History of the 305th Combat Engineers
Complied by Robert T. Murrell "M" 318th Infantry
Activation: The 305th Combat Engineer Battalion was activated 15 July 1942 as part of the 80th Infantry Division, at Camp Forrest, Tn. The authorized strength was 28 Officers and 690 Enlisted Men. The Officer cadre came in part from the Reserve Corps; mostly from the Engineer Officer Candidate School. The enlisted cadre came from the 12th Engineer Battalion, 8th Infantry Division. The filler replacements began arriving on 19 July 1942. By the end of July we were nearing full strength and orientation training had been completed by most of the men. On 14 August the 17 weeks M.T.P. was started and by the 14th we were up to full strength.
During the early stages of training our Battalion Commander, LT. Col. Elliott, placed a great deal of emphasis on first getting the men in good physical condition. Calisthenics came every morning and soon it got to be a daily sight to see the Battalion double timing around the parade ground. An additional lap was added each day until we had our first hike, a distance of eight miles. On 14 September 1942 Lt. Col. Elliott was relieved as Commander by Major Allen F. Clark, Jr. A Battalion review was held in Lt. Col. Elliott's honor, and on the night prior to his departure he tendered and informal farewell party. No one present could conceal sincere regret at losing such an able Commander. M.T.P Training: Under Major Clark the 17 week M.T.P continued steadily at the same pace set during the opening weeks. Range season was held and 67% of the men qualified with the rifle. The outstanding event of the month was the III Corps Commander's inspection on the 24th. This was the first time that the entire personnel and equipment of he Battalion had been assembled at the same time. General Lucus commended us on the condition of our equipment. Late in November we were engaged in the M.T.P tests conducted by testing teams from the III Corps Headquarters. A creditable showing was made with the Battalion receiving marks of excellent in many tests. This completed our 17-week M.T.P.
Major General Patch, Commanding General of the 80th Infantry Division, presented the Battalion Colors to us on 12 December 1942. Shortly afterward, we moved to Cumberland Springs for our first week's bivouac. Upon our return from bivouac, we started several projects, the most important being the construction of a Nazi Village for the First Ranger School. This village became the subject for some of the most publicized news photos in the States. Another interesting project was the demolition of five bridges at Knoxville for the Tennessee Valley Authority. On 12 February 1943 and enlisted cadre was sent to the 106th Infantry Division. The cadre consisted of 70 enlisted men and one officer. From 22 February to 21 March, the combat team exercises of the 80th Division was held. Each of the line companies spent some time in the field working together with their respective Combat Teams. This was the first time that all had worked together with other parts of the Division.
On 17 April the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, paid a surprise visit to Camp Forrest while the 80th Division and other post units were having a full field inspection. The President shook hands with Lt. Col. Clark and congratulated him on the appearance of the engineer equipment.
Maneuvers: From 17 April to 7 May we took part in the Divisional Field Exercises held in Shelbyville, Fayetteville, Winchester, and Manchester area. This was sort of a preliminary for the 2nd Army maneuvers which started late in June. We left Camp Forrest on 22 June and motored to the vicinity of Murfreesboro, Tn., where we awaited the opening of the maneuvers. They were divided into eight problems. The first four enabled us to become acquainted with the engineer mission in the attack. We were called upon to guard vital bridges, construct fords, simulate bridge repairs, and make assault crossings and assemble footbridges. During the last four problems the Battalion, together with the Division was on the defensive. Our mission consisted of laying hasty mine fields, setting up roadblocks and obstacles, and preparing bridges for demolition. On one problem we built a 540-foot assault boat bridge across the Cumberland River. The end of maneuvers found us tired and dirty, but mentally alert and with an offensive spirit of combat. The 305th had passed its "teens".
Lt. Col. Clark left us on 27 August for a new assignment. We lost our best officer and all regretted to see him leave. On 2 September we welcomed our new Battalion Commander, Major Albert E. McCollum who is still with us and now holds the rank of Lt. Col. Other Camps: Immediately after maneuvers we entrained at Gallatin, Tn. for Camp Phillips Ks. Some of the men left the maneuver area for 15-day furloughs and rejoined the Battalion in Kansas. At Camp Phillips we went through an intensive training program, which consisted mostly of range work. Every weapon was to be fired and qualification was nearly 100%. Our stay in Kansas was highlighted by the week spent at the Kannapolis Dam Area. The Battalion became acquainted with the Bailey bridge. On 24 November 1943 the 80th started the transfer from Camp Phillips to Camp Laguna, AZ in the CA-AZ Maneuver Area, for desert training. Most of our time on the desert was spent in conditioning, and training became more concentrated each week. The highlight was the platoon leadership tests. The last phase of the exercise consisted of a march over three mountains, one of which was a 3500-foot high. Our desert training ended with a three week Corps Maneuver. Early April 1944 the Battalion moved to Fort Dix, NJ. It was this camp that the 80th Division was demobilized after World War I. During the period here, POM requirements were complied with, and all supplies were turned in prior to embarkation for overseas. We all received furloughs, and many of the men got to go home for several weekends.
On 19 June we move to Camp Kilmer, NJ where the Division was staged, prior to going overseas. Here personal equipment was checked and rechecked, and last physical exam was given. At 1400 hours on 1 July we sailed out of New York harbor on the Queen Mary, heading for England. After arriving in Scotland on 6 July, the Battalion was sent immediately to Camp Golbore, England. Staying there for three weeks, we received all our equipment and supplies. On 1 August we left for Southampton in southern England. Combat: At the beginning of August 1944 the strength of the unit was 29 officers, 3 Warrant officers and 600 enlisted men. Our base camp was Golbore Park, England until 6 August 1945. While loading our equipment aboard a cargo ship at the piers in England, we lost one Tractor, D7, and one Trailer, low bed 20 tons.
