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Third Batallion
273rd Infantry Regiment
Unit History

Unit History—3rd Bn 273rd Inf Reg

The 69th Infantry Division was activated at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, May 15, 1943. Major General Charles E. Bolte was the Division Commander and remained in command for most of the year-and-a-half years that the Division trained in the States. During this period, thousands of officers and men were taken from the Division as replacements.  In fact, it seemed for a while that the mission of the Division was the training of replacements.

Least affected by the continuous drain of men were NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers), who remained and grew old with the Division.

One of the most memorable periods in the Division’s history in the States was the first “D” Series, beginning January 28, 1944, and lasting until February 20, followed by the “March to the Sea,” in which the Division took a tactical/non-tactical jaunt to the Gulf.

The Division’s training consisted of six problems, each of which lasted about three days. The work was hard and made as realistic as possible. There were cold days and a great deal of rain. There were day and night marches through thorn-thicketed marshes. Always there were the simulated blown bridges to contend with.

On the other hand, there were non-tactical periods between problems, and then sooty pine-knot fires would spring up, and the 69th would dry itself and clean up and prepare for the next problem.

After a brief return to Camp Shelby, the Division struck out on its March to the Sea. The March was meant both to harden the men and give them a brief vacation at the coast. It was successful on both counts. Never before were there so many blisters in the Division, and never before were the Gulf towns – Biloxi, Pascagoula, Gulfport, Ocean Springs and others – so overrun by reveling GIs.

The spring and early summer of 1944 were uneventful. Men continued to leave, replacments arrived and bivouacking went on. Our armies invaded the continent of Europe and, after the initial difficulty of establishing beachheads, raced across France. It seemed a good bet that the 69th would never be committed in Europe, unless it was as part of the Army of Occupation.

In the summer of 1944, General Bolte left the Division for the European Theater of Operations, where he took command of the 34th Division. On September 2, Major General Emil F. Reinhardt took command of the 69th Division. Starting September 16, the Division went into the field on its second D Series aptly called POM (preparation for overseas movment). There were no non-tactical periods, and it was a maneuver in earnest. The Division returned to Camp Shelby on October 14, after its longest continuous stretch in the field.

Immediately, the Division began preparing in every way for overseas movement. There was packing and crating 24 hours a day. New equipment was issued. Absentees were recalled. On November 3, the last of the Division Infantry – half of the 3rd Bn, 273rd, left Camp Shelby for a port of embarkation in the North.

The Bn closed into Camp Kilmer, NJ, on the 5th of November. There were more showdown inspections and quite a few passes to contradict the latrine-wall complaints.

The Bn loaded up again and cleared Camp Kilmer on November 14, arriving at the boat dock where coffee and doughnuts awaited.

On November 15th, the Santa Maria set sail to join the convoy, and we left the United States behind.

Except for a few rough days and the seasickness, the voyage over was pleasant and without event. Lifeboat drills, Special Service music and entertainment, and griping about chow relieved the monotony of the trip. The Santa Maria docked in Southhampton, England, on November 26, 1944.

Another night and day were spent aboard, and then the troops disembarked, had coffee and doughnuts and boarded trains for camps in England.

The 3rd Battalion, with attached Cannon Company and Anti-Tank Company of the 273rd, was the lucky outfit to occupy Oakridge Farms, Basingstoke. On first appearance, the camp invited lamentation rather than enthusiasm. Formerly a mushroom “factory,” the buildings of the farm were not designed as barracks. The floors had once been covered with dirt, and evidences of a sprinkling system, in the form of pipes jutting out of the floor, were everywhere. Withal, after the Battalion went to work, Oakridge Farms became a very comfortable camp.

The most memorable feature of Oakridge Farms was the Special Service recreation. There was a dance either in camp or in Basingstoke practically every night of the week. There were movies, doughnut wagons, basketball games, boxing matches, and parties.

The pass situation was not bad. There were passes to London, and passes every night to Basingstoke. The pubs and girls of Basingstoke were very popular.

On January 22, 1945, the Battalion packed up again. By train, it proceeded to Southhampton, where it boarded the Monowai. The following day, after transferring to an LST (Landing Ship Tank troop carrier), the Battalion went ashore at Le Havre, France. From 2145 to 2345, it was a matter of sorting duffle bags, dragging them about through the snow, mud and slush, and boarding trucks – 50 men or more per truck. The most horrible ride in the Battalion’s history followed. Movement in the trucks was impossible, and the ice-covered floors bit at the men’s feet. Snow and sleet lashed at the men as the trucks ground aimlessly through the night. The distance from Le Havre to the vicinity of Gournay is 35 miles, but it was 0800, January 24th, when the wandering trucks reached their destination. Eight hours plus. Bremontier Merval, in the vicinity of Gournay, was the destination.

The Battalion occupied the chateau for a week. The weather was cold, and snow fell often. A main occupation was the chopping of firewood. Another was the hunting of rabbits, as the men exercised their itching trigger fingers.

The Battalion left the chateau on January 31, 1945. By train, and then by truck, it proceeded to the vicinity of Sissone. Tents in muddy plow-fields became its quarters on February 1.

Replacements were received at Sissone. Ammunition was issued. Then no passes during the six days spent there. On February 6, the Bn boarded trucks and proceeded to entrain for points closer to the front.

