Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
This is one of a series of G.I. Stories of the Ground, Air and Service Forces in the European Theater, issued by the Orientation Branch, Information and Education Division, Hq., USFET... Brigadier General M. B. Halsey, commanding the 97th Infantry Division, lent his cooperation, and basic material was supplied by his staff.
In our engagements in the ETO, your valor and determination never slackened. The concerted drives of the 97th Division never faltered. While much of your work was spectacular, let me record here that the principal measure of success is attributable to the workmanship and the professional approach by all ranks to the varied tasks assigned them. As Commander of this Division, I congratulate you for the magnificent job you performed in the Battle of the Ruhr Pocket and repeated in the Czechoslovakian campaign.
With the background of training for the Pacific Ocean Area which so fortunately we have, we rightfully regard
The 97th Infantry Division will be ready for its next task. My confidence in the wearers of the Trident, being well founded, is unlimited.
THE STORY OF THE 97th INFANTRY DIVISION
Exploding 88s, chattering German machine guns and whining sniper bullets offered proof enough that the war wasn't over, even if the end were in sight.
While America prematurely celebrated Germany's unconditional surrender, members of the Trident Division fully were aware of Field Marshal von Kesselring's declaration that his Seventh Army never would surrender; that the SS coordinator for the Czechoslovakian area repeatedly emphasized the Nazi defenders would "fight to the bitter end;" that the German-controlled radio in Prague still called upon all Nazis to resist Allied forces by every available means.
At this very moment, the 97th was the point of a wedge—a wedge relentlessly hammering Kesselring's defending forces. On its left flank was the famed 1st Infantry Division; on its right, the veteran 2nd Division.
As this powerful striking force regrouped, ready to lash ahead, the end came. At 0816,
But even as men of the Trident Division waited for the official announcement of the surrender to come from Washington, London and Moscow, a lone German fighter plane swooped down to strafe the CP of the 3rd Bn., 303rd Regt.
The 97th had learned the hard way that Nazis die hard. It was with grim satisfaction that this new division also learned that Germans die.
During its brief combat history, the 97th proved its effectiveness by capturing 48,796 prisoners and occupying more than 2000 square miles of "sacred soil." Among cities captured by the division were Dusseldorf, one of the great industrial centers in the Ruhr-Rhine valley; Solingen, headquarters for one of the world's largest manufacturers of cutlery; Siegburg, home of the Glockner Machine Works; Leverkusen, location of the I. G. Farben Industry, one of the world's largest chemical works; Cheb (Eger), first major Czechoslovakian city liberated by American forces.
The 97th Inf. Div. is relatively new in the annals of military history. It originally was organized in September, 1918, but was demobilized Nov. 20 of the same year and reconstituted as an organized reserve unit. The 303rd Inf. Regt. and the 303rd FA Bn. are the only elements now with the division that boast battle streamers from World War I.
The 97th's story in the present global conflict begins with its reactivation Feb. 25, 1943, at Camp Swift, Tex., under the command of Maj. Gen. Louis A. Craig, and extends through
The division was new when it landed at the French port of Le Havre, but it was well-trained. That training paid dividends. It is a long way from the swamps of the Louisiana maneuver area to the woodlands north of the Sieg River, but methods and tactics were the same.
The precision and skill that enabled Div Arty to score bull's-eyes in firing problems at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., produced direct hits on enemy installations in the Ruhr Pocket.
Practice landings on the sunny beaches of California near Camp San Luis Obispo were not unlike the crossing of the Sieg River in the face of fire from the German 3rd Paratroop Div.
The Neptune's Trident, distinguished insignia of the 97th Division, originally was designed to represent Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, the states from which division personnel first was drawn in 1918. Now it represents the courage, initiative and skill of its fighting men who came from every state in the Union.
Maine and New Hampshire are bordered in part by the Atlantic Ocean, hence Neptune's Trident imposed on a Saxon shield. The blue symbolizes the numerous fresh water lakes scattered throughout the three states; the white of the border and Trident represents the snows that cover these states' mountains.
