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
18 January 1945
Troop C, 42d Squadron
After as much preliminary observation as our occupied area would permit, the 3rd platoon, under Lt. Pridgen, and about two sections of the 2nd platoon crossed the river well after dark, and proceeded to carry out their combat patrol plan of a frontal attack against Thorn (map 33) by the 3rd platoon, covered on the left by the 2nd platoon.
Crossing over and scrambling down a high R.R. embankment, the 2d platoon proceeded to extend a screen as planned, the last two men placing themselves in an old shell hole, some 30 yards from the road which ran along the high ground parallel to the river.
Lt. McCaleb placed himself, after careful scouting of the empty house to his left, at the fence corner just off the road. An excellent field of vision was afforded, and he was soon able to see an occasional dim light move about the darkened and battered town. He wondered if it could be the 3rd platoon in the town so very soon and without a fight. As minutes dragged by, several more lights, including one inside the house, moved freely from room to room and floor to floor as a person might who was searching for something.
It suddenly and positively dawned upon him that he was watching Krauts move about – not GI’s, they moved too freely – and there had not been a single shot. Plus that, too much time had elapsed. As he turned to go to his nearest men for a messenger to contact the other platoon, a sudden and heavy fire fight burst out below him. A machine gun or B.A.R. and rifles appeared to be firing from the R.R. in the vicinity of the beached boats, and was being answered by two or more MG’s, or B.A.R.’s and rifles from this side of the tracks and on the high ground. The slugs from the guns near the R.R. tracks were snapping viciously close, and singing in ricochet all around him and the men nearby.
Under the conditions it could not be determined which were enemy, and which were American guns. In order to establish that fact the screen withdrew to the tracks, the Lieutenant covering the withdrawal and following his men under cover of the embankment. They found the force on the shore to be the other platoon, part of which was already in the boats and trying to return. About the time that the 2nd platoon pulled in its screen, the MG’s set up on the American side of the river started throwing their welcome overhead fire into the ground above us, and between us and the town.
Much chagrined to find that the Jerries had been actually trapped between our two forces, a circling movement was suggested by Lt. Pridgen. About this time two very heavy explosions, either set charges or mortar shells, went off on the far side of the tracks and down in the ditch. All we got was a blast and a scattering of stones and debris. Upon trying to reorganize for the next attack it was found that so many men had already returned to the other side, plus the fact that one B.A.R. had been lost in the first crossing, that it was considered unwise to push the circling movement.
During this scuffle Sgt. Arno, manning a boat on the river, found himself in the pattern of enemy MG fire. Without a moment’s pause he promptly dove into the frigid dark water and struggled to the other shore. He was almost unconscious when pulled out and was revived only after great effort. One boat was completely lost and the others all punctured.
The two Lieutenants, the last to leave the enemy ground, found their boat to be very “holy” and unmanageable. They were carried some distance from their desired landing point and on several occasions were almost capsized by ice flows. It was only by great effort that they managed to get ashore over the shelf of ice extending along the waters edge. By lying flat and working across the ice, they and the one man with them made the shore (after their arms and legs had gone through the ice several times).
The only great satisfaction out of the deal, to the small group concerned, was that an intercepted Kraut report on the action said that they had repulsed the attack of an estimated Battalion.