On 23 March the remainder of the Division closed into the
new area east of the RHINE, prepared to break out of the bridgehead
and carry the attack to the east. The 414th Infantry Regiment
of the 104th Infantry Division was attached to the 3rd Armored
Division and assigned to Combat Commands by battalions.
COMPOSITION OF COMBAT COMMANDS, 24 March 1945:
COMBAT COMMAND "A" (BRIG. GEN. HICKEY)
32nd Armd. Regt. (- 3rd Bn.)
1st Bn., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.
1st Bn., 414th Inf. Regt.
Co. A, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
Co. A, 703rd TD Bn.
83rd Armd. FA Bn.
67th Armd. FA Bn.
Co. A, 45th Armd. Med. Bn.
Co. A, Maint. Bn., 3rd Armd. Div
COMBAT COMMAND "B" (BRIG. GEN. BOUDINOT)
33rd Armd. Regt. (- 3rd Bn.)
2nd Bn., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.
2nd Bn., 414th Inf. Regt.
391st Armd. FA Bn.
Co. B, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
Co. B, 703rd TD Bn.
Co. B, 45th Armd. Med. Bn.
Co. B, Maint. Bn., 3rd Armd. Div.
COMBAT COMMAND "R" (COL. HOWZE)
36th Armd. Inf. Regt. (- 1st & 2nd Bns.)
3rd Bn., 32nd Armd. Regt.
3rd Bn., 33rd Armd. Regt.
3rd Bn., 414th Inf. Regt.
54th Armd. FA Bn.
Co. C, 703rd TD Bn.
Co. C, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
Co. C, 45th Armd. Med. Bn.
Co. C, Maint. Bn., 3rd Armd. Div.
83rd Armd. Rcn. Bn.
414th Inf. Regt. (- 1st, 2nd & 3rd Bns.)
703rd TD Bn. (- Cos. A, B & C)
23rd Armd. Engr. Bn. (- Cos. A, B, C & E)
486th AAA AW SP Bn. (Cos. A, B, C & D)
(attached to Arty. Bns.)
183rd FA Bn. (155 How.).
The Fifteenth German Army, with Headquarters at ALTENKIRCHEN,
was charged with the defense of the sector between the SIEG and
In the zone of the VII U. S. Army Corps where the 3rd Armored
Division was to make the break-out of the bridgehead on 25 March,
were eight German Divisions in various stages of depletion. Six
of these Divisions defended in the actual breakthrough zone.
Their effective combat strength was, however, probably roughly
equivalent to two full-strength Divisions. In the north the 363rd
Volksgrenadier Division, recently reinforced by the 62nd Volksgrenadier
Division, faced the U. S. 1st Infantry Division. In the center,
the 3rd Parachute Division, (only one regiment of which, the
5th, appeared to be present) was supposedly being relieved by
the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division. Both of these divisions became
engaged, and no relief was made. To the south, the remains of
the 9th Panzer Division faced the 104th U.S. Infantry Division.
Still further south, and overlapping into VII Corps zone, was
340th Volksgrenadier Division and 11th Panzer Division. There
were in the sector several miscellaneous Engineer Regiments and
many service elements. As to reserves, the only unit known to
be immediately available was the 15th Panzer Regiment, of the
11th Panzer Division, in the Forest ALTENKIRCHEN just north of
the city of ALTENKIRCHEN. This Regiment was fairly strong and
equipped with Panthers and a few Tigers. From the south, it was
believed that units of Battle Group (Kampf Gruppe) size were
capable of intervention. The 5th Panzer Army to the north had
the 116th Panzer and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions and possibly
battle groups from the 130th (Panzer Lehr) Division which were
a threat not considered too serious in view of the powerful American
Ninth Army attack developing from WESER Bridgehead.
The 3rd Armored Division's initial objective was the road
center of ALTENKIRCHEN, thence east to successive objectives
to include crossings over the DILL River between DILLENBURG and
The attack formation was Combat Commands abreast with Combat
Command "A" on the right and Combat Command "B"
on the left, each in two Task Force columns. Combat Command "R"
followed the two center routes prepared for intervention in either
zone. The 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion followed the
left Task Force of Combat Command "B" on the northern
route, protecting the left flank.
In this formation the Division passed through elements of the
1st Infantry Division on the north, and the 140th Infantry Division
on the south at 0400 on 25 March.
Contact was immediate. Enemy positions were strongly supported
by anti-tank and artillery fire. In the hilly wooded terrain,
tanks were virtually road bound, and the enemy had constructed
roadblocks on all routes. In some cases, mines were employed.
During the first day (25 March), an advance of about 12 road
miles was made by reducing successive road blocks with combined
infantry, tank and artillery action. The fighting continued through
the night and bridgeheads across the MEHR River were secured.
