|January 1, 1945 brought no relief from the
war for the men in the 78th. Although the threat from being surrounded by
the Germans had subsided, the men in the fox holes still had to battle the
weather, homesickness and attacks by German patrols.
In Raeren, Dad and the men of the Division HQ still had to contend with the German Luftwaffe,
Dad was sent to a recently opened rest center in Raeren, to cut hair. Here the men from the front were sent for a few days rest, they could get a hot shower, clean clothes, hot food, a cold beer or coke and write some letters home, also they were treated to some movies and of course a GI haircut.
Raeren, Belgium 1945
|On New Years Day 1945, Dad was cutting
hair at the rest center, the men waiting there turn were standing around chatting,
and keeping warm near a pot bellied stove in the room. When suddenly
to the surprise of every man, the room was filled with flying
bullets, the Luftwaffe had made a surprise visit to the rest center, 3 men
standing just feet from Dad were hit, wounding them in there arms
and legs. He remembers looking out the window as the planes left
and there were 8 or 9 of them all flying in a row strafing the town.
Dad helped carry the wounded GI's to an ambulance, and is happy to report all the men survived the attack. In late January the rest center in Raeren was closed, and was converted into a field hospital.
78th Division rest center, Raeren, Belgium
| By the end of January the division
began to prepare to resume the attack on the Schwammenauel
Dam. February 5 was set for the day to commence the attack,
the main goal would be the capture of Schmidt, Germany and then on
to the near by dam. The GI's on the front found heavy resistant by
the Germans and it took two days to capture Schmidt on February 7.
When the 78th was through with the town there was hardly a building intact, piles of ruble was all that was left were buildings once stood, Dead livestock littered the streets rotting where they died. The next day the attack continued on to the Dam, the woods was thick with enemy pill boxes, and the terrain seemed almost impassable at times as the GI's fought there way to the power houses and control buildings a top the dam, on Feb 10 troops finally cleared the way for engineers to inspect the dam for enemy demolitions, thought to be rigged to blow the dam up. Much to there surprise there was no bombs. The Schwammenauel Dam was now the 78th Divisions they had captured it whole, although the Germans had blown some of the control gates on the dam causing minor flooding below, the dam stood holding back the bulk of its 22 billion gallons of water.
Ed Edlemann and Dad, Roetgen Germany 1945
Liege, Belgium 1945
|Back in the rear at division headquarters, preparations were
under way to move forward with the advancing troops. On February 8
HQ moved to Roetgen, Germany. Dad and the men set there offices up in
farms houses. The house they occupied had living quarters in the
front, and a barn attached to the back of the building, you walked through
the kitchen out a door and into the barn. He recalls there were
several cows living in the barn which several Germans came daily and took
care of. The house part was empty he says.
While it Roetgen there was lots of work for the men, filling out paper work, ordering replacements, transferring men, classifying them, morning reports, etc. Dad recalls it was also muddy every where as it had warmed up and the roads were now rivers of mud.
During this time Dad received a pass to Liege, Belgium. while there is saw a Shirley Temple movie dubbed in French. Dad was amazed they could find someone to speak French yet the voice sounded like Shirley Temple.
|On March 7, The Division HQ moved again, this time to
Wollershiem, Germany. Dad remembers lots of dead livestock in
the fields as they moved along, there were mines every where too laying on
the ground and ruined military equipment both the German and American.
When they reached Wollershiem the town was still smoking, dead Germans
were still lying where they fell, the Germans were well fortified here and
put up a good fight.
The 78th was now moving fast the men in the rear were right on the tail of the GI's in the front and so they moved again on march 10 to Altendorf, Germany
Altendorf had escaped the brutalities of war Dad remembers, the town had hardly been touched. They set there office up in a large farmhouse. The owners had fled and left lots of there belongings behind. He thinks they must have been very wealthy as they had a grand piano, real oil paintings on the walls, an electric refrigerator (something rare in those days), and nice furniture.
Altendorf Germany 1945
Shot down airplane Altendorf 1945
|Meanwhile the GI's in the front continued there race to
the Rhine River. The allies had planed to cross the river in the
north, where they had large amounts of bridging material and navel craft
assemble, but plans changed quickly and they focused there attention on
the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen.