Upon arrival at our destination in France, disembarkation was slow, due to the fact we were aboard an ordinary cargo ship and not one of the modern beach landing ships. It took two days for us to disembark our men and equipment, whereas, the men and equipment in the L.S.T. were unloaded in a few hours. During this time one-ton Trailer containing one portable water purification unit was lost, and could not be located prior to our departure from the assemble area, 6 August 1944 in a foot march from Utah Beach to our transit area, a total of six miles in clear weather. Our two days at the assembly area was spent in preparation of a long move: requisitioning for essential shortages; and requesting rations be issued to complete our two-day reserve stock. Some plans were devised to store all our impregnated clothing and equipment, duffel bags and all Chemical Warfare Equipment, except our flame-throwers. Two cities were designated as storage places for the supplies mention. However, nothing was accomplished because the unit received orders to move on 7 August to ST Jores, France. From here we moved to Argentan, France where we first encountered our first real test of combat. It was here that the Division closed the Falaise-Argentan Gap. Through this sector the engineers were kept busy day and night sweeping roads, building bridges, clearing road of debris, removing roadblocks, and burying dead animals. During the moves, the problem of supplying the battalion with gasoline has to be accomplished. Distributing the loads of two vehicles appointed to carry the gasoline, among our remaining vehicles did this. This enabled us to use any vehicle for supply trips at a moments notice. This plan was finally ironed out by the end of the month.
From Argentan, the Division took off in pursuit of the rapidly withdrawing enemy. Many rivers were crossed, the Seine, Aube, Marne and the Meuse. Then came the Moselle. Here our first large-scale operation was encountered. Company C made a hasty crossing at Toule, while an unsuccessful one was attempted at Pont-a-Mousson. From southwest of Conlie to east of St. Mars on 13 August it is now raining. Continuing on from East of St. Mars on the 15th to South of Jublains and then to Montrae and south of Almenches on the 18th August. Three water points were assigned to the combat units. The Infantry was to supply their own transportation in order to move these water points. This relieved our transportation problems somewhat, but the plan was not agreeable to all Infantry units concerned. In fact, one infantry outfit completely forgot to transport the water point assigned to them during one move, which was about 365 miles across France. We had just made a move of 388 miles to northeast of Villesneaux on the 28th and had to return to pick up this water point. After this the water points were assigned to the line companies who were assigned to the various combat teams. This plan worked. Also all water points were given 1-ton trailers to carry their equipment.
About 28 August we were able to secure one portable water purification unit to replace that one lost upon the beach, it had a capacity of 3,000 gallons. 30 August found us northwest of Chalons, France. During the month of August we had traveled 684 miles. A study of the terrain of that portion of the sector within the 80th Infantry Division boundary line east and west of the Moselle River crossing will reveal the secret of the German defense in the face of superior strength. Moving east from a line Montec on the north, Beaumont to Menil la Tour on the south, we find land, which defies secrecy of movement. Here there is a rolling plane, dominated frequently by outcropping mountains, again by broad expanses of open terrain comparatively flat. The woods are not generously spread over the land in small clumps, but rather are found in tight, deep forests of from one mile to several in depth. Mountains predominate in the area of Thiaucourt, on the north and around Martincourt on the south. There are flatter, near-plains to the south of Benicourt, of course, where today one may observe concrete fortifications, as a part of the old defense system, and the broad mine belts of the past. The ground approaching the river is certainly not a plateau, nor is it a valley. It strikes its mean elevation through low rolling hills, approximately 330 feet. It manifests itself in steeper descents, in cuts and draws, each seemly turned to face Mousson Hill across the river, as it drops off abruptly to the flood plain of the Moselle.
North to south, along the west bank of the river, for the most part, one to two kilometers from the river itself are the screening woods of the Forest de Vencheres, Bois le Pretre, Foret de Puvenelle, and the tiny Bois de Cuite. It is however, the roads and approaches between these forests, which are canalized from the flatter areas to the west through the draws, which approach the river, under the direct observation of the enemy, which presents the problem to the attacking forces. From seats on the dominating east bank, where the hills, Mousson, St. Genevieve, and the Falaise to the south, strike a mean elevation of 370 and 380 feet, the enemy can look onto the flood plain of the river, and up roads to the west to Limey and Flirey and observe our approaching columns. Every draw and gully here was reported, after the operation, as "zeroed in". Crossing the dual waterway, canal, then the river, within a few hundred yards of each other at the farthest point, one passes over a broad flood plain, which has a few scattered trees, but for the most part consists of scrub grass and mud in rainy weather. Beyond the east bank of the Moselle, between Pagny-sur-Moselle and Dielouard, there extends in general a flat or gentle sloping plain for two hundred yards. Then a slope becomes very steep, varying in grade from approximately 30 degrees on Mousson Hill on the north to fifteen or twenty degrees near St. Genevieve and Bezaumont on the south. In the vicinity of Landremont and Ville-au-Val, the high ground is St. Genevieve Hill to the north, 380 feet, Landremont at 300, on a lower extension of Genevieve, Ville-au-Val on the lower slope of the hill dominated by Genevieve and Landremont, with plains to the west and draws between Ville-au-Val and the key feature, the Falaise, which with the exception of Mousson, overlooks all on the south, offering superiority to its occupant.