Two days were spent in cattle cars – Forty-and-Eight type. On Feb 8, the Bn was in Pipinsterre, Belgium. Trucks were boarded again. Malmedy, still smoldering, was passed en route. The country was rough, hilly and heavily forested with pines. The weather was cold and sleety. Mordescheid was the destination – reached by the Bn late at night after a march over a very rough, muddy trail. There was to be no rest at Mordescheid. The front was approximately 10 miles distant. Fresh evidence of battle was everywhere: bodies, entrails, abandoned weapons and ammunition.

On February 11, all Company Commanders and officers other than executive officers went forward to meet 3rd Battalion Commander Lt Col Shaughnessey for orders. They were taken to be oriented on the areas defended by Companies of the 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry.

The first casualty in the Battalion came that day. Lt Daniel L. Pilkinton, the Battalion S-2, while walking along a road with Lt Col Shaughnessey, Lt Hitchcock and Lt. Sullivan, was wounded seriously in the chest by mortar shell fragments. Lt Sullivan became S-2 and Lt Pilkinton was evacuated.

After a day at the front, the Company Commanders returned to their Companies in order to bring them forward the following day.

The Battalion moved forward in trucks on the afternoon of February 12. Dismounting on the International Highway, the boundary between Belgium and Germany, the Battalion moved east under cover of darkness and relieved elements of the 2nd Bn 393rd Inf, in the towns of Neuhof and Udenbreth. The Battalion was now in the first Siegfried Line, the pillboxes and defenses of which ran through Neuhof and Udenbreth. A large part of the Battalion occupied pillboxes; the remainder moved into the ruins of the houses of the two towns. Behind lay three rows of dragons teeth and other defenses; to the front lay the second Siegfried Line, with formidable prepared defenses between the two lines.


Feb. 13, 1945

0500 - Relief of 2nd Bn 393rd Inf complete.
0635 - Twelve rounds of enemy light arty (artillery) landed 300 yards to front of L Co positions.
0735 - Twenty rounds enemy light arty fell on Bn positions.
1445 - Twenty rounds enemy light arty fell to rear of road through Udenbreth.
1600 - Heavy enemy arty fire on Battalion positions. One shell, estimated 155mm or larger, fell in entrance to Bn CP (Command Post) and jarred the entire pillbox. Steel door to switchboard room blown open. One guard, posted at top of incline, slightly wounded.
1605 - Rear CP notified of death of Capt William E. Parris. M Co T/Sgt Thompson, who was with Capt Parris at an MG (machine gun) position, severely wounded by same arty fire, believed to be mortar fire
2000 - K Co patrol under Lt Currie went out. Negative report at 14 Feb 0100 due to extreme darkness.
Summary: Battalion received its baptism of fire. Arty and sniper fire were heavy throughout the day. Casualties were relatively light, and the Battalion had displayed a knack for dodging arty shells that was never lost in the bitter days to follow.

Feb. 14, 1945

0245 - Lt LaRouax reported increased enemy activity around Pill Box (PB) 22 and Rauher Berg (top of a hill, hereafter called Rauher B.) which appeared to be a strongpoint.
0800 - Two prisoners were brought to the CP by I Co. After a brief questioning, prisoners were sent to Regiment.
0815 - T/Sgt Morgan (Hq Co) reported Lt Hale, AT Platoon Leader, killed, evidently by sniper shot.
1100 - Report received at CP that four-man German patrol attacked PB 22 earlier in morning. Pvt Savage, I Co, seriously wounded by machine-pistol fire. Two Germans, one wounded, one captured. Two escaped. Wounded in PB 22 could not be evacuated till dark because of enemy fire. Pfc Sternmman, I Co radio operator and interpreter, distinguished himself by grappling with and capturing an armed German. He was later awarded the Bronze Star for this action.
1840 - 20 rounds 88mm arty fell on Bn positions.
2300 - K Co kitchen burned out in rear area.
Summary: Bn became more familiar with situation and terrain to front. Took first prisoners and had first close combat with enemy. Continued patrolling to front.

Feb. 15, 1945

0030 - King (K Co) patrol in. Fired upon by enemy. Lt Brooks located bunker and weapons emplacements on road Neuhof to east.
0150 - Medics retrieved wounded from PB 22.
0650 - All companies notified to check area for snipers infiltered during night.
0807 - Signs of enemy activity reported around bunkers and houses on Neuhof road.
1120 - Arty fire delivered on suspected enemy mortar positions.
1155 - Arty fire delivered on smoking enemy bunkers.
1540 - Enemy railroad (RR) gun fired overhead. Probably duds since no report was heard.
2205 - Enemy attack on PB 22.
2307 - PB threat subsided. In case of attack, PB 22 was to fire red flares.
Summary: Some enemy arty fire received and heavy sniper fire. Bn mortars and arty active. PB 22 once more in limelight.

Feb. 16, 1945

0050 - Enemy activity around PB 22 increasing again.
0441 - Lt Oliver, I Co, reported back with patrol to PB 22. Got only to PB 28 where Lt LeRouax radioed from PB 22 and advised patrol not to proceed farther. Enough ammo in PB 22; food for one meal, using snow for water. Men in PB 22 had heard vehicle movement on Rauher B and had received rocket fire in coincidence with such movement.
0645 - Enemy mortar fire on Bn positions. Approx. 20 rounds.
0945 - 814 TD Bn relieved by 3rd Platoon, Co B, 661 TD Bn.
1000 - Enemy arty on Bn positions. Ten rounds fire – possibly drawn by movement of our TD support. Co L asked for return arty fire.
1312 - I Co confirmed hit on Concentration 202.
1415 - Coordinates of Nebelwerfers checked by LN 3 (Liaison Officer 3) thru direct observation. Div arty notified and fired.
1430 - M Co reported direct enemy arty hits on 2nd Section mortars. Guns (mortars) undamaged. Enemy patrol harassing mortarmen.
1536 - 16 rounds of 81mm mortar delivered on Concentration 202.
1737 - Mission to deliver assault equipment to Co L started.
1925 - K Co patrol on way.
2230 - Patrol returning. Report at 17 Feb 0007. Patrol leader located mortars on reverse slope. South side of road after PB 39 full of foxholes and AT traps. Bunker large, with four ventilator shafts. Barbed wire in undergrowth around positions.
Summary: Enemy arty active. Enemy strongpoint evidently at PBs 38-39 and Rauher B. Enemy infantry active. Our casualties light.

