The German Army is totally defeated. Now, immediately thereafter, a brief history of the XIX Corps Engineers has been assembled. The past eleven months of combat are in the too recent past to view with great perspective. This report attempts to record factual data with little comment. It is felt that the record of the Engineers of this Corps will be enhanced through close examination. Their record of achievement is solid; group planning has been sound, always reliable, sometimes brilliant; execution has he en aggressive; individual acts of heroism have been numerous; team work with the other arms has been outstanding. From the viewpoint of Corps Engineer I would like to record that cooperation and mutual support within the Corps General and Special Staff Sections and the other Corps troops have been uniformly superior. I doubt if Corps Engineers ever have been given a finer opportunity to fit into their proper place in a combat team. The records of every Group, Battalion and Company speak for themselves. They are filled with commendations, citations and reports of missions accomplished. The men who actually did the job themselves have my unlimited praise. Every man in the XIX Corps Engineers can justly be proud of his organization and the part it played in the defeat of Germany.
Engineer operations in any locality depend principally upon the terrain. The more peculiar or extraordinary the terrain, the more unique become Engineer operations. The terrain in Normandy, France, is peculiar for the large number of small streams, vast inundated areas near the beach-head the tidal influence on all streams and the thick hedgerows which often sheltered sunken roads. Hedges, as shown bellow, gave the enemy excellent defensive positions which were easily camouflaged and stubbornly held. The logistics of the beach-head operations, therefore, presented many engineering problems. Added to this was the special situation of operating on a beach-head with all the accompanying problems of delayed buildup of personnel and material, complicated by unfavorable weather.
Elements of the XIX Corps landed on Omaha Beach beginning on D plus 3, June 9 1944, and we re-concentrated in a Corps sector which roughly speaking, extended from a north-south line 4 miles (6500-M) west of Isigny to a north-south line 6 miles (9.500-M) east of Isigny. This position straddled the Vire River, along which the Corps fought for approximately 4 weeks, requiring many crossings along its length. In addition a crossing of the Vire-Taute Canal on the Corps right front was also made early in the offensive operations. The railroad east of Carentan formed the front line of the 30th Infantry Division on June 14 when the division was ordered to attack. The 246-ECB was placed in support of the 30-ID, and on the night of June 14/15, constructed two DS (Double Single) Bailey bridges overpasses across the railroad. In this operation the engineers were forced to work out in front of the infantry, due to the commanding positions held by the enemy on the south side of the railroad, which prevented the 30-ID from establishing a bridgehead without some means to cross the railroad cut. The two bridges, constructed under blackout conditions because of enemy artillery and small arms fire on the sites, were completed in five hours and were ready when the attack began. There were no engineer casualties of men or equipment. Three unsupported tread-way bridges had been placed across destroyed bridges in the inundated area south of La Cambe by troops of the assault forces. When the XIX Corps assumed responsibility for that area the Corps Engineer decided to replace them with class 40 fixed bridges. Because these bridges were located on a heavily traveled MSR (Main Supply Road) it was undesirable to close the road to traffic for a sufficient length of time to allow construction of fixed bridges. The decision, therefore, was to replace the tread-way with Bailey, and then build fixed bridges underneath the Bailey.
Typical German road block as used in Normandy 1944
Typical German command post in the hedgerows of Normandy 1944
The 247-ECB was assigned the first phase of the work and began construction on June 17 at 2400. Each site required a 30 foot DS Bailey, and to facilitate operations all required materials were unloaded beside the road and adjacent to the bridges on the afternoon. The road was scheduled to be closed to traffic for 3 hours but due to blackout working conditions and the limited working space, they were not completed until June 18 at 0500. However, the delay caused no serious traffic tie-up. The next day work was begun on the permanent timber bridges by the 254-ECB completed the following day. Traffic was again diverted for approximately 3 hours shortly after midnight to allow the removal of the Baileys and completion of the approaches. The above procedure (outlined in some detail) is considered a very satisfactory arrangement, as the height of the Bailey above the roadway allows complete construction of a timber bridge – with the exception of the approaches – without disrupting traffic. The task of routing troops and supplies to the right flank of the Corps sector west of Isigny was becoming increasingly difficult due to congested traffic on the one road running from Isigny west.
