Anti-Tank Company’s mission is just what the name implies – that is, to
provide flank and rear protection for the Regiment.
Its 4th or Mine Platoon’s mission is to mark and breech enemy
minefields and to clear roads before the advancing riflemen.
Had the 272nd
Infantry Regiment’s Anti-Tank Company worked according to the books, it would
have done just that – but it was a different story for them.
Their Gun Platoons were found up forward with the Battalions, and when
they were not used for that purpose, the Company as a whole became a highly
mobile rifle unit. The 4th Platoon
not only marked and breeched minefields, but also cleared them.
The landing on
the shores of France – D Day Plus 221 – was an uneventful one.
All they knew was that Le Havre was a mere skeleton of a city, and the
weather was freezing. After spending some time in France, they went into the
Ardennes preparing to move into the front lines.
There in that shell-shattered forest, they saw their first German
soldier. Fritz, the only occupant
of the area, was definitely dead. After
everyone had looked at him, T 5 Joseph Marien, a former mortician, buried him,
with “Chaplain” 1st Lt Kenneth M. Lemon officiating at the burial.
On the line,
things began to pop up, with the 1st Platoon claiming to be the focal point of a
strafing attack by German-flown P-47s. The
4th Platoon spent many hours clearing the extensive minefields of the Siegfried
Line under fire. It was there,
clearing a minefield, that T Sgt Darwin H. Van Houton lost his foot when he
stepped on a Schu Mine. Sgt Van
Houton, though painfully wounded, lay in the field instructing the men on how to
probe their way to him. Had Sgt Van
Houton fallen differently from the way he did, his head would have been blown
off. Upon reaching him, Sgt Tony
Concatelli and PFC Leon Hubermann, Medic, found a Schu mine less than two feet
from his head.
operations against the enemy, the 4th Platoon cleared numerous minefields,
pulling well over 400 Holz (Anti-Tank) Mines and over 150 Schu (Anti-Personnel)
Mines. That action gave the members
of the Platoon the honor of being one of the first units in the Regiment to
receive the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. When
the Regiment moved up to the line, the Gun Platoons moved up, with the
Battalions in close support. The
biggest thing there was the fake enemy counter-attack against the troops at
Gescheid and Reischeid. That night,
men on guard had visions of enemy soldiers armed with knives, piano wire, and
other forms of death-dealing equipment sneaking through the town looking just
for them. The mirage passed
order to maintain our principal mission of Anti-Tank protection, Capt Harry G.
Austin, Jr., organized a bazooka team within each Platoon.
This squad, made up of the three bazooka teams, a radio operator, a squad
leader (Corporal), and the Platoon leader, was to proceed on foot with the
Battalion that the Platoon was attached to, if the road conditions made it
impossible to move guns and trucks.
The taking of
Dahlem was the testing ground for Capt Austin’s plan. The enemy had blown a roadblock across the 1st and 3rd
Battalions’ route of attack, so that trucks could not proceed.
Off the trucks went, eight men under the command of 2nd Lt James T.
Hatcher, and joined the advance elements of the 3rd Battalion and marched into
Dahlem. As the 1st Battalion moved
into Dahlem on the heels of the 3rd, another bazooka squad, under command of 1st
Lt Kenneth M. Lemon, moved with them. Not
only the Gun Platoons played their part in this action, but also the 4th Platoon
moved with the forward elements. Reports
stated that the enemy had probably mined the road through the forest, making it
impossible for vehicles. Therefore, ahead of the troops, armed with M-1s and
mine detectors, walked the Mine Platoon men under the able command of Sgt Paul
In Dahlem, the
1st Platoon of K Company, under command of T Sgt Frank Livers, was attached to
Anti-Tank Company for training as an auxiliary Mine Platoon.
The Platoon was to be used to ease the strain on the 4th Platoon.
Shortly after joining, the heroic actions in the Battle of the Siegfried
Line caused two members of the Platoon to be presented with the Silver Star and
two others to receive the Bronze Star. The
Platoon left to rejoin Company K while in Osterfeld, Germany.