Feb. 17, 1945

0603 - Jeep accident reported. I and K Co cooks seriously injured.
0623 - Enemy arty fire on Bn positions.
0649 - Bn began attack on PB 26. Arty and mortar fire began attack. Enemy arty fire very heavy. L Co line knocked out. Bn support arty continued firing to “box” area of PB 26 during attack.
0710 - Satchel charges have gone off and flame-throwers moved in. But attack did not succeed. Enemy arty fire very heavy. Lines out. Casualties received.
0755 - Heavy “Screaming Meemie” fire fell on Battalion positions. L Co requested arty support and support was given.
0918 - Assault party ready to attack again. Germans coming out of adjacent area.
1130 - PB 26 taken. Lt Karp (L Co) had been inside. All casualties were walking wounded. PB 26 has revolving turret and periscope.
1655 - Mortar fire on our positions. Heavy enemy arty fire fell on Battalion until 2030, consistently damaging communications. Casualties relatively light.
2344 - Report received at CP that man of K Co. had stepped on mine. Litter squad called for Pfc Ralph E Bishop, killed. Lt Brooks, T/Sgt Podolack wounded by mine. Bishop’s body was not recovered until next day by Charles McBroom and James L Mynes of K Co.
Summary: The Battalion made the first attack on a pillbox, and pillbox was taken after enemy withdrew. The action drew very heavy retaliatory fire from the enemy. It was learned from the action that alternative means of communication were essential in an attack; also that an arty preparation must be followed rapidly by satchel charges, flame throwers and WP grenades. Flame throwers ineffective unless brought right up to objective immediately after fire lifts.

Feb. 18, 1945

0430 - PW deserter, Corporal, brought to CP. Prisoner went from PB 21 to PB 22. He stated that 10 men were still in 21 and that 20, which was supply point, had cupola, 3 MGs, 30 men. Food being delivered once daily to PB 20, from where it was picked up by carrying parties from other pillboxes.
0536 - Heavy enemy mortar fire on L Co positions. Arty fire received throughout morning on all Bn positions.
0855 - First Bn reported capture of PB 19. One prisoner taken, one German killed. Enemy firing rockets on PB 19.
0900 - Three prisoners brought to CP. They reported that PB 38-39 have a company of 46 men in them. 15 men in PB 38. Three MGs and MPs (machine pistols) around PBs. Morale of enemy low.
1605 - Enemy arty and mortar fire all afternoon.
2217 - L Co took PB 30. “No prisoners, no casualties, no nothing.” Squad remained in PB to hold.
Summary: PB line gradually being reduced. More information gained concerning enemy at PB 38-39.

Feb. 19, 1945

0624 - Attack on PB 21 launched by K Co. After arty preparations, satchel charges were used at 0631. Heavy enemy small-arms fire was received from adjacent PBs.
0705 - PB 21 was taken. Five casualties were sustained from fire from other PBs. Lt. LeRouax hit.
1730 - Psychological warfare broadcast directed at enemy.
1750 - Fierce enemy arty fire directed at Bn along entire front. Fire continued intermittently for an hour.
1900 - Seven PWs brought to CP by L Co. On questioning, prisoners revealed they were from PB 23 and had quit because their supplied had been cut off. Did not hear psychological broadcast.
2157 - I Co reported flight of “buzz” bombs overhead. Report confirmed by wire crew and others.
Summary: New gains were made against the PB line. The Battalion learned to seek cover after a psychological warfare broadcast.

Feb. 20, 1945

0600 - “Breakfast barrage” received. Mortars, followed by screaming meemies, at 0614.
1030 - Arty fire fell on Bn positions.
1500 - Rockets fell vicinity PB 22, which reported that fire came from GC 064-042. Arty directed on that point and mission declared completed.
2000 - All Bn elements declared their sectors quiet.
Summary: Action of day consisted of holding in place and dodging arty shells.

Feb. 21, 1945

After the breakfast barrage which began at 0510 and ended at 0535, a quiet day was had by the Bn.

2245 - L Co jumped off to take PBs 23 and 24. The latter was taken at 2330 and was found to be filthy and unoccupied. PB 23 was taken shortly thereafter and was found to be partly demolished with two dead Germans outside. L Co did not occupy either pillbox.

Feb. 22, 1945

The enemy breakfast barrage began at 0440 and ended at 0510. Except for another session of enemy arty fire on Bn positions at noon, the day was quiet. Two PWs brought in by K Co early in the morning gave additional information concerning the enemy and defenses to our front, chiefly in the vicinity of PBs 38-39. One company with four MGs and MPs defending the point.

