749TH TANK BATTALION
Saverne Gap, Strasbourg, Bitche, Maginot Line
November 20, 1944 - December 15, 1944
After the long battle for the Foret De Parroy and our forces having reached Sarrebourg, the 749th Battalion, supporting both the 79th and 44th Infantry Divisions, was broken into two parts. "B" Company 2nd and 3rd platoons and one platoon of "D" Company, with the 314th Infantry Regiment (of the 79th Division) quickly passed through the Saverne Gap and took part in the battle for Strasbourg for 10 days. The rest of the 749th stayed west of the Saverne Gap and the Vosges Forest and began the drive north which would lead to Rohrbach and Bitche. The "B" and "D" platoons rejoined the rest of the Battalion on the 1st of December.
By the 8th of December the 749th had reached Rohrbach. Battles became fierce, and the rapid advances that Allies made over the previous 3 weeks came to an end. The reason, of course, was that the German buildup for the Battle of the Bulge, which started December 16th, was just a few miles away from the position of the 749th. The Maginot Line was reached just before the Battle of the Bulge began.
Cities: Sarrebourg, Hilbesheim, Lixheim, Phalsbourg, Saverne, Ingwiller, Bouxwiller, Uhrwiller, Engwiller, Pfaffenhoffen, Grassendorf, Uhlwiller, Burstheim, Wintershouse, Haguenau, Gries, Brumath, Hoerdt, Hochstett, Bischwiller, Herange, Dabo, Hatmatt, Hangviller, La Petite-Pierre, Bust, Rauwiller, Fenetrange, Eschwiller, Hirschland, Schalbach, Siewiller, Drulingen, Petersbach, Bettwiller, Eywiller, Struth, Rexingen, Rimsdorf, Tieffenbach, Waldambach, Volksberg, Ratzwiller, Montbronn, Bining, Rohrbach, Meyerhoff, Enchenberg, Siersthal, Petit-Rederching, Lambach, Simserhoff, Bitche, Hottviller, Schorbach.
Distance: 130 miles, 23 days
Allied Units: 44th Infantry Division - 71st/114th/324th Regiments (7th Army), 79th Infantry Division (7th Army) - 313th/314th/315th Regiments, 25th Cavalry Squad (4th Armored Division), 100th Infantry Division (7th Army), 12 Armored Division, 663rd Engineers, 45th Division/157th Inf.
German Units: 553rd Infantry Division, 361st Artillery Regiment, 361st Infantry Division, 812 Fortress Battalion, 1306 Artillery Regiment, Assault Battalion OAK-1, 103rd Panzer Division, 953rd Infantry Division. 401st FA Regiment, 25th Panzer Division, 130th Panzer LEHR, 110 Panzer Regiment, 11th Panzer Division. 119th Panzer Regiment, 21st Panzer Division, 901st PG Regiment, 902st PG Regiment, 736 AA Bn, 9th AA Division, March Bn "B" Assault Bn GRW, 1/119 Pz Gr R, BG Ostertag.
20 Nov: Light contact .... at Langatte, Haut Clocher, Sarrebourg. EY attempted to delay our advance S of Marne-Rhine Canal. PW states that his mission was to blow Xouaxange bridge. 324th attacked ... seized Langatte and Hautclocher. 71st Inf attacked ... seized Bebing. "A" Co supporting 71st Inf to Sarrebourg. Destroyed 5 M/G, 88mm AT, ammo truck, 3 120mm mortars, 1 heavy arty piece, 3 cargo trucks, 2 staff cars. "B" Co, .... to lead CT 4 road march on Saverne Gap. Moved to Blamont from Nitting. 1st Plt (Lt Moore) and light tank plt to lead CT4 on Saverne Gap. "C" Co with 324th to Heming. After tanks crossed the Rhine-Marne Canal, ey blew bridge. Engineers repairing bridge … pinned down by M/G fire. Hq Co Tank fired on M/G positions … firing stopped. Lt. McProuty assumed command Co "D" to replace Lt. Coney, LWA, on 19 Nov. Pvt Marshall(Sv Co) LWA. "B" Co 2nd and 3rd plts with 315th regt … road march to Saverne Gap.
21 Nov: Many PW's captured by 71st Regt (44th Div) ... had small metal discs to be used, they stated, to mark gassed areas. 114th occupied high ground Sarrebourg. 314th I and R killed a group of ey near Heming just as they were preparing to blow up one of the few remaining bridges. 315th advances with 2nd French Armored Division.
22 Nov: Two PW’s, 57 years old, from MP Trg. Co.
23 Nov: "B" Co. with atchmts (79th Div) moved with 11 tanks from St Jean Kaurtzerade to Monswiller through Saverne. 2nd Plat. "D" Co, ... moved out ... to join "B" Co....