First Strike Against the Fatherland
The division's first assignment was taking up defensive positions along the western bank of the Rhine River opposite Dusseldorf. Here, 97th doughs captured their first prisoners, killed their first Nazi soldiers.
The 389th FA Bn., commanded by Lt. Col. Lawrence G. Kiely, Billings, Mont., fired the first round against the enemy. A 155mm howitzer shell demolished an installation in the suburbs of Dusseldorf.
The 303rd, a light artillery battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Joseph W. Redding, Jeannette, Pa., fired on an enemy gun emplacement across the Rhine in Div Arty's first combat mission. One less German gun emplacement was the result of that round. Members of the gun crew were S/Sgt. Sherman Girdler, Somerset, Ky.; Cpl. James K. Allen, Chicago; Pfc Michael L. Nocera, Execter, Pa.; Pfc Alfred C. Barnow, Boston; Pfc Jack R. Clarke, Independence, Kan.; Pfc Marion D. Myler, Ironton, Ohio; Pfc Remndo Garcia, Phoenix, Ariz.; Pfc Chester S. Pomeranz, Bronx, N.Y.; Pvt. Roy R. Ulness, Strum, Wis.
The 922nd FA Bn., under the command of Lt. Col. William V. Fenton, Lakeland, Fla., and the 365th FA Bn., under Lt. Col. Alfred E. Graham, Oklahoma City, Okla., fired numerous missions across the Rhine, destroying road junctions and blasting enemy gun emplacements.
During the first week of April, the 97th entered its second phase of the war—the Battle of the Ruhr Pocket.
The division moved south, crossing the Rhine near Bonn to establish positions along the southern bank of the Sieg River which runs at right angles to the Rhine. The division front extended eastward from the Rhine approximately 30 miles.
On the north bank of the Sieg and facing the 97th was the German 3rd Paratroop Div., which later proved to be one of the toughest and most fanatical units in the entire Ruhr Pocket. In addition, German forces opposite the 97th sector consisted of the 353rd Inf. Div., 59 Inf. Div. and 7th Flak Div.
A brisk exchange of mortar fire began as soon as the 97th went into the line along the river front. Initiative and skill favored the Trident. Capt. Glenn B. Peterson, Alta, Ia., and 2nd Lt. Jack M. Silverman, Bayonne, N.J., 303rd, located an enemy mortar by determining the trajectory of a dud.
The two officers rushed to a nearby house when an enemy shell pierced the roof and an exterior wall before burying itself in the floor without exploding. By placing a long stick in the floor and pointing it along the line formed by the holes in the wall and roof, they ascertained the azimuth and elevation of the shell. A series of division 81s whammed back along the same route taken by the dud. The enemy mortar failed to return the fire.
The incident typified the initiative of 97th officers and men as they held positions along the Sieg. Then came the order from XVIII Airborne Corps, First Army. It meant one thing—attack!
The 97th was poised for its first major action. What doughs lacked in experience they made up in courage and determination. A typical infantryman's attitude was that of Pvt. Remsen Hunnewell, New York City, 303rd, who said prior to the jump-off: "I'm raring to go. I don't think any of us are nervous. We're just tired of waiting."
97th Buttons Up the Ruhr Pocket
At exactly 1200, the 386th Combat Team, under the command of Col. Samuel M. Lansing, spurted forward, crossing the Sieg in engineer assault boats. Resistance was light because the enemy's main defenses still reeled from artillery's punishing blows. Casualties were negligible. Training, coupled with surprise, paid off.
Once on the opposite shore, the 386th CT immediately regrouped and pressed the attack northward. The first step in the 97th's initial major combat mission was successful. The right flank of the division front poked forward.
Next day, the 387th Combat Team, commanded by Col. William D. Long, jumped off to cross the Sieg in the central sector of the division's front. The crossing was effected against light enemy resistance. Main support of the crossing was furnished by the 922nd Light Artillery Bn. The unit consolidated and the second 97th spearhead stabbed northward into the Ruhr.