[Special note not dealing with the History of the 3d Bn 273rd Inf Rgt:

On Feb 22, two Platoons from Co’s A and B (1st Bn) 273rd Inf Rgt suffered a loss of 51 men and many injured in an explosion in a barn in nearby Mieschied when one or more of a "Satchel" or "Beehive" charge they carried was accidentally triggered in a barn while the Platoons were waiting to move on a patrol mission. It was the highest number of 69th Div men killed and wounded in a single day in WWII. Mieschied, a farm village, would be passed through by the 3rd Bn Feb 28.]

Feb. 23, 1945

Our arty was active during early hours of morning, with the result that one of our patrols had to return after being pinned down by MG fire. Enemy was alerted to a possible attack. Two enemy arty barrages fell on Bn positions at 2015 and 2045. Bennie patrol, on return, reported mines and MG emplacements on Rauher B. Trails on Rauher B were well beaten.

Feb. 24, 1945

Enemy arty was not as active as usual. Some sniper fire on our positions came from Rauher B. A report was received that a new crew had taken over positions at PBs 38-39. Dervish White had some action in that vicinity between 2045-2115. Their contact patrol to K Co drew heavy MG fire, some of which fell on K Co’s area. Our mortars eventually quieted the enemy.

Feb. 25, 1945

Lt. Sullivan returned with his combat patrol to Rauher B (0130). He reported knocking out an MG position with a grenade and getting two additional Germans, one with a “grease gun,” one with a carbine. Patrol drew very heavy fire in locating enemy strongpoint at base of Rauher B. Patrol had to abandon radio in withdrawing. Remainder of day was relatively quiet, and consisted of mortar fire on them.

Feb. 26, 1945

Early in the morning, Dervish White had another scrap with the occupants of PBs 38-39. Late in the day, supporting TDs moved into prepared positions on Bn front. A few rockets fell on Bn positions at 1910.

Feb. 27, 1945

0630 - Friendly arty began to reduce Giescheid in preparation for 2nd Bn’s attack.
0935 - G Co was in the town and F Co was moving abreast on the right. Casualties very light. Most resistance was from mortars and mines.
1135 - Heavy mortar fire fell on Bn positions. More enemy arty, largely rockets, fell later in the day. Patrol at night reported that new defenses were being prepared on Rauher B.
2345 - The CP of I Co was reported in flames due to overturned kerosene pot. Nobody injured, but some equipment lost.

Feb. 28, 1945

0620 - I Co moved back to go into Div reserve. The enemy seemed to be withdrawing from Miescheid and Kamberg was occupied by 2nd Bn. Preparations were made for the Bn to attack to the east. I Co on the left toward Rauher B, K Co on the left toward PBs 38-39. Some enemy arty and sniper fire was received, the latter from Rauher B.

Mar. 1, 1945

0500 - Bn attack began.
0710 - I Co radioed that they were on their first objective, Rauher B. At approximately the same time, K Co seized PBs 38-39. Prisoners were taken by both Companies. Casualties were light, K Co suffering some from a mine explosion. Pfc Joseph Stull, Jr. K Co killed by mine.
0732 - K Co moved toward its second objective.
0745 - I Co moved forward in its zone.
0817 - K Co reached its objective.
0903 - I Co was on its objective. Companies of the 1st Bn attacked and kept abreast on the left. Co I and K reorganized and prepared to defend the ground they had taken, since they were not to advance farther except on Regimental order.
1230-1245 - Heavy enemy arty fire was received in the new positions. Co L moved forward to the vicinity of PBs 38-39. Co L and Co M established CPs in the pillboxes and prepared defenses to the right flank.

Mar. 2, 1945

First official notice of impending relief of the Bn was received. Advance parties of the 2nd Bn 272 Inf arrived at our front.

1630 - About six rounds of enemy arty fell in the vicinity of the Bn CP in Neuhof. Fire was drawn by increased traffic – vehicles of the 272md and of Regtl Hq, 273 Inf, which was moving its Forward 2-3 CP to PB 17.

Mar. 3, 1945

Action of the day consisted of maintaining defensive positions until relieved in place. Relief began after darkness, and as effected, companies moved back to their original positions in Neuhof. Preparations were begun to move north – the whole Regiment to take up positions on the left of the 271st Inf. This meant an extension of the Division front, with almost complete commitment.

Mar. 4, 1945

0300 - Relief of the Bn was complete.

The Bn moved west out of Neuhof, on foot back to the cover of the forest on the International Highway. The march was conducted by “straggling,” and the widely dispersed troops were aided by sleet and very poor visibility. No fire was drawn. Trucks were boarded early in the afternoon, and the convoy started north. I Co was stationed in Helenthal; the rest of the Bn went to Schoneseiffen. One Platoon of L Co moved forward to relieve a Platoon on the bank of the river facing the enemy. Platoon was to act as OP.

Unit relieved was 1st Bn 110th Inf 28th Div. The 1st and 2nd Bns of the 273rd went on line, and the 3rd Bn went into reserve. To the front was Schleiden, the same pillbox line that had faced the Regt farther south, and an enemy that was facing encirclement by great advances in the north and the south.

Mar. 5, 1945

Action consisted of sending special patrols to probe enemy line across river. Patrol reported that all PBs seemed to be occupied. Enemy patrols were active on the east bank of the river.

Mar. 6, 1945

Patrol action only. Platoon of L Co attached to 1st Bn.

Mar. 7, 1945

Much information about the pillbox line was obtained by patrols. Lt Col Shaughnessey and staff went forward into the area of the 109th Inf to reconnoiter positions in view of possible deployment there.

Mar. 8, 1945

Orders were received from Regt to prepare to move by marching to the vicinity of Hecken. Night march specified. Distance: approx 12 miles.

