Attack On Wincheringen

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

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19 – 22 February 1945

T/5 Charles F. Dale

The evening of February 19th didn’t seem much different from any other February evening, although we knew that something was definitely up. Troop A had been in Squadron reserve for the past week or so back in Flaxweiler (map 33). Around seven o’clock all the officers and platoon sergeants were called to the Troop CP to be briefed for some new mission. In the houses where the men of A Troop had been living, the tension rose steadily. The writer was in the first platoon, and our house was probably no different than any other combat platoon’s that night. Occasionally someone would say, “Jeez, I wish they’d tell us something anyway!” Finally someone suggested that we go to the movies and several of us went. After seeing about half of a very dull and old picture, a head poked in the doorway and a voice barked “All the men of A Troop report back to your billets immediately”. The lights were switched on and we, the men of A Troop, trying to look nonchalant, walked out.

When we got back to our house we were told by S/Sgt. Croasmun, our platoon Sgt., to get ready, that we were all going across the river to attack Wincheringen (map 33) dismounted. Some of the men were bitching, “what the hell do they think we are, infantry?” Most of us were too busy trying to get the lumps out of our throats to bitch. It seemed that none of us could get enough hand grenades, though we had plenty.

We were briefed, and I mean briefed, in about half an hour by our platoon leader, Lt. Lasswell. He started talking at 2230, and we were to leave Flaxweiler at 2300 for Ehnen (map 33). Upon reaching Ehnen about 2345, many of us were herded into a house to think about the crossing that was to take place at 0100. As anybody knows who has ever taken that cold, wet plunge into action, it isn’t the fight that gets on a mans nerves, its the waiting for it to start that sends the Section 8 shivers up and down the soldiers spine. As there was a slight delay and we didn’t actually shove off until 0130, we had a delightful extra half hour in which to meditate on our past sins and the probabilities of our sudden and unpleasant demise in the near future.

Once we were in the boats and had started paddling for the other side, our fear seemed to vanish. We were too busy with the task at hand to have time to worry. The only mishap of the crossing was the fact that it landed us in Germany, and from here on out, anything could happen and probably would.

After climbing a ten foot bank we reached the road which ran parallel to the river, and there were reformed. The 1st and 3rd platoons started moving northward along the road in the single file. Some carried machine guns, others bazookas. Most of us carried boxes of machine gun ammunition or bazooka shells. Almost every man had plenty of hand and rifle grenades. We climbed another bank to the railroad tracks, went down it for about a hundred yards and then turning right again, were confronted by a steep cliff. For the next hour or so we climbed up and up, making more noise than a herd of elephants.

Just as we reached the top, German artillery and mortar started falling on the river bank, which was now rear echelon as far as we were concerned. We were resting on top of the ridge and those shells seemed to be just clearing the top of our helmets. We started moving toward our objective and although we had about two kilometers to go, we reached the outskirts of town at 0545. Here we halted again while Lt. Lasswell went back to see if he could contact the 3rd platoon who had been following us all the way. They were nowhere to be found! He decided to wait until the last moment before dawn because they might have been held up for some reason. Also we were hoping that B Troop had gotten through on the east side of town.

The fog which had covered our movements all the way from the top of the hill started to lift and it began to get light, so the Lieutenant had no alternative but to commence the attack. We started to move cautiously toward the first few buildings in town. We were moving through an orchard with half of the platoon on the left side of the road and the other half on the other side. They must have known we were coming because hell really broke loose. Mortar shells began falling among us like rain drops. The first building on the right was a schoolhouse, so we made for it. Behind the school was a machine gun nest which had not opened fire on us and we captured the two gunners. From the mortar barrage we had one man killed, Pfc. Carlton Musser, and eight or nine wounded.

That left us a little understrength, so we decided to hold out in the house as long as we could, and let the Germans worry about the rest of our outfit which would be attacking from the other side of town. Anyway, tanks from the 10th Armored Division were on the way and should arrive to relieve us about ten o’clock.

The mortar shells kept falling outside and on the roof, but they couldn’t hurt us much as long as we stayed in the house. Three Heinies came running up the road yelling “Kamerad”, so we invited them in and took them prisoner. Fortunately for us, the house had a nice substantial cellar so we sent the wounded and the prisoners downstairs, with enough men to guard them and outpost the cellar windows. The remainder of us stayed together in one big room that had windows on every side, so we could cover every approach to the house with small arms fire. Cpl. Charles Deptola and T/5 Eddie Bafs stayed outside in fox holes to man the captured machine gun.