Prior to the 5th of September reconnaissance in force was able to reach the Moselle River with little opposition. Plans were made for daylight crossing on the 5th. The site was Pont-a-Mousson. The intelligence section spent the early days of August in reorganization to meet combat conditions. A map depot was set up, and independent of the S-2 section for expeditious break down and distribution of maps to the division and attached units. An enemy map depot was captured near Argentan and it provided us with some excellent map coverage along with map cases and cabinets for use with Division Staff Sections. Prior to 5th of September reconnaissance in force was able to reach the Moselle River with little opposition. Plans were made for daylight crossing on the 5th. The site was Pont-A-Mousson. However, no air or artillery support was provided. Rubber boats were to be used to ferry a small portion of CT 317 across. Six boats were available. Later it was planned to construct a heavy pontoon bridge. However, by 1000 on the 5th September, the men had failed to cross the river. They were pinned down in the bend and succeeded only in crossing the canal. The six rubber boats were destroyed by artillery fire. 20 men were casualties. On the night of the 5th September a battalion was moved to Pagny where an attempt would be made simultaneous with a second attempt at Pont-a-Mousson. The time was 0400. At Pagny twenty boats were to be used. It was impossible to get the boats in the water. However, it might have been possible to ford at this point. At Pont-a-Mousson thirty assault boats were to ferry the 3rd Battalion, 317th across. One company and one platoon did get across, but at least one company failed to return. The 30 boats were lost, riddled with artillery and small arms fire. All the boats were either shot up or lost in the water. Eleven Engineers were lost, either killed or wounded. Some boats made three trips bringing the wounded back before being destroyed. It was later ascertained that a dam below the crossing site had been opened which would speed up the current considerably. The boats were pulled down stream and after failure of this attempt the 80th withdrew to the high ground to the west and commenced planning for an attempt to force a crossing against strong resistance.
The Moselle River in the vicinity of Dielouard follows a winding course Northward through a flat flood plain bordered on the East by a series of fairly steep heights, which dominate the Western banks of the river. From these heights the Germans were able to obtain perfect observation of all activity on the opposite side. The river itself in this area has a variable depth from six to eight feet and flows at approximately six to even miles per hour. The bottom is for the most part muddy which make fording perilous for vehicular traffic since the mud clings to the tracks. The average width is about one hundred and fifty feet. Two characteristics of the river affected operations: the quick flow and the tendency of the water level to change overnight. Along the western bank of the river there is a canal, fifty feet in width, six feet in depth. Between the river and the canal is an eight-foot dyke similar in appearance of the hedgerows of Normandy. This dyke rises abruptly from the canal and river bottom. Because of the varying water level, its banks and those of the canal and river are very muddy. In rainy weather the entire area becomes a veritable mire. The Battalion was then kept busy in the slowly expanding bridgehead clearing minefields; filling craters, removing rubble, abatis, and other roadblocks. A Company was committed as infantry in a battle of Loisy. For gallantry in action during these operations, Private Quick, A Company received the first Silver Star. We had had clear weather up to this point. The infantry were to cross at 0400. Actually there was a delay and the Doughboys started at 0500, 12th September. Company B, 305 Engineers, first bridged the canal with a footbridge. A number of barges in the canal facilitated this job by providing a firm base. By 0900 the footbridge was over the river completed. It was a four-hour job. Hand carry from the road to the river was necessary. After the canal was bridged, 17 plywood assault boats were put across the canal and used for crossing the river. 15 men, of whom 12 are infantrymen and three engineers fit into these boats. The men paddle while one man in the stern guides with a paddle. 17 boats are sufficient to cross a rifle company. After the assault boats crossed the river the company work was commenced on the footbridges over the river.
Company A minus one platoon which acted as infantrymen while the second battalion guided the men across the canal and both arms of the river to the south following the route and using the fords taped off by the patrol of the night before. The one platoon of engineers, which served as infantrymen, went armed with rope, pick, explosives, pins, in short all prepared for mines and bobby traps. In point of fact no mines were found in the vicinity of the crossing sites. To support this crossing twenty 50 Caliber and thirty Caliber machine guns were dug in along the forward slope of the Bois de Cuite on the edge of the woods. During two nights previous to the attack the infantry dug in and sited the guns, which were manned by engineers. The positions were well camouflaged and had overhead cover also. These guns put barrage fire while the infantry crossed in the assault.
At 0400 the infantry started crossing. Artillery opened up at 0415. The artillery preparation was one-hour duration. The 305th ferried and guide one battalion of the 317th across. Then this same outfit constructed an infantry footbridge by which another battalion crossed. Then a company of the 167th Combat Engineer Battalion constructed an Infantry Support Bridge across the canal and river. As soon as the initial waves of infantry reached the far bank the enemy opened up with machine pistols. However, the enemy infantry were too thin, too scattered to stop the crossing. However, heavy artillery and mortar fire on the supporting machine guns killing one and wounding a few. 1500 that afternoon the company of the 167th had completed its infantry support put across bridge and towed TD's and ammo trucks. Because of the losses in assault boats there were insufficient boats to complete the bridge to the far bank. However, it was possible to ford the vehicles the remaining distance. As soon as the first bridge was put in across the canal at the island, a ford was found across the first branch, but no ford over the second arm. General McBride then ordered that heavy pontoon bridges be put up as soon as possible. The work started at 1000. Originally these heavy bridges were to be put up later in the day when it was expected there would be no more hostile fire on the river. 1300 completed the Platoon Bridge across the Canal. The heavy bridge across the first arm by 1700, and by 1950 the far branch was bridged with a heavy pontoon. These three successive bridges were put in under observed enemy fire. By 0900 the infantry gained both heights on the eastern side. However, 24 hours after the assault at 0400, 13 September, the enemy launched a series of counterattacks with tanks and infantry from St. Genevieve and Loisy and Bezaumont. Three companies of Engineers with machine guns set up a defense. This took place on three successive mornings. It was fortunate that the heavy pontoon bridges were in before the first counterattack in view of the fact that tanks of the 702nd Tank Battalion was instrumental in stopping the enemy on the morning of the 13th.