Mar. 9, 1945

A march began at 0100. I Co fell in with the Bn at Hellenthal. The march was extremely rough – over the worst possible trails. Ruts were deep and filled with mud and water. Hills all the way. Most bridges had been blown by the retreating enemy, and narrow, double-track bridge had been thrown up by our Engineers. These were difficult to navigate in the blackness. It was dawn and cold, with a trace of snow in the air, when the Bn reached Hecken. Regimental Hq was already established in Hecken as were other troops that were due to move. K Co moved through Hecken to Paulshof.

Mar. 10-16, 1945

Action in Hecken consisted of patrolling areas surrounding the town and checking all civilians and activities.

At 1204 on 12 March, an order was received preparing the Bn to move the following day, but later the order was canceled. It soon became apparent that larger movements were pinching out the Division.

At 1800 on 16 March, another order was received that the Bn was to move on 17 March.

Mar. 17, 1945

After a motor march through an area dotted with pillboxes and entrenchments, now empty, the Bn closed into Queckenburg at 1530. The Regiment was on a detached mission, under Army control, to repair and maintain the MSR (Main Supply Route) to the Remagen bridgehead and new pontoon crossings that were springing up. Companies were alerted to have work details ready to start the following morning, and they were also alerted for a probable motor move in order to get closer to the work.

Mar. 18, 1945

Bn moved by motors. Bn was responsible for stretch of road working under Engineer supervision: the town of Kuchenheim, near Euskirchen. I Co moved to a hamlet north of their area of responsibility around Essig. Work on the road was begun immediately.

Mar. 19, 1945

The Bn continued to work on the road, widening it by removing trees and extending the shoulders, draining it, and resurfacing it where necessary. Orders to move were received, and the motor march began March 23. I and M Co closed into the new bivouac area in Bad Neuenahr at 1930; K, L and Hq closed in shortly before midnight.

Mar. 24, 1945

Bad Neuenahr, a former resort center, was more or less a rest period for the Bn. Rhine wine was to be had in 5-gal water cans. Orders were received to move on March 26.

Mar. 26, 1945

The Bn, after another march, closed into Burgbrohl, a small farming village. Motor patrols, chiefly to the south and east, became the order of the day.

Mar. 27, 1945

Orders were received to move. By truck, the foot troops were taken to the Rhine, while the Bn motors prepared to cross to the north. During the evening, troops began to cross the Rhine in Navy landing craft. After a short march, bivouac was made in fields near Bendorf. Orders were issued for the next day’s advance to the east. A mopping-up operation was indicated.

Mar. 28, 1945

The advance, originally by motors, began 0700. The Bn passed thru Valender, Ehrenbreitstein, Arenber, Bad Ems, Nassau. At Oberhof, the Bn detrucked and proceeded afoot. Laurenburg was cleared and I Co left a squad to hold the town. No resistance was met; many weapons and 22 PWs were taken. The Bn swung north, cleared Scheidt, and moved into Holzappel, where Regtl Hq was being established. I, K, Hq Co and the Bn CP then moved to Horhausen and assumed responsibility for the area around that town. L and M Co moved to Langenscheid, after moving along and clearing the road on the bank of the Lahn River.

Mar. 29, 1945

During the early morning hours, outposts reported many enemy troops moving about. Patrols went out and took over 90 PWs, most of whom submitted without struggle. Only in one action did a fire fight develop when a machine pistol was fired at a patrol. No casualties resulted. Approx. 25 more PWs taken during the day.

Mar. 30, 1945

The Bn moved from Horhausen toward objective: Aumenau. K Co, mounted on TDs of Co C, 661st TD Bn, led the move, followed by Bn motors. Hirschberg was passed at 0807, Gorgeshausen at 0815, Niedertiefenbach at 0900. The Bn closed into Aumenau at 1230 without meeting any resistance.

Mar. 31, 1945

Patrol action only. Some PWs taken.

Apr. 19, 1945

Orders were received to prepare for a long motor move. The Bn was on the move late in the afternoon. L Co mounted on TDs in the lead, Lt Col Shaughnessey leading the motor column immediately behind. The move was to the northeast to the vicinity of Kassel, more than 100 miles distant.

Apr. 2, 1945

The Bn moved all during the night, along one side of the Ruhr pocket, Marburg, and after light had come, Bad Wildungen, were passed. The Bn closed into Altenstadt at 1040. Patrols went into action, and some PWs were rounded up. Although, at first appearance, the operation seemed to be another of mopping-up, it was much more than that. Along with other infantry and armored units, the 69th Div formed the easternmost wall of the Ruhr pocket, and the farthest advanced elements of the First Army forces. Preparations were made for immediate moves to the east.

Apr. 3, 1945

After a foot march, the Bn closed into Escheberg. K and I Co moved farther to the northeast to take and secure two important heights. They were successful – no opposition. A number of PWs were corralled in the area.

Apr. 4, 1945

Mission of establishing defensive positions carried out. Patrols swept the area carefully for isolated pockets of resistance. At 2340, Regiment called, preparing the Bn to move at 0630 the next morning.

Apr. 5, 1945

The Bn moved thru Ehrsten, Furstenwald, Weimar, Heckershausen, and Obervellmar. Then, on orders, the Bn moved to clear Frommershausen, Simmshausen, and Speele, where boat crossings were found over Fulda River. A number of prisoners were taken, especially at Speele, where German soldiers hiding in the woods above the river came down to surrender to a handful of Americans. Morale of Germans was very low, and they were being encouraged to quit by German civilians.