On June 21, the Engineer gave orders to construct the necessary bridges to open another road from Neully-la-Forêt to La Rayé. Two bridges were required because of two streams between Neully-la-Forêt and La Rayé (Vire River and L’Elle River). The 246 and 247-ECBs were given the jobs and completed them in good time. The first bridge constructed across the Vire River on the Isigny Carentan highway was a Bailey and as our traffic increased along this route it soon became apparent that a two-way bridge was necessary to prevent serious traffic disruption. Plans were immediately drawn up for a class 70 timber pile two way bridge, and work was started by the 254-ECB. Four days were required for completion. Following the established procedure of replacing temporary bridges as soon as possible, a timber trestle was constructed across the railroad cut southwest of Isigny on June 28. The 246-ECB constructed the bridge after first removing the Bailey.
Stubborn enemy resistance between the Vire and the Taute rivers just south of the Vire-Taute Canal presented a serious threat to our east-west communications and the Omaha Beach itself. A large scale attack was deemed necessary to eliminate this menace. Plans were therefore formulated for the 30-ID to make a two-pronged attack on the morning of July 7. The 105-ECB -(30-ID’s Engineers) spearheaded the attack at dawn by transporting infantry units across the Vire at Saint-Fromond in assault boats. The assault waves were hardly across when the 105-ECB started construction of a foot bridge in the same area. Twice before the infantry was able to use the bridge it was damaged by enemy artillery fire, but immediately repaired by the engineers. Twenty engineer casualties were incurred from this operation.
The existing bridge at Saint-Fromond was only partially destroyed and afforded the quickest means of getting artillery and vehicles across to support the infantry drive so it was planned to span the gaps with tread-way. The 247-ECB constructed the necessary repairs in all hours’ time in spite of harassing mortar, artillery and sniper fire. Corps engineer units constructed two additional bridges in the vicinity of Saint-Fromond early in the attack – a floating trea-dway south of the existing bridge and an infantry support bridge to the north by the 247-ECB, plus the 503-LPC (Light Pontoon Company). Artillery shells fell in the vicinity of the infantry support bridge but no damage resulted. Corps Engineers suffered approximately 15 casualties in all of those operations.
Meanwhile, the second prong of the coordinated attack was pushing across the Vire-Taute Canal to the northwest. The 30-ID infantry assault troops encountered strong enemy opposition just south of the canal and called for armor to support their drive. The problem of constructing a bridge in the face of observed enemy fire was met by a brilliantly planned and executed maneuver, involving coordination between engineers and artillery. A party from the 246-ECB constructed 36′ of tread-way bridge in a rear area and loaded it on Brockway trucks. At a prearranged signal the artillery laid down a smoke barrage on the far shore and the engineers went into action. The first smoke shells had barely landed when the Brockways pulled up to the site. The bridge was unloaded and put into place under the cover of the dense smoke, and the engineers pulled away from the site just as the smoke lifted. The entire operation consumed less than 30 minutes, and greatly aided the drive of the 30-ID.
Because of the tremendous us amount of traffic on the east-west road through Ariel, it was decided to construct a by-pass road and bridge north of the existing site. On the night of July 9, the 247-ECB started work on both projects. The bridge, a 90′ TS Bailey, was completed in five hours but two days were required to finish the road. However, traffic was going over the bridge as soon as it was finished. As elements of the XIX Corps drove steadily southward it was necessary to repair or construct bridges for lateral communication every few miles. The next crossing was made in the Vicinity of Cavigny, where the 234-ECB constructed a 110′ TS Bailey and approaches on July 13. The enemy sporadically shelled the town but no casualties as occurred among the engineer. A few Tellermines were discovered and lifted near the site.