There was not one complete division in the Remagen area in early March 1945 so they assemble units from nearby divisions and put them under the command of the 9th Armord Division. The 78th sent the 1st battalion of the 310 infantry regiment to join this force. It was these men of the 78th who became the first infantry units to cross the Rhine river, at 4:30 am on March 8, 1945. There orders before crossing the bridge were "When you get across the bridge turn to the right and fight" That just what they did. The 78th men were soon joined on the other side by the other units participating in the operation where they all encountered heavy opposition by the Germans. It took the units about 10 days to start advancing again as the fight by the Germans was intense as they thought the Rhine to be there last line of defense.
|Back at Altendorf Division headquarters waited
there turn to cross the Rhine, Traffic was backed up bumper to
bumper for nearly 5 miles. Dad remembers the Germans were
trying to bomb the bridge at Remagen, and the Americans were firing there
Anti Air Craft Guns at the planes, They fired so many rounds at the
enemy the shrapnel from the shells rained down on the buildings in
On March 21 The Division HQ moved to Bonn, They were to cross the Rhine here. They waited in Bonn for a Pontoon bridge to be built across the river, engineers were building the bridge under cover of a smoke screen all the while The Germans were shelling it.
While in Bonn they set up office in a three story apartment building, here they also slept. The men found this to be very comfortable accommodations as they had beds to sleep in and hot and cold running water.
While in Bonn the men had a little fun, they found some canes and top hats and strutted around in them.
On March 24 Dad got some bad news, He found out his cousin Howard Maurer had been killed in fighting in the Philippines.
On April 8th the men moved to Eiklehart, Dad don't remember much about Eiklehart, perhaps because Eiklehart had a brewery there, men were going in and out of the brewery like ants, they would go in and fill 5 gallon jugs of the stuff he recalls.
Bombed Factory Gummersbach 1945
|Next move was on April 13, to Gummersbach, They set up HQ
in a blown up German factory that had made half track vehicles. The factory
had a few buildings that had not been destroyed and the men found one that
had housed the drafting department and set up shop there.
The men were looking around the factory when one guy found a nice pocket watch, he wound it up and put it in his pocket happy with his new souvenir. The GI did not know the watch had an alarm and after a few hours it went off. Dad said the man jumped about 2 feet in the air, he thought the watch was going to blow up. He says they had been shown training films warning them not to pick up items like watches, cameras, and fountain pens as all these things could be made in to booby traps.
|While in Gummersbach the 78th had a large number of POW'S
held, There were 50,000 plus men there at one time, they were kept
in a large field with a stream running through the middle of it, the
Germans waited in line for hours to bath and drink from the stream.
The GI'S had machine guns set up in the corner of the fields to guard
The prisoners were loaded in trucks and sent back into the rear farther, Dad said the Germans were not always treated well he saw one GI club a German with his rifle, but who can blame the man, days earlier this same German was probably shooting at him.
About 50,000 Nazi POW in a large field in Gummersbach
POW loaded onto trucks Gummersbach 1945
Arc De Triumph Paris, France 1945
|On April 20, Dad received a 3 day pass to Paris.
They road in trucks to Viviers, Belgium and from there by train to Paris.
The train ride was very cold Dad remembers as most of the windows
had all be blown out.
While in Paris he stayed at the Grand Central Club Annex, it was run by the Red Cross and cost 50 cents per night.
While in Paris he took a guided tour of the city, seeing all the main sights. Saw a performance of Rose Marie in a real fancy theater, the best he had ever seen, although he don't know a word that was said or sung as it was all in French.
Dad also got to see a performance by the Glenn Miller Air Force Band, at this time Glenn was already dead and the band was led by Ray McKinley, however the band sounded really great to the men.
|When Dad returned to the 78th he found
division headquarters had moved from Gummersbach to Dillenburg.
The 78th was not doing a lot of fighting at this time they were just mopping up the last pockets of resistance in the area. They also continued taking a lot of prisoners.
On May 5, Dad and 10 other men were sent to Brussels, Belgium on liquor detail, they were given a 3 days pass to enjoy the city and had special orders to bring back liquor for the divisions officers. Dad found the city to be real wild, and apparently so did his comrades as one of the men, a cook got so drunk he passed out. He was out for the whole trip back to Dillenburg, when they got back to HQ the cook was still out cold, so they took him to the hospital were he died.
Dad recalls he used to loan the man money and the cook would give dad extra food from the mess hall, he really missed that cook.
On May 8 the war in Europe ended, Dad returned from Brussels and continued with his normal work. There really was not a big celebration he recalls however, they did have a Champaign toast at HQ courtesy of General Eisenhower.
Continue reading on to see what my Dad did during the Occupation Of Germany.