24 Nov: Ey in c/atkg force at Rauwiller appeared confused. They dove into same shelters with our troops during shelling and although ey greatly outnumbered our forces, permitted them (our forces) to escape in most instances. "B" Co. arrived in Hordt through Brumath. Civilians report 50 ey tanks vicinity Hagenau. Panzer Div reported moving to intercept 7th army.
25 Nov: Rauwiller: 71st and 157th Inf forced by 22 tnks with inf to withdraw from Rauwiller. C/atk with 8 tanks from "C" Co. successful, retaken. "B" Co. 1st plat with 2nd Bn 314th went into woods S of Hordt and took 200 Pws and 7 officers. 3rd plat with 315th. Lt Moore and Pvt Peek, KIA. Pvt Bounds, battle exhaustion (not evac). Cpl Ruggiero and Pfc Farman LWA, not evac. T/4 Moran SWA and Pvt Hook LWA. 2 tks destroyed by ey AT guns and arty. Eye witness story by Lt Hersh concerning Lt Moore's gallantry: "Lt William Moore ... spearheaded every Inf atk from Montigny, Ancerviller, Halloville, Fremonville, Baccarat, and Blamont. ... he insisted on leading whatever tanks were available. ... Moore constantly remained in front from dawn to dusk. Because of ey fire and maintenance difficulties encountered, ... transferred to 7 different tanks. Two ... were hit by direct ey fire ... climbed into other tanks and continued ... Lt Moore was hit by an "88" and the tank went up in flames ... this man could be seen fighting to lift himself out. He fought to the very end....". Co. "D" Pvt Sutter LWA.
27 Nov: "A" Co, Hilbesheim, "D" Herange, "C" Lixheim, "B" Brumath. PW reports he helped unload tank regt Sarrenden. Civilians Haguenau report 48 carloads of men and 8 large tanks. PW states ey employing new Tiger II during Rauwiller 24-25 Nov. Weighs about 48 tons heavily armored with heavy apron over bogies and has HV 75mm with muzzle-break. Civilians report ... 30 ey tanks Ringeldorf, 7 tanks at Kindwiller, 8 tanks Ingwiller, 30 tanks Eywiller, 20 tanks Paffennoffen. 314th reported 2 road blocks and chopping sounds in the woods in Bois De Gries.
28 Nov: It has come to the attention of this Hq that German agents... are reported to be circulating among British and American soldiers in wine shops, barber shops ... attempting to stir up ill feeling between them. "D" Co. plat with "B" Co. had one tank stuck in mud, one casualty, Sgt Baker. LWA ... guarding tank in Struth, shrapnel in arm. "B" Co. 2nd plat supported 314th in atk from Weighruch to Niederschaeffolscheim. Atk stopped because tanks were bogged down in mud. S/Sgt Rosencrantz received battlefield promotion. ... "C" Co, carrying 3rd Co 114th on board, arrived Struth, attacked Tiffenbach. Heavy mortar, arty, and machinegun fire from high ground N of Tiffenabch. Tanks ran into road block (rocks and timber) too large to surmount, fired into town from high ground. 315th encountered mortar fire and ey patrols during night patrols. Received stiff small arms, mortar, art fire in advance on Batzendorf and Wintershausen. 71st Div attached 4th Armored Div.
29 Nov: "B" Co. with one plat "D" Co attached 79th Div were to atck Hagenau 1200. 120mm mortar destroyed, 24 Pws taken. 749th relsd from 79th Div and to be atchd to 44th Division ... moved from ... Brumath through Saverne to Bursheid. Lt. Conway assumes command of "A" Co. "C" Co with 114th/44th Div encountered heavy S/A, AW ,arty, and mortar fire E of Tiffenbach while crossing RR. 114th/K Co pinned down after crossing.
1 Dec: MiI reports 1500 enemy stragglers vic Dabo with mission getting through and reaching Bitche. Lt Bertram Kaufman assumes command of "B" Co. Capt Redford to S-3.This is the 150th day of continuous action (for the 749th). "D" Co 1 EM Pvt Sutter LWA.
2 Dec: PW states that air atk of approx 1400 on Waldambach almost totally destroyed enemy arty supply column. 324th/1st Bn with "A" Co at eastern edge Waldambach and the 2nd Bn 500 yds W of Waldambach stalled by severe enemy resistance, direct fire of 20mm guns. Two 88mm, one armored veh, 4 M/G nests destroyed. Extensive destruction of routes and bridges prevented adequate close support of tanks and TDs. 114th/3rd Bn: a Company of ey attacked from north with 7 tracked vehicles, infiltrating into Weissenlingen. About 40 were killed or captured by close-in fighting. Remainder dispersed by fire while in vehicles or while dismounting.
3 Dec: Volksberg. Enemy resistance was tenacious ...in Grunewald woods N of Waldambach ... and Volksberg ...most aggressive troops yet encountered, held until engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Ey patrols very active at night. Sounds of tracked vehicles reported after dark. New tanks reported with rocket carriers containing 24 rockets with range 2-3 Kms. 15 civilians in Adamswiller objected to our troops in town. "A" Co platoon with 44th Div/324th 1st Bn at Waldambach unable to move forward ... due to unfavorable terrain ...bridges out, mines along roads. Heavy fire encountered ... tank knocked out by enemy AT gun, destroyed. "C" Co with 114th stopped by road blocks and mines. Troops pinned down 500 yds S of Volksberg.
