Day by Day in the Ruhr Pocket ...
13 April 1945
The Germans had retreated from Wipperfürth by dawn, but the Third Battalion's advance was held up until afternoon by corps order.
While the other companies sat tight and waited for permission to cross the phase-line west of Wipperfürth, K Company moved out and cleared the high ground around the town. Patrols were sent down into the village itself to reconnoiter and they returned to inform Captain Owens that the Krauts had left. One platoon moved in. and occupied a sector of the town until orders came through for the battalion to attack.
Late that afternoon, I Company climbed on trucks and started out. After the third platoon cleared Jestberg and Kleineichen, the entire Company fell in behind L Company in the approach march to Hilckeswagen.
Hilckeswagen was the largest single objective the battalion had been given in the Ruhr Pocket. It was a small manufacturing city straddling the hills at a bend in the Wupper River.
L Company reached the outskirts at dark and was met by the Burgomaster and several other citizens of the town. They came out carrying a white flag and spouting polite words of greeting.
"Come on in," they said, "we don't want to fight. All the soldiers have left and we hereby surrender our town to you.'
The speech was good and it was convincing.
L Company accepted the surrender and the column of infantry and tanks began moving down the main street between the rows of large buildings. The night was dark and everything was very peaceful.
The column had moved maybe a hundred yards into town when the Krauts opened up from the deep shadows of windows and doorways with everything they had.
The lead tank was knocked out by German bazookas and the infantry swarmed off the main drag into the buildings, firing as they ran. The fighting moved quickly through the town. Lieutenants Sweezy and Applegate, with the third platoon, battered down the doors of one building and found eight enemy soldiers. Five of them were killed and three were taken as PWs.
The first platoon swung up onto the high ground to the east and began driving the enemy down toward the center of town. The platoon took thirty prisoners, jammed them into one building, and went on with the work of clearing the rest of their section.
Sergeant John Babcock set up his section's 60-mm mortars, and shells began blasting the kraut positions. The fighting continued until enemy resistance was completely broken shortly, after midnight. Germans were encountered occasionally after that but most of them surrendered willingly and the battalion's PW bag was overflowing.
When it was all over, L Company was scattered through town and the darkness made reorganization very difficult. There were still houses to clear and defenses to be established, and of course there were the casualties. The TD commander had been killed when his TD was knocked out and the company itself had lost a large number in wounded and killed.
While L Company was getting reorganized, I and K Companies moved in and cleared the sectors to which they had been assigned, and a Battalion CP was set up in the offices of a factory at the entrance to the town.
All had quieted down by 0300 and there was time for a few of the men to get a little rest before daylight.