SECOND UNITED STATES CAVALRY – A HISTORY
Compiled, edited and published by Historical Section, Second Cavalry Association
Maj. A. L. Lambert and Cpt. G. B. Layton, 2d Cavalry
20 Apr – 27 Apr 1945
Lt. Bob McCaleb, Troop C, 42d Squadron
After considerable interception of German vehicles of all types outside of the city, the 2d platoon, part of the 1st, and one platoon of tanks proceeded into the town from the north, with the remainder of the 1st platoon under Lt. Williams on the left flank heading for the tower on the high ground called Hill 752.
As we entered the town our AAA half-track started the works by destroying a motorcycle with 3 men on it, killing two and seriously wounding one.
One tank proceeded up the street and we cleaned out the houses as we went.
Major Andrews was manning the .50 cal AA MG on the tank, when there suddenly appeared three Krauts, who for some peculiar reason walked jauntily up to within 50 yds of the tank. They were talking and joking among themselves, with their rifles slung on their shoulders, before realizing what they saw before them; a platoon of men and a fully manned tank with the gun looking down their throats. Surprised and puzzled, they slowed their pace. I was standing on the right of the tank and waved my pistol invitingly, calling “kommen Sie hier!” With this they tried to dart to the left and get under cover.
Major Andrews ripped out a burst which knocked two down on the curb. The gunner of the tank cut loose immediately with an HE shell, which promptly ended their suffering in a puff of dirt and smoke, and spattered them in small portions all over the front of the buildings. The third Kraut crossed over and disappeared into a driveway which later was the nemesis of the tank. Another burst of fifty, at Capt. Harris’ yell, went after him as he disappeared. The gunner pleaded to let another shell go at him. By this time the houses were cleared up to the tank, and the unit started to roll forward slowly but surely.
Just prior to this, a disgruntled old bald-headed man paused to give a very definite Bronx cheer to the men by the tank, ignoring my order to get in the house. After the third order moved him only a few paces and drew another Bronx cheer, I snapped a .38 short over his head and he promptly disappeared.
About 100 yards forward, as we attempted to locate some burp guns which were firing overhead from a position off to the left, a burst of smoke from a loading platform, a quick shadow through the air, and the group around the tank was enveloped in smoke. Helmets flew as the concussion momentarily gripped and shook the men. Major Andrews flew off the tank without much effort on his own part. Later, I discovered my combat jacket and pants both front and rear were sliced neatly as by a handfull of razor-like claws, yet not one scratch did I have on my skin.
Capt. Harris later found that he was more seriously wounded than he knew. He was walking on the left side of the street and received the full ricochet effect of the blast on that side of the tank.
Unknown to those on the ground at the time, the driver, gunner and tank commander were dead as the tank stepped up its speed and cut in a long diagonal to the left and rammed into the corner of the building at the entrance of a driveway. The same driveway up which one of the escaping Krauts had previously run. Here another blast rocked the forward part of the machine.
Disorganized by the sudden turn of events and the unknown locations of the burp guns, the troops withdrew and after reorganizing, plunged through to contact B Troop as it entered from the right. Troop C followed behind B Troop until the next intersection was gained, and then the Troop cut to the left and took up a defensive screen on the high ground at the east side of the town, covering more than 3 miles.
Capt. Harris had been evacuated for the remainder of the war and I took over the Troop at this time.
Lt. Harry A. Lanes platoon attacked, supported by Jerry Hann’s assault guns. Then the rest of B Troop entered from the west and continued through the city to the high ground commanding the eastern approaches. The city was far from being cleared, snipers remained active, and there was still considerable street fighting to be done.
S/Sgt. Magnum of Troop A led his platoon in a thrust through the city in an attempt to prevent the enemy from bringing up reinforcements. When they reached the further edge of the city, they found that the railroad lay in such a position that it could be easily defended because of the many boxcars and railroad buildings. The platoon took positions and opened fire on the enemy. A terrific firefight resulted. Sgt. Magnum left part of the platoon to occupy the enemy from the front, and took 15 men with him to covered positions on the enemy’s flank. Upon his signal they charged, so surprising the Germans that they were unable to swing to meet the new attack, and soon surrendered. This ended the heavy fighting in that immediate vicinity. Sgt. Hinman’s section forced it’s way up the streets, ducking sniper fire and occasional machine gun bursts. At one place, in order to keep advancing, he had to secure the surrender of a large number of enemy in a building to which the only approach was over the open ground. Hinman picked two men to accompany him and instructed the remainder of his section to cover them during the dash to the building. Zig-zagging through heavy machine gun and rifle fire, they somehow made the gauntlet, and arrived at the edge of the building. Sgt. Hinman threw grenades in the lower window, and rushed into the building firing his sub-machine gun as he went from room to room. The Germans who were not killed or wounded soon realized their plight, and surrendered. Asch (map VII)(map 42)was finally cleared by 1830 with 90 to 100 enemy killed and 250 prisoners taken. And so fell the first city in Czechoslovakia to American troops.