4 Dec: Ratzweiller/Butten: PWs report 20 tanks Butten. "A" Co. 1st and 3rd platoons with light tanks and assault guns... and 1st platoon "B" Co. in atk with 324th/3rd Bn along road to Ratzwiller. Co. was forced to withdraw because of direct heavy AT fire ... loss of one tank. Two EM KIA, Pvt Robinson and Stefani. One EM, Cpl Melton, amputation right foot. One EM LWA, T/4 Perry, shell fragment right thigh. Pvt Jarvis, LWA not evac. Co. "C" at Weisslingen. One EM, Stein, "D" Co., evac combat exhaustion. One EM, S/Sgt Lazlo, LWA hit by shrapnel right arm. Lt Leighton "A" Co. on phone to locate "B" Co. platoon (W/Lt Rosencranz in charge) - thru misunderstanding platoon was relieved from "A". S-3 and Maint Officer went to G-3 44th Div CP to discuss combat efficiency (poor) in regard to equipment. 114th /1st Bn adv to Volksberg, pinned down by AW and mortar fire 400 yds W of town. Friendly arty fire placed …. and Inf moved to edge of town. 324th 2nd Bn put finishing touches on Diemeringen.
6 Dec: Enemy front Enchenberg. Troops warned that camouflaged dynamite found in coal pile. "A" Co. Waldhambach, "B" Co. Butten, "C" Co. Montbron, "D" Co. Siewiller. Weather and visibility overcast, damp, visibility poor to fair. Combat Efficiency - fair (equipment unreliable). "C" Co with 114th atck Montbronn. Ey demolition group surprised on road by 114th and unable to complete mission. No resistance until E edge of town, encountering 20mm AA fire directed at personnel. "B" Co. adv with 1st and 2nd Bn 324th from Buten to 2000 yds SE Bining. Two tanks drop out along adv with mechanical defect. Three EM, LWA, PFC Farman, PFC Dedrick, S/SGT Lee ... Lee injured by what was believed friendly party.
7 Dec: Rohrbach/Enchenberg: most intense arty fire yet encountered. PW estimated (ey) strength of about 2000 troops in Bitche, Maginot Line manned only at a few strong points. On 4 Dec he saw 15 tanks, tigers and panthers, at Bitche. "B" Co. with 324th atk E of Bining, tanks hit by heavy ey arty which pinned down Inf. Tanks withdrew to defensive position to allow Inf to advance. One tank with bogie wheel blown off. "C" co with 114th /1st & 2nd Bn atk on Enchenberg held up at S edge of town by collapsed bridge and heavy ey fire. 2nd Bn stopped by heavy mortar fire N of town, also direct fire from ey tank behind barricade. 220 FA reports killing many ey in foxholes by timed fire.
8 Dec: Rohrbach/Enchenberg: One PW states that men of his unit ... did not know in which direction the Americans lay. He reports that ... German MPs blacked-marked 4,600 military vehicles in Sep and Oct because they had fled France without authorization. Luftwaffe pilots coming as replacements. Sgt Hanson, LWA, not evac. T/4 LWA right temple. Lt Christensen from SWA. Sept 29th 1944, DOW on this date. Bn FM calls changed: "A", Texas. "B", Mexico. "C", Virginia. "D", Michigan.
9 Dec: Rohrbach/Enchenberg: Enemy continues his tenacious resistance of Rohrbach and Enchenberg. Roads for 600 yds E of Rohrbach mined. PW reported that all 60 EM of Assault Bn GHQ were resting in bars when our arty fired. 37 men walked out. Fighting in this sector was the bitterest yet encountered. 114th atk Enchenberg. "B" Co. ... defensive position E of Bining. At 1625A S-3 called G-3 recommending that "A" Co. not be moved during hours of darkness due to .... marshy ground on both sides of road.
10 Dec: Maierhoff/Enchenberg: "B" Co. from E of Bining atkd at 1400 on Maierhoff supporting 324th / 2nd Bn (1st Bn to the right of the town, 2nd Bn to the left). 1st Bn adv slow due to heavy arty, mortar, AW, SA fire. 2nd Bn atk relieves pressure on 1st Bn, continued N to EW road from Rohrbach to Maierhoff where tanks were stopped due to large crater. Co. remained there for the night. One medium tank hit an unusually large mine ... destroyed. No casualties. One EM from light tank (LW) Pfc Fetter, hit by shrapnel.