Three days later it became necessary to open another crossing in the vicinity of Le Meauffe and the 234-ECB was assigned the task. A TS Bailey 110′ long was to be constructed from an island to the far shore. Two sets of tread-way were laid from the near shore to the island. Be cause of the limited working space the loaded trucks were forced to back across the tread-way, dump their loads and then move back to the near shore before any work could be done. Pont Hebert was taken by the 35-ID on July 18, and by nightfall they had a firm bridgehead in that vicinity. The 992-ETBC (Engineer Treadway Bridge Company) constructed a 156′ floating tread-way during the night of July 18/19. The following night it was converted into a trestle tread-way by the same unit. The site was bombed and strafed during the conversion but no damage or casualties resulted. One bridge at this point being insufficient to carry the heavy two-way traffic, the 234-ECB constructed 130′ of DD Bailey on July 19. By July 25, the town of St-Lo was in our hands and because of the convergence of roads from all directions on the town became the most important traffic center so far taken by US troops – and at the same time it presented the most formidable bridging problems to date. The streets were completely blocked by rubble from the destroyed buildings requiring engineers units to work day and night in a effort in an effort to open them to vehicular traffic. To expedite traffic to the east and south a 80′ DS Bailey was constructed northwest on the town on July 27. The 247-ECB constructed the bridge and 1.5 miles of new road.
The main bridge across the Vire in St Lo had been damaged by our bombs some time previous but because of the road net was deemed the most logical place to begin work. The 295-ECB cleared the streets and approaches, lifted 44 miles and placed a 36′ span of tread-way across the damaged portion of the bridge. The troops were constantly harassed by enemy artillery fire and bombing while working. The next day, the tread-way was replaced by a Bailey by the same unit. At the same time (July 28 and 29) three more bridges were being put across the Vire to the south and southwest of St Lo. The first bridge, two miles south of the town was built by the 234-ECB. Construction was hampered by the stone side rails of the existing bridge – over which the 110′ Bailey TS was being built – and by the fact that 300 Lbs of explosive had to be removed from the railroad overpass before construction could begin. The second and third bridges were constructed on the St Lo – Canisy highway by the 82-ECB. A number of AT mines were removed from either side of the river on both sites, then a Bailey and a tread-way were built side by side to handle two-way traffic. On July 30, the boundary between the XIX Corps and the V Corps was the Vire River, with the XIX Corps engineers responsible for the construction of all bridges. Each Corps was responsible for the approaches on its side. The first crossing made under these conditions was at Conde-sur-Vire on July 30 by the 234-ECB, where they put in a 90′ Bailey. The division of responsibility for approaches was very unsatisfactory in that V Corps engineers did not start work as soon as necessary and thus delayed the completion of the job. It is recommended that one unit be made responsible for the entire job.
The stone arch bridge across the Vire at Tessy had been destroyed by bombs so it was necessary to construct a 110′ TS Bailey which was built on August 3. A few AT mines were found in the bed of the stream bat no casualties resulted. The last main east-west road crosses the Vire in the vicinity of Fontfaroy, a bend occurring in the river just south of that point and the stream bed veers sharply to the east out of the XIX Corps boundary. The 247-ECB made this crossing, constructing 80′ of DS Bailey on August 4. Additional bridges were required at St Lo and St Thomas de St Lo. Two trestle tread-ways were built at these sites by the 92-ETBC. In addition to the crossing operations on the Vire, use was made of the locks and dams to control the water level. The lock near est the river’s mouth was at Ariel. This lock was closed when captured. At this point in our advance we were attacking in force and anticipated a rapid advance. It was therefore decided to lower the water level to facilitate transportation of our troops across the river and to create a catch basin at the lower end of the river to take up any flood water the enemy might attempt to send down on us.
