Kalenborn to Sieg River
At 1000 on the 16th of March the battalion was relieved by the 60th AIB. The men left the wooded hill-land around the Kalenborn junction and moved by truck to a reserve area northeast of Honnef.
It was a warm sunny day and for a while the men were free to enjoy it. The Diploma Blue CP was established in a roadside inn and the companies dug in along the side of the hill. There was a small pond beside the inn and some of the GIs supplemented their midday K Rations with fried trout. There was also a little Rhein wine from the abandoned inn's diminishing supply.
The rest period was sweet but it only lasted a few hours.
Early in the afternoon, the battalion was alerted again and moved out on foot with L Company in the lead. It was a grueling two-hour climb over a narrow winding road with sporadic artillery falling on the leading elements. The column reached the assembly area near Warenhof and Rottgen before dusk, and Company L moved up to relieve I Company of the 311th Infantry. The changeover was made at 1730.
Platoons of the 311th were dug in just below the summit of a large hill and the road leading up was subjected to heavy enemy shell fire. L Company had to climb through the fire and there were several casualties before it reached its objective.
The rifle platoons were placed in a semicircle covering three sides of the hill and Lieutenant Julian Miller, 4th platoon leader and acting company executive officer, led the headquarters personnel up to establish a company command post in a house on the summit. They had just moved up when the krauts threw in a heavy mortar barrage, cutting them off from the men who were dug in below the house.
It was dark by this time and the intensity of the shell fire made movement on the hill almost impossible. The company's radio operator was with the CP group but all attempts to contact him failed and it was assumed that his radio had been knocked out by the mortar barrage. Staff Sergeant Verne Peterson put an SCR 300 on his back and started up toward the house from the 3rd Platoon's positions. He climbed along the same route the CP group had followed. He was half-way there when he was halted by fire coming from the direction of the house. It was too dark to see but is was obvious by this time that the top of the hill was occupied by German soldiers, who evidently had infiltrated while L Company was taking over the positions from the 311th's Company 1. Peterson made another attempt to reach the house but was again stopped by small arms fire. He returned to his platoon to report what had happened. The company commander, who had been absent during this action, returned and reorganized the company's positions half-way up the hill. It was extremely dark and a heavy fog reduced visibility so much that it was deemed inadvisable to advance further that night. No word was received from the men who had moved up into the house. There were eighteen men missing including Lieutenants Miller and Blum, First Sergeant George Lynch, and Communications Sergeant Robert T. Bryan.
It was almost a skeleton company that waited through the night there on the side of the hill above Rottgen. The CP group was lost and the, platoons had suffered numerous casualties from the enemy shell-fire.
Picture: EAST END OF REMAGEN BRIDGE BEFORE COLLAPSE
Daylight finally came and at 0530 the remaining men of Company L started out to take the top of the hill. Lieutenant Mosely's platoon climbed straight up toward the house and received frontal fire from three machine-guns manned by an estimated fifteen men and supported by several dug-in enemy riflemen. While the ensuing fire-fight was in progress, another platoon moved along the side of the hill and came up on the enemy positions from the east flank. The Germans were trapped between the two platoons. Fifteen enemy were killed and fifteen taken prisoner.
The house was empty save for the web equipment and rifles of the missing men and it was learned later from the PWs that the eighteen men had been captured as they entered the house the night before.
I Company reported that 3 prisoners had been taken by a patrol sent out to contact friendly troops on their flank.
On the 18th of March the battalion was ordered to attack Heisterbacherott and the hill to the west of the town. The plan was for K Company to secure the southern end of the town and I Company to take the hill on the left as soon as Company K had completed its mission.
Supported by one TD and two tanks, K Company moved toward the town under cover of heavy woods. The approach followed a trail leading to the right of the town and the men intended to make their attack from the right flank.
At the edge of the woods they entered a shack and surprised twenty-six krauts eating breakfast there. The group surrendered without a fight and K Company moved on.