11 Dec: Petit Rederching : "A" Company attchd 71st at Montbron. "B" Com. attchd 324th south of Maierhoff. "C" Co (attchd 114th) Encenberg. "D" Co Butten. Enemy front lines - northern edge Petit Rederching. The MAGINOT LINE at barrier 800 (yds) to our front and composed of RR rails set in concrete facing N. 71st Division … to seize the high ground vic Fromuhl. 12 (ey) tanks atkd 12th Armored Div along RR NE Rohrbach; One tank knocked out, 11 withdrew to Petit Rederching. Co. B (atchd 324th) between Meyerhoff and Petit Rederching) ... at 1115A resumed the adv on Petit Rederching with the atkg Inf elements engaging enemy armor on their front. 2nd Bn met with heavy direct fire from MGs and 88mm’s at S limits of town. Supporting tanks were not wholly effective and as a consequence the enemy armor, estimated at 10 tanks, was able to fire almost unhindered down the streets and along the edge of town. At 1145 "B" Co. jumped off from Maierhoff atkg Petit Rederching. Two Tiger Mark VI enemy tanks were slushed by 12th US Armd Div on left flank to regain ... N of Petit Rederching. Atk held up for approximately one hour until TD could knockout two tigers. [The TD] was destroyed by enemy tank. One EM KIA, Cpl Mayhill [Editor: Paul Rayhill]; three EM wounds; SGT MINIELLI, and T/5 Griffin, SWA and evac, other EM and evac, PVT Hoyle. Tanks then proceeded to attack Petit Rederching. Obj taken. 324th enters Petit Rederching against intense arty, mortar, tank cannon, and MG fire. Ist Lt Kaufman relieved of command and Capt James J Woods assumes command. Capt James F Redford, S-3 and temporarily acting "B" Co commander, KIA, while standing near TD which was destroyed by enemy fire (Shrapnel in back and both legs) - DOW at aid station. At 1345 11 tanks (ey) withdrawing ... NW to Bettviller. Capt Coney assumes command of Co. "C" Co N of Enchenberg. Cpl Roos LWA. Pfc Schmid DOW on 13 Dec from inj this day.
Meyerhof 1944 Looking South. East-West road is Rue de Strasbourg Road
12 Dec: Maginot Line: barbed wire vic NE Siersthal old and badly rusted, no obstacle. Cold, rain. Tanks badly in need of maintenance. "A" Co to Fromuhl, detained by mines and craters. Atk with 71st Div 3rd Bn. Fired at two pillboxes Ey fire at RJ 2500 yds E of Holbach. "B" Co NE Petit Rederching with 324th. No ey contact. Maintenance Co. truck hit by arty in Rederching,. Pfc Fetter LWA. Two replacement medium tanks 76mm. Eight tanks from "C" atchd "B".
13 Dec: Maginot Line: Cold, overcast, visibility poor. Combat efficiency: poor. Tanks in need of repair and replacement. C/atk by enemy succeeded at Freudenberg Farm. Petit Rederching heavily shelled at 2400. "C" Enchenberg, "D" Metschbruch. Cold, overcast. "A" Co jumped off with 71st Div on atk Holbach but Inf unable to adv - heavy arty, mortar, S/A fire from pillboxes. Under fire from Simserhof Fort, 2nd Platoon "A" Co and assault guns took cover in a building and supported 2nd Bn by firing on pillboxes. Repeated attempts to advance repulsed. After rcn, ... tanks knocked out 4 pillboxes. At 1700 1st Bn crossed Schwalb Rv by fording through 5 feet of water. Ground occupied E and W of Hottviller and Kapellenhoff Farm. "B" Co with tanks from "C" and "D" Co.’s NE Petit Rederching on road to Kapellenhoff Farm. Bridge out. 324th adv under heavy arty and mortar. Pvt Sapounas LWA, jeep hitting a mine next to the truck Sapounas was driving. . EM, Cpl Osborne, LWA evac from Dec 11.
14 Dec: Bitche/Maginot Line: Artillery fire extremely intense. "A" Co ... by supporting fire while 71st 3rd Bn Inf assault pillboxes with dynamite satchels at Freudenberg Farm. . Fired 80 rds AP at one pillbox. From RJ Frohmuhl 28 pillboxes could be pinpointed, and farmhouse has walls 6 x 6 thick. Our 8 inch howitzers did not damage pillboxes. 4 EM LWA, not evac,Cpl Osso, Cpl Rogan, Pfc Weskerna, Sgt Parks. "B" Co with 324th at Kapellenhoff , 2 tanks hit by ey arty. Pfc Pearson SWA, Dec. Pfc Schmid DOW from Dec 11. Lt Leighton assigned to "C" Co.
15 Dec: Bitche/Simserhof Fort: Reports on enemy indicate 5-75mm and 2-135mm guns at Simserhof, 2-75mm and 1-135mm plus some 88mm's at Schiesseck. The enemy is still displaying tenacious defense N and NE and at Simserhof. Reports 4 enemy tanks Hottviller, Simserhof 4 tanks at 1155A, 2 tanks at 1230A, 4 tanks 1345A, 4 tanks 1445A, 2 tanks 1535A. "A" Company ... firing piercing shells at ... pillboxes with no results. Combat efficiency poor, morale fair. Cold, cloudy. "B" Co at Kapellinhoff. Pfc Szarowics LWA not evac.