Being near the sea, the river at this location was affected by tidal action. A study of this effect showed that the tide ran out in about 10.30 hours, and came in in 1.30 hours. With the sluice gates closed, the water rose on the river side at the rate of nine inches per hour, whereas the tide came in a the rate of two feet per hour. Therefore, by manipulation of the gates to close out the sea water, the average depth of the river at this point was lowered about four feet. The second lock was at La Meauffe. This one was found open. At the time the XII Corps reached this location it was to our advantage to raise the water level ahead of us, for two reasons. First, the river ran around behind the enemy and could be an obstacle to his supply lines. Secondly, reconnaissance discovered a small enemy foot bridge at Rampan, which had been built just below the water level. By raising the water we were able to hinder enemy communications and deny him the use of the bridge. The gates were accordingly closed and the water level raised 7.5 feet at the lock. When the 35-ID reached the bend in the river northwest of St Lo and took up defensive positions the water level was kept up to afford the best possible obstacle in front of the position. Later when the offensive was resumed, the water was lowered and the river crossed.
Emphasizing the importance of St Lo as a traffic center is the fact that three divisions were routed through the town in three days time, all heading south in pursuit of the enemy. A little farther up the Vire this Corps hit an other traffic and communications center in the town of Vire. When its capture was announced by the 29-ID, the 82-ECB was ordered into the town to clear the roads of debris and mines; found the town still largely occupied by the enemy. After an all day fight, in which more than a score of the enemy were killed and 128 prisoners taken, the town was clear of Germans. The streets were then cleared for traffic. The engineers suffered 5 casualties, none of them serious. The main engineer activities from Vire south to Domfront consisted of clearing roads of mines, repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and clearing streets of rubble. Near Domfront our troops encountered the most extensive minefields since the early days of the invasion. The enemy had large depots located in this area and had heavily mined all roads, paying especial attention to bridge and ford approaches. The location of one proposed ford had to be changed several times because of the mines. The 295-ECB suffered nine casualties during the sweeping and lifting operations. The Corps reached its objective in the southeastern push in good time and several days were spent in purely holding onto our gains while the Falaise gap was being closed. During this time the engineers were engaged principally in road maintenance.
After a long administrative move to the vicinity of Evreux the Corps started a northward drive and again the principal engineer tasks were; maintenance and repair of roads, and clearing the towns of rubble and debris. Then came the most extensive bridging operations of the campaign to date – the crossing of the Seine River. The 28-ID was relieved of assignment to the Corps before these operations began so the bulk of the river-crossing load was shouldered by the Corps engineers. The 79-ID had established a bridgehead across the Seine, but was unable to expand it because of stiff enemy resistance. Top priority was given to the construction of bridges over which to send reinforcements. During these bridging operations the Corps engineers constructed the following bridges. The 295-ECB built a floating tread-way in two sections near Mantes; the 82-ECB built a floating tread-way and a floating Bailey, each 610′ long, near Meulan. The 247-ECB built two heavy pontoon bridges, each 560′ long, near Poissy, and a Class 40 Bailey over the damaged portion of an existing bridge leading into Paris. All of these bridging operations practically exhausted the supply of available bridging. Several bridges had to be picked up after the 2-AD and the 30-ID had crossed to the north side of the Seine in order to provide bridging for our northward drive.