Apr. 6, 1945

The Bn on foot crossed the Fulda River at Speele and moved out to attack Lutterberg. K Co led, followed by I Co and M Co. L Co remained in Speele to patrol the bridgehead and follow later. Strong resistance was met in Lutterberg. Machine guns, rifles, and 88s mounted on Tiger tanks stopped the Bn.

I Co was deployed on a flanking movement from the left. Under a heavy preparation of marching fire, K and I Co attacked late in the afternoon. The town was taken. The tanks had withdrawn, but 45 prisoners were taken.

Tanks and Tank Destroyers were brought up for an attack in the morning. Infantry troops mounted the tanks, which moved across the Autobahn in preparation for the attack.

Apr. 7, 1945

The Bn attacked in two columns, generally to the northeast. Column A met strong opposition from three or four Tiger tanks hidden in the heavy woods that menaced the entire route of the column. One of our tanks, a scout car, and two 1/4 Ts were knocked out in one engagement. A terrific fire fight developed. The armor could not proceed, so K Co, followed by L Co, advanced thru the woods on the left of the road. K Co came to a road at right angles to the road on their right. The Company deployed along the road prior to crossing and proceeding farther. A ditch and an embankment on the edge of the thick woods provided cover. At this point, a German tank, MGs blazing, broke cover and roared down the road across K Co’s front. Pvt Kellerman, who tried to stop the tank with a bazooka, was killed. Others were wounded, but the embankment served as excellent cover. During the action, Lt Currie (K Co) knocked out a German vehicle with a grenade, killing four occupants. He was later awarded the Silver Star for the action.

Orders were suddenly received rerouting the task force. The tanks came up, the troops boarded them, and the team set out with the mission of seizing the bridge over the Werra River at Hedemunden. Enroute, a German infantry unit was encountered. Concealed in the woods, the Germans opened fire on the lead vehicles with automatic weapons. S/Sgt Mahlum was shot thru the jaw and Sgts Beck and Audette were mortally wounded by the first fire. Mahlum, despite his condition, took control of the lead platoon and deployed it to knock out the enemy position. The German machine gunners were killed and, in the face of withering fire, the remaining Germans quit. Forty prisoners were taken.

A tortuous route, with many roadblocks, was followed to the bridge before Hedemunden. Ziegenhagen was cleared and the team reached the bridge shortly before 2300. As the scouts were approaching the bridge, it went up with a terrific roar. The Bn withdrew to Ziegenhagen for the night.

Column B, in the meantime, had made its way to the Werra River without much resistance. However, the Germans controlled the river from high ground on the opposite side. A patrol was sent across on the remains of a blown railroad bridge. A German MG on the south side of the river fired on them, killing one and wounding two of the four men of I Co. One of the wounded crawled to the edge of the river, where he was rescued by Lt Sullivan and Cpl Nystrom, who later received the Silver Star for paddling across the swift-flowing river in the face of sniper and MG fire. Capt MacFarland [Hq Co Cmdr] spotted the German MG position concealing the enemy. It was later learned that at least one German was shot through the shoulder by this fire. Column B did not get across the Werra River until the following morning.

Apr. 8, 1945

The Bn was ordered to establish a bridgehead at Hedemunden, take 1,000 yards of Autobahn and support advance of 1st Bn from the West. The First Bn had crossed the Werra in assault boats, and elements of 3rd Bn in Column B had crossed at the same place during the morning. As L Co moved out of Ziegenhagen, a German Lieutenant PW was brought to the CP. Formerly an Engineer in Italy, he had been sent to Hedemunden eight days previously to prepare the bridge for demolition. The bridge had been wired electrically and with fuse. The Lieutenant stated that he and a Captain had been on the south bank of the river when the 3rd Bn approached. They had thrown the switch without result. The Captain had run across the bridge and lit the fuse from the other side, and the explosion resulted. The Lieutenant decided not to swim the river, but to hole up for the night and give up in the morning.

At 1730, L Co reported Hedemunden cleared without opposition. The Bn marched east to Gertenbach, earlier target of a tactical air mission, still smoldering. There were few billets due to the presence of the 271st Inf. Co K plus a Platoon from M Co moved to Albshausen.

Apr. 9, 1945

Orders were received that the 3rd Bn was to be attached to the 9th Armored Div for a great attack, starting the following morning. The attack had as its objective the Elbe River and a meeting with the Russians. A week was allotted – the distance, approximately 200 miles. The Bn was to be with Combat Command R (CCR), one of the three forces that composed the spearhead.

Apr. 10, 1945

As CCA and CCR passed thru the 69th Div zone, the 2nd Bn, 273rd, motorized, followed CCA, and the 3rd Bn, 273rd, motorized, followed CCR. Due to the length of armored columns, the infantry did not get started until late in the morning. The armor made good progress during the day, and the 3rd Bn was not called upon for help. Heiligenstadt, Kalteneber, Muhlhausen, Schlotheim were passed. Toward nightfall, the armor met resistance; after cleaning Blankenburg, it asked for and received permission to remain there overnight. The 3rd Bn quartered in Isserheiligen.

Apr. 11, 1945

The Bn moved out at 1100. At 1235, a report was received that the armor was at Kolleda. The Bn passed thru Lutzensommern, Schilfa, Scherndorf, Kolleda. At 1800, the Bn, less Co I and one Platoon of tanks, was ordered to billet in Roldisleben. Co I and the tanks went to secure Bachra, CP for CCR. During the day, the armor had made contact with the 6th Armored Division to the south. Hardisleben was the farthest point of advance for the day. At 2100, orders were received to take or bypass Naumburg on 12 April.