Troutman: I remember the Saverne Gap. I remember the names Haguenau, Brumath, Hordt, Ingwiller. The reason I remember the Saverne gap is that we stayed in a hotel there. We stayed on the 4th or 5th floor. We found a lot of German money. Of course it wasn't any good, so we threw it out the window.
Editor: The log book indicates that one platoon of Company "D" accompanied "B" company through the Saverne Gap to fight east of the Vosges near Strasbourg. Were you in that platoon?
Baker: I don't remember.
Editor: It was mentioned that it was the 2nd platoon.
Baker: Then it must have been me. I got hit on November the 28th on the side of a mountain on a small trail. I thought it was near Bitche, but it must not have been since the log book shows that that area wasn't reached until December 11th.
Editor: The log book shows that fighting on the 28th occurred near Petersbach and Struth on the eastern base of the Vosges Mountains and that you were injured near Struth. Involved was Company B and one platoon of Company D. The last 2 sentences of the 23 Nov entry says that the 2nd platoon "D" Co. moved out to join "B" Co., which was headed to the Saverne Gap.
Baker: We had chased after the German tanks and were on the side of a mountain and the Germans were across a valley on the side of another mountain, about 400 yards away. The Germans had the advantage of knowing the distances involved. They were concealed, and they waited until we got onto a section of the trail that made us go very slow. They began to pound us and the infantry that were accompanying us. It was difficult because of the slope of the trail to pivot the tanks to fire across the valley. I got out of my tank to help some of the infantry that had been wounded. You are told many times not to get out of your tank, but I did. It was a high-explosive tank shell that hit three infantry guys near me but just got me in the arm.
Editor: The log book indicates that on the 29th the 1st and 2nd plat of "B" Co. were still east of the Saverne Gap, so you must not have been with that group. Let me check again ....... I see here on 24 Nov that the 3rd platoon of "D" Co is mentioned, not 2nd. The entry on 23 Nov must have been wrong. And later log entries on 28 Nov for activity east of Saverne mention only the 1st and 2nd platoons of "B" Co. So the 3rd platoon of "B" must have stayed west of Saverne and been the "B" unit mentioned the day you were hit near Struth.
Kinchloe: On 25 Nov, Hooks was the assistant driver in my tank (when I was there) and Bounds was the loader.
Editor: 11 Dec 1944 - You may note that is the day that my uncle, Willie Minielli, was wounded. He told me that for several days earlier his unit had been behind the front lines - based on the log book I would guess that he was referring to their position East of Bining on the 7th, 8th, and 9th of Dec. He said that during that period their location was under nearly continuous artillery and mortar fire. At one point, he said, 4-5 German tanks appeared on a large hill a mile or so away; that area was supposed to be secure. The tanks fired into their position for about 30 minutes. Most of the tank personnel were outside their tanks; everyone ran for cover. He said that quite a few people were wounded and several trucks and jeeps were destroyed.
As my uncle told me the story of the day he was wounded, his unit remained on the front lines on the southern edge of a small city. I assume they were on the western edge of Maierhoff , one mile or so south of Petit Rederching during the night of 10 Dec because the road, probably the East-West Rorbach-Bitche road, had several large craters in it and they didn't want to try moving off the road because the ground was so soft. He said that they received artillery fire often through the night; he remembered wishing that he wasn't there, like a sitting duck. And it was cold.
Early the next morning, the Company B tanks were firing from time to time in defense of the infantry which was cleaning up the small town of Maierhoff. Some time later the attack began again north to Petit Rederching, but Willie's platoon was not involved in the initial move. Within a short time, just after Willie's platoon was ordered to start forward, the attack was hampered by artillery fire and craters in the road. Attempts by tanks and infantry to move into the town were stopped by 9-10 tanks in the north of the town firing downhill through the town. Word came to Willie's group (platoon, I guess) that they would go east of the town and attack from there. They went a mile or so east before turning north; Willie got his chance to see a portion of the Maginot Line through his binoculars. He wasn't too impressed, he said, just a bunch of railroad ties stuck between blocks of cement.
When the platoon turned west and headed back towards the town, they stayed on the narrow road, even though it was wooded, because the ground was too muddy. He said he hated to be stuck on a narrow, wooded road because it limited his ability to see very far ahead. In a short time he could hear the tanks in the town (Petit Rederching) firing. The platoon rounded a bend in the road. There was heavy artillery and mortar fire from the small town. His platoon commander said that the Germans probably were using the church steeple in the town for directing their artillery and mortar fire. At that point the platoon left the road and entered into an open field. He stopped his tank and took a look through his field glasses to try to get a fix on where the German tanks were. Then a Tiger tank appeared at the far end of the narrow road near the town - he said he thought it was about 3/4 mile away. His first thought was to get out of there because they were Tiger tanks, so he yelled to his driver to back up. Then he saw a flash from the Tiger tank. According to Osborne (below) the first shell hit the cannon of the tank and a second shell hit the turret and killed the gunner (Rayhill) and hit Willie in the right arm, right hand, and stomach (SWA).