During the September drive through northern France into Belgium bridging operations were quite light, with only seven short spans of Bailey being constructed from the Seine to the Belgium border two cases of poor demolitions on the part of the enemy enabled us to merely doze dirt onto the structures in order to prepare them for traffic. When the Corps turned eastward Maastricht two engineer task forces were formed to facilitate rapid movement. The first consisted of the 1104th Group HQ, 246th Engineer Combat Bn, 611th Light Equipment Co, 2 platoons of the 503rd Light Pontoon Co, 1 platoon of 992nd Tread-way Bridge Co, and 6 Battery of AAA. The second task force was made up of the 247th Engineer Combat Bn, 1 platoon of the 992nd Tread-way Bridge Co, 1 platoon of the 503rd Light Pontoon Co, and a Battery of AAA. The principal tasks of these two forces were to rapidly clear and maintain roads and construct bridges on three main routes of advance. The short Bailey spans and a couple of expedient bridges were all that were required in the 80-mile drive. The Corps had been fighting a rather strange war for some time; by passing large pockets of the enemy, and even capturing Jerries in our bivouac areas. The engineer task forces added another chapter to the vagaries of the campaign. The 2-AD ran out of gas on the way to the Meuse, and when the engineer task forces caught up with the stalled tanks the decision was made to push on as far as possible alone. Picking up two additional Batteries of quadruple mounted 50 cal, the engineers, pushed on the Canal Albert, cleaning out the enemy west of the Canal in several brisk engagements. The enemy had done a very thorough job of demolitions on the existing bridges across both the Canal Albert and the Meuse River, except in Liège were the VII Corps had captured the one bridge intact (Pont de Fragnée).
The 234-ECB quickly constructed tread-ways across the Canal and the Meuse near Visé, which became extremely important to our Corps operations. The decision was made to pass two engineer battalions across this bridge, to be closely followed by a bridge train. The battalions were to move up to the east bank of the, river to Maastricht and construct a bridge from east to west. This was accomplished against very light opposition and by night fall of the same day, September 14, the 247-ECB had competed a tread-way and a heavy pontoon bridge across the river. Shortly thereafter all opposition on the island formed by the Canal Albert and the Meuse River had ceased. Meanwhile the 82-ECB had been assigned the task of building a Bailey across the Canal to the island. The enemy was firmly entrenched on the far shore and it was necessary to send infantry across before beginning construction. The infantry quickly reduced opposition and a 140′ DD Bailey was constructed. However, in launching the bridge one section collapsed and dropped the entire structure into the Canal. Necessary equipment for salvaging the bridge was immediately ordered; the damaged sections burned off at the waters’ edge and the remainder of the bridge hauled back to the near shore where reconstruction was begun. The bridge was successfully launched and traffic started over on the night of September 15.
The Dutch had managed to send two barges through the German lines and because of the failure of the first bridge one of these barges was placed and anchored beneath the Bailey in the center of the span. The barge was not directly supporting the bridge but was there in case of excessive deflection. The bridge was commonly called the Psychological Bridge. Because of the delay due to the collapse of the Bailey, a tread-way was quickly thrown across the Canal in the same vicinity and was completed by early morning of September 15. Operations were able to proceed according to plan. One of the existing bridges across the Meuse at Maastricht had had three spans destroyed, and the Engineer decided to put this bridge back into use using Bailey bridging over the destroyed spans. It required the 247-ECB just three days to complete the three spans. The longer span, a 190′ TT Bailey, had since become famous as the longest single span Bailey in the ETO and was featured on the XIX Corps Christmas card. The remainder of souther Holland in our sector was cleared of the enemy without much trouble, and involved no major engineer tasks. The Corps consisted at this time of only the 2-AD and the 30-ID, and had a long exposed northern flank, where they laid thousands of mines and fought as infantry. The 246-ECB suffered extremely heavy casualties while on the mission. Two other engineer battalions, the 295-ECB and the 82-ECB, together with the 1115th Gp Hq, were placed in Corps reserve until such time as a third division should be assigned to the Corps.
