-? by almost immediate implementation of the Army readjustment and redeployment program. Six officers and 344 enlisted men were selected from among those with high adjusted service rating scores. Although instructions did not require it, the Inspector General cooperated with G-1 to inspect records prior to departure on only 24-H notice. This initial group was moved from Ludwigslust, Germany to large Camps in the Reims area, by truck and then to the Reception Depot near Le Havre, France, by train. A few days before the Division was scheduled to move from the Ludwigslust area to Base, a second Readjustment and Redeployment quota of 2 officers and 295 enlisted men was received. Allotment was made to units in accord with their ratios of high ASR scores to the Division total in the priority groups of scores. Units were given 48 hours in which to accomplish the processing of administrative records. The imminence of the move precluded allotment of trucks to move this personnel to Base, and the entire group was moved in three days by air. All details, from movement schedules to preparation of passenger manifests and the loading of the aircraft being supervised directly by officers of the G-1 section.
Division casualties during operations in May east ot the Elbe River were as follow :
Officers : KIA-0 – IIA-0 – WIA-3 – MIA-0 : Total 3
Eblisted : KIA-15 – IIA-3 – WIA-60 – MIA-4 : Total 82