Strangely, he said he didn’t remember hearing any noise. He did not mention a second shell. I did not know, years before when Willie first told me about the event, that two shells hit the tank. I would guess that he didn't remember exactly what happened, and his memory of telling the driver to back up was the result of the first shell that hit the tank's cannon. That would make sense given what Szarowich said [below] about a noise preceding the shell that hit the turret.
Willie said he later heard that Captain Redford was killed when he came over to the site and was directing a Tank Destroyer which was hit by one of the German tanks. The log book says that the attack was delayed for an hour in the effort to get past these German tanks.
Niemeyer: About an hour later I saw your uncle walking alongside the road being helped by two people.
Editor: When did you hear about Captain Redford's death?
Niemeyer: An hour or so later via radio. I never did see him again. At one point during the battle he got out of the tank to go direct Tank Destroyer fire. I put the tank behind a house on the edge of the city that was out of the line of fire. I didn't get out of the tank. There was fire everywhere. The German tanks were on a high spot north of the town and were firing constantly at anything that moved.
Tribbey: I heard that Redford was where he shouldn't have been, but I can't say whether or not that's true. But I also heard he got hit by a shell. Somebody told me that the Tiger was firing from about 5000 yards.
McFadden: The day Redford got killed - I saw the tank later and could see meat all over the tank. Some guys told me he was standing on the tank that got hit.
Tribbey: A strange thing happened about Rayhill. He was a very religious man. He called me up on his tank two days before he got killed and told me he had a copy of the Book of Revelations. He read to me that the war - whatever war the book was referring to, I don't remember - would be over on in two days. Then two days later he is dead.
Kinchloe: Clem Osborne told me that he saw your uncle Willie's tank get hit. He said there were 4-5 tanks moving in a field alongside some woods when Willie's tank was hit. Almost blew the turret off. Decapitated the gunner Rayhill. Then two of the other tanks were hit.
Editor: How far away was Osborne when Willie got hit?
Kinchloe: Osborne said the five 2nd platoon tanks had left a road and were moving across an open field about 40-50 feet apart. Willie's tank was next to a line of woods near a road. The German tank that hit Willie was about 1800 yards away. He said that Willie came out of the tank right away, so fast that he initially thought that Willie had been knocked out of the tank by the blast. Osborne said that the tank that hit Willie was the same tank that killed Captain Redford.
Editor: How did Osborne know that the gunner had been decapitated?
Kinchloe: He said that Willie told him one day in Evansville after the War. In reply to your other questions, he said that Willie had always been in the 2nd Platoon, and that he was promoted to Sgt. and Tank Commander after Payne and Cooley were lost in the bridge incident near Luneville.
Osborne: On that day I was not feeling good, upset stomach, a cold. Captain Redford asked me to get in one of the tanks and said that once this attack was over I could take a few days off. Apparently the 106th Cavalry scouts had said the path was clear of German tanks. We had spent the night just outside a small town (Editor: Maierhoff); about 6:30 in the morning we jumped off. Captain Redford was on the edge of the small town (Petit Rederching) directing fire. After a hour or so after we took off, I saw 6 Tiger tanks on a hill north of the town about 1000-1500 yards away. We had just gotten off the road near the edge of a woods into a field - a valley, actually an ice field - between small hills. All 5 tanks of the platoon were moving in a row across this field. My tank was about 50 feet from Willie's. He was still near the woods and the road. Mortar fire began falling all around us; you can recognize mortar fire because it comes almost straight down on you. I'd guess that the tanks were getting the range with the mortars. Then a shell broke the gun on Willie's tank in half. The second shell got Willie's tank; it almost blew the whole turret off. I saw him come out of the tank and start running towards the woods, holding one arm with the other at about the waist level. I remember thinking he had lost part of his arm. There was a second guy with him who also got out of the tank [Editor: Szarowich].
Editor: Did you guys fire at the German tanks?
Osborne: The shells would just have bounced off them. It would be like firing a BB gun at a piece of 6-inch-thick steel. All we could try to do was get out of there.
The fourth German tank shell I remember hit our tank and knocked the gun off the turret. I got out and started running. Mortar fire and machine gun fire was landing all around; I felt like a rabbit running from a hunter. Finally a mortar got me in the knee and hand. I managed to get into one of the pillboxes that was part of the Maginot Line, about 1/4 mile from our tank. I don't know what happened to the other guys in the tank. I do remember looking back once and seeing 4 puffs of smoke from the place our platoon had been. I think 1 or 2 more of our tanks got hit after mine. I know the 12th armored Division, which was fighting alongside our tanks, got smashed up pretty good by these German tanks.
