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    First into Germany

    In keeping with BB&Bers being the most intelligent and informed group on the Net...

    History tells us that Allied troops first crossed into the heart of Germany on March 22, 1945 when American forces crossed the Rhine River at Remagen. That was the first planned, large scale invasion of Germany, true. But it wasn't the first actual entry into Germany by American troops.

    If you saw the 1970's movie "A Bridge Too Far" you are familiar with the allied effort to forge entry into Germany, by flanking the German defenses to the north. This operation was named "Market Garden" and was the largest airborne operation in history, much larger than the airborne drops on D-Day a few months previous. Beginning on September 17, 1944 both American airborne divisions, the 82nd and the 101st, the British 1st Division, and supporting units, such as the Polish Brigade and a battalion of Canadians, were all part of 18,000 paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines designed to seize bridges all the way to Arnhem.

    The 101st was assigned the southern most target, Eindhoven, the British 1st, the northern most, Arnhem, and the 82nd, the middle target across the Waal River at Nijmegen. At this point the German border was only 2 miles away. If you saw that awesome series "Band of Brothers" you are familiar with the 506th Battalion of the 82nd Division. In this operation, the 506th was assigned to cooperate with the 101st operating to the south. Three other battalions, the 504th, 505th, and the 508th were assigned the capture of the bridge at Nijmegen. The 505th was assigned to capture and hold the important heights at Groesbeck, a village two miles south of Nijmegen. And...across flat, open fields to a small creek which was the border between Holland and Germany. On the German side of that border there were no frontline troops. The Germans had never imagined this section of their border would ever be threatened...until American paratroopers suddenly appeared late in the afternoon on September 17, 1944.

    German general, Kurt Feldt was ordered to muster what troops he could and attack the Americans at Nijmegen. He would have 3,500 soldiers, 1,800 of which were a regiment of WWI veterans, all in the mid-40's and some in their 50's. And these were his best troops. The others were new draftees, some kids 11 and 12 years old, and some were Luftwaffe personnel from a nearby German airfield, pressed into service as infantry. To his own surprise, as Feldt wrote after the war, his "motley crew" (his term) achieved initial success and captured the village of Mook, on the main road. The road the British 30th Corps was to use on its push to Arnhem. But, the crack troops of the 505th Battalion, veteran paratroopers, rallied and by noon on the 18th had retaken Mook and drove Feldt's "motley crew" back. But the WWI veterans, fighting to defend their homeland, and use to heavy combat, held on doggedly. American fighter-bombers, P47 Thunderbolts, the best airplane for ground attack in WWII, joined in the attack and most of the Germans melted away and retreated. The 505th had to root out the "old" German veterans in close up fighting.

    By the next day, September 19, 1944, elements of the 505th fought their way across a heavily defended creek bed. It was brutal fighting. German machine guns raked the wooded area, inflicting casualties on the American paratroopers. The Germans simply wouldn't go away. One company of the 505th forced their way across the creek and flanked a line of machine gun nests. Usually when this happened, German soldiers would fall back, giving up their positions. But these wouldn't and each nest had to be attacked and knocked out, which the paratroopers did by using hand grenades. The 505th continued to press the attack, driving Feldt's units back through a thick forest until a small town was reached. This was Fredgen, Germany. American soldiers stopped a local citizen, a farmer, who was surprised by their appearance. He was able to answer some questions in broken English and French. He told them, Nine! this is Germany!

    Only later did Company C, 505th Battalion learn they had crossed the German border and penetrated 4 miles in. They now realized why German resistance was so stubborn, they were fighting on their home turf.

    This fighting was not all that important in the bigger picture. The bridge at Nijmegen was still being held by crack SS Panzer Troops, and soon the 505th joined their fellow battalions, and now tanks of The Irish Grenadiers, in a push to capture the bridge. The Americans would...with the 504th paddling boats across the river and attacking and taking the northern end of the bridge, while Irish tanks and American paratroopers took the southern end. That was the mission....that was the story.

    Almost lost to history was the little tidbit of who really was first to cross into Germany. That distinction belongs to Company C, 505th Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, on September 19, 1944.

  2. #2
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    Re: First into Germany

    My dad was there ! He made 8 combat jumps in WW II. The average life expectancy was 1.5 jumps.

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    Re: First into Germany

    My Uncle Pat was a C47 pilot, the iconic plane that was the primary paratrooper carrier. Uncle Pat flew 4 drops in Operation Market Garden, and he flew two drops on D-Day.