On the left flank, Col. William B. Forse's 303rd Combat Team awaited the command to attack. The order was given April 9. Div Arty again laid down a heavy concentration of fire and, at 1800 hours, 303rd infantrymen struck across the river. The crossing was made against medium resistance but the clearing of Siegburg, directly in the 303rd's route of advance, and the buttoning up of the Glockner Works at Troisdorf, near Siegburg, resulted in one of the toughest battles of the Ruhr Pocket campaign.
The regiment ripped through two-thirds of Siegburg during the first five hours of the attack. Doughs used grenades, machine guns and small arms fire to stifle the German 3rd Paratroop Div.'s bitter resistance. However, Col. Forse's troops cleared virtually all of the city by nightfall and a CP was established in the southern part of the town.
The attack continued the following morning with rapid progress until the 303rd reached the Glockner Works, a machine factory.
One platoon was immediately cut off as it entered the factory buildings. The remainder of the company soon was forced to withdraw to the north side of the area. Battalion headquarters rushed additional forces, to the rescue when it learned the job was too much for a rifle company. Meanwhile, the isolated platoon sustained casualties. Several men were killed or wounded. Heroism was commonplace.
Pfc Clyde T. Crouch, Dunns Stations, Pa., platoon aid man, was killed while braving enemy fire in an attempt to administer first aid to one of the wounded. Pfc Donald E. Rappaport, Evanston, Ill., was injured by a concussion grenade when he attempted to rescue Crouch.
Under the leadership of Sgt. Leslie Fishman, Los Angeles, the platoon took up defensive positions in a house inside the factory grounds at twilight. Pfc Maurice T. Stack, Doniphan, Mo., applying his knowledge of first aid, was instrumental in saving the lives of three wounded men.
The night was a long nightmare for the platoon. German 88s bombarded the vicinity incessantly. To leave the building meant death or capture. Members of the platoon repulsed repeated Nazi attacks.
Sgt. Fishman undertook a desperate gamble next morning. Disregarding enemy fire, he made his way to an underground enemy bunker which offered protection to approximately 70 Germans. Second Lt. David W. Christianson, a company officer who was cut off with the platoon, soon joined the sergeant and the pair persuaded the Nazis to conduct them to enemy headquarters.
Admitting they were hopelessly surrounded but warning the Germans that more Americans were on the way, Sgt. Fishman and Lt. Christianson effected the surrender of six officers and 170 men. This action led to the capture of the factory without further casualties. Sgt. Fishman was awarded the Silver Star for his outstanding leadership.
Meanwhile, the remainder of Co. G, reinforced by other elements of the regiment, battled the enemy in the tunnels and rooms under the factory building. Under the command of Capt. Thomas W. Mellen, Burlingame, Calif.,
With Siegburg cleared and the Glockner Works captured, the company rejoined the 303rd, pressing rapidly forward several miles further north.
The 97th's three spearheads now drove into the heart of the Ruhr according to plan. The pattern formed by the triple-thrust resembled a giant Trident pointing northwest in the general direction of Dusseldorf. All four battalions of Div Arty crossed the Sieg. Many enemy guns and vehicles still smouldered as infantrymen pushed ahead.
Back at the Sieg River, the 322nd Engr. Bn., commanded by Lt. Col. Erland A. Tillman, Fort Collins, Colo., undertook the tremendous job of building an adequate number of bridges to accommodate the flow of supplies and reinforcements across the river.
During the first five days of the operation, the 322nd, assisted by the 1052nd and 1024th Engr. Bns., constructed five treadway bridges, two infantry support bridges and six infantry support rafts. In addition, two blown bridges were repaired and one railroad bridge was planked. Engineers also were faced with the task of clearing mine fields. At times, they fought as infantrymen to accomplish their mission.
Co. B, commanded by Capt. Edward F. Gerrity, captured the first German general for the division. A squad under Sgt. Oliver Roach, Kenton, Ohio, was pushing along a road when it fell upon a group of Germans. The Krauts immediately dispersed and opened fire on the engineers. After a brief skirmish in which one German was killed and another wounded, Maj. Gen. Freiherr von Ulsar-Gleichen, who had served as military commander at Dusseldorf for two and a half years, surrendered with his men.