On 26 March both Task Force "Doan" and Task Force "Kane"
(Combat Command "A") broke through enemy defenses and
made rapid, lightly opposed gains to ALTENKIRCHEN. On the north
flank, however, both Task Force "Lovelady" and Task
Force "Welborn" (Combat Command "B") met
stubborn defenses as they approached ALTENKIRCHEN. Enemy tanks
and artillery were active. Close-support fighter bombers destroyed
many enemy vehicles while working with the Ground Controllers
of Combat Command "B", especially in the woods north
of ALTENKIRCHEN. As the advance of Combat Command "B"
became slower and more costly in mid-afternoon. Combat Command
"R" was committed between Combat Commands "A"
and "B", to complete the clearing of ALTENKIRCHEN and
advance the division's left flank to a point abreast of Combat
Command "A" on the right. Flanking the stubborn defenses
northwest of ALTENKIRCHEN, both Task Force "Richardson"
and Task Force "Hogan" (Combat Command "R")
advanced easily. The outflanked German forces withdrew to the
north and Combat Command "B" assembled just west of
ALTENKIRCHEN in Division Reserve that night.
On the extreme right flank, Task Force "Doan" was held
up by destroyed bridges across the WIED River southeast of ALTENKIRCHEN
and again fought through the night. The other task
forces coiled for the night.
On the left, the attack of the 1st Infantry Division was held
up by heavy enemy resistance. The 104th Infantry Division, following
closely behind the 3rd Armored Division to mop up bypassed pockets
of resistance, advanced generally to the vicinity of ALTENKIRCHEN.
On the south, III Corps armor, advancing rapidly against very
light and scattered resistance, reached the DILL River. In that
zone the 9th Infantry Division followed the armor closely.
On 27 March the breakthrough became a reality. The only strong
resistance met was in the northern part of the Division zone
where the enemy reacted sensitively to any threat to the SIEG
River line on which he was building up.
Combat Command "A" completed 72 hours of continuous
operation by seizing crossings over the DILL River at HERBORN
Combat Command "R" fought straight through the night,
meeting considerable small arms and anti-tank fire. Stopping
only long enough to refuel, both Task Forces pushed on to DILLENBURG
and seized the crossings there.
Combat Command "B" closed up close behind Combat Command
"A" and, during the late afternoon of 27 and night
of 27-28 March, both Task Forces passed through Combat Command
"A" and attacked east against little or no resistance,
seizing MARBURG and RUNZHAUSEN. The 83rd Armored Reconnaissance
Battalion passed through Combat Command "R" at DILLENBURG
and moved to BOTTENHORN and HOLYZHAUSEN without resistance, thus
extending the line from MARBURG to DILLENBURG in preparation
for the swing to the north.
CIRCLING THE RUHR
On 28 March, the 3rd Armored Division was ordered to attack
north to secure PADERBORN and make junction there with elements
of the Ninth Army, thereby closing a trap around all the German
troops between the SIEG River and the Ruhr. The formation for
this attack was again Combat Commands abreast, Combat Command
"R" on the left and Combat Command "B" on
the right, with Combat Command "A" following two routes
in Division Reserve. This time, however, since resistance was
scattered and weak and unlocated, the Reconnaissance Battalion
was given the mission of advancing on the two center routes ahead
of the Combat Commands and either "brushing aside"
or bypassing and reporting all resistance encountered.
On 29 March, the attack to the north started at 0600 and rolled
until 2200 that night. There was little to stop the advance even
though enemy troops, vehicles and installations were encountered
in large numbers. They were completely surprised and disorganized.
Over long miles of each route, the armored columns were forced
to travel cross country to bypass roadblocks and stretches of
poor road or weak bridges. Along most of the way, the four routes
were separated by three to five miles of the rugged Western-Woods
Country. To get from one column to another, it was necessary
to use the artillery liaison planes or travel all the way back
to the line of departure, cut over and get on the route desired.
Even this latter method was unsatisfactory, because the spaces
between routes held many bypassed pockets of resistance. From
these pockets, the enemy continually infiltrated across our routes
of advance. Supply vehicles had to be strongly escorted, and,
even so, several were lost to ambushes. Liaison officers frequently
traveled in light tanks or armored cars. To reach the Headquarters
of the 1st Infantry Division, a liaison officer took a platoon
of light tanks for escort.
Burning German vehicles dotted the countryside, and prisoners
marched back to collecting points almost in an unbroken line.
Only the extreme left column, Task Force "Hogan", struck
strong resistance of defended roadblocks. When the advance ended
that night, leading combat elements had covered about 75 miles
of road distance. Other elements had covered over 90 miles in
the lightning advance to PADERBORN, the longest single day's
advance of the entire war.
DEFENSE OF PADERBORN
On 30 March the SS Panzer Reconnaissance Training Regiment
stationed near PADERBORN ordered its two battalions to build
up a defensive line from HELMERN to HOLTHEIM immediately. (See
sketch No. 27). The Regimental Command Post proposed to move
to LICHTENAU. Quite accurately, German intelligence reported
American armored columns in WUNNENBERG (8 kilometers southwest
of HELMERN) and at NIEDER MARSBERG, as of 2400 on 29 March).