Early in October a decision was made to crack the Siegfried Line in our sector, the defenses of which began along the far shore of the Wurm River. All bridges across the Wurm were destroyed and every possible site covered by artillery and small arms fire. However, the 30-ID easily forced a crossing of the stream, and in a very short time thereafter the 247-ECB had a Bailey in position at Marienburg, Germany and a tread-way at Rimburg, Germany. The approaches to the bridges were very soft and had been weakened by continued wet weather and it became a herculean job to keep them open to traffic, especially since all sites were still under artillery fire. However, the job was accomplished and by October 11, the Siegfried Line had been thoroughly penetrated by the 30-ID and the 2-AD in the Corps area. Meanwhile the 7-AD had been assigned to the Corps with the mission of clearing out the enemy still west of the Meuse in the area of Venlo. An engineer task force consisting of the 82-ECB, 992-ETBC, and 1 platoon of 512-LPC was placed in support of the Division. During this operation, which was not too successful, the engineers again suffered heavy casualties.
On October 11, the 246-ECB was attached to the 30-ID to fight as infantry. The remainder of the 1104-ECG was formed into two task forces to aid in the encirclement of Aachen. The first Task Force consisted of Group Hq, the 274-ECB and the 172-ECB, with the following attachments : 2 Batteries of AAA, 1 company of TDs, and 1 platoon of tanks. Two battalions of artillery and one company of 4.2′ mortars were in support of the Task Force. The second Task Force consisting of the 611-LEC, the 503-LPC, and the 989-TBC was initially Group reserve. The attack began on October 16 and went off very well. The main task force averaging over 2 Km per day until October 18, when contact was established with adjacent units coming up from the south. Meanwhile the second Task Force was committed on the right flank and by October 20, both forces had reached no advance lines. During the attack the engineers took well over 300 prisoners, destroyed dozens of pillboxes, and had suffered only very light casualties – and the first large German city had been taken by American troops. Engineers were relieved of infantry duties on October 22, and on the same day the XIX Corps was assigned to Ninth Army, after having served under First Army since D-day.
The next attack with the Roer River as its immediate objective, began on November 16 and reached the objective one week later after very stiff town to town fighting. Major engineer accomplishments during the attack were clearing and posting minefields and maintenance of roads. Many towns were almost completely mined and booby-trapped. Signs were posted warning troops of this fact. Heavy traffic over the poorly constructed roads caused constant deterioration, and maintenance of them was a major problem. Plans had been formulated to cross the Roer once we had reached it but before this operation was attempted information was received at the engineer office which caused a complete change in plans. The Germans had constructed two dams upstream from the XIX Corps sector and with these dams could control the flow of the river, and even cause disastrous floods. Our crossing had to be delayed until such time as these dams could be destroyed or captured. Two attempts were made to capture the dams but each time our troops were repulsed. Several heavy bombing attacks failed to do any material damage to the structures.
Then came the breakthrough in the Ardennes sector and all thoughts of crossing were dismissed for the time being. The VII Corps on our right was shifted to the breakthrough area and the XIX Corps moved south and took over the VII Corps sector. Our troops in this area were spread necessarily thin because of the demands to the south, and there ensued the most extensive minefield operations, plus other fixed and temporary defense works, of the entire campaign. Roads in the new Corps area were in bad condition and until a freeze occurred, it became almost impossible to keep all routes open to traffic. The freeze caused icy surfaces on all roads, which coupled with several heavy snowfalls caused new engineer headaches. The roads were satisfactorily maintained, however, principally by scattering cinders and gravel almost every day. Here for the first time we utilized the services of German civilian workers both on road maintenance and the construction of chespaling for future operations. As soon as the German drive in the south was stopped and our counter-attacks developed, this Corps began a limited objective attack to secure the dams controlling the waters of the Roer.
Working at times in blinding blizzards, day and night, Corps engineers of the 1164-ECG greatly assisted the attack by building one assault bridge across the upper Roer. Thirteen bulldozers were lost by running over AT mines in the deep snow. The XIX Corps returned to the northern sector on February 5 where planning began once more for the crossing of the Roer. A thaw having occurred all roads in the sector were rapidly becoming virtually impassable, and again, only by working night and day were the engineers able to arrest their deterioration and improve them for the very heavy traffic which would immediately precede and follow the Roer assault. The attack toward the dams was progressing well until February 9, when, with our troops in sight of the dams, the enemy destroyed the discharge tubes causing flood conditions which lasted approximately two weeks. Again the crossing of the Roer had to be delayed until the flood waters receded sufficiently to assure the success of our operation.