Trident's Prongs Stab Dusseldorf
Col. Lansing's 386th CT had a tough nut to crack when it moved into the town of Drabenderhoehe. Germans produced intense fire with 88s, 20mm guns, 40mm dual-purpose flak guns, small arms and automatic weapons.
From a defensive standpoint, the town was ideally situated. Perched atop the highest hill in the area, Drabenderhoehe, communications center and roadnet hub, loomed as the greatest single threat to the 97th's advance. In order to prevent a wide gap from developing on 2nd Bn.'s flank, a single company was given the job of taking the town. The assignment fell to Co. C, commanded by Capt. Llewellyn R. Johnson.
Co. C attacked, but after a short, fierce battle was thrown hack with heavy casualties. After the 365th Bn. laid down an artillery barrage, Capt. Johnson's company again surged forward, this time with complete success.
The battle was brief, but it produced heroism unexcelled in other battles of the Ruhr. Capt. Johnson moved out in front of his troops and led an advance over 1500 yards of fire-swept terrain in the attack that took the town. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
T/Sgt. Merlin C. Godsell, Hales Corner, Wis., 386th, also played an important part in the capture of Drabenderhoehe. In the first attack, fire from enemy automatic weapons isolated approximately half a rifle platoon. The sergeant, acting leader of the platoon, regrouped and rallied his men, advanced in the face of heavy enemy fire, to knock out four enemy automatic weapons. Destruction of these weapons resulted in an unprotected enemy flank, which Capt. Johnson exploited to capture the town.
Although Col. Long's 387th CT made rapid progress against strong points in the central sector of the division front, the enemy offered stiff resistance in wooded areas. Each town was a battle in itself. But the courage and determination of the men made them equal to the task.
One of the outstanding incidents of courage, loyalty and devotion displayed in the entire campaign occurred in the small German town of Allner when Co. F, 387th, met heavy enemy resistance as it moved in. During the fighting, 1st Lt. Guy A. Ringbloom, Minneapolis, Minn., saw one of his platoon fall, completely exposed to enemy fire.
Disregarding personal danger, the lieutenant made his way to the wounded man and attempted to move him to a place of safety. He was mortally wounded as he assisted the injured dough out of the line of fire.
Pfc Glen R. Speidel, Burlington, Ia., another member of the lieutenant's platoon, was concealed from enemy observation and fire when the officer fell. He immediately left his position for the fallen platoon leader, but was killed instantly as he attempted to drag the wounded officer to safety.
On the left flank, the 303rd whipped north from Siegburg against relatively light resistance. On April 14, the regiment was in the vicinity of Leverkusen, site of the I. G. Farben Industry.
Div Arty bombarded the town, then infantrymen closed in. A few hours later the 303rd continued its advance, leaving the industrial center a pile of smouldering rubble.
On April 16, all three combat teams crossed the Wupper River and advanced against steadily increasing enemy resistance. The 386th reached the outskirts of Solingen as the 303rd advanced through Hilden, and the 387th pushed approximately 4000 yards north of the Wupper. In close support of these rapid advances, Div Arty fired 97 missions, a total of 3000 rounds.
The main German defenses rapidly were disintegrating. Large masses of Nazi prisoners surrendered everywhere.
The 386th attacked Solingen on the morning of April 17, occupied the city one hour after launching the assault. Before the day was over, roads throughout the entire division area were clogged with PWs. Div Arty was charged with handling the prisoners so that communications and transportation could be cleared back of the advancing troops.
Both the 386th and 387th CTs pressed on to the Rhine River in an attempt to cut the escape route for German forces left in the division sector. Meanwhile, the 303rd neared the outskirts of the final objective—Dusseldorf.
This huge industrial city, nerve center for the entire Ruhr-Rhine district, rested on the east bank of the Rhine. Government center of the entire area, Dusseldorf's peace time population was 400,000 to 500,000.
As the 303rd prepared to attack, a "free" movement gained momentum within the city. The purpose of the action was to salvage the remnants of the once proud industrial center.