This line was the first coordinated attempt to stop the 3rd Armored's
drive toward PADERBORN. All but two of the companies actually
reached and occupied this line, but since it covered only about
half of the American threat (the eastern half), it was easily
turned at its right flank. However, PADERBORN was not to be taken
so simply. Its defenses, though not as originally conceived by
the German Commanders, were strong and many of the defenders
were fanatically determined. The defense finally evolved was
controlled by three major units: The 507th GHQ Tiger Tank Battalion,
SS Armored Reconnaissance Replacement Training Regiment and the
SS Tank Replacement Training Regiment. These units were greatly
increased in size if not strength by stragglers from many other
units and odds and ends of Luftwaffe personnel from nearby airfields.
The 326th German Infantry Division is believed to have been scheduled
to move from NORTHEIM (116 kilometers to the east) to PADERBORN,
as well as many 88mm dual purpose guns from WARBURG, but neither
appeared. The 512th Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion was known
to be in the vicinity of DAHL, SCHWANEY, and HERBRAM. Equipped
with twenty-five 128mm guns mounted on Tiger chassis, this battalion,
while never engaged, was a constant potential threat. Sectors
assigned to the controlling units were:
West of NORDBORCHEN - KIRCHBORCHEN road - 1st Bn. Armd. Rcn.
Repl. Tng. Regt.; east of LICHTENAU (exclusive) - 2nd Bn. Armd.
Rcn. Repl. Training Regt.; LICHTENAU to SCHERFEDE - 500th Tank
Repl. Tng. Regt. The 507th GHQ Tank Bn. operated in both Regimental
When the 3rd Armored Division resumed the attack on 30 March,
the two Reconnaissance columns became engaged at WUNNENBERG and
HUSEN and were passed through by Task Force. "Richardson"
and Task Force "Welborn". Task Force "Hogan"
had continued operations throughout the night and reached WEWER.
On the right, Task Force "Lovelady" became strongly
engaged near WREXEN (about 2 miles southwest of SCHERFEDE). Task
Force "Richardson" found KIRCHBORCHEN strongly defended
and engaged many enemy tanks. The fighting was heavy all day
at WREXEN, KIRCHBORCHEN and WEWER with slow progress. Task Force
"Welborn", after fighting almost all day to clear the
stubbornly defended towns of HUSEN, HENGLARN, and ETTELN, returned
to the road that runs east out of the northern edge of ETTELN
and moved through the heavy woods northeast of ETTELN. Tank elements
of Welborn's Task Force debouched from the northern edge of the
woods against no resistance, so the infantry mounted on halftracks
and prepared to follow. The route turned north about two miles
east of KIRCHBORCHEN. It was late afternoon when enemy tanks
and self-propelled guns, which had cleverly maneuvered into positions,
took this strip of road (from the intersection where the route
turned north to the point of debouchment) under heavy fire from
both sides after allowing tank elements and one infantry company
to pass. It was here that the Division Commander and his party,
which at the time included the Division Artillery Commander,
the G-3 and an Artillery Battalion Commander were pinned down
by the enemy tank fire while attempting to reach Welborn's headquarters.
At dusk General Rose issued radio orders to Task Force "Doan",
that was following Task Force "Welborn", to clear out
this enemy force. Shortly thereafter he was captured while trying
to make an escape to the west, and killed by his nervous captor
who fired at the General with a machine pistol from the turret
of a Tiger tank.
At first light on 31 March, an artillery liaison plane was dispatched
to Combat Command "A" command post, which was following
the number two route back of Task Force "Kane" and
brought General Hickey to the Division Command Post on Route
Three to assume command of the Division. Colonel Doan assumed
command of Combat Command "A" and Lieutenant Colonel
Boles assumed command of Doan's Task Force.
All during the night patrols and commanders of Task Force Boles
had scouted out the position of the enemy that had cut Task Force
"Welborn's" column, while close enemy contact kept
the other committed elements pinned in place.
Enemy positions were well dug in and manned by hundreds of panzerfaust
and bazooka teams. Even heavy artillery and mortar concentrations
could not rout them out. Task Force "Richardson" found
that flame throwers skillfully used could be persuasive however.
During the day Hogan secured WEWER; Richardson, NORDBORCHEN;
and the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, DORENHAGEN and
EGGERINGHAUSEN. Task Force "Lovelady" was relieved
at WREXEN by the first elements of the 104th Division to arrive
in the area and moved through HUSEN and ETTELN to relieve the
A part of the Tank-Infantry force that had cut Welborn's column
withdrew to the north and east during the night after destroying
many American vehicles caught in the cross fire. They took a
few prisoners with them on their tanks and other vehicles. However
the main strength of the force remained to fight it out with
Boles and Welborn, and resisted stubbornly. One force composed
of about 200 infantrymen supported by five Tiger Tanks counterattacked
at HAMBORN, but were beaten back. By nightfall, the area was
cleared sufficiently to allow the preparation for a coordinated
attack on PADERBORN to get under way.