When the company reached a point in the woods directly opposite the town, it halted. The first platoon was left at the edge of a grove of scrub oak and the rest of the Company swung left to enter Heisterbacherott with the armor.
The men of the first platoon were spread out through the woods guarding what had become the company's left rear. Behind them were a section of machine guns and a section of mortars from M Company.
Staff Sergeant Paul T. King of M Company was the first to spot the Germans. They were coming down the trail through the woods and there were a lot of them. He set up his machine guns to cover and waited.
K's first platoon, under Sgt. Lang, was lying facing the Krauts but couldn't see them because of the density of the woods. The first sign of the enemy the men had was the sudden rattle of two machine guns that began throwing lead from the shadow of the trees directly to their front.
Sergeant King opened up then with his machine guns and Lang sent two BARs around through the woods to the left of his platoon. King directed the fire of his section with an M1 rifle and the BARs and machine-guns formed an effective cross-fire. 'The enemy advance was halted but the Germans were on higher ground than the men of K Company and they continued to throw a screen of lead which kept most of the first platoon pinned down.,
Lang and T-5 Joseph B. Zeigler were hugging the ground side by side when Lang decided to do something about the Krauts. He got up, yelling for his platoon to advance, and started walking into the German positions. In a matter of seconds, every man in the platoon was on his feet and moving up the slope. As they walked they fired and the woods shielding the attacking krauts were raked by a hail of 30 and 45 caliber slugs. They kept going for a hundred yards and the enemy fire began to decrease.
When the fight was over the GIs had captured twenty Germans and had killed between forty-five and fifty. There were dead Germans lying within six feet of the first platoons positions.
M Company had suffered three casualties and K Company, eleven.
S/Sgt. King received the silver star for his work that day and Sgt. Lang received a bronze star.
The Kraut attack had been broken up and those Germans that had not been captured or were not lying in the woods retreated back along the trail that divided K's sector from that of Company L.
The first platoon then joined the rest of K Company in clearing out its section of Heisterbacherott.
As soon as K accomplished its mission, I Company attacked the hill west of the town. There was a lot of resistance by small arms and automatic weapons but it was eliminated after ten Germans had been killed and fifteen captured. The hill was secured.
Meanwhile, Company L knocked out some resisting automatic weapons with counter-fire from machine-guns and M1s and cleared the woods on the battalions right flank. I Company then moved into the southern end of Heisterbacherott and K Company secured the northern part of the town.
The next day, the battalion received word that it was to move to Oberdollendorf.
Early on the 20th, the battalion marched into the town and assembled there ready to spend a restful night. Orders to move again came before dawn and the battalion marched out, of town after eating breakfast in the dark.
Holzlar was reached on the afternoon of the 2 1st and there the battalion became regimental reserve. Several men were sent to the rest center in Verviers, Belgium and all had an opportunity to rest their weary bodies, bathe, and write letters.
During the next few days the battalion reorganized. and considerable time was spent in the cleaning of equipment. 75 reinforcements were welcomed to the battalion on the 23rd and soon became an integral part of the Blue Infantrymen.
Orders were received on the 24th of March to move up and relieve the 2nd Battalion, 310th Infantry along the Sieg River. L Company moved upon the 25th followed by the rest of the battalion on the 26th. The mission assigned-to the battalion was to maintain defensive positions along the river and to keep close watch on the Germans, being ready to repulse any counterattack.
The next week the training program continued during the daytime and extensive patrolling was -conducted at night. Considerable enemy activity was observed but little aggressive action developed, Additional men were sent back to the rest centers and several men a day were afforded the' opportunity to take showers and procure clean clothes.
On the 3rd of April orders were received to prepare to be relieved on the following night. Blue Battalion was relieved during the hours of darkness on the 4th by elements of the Infantry Division and assembled in the town of Hangelar. Chow was served at 0400 the next morning and the battalion departed from Hangelar in trucks enroute to Betzdorf, Germany.