Third Bn., 303rd, commanded by Lt. Col. Victor Wallace, received official credit for its capture. The battalion had established a CP in the city's outskirts late April 16. The attack against the city was to begin the following day. Early in the evening, two representatives of the "free" movement visited the CP, promising the city's surrender without further resistance. Notified of the action, Gen. Halsey went to the CP where arrangements were completed.
Early April 17, elements of 3rd Bn., accompanied by the general, rolled into Dusseldorf and went directly to the police praesidium, headquarters of the Gestapo and city police.
Meanwhile, elements of the regiment's other two battalions pushed through the city to the banks of the Rhine. One hour after the advance began, Dusseldorf officially surrendered.
10 Fighting Doughs — 10 Potential Heroes
The campaign, which lopped off a huge slice of the Ruhr Pocket in the angle formed by the convergence of the Sieg and Rhine Rivers, cost the German Army 21,791 prisoners, plus an undetermined number of killed and wounded.
The first major combat mission proved the division's worth under fire. In the short period of 10 days, green troops had become hard-fighting veterans. During those bitter days in the Ruhr, many heroes were born. Some of them were not present for the final count. One officer said, "Wherever there were 10 fighting doughs, there were 10 potential heroes."
When Co. K, 303rd, was held up by heavy enemy artillery and automatic weapons fire, Pfc Max T. Valdez, Taos, N.M., located a machine gun and, with only one and grenade, crawled up to the enemy gun and knocked it out, killing three of the crew. The action allowed his company to continue the advance and seize its objective without casualties.
While leading a machine gun squad in an attack through Kaltenberg, Pfc Hughie A. Thurlow, Midland, Mich., Co. A, 386th, was wounded. Noticing one of his buddies had been hit and was lying near a burning building, Thurlow, without disclosing his wounds, edged down the fire-swept street and removed his fellow dough to a protected position. Only after assisting in giving first aid to this and other wounded men did he reveal that he had been hit.
Capt. Mettauer E. Davidson, Raleigh, N.C., Co. B, 386th, was awarded the Silver Star for outstanding courage and leadership in the fighting at Stein, Germany. In attacking the town his company was held up by strong automatic weapons and self-propelled gun fire from an enemy road block. During the attack against the obstacle, the captain suffered severe wounds in both legs and his right arm. Refusing medical aid, he adjusted the fire of his 60mm mortar section on the position. When fire failed to silence the enemy defense, he gave orders to an 81 mm mortar platoon which neutralized the obstacle and enabled his company to capture the town.
At Schaaren, Germany, 2nd Lt. Cecil L. Eyestone, Burrton, Kan., 387th, was leading a
In the same battle, Pfc Francis S. Compton, Grafton, Ill., an automatic rifleman with
There were others, such as 1st Lt. Joseph R. Wimsatt, Co. L, 386th who, with a single rifle platoon, surprised and captured two enemy artillery platoons, four artillery pieces, three automatic weapons and forced an armored vehicle to withdraw.
Pfc Alvin J. Caprara, Co. B, 387th, firing his machine gun from the hip, charged into the midst of enemy forces that pinned down his company at the approaches to a town. Completely on his own, he broke through the outer defenses of the town, continued down the main street and pumped heavy fire into the buildings. His squad moved in and occupied the town without opposition.
Pfc John Hedrick, Co. F, 303rd, seized an abandoned assault boat while under heavy enemy fire and used the craft to help ferry troops across the Sieg River.
Pvt. John O. Beauchamp, Jr., Co. L, 386th, raised himself to his knees in the thick of battle and fired at an enemy emplacement in order to point it out to his comrades. He was killed by a burst from a hostile gun.
A prize example of initiative and leadership was displayed by 1st/Sgt. Ralph W. Colver,
Although it was the infantrymen who drove into the very teeth of enemy defenses; they were not without support. Light artillery battalions blasted paths before them, knocking out heavy weapons emplacements and fortified positions. The 303rd Bn. supported the drive of the 303rd Regt., while the 922nd backed up the attacks of the 387th. On the right flank, the 365th supported the 386th Regt. The 389th, a medium artillery battalion, slammed its 155mm shells with deadly accuracy wherever enemy positions were toughest.