The enemy was completely fooled when the Corps attacked 24 hours before the receding began in spite of the width of the river and the speed of the current. The assault of the Roer River began before dawn on February 23, and proceeded according to plan in most cases. A total of 16 bridges were constructed across the river, 15 of them in the assault phases. The 246-ECB built 3 footbridges, 1 tread-way and one infantry support bridge; the 247-ECB, 1 tread-wav and one Bailey; the 82-ECB, 1 footbridge and 4 tread-ways; the 554-EHPB, one heavy pontoon; the 503-LPC, 1 footbridge and the 105-ECB, 1 footbridge and one tread-way. One hundred and eight feet of tread-way bridging was destroyed when an enemy artillery concentration fell and construction had to be postponed until the artillery was silenced. One footbridge was damaged and had to be replaced nine times. Eventually all of the footbridges had to be abandoned but not until their primary mission had been accomplished. Every bridge except the Bailey was constructed under observed artillery and small arms fire due to the enemy holding the high ground on the far shore. Engineers suffered very heavy casualties during the operations, totalling 14 killed and 128 wounded. Alligators were very successfully employed in transporting infantry to the far shore and the evacuation of wounded across the stream. The city of Jülich presented much the same problem as did St Lo back in Normandy. All available road equipment was put to work clearing highways through the town and this was accomplished with a minimum of lost time.
By this time our armor and infantry had almost completely smashed enemy resistance, and Corps engineers had very little engineering work to do until the Rhine River was reached, there being few minefields and fewer streams to cross. On March 3, engineers began the task of clearing the streets of Munchen Gladbach, which had been hard hit in previous bombing raids. When the XIX Corps plans for an immediate crossing of the Rhine were turned down by higher headquarters, the Corps and Corps troops began a program of training and rehabilitation. One battalion, the 234-ECB, was attached to the XVI Corps for the purpose of making the Rhine crossing. The 247-ECB built the only bridge in the Corps area in that period, a 98′ pile structure. Col Miller, XIX Corps Engineer, and Maj Cockey, XIX Corps Engineer Supply Officer were loaned to XVI Corps to help in the planning and acquisition of supplies for the Rhine assault. They remained with that Corps until the crossings had been made and the bridges were in position.
The XIX Corps crossed the Rhine as soon as the bridgeheads had been firmly established. The 2-AD, the 30-ID, the 83-ID, the 95-ID, and the 17-A/B, crossed into the bridgehead and began the operations that were to culminate in the complete collapse of the German armies in the west. The enemy had destroyed all of the bridges across the Dortmund Ems Canal and the Ems river. Considerable bridging was required in the crossings of these water obstacles. On March 31, the 17-A/B’s Engineers constructed a 144′ tread-way across the Ems and the 247-ECB built 130′ of DD Bailey across the Canal. Two more bridges were used in crossing the Canal, one 144′ of tread-way and one 110′ of TS Bailey, both constructed by the 295-ECB. By this time the 2-AD had scored a definite breakthrough, the Division drove all of the way to the Weser River, meeting scattered resistance. A bridgehead was very quickly established, and the 17-Armored ngineers constructed 382′ of tread-way across the Weser on April 5. On April 6, the 234-ECB built another tread-way across the Weser and on April 8, the Weser was again spanned, this time by a heavy pontoon bridge built by the 554-HPB. These bridges were supplemented by two floating Baileys on April 10, built by the 247-ECB and the 234-ECB. The tread-ways were picked up for future crossings. The chase of the demoralized enemy forces continued all the way to the Elbe River, with resistance being for the most part very scattered. Individual strong points offered the only serious resistance and the Elbe was reached by the 2-AD, the 30-ID and the 83-ID on April 15. The 17-Armored Engineers immediately commenced work on a tread-way across the stream, following the establishment of a small bridgehead. An enemy counter-attack in force caused the bridgehead to be withdrawn and practically the entire bridge was lost.
