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Crossing the River Roer

April 2, 2012

Each post on this blog builds chronologically on the ones before. Starting with this post, journal entries are written in bold and comments are written in italics. I gratefully acknowledge the sources I used to follow Al’s journal and have listed them on the page, “Where to Learn More“.

Dec. 21.
Winter begins.  Went into Germany for the first time on a detail “looting” furniture, etc.  A bullet whizzed close by from somewhere (phew). Went thru Valkenburg to Ubach. Enemy planes circling overhead. Zeroed rifle at firing range.

Dec. 22.
Went to Germany again “looting” some more houses.  Went pretty close to the front – Setterich, Linnich, Rimburg, Ubach. Even heard small arms fire.

Dec. 23.
Left 102nd Rec. Center and arrived Hq. Btry., 548 AAA-AW-Bn. near Palenberg, Germany.

Dec. 24.

Sent out to “B” Btry, and put in charge of machine gun section of Number 6 section.  Situated a the front near Puffendorf.

Dec. 25.
Christmas Day. Cold, and sad.  Much artillery fire both sides. Heard Mass in foxhole near no. 8 gun. Had turkey, beer, cigs, candy but still homesick . 50 cal. slug landed within ten feet of me and the boys.

Dec. 28.
Fannie’s birthday. May her soul rest in peace. Plenty 88’s—

Dec. 30.
Still beaucoup 88’s and stuff.

Jan. 1.
Fired on 3 FW 90s. Almost got one. Gun jammed.  Saw one Nazi plane go down—Turkey for dinner. “D” btry bags two — plenty of hostile planes.

Jan. 25.
Moved about 200 yds to new position after completing a super duper dugout – the Colonel really liked it.

Jan. 30.
Moved to Lindern.

Mine exploded near C.P. killing Lt. Sullivan and injuring another.

Feb. 2.
Moved to position near Wurm and Millendorf. Living in a 14-man pillbox – furnished like a home: stoves, lights, etc., but all out of working order now. Even had bunks. much Jerry equipment and mines, booby-traps around.

Feb. 5.
Moved to new position near Linnich in minefield along “88 Boulevard”.

Feb. 9.
Moved up to the very front lines with the infantry on the Roer River. at Flosdorf. Saw the flooded river and German positions on the other side. Slept in barn with dead cows and pigs. Really stunk! Was scheduled to cross river with first vehicles as big push starts, but flooding the River by the Nazis prevented attack – postponed to a later date. Dam was blown to prevent our crossing.  Many shells and mortars.

Feb. 10.
Rockets landed within 10 feet of our “home”. Plenty mortars comes our way, also! Phew – Seen enough of front lines.

Feb. 11.
Ordered to return to old position and await the big drive, scheduled for the 14th. Many shells, possibly 170’s, hit close by – shrapnel, “zinging” every which way!

Feb. 13.
Father Howley was out today – heard our confessions and gave Communion.

Feb. 14.
Valentine’s Day. River still too high. No drive yet.

Feb. 19 & 20.
Dentist (Dr. Lee) filled seven cavities for me. Stayed overnight in a Dutch home. Was treated swell!

Feb. 22.
Went to Domino rest center in Heerlen for two day test. First one overseas. Spent most of my time at the Kuiks – swell time, eating, sleeping, resting, etc.  Met Adele, as swell gal.

The Kuiks, with “swell gal” Adele

Feb. 23.
Doughboys cross Roer River.

Feb. 24.
Returned to section, who were awaiting march order near Gereonswall for big push. Pushed off to Linnich (on the Roer) where we were shelled continuously while waiting in convoy.  Took shelter in a basement. Crossed Roer as shells landing all around us.  One M-51 hit and cavities caused.  One 40 detracted off bridge and abandoned in river.  Time: Midnite.  Fired continuously all nite at any and all sounds protecting bridge.  Rugged nite —-bombing and shelling frequent.

