Battle of Bingen

From:
SECOND UNITED STATES CAVALRY – A HISTORY
Compiled, edited and published by Historical Section, Second Cavalry Association
Maj. A. L. Lambert and Cpt. G. B. Layton, 2d Cavalry

WWIITroop B, 42d Squadron

20 March 1945

The town of Bingen (map V)(map 37) is a rail, water and general communications center on the Rhine at the mouth of the Nahe river. Surrounding Bingen are the towns of Dietersheim (map 37), Budesheim (map 37) and Kempten (map 37).

On the morning of 20 March, the TD Platoon of F Troop, and the assault guns of E Troop, were deployed on the high ground north of the Nahe river where it joins the Rhine. They were trained on the locality of Bingen, prepared to support the attack of the 42d Squadron.

Troop B, reinforced, crossed the Nahe at Bretzenheim (map 37) and attacked north. This force moved toward Bingen via Dietersheim (map 37) and Budesheim. First enemy opposition was encountered on the outside of Dietersheim, just after we passed through that town. The enemy outposts had blown the RR trestle bridges over all roads leading to Dietersheim and Bingen. The blocking of these underpasses proved a very effective roadblock, since the RR embankment was too high for our tanks to climb. While we were held up in front of these obstacles, enemy artillery sporadically hammered our column. One of the blocks was finally cleared by alternately firing the 75mm from the light tanks into the debris and then using the beef and brawn of man power to clear the rubble. On the other side of this block was an enemy machine gun position which quickly surrendered after a fierce exchange of fire. The ground between the RR and Budesheim was as flat as a pancake, and as previously planned, the recon platoon left their vehicles behind and accompanied the tanks, first riding them and then on foot. The tanks advanced in a line across country, firing at likely enemy positions as they drove.

During the advance on Budesheim, the supporting artillery pasted the town and kept the enemy pinned down. With so much direct fire from HE projectiles flying through the town, the local civilians started putting up white flags just as the attacking force closed in. All the German soldiers, however, didn’t agree to this and there was a little excitement before the surrender was final. Pvt. Lester Wolf, for instance, had a fine game of hop scotch with a panzerfaust man before he finally ran him to ground behind a stone wall and wafted him out of this world with a well lobbed grenade.

Approximately 100 prisoners were taken at this first position. The attack was led by Lt. Sidney Zecher, with Lt. Harold Yates and Lt. Henry Lane as platoon leaders of the tank and recon platoons respectively. The 1st Platoon of B Troop under S/Sgt. Danny Roscoe was in support and the 2d, under Lt. Calderwood, in reserve.

After Budesheim was consolidated, the 2d platoon passed through town to advance on the final objective, Bingen. Here again the recon men were used to give close-in support to the tanks, now a fresh platoon led by Lt. Fowler. The force had to move on the road along the Nahe river. It reached the outskirts of Bingen and encountered blocks of trolly cars. However, these blocks had been hastily erected, and were as hastily surmounted. The panzerfaust and small arms were the enemy’s main weapons, and consequently street fighting ensued. Pfc. John P. Florio, while riding on a tank which was rolling down the streets, sighted and killed the members of an enemy bazooka team with the tank’s AA machine gun. A little later as he was walking down the street with his platoon leader, he shot and killed a sniper who was in the act of aiming his rifle at the officer. Cpl. James D. Reeves was working dismounted with a tank platoon, and during the fight in town he noticed a bazooka team to the flank of the tank he was helping to support. He charged the enemy group, firing as he ran. He succeeded in killing one German, and his furious assault caused the remaining two to turn in full flight and race off through the buildings. Many other incidents similar to these occurred, but went unnoticed due to the excitement and confusion of battle.

At the same time that part of the Troop advanced on Bingen, Lts. Lane and Zecher bypassed Bingen to the south and moved toward Kempten. Their small force moved so quickly that it over-ran enemy positions without giving them much of a chance to put up a fight. On one occasion, to the surprise of both concerned, Lt. Lane walked around the bend in a gully and came face to face with a group of Germans manning an AA gun. Quick Yankee bluff, which included a verbal picture of advancing hordes of bloodthirsty Americans, convinced the German commander that discretion was the better part of valor, and he surrendered his entire command. By nightfall, Zecher and Lane had consolidated Kempten, and had the Burgermeister jumping around transmitting their orders to the populace. Those orders included, of course, detailed instructions for the disposal of the days crop of eggs.

While all this was going on, A Troop, in support, had swung to the right, capturing Gau Algesheim (map 37) and Ockenheim (map 37). A platoon of A Troop advancing on Gaulsheim (map 37) was halted a half kilometer south of the town by direct artillery fire from the high ground north of the Rhine. Advance elements occupied the forward positions and prepared to continue the attack. A total of 450 prisoners were sent back.

Back in Bingen the fight was still going on. It was larger than Kempten, and in addition, the center of resistance. By dark our Troops had taken one third of the town, and elected to hang on to that until morning. At first light they rounded up the remaining enemy in town, and by 1100 most of the excitement was over. Organized and active resistance had ceased once we had gained our first hold on the town, but there are always a few people that don’t know when they are whipped. Many frantic calls were made to Squadron Headquarters for trucks to haul prisoners to the rear. The final count went well over the 500 mark. One of the prisoners was the commander of all the troops in Bingen, and he sadly told his side of the story to our attached IPW team.

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