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
11 – 18 January 1945
Troop C, 2d Squadron
The Troop rested, except for a five man patrol under Cpl. Holtz that went out to go over the route that was to be used in the attack. All during the day Capt. Morrison and his officers planned the attack, looking over the terrain and coordinating with the supporting artillery Battalion and our own E Troop. The mission was an important one and knowing this, all possible precautionary measures were taken.
With everything planned and everyone rested, the three recon platoons and the CP moved out before 0030, dismounted, and moved to the woods north of Machtum (map 33). After a short halt to get reorganized, we moved close to the town and waited for 0300, at which time a 15 minute barrage from the supporting artillery fell on the objective. The Troop was so close to the barrage that the men were showered with stones and dirt from the exploding shells. Immediately after the barrage stopped, the 1st and 3rd platoons assaulted the town, the 2nd platoon and the CP close behind. The enemy was waiting for us and two MG’s opened up at once. The 2nd platoon swung around to flank the position. S/Sgt. Walter McMillian began moving out towards the guns, firing his weapon and deliberately exposing himself in order to attract their attention, while a part of the 1st platoon under Sgt. Gates maneuvered around to get into position from which to launch an assault. Sgt. Gates crawled forward, trying to pick off the enemy with his rifle. This proved unsuccessful, as he could not find a spot from which he could fire into the MG nest. He organized his team and moved farther out toward the flank of the guns. Seeing that it would be too dangerous to move his whole team forward from that location, he instructed Cpl. Holtz to cover him with fire and again crawled toward the machine gun nest, closely followed by Holtz. He wriggled into cover, got a bead on the nest, and killed one of the enemy with his rifle. Then his gun jammed. Holtz quickly shot and killed another and Sgt. Gates leaped forward and disposed of the rest with a hand grenade.
Moving on into town, the 3rd platoon slowly progressed from house to house. They found the enemy very stubborn. By 0930 half the town was taken, but the enemy was still in commanding positions with his light machine guns.
Not only was the enemy tough, but also the weather. It was cold and miserable, and with the Germans putting up a stiff fight, time went slow. With all the small arms fire going in, and mortar fire coming in regularly, and the enemy looking down our throats from high ground on the far side of the river, it seemed for a while as if we wouldn’t clear the town.
After establishing a line, a slight change of plans was made, and at about 1500 the final assault was made, using the entire Troop. The enemy started falling back, and by 1600 they were pushed to the last few houses in town. They made no attempt to withdraw across the river, but continued to fight hard. Finally we arrived at the last house. The platoon leader and five men started to rush it. They failed to see a machine gun that was still in action at the corner of the building, waiting to mow them down when they crossed the open. T/5 Joseph Civitello spotted the gun and shouted a warning that caused the others to drop to the ground, and although in the direct line of fire of the gun, he remained standing and hurled a hand grenade into the position, demolishing the gun and disrupting the crew. Our men quickly surrounded and charged the house, and to all practical purposes, enemy resistance in the town of Machtum collapsed. However, we were receiving considerable small arms and bazooka fire from the high ground on the other side of the river.
By 1630 the town was cleared. We captured 14 Germans and found 10 dead; more may have been under the rubble. Although we had outnumbered the enemy three to one, their positions were good and they made a stubborn defense. However, good planning and clear, on the spot thinking made it possible for us to take the town with only one casualty of our own.
The prisoners were taken from town after dark, because it was impossible to move about freely in the daytime with the Germans occupying the high ground on the far side of the river.
(note: PW’s captured at Machtum stated that the artillery concentration fired prior to our attack caused all five MG posts to seek shelter in cellars of adjacent houses, one man being wounded while doing so. At the same time it brought about the loss of contact between the four different groups defending the town, thereby preventing a coordinated defense. The concentration demoralized the Germans greatly. Although it gave away the impending attack, its size impressed them with the fact that the odds were heavily against them.)
The next few days were spent in strengthening all positions, and in continuing patrol activities. The Task Force now held the entire Moselle river line from the vicinity of Remich (map 33) to the vicinity of Mertert (map 34), and was well readied for any crossing in strength the enemy would chose to try to make. The entire river line was overlooked by observation posts and dug in three inch AT guns of the 808th TD Battalion. The attached engineers were in supporting positions all tied together by a double communication system of radio and telephone.
Our patrol activities resulted in a minimum number of casualties to ourselves and a maximum amount of irritation to the enemy. However, the night of January 12, the God of Battles had a good laugh at our expense. One of our patrols had spent some time on the far side of the Moselle, with the usual number of hair raising experiences and narrow escapes, and had returned without a scratch. As one of the members, T/5 Elwood Rogers, returned safe and sound from his evenings adventures, walked into the door of the CP to make his portion of the report, a German sniper shot him through the knee! Such are the fortunes and mischances of war.
On the 14th we supported the attack of the 94th Division with artillery fire. The next day we received 225 rounds of artillery fire in Remich as a repayment for our courteous gesture. The enemy evidently had the impression that the attack was launched from that town.
Combat Team Costello sent a patrol on the 16th to Wincheringen (map 33), and it reported the town still strongly outposted.
TF Reed received the mission of making a demonstration to lure enemy forces away from in front of the attack of the 94th Division on January 18. The demonstration, a feint at establishing a bridgehead near Kreuzweiler (map 33) included: increased activity around OP’s, increased traffic, (emphasis on bridging equipment) combat patrols, and an artillery preparation on the proposed bridge site. All this was against a background of armored vehicle noises played by the 12th Army Group Special Effects Detachment. The result was a marked increase in artillery fire, as well as tanks observed on our front looking for our combat patrols. Our artillery support of the attack was successful in taking under fire an estimated 300 enemy infantry near Thorn (map 33). Patrols were sent to Kollig (map 33) with no enemy contact, and from CT Hargis to vicinity of Castle Thorn, where they engaged in a sharp fire fight with an estimated platoon of enemy. Our patrol withdrew without casualties. This day the 94th Division identified our old enemies, the 11th Panzers, in the Triangle across from TF Reed.