CLOSING THE GAP
The original plan for attacking PADERBORN called for the commitment
of the two relatively fresh Task Forces of Combat Command "A",
that is Task Force "Kaffe" and Task Force "Boles",
by passing them through Combat Command "R" in the vicinity
of WEWER and NORDBORCHEN in a northeasterly direction toward
the city. Task Force "Welborn" was to attack due north
and clear the east side of PADERBORN, while Task Force "Lovelady"
covered the Division right by attacking to seize LICHTENAU. Combat
Command "R" was to take SALZKOTTEN, on the Division
Before this attack could be launched as planned, orders came
from higher headquarters that necessitated certain changes in
the plan. At 0300 on 1 April, Commanding General, VII Corps,
ordered the 3rd Armored Division to send a force to LIPPSTADT,
some 20 miles to the west, to make junction there with elements
of the 2nd Armored Division, which had broken out of the Ninth
Army's Rhine bridgehead and was driving rapidly eastward north
of the industrial RUHR district. In order to accomplish this
mission, Task Force "Kane" was diverted from the PADERBORN
attack, and Task Force "Lovelady" was ordered to leave
only a blocking force west of LICHTENAU and join in the PADERBORN
attack on the right of Task Force "Welborn". Task Force
"Kane" was ordered to move via GESEKE and BOCKENFORDE
as rapidly as possible to LIPPSTADT and establish contact with
the 2nd Armored Division.
Task Force "Kane" moved out before first light on this
mission. Most of the resistance met was not determined and not
organized. Many non-German prisoners were taken from flak units
which fired a few rounds and then either fled or surrendered.
By 1520, the Air OP planes of the 2nd Armored and 3rd Armored
Divisions were in radio contact in the vicinity of LIPPSTADT,
and each had identified leading ground troops of both divisions.
At 1530 Task Force "Kane" made physical contact with
elements of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment. The great RUHR
pocket, which yielded 374,000 German prisoners of war, was closed.
The fall of the bomb-torn and burned city of PADERBORN at 1700
was partially anti-climax. Its defenses had crumbled rapidly
before the three converging Task Forces making the assault. Initially,
a few dug in tanks at the southern outskirts delayed the attack
and several isolated groups offered some resistance before surrendering.
On the whole, however, the job was lighter than might have been
expected in a city that controlled the entire remaining communications
net connecting the German forces surrounded in the RUHR POCKET
with the rest of Germany.
From the day when the 3rd Armored Division broke out of the RHINE
bridgehead, 25 March, to the meeting with the 2nd Armored on
1 April, the SPEARHEAD PW cage processed 20,193 prisoners. Counted
enemy losses in material that the Division inflicted are given
by the following table:
HEAVY AA & AT GUNS
HEAVY AA GUNS
STAFF CARS & SEDANS
AIRCRAFT ON GROUND
These figures do not include the tons of equipment overrun
and captured in dumps and warehouses which run the figures to
a staggering total.
During the same period, the 3rd lost 125 killed and 504 wounded.
Material losses are shown in the following table:
2 1/2 TON GMC
1/4 TON 4 X 4
On 2, 3, and 4 April, the Division area was swept for remaining
enemy pockets, and defenses were further coordinated and strengthened.
On 4 April the northeast corner of the RUHR pocket was a secure
weld and the business of clearing the pocket itself was under
The 8th Armored Division, which had driven north of PADERBORN
to BAD LIPPSPRINGE, reassembled and attacked southwest of PADERBORN
Further to the north, the Ninth Army's 2nd Armored Division resumed
the attack to the east, followed by the 83rd Infantry Division.
Southwest of the 3rd Armored Sector, the 1st Infantry Division
had established a defensive sector facing generally west. While
southeast of the 3rd Armored was the 104th Division facing north
and east and prepared to continue the attack to the east.
The next natural barrier in the zone of the VII Corps was the
WESER River, over 30 miles to the east. Intelligence reports
indicated thai the bridges over this stream were still intact
on 5 April. Accordingly, the 3rd Armored Division was ordered
to attack as rapidly and as soon as possible and to take these
crossings if possible.
TO THE EAST
At about noon on 5 April, the attack to the east was resumed.
Again, there were four parallel routes on which Combat Commands
"A" and "B" moved abreast in Task Force columns,
with Combat Command "B" on the right. From north to
south, the leading Task Forces were Boles, Kane, Welborn and
Lovelady. Combat Command "R," in Division Reserve,
followed on the two center routes, Hogan behind Kane; and Richardson
following Welborn. The 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
followed Task Force "Lovelady" on the south route.
Resistance was scattered and light initially, consisting principally
of roadblocks defended by bazooka teams and small arms - a familiar
pattern. All that afternoon, and through an exceptionally dark
night, the advance continued.