When I tumbled into the pillbox, there were about 6 infantry guys in there. The major asked me what I was doing there. I was in that pillbox for two more days. Every time we would stick our head out to see if we could get out, machine guns would fire at us. I was bleeding, cold, my feet were starting to get frostbite, and I thought I was getting pneumonia. Finally I told the major I was going to leave no matter what; I would rather take my chances out there than die in the pillbox. He said if you make it, we'll follow you. I left that night and managed to get back to our lines, but guys guarding our positions wanted to know who I was. I had no ID and I didn't know the password. They asked me to tell them who my commanding officer was. I said Redford. Since he was dead, that didn't help. I named a few other officers, including Lt Woods. Luckily he had come to take over for Redford that morning (he was returning from a head wound which had penetrated his helmet and had rattled around inside, giving him a close haircut). Finally, they let me get to the aid station.
Rosencrantz: I was told that Redford had one or both of his legs blown off when the tank hit the TD gun. I remember seeing your Uncle the day he got hit; talked to him a little bit before he headed back. I was still in my tank, and I saw him walking toward the rear.
I don't think Osborne was in our platoon.
Myers: I remember the day Redford was hit. Standing on or near a TD. Someone told me he lived long enough to say "Tell my wife I love her, and Goodbye." I remember our 4-5 tanks were lined up in a row heading out across the flat ground – icy, cold. The infantry were following behind us. At some point we took incoming. There were tanks, 120mm mortars, machine guns – everything but the kitchen sink. The tank next to me began to back up and the Infantry behind the tank couldn’t get out of the way. A few of them were hit by the tank. I remember we eventually took back the little town [Editor: Petit Rederching]. Some people in the town fired shotguns at us.
Editor: J.W., do you remember the day Redford got killed?
Breakbill: Sure. I was right there with him. We were in a small town ---
Editor: Petit Rederching?
Breakbill: You mean the town where it happened?
Breakbill: We were in a small town about 5 or 6 miles away [Editor: probably Maierhoff]. I got orders to go up there with 2-3 tanks, that there was a heck of a battle going on up at the front. When I got there, Redford came down the middle of the road and caught me. We were on the south side of this small town, facing north. He brought up a Tank Destroyer, put it right next to my tank, and told me to direct fire on this German tank. We both were standing on the front end of my tank. His left leg was behind my right leg. I was using field glasses to direct fire. I don't know how many German tanks there were; I only saw one. But I think there were more down there. Best as I can remember it was about 1400 yards. We fired one round. I told them to drop two mils. Just as they fired the second shot, we got hit by one. All I remember was a big blinding flash; I don't remember hearing a sound. It went through Redford and hit the gun barrel right next to the turret behind him. He was smeared all over me and the tank. Looked like ground sausage. The shell hit him right at the belt line near his left hip. I was so close to him that if I hadn't been holding the field glasses, and my arm was at my side, I probably would have been hit by the shell. I was told that he lived until they got him to the aid station. Luckily there wasn't anybody else in the tank.
The shell put an egg-shaped hole in the barrel. Those barrels were made of good metal; it was probably three inches thick at that spot. Those 88's were hell. Right after the shell hit Redford, another shell came in and hit the Tank Destroyer.
The German tank was very slightly lower than we were right next to a woods. I think we were firing west. The tanks of ours that got hit were north of us.
I remember an incident the day Redford got killed where a tank shell went through the turret of a tank and smeared the guys in the tank. I don't remember who they were.
On that day, Swandance was my driver, Campbell was my assistant driver, Battigaglia was my loader, John Wasiewski was my gunner.
Editor: When did you join the 749th? Did you join the 1st platoon in B Company?
Szarowich: It had to be the summer of '44. I trained in Fort Knox starting in '43, then went to Camp Campbell. Then I was transferred to a repo depot and went overseas. I think I was always in the 1st platoon.
Editor: I've been told that you were a Loader in my uncle Willie Minielli's tank. Was he a Tank Commander when you first joined the 749th?
Szarowich: Yes. Corporal Rayhill was the Gunner, I was the Loader, a guy named Moose was the Driver - I don't remember his real name (Editor: Fred Renz), and Swandance was the Assistant Driver.
The 749th was somewhere near Nancy, France when I joined them, but I don't know exactly where. I do remember being in Luneville, now that you mention it.
Editor: Do you remember seeing Bing Crosby while you were there?
Editor: He performed for the 749th on September 17th. So you probably got there after that.
Szarowich: About the day our tank got knocked out. It was about noon, and the five tanks of the platoon were going through a field toward the next town. We were firing at a church steeple 500 yards away which was a German observation post. I heard a noise and turned around to see if the 30-caliber had exploded. The first shot must have just hit a part of the gun barrel. The German tank must have led us a little too much. I think he was about 1700-1800 yards away. Then I saw - have you ever seen arc welding ? -
Editor: Yes. A white flash?