On the night of the 12th it was decided to put a heavy pontoon North of the bridge across the far branch. The work on this bridge was done at night. The next morning twenty-five shells landed nearby. It had been hoped that the enemy would not notice this bridge. Later this bridge and the heavy across the canal were dismantled to provide material for the final bridge across the far arm to the South to take advantage of the macadam road across the island. Up to the 16th the weather was hot and dry, which facilitated the work. A wooden ramp and fill later bridged the site of the first pontoon, the one across the canal. Nearby was a quantity of slack, which was used as road material for building roads across the island. The Germans had zeroed in on the road junctions and established crossing points. Thus the island site although possessing inherent disadvantages of two crossings had the value of not being a likely crossing point. The balance of the month was spent clearing and repairing roads east and west of Dielouard, maintaining equipment and burying dead cattle. Stacking bridge material and clearing Anti Personnel and Anti Tank mines. Installing roadblocks, filling craters and clearing abatis. Building dugouts and laying barbed wire.
During the month of October, while waiting for supplies for the next big push, the Battalion was very busy laying mines, setting up roadblocks and construction of defensive positions. Roads were built for the Infantry, as wet weather made all existing gravel roads unserviceable. The men will never forget Foret de Facq, Mousson Hill, Atton, Loisy, Ville-au-Val, and St. Genevieve, Sivry, Mt. St. Jean, Mt. Toulon, Serrieres and other places. Cpl. Loren Jones of C Company received a Silver Star for gallantry in action of 6 October. With the beginning of November, inclement weather arrived in the form of incessant rainstorms, which caused many rivers to overflow their banks and even small streams became swift moving rivers. This hampered supply operations as well as tactical operations. The water points, which were located on the Moselle, were threatened with this flood. Two water points were moved to higher ground, but one of them became completely surrounded by water so rapidly it was unable to operate. This water point was in a dangerous situation. It was then on an island. The river flowed so swiftly past this island, and was rising higher and higher by the hour. Attempts were made to rescue this water point the first day, but the swift rise of the river, the continuous inclement weather, and lack of boats at the time made it futile.
1-7 November found the engineers west of the Seille River in the vicinity of Nomeny. Technical training was conducted for our own troops and the infantry. Active patrolling and reconnaissance were made. Cleared friendly mines and built corduroy roads. Maintained equipment and prepared and assembled equipment for an attack. 8-11 November. We crossed the infantry over the Seille River and constructed footbridges and ferries. Built Infantry raft bridges and Treadway Bridges. Maintained Seille River crossings and repaired existing bridges. Cleared enemy mines and roadblocks. 12-20 November. We crossed the infantry over the Nied Francaise River, constructed footbridges. Reconnoitered River crossing site and built wooden trestle bridges, small treadway bridges and Bailey bridges. Swept roads and removed and destroyed mines. Installed temporary roadblocks and trip flares. Cut and delivered logs for infantry foxhole covers. 21-24 November. Constructed footbridges and operated ferries. Built Class 40 Bailey bridges, and gave infantry support raft bridges. Cleared rubble and knocked-out vehicles from roads, built bypasses and filled craters and maintained fills, all in the vicinity of Faulquemont. 25-30 November. The engineers were kept busy repairing and filling blown culverts and filling numerous craters. Removed and destroyed mines and enemy explosive's and removed a time bomb device. On 8 November, the big attack started with an assault crossing of the flooded Seille River. A Company at Port-sur-Seille, and B and C Companies at Clemery and Nomeny. This was really a more difficult operation than crossing of the Moselle, for in addition to ferrying doughboys across, building footbridges, vehicular ferries, build culverts, clear abatis, and other roadblocks from the far shore. Later B and C Companies had their hands full clearing mines and booby traps at Delme Ridge. On 8th November S/Sgt. Byrd of C Company, received the first battlefield commission.
On we went. Nied Francaise, Nied Allemande, to Faulquemont, then St. Avold, where many treadway bridges were put in under fire. B Company will long remember its Bailey bridges and assault boat-bridge at Faulquemont. The road from Faulquemont to Tatting gave A Company a big headache with its craters, blown culverts, shell holes, land mines and antitank ditches. The Division climaxing our drive from the Moselle took St. Avold. For the month of November 2 EM was KIA, 12 EM and 2 Officers were WIA. Bronze Stars were awarded LT. Col. A. E. McCollam, Major Robert M. Rawls, PFC Florian Mikulski and Pvt. John T. Rzasa.
December 1944 - The battalion continued to operate under from Headquarters of the 80th Infantry Division. Each one of our companies supported one of the division's Combat Teams. 1-9 December - East of St. Avold, France. The attack that was started 8 November 1944 continued. The division's original plan was to move east from the vicinity of St. Avold and establish a bridgehead east of the Saar River, between Saarbrucken and Saargemund. Engineers continued to clear all obstacles and continued supporting the division advance. Due to other United States units moving up toward Saargemund along the east Side of the Saar River, and due to heavy enemy opposition in the vicinity of Farebersviller, our main attack shifted more to the North, toward Forbach. During this period our main efforts were expended in clearing various obstacles. Roads were repaired and maintained, craters and shell hole were filled, roads were cleared of mines, abatis and other roadblocks, culverts and bridges were repaired, bypasses were built for emergency use, and debris and rubble had to be cleared in towns. The battalion constructed three Class 40 steel Treadway bridges, one Class 40-80 foot Bailey bridge and one 2-way Class 70 fixed timber trestle bridge. In addition to blocking the roads, the Germans had blown all railroad bridges and cut the rails very badly. Only where this actually interfered with the movement of the division was our engineers concerned. One example was a blown railroad overpass in Merlrbach, blocking an important road. This was a sizeable clearance job, done by Company "C". The Germans had left time bombs in St. Avold, and the battalion spent much time checking public buildings and utilities. We were called upon to fight a fire started by one of the explosion and to clear rubble. Victims were rescued, dead bodies extricated and equipment salvaged from five blown buildings. Many aerial bombs (used as explosives), duds, and large quantities of explosives and ammunition were cleared and destroyed.