Supply was one of the biggest problems of the operation. With every mile the 97th troops advanced, supply routes became longer, more difficult. Lt. Col. Ward T. Blacklock, Austin, Tex., and his "Cargo Jockeys" overcame all obstacles and kept a steady stream of supplies rolling from Bonn, across the Rhine, and the Sieg to the fighting men deep in the heart of the Ruhr Pocket.
The performance of the 97th QM Co., under Capt. Elwood G. Lohela, Jackson, Mich., was exemplified by ten men who worked on a camouflage project in conjunction with the British Second Army on the west bank of the Rhine.
These men were 1st Lt. Thomas L. Wilson, Paris, Ill.; Pfc George Dehn, Mishawaka, Ind.; Cpl. Curtis E. Emerson, Wolverton, Minn.; Cpl. Norman M. Andrews, David, Calif.; T5 Bernard L. Pendleton, Campbellsville, Ky.; Sgt. Sylvester V. Sineri, Mt. Kisco, N.Y.; T/5 Jonathan E. Smith, Falmouth, Ky.; Pfc Robert E. Waldron, Doylestown, Ohio; Pfc Hiram B. Van Akystyne, Albany, N.Y., and T/4 Harmon Taylor, Arlington, Tenn.
The unit worked under enemy artillery fire to complete one of the largest camouflage operations of the war. Commending their work was Maj. George Dobson Wells of British Second Army Main Headquarters, who wrote: "On behalf of their British colleagues alongside whom they have worked most willingly and efficiently, I wish to express sincere appreciation of their cooperation."
Playing a vital role in the Ruhr campaign was the 97th Recon Troop, under the command of Capt. John J. Swainbank, St. Albans, Vt. Besides its customary reconnaissance and patrolling duties, the unit once was charged with protecting the entire left flank of the division.
Contributing to the 97th's success were such units as the 97th Signal Co., under the command of Capt. Sanford M. Kaat, Grand Rapids Mich., and the 797th Ordnance Co. Division ordnance officer was Lt. Col. Melvin B. Harris, North Bergen, N.J.
An outstanding performance was turned in by members of the 322nd Medical Bn. The medics, in the detachments as well, were equal to every task. Individual initiative and heroism were commonplace.
On one occasion, Pfc Jack L. Cotter, Sandusky, Ohio, and Pfc Russell W. Fox, Andes, N.Y., cut off from the rest of their units on the north side of the Sieg, set up an aid station where they continued to administer first aid.
In another campaign, 12 medics were captured. Freed by 97th doughs a few days later, they spurned a rest period in a rear area in favor of resuming their duties.
Lt. Col. Leslie P. Herd, Elizabethton, Tenn., was CO of the 322nd Medical Bn. during the Ruhr Pocket fighting.
On the March When the Bell Rang
The major offensive action for the 97th was the seizure of Cheb (Eger), war factory, administration and communications center, site of a large airport.
Division headquarters moved to Wunsiedel, Germany, and the combat teams took up positions along the Czechoslovakian border. The 97th became operational under XII Corps, Third Army, April 23, 1945.
Two days later, 3rd Bn., 387th, jockeyed into position at dawn. At 0900 the attack on Cheb got under way, spearheaded by Co. I, commanded by Capt. Harold F. Selesky, Rochelle Park, N.J., and
Doughs met strong resistance from mortars, machine guns, small arms, 88s and rockets as the attack swept into the southwest section of the city. Mine fields and booby traps also impeded the advance. But despite stiff opposition, doughs drove ahead and by 1800, nine hours after the attack began, they were in the center of the city. Most of the enemy garrison defending Cheb withdrew before the advancing infantrymen. Only scattered sniper resistance remained.
Partial credit for the capture of Cheb goes to 2nd Bn., 386th, commanded by Lt. Col. Dale B. Lillywhite, Los Angeles. The 386th had been advancing only a short distance north of the 387th and along a parallel course. Before the 387th succeeded in penetrating strong defenses in the southwestern sector, elements of the battalion entered the city's northwest corner. This advance constituted a pincers threat. As soon as contact between the two units had been established, the 386th withdrew from the city.
