Day by Day in the Ruhr Pocket ...
11 April 1945
Early in the morning, before leaving Husten, Company L captured 150 German soldiers who had been hanging around the town all night. The main body of the company then moved out through Tillkhausen while Lieutenant Sweezy's platoon was out on a separate mission.
At 0550, I Company left its positions just outside of Hillmicke and began clearing the big hill south of the town. At 0800, the company walked into town to find that all but fifteen of the Germans had left during the night. The fifteen surrendered without resistance. The GIs also found an enemy ambulance loaded with weapons ranging from Lugers to machine guns.
Company K jumped off that morning at 0930 and cleared some more of the woodland north of Ottfingen. With this accomplished the men mounted jeeps, half-tracks and tanks, and swept through the towns of Benolpe, Gerlingen, and Brucken, taking several hundred prisoners and releasing one First Division infantryman who had been captured by the enemy.
At Brucken, Captain Owens received orders to move west to Wiedenest to prevent the withdrawal of several thousand enemy troops from the rapidly diminishing pocket. The first platoon, led by Ist Lt. John H. Higgins, took off first and entered Wiedenest in early afternoon.
The only threat in the town was a SP gun along the highway. The TD moved up and quickly knocked the gun out, allowing K Company to capture the town and 150 enemy soldiers.
At midday, Battalion Headquarters piled into jeeps and trucks and left Hahn for the hills to the north. The long convoy raced over the twisted roads at top speed, moving so fast that the jeeps became strung out in a line a mile long.
One enemy soldier was encountered on the way. He was standing by the side of the road with his family gathered about him and they were all watching the American jeeps go by. He was trying to get someone to stop and capture him, but the GIs were in too much of a hurry to give him a second look. His family had come along to see him off and say "auf wiedersehen" and now they were being disappointed. They stood there with puzzled, unhappy expressions on their faces until the last jeep had gone by.
About five miles from its destination, the convoy passed a group of several hundred liberated Ukrainian slave-laborers. They were gathered in a field just off the highway and it looked like a community outing. A few of them had guitars and accordions and they played while the others sat on the sunlit grass -singing songs of their homeland in beautiful happy harmony.
As the jeeps swept down through the forest into Wliedenest, they went through a kraut prison camp. Italians and French lined the road and cheered and clapped their hands and shouted greetings as each jeep-load of GIs went by.
It left a strange, warm feeling inside and made the war seem perhaps not so bad after all. A battalion command post was established in Wiedenest in late afternoon and all companies assembled there.
At 1715, I Company moved up the highway northeast from Wiedenest and took the town of Pernze. Anti-tank guns were placed at the road junction there to protect the battalion's flank in the event that a concentration of enemy troops should appear in the area.
I Company held its positions in Pernze through the night, sending a patrol out at 0100 to contact elements of the 8th Infantry Division. The 8th sent a rifle company down from the north on tanks to open the road into Pernze.
Company K left Wiedenest at 1900 and had set up a defense in Nieder Rengse by nightfall.