Day by Day in the Ruhr Pocket ...
6 April 1945
The morning was black, the moon was hidden and the dawn had not yet shown its face. Blue Battalion was assembled in the town of Betzdorf on the Sieg River, had been there all night and though little rest was available the men made the most of the few hours. As was customary, they had cooked their own fried potatoes and eggs the night before, ate their regular chow in addition, and in all, satisfied "ever growing" appetites. Equipment had been cleaned, some rested while others pulled guard, each man had his individual job to do and each was duty bound.
The Company Commanders had been on a reconnaissance the night before, had issued orders to all attachments, distributed overlays and possibly bowed their heads in a moment's sleep and a long prayer. At 0630, the 6 April 1945, the battalion once again began its relentless attack, against what was not just an enemy because the people represented upheld ideals and beliefs contrary to G. 1. Joe's, but because to each G. 1. had come a personal reaction. Perhaps his best buddy had been killed, his brother, his father or he himself had been wounded once or twice, maybe none of these. Perhaps he was just tired, tired of sleeping in dirty, wet, cold foxholes, tired of dragging, pushing, forcing himself onward day after day through mud, briars and water, tired of being shot at and wondering whether his was to do or die - or both. He was determined to end all this; to finish the fighting; to be able to think freely of the things he loved most; to sleep; to relieve his tired body and mind of all that had been torturing it for such a long time. That was the GI Joe who once again put his pack on his back, checked his ammunition, adjusted his helmet and with his faithful rifle groped his way into the darkness to form in the approach march with his buddies.
Company K was leading followed by L Company. Company I was in battalion reserve. The winding road from Betzdorf followed the Sieg River westward and as the men moved along the road to the line of departure near Kalteich the dawn was breaking. Company K with four tanks and one tank destroyer echeloned its platoons from terrain feature to terrain feature - or objective to objective. Kalteich, which consisted of only a few houses, fell without resistance to the Ist Platoon while the 2nd platoon of K Company advanced with Capt. Owens to the next small town, Elkhausen. The town of Kalteich was located on a bald hill affording the enemy good observation of all movement in the town. Troops from Companies I and M were also in the town with those of Company K and a good target was presented to the enemy. Artillery zeroed in on three houses where many of the men were congregated causing several casualties. Capt. James R. Bonner was mortally hit while reconnoitering in Kalteich to determine the best route to advance his company, Company I. Lt. Irving Ochs, Jr. assumed command of I Company at this time and led the company in the attack on the town of Hohnhahn. The town was small and there was little opposition. Having taken Hohnhahn Company I advanced to the town of Hecke and after capturing about 50 prisoners had cleared the town by 1015. Intermittent enemy artillery fire fell in the town a short while later but inflicted no casualties.
At Kalteich, where the enemy artillery was falling, it was only possible to move a few men out of the town at one time. Company K's remaining two platoons, less ten casualties, managed to get out of Kalteich and move on to join the 2nd platoon which had gone on ahead. Two platoons were then put on tanks and the third followed on foot. The town of Linden surrendered without resistance and approximately ten prisoners of war were taken. Company K, advancing next toward Wittershagen, was fired on from a draw to the east, however, they overcame the Germans and entered Wittershagen with little resistance from the enemy. An aid station was set up in one the houses near by and as the aid men would enter and leave the house with casualties the Germans would zero in with artillery.
K Company next moved to the west along the edge of a wooded area to escape from enemy observation. The lead tank lost a track at Wittershagen and then K Company set up a perimeter defense of the town. While there, the mortar observer sighted a machine gun nest and scored a direct hit on the enemy emplacement. As soon as all the men of K Company were together and the remaining tanks were brought forward the company reorganized and pushed on again to Stentenbach.
I Company which was receiving light artillery fire in Hecke moved out of that town along the right flank of the battalion zone to the high ground beyond. A little sniper fire and artillery fire was received but I Company moved on to the high ground. The Battalion Commander, Major Walter Pierce, then instructed I company to send a patrol to contact Company L.
Company I proceeded on order to the high ground near Diedershagen encountering no resistance as they advanced. Company L could be seen by Company I as they were fighting in the small town to the left of Diedershagen. The Germans however were not too desirous of resisting and surrendered willingly.
"Jerry", the name G. I's gave the German soldier, was on the run and the Blue Battalion intended to keep him moving. The leading platoon of Company K moved into Stentenbach with two tanks and, other than sniper, fire met no resistance. They then advanced into Stockshohe encountering a few enemy soldiers whom were found dead the next morning.
The remaining tanks threw their tracks in the mud and narrow roads and were unable to proceed to Stentenbach.
Company K had taken the last two towns for the day. Company I had organized in a defensive position to the right of Company K. Company L was echeloned to the left rear and had not been able to tie in with the rest of the battalion. The mortars -of TH Company were prepared to fire from positions to the rear of Company K and the heavy machine guns were used to assist in the defensive fire lines. The night was cold and dark. Chow was served at about 2300 hours after being transported to most units by hand carrying parties.
German soldiers were entering the battalion's lines that night and surrendering, rather than fight. It was learned from these men that several hundred German soldiers had been brought up in trucks that day to establish a defense for the highway which ran cast-west through Morsbach and to patrol the wooded areas south of the road so as to harass the Americans as they approached and delay their advance. However, the prisoners also stated that the Germans were not too desirous of fighting.
The situation the night of the 6th April was an uncomfortable one, both physically and mentally and every one waited eagerly, patiently, cautiously for the dawn of a new day.