On 6 April, it was apparent that a coordinated defense line had
been reached along the WESER River, and that the WESER bridges
could not be taken intact. Task Force "Boles" was heavily
engaged in OTTBERGEN, where strong roadblocks had been erected
by the enemy and were defended with small arms, anti-tank and
artillery fire. Boles was able to reach AMELUNXEN with one battle
group. Another, attacking south from OTTBERGEN toward DRENKE,
into which town enemy tanks were seen to withdraw, encountered
a very strong enemy position about halfway between OTTBERGEN
Kane fought his way through RHEDER and ERKEIN to TIETELSEN, where
he left a containing force and bypassed to the south only to
become engaged just to the east with strongly defended roadblocks.
Welborn cleared HAHWOLZ and BORGHOLZ and reached HAARBRUCK.
Lovelady reached MANRODE, where strong defenses supported by
anti-tank and artillery fire halted his advance.
On the south and southeast, the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
probed with strong patrols toward TRENDELBURG. On the north flank,
the 83rd Infantry Division had moved up well abreast, and, on
the south, the 104th Infantry Division was approaching the WESER
in their zone.
On 7 April, the 3rd Armored closed on the west bank of the WESER,
taking the towns of GODELHEIM, WEHRDEN, BLANKENAU, BEVERUNGEN,
HERSTELLE, CARLSHAFEN and HELMARSHAUSEN, and finding all the
bridges blown by the enemy. The small enemy garrisons left in
these towns defended stubbornly.
Two bridgeheads were securely established over the WESER River
by this time. One in the zone of the 83rd Division and another
in the 2nd Infantry Division's zone immediately south of the
The 1st Infantry Division began moving up into the 3rd Armored
Division zone on 7 April. It was planned that the 1st and 104th
Divisions would force crossings simultaneously to form VII Corps
bridgeheads, while Combat Command "R" would cross in
the zone of the 2nd Division and attack USLAR from the south
to assist this operation. Combat Command "R" was reinforced
with the 54th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and Company D,
83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
When the operation got underway on 8 April, it was seen that
things were going easier than had been anticipated. The 104th
Division crossed with minor opposition, as did the 1st Division.
By night, elements of the 104th Division were closing on USLAR.
Accordingly, Combat Command "R" was given the new objective
of HARDEGSEN. The WESER crossing was made at GIESELWERDER. That
night Combat Command "B" started moving into the 104th
Division bridgehead, followed by the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance
On the morning of 9 April, Combat Command "R" attacked
northeast from the vicinity of IMBSEN, while the Combat Command
"B" column was still crossing the river. Howze's left
column, Task Force "Hogan", moved rapidly and with
light opposition and took HARDEGSEN easily. Task Force "Richardson"
engaged a strong concentration of enemy tanks near HARSTE early
in the morning. This Task Force was disengaged about noon, bypassed
the HARSTE position to the west and continued on to come abreast
of Task Force "Hogan." Together, these Task Forces
pushed on to NORTHEIM, which was cleared that night.
With Task Force "Welborn" on the north and Task
Force "Lovelady" on the south, Combat Command "B"
formed and attacked east immediately after the crossing of the
WESER was completed. The enemy tanks in the HARSTE area were
outmaneuvered. In addition, fighter-bomber support attacked them
in strength and in conjunction with the fire of Combat Command
"B'"s tank and anti-tank weapons. Several were destroyed
and the others were forced to withdraw. That night Task Force
"Lovelady" secured a bridgehead over the LEINE Creek,
and Division Engineers constructed a treadway bridge. Task Force
"Welborn" captured an intact bridge by infantry action.
Meanwhile Combat Command "A" crossed the WESER at BEVERUNGEN
and GIESELWERDER and followed the advance, remaining in Division
The Corps Commander ordered the 3rd Armored Division to pay
particular attention to blocking the south exits of the HARZ
MOUNTAINS, where the enemy was building up a very strong redoubt
position. Enemy troops on the south edge of these mountains were
given the mission of covering the deployment of troops already
in the mountains and others coming in from the East and Northeast.
A separate command was established to organize and defend this
position. The nucleus of this new Corps was strengthened initially
by certain SS tank and infantry formations which withdrew from
the PADERBOBN area. The nature of the HARZ mountain terrain was
particularly suited to such defensive fighting; but, from the
beginning, the plan was doomed to failure. At best it could only
accomplish a delay in one particular sector. The redoubt could
be bypassed both on the north and south and sealed off effectively.
Regardless of the number of troops the enemy was able to bring
into the mountain position (they eventually assembled 80,000
there) they would be committed to defensive fighting, and, sooner
or later, as the RUHR Pocket was cleared, sufficient pressure
could be brought to bear to reduce the position whatever its
strength. Nevertheless, the enemy was determined to carry out
this mission for whatever it was worth.
NORDHAUSEN & DORA
The 3rd Armored was further ordered not to proceed beyond
NORDHAUSEN until relieved by infantry elements of VII Corps.
