Saturday, February 6, 2010

Between the Lines: Bill in Combat March 16-24, 1945

The night of March 16 A Company spends the better part of twelve hours in the city of Bitche. In the morning of March 17, 1945 the First Battalion, 399th Infantry Regiment moves northeast, through the defenses of the “Ensemble of Bitche” to a ridge of hills beyond Roppertswiller at the German Border. No exact hour is known, but at some time in the late afternoon of the 17th Company A crosses into Germany. Little enemy resistance is met and no casualties are taken. Shortly after securing their position the First Battalion is relieved and returns to France near Breidenback.

On the morning of March 22, with Charlie Company as the task force and Able forming the main striking force, the First Battalion becomes mechanized and heads for the Rhine on tanks, trucks, bulldozers and jeeps. The tank ride is through lines of “Kriegs Gefangenen”, Germans marching to the rear without guards, through towns of all sizes, and past ever-present white surrender flags until the Lauter River is reached, halfway to the Rhine. The highway bridge across the river had been blown and is unusable. While task force engineers, using several dozen Mongolian slave laborers from a camp by the crossing work feverously to rebuild the bridge, A Company discovers a foot-bridge, detrucks and the drive continues. After a two-hour march the tanks and trucks arrive and the movement is once again mechanized, complete with bulldozer. The radio is so jammed with messages from all kinds of outfits headed for the Rhine, that it is decided to stop at Deidesheim, a few miles west of the Rhine. In the morning of March 23 the ride continues, and with Charlie Company in the lead the First Battalion arrives at the outskirts of Ludwigshafen, near the west bank of the Rhine. Here they link-up with the 94th Division of Patton’s Third Army. Thus the Saar is isolated in less than 24 hours with no casualties within the unit.

On March 24th Charlie Company takes up positions along the west bank among the ruins of Ludwigshafen while Co. A forms a line with the Third Battalion to the south along the river. The Germans, for the most part had pulled as many of themselves as possible back across the river leaving an abundant amount of loot available for the American troops to collect. In fact, souvenirs are accumulated in such quantities that the mail orderly must spend half a day in package wrapping, addressing and postal regulation procedures. Able Company is withdrawn to housing facilities courtesy of the Maudach Chamber of Commerce.


  1. Is Mannheim the place where Mannheim Steamroller gets it's name?

  2. Actually Mannheim is an 18th. Century German musical term. I don't know if the Mannheim Steamroller name is derived from the term or the town, but my guess is that since the term is so obscure it is probably from the town.


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