The 83-ID, however, established a firm bridgehead further south. The 295-ECB built a 624 ft. tread-way on April 16, and on April 18, the 234-ECB built another tread-way in the bridgehead area 516 ft. long. It was necessary to put in floating mine booms both upstream and downstream from the bridge, and maintain constant vigilance to prevent the enemy from destroying the bridges. A searchlight battery was set up near the sites to illuminate the river, expert riflemen, automatic weapons, and tanks used to destroy the floating mines sent down at the bridge. A demolition crew set off prepared charges in the river upstream from the sites at short intervals – this precaution being taken principally against the threat of enemy demolition swimmers. No record was kept of the number of mines exploded before reaching the booms, but three mines hit the boom protecting the lower bridge, causing negligible damage. Approximately 25 mines escaped the guards’ vigilance and exploded against the upper boom. A fifty-foot section of the boom was damaged and one mine got all the way to the bridge, damaging one trestle.
German demolition swimmers attempted to destroy the bridges and isolate the troops in the bridgehead. The demolition swimmers were highly trained picked men whose specialty was under water swimming. One party of three demolition swimmers were captured by the bridge’ guards. Interrogation revealed their party originally consisted of one officer and six men. Part of the original party surrendered before reaching the bridgehead. Demolition charges accounted for the balance of the party. This ended the offensive operations of XIX Corps, except for cleaning out the Harz forest by the 8-AD, which task required very little engineer work. However, engineer troops received no respite as they were immediately put to the task of rehabilitating and operating several hundred miles of railway. Principal use of the rail road was the transportation of displaced persons to the rear areas. It was while engaged in these non-warlike tasks that the engineers received the long-awaited word that VE day had arrived, thus writing finis to the European campaign.
Statistical Summary of Corps Engineers Functions
From D-Day to VE Day
1. Bridging and major rivers crossed.
– a. During the period, the Corps engineers built two hundred and sixty-four (264) bridges of all types totalling twenty-three thousand eight
hundred and six (23.806) feet.
– b. There were assault or tactical crossings of the following major rivers :
– Dortmund Ems Canal
– c. Six type of bridges were constructed that breakdown as follows :
(1) 68 Bailey Bridges 5850 feet
– of this total 846 feet was floating bailey
(2) 88 tread-way bridges 10.285 feet
– of this total, 37 were dry or fixed tread-way
(3) 6 heavy pontoon bridges 2402 feet
(4) 2 infantry support bridges 216 feet
(5) 9 foot bridges 1292 feet
(6) 91 fixed timber, culvert or fill bridges 3763 feet
a. Enemy mines lifted from D-Day to VE day we re :
(1) Enemy fields cleared or gapped : 720
(2) Total number of mines cleared : 74410
b. Friendly mines laid during period :
(1) Number of fields laid : 1700
(2) Total number of mines laid : 340.000
3. Barrier, concertina and double apron fence prepared during period amounted to : 347.100 feet
4. Total casualties to Corps engineers during period were :
– a. Killed in Action : 102
– b. Wounded in Action : 419
– c. Missing in Action : 18
Breakdown : KIA — WIA — MIA
1104-ECG-HQ – 1 — 7 — 0
246-ECB 21 — 120 — 0
247-ECB 18 — 69 — 0
503-ELPC 0 — 8 — 0
611-EMC 0 — 10 — 0
978-EMC 0 — 2 — 0
1115-ECG-HQ 1 — 7 — 0
82-ECB – 70 — 14 — 5
234-ECB 76 — 13 — 10
295-ECB 40 — 33 — 3
992-ETBC 1 — 12 — 0
512-ELPC 0 — 0 — 0