Feb. 25
Fired like mad again- Many Me 262’s (jet-propelled planes) strafing and bombing close by.  Slept in enormous pillbox– Julich 8 km away.  Much Jerry equipment left, scattered around.  Moved to near Hotorf.

Feb. 26.
Mortar and machine gun fire very close.  Built hut with straw.  Went thru Erkelenz – biggest town yet.

Feb. 27.
Got some chickens and milked cows.  Moved to near Baal where many civilians were being moved out — many Jerry prisoners also.  Seems as if they were completely surprised.  Dead Jerry near position. FW190 came over bombing and strafing. Civies and soldiers alike dove for holes.  Probable hit.

Feb. 28.
Moved thru Koch and Bach to Bielefeld.  Many rockets came in.

Mar. 1.
Moved to Viersen — set up on road.

Mar. 2.
Set up on outskirts of Krefeld. Occupy German home.

Mar. 4.
Ninth Army reaches Rhine.

Mar. 5.
First Army takes Cologne.

Mar. 6.
First Army crosses Rhine.

Mar. 11.
Moved to other side of Krefield. Truck broke down — sent back for repairs.  Moved German families out of house and occupied same.  Pretty (can’t make out writing), etc.  Town of Bruchhhof. Many inspections and chickens to come.

May. 21.
Spring begins.  Oh happy day.

On February 1st, Al tells us, a mine explosion killed Lt. Sullivan and injured another. A little more information to honor them both: Lieutenant Joseph F. Sullivan, of the B Battery, had only been with the unit a short time.  He was from Marim, Connecticut.  The injured soldier was PFc George R. Londos.  Five GIs were awarded Soldier’s Medals for rescuing Pfc Londos from the wrecked and burning vehicle he was in:  1st Lt. George C. Williams,  1st Sgt. Russel G. Irwin, S. Sgt. George R. Dean, Jr., T3 Mitchell H. Harkins,  and T4 Ralph Maier.

The big event in this section of the journal is obviously the Allied crossing of the Roer River.  In the early entries of this post, we see Al moved to the 548th AAA-AW-Btn, which was attached to the 102nd Infantry Division, part of the  Ninth Army. A review of his unit’s efforts in the war states that the 548th played a significant role in protecting that division’s push across the Roer River. It is fascinating to read along with that history of the unit and Al’s journal entries.  There is dramatic footage on Youtube of the crossing . As Al points out, the original crossing was planned for earlier in February but the Germans blew up the dam and flooded the bridge.  On February 13th, in preparation for the action, Al  and other G.I.s had their confessions heard and received Communion, which would be typical for any Catholic facing a life or death situation. As it turned out, even the rescheduled date of the 14th had to be postponed due to the flooded river. The Allied forces finally broke through and crossed starting the night of February 23 through the 25th.  The  Germans at the river were surprised and overpowered which led to the eventual breakdown of German defenses.

Property of Contact for permission to use.

The looting he speaks of, from what I read,  happened mostly at German homes, particularly ones that did not cooperate with Allied forces when so ordered. There are stories online of silverware and weaponry brought home by G.I.s.  Al didn’t bring home much in the way of souvenirs, mostly some photos of German soldiers and one photo of Hitler himself.   I will post others later. When I asked how he’d come upon the photos, he replied that they had “liberated” them from German homes.

My favorite part of this section of the journal is about the Dutch family he befriends.  They housed him when he had dental work done but became close friends.  It seems obvious Al was taken with the daughter in the house, Adele, but her brother, Henk, and he became friends, too.  Adele is reluctant to write because of censors she fears are still reading mail. One of the letters  Al received after the war is now up under the Correspondence tab. I have at least one other letter and Christmas card from the family as late as 1948.

  1. Wow. The photos and journal entries here are awesome. Someone my age can’t even fathom going through something like this, which both of my grandfathers did. They didn’t write about it or talk much about it, and it would have been a great thing to have. Great job!

    • Thanks. I learn something new every time I do another post. Today, I learned about forced labor in homes during WWII. I’d never heard of it. Thanks for your support and your help with the blog protection.

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