The following day the 42d Squadron extended it’s screen south from Asch as B Troop advanced to Libsten (map 42) and Hohenberg (map 42). Troop C pushed patrols to Gurth (map 42). 2d Squadron moved to Selb (map VII)(map 42) and established a screen to the east. On the 22nd the 2d Squadron extended the screen as far south as Schirnding (map 42), while the 42d extended to the north to take Thonbrunn (map 42) and Rossbach (map 42). At Schirnding a Kraut ambush hit a B Troop platoon, capturing Joe Goviet and killing Fred Johnson. Wheeler, Staton and Donovon broke in a Purple Heart in that action.
On being relieved by the 303rd and 386th Infantry Regiments, the next day, 2d Squadron moved further south to positions at Seetort and Schotzenhof with the CP at Konnersreuth. The 42d in it’s turn passed below the 2d and established a connecting screen east of Tirschenreuth (map VII), into which town Group Headquarters moved.
The 24th was another day of leapfrogging, the 2d moving south to Hottenhann, Flossenberg (map 43), Waldkirch (map 43) and Rehberg (map 43). The 42d also shifted slightly south. The enemy began to come to life again in our area. Near Arzberg, Sgt. William Tate, leading a patrol from Linden (map 40) to Arzberg, passed a hidden patrol of 15 enemy. On the return trip his armored car and jeep were disabled by mines laid on the road by the enemy. The driver of the jeep and Sgt. Tate were both injured, the driver very seriously. The Sergeant organized his group and engaged the enemy in a sharp firefight while the wounded man was being carried to safety. Help was sent from the platoon CP and the enemy detachment soon defeated.
Another southward move on the 25th. the 2d moved to the line Losimtal (map 43) – Waidhaus (map 43), and the 42d to Pfrentsch (map 43) – Eisendorf (map 43). The following day both Squadrons pushed forward in their zones, crossing the Czechoslovakian border in several places. Troop C of the 2d was ordered to move through the woods to their front and cross the border. Because of enemy road blocks and mine fields, progress was slow at first, but after securing engineer help to clear up the obstacles, the Troop continued on it’s mission. About half way through the woods, more road blocks were encountered. These the enemy defended with small arms fire. After a sharp fight in which T/5 Chatterton and Pfc. McFarland were wounded, the enemy was driven out. As darkness was fast approaching, the Troop withdrew till the following morning.
In the meantime, Capt. Ferdinand P. Sperl of IPW Team No 10 received information of a German staff group with highly valuable documents located within the enemy lines. He volunteered to secure the capture of the staff and the documents. Taking a prisoner as a guide, he managed to pass through the outpost lines of an SS outfit, reach the German staff commander, and convince him of the advisability of surrendering the documents undamaged to a task force. Then, under the necessity of producing the task force to which the staff would surrender, Capt. Sperl returned through the SS lines, secured a task force, and led them back to secure the German staff and the documents.
The morning of the 27th, C Troop of the 42d returned to the woods from which they had withdrawn the night before. The 1st and 3rd platoons finally worked their way through, and in attempting to spread out after clearing the woods, caught the enemy forces completely by surprise. A sudden rush, a sharp fight, and the enemy lost approximately 100 dead and 20 prisoners. The attack carried through to the town of Schonwald.
The same day Sgt. Duch Marich of the 42d also took heavy toll of the enemy. Leading the point of his section toward Dehetne (map 43), an important junction town in Czechoslovakia, he entered the town of Babice (map 43) where only scattered resistance was met. But he learned that in Dehetne, a large force of the enemy was well armed and prepared to offer resistance. He left his section to outpost Babice while he went with the Mayor of Babice to offer surrender terms to the enemy garrison at Dehetne. The enemy commander not only would not surrender, but boasted that he had sent for reinforcements. Sgt. Marich returned to his section, told them the situation, moved up into position and laid a heavy and accurate concentration of fire on the stubborn enemy garrison. His 10 men killed and wounded 15 of the enemy. The rest changed their minds about resisting and the section collected 20 prisoners.