Direct artillery support for 387th troops was furnished by the 922nd FA Bn. The 775th, 771st and 731st FA Bns. supported both 387th's and 386th's advances.
Cheb was the first major Czechoslovakian city to be liberated by American forces. It was one of the 37 towns and cities that fell to 97th Division troops in the first two days of fighting along the Czechoslovakian border.
Despite bad weather, which slowed operations in the entire sector, 3rd Bn., 387th, made preparations to attack
By now, German troops in Italy, Austria and northern Germany were surrendering by thousands. Soviet forces had taken Berlin; Hitler was reported dead.
However, one more phase remained before the complete and utter defeat of all German forces in Europe could be realized—the Czechoslovakian Pocket.
The 97th Division was one of the units chosen for the assignment. Ordered into position along the southern sector near Widen, Germany, the 97th had the 1st Inf. Div. on its left flank and the 2nd Inf. Div. on its right.
Col. Lansing's 386th and Col. Forse's 303rd Combat Teams attacked simultaneously at 1000, May 5, and progressed so rapidly that the 97th Division Headquarters was able to follow across the Czechoslovakian border four hours later. Consequently, the 97th became the first U.S. division to set up a CP in Czechoslovakia.
During the first 15 hours of the campaign, infantrymen chalked up gains of 15 miles and by next afternoon, 97th troops had advanced up to 28 miles. All enemy resistance along the division front disintegrated; German soldiers surrendered en masse. An entire enemy field artillery battalion surrendered to Capt. Oliver M. Smith, communications officer, 387th Inf. Regt.
Col. Long's 387th was in reserve during the first day of the attack, but it roared into battle at 0600, May 6, advancing with the other combat teams, despite its heavily mined sector and all bridges blown in its path. The 922nd FA Bn., part of the combat team, remained in the lines lending support to the other regiments throughout the attack.
In 30 hours—from the signal to attack until the order to halt all advances—the Trident Division drove 28 miles along a 25-mile front to clear 700 square miles of enemy-held territory. During the first 14 hours of the assault, 10,696 prisoners were taken. One hundred and twenty communities including Mesto, Tepla, Lestkov, Mesto Touskov and Kladruhy were liberated by 97th elements in the swift advance.
All offensive activity suddenly ceased pending the announcement by governmental heads of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union that the war in Europe officially was ended.
The last shot in the European conflict had been fired. Now there was time for a brief pause to reflect. The military record of the 97th Division was inspiring. Many medals had been awarded for brilliant performances, but there also had been posthumous awards.
V-E Day was observed at religious services throughout the division. Gen. Halsey issued the following statement:
Victory in Europe has been attained and the cloud of Nazi oppression has been lifted forever. It is with a very real sense of pride and joy, and deepest sincerity, that I, as commander of the 97th Trident Division, congratulate you, the men of this organization, for your loyalty, courage, initiative and determination in combat. Your accomplishments and your high standards are a credit to yourselves and to your organization.
Though the combat history of this division has been relatively short, the part we played in bringing about the downfall of German forces on all fronts has been of utmost importance. You, as members of the division, can look back for many years and say, "The Trident was on the march when the bell rang."
Even as we rejoice in victory, however, there is sadness in our hearts, for the road through the Ruhr Pocket and into Czechoslovakia is marked by crosses bearing the names of our comrades who valiantly and unselfishlessly gave their lives that the cause of freedom might endure and flourish.
We thank the merciful Almighty God for the victory He has given us in Europe. Let us remember Him. On Sunday, May 13, 1945, let us join the millions of thankful people the world over in worship.
In our hearts we pray that God will remain with us in the tasks that lie ahead, for the division as a unit and for each and every one of us as individuals. What lies ahead for the wearers of the Trident, I cannot say, but the Trident Division will be at the right place, at the right time, and with a military record that justifies the pride and loyalty of all its members.
Photos: U.S. Signal Corps
Draeger - Paris