Szarowich: Yes. That second shot hit us right in the turret. I turned to Willie and saw that he was hit in the hand; I saw bone sticking out from his wrist to his elbow. I turned to Rayhill as I was bailing out and said " Come on, Rayhill, or we'll never get out of here." His face was peppered, like salt and pepper mixed together. I knew he was gone.
As I crawled under the gun and bailed out, the German gunner must have raised his sights a little bit to pick us off. I must have been a fraction of a second ahead of the projectile because I got shrapnel in my arm. When I was in the tank, I got a slash through my clothes all the way across my back, like a razor cut through my clothes. Didn't hit me, though. If I hadn't turned to check the 30-caliber, I probably would have gotten hit right in the stomach.
Editor: Are you saying that a third shell hit the tank as you got out?
Szarowich: I'm not really sure. But I think so. I think the third shell just clipped one of the doors on the turret hatch - there were two half-moon doors - just as I was getting out, and that's where I got shrapnel in my arm. It may sound strange that I don't remember for sure, but I don't.
Once I got out of the tank, I helped Willie out of the tank. [ Editor: Mr. Swandance's daughter told me that her father said the name of the tank he was in was "Budweiser".] I didn't see the driver and the assistant driver bail out. It was December, but the ground wasn't quite frozen yet. Those 30-ton tanks left a pretty deep rut in the ground. I told Willie "Come on. I'll help you." He put his good arm over my shoulder and we took off. Ever so often we'd stop and rest, laying down in the tank rut. We finally got into that little town...."
Editor: Petit Rederching?
Szarowich: Yes. I'm not sure how far it was, maybe 600 yards. I saw the other two guys there; they were OK.
The company commander (Redford) was directing TD fire from that town. They fired at the tank that got us and destroyed that tank. But then another German tank pulled up alongside the first one and knocked out our TD and the tank next to it. Redford was killed.
I revisited that place in 1974. The church steeple we were firing at was still there.
Editor: The log book indicates that guys named Hoyle and Griffin was also injured that day. Do you know about them? Were other tanks in the platoon hit that day?
Szarowich: I remember Hoyle, but don't know how he got hurt. I don't know if other tanks in the platoon got hit that day.
I remember Willie asking me the day after we were hit to get his wife's picture out of the tank. When I got to the tank, I saw a shell laying in the gunner's seat. I have no idea how it got there.
After I returned to duty a few days later, I was assigned to a tank that had a 76mm gun. We were in Corp reserve at that time. One day our tank was called up to fire at a tank that had another platoon of our tanks pinned down. The only way our tanks could get out required coming across a skyline. Our tank - I think Bush was the tank commander - came up to the top of a hill just enough to expose ourselves just a little. Our first shot at the tank was a little low; the gunner was a guy from North Carolina. The second shot hit, and we continued to pepper it. As the Germans tried to abandon the tank, we hit it with quite a few HE shells and blew them off of it. After our tanks had gotten out of those woods safely, we ran into one of the anti-tank officers, and he said our shells went in the front of the tank and came out the rear. I remember thinking that we at least had a fighting chance with the German tanks now. We had no chance with the 75mm gun, even at point-blank range. The 76mm didn't compare with the German 88mm, but it was an improvement.
Editor: Any other memories in the Rohrbach area?.
Tribbey: We had two guys, one named Joseph Smith, from New York. He was a loader. If the gunner had an HE shell in the breech and he wanted an armor piercing shell, he called to the loader. Joe went down to the floor to get the shell. When he came up behind the breech of the gun, the gunner got excited and touched the solenoid and fired the gun. The recoil smashed Joe's head into the radio transmitter. He died a short time after that.
Another guy, Ernest Dedrick from Washington, Indiana had the same thing happen to him. They had to pry his helmet off his head. Yet he survived and lived up until a few years ago.
Our tanks had a driver, assistant driver with 30 caliber MG, tank commander, gunner, and loader with 30 caliber MG, and sometimes a 50 caliber MG on the turret. There was an escape hatch under the assistant driver's seat. I remember Charley Nichols, Andy Niksich, and T.D. Smith needing to get out of the tank in a bad situation but a sapling was blocking the door so they had to go out the top. Andy got hit 7 times by a 30 caliber MG. He's living today in Hobart, Indiana.
One thing I still see in my mind: during one battle I saw a medical jeep bringing a guy out and the guy was holding his shoulder, but there was no arm. The site of such a thing stays with you.
Kohler: On Dec 14th - Pearson. Our tank was on a hill and artillery was coming in heavy. We retreated to a barn that also had some other soldiers in it. I jumped out of the tank and hid between a water trough and a feed trough. Other guys were moving to the back of the barn, and I had an inkling I should move also. So I did. Pearson came in a few minutes later and hid where I had been earlier. Artillery hit the barn and Pearson lost his leg. Because we couldn't get a medic to him in time, he died later from the leg wound.
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