    My Dad was in the Pacific fighting the Japs. Well, he was a radio operator. The only combat he saw personally was when a Jap sniper snuck close to his base and he joined a patrol to find and kill that sniper. Which they did. He said he was scared to death since that sniper had already proven to be crack shot. He was happy to get back to his radio.

    tech70...your dad is a true American hero!

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    Re: First into Germany

    Boy, you two have some real heroes in your family! My dad was on a submarine in WWII, the USS Thresher, SS-200. It is the namesake of the nuclear sub that sank in the Atlantic in the '60's. He talked rarely about their experiences. My dad's first cousin was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge and laid on the ground and played dead while German soldiers stripped him of his watch, rings and weapon. He had a huge hole in his right leg and almost bled to death before someone rescued him.

    They were truly the Greatest Generation! So many of our dads, uncles, etc. went to this war and were all heroes. What is even more impressive that the ones who were lucky enough to return built the American society into a respected powerhouse. Our mothers, aunts, etc. were heroes as well. They had to hold down the fort while a great majority of the men were at war.

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    Re: First into Germany

    Thank you . He never talked much about the specifics ,he only told me about trying to save a child after they freed a death camp and he almost cried and he never showed that emotion .

  6. #6
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    Re: First into Germany

    The crossing of the Rhine at Remagen was not entering Germany. At that point the Rhine was not the border, but was only the last physical barrier before getting into the German heartland. There had already been a lot of fighting in Germany. The incursion by the 101st was probably the first. The Hurtgen Forest fighting was in November of 1944 and was all in Germany. Also the first German City captured was Aachen in October of 1944 which is east of the Rhine.

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    Re: First into Germany

    Quote Originally Posted by tech70 View Post
    Thank you . He never talked much about the specifics ,he only told me about trying to save a child after they freed a death camp and he almost cried and he never showed that emotion .
    My grandfathers never talked about WWII, except only to confirm their participation.

    Dad still won't speak of Vietnam. And my bro-in-law doesn't talk about Afghanistan.

    It can be tough to get those stories.

  8. #8
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    Re: First into Germany

    My Uncle Al (married one of my dad's sisters) was a fireman on the USS Enterprise. He was one of those guys in the fireproof suits with the foam hoses, dealing with fires on deck. He was a crewman on the Enterprise, the US flagship, for the duration of the war, and was present for every action the Enterprise saw, from Midway to Okinawa, where on May 14, 1945 she took one too many hits. A bomb-ladened kamikaze slammed into her, marking the 4th kamikaze hit she had taken. It took out her main elevator making flight operations impossible. She was ordered back to the shipyard in Virginia for full repairs. She was still in the Virginia area, just back to sea, when the A-bombs were dropped and the war ended.

    And here's a little tidbit I just learned. The Enterprise did take part in the Battle of Pearl Harbor. She was out to sea but was alerted of the attack by radio. She steamed full speed toward Hawaii. Along the way her scout planes spotted a Jap sub running on the surface. Divebombers were launched and they sunk the sub. Then while still at maximum range, the absolute extent of the range of her planes, the Enterprise heard a US destroyer relaying intelligence about the Jap attack, the Jap planes coming and going to Pearl. The Enterprise decided to launch a squadron of fighters. They managed to intercept a flight of Jap divebombers heading back to their carrier, and they shot down two of them. They did not pursue the rest due to fears of running out of fuel.

    Three times during the war the Enterprise took such vicious hits that the Japs surely thought she was sunk. The Big E was the prized target of the Japs. She was our flagship, and the pride of the US Navy. But after all three attacks...she emerged damaged, but still defiant. The Japs were so surprised after the second time that happened they dubbed her "the gray ghost."

    In the weeks and months after the war was over, Big E served as big passenger ship, ferrying US soldiers home from England. On one such trip to England the British Admiralty asked permission to fly a royal pennant on her, the ultimate show of respect and admiration, one ally to another.

    She was built in 1933 and by 1945 there were 12 other US carriers, more modern and better equipped to carry on. She was decommissioned and removed from service. There were efforts to buy her and turn her into a museum, but not enough money was raised. By 1960 she was sold for scrap metal. Only a few artifacts were salvaged. One being the ship's bell, which today is kept at the US Naval Academy in Maryland. It is only rung...when the Navy football team beats Army.

  9. #9
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    Re: First into Germany

    Quote Originally Posted by dawg80 View Post
    My Uncle Al (married one of my dad's sisters) was a fireman on the USS Enterprise. He was one of those guys in the fireproof suits with the foam hoses, dealing with fires on deck. He was a crewman on the Enterprise, the US flagship, for the duration of the war, and was present for every action the Enterprise saw, from Midway to Okinawa, where on May 14, 1945 she took one too many hits. A bomb-ladened kamikaze slammed into her, marking the 4th kamikaze hit she had taken. It took out her main elevator making flight operations impossible. She was ordered back to the shipyard in Virginia for full repairs. She was still in the Virginia area, just back to sea, when the A-bombs were dropped and the war ended.