On 10 April, the advance continued toward NORDHAUSEN. Enemy resistance
was scattered, as on previous days, and the scattered groups
continued to withdraw to the north into the HARZ. Any attempt
to turn north from the main routes was met with vigorous enemy
action. In and around GIEBOLDEHAUSEN, Combat Command "R"
encountered enemy infantry and tanks, and, after a full day of
hard fighting, succeeded in occupying the little towns of SILKERODE
Combat Command "B" advanced to positions just west
of NORDHAUSEN without serious resistance. The muddy terrain slowed
the advance considerably however.
Meanwhile Combat Command "A" had been given the mission
of seizing OSTERODE and HERZBERG. Both Task Forces of the Combat
Command moved out on this mission on the afternoon of 10 April,
and by late that night the two towns were cleared. The enemy
had resisted stubbornly in both towns and continued to maintain
strong defenses on the routes leading north into the HARZ mountains.
Eight or ten heavy tanks or self-propelled guns and a battalion
of medium artillery located near LONAU supported the SS troops
defending OSTERODE and HERZBERG.
NORDHAUSEN was entered on 11 April by Combat Command "B".
The enemy offered little opposition in the town itself. Perhaps
they feared being connected in some way with the, notorious NORDHAUSEN
concentration camp near the city. This camp was uncovered in
all its depravity by the 3rd Armored Division and steps were
taken to insure that photographic and other evidence was collected
before any changes were made. Even the great piles of starved
dead were left as found.
Division medical personnel quickly removed the hundreds of starvation
cases to emergency hospitals where they could be cared for. Many
of the less severe cases were cared for on the premises while
systematic arrangements were made to save as many lives as possible
by organizing the facilities of the camp. Medical Officers of
the 3rd Armored remained in charge, until relieved, as the Division
North of NORDHAUSEN at a place called "Dora", the 3rd
Armored uncovered one of the German's most extensive and elaborate
underground factories. This factory, devoted to the construction
of V-l, and V-2 weapons and Junkers Airplane Motors as well as
extensive experimentation with a super-secret V-3 anti-aircraft
weapon, was completely underground. Some of the tunnels were
at a depth of six hundred feet and extended for two miles. Here
and at the V-2 Assembly plant at KLEINBORDUNGEN, the most able-bodied
of the inmates from the NORDHAUSEN Concentration Camp were forced
to work at manufacturing and assembling parts. Both of these
plants were taken and secured by the 3rd Armored until relieved.
The blocking positions at NORDHAUSEN covered a front stretching
from OSTERODE and HERZBERG, where Combat Command "A"
was attacking a strong and stubborn enemy, through the comparatively
quiet sector from BARTOFELDE to WOFFLEBEN, held by Combat Command
"R" and the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion,
thence south to include NORDHAUSEN and vicinity, held by Combat
On 11 April, the 414th Infantry Regiment (less 2nd Battalion)
was detached from the 3rd Armored Division. The 2nd Battalion,
414th Infantry Regiment remained attached and with Task Force
"Lovelady". The 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment
and the 3rd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment were attached to
the 3rd Armored and, in turn, attached to Combat Command "A"
and Combat Command "R".
The continuation of the attack from NORDHAUSEN depended largely
upon being relieved by infantry elements and on securing sufficient
supplies of 50 weight oil for tank engines as well as gasoline.
The reliefs were made quickly, and a sufficient quantity of oil
was secured to reach SANGERHAUSEN. Only light resistance barred
the way. SANGERHAUSEN was reached easily, the first Task Force
entered the town about mid-day on 12 April. That night the Division
closed into a tight leaguer around SANGERHAUSEN and pushed strong
patrols to the east. These patrols drew heavy anti-tank fire
four or five miles northeast of town. The attack was ordered
to continue to the northeast on the following day to seize crossings
over the ELBE River in the vicinity of DESSAU and WITTENBERG.
Heavy weight oil and gasoline were again short. This time some
lighter oil was substituted, sacrificing a certain degree of
engine performance for time gained.
The attack carried to the SAALE River on 13 April. Task Force
"Hogan" and Task Force "Lovelady" forced
crossings and two bridges were constructed during the night 13-14
April, allowing the attack to continue early 14 April.
THE LAST PUSH
Along the next natural barrier, the ELBE-MULDE River line,
parts or all of three new German Divisions occupied defense positions.
These positions were the outer defenses of BERLIN. They were
the POTSDAM, SCHARNHORST, and VON HUTTEN Divisions. Their personnel
was drawn from Officers' Candidate Schools of the Army and from
the Navy and Hitler Jugend organizations. In addition, many convalescents
and most of the Luftwaffe Personnel in the ROSSLAU-DESSAU area
had been recruited. For a task that might be called "scraping
the bottom of the manpower barrel", the High Command had
done an excellent job. These three divisions, totaling 4000-6000
combat strength each, were by no means motley crews. They were
formed in March and had little training as units, but each contained
a good proportion of trained and experienced personnel. For what
it may have been worth, Hitler himself had allegedly paid them
a visit on 13 April. He made a pep talk in which he promised
not only to defend BERLIN with these fine Divisions and other
like them, but also that he would "Personally direct a powerful
counterattack" at the proper time.