Period 10-16 December 1944 - St. Avold and vicinity. This week was he first official rest period for the division and the battalion, after 102 days of continued contact with the enemy. Our troops continued to be busy, however, with such work as maintaining roads in the division area, training infantry units in assault on fortified positions and use of explosives and demolitions. Our own crews were given training in acetylene welding, as an expedient for sealing pillboxes. Clothing, equipment and vehicles were cleaned, maintained and brought into first class condition again. Our headquarters was busy planning the breach of the Siegfried Line. The battalion moved south with the division to the vicinity of Binning, France, preparatory to attacking and breaching the West wall. One regiment had already started the attack, and B Company had cleared some roads, when the division was ordered up to Luxembourg to check the German counter-offensive. Only minor engineer work was performed during this period. 19-21 December 1944 - The battalion moved up to the vicinity of Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, each line company moving with the supported Combat Team, and assembled north of the city. Original plans wee to defend the city from the north. Plans were made for defensive positions. One bridge was repaired and one roadblock installed, then removed. 22-26 December 1944 - West of Ettelbruck defense plans were abandoned, and the division attacked to the north into the flank of the German salient. The enemy's MLR was cut at Ettelbruck. The Sure River was reached (except for the center sector). Engineers supported the attack in the same manner as in previous attacks. Roads were checked and cleared of mines and obstacles. Fourteen enemy guns and four prime movers plus ammunition were destroyed. One friendly mine field and three enemy roadblocks were cleared. Some mines and abatis were installed as flank protection. A platoon of "B" Company was attached to the tank force that relieved the besieged American troops at Bastogne.
27-31 December 1944 - Having reached the Sure River just west of Ettelbruck, the division was ordered to defend temporarily. From 27-29 December the battalion assembled in a concentration area, ready to defend the division's right (East flank) flank, if it became necessary. In preparation of the division's defensive positions minefields were laid, five bridges were blown, abatis and roadblocks were installed, craters were prepared with guards left on all dumps of explosives and mines. Log foxhole covers were cut for Infantry units. In addition, we cleared enemy mines, built a Class 6 expedient rubber float bridge, cleared dead animals in town, destroyed enemy ammunition an explosives, sanded roads, which had become icy. As the came to a close, this organization can look back with pride at its accomplishments, at the important share it had in defeating he common enemy. The equipment given us was excellent throughout, and our training and maneuvers proved their worth time and again. But above all credit is de each and every member of the battalion, who did his share and more. Though we did not enter Germany, we reached the border at Merlebach. We are now a battle-wise outfit, know our jobs well, and look forward to an early victorious end. During the month of December the 248th Engineer Battalion supported us, 1-6 December 1944, again on 17 and 18 December. 145 Engineer Battalion 19-27 December 1944 and the 166th Engineer Battalion 28-31 December 1944. During December we had One man KIA, Four, WIA and Two MIA. We captured 30 POWs and received Twenty-one replacements. 29 Bronze Stars, and 10 Purple Hearts with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters were awarded. New Years Day found the Engineers in an area West and Northwest of Ettelbruck, Luxembourg with the Battalion Command Post located in the castle at Schonfels.
For the period 1-5 1945 - The division continued to maintain a defensive position, protecting itself against possible enemy attacks from the north or east. A number of mine fields were laid, and daisy chain mines used, abatis were prepared for demolition, and some even blown. Some of the Infantry C.P.'s had to be dug in, and the engineers provided the Infantrymen with log covers for their foxholes and machine gun emplacements. Our line companies kept guard on many of the prepared obstacles. As a "sideline", dead animals in the area were buried. Roads presented a big problem; they had to be kept open in spite of the ice and snow on them. We maintained continuous patrols to check the condition of the roads, hauled sand and spread it on the highways. In some cases cinders were used. In very bad spots, the ice had to be scraped off the road surface. 6-21 January 1945 - The Battalion CP is located in Merzig in an area North and south of the Sure River from 6 to 10 January and from 11-20 January in Bissen. The division continued to maintain its defensive positions on the right (east) flank, but started moving north on the left (West) flank. The division front thus gradually shifted from East-West line to a line running from southeast to northwest. Our work during this period was rather varied. On one hand we had to clear roads and remove obstacles, on the other hand we had to install and block the eastern approaches into the division sector. Knocked out tanks were removed from the roads, abatis and other obstacles were removed, enemy AT and AP mines were cleared, even friendly minefields had to be removed in the sector of our advance. Towns were checked for mines and booby traps. Other work performed in the advance was construction of a bypass, building a drain under a road, filling a bomb crater, retrieving US tanks, which slid off the road, and installing trip flares in front of Infantry positions to prevent their being surprised by an enemy counterattack.
In defense we again prepared bridges and culverts for demolition, prepared abatis and daisy minefields, some minefields were laid, bridges blown. Guards from the battalion were posted on bridges and obstacles in the area. Various types of improvised roadblocks were installed. Weather conditions again necessitated much work on the roads. Sand was hauled and spread, ice and snow removed and on days that the snow let up a little we stockpiled sand along the highways. More dead animals were buried and the field artillery was instructed in the use of explosives for their emplacements. 22-27 January 1945 - in an area between Sure, Wiltz and Clerf Rivers in the vicinity of Wiltz. Our Battalion CP was located in Oberfeulen till the 23rd and in Wiltz from the 24th to 27th. The division went over to the attack, first to the north, then east. Only one regiment stayed behind in a more or less defensive position, and even it was active in clearing its area of small groups of enemy.
All friendly obstacles and mines had to be cleared, to enable our troops to advance. Roads were checked for enemy mines, and where any were found, they were cleared. A gap was cleared in an enemy minefield, and where mines were found, but could not be cleared, the fields were meticulous marked. The line companies were active In reconnoitering good crossing sites over the rivers in the path of the division's advance. A timber bridge was reinforced, a ford was constructed, and A Company assisted the supporting engineers in constructing a Treadway bridge over the Clerf River. They also worked on clearing approaches to that bridge. Roadwork was again necessary and the ice and snow was cleared.