Commencing at 0730 the Jerries really started to throw the book at us. They gave up on the mortars and started using bazookas, which were a lot more effective as far as we were concerned. Bazooka shells tore holes in the walls, and some came through the holes and went off inside. Machine guns fired through the holes and sprayed the inside of the room. We danced a merry jig to the tune of humming ricochets. Just to add variety to the various types of hell they were giving us, several Germans ran up to the house to drop grenades in the cellar or try to throw them through the windows into the room. The only medical facilities for our wounded were our first aid kits, and a Heinie who happened to be a medic and took good care for our wounded down in the cellar.

All this and frustration too! Where was the 3rd platoon? Where was B Troop? Ten o’clock came and where the hell were the tanks?

But we were giving the Jerries plenty at the same time, it wasn’t all one way by a long shot. Sgt. Ralph Kinley had a bazooka in his hands trying to locate a choice target. Strank pointed out a Heinie that he had observed in a window in a house across the street. Sgt. Kinley got set and fired a round which hit just below the window as the Kraut was raising his bazooka to fire into our house. That was the last we were bothered by that particular German! Joe Strank and T/5 Red Lamberton shot several of the Heinies who were attempting to throw grenades into the house. S/Sgt. Croasmun, T/5 Kreczmer and Pfc. Woltor located a machine gun nest and put it out of commission with small arms fire.

There was one particular panzerfaust nest behind a little knoll part of the way down into town, that was causing us most of the trouble. It was so situated that we couldn’t get at it with our weapons. The enemy was gradually taking his toll with his bazookas, and most of the fire was coming from the one we couldn’t reach. Pfc. Bunch was killed when a shell came through a window near which he was standing. Another shell wounded T/5 John Leewas and he had to be taken downstairs.

Evidently the Germans decided that we were getting weak enough to whip because at one o’clock they began to attack in earnest. They came down the hill through the orchard on the east side of the house, where the captured machine gun was. The machine gun jammed after the first few rounds so Bafs, Deptola and Roberson stood up to surrender. Deptola was shot and killed. Bafs and Roberson made a break for it and jumped through a window into the house. Somehow or other, from the inside of the house, we managed to repulse that attack with small arms fire.

After the attack came a lull and we had an opportunity to think over our situation. The question was, just how long could we hold out? Our situation was definitely not good. In a nutshell it was this; we were being pounded on the east, west and north sides of the house by the enemy. If we tried to make a break of it to the south, we had to cross wide open terrain which, we knew, could be covered easily and thoroughly by at least two enemy machine guns and mortar fire. And then even though we wanted to try it, there were the wounded to consider. We certainly couldn’t carry them and just as certainly weren’t going to leave them.

Some thought that surrender would be the best because, “something must have happened to the rest of the Squadron or we wouldn’t be stranded here”. Others elected to fight it out until help arrived. Lt. Lasswell was in the later category so, of course, that’s what we decided to do. But we all agreed on one thing, and that was that we would definitely not spend the night in the house!

The afternoon dragged by with an occasional machine gun burst or a rifle shot. During the long periods of relative quiet we looked longingly southward for signs of approaching Americans. Finally we did see some soldiers a long ways off whom we thought to be GIs. We yelled and waved and at last managed to get them to hear us. They wanted to know the enemy strength, and we told them we thought about three platoons. This exchange of information was carried out by shouting as they could not approach us over the open ground. “They must be going to attack”, we assured one another, and breathed a little easier.

Another half hour dragged by. Nothing happened! It was now about four-thirty and would soon be dark. T/5 Roberson rushed up to Lt. Lasswell and asked if it would be alright for him and another man to take off across the open field and try to find Capt. Cunningham to tell him the situation. The Lieutenant flashed the green light, so Roberson and Bafs jumped out of a window and ran. The rest of us watched them go, hoping they would make it.

They were not fired on! When we saw that, two more tried it, and gradually in ones and twos, prisoners and wounded, we all left. About five minutes later tanks of the 10th Armored came rolling into Wincheringen. Of the enemy only a few stragglers were left, hanging around waiting to be taken prisoner.

After this burst of activity the front settled down again for a considerable period of time and the Second Cavalry resumed it’s patrolling and harassing of the enemy, who remained very passive except in a few isolated instances. On the 22nd our patrols to Wasserbillig (map 34) and Born (map 34) found the enemy still present.

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