From Dahlem, the
Anti-Tank Company went on to the Rhine at Brohl. Here they had the mission of protecting the Victor Bridge
just above the Remagen Bridge.
When Combat Team
272 went into action on the east side of the Rhine, the 4th Platoon again saw
action. This time, it was the
clearing of Fortress Ehrenbreitstein, the last place the American flag was flown
after the last war by the Army of Occupation.
The way to
Kassel was uneventful, except for one town, to which S Sgt Bruno J. Stefanoni
brought in 183 prisoners (displaced personnel).
Now, he is known as “Sgt York” Stefanoni.
the Gun Platoons followed in close support of the Battalions to Witzenhausen.
There, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Platoons went into the city to give close
support to the two crossings of the Werra River.
The next morning, the Jerries opened up with self-propelled 88s on the
infantry crossing the support bridge and sent the 3rd Platoon scurrying for
foxholes. Those who had none of
these lovely items dug them very quickly. On
that day, it looked as though a shell had landed on top of Able Squad’s gun
position; the shell landed close enough to shake in the sides of the foxholes.
T Sgt Robert Hegge took off to see what the score was.
Just as he got going at top speed, another shell came in.
They say that Sgt Hegge slid six feet when he hit the dirt.
Witzenhausen, the Platoon went wild for prisoners, who were the order of the
day. In one town that was taken by
the 1st Platoon, there was a Messerschmitt parts factory. Three men, S Sgt Edward J. Oakley, Cpl Calvin Hine, and T 5
Charles Hawes, entered the factory and found in the main office a detonator
wired to blow the building and surrounding area. Cpl Hine disconnected the detonator at his own risk and
prevented anyone from carrying out the order to blow the factory.
In that town, the 1st Platoon captured 15 prisoners, and PFC Leon
Hubermann performed an amputation on a girl civilian whose leg had been
shattered by our artillery.
the Company, with the rest of the Regiment, was strafed. Through that action, a number of Purple Hearts were earned by
members of the Company. One man was
seriously hurt and, now well on the way to recovery, Pvt Melvin Keller has not
yet returned to the Company.
the Company moved into the attack of Leipzig.
The next day, the Company, acting as a Regimental spearhead, took the
town of Otlerwisch, capturing 31 prisoners.
From there, the
Company went to Borsdorf, which was captured by the 1st and 3rd Platoons.
They stayed there until the Regiment moved against Leipzig.
into Leipzig, 1st Lt John R. Kemper, Sgt Herbert Bodman, T 5 Unno Gustafson, T 5
Eldrige Killen, PFC David Ballon, and PFC Rufus Adams set out to capture an SS
Trooper and an enemy Pak gun on the Reichsautobahn north of Borsdorf.
The gun had pulled out, but they did get the SS Trooper after a climaxing
In Leipzig, the
2nd Platoon under the command of 2nd Lt Robert Hennessy followed F Company in
close support. The Platoon captured
over 100 prisoners, among them SS Troopers.
PFC Edward Adamy, acting as radio operator, maintained radio communication with
both 2nd Battalion and Anti-Tank Company. The
1st and 3rd Platoons followed, giving Anti-Tank support to the reserve
Company figured in the Regiment’s historic meeting with the Russians.
In Torgau, the Germans had laid mines to prevent troops from reaching the
Elbe. These were cleared by joint
action of the 1st Battalion’s A & P Platoon and the 4th Platoon of
Regiment moved to Mockrehna, the Company moved up to provide an anti-tank
security net. While there, the 3rd
Platoon captured 67 prisoners and captured and destroyed five enemy 20-mm
Anti-Aircraft guns. The 2nd Platoon
at Grafendorf patrolled the area averaging 20 prisoners each day.
The members of
the Anti-Tank Company are proud to have been a part of and to have fought with
the Battle Axe Regiment of the Fighting 69th Division throughout this series of
campaign. The men know that their
Company will go down in the pages of military history as a hard-fighting,
hard-hitting, and fast-moving Combat Team.