A trail was built through the snow for the Field Artillery, AAA Guns were towed into position by our dozers, and Tank Destroyers were assisted in getting up the steep hills, so prevalent in the Ardennes. Pack ice in the rivers was demolished to protect the bridges. 28-31 January 1945 in an area south and north of the Sure River, and east of Diekirch, Luxembourg. The Battalion CP was located at Larochette (Fels) throughout the period. The division took over the sector formerly held by the 4th Infantry Division, with the mission of defense. Our MLR stretched along the Sure River. Our job was to make a careful check in the area for friendly obstacles and mines, installed by previous units. Some were left in place, some were removed. Last but not least, we still had to maintain and guard bridges in the division area. On the 28th, Task Force Oboe, 4th Armored Division took over the sector of the 319th Infantry Regiment, under division control. Their attached engineers, Company B, 24th Armored Engineers thus came to work under our supervision. In general, during the month the 166th Engineers of the 1135th Engineers was in direct support of the 80th Division. 21 Men were WIA. POW's captured 7. 8 Bronze Star were awarded (posthumously), 3 bronze Stars 28 Purple Hearts and 5 at Oak Leaf clusters. 1-6 February 1945 - In an area East of Diekirch, Luxembourg. The Battalion CP is located at Larochette, throughout the period.
The 80th Infantry Division continued in a defensive position, while making preparations to cross the Our and Sauer Rivers and breach the Siegfried Line. The division's engineers continued maintaining the roads in the division sector. Snow was removed and the roads were sanded. Our trucks hauled this sand from sandpits in the vicinity. Bridges were maintained. In the forward areas roads were cleared of enemy mines and other obstacles. Craters were filled, as were shell holes. A few culverts were built. At the same time we were busy preparing craters, abatis, minefields, demolition of bridges and culverts and other obstacles to prevent a possible enemy penetration. Only in places where none of our troops were located, were any of these obstacles actually executed. Shortly prior to our next location, all friendly obstacles, which would interfere with our advance, cleared and removed. Pole and satchel demolition charges were prepared for use on the Siegfried Line pillboxes. Troops of one infantry regiment received training in crossings with assault boats. 7-14 February 1945 - in an area vicinity of the junction of the Our and Sauer Rivers. Battalion remained at Larochette throughout the period. The 80th infantry Division crossed the Our and Sauer Rivers into Germany, and breached the Siegfried Line. The initial assault crossing were accomplished by the supporting engineers of the 1135th Engineer Combat Group, while our companies busied themselves with road work and mine clearance on the far shore. Bridges across the Our and Sauer Rivers were constructed by the supporting engineers. Road shoulders were repaired, corduroyed some sections of roads and installed culverts where needed. We crossed the troops of one infantry regiment in boats over the Sauer River, and continued to ferry supplies to the troops on the far shore. At time we spent retrieving equipment lost due to the swift current of the river at night. The embrasures and doors of pillboxes were destroyed to prevent enemy re-entrance. Two pillboxes were blown up completely by us. From papers found in the possession of a captured German Engineer Sergeant, we were able to pinpoint almost every known pillbox and bunker in addition to mine fields.
15-22 February 1945 - In an area east of Viaden, Luxembourg, Battalion CP still in same location 15-17 at Bettendorf, 18-22 at Diekirch. Having broken into the Siegfried Line, and established a firm bridgehead into Germany, the division continued its attack to the northeast. Our engineer troops continued clearing of roads of enemy mines, numerous abatis and knocked out vehicles and tanks. Log roadblocks were encountered and removed. One enemy mine dump was found and destroyed. Debris and ruble in towns was cleared out. We maintained bridges in our sector. Three more pillboxes were destroyed. Additional pole and satchel charges were made and given to the infantry. One 600 foot by twenty-one airstrip was built. Repairs had to be effected on many bridges that had been partially been damaged. Demolitions were removed from on one bridge captured intact. Miscellaneous jobs were burial of dead animals, cutting trees for the airstrip, posting signs and building dugouts and CP huts for infantry. 23-28 February 1945 - area west of Bitburg, Germany. Battalion CP located Diekirch 23-24 at Gray Mill 25 and Mettendorf, Germany 26-28 February 1945.
The division's bridgehead was enlarged, and now that the Siegfried Line had been breached, our next mission was to move northeast and establish a bridgehead over the Prum River. The 4th Armored Division worked with and ahead of us, and not only crossed the Prum River, but crossed the Nims River as well and reached the Kyll River to the east. Our division followed closely behind them, mopping up and holding ground gained. Contact with units of the VIII Corps was established thus completing clearance of the Siegfried Line throughout the XII Corps and VIII Corps sectors. We continued to maintain roads. Our companies continued reconnaissance of roads in their respective sectors. They filled more craters and repaired roads. Two Class 40 36-foot Treadway Bridges were built and maintained. One ford was constructed and maintained. More enemy mines were removed and destroyed. In addition to clearing roads of mines, area was swept for use by the Field Hospital, Field Artillery positions and a Field Artillery Airstrip. Tanks and knocked out vehicles were removed which were blocking passage. Towns were checked for booby traps, and a few that were found were immediately destroyed. Six enemy guns were destroyed, and a total of 27 pillboxes were blown up during the period. For the month of February 1945, one man was KIA, 15 WIA, and 2 MIA. 53 Prisoners of War were captured.