    And here's a little tidbit I just learned. The Enterprise did take part in the Battle of Pearl Harbor. She was out to sea but was alerted of the attack by radio. She steamed full speed toward Hawaii. Along the way her scout planes spotted a Jap sub running on the surface. Divebombers were launched and they sunk the sub. Then while still at maximum range, the absolute extent of the range of her planes, the Enterprise heard a US destroyer relaying intelligence about the Jap attack, the Jap planes coming and going to Pearl. The Enterprise decided to launch a squadron of fighters. They managed to intercept a flight of Jap divebombers heading back to their carrier, and they shot down two of them. They did not pursue the rest due to fears of running out of fuel.

    Three times during the war the Enterprise took such vicious hits that the Japs surely thought she was sunk. The Big E was the prized target of the Japs. She was our flagship, and the pride of the US Navy. But after all three attacks...she emerged damaged, but still defiant. The Japs were so surprised after the second time that happened they dubbed her "the gray ghost."

    In the weeks and months after the war was over, Big E served as big passenger ship, ferrying US soldiers home from England. On one such trip to England the British Admiralty asked permission to fly a royal pennant on her, the ultimate show of respect and admiration, one ally to another.

    She was built in 1933 and by 1945 there were 12 other US carriers, more modern and better equipped to carry on. She was decommissioned and removed from service. There were efforts to buy her and turn her into a museum, but not enough money was raised. By 1960 she was sold for scrap metal. Only a few artifacts were salvaged. One being the ship's bell, which today is kept at the US Naval Academy in Maryland. It is only rung...when the Navy football team beats Army.
    Let me tell you that a very sad day for a sailor is the day his ship is decommissioned and either sunk or scrapped. I was on the nucleus crew of the USS Lockwood DE-1064. The nucleus crew is the crew that prepares the ship (administratively) for commissioning. The first crew members are called "plank owners". Plank owners are actually very important crew members to future crews. I was on the ship for 3 years. When I left, I was "piped off" the quarterdeck as a show of respect.

    On the maiden Western Pacific cruise, we were thrown into the most fierce naval activity of the VietNam war. In April 1972, the North Vietnam Army started the Easter Offensive of 1972. It was larger than Tet. Most of the U.S. ground troops had been pulled out and Kissinger was at the bargaining table to negotiate an end to the war. The North Vietnam government saw how weak the U.S. government was and decided for a last all-out attack into South Vietnam.

    As luck would have it, we had just arrived in the Western Pacific about 6 weeks earlier. We were ordered directly to the "gunline", which was at the DMZ, right near the provincial capital of Quang Tri City and very near Hue. We would get as close to shore as we could without rubbing our sonar dome in the mud. We could get about a half a mile at some spots. We had only one 5" 54 cal. gun because the ship was mainly built as an anti-submarine warfare vessel. We blasted that sucker 24/7. The enemy would fire back but we were much better shots. We stayed on the gunline from early April until mid August. We would only leave to unrep (underway replenish) for bullets, food and fuel. On a couple occasions we would go to Da Nang or Subic Bay for repairs but would head right back.

    The ship shot nearly 9,000 rounds from the 5" and multiple times from the 50 caliber machine guns. We were awarded a Unit citation for Gallantry from the Vietnam government, was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for receiving and returning hostile fire along with the Vietnam Service and Vietnam Campaign medals. After we left the Westpac, we returned to our home port of San Diego. I completed my enlistment about a year later. I lost track of the ship. There was no internet, of course, so it was not known what happened to her. I found out about 1995 that she had been de-commissioned and was to be scrapped. She was ultimately scrapped. It was really like losing a dear old friend. Sailors really love their ships, especially if they went to war with her.

  10. #10
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    Re: First into Germany

    Amos Moses...thank you for your service to our nation. You are a great American.

    As for the USS Thresher lost at sea, I read an article about one of our subs that was lost, and I think it was the Thresher. I'll look it up later. Regardless, this sub was lost with all hands and the navy is still not 100% sure what happened to her. They think it might have been one of her torpedoes that went hot...armed itself...and they couldn't fire it or disarm it in time. That sound plausible?

  11. #11
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    Re: First into Germany

    Wrong boat...

    it was the USS Scorpion I was thinking of. In 1968 there was an explosion on board and the boat was lost with all hands. A terrible tragedy. No one is certain what happened, but there is some thought that one of her Mark 37 electric torpedoes might have "hot run."