Apr. 12, 1945

The Bn moved out at 0915. It passed Pleismar at 1040. A report was received at 1240 that the bridge the column intended to cross into Naumburg was blown. As reconnaissance elements hunted other crossings, the 3rd Bn held up in Burghessler, where it remained till 1455. Orders were received to proceed east and north to the route of TFD [Task Force Deevers], and then into Naumburg.

Naumburg had been taken practically by Recon elements alone. Resistance was light, although thousands of prisoners were taken in the city. K Co was left in the city to guard the prisoners, the bridge, and other installations. Orders were changed several times as the Bn proceeded. For a time, it was supposed to move east and then attack Weissenfels from the south. This order was changed and the Bn halted temporarily in Obernessa. The final order was to continue the advance to the east without delay. It was hoped that movement during the night would gain some ground and put the column into a more advantageous position before daybreak.

Apr. 13, 1945

Progress during the night was very slow. The Bn passed thru Unternessa-Dipplesdorf, Naundorf and Theissen, which was burning. At daylight, Lt. Col. Wesner [CCR Cmdr], commanding TFS [Task Force Shaughnessey], gave the Bn the mission of seizing a bridge reported intact over the Weisse Elster River and clearing enough ground beyond to allow the passage of the column of CCR without interference from small arms or arty. The Bn proceeded northeast through Nonnewitz, Pirkau, Draschwitz, Beersdorf. Here the Bn turned east, toward the river and Altengroitzsch.

As the Bn entered the open ground before the river, air bursts from the enemy 88s began to fall upon the column. Co I in the lead immediately dismounted from TDs and trucks and attacked Altengroitzsch and the high ground overlooking the plain. It was evident that the enemy OPs directing fire upon the column were located there.

Already across the Weisse Elster, L Co advanced across the waist-deep Schwennigke River. With the 1st Platoon on the right and the 3rd Platoon on the left, L Co cleared Altengroitzsch against sniper fire and continuous 88mm air bursts. The 3rd Platoon then started north to investigate a group of buildings 350 yards across an open field. The 1st Platoon moved east to check an enemy searchlight position and several buildings. When 75 yards from its objective, the 3rd Plat drew fierce MG, rifle and 88mm fire. They had run into the enemy strongpoint. The men nearest the wood on the left managed to get into it, while the rest of the platoon was pinned down. Many were killed and wounded.

A line was built up in the woods, and MG, rifle and mortar fire was directed on the enemy positions. The 1st Plat on the right flank tried to support the 3rd Plat by flanking the enemy. Again there was only open terrain to cross. After covering 300 yards, the 1st Plat drew 88 fire and small arms fire. The Platoon had to withdraw. Two men were killed, three wounded.

The 3rd Plat was now inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy by its fire from the woods. M Co in position was directing mortar and MG fire in support of L Co. In the meantime, the armor was advancing along the route cleared by L Co. There was no enemy observation or direct fire on the armored column. As L Co held during the day, two task forces of CCR, and one task force of the 6th Armored Div, rolled past without casualty.

Its mission completed, the 3rd Bn was withdrawn shortly before nightfall. In the 13-hour battle, Co L lost 11 killed, 11 wounded. M Co lost 1 killed. Of the 200 enemy engaged, 90 were killed, an estimated 25 were wounded, 5 were captured. Inspection of the area south of Groitzsch uncovered 23 88mm guns, evidently part of the outer defense belt of Leipzig.

For the night, I and M Co went to Beersdorf, Hq and L Co went to Elstertrebnitz.

Apr. 14, 1945

At 1000 the Bn was ordered to move to Wildenhain, south of Borna, which was giving strong opposition. This move was completed without event at 1630. I Co remained in Ramsdorf, a kilometer distant, with CCR Hq. K Co returned from Naumburg during the evening.

Apr. 15, 1945

The Bn moved out of Wildenhain at 1000. After passing thru Breitingen, Blumroda, Wyhra, Schonau, Elbisbach and Hopfgarten, the Bn reached Ebersbach at 1400. At 1600, the Bn received from CCR Hq at Schonbach the following message: “Take Colditz and recapture Limeys.” Orders were immediately given for the attack on Colditz. From a departure point at Hohnbach, I Co was to move southeast, cross the Mulde River on a railroad bridge which had been taken intact, and then attack Colditz from the south. K Co was to attack that part of Colditz on the west bank of the river, and L Co was to follow K Co. Self-propelled artillery of the 9th Armd Div was in position to give supporting fire, and there was also fire on call from the tanks and TDs attached to the Bn.

By 1900, the companies were in position to launch the attack, and artillery preparation was laid down. From the start, I Co had a rough time. All the resistance proved to be on the east side of the river, and that part of Colditz east of the river was by far the greater part of Colditz. I Co was hardly across their LD [line of departure] when they were met by heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Panzerfausts were used also by the Germans in the close-in fighting that developed.

All the assistance possible in the form of artillery fire was given to I Co, but as darkness fell, it became evident that the eastern portion of Colditz could not be cleared that night. Four men, including two Platoon Sergeants, T/Sgt Gallaher and T/Sgt Hadaway, had been killed, and eight men, including Lt Ryan, platoon leader, had been wounded [all from I Co].

Meanwhile, K Co had encountered little difficulty clearing that part of Colditz on the west bank of the river. It was only when the Company approached the bridge between the two parts of the town that resistance was met. In an attempt to check the bridge, T/Sgt Miskovic was killed and another man was wounded. The German guards on the bridge were also killed.