The POTSDAM Division was on the north. Its southern boundary
included AKEN, where it joined the SCHARNHORST. The SCHARNHORST
sector extended from AKEN along the ELBE and MULDE to the Autobahn,
south of DESSAU. There the sector of the VON HUTTEN Division
began and extended along the west bank of the MULDE River to
include RAGHUN, thence southwest to RODIGKAU.
Upon crossing the SAALE River, enemy resistance stiffened notably
along the entire front. On the north, Task Force "Hogan"
forced their way into the southern part of KOTHEN on the afternoon
of 14 April. About two battalions defended KOTHEN, and their
defense was determined and skillful. Task Force "Richardson"
had crossed the SAALE following Hogan. About seven kilometers
west of KOTHEN, the Task Force was stopped by a strong enemy
position consisting of roadblocks and dug-in bazooka positions
along the road.
Task Force "Welborn" struck the softest spot in the
enemy's defenses upon crossing the SAALE and advanced rapidly,
almost to the Autobahn crossing on the MULDE River, before meeting
strong enemy opposition.
Task Force "Lovelady", on the south flank, met strong
anti-tank fire immediately east of the SAALE but continued to
press the attack and advanced about eighteen kilometers.
Task Force "Welborn" reached the MULDE at the Autobahn
crossing on 15 April, and, finding the bridge destroyed, pushed
infantry across to form a shallow bridgehead. The 3rd Armored
had well outdistanced the infantry divisions of the Corps. The
HARZ mountain stronghold occupied the full strength of both the
1st and 9th Divisions. The 104th Division was heavily engaged
in the HALLE area. Consequently the Armored Spearheads of the
3rd, having penetrated through miles of open country, found themselves
fighting many separate actions without infantry support, except
that of the organic and attached infantry units. The same condition
had prevailed at PADERBORN and many other times to a lesser degree.
Fortunately the terrain was flat and open in this area and a
fine secondary road net existed. These factors greatly increased
the ability of the Task Forces to strike suddenly in many directions
without allowing the enemy to get set anywhere. On this and succeeding
days, the Spearhead had to rely on its mobility both for success
While Task Force "Hogan" continued to engage the fanatical
defenders in KOTHEN, Task Force "Richardson" succeeded
in opening the road into that town from the west and effecting
a junction with Hogan. Richardson then sent a battle group north
to take BERNBURG.
Task Force "Lovelady" cleared THURLAND and KLEINLEIPZIG.
In the area of two small towns, MEILENDORF and KORNETZ, a few
SS troopers with small arms and panzerfausts began harassing
traffic on one of the main routes. Both of these towns had been
passed and were considered clear. The Division Commander ordered
Combat Command "A" to send a force to take the strongest
possible action against enemy troops in the ambushing force.
The village of MEILENDORF was largely destroyed by Task Force
"Boles" in the fight that ensued. No enemy were found
in KORNETZ. To prevent further ambushing in rear areas, the Division
Commander later ordered strong patrols be sent into each village
that had not been passed through by combat elements back to the
SAALE River. These patrols instructed each Burgomeister to turn
in all German military personnel in or out of uniform and all
arms, and warned the people that strongest available military
means would be used to suppress any resistance in rear areas.
A few prisoners were taken, and no further incidents occurred.
In order to provide further security for the long, loose front,
Combat Command "A" was committed facing DESSAU, which
was considered the greatest threat, and built up a defensive
sector in the QUELLENDORF area between Combat Commands "R"
The Reconnaissance Battalion sent heavy patrols through RENDIN,
THALHEIM and SANDERSDORF, clearing minor resistance there. They
found the larger towns of WOLFEN and BITTERFELD were strongly
On 16 April, the Division was engaged in many directions. The
front was about forty miles long. It reached from BERNBURG, where
Task Force "Richardson" had sealed one of the enemy's
last remaining exits of the HARZ mountains, through KOTHEN to
the MULDE River at the Autobahn crossing, where Task Force "Welborn"
was attempting to construct a bridge, then south through the
western edge of RAGUHN and southwest through THALHEIM. The rear
areas were not completely cleared; many villages still harbored
small groups of enemy; and the HAIDEBURG Forest, which reaches
from just south of DESSAU almost to THURLAND, provided a convenient
build-up area for enemy counter-attacks and raids.
Combat Command "B" had extended the line to the south
by seizing the western half of RAGUHN and the towns of PRIORAU,
MARKE, SCHIERAU and SIEBENHAUSEN. Simultaneously, the infantry
of Task Force "Orr" (formerly Task Force "Kane"),
plus one company of the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion,
swept the northern part of the HAIDEBURG Forest that lay between
Combat Commands "A" and "B".