  12. #12
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    Re: First into Germany

    Quote Originally Posted by Houston Techsan View Post
    The crossing of the Rhine at Remagen was not entering Germany. At that point the Rhine was not the border, but was only the last physical barrier before getting into the German heartland. There had already been a lot of fighting in Germany. The incursion by the 101st was probably the first. The Hurtgen Forest fighting was in November of 1944 and was all in Germany. Also the first German City captured was Aachen in October of 1944 which is east of the Rhine.
    You are absolutely right. Duh! I even read a book a few years ago "Bloodbath at Aachen."

    But! that was October and the incursion at Grosebeck was in September.

  13. #13
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    Re: First into Germany

    My father was in the 30th Infantry Division which I believe took Aachen. However he was no longer with them at that time having been injured in July. He did take part in the Break Out at St. Lo. (July 25-56) and suffered Battle Fatigue there. He had been severely injured earlier in July so I believe the earlier injury contributed to his Battle Fatigue. I got all of this from the Morning Reports of his company. The individual personnel records were lost in a fire in 1973 but the unit records are still available in St. Louis. The morning reports show that his CO also suffered Battle Fatigue on the same date and I believe the CO won a medal for heroism. My father returned to his unit but a couple of days later was sent back to the hospital. He eventually was assigned to an MP company in Paris for the remainder of the war (August 1944-September 1945) . He never talked about his combat experiences either, but did talk about his MP duties.

  14. #14
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    Re: First into Germany

    My father-in-law was D-Day plus 4. He was awarded 2 Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star along with the CIB and several other metals. I have them in a shadow box directly over where I am typing from now. He never wanted to talk about it, but he also had "battle fatigue", known today as PTSD. Houston, I applaud your dad's heroism along with my father-in-law's. Like I stated before, these gentlemen saved our freedom and are forever in our debt.

  15. #15
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    Re: First into Germany

    Quote Originally Posted by dawg80 View Post
    My Uncle Al (married one of my dad's sisters) was a fireman on the USS Enterprise. He was one of those guys in the fireproof suits with the foam hoses, dealing with fires on deck. He was a crewman on the Enterprise, the US flagship, for the duration of the war, and was present for every action the Enterprise saw, from Midway to Okinawa, where on May 14, 1945 she took one too many hits. A bomb-ladened kamikaze slammed into her, marking the 4th kamikaze hit she had taken. It took out her main elevator making flight operations impossible. She was ordered back to the shipyard in Virginia for full repairs. She was still in the Virginia area, just back to sea, when the A-bombs were dropped and the war ended.

    And here's a little tidbit I just learned. The Enterprise did take part in the Battle of Pearl Harbor. She was out to sea but was alerted of the attack by radio. She steamed full speed toward Hawaii. Along the way her scout planes spotted a Jap sub running on the surface. Divebombers were launched and they sunk the sub. Then while still at maximum range, the absolute extent of the range of her planes, the Enterprise heard a US destroyer relaying intelligence about the Jap attack, the Jap planes coming and going to Pearl. The Enterprise decided to launch a squadron of fighters. They managed to intercept a flight of Jap divebombers heading back to their carrier, and they shot down two of them. They did not pursue the rest due to fears of running out of fuel.

    Three times during the war the Enterprise took such vicious hits that the Japs surely thought she was sunk. The Big E was the prized target of the Japs. She was our flagship, and the pride of the US Navy. But after all three attacks...she emerged damaged, but still defiant. The Japs were so surprised after the second time that happened they dubbed her "the gray ghost."

    In the weeks and months after the war was over, Big E served as big passenger ship, ferrying US soldiers home from England. On one such trip to England the British Admiralty asked permission to fly a royal pennant on her, the ultimate show of respect and admiration, one ally to another.

    She was built in 1933 and by 1945 there were 12 other US carriers, more modern and better equipped to carry on. She was decommissioned and removed from service. There were efforts to buy her and turn her into a museum, but not enough money was raised. By 1960 she was sold for scrap metal. Only a few artifacts were salvaged. One being the ship's bell, which today is kept at the US Naval Academy in Maryland. It is only rung...when the Navy football team beats Army.
    If you ever get to San Diego, make sure you go aboard the carrier USS Midway CV-41 Museum. It is a great visit. We sailed with her often and it was really a thrill to go aboard her and tour her insides. I was a radioman and I got to go inside their radio shack. A shipmate of mine, also a radioman, went with us, and we both got to see who we were communicating with and all the same gear we used, albeit a lot more of it than we had. Those of you that went to the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012 undoubtedly got to go aboard her.

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