1-9 March 1945 - In an area vicinity of Bitburg, Germany. The Battalion CP is located at Mettendorf. 1-5 March, Rittersdorf, 6-9 March. Having crossed the Prum River and reached the Kyll River, the 80th Division did not receive orders to go further east. Instead the 5th Infantry followed the 4th Armored Division's breakthrough to the Rhine River north of the Moselle River. The 80th Infantry Division continued to mop up the sector between the Prum and Kyll Rivers, North of Bitburg. The road net West of Bitburg was generally poor and the wet weather and heavy traffic did not improve the roads any so we were kept busy maintaining them. We hauled gravel, dug ditches and filled any craters in the road. Sometime was devoted to training during the last few days of this period. Infantry N.C.O.'s and members of the 305th Medical Battalion were trained in mines and mine detection. German tanks were towed for targets for bazooka practice. 10-18 March 1945 - Area between Saarburg, Germany and St. Wendel, Germany. Battalion CP is located at Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg on 10 March, Beurig, Germany 11-14 March, and Frommersbach, Germany on 15 March and in Losheim, Germany 16-18 March. The XII Corps having cleared nearly all of the area north of the Moselle River and west of the Rhine River, the 80th was transferred to the XX Corps, whose mission was to participate in clearing the area between the Saar and Rhine Rivers, South of the Moselle River. The 80th Division was the center division in the Corps and as soon as a breakthrough was made, the 10th Armored Division passed through the 80th. This breakthrough took place toward the end of the period. We came across new areas but the work remained the same, that of sweeping the roads for mines of which were many. Maintaining the roads and repairing any craters and shell holes found.
Approximately fifty log roadblocks were removed at entrances to towns were removed and widened for two-way traffic. 19-23 March 1945 - Area between St. Wendel, Kaiserslautern, and East to the Rhine River, the Battalion CP was located at St. Wendel on 19 March. Kaiserslautern on the 20th and Bad Durkheim on 21-23 March 1945. The 80th Division broke through to the Rhine River in the fastest moving operation yet encountered. Roads were cleared as we moved. Rubble was cleared in towns. Four craters were filled. A ford was repaired and maintained. The approaches to a Treadway Bridge were improved and the bay-pass to it worked on. Many vehicles were removed from the road. On the road from Kaiserslautern to Bad Durkheim, six bulldozers in one afternoon cleared an estimated five hundred vehicles, which had been knocked out by the Air Corps the previous day.
24-26 March 1945 - In the vicinity of Rockebhausen, Germany. The Battalion CP is located in Rockebhausen throughout the period. The division was pulled by briefly in reserve, preparatory to crossing the Rhine River. No engineer work was done and our companies used the time in cleaning and maintaining equipment and vehicles. 27-31 March 1945 - In the area of Mainz, and Wiesbaden and north toward Kassel. The Battalion CP was located in Mainz 27-29 March, Wiesbaden and Lich 30 March and in Neukirchen on the 31st. Plans for crossing the Rhine and Main Rivers were made in a few hours, supporting engineers organized and equipment brought up one day of the actual crossing made the next morning during the hours of darkness. The 319th Infantry Regiment crossed the Rhine River over the XII Corps bridge, then made an assault crossing the over the Main River-600 feet of water - east of Mainz, while the 317th Infantry Regiment made an assault crossing of the Rhine River in Mainz, while the 318th Infantry Regiment crossed the Rhine River into the 317th Infantry bridgehead. Enemy resistance was initially moderate, but vanished after the first waves got across. Assault waves of two companies crossed in assault boats, all the other foot troops were crossed in Navy Landing Craft. Our Engineer Troops did not conduct any of the crossings of bridging operations. We supervised the crossings, guided the Infantry to the boats, crossed ourselves and cleared the far shore of obstacles. We built three landing sites and 75 yards of approaches to them. Some mines were cleared in Mainz. Roads and towns were cleared of wreckage and debris. Once the bridgehead was consolidated, the division continued the pursuit until we reached the area just south of Kassel. 4 Men were WIA and 4 returned to duty, 137 Prisoners of War were captured, 12 reinforcements were received. 2 Croix de Guerre (French Medal), 1 Silver Star, 5 Bronze Stars, 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, 3 Purple Hearts and 1 Oak Leaf Cluster were awarded during this period. 2 EM received battlefield Commissions.
1-6 April 1945 - Vicinity of Kassel, Germany. The Battalion CP is located at Homberg, Germany 1-3 April, at Oberzwehren, Germany 4-6 April. After having crossed the Rhine River in March of 1945, the 80th Infantry Division pushed to the Northeast from Wiesbaden, against no resistance until in the vicinity of Homberg, immediately south of Kassel. From 1-6 April the division was engaged in operations, which led to fall of one of Germany's largest rail and communications centers, Kassel. Kassel had to be surrounded before it capitulated, this action involving the three infantry regiments of the Division and consequently the three letter companies of the Battalion. A few mines were encountered along the roads, especially in the shoulders, both wooden box and teller mines. Roadwork was consequently important, with burned vehicles, including five Tiger Tanks and a number of trucks and civilian automobiles left in the way of traffic by the retreating enemy as they withdrew into Kassel. Log cribs and sprees were also removed, one or the other type appearing at the entrance and exits of almost every town between Homberg and Kassel. Explosives left on trees to be used in creating abatis but never executed, enemy artillery pieces, and much ammunition were destroyed in quantity. Once inside Kassel itself all companies with the help of the 206th Engineer Combat Battalion, in support of the 305th Engineers, cleared debris and opened streets to allow traffic to flow freely.
7-17 April 1945 - In an area east of Gotha to the vicinity of Chemnitz. The Battalion CP was located at Gotha, Germany, 7-11 April Dietendorf, Germany, 12 April Weimar, 13 April Gera, Germany, 14-15 and Kandler, Germany 16-17 April. Following the capture of Kassel, the 80th Infantry Division was dispatched southeast to Gotha, where the division mission was to follow and mop up behind the 4th Armored Division as it moved east from Gotha toward Chemnitz. The battalion assembled in Gotha, then as the division went eat to take Erfurt, Jena, and Gera; the companies supported their respective regiments in engineer functions. Company B cleared roadblocks and debris in the approaches and streets of Erfurt alone. C Company installed 36 feet of fixed Treadway near Jena, while Company A did the same in the vicinity of Erfurt. From Gotha eastward the Reich Autobahn was reconnoitered by the battalion or utilization by the Division and used from the vicinity of Gotha past Weimar, Jena, and Gera, to the vicinity of Chemnitz. The 206th Engineer Combat Battalion, supporting the 305th Engineers, over gaps in the autobahn constructed three Bailey Bridges. Also, one fixed Treadway span of 24 feet and one small timber tread span was put in. Towns in the regimental sectors were systematically checked for booby-traps. No booby-traps were found, although in several instances the equipment and accessories for planting were located in prominent buildings, as if to indicate that booby-trapping had been planned but not executed for some reason. The period ended when the Division caught up to the 4th Armored Division just west of Chemnitz. After a day's stop there, however, the 80th was assembled and sent south to the vicinity of Bamberg, Germany.