At about 1030 on 17 April, a group of about one hundred and fifty
enemy troops using commando tactics attacked and captured the
Command Post of Task Force "Lovelady", which was in
THURLAND, and another day of thrusts and parries was started.
Company "D" of the 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion attacked
from ZORBIG to retake the town. Late in the afternoon after battling
all day against heavy artillery, mortar and small-arms fire,
the Reconnaissance Company retook the town. Most of the Task
Force Headquarters personnel were recovered.
Task Force "Hogan" pushed on to the north and entered
AKEN on the ELBE River.
Task Force "Richardson" was placed under Division control
and moved south to HINSDORF to attack BOBBAU-STEINFURTH and JESSNITZ.
Just as Richardson's attack got under way at about 1400, an enemy
tank and infantry force launched a counterattack from BOBBAU-STEINFURTH.
This attack was quickly turned back by heavy artillery and air-cooperation
fighter bombers, which accounted for eight enemy tanks.
Late in the afternoon, higher headquarters ordered that the MULDE
bridgehead be withdrawn to the west bank. The First Army's limit
of advance had been set as the west bank of the ELBE-MULDE River.
Welborn started withdrawing his forces that night.
To accomplish the mission of clearing the enemy from its zone
up to the Army limiting line, the 3rd Armored had yet to seize
DESSAU, part of RAGUHN, BOBBAU-STEINFURTH, JESSNITZ, WOLFEN and
GREPPIN on 18 April. The Division Commander decided that the
attack on DESSAU would have to be delayed until the rest of the
zone was cleared in order to provide sufficient strength to accomplish
each separate mission.
In the northern part of the zone, Task Force "Hogan"
continued to attack in AKEN. By 1720 the town was cleared and
contact was established with the 83rd Infantry Division.
Having withdrawn the bridgehead force, Combat Command "B"
established and maintained a defensive system from TORTEN to
In the south, Combat Command "R" assumed command of
Task Forces Richardson and the 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion,
which was reinforced by Battle Group "Miller" of Combat
Command "A". Battle Group "Miller" consisted
of one Company each of tanks and infantry and one section of
tank destroyers. Lt. Col. Yeomans, Commanding the Reconnaissance
Battalion was killed by artillery fire early on the morning of
18 April. The Executive Officer, Major Bradley, took command
of the Battalion. Attacking to seize WOLFEN and GREPPIN, elements
of the Reconnaissance Battalion reached and cleared the smaller
towns of THALHEIM and BENDEN. The enemy counter-attacked at RENDEN
with about fifty infantrymen supported by three tanks, but gained
Having reached BOBBAU-STEINFURTH, Task Force "Richardson"
continued to press the attack against strong enemy defenses and
heavy mortar and artillery fire. A determined counterattack by
about one hundred enemy infantrymen supported by three tanks
was beaten back.
On 19 and 20 April, the heavy street fighting continued in BOBBAU-STEINFURTH
and in WOLFEN and GREPPIN. It was not until 21 April that Task
Force "Richardson" finally reached and crossed the
small stream that separates BOBBAU-STEINFURTH and JESSNITZ. WOLFEN
and GREPPIN were cleared on 20 April.
DESSAU & SANGERHAUSEN
The attack on DESSAU was launched at 0600 on 21 April. The
maximum artillery support was provided, including a sound and
flash battery, and the coordinated assault was made by four Task
Forces. Task Force "Hogan" attacked from the west.
Task Force "Boles" and Task Force "Orr" attacked
from the southwest. Task Force "Welborn" made a limited
objective attack from the south with their right flank on the
MULDE River. At the same time, Task Force "Lovelady"
crossed the SPITTLE WASSER Creek to take the east portion of
RAGUHM, and Task Force "Richardson" continued the attack
on JESSNITZ in the face of heavy artillery and mortar fire.
The fighting in DESSAU proper developed, as was expected,
into a house to house battle that lasted through 22 April as
the defenders were beaten back slowly toward ROSSLAU. On 23 April,
there remained only one enemy pocket to be dealt with. In the
bend of the MULDE River just north of DESSAU, the last of the
DESSAU garrison occupied a wired-in position in the soft almost
swampy ground defending the railroad bridge that led to ROSSLAU.
Combat Command "A" spent a full day routing out these
The 3rd Armored Division completed its 221st combat day on the
continent of Europe on 24 April. By 25 April, the 9th Division
had relieved the 3rd in the whole of the DESSAU sector, and the
3rd moved into the SANGERHAUSEN area to occupy and govern that
area temporarily. The Division remained in the SANGERHAUSEN area
until 12 May. On that day movement began to a new occupation
area generally south of Frankfurt and extending south to include
DARMSTADT, east almost to ASCHAFFENBURG and west to the RHINE
River. The Division closed in this area on 13 May and set about
its occupation and governing duties under XIX Corps, while awaiting
whatever disposition the Army Redeployment Plan might dictate.
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