I and K Co set up local defenses for the night, and L Co was withdrawn to Hohnbach, where Lt Colonel Shaughnessey gave Capt MacLane orders for an attack with I Co at daybreak.

Apr. 16, 1945

During the dark hours of morning, Co L crossed the railroad bridge that I Co had used, and moved abreast of I Co. Phase lines were set up by the two companies for the attack thru the town. But an attack was not necessary that bright Monday morning; the Germans had withdrawn. A few prisoners were taken. And then developed one of the wildest days in the Battalion’s history – when the Allied POWs in the Colditz Castle were freed.

Here were 1,600 officers – French, English, and a few Americans – some of whom had been prisoners since the days of Dunkirk. All these officers had distinguished themselves at one time or another by efforts to escape – hence their imprisonment at Colditz.

News and motion-picture photographers were on hand for the liberation. A few GIs were there among the milling, celebrating crowd – but it was the prisoner’s day. Colorful uniforms of many nations were in the throng – and many “characters,” as the GIs called them, sporting a variety of mustaches, beards, and long haircuts.

A curious angle of the whole affair was the complete indifference shown to the numerous German soldiers wandering around the courtyard of the castle. This was a result of agreements reached between the German garrison and the captives before their liberation. Hearing of the Americans’ approach, the garrison had decided not to put up a fight, but to surrender the castle to the prisoners and await capture. Elements of the German army that resisted the attack on Colditz had nothing to do with the Colditz garrison, and these had withdrawn to be picked up later.

Another curious twist of fate was that the one arty shell that pierced the castle’s walls during the attack had killed one man – a German officer much disliked by the prisoners. Every effort had been made to keep arty from falling on the castle, but a few had scarred the thick walls.

As the freed prisoners, producing liquors from undisclosed sources, began the celebration that lasted far into the night, L Co moved out of Colditz to prepare defenses in Zachadrass, and I Co moved out to Hausdorf. K Co remained west of the Mulde; M Co and Hq set up in Colditz proper. The castle became the Bn CP.

Apr. 17-19, 1945

The Battalion remained in place, chiefly concerned with patrol activity and the evacuation of the prisoners. Many reports came in that Germans were active to the front, but our patrols pushed out four or five miles without resistance. Some stragglers were picked up.

At Bockwitz, on April 19, an L Co patrol had the misfortune to be the target of a misdirected artillery barrage from our own forces. An artillery liaison plane, unconnected with the Bn, spotted the patrol and its vehicles and, assuming them to be enemy, the observer called for fire upon them. Five men were wounded, and a number of civilians were killed.

Apr. 20, 1945

The Battalion received orders to move to the vicinity of Grimma after being relieved by elements of the 2nd Division. The Battalion was to revert back to the control of the 273rd Inf 69th Division.

Relief was completed at 1545, and the Battalion motorized movement out of Colditz at 1615. The route led west to Bad Lausick, then to Altenhain, a German munitions dump which the Battalion was to guard. L Co, en route, was sent on a separate mission to Grosposnna, where a German force was reported to be.

April 21

The Battalion completed its relief of the 89th Recon elements at the Munitions Dump, and began to set up in the camp. There were quite a few administration buildings in the dump, and these served as excellent quarters – similar to a garrison setup in the States.

From the first, there were numerous reports of the approach of the Russians, and the Regiment sent many patrols out to contact them. Russian speakers were at a premium, and were collected from all units to accompany the patrols. Also, there were several warning orders for attacks on strategically located towns on the Mulde, but the Battalion was never called on for these tasks. L Co returned from Grosposnna.

Apr. 22-25, 1945

A camp for freed Allied prisoners was set up by the Battalion, under a separate headquarters, in the buildings that had formerly housed laborers at the munitions dump. Thousands of French, English, Indian Colonials and other nationals were soon being processed thru the camp. Here they were fed, cleaned, and eventually started on their way home.

On the 24th, I Co was attached to the 1st Bn for an attack on Wurzen. Wurzen was taken without difficulty, and I Co remained on the west bank of the Mulde River at Bennewitz.

Until the Company returned several days later, its work consisted of directing streams of German POWs back into our enclosures. These, and many civilians who came across the Mulde, preferred capture by the Americans rather than by the Russians.

On the 25th, the first contact was made with the Russians by elements of the 273rd Inf at three places on the Elbe River.

With this Russian-American contact, the fighting against Nazi Germany virtually came to an end by the 3rd Battalion, 273rd Infantry Regiment and all Allied units.


The source of this history:

Alan H. Murphey, 1st Bn Co 273rd Infantry Regiment, set out to write a history of the 273rd Infantry Regiment. He submitted five detailed articles that appeared in 69th Bulletins before he died. The first appeared in Bulletin VOLUME 46 NO 1, SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER - N0VEMBER - DECEMBER, 1992. The primary source of materials were wartime 273rd records from the Suitland Branch of the National Archives. Other sources included recollections of former 273rd members and published military histories. Among his papers was this 3rd Battalion history published here, with a note that the attached papers are verbatim extracts of a history of the 3rd Bn handwritten in a bound journal believed to have been written by 3rd Battalion S-3 Operations S/Sgt Rudolph Baum. It came from Sgt Gerald Brown, Co M 273 who obtained it from Alan Murphey. Brown gave the document to Wendell Meggs, Co K 273, who gave a copy to James Mynes, Co K 273, that the 69th Infantry Website obtained.

Last edited October 13, 2010.

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