18-30 April 1945 - In the area of Bamberg-Nurnberg-Regensburg. The Battalion CP is located in Schesblitz, Germany, 18-22 April, Nurnberg, Germany 23-28 April, Regensberg, Germany 29 April and Ergolsbach, Germany 3 April 1945. Upon receipt of movement orders at Kandler, Germany for the Division to go to the Bamberg area, the 206th Engineer Combat Battalion was removed from support of the 305th Engineer Battalion. The battalion moved via Gera, in the vicinity of Erfurt, and Arnstadt to a concentration area at Schesblitz, where most of five days were devoted to cleaning up engineer and personal equipment, re-emphasizing the non-fraternization policy, and instruction in identification of Russian Air Craft. As the XX Corps advanced swiftly to the south of Bamberg, the 80th Infantry Division, in Corps reserve, followed, moving next to the City of Nurnberg. Here the battalion continued to work on previous engineers in clearing some debris and removing and destroying a considerable quantity of enemy explosives, ammunition, and panzerfausts, and artillery pieces. The main roads in the town were worked over, to the extent that unavoidable craters were filled or smoothed over and larger one distinctly marked to prevent accidents. The main streets were also marked and posted with signs to aid traffic circulation and convoy control in and through the city. With the crossing of the Danube River and subsequent capture of Regensberg by the 65th Infantry Division, the 80th Infantry Division passed through the 65th and went forward. At this time the 179th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1154th Engineer Group, came into support of the 305th Engineer Battalion. The 80th Division followed the 13th Armored Division to the Isaar River, with little necessary engineer work required. No bridges having been blown over the Isaar River, the 305th instituted reconnaissance and crossed with assault boats one battalion of the 317th Infantry. This was done successfully, while the 179th Engineer Battalion assembled equipment preparatory to constructing a floating Treadway Bridge and ferry on the Isaar River in the vicinity of Dingolfing and Manning, respectfully. 2 Men WIA, 1 Man KIA. 169 Prisoners of War were taken. 1 Bronze Star, 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, 3 Purple Heart, and 1 Oak Leaf Cluster. 1-8 May 1945 - In an area vicinity of Ergolsbach, Germany to Vocklabruck, Austria. The Battalion CP was located at Ergolsbach, Germany 1 May 1945, Marklkofen, Germany 2 May, Simbach, Germany 3-4 May, Vocklabruck, Austria 5-8 May 1945.
At the end of April the 80th Division was moving rapidly south and southeast from Regensberg area. On 1 May the Isaar River was crossed by the Division Infantry assault troops through the efforts of Division Engineers. As troops fanned out from the river to the south engineers moved right behind them, clearing roadblocks of a hastily made material, in every case and erected two 24-foot Treadway Bridges. Movement was kept up in the haste to the Inn River, where 3 May Division troops crossed by the Division Engineers in a second assault crossing in two days. Two timber bridges were constructed the same day, one Class 40 and a Class 10 type. With only scattered resistance hindering the forward push of he 80th Division, all units went steadily ahead. Bridges were de-mined, roadblocks were removed, and enemy ammunition was captured and destroyed. Preparations for continued support of the swift Infantry advance maintained. The 6th German Panzer Army was hurt to the extent that on 8 May it surrendered to the 80th Infantry Division near Leizen, Austria. 8-31 May 1945 - In an area in the vicinity of Vocklabruck, Austria. Battalion CP located in Vocklabruck, Austria 8-31 May 1945. With V-E Day having arrived at 0001 9 May 1945 active fighting was stopped. Some sniper and scattered small group continued to hold out and harass Division personnel until either notified or convinced by force that the war was ended in Europe. For the first ten days after the completion of hostilities engineer work consisted in opening the road net, which consisted of about four hundred miles of usable and necessary highways, in the Division sector. Many knocked out or abandoned vehicles were eliminated as traffic hazards along the route leading from the 6th German Panzer retreat from he Redoubt Area via Leizen, Kirchdorf, Vocklabruck and Leizen. Bad Aussee, Gmunden, Vocklabruck, and then from Vocklabruck to Strasswalcken to Mauerkirchen. Here roads were improved and maintained further for use as Division MSR's. Railroads in the division sector over approximately two-hundred miles of track was operated first under supervision of Division Engineers, then under the supervision of the 179th Engineer Combat Battalion, supporting the 80th Division. By 25 May the railroad network was under the administration of the Division G-4 and operating supervision of an Army Railway Operating Battalion. The railroad was used throughout its operation in May for supply to the Division from the rear, in the vicinity of Branau, Austria, to as far forward as Kirchdorf, and evacuation of POW's, sick and repatriated persons from forward areas to rear disposal points. The Gmunden See Lake area was reconnoitered and recreational means such as boats, horse, fishing, and bathing arranged for benefit of the Division. Fishing was put under a controlled status, for feeding of the Division the Austrian fishermen's catches being collected by the Division engineers once weekly and transported to Division QM for distribution to units. A POW camp was begun at Lambach, Austria, for SS personnel, and was under engineer supervision of the Division Engineer. 2 Men WIA, 8 Prisoners of War were captured. 5 Bronze Stars were awarded. One man received a Battlefield Commission.
© 2016 Opinicus Publishing Company-All Rights Reserved