Bill in Combat April 16-24, 1945

On April 16th the Second Battalion spreads out from the river to Fein Woods and begins attacking parallel to the Neckar. The Third Battalion is already in the area. The 397th is relieved of its right flank by A Company and Battalion HQ in a hilltop castle at Untergruppenbach and a pincers movement on a huge wooded area beyond a long low plain to the south is planned. Able is assigned the task of taking Helfenberg at the edge of the woods.

A series of wooded noses leading to a large forest defend the approaches to the roads leading southward. These noses are well zeroed in and grazing fire from automatic weapons further interdict their approaches. The attack on Helfenberg moves across one of these noses. There it is stopped. No amount of artillery and small arms fire can force a wedge into the town during the afternoon of April 17th. The order is made to dig in and wait. The position is deemed to be too precarious and a withdrawal is made after dark, the casualties being carried without litters.

The next morning another try at Helfenberg over the same route is successful. Jerry had pulled out because of pressure by the Third Battalion. The night of April 18-19 is spent peacefully in Helfenberg. The next night after motor movement to Nassach Jerry artillery causes considerable loss of sleep, but after clearing the woods to the bottom of the valley Company A, 399th Infantry Regiment sees its fight finished. What remains is a rip-roaring, loot-accumulating rat race.

The rat races are perhaps the best remembered of the campaigns conducted by the Company. No one is able to get much sleep during those days. On April 20 Winnenden is found to be full of rear echelon enemy and is set on fire. The next day an enemy held bridge is taken and crossed. Five times during the day orders are received to hold up and defend. On the fourth order everyone gathers at the local beer hall and a huge songfest commences which stops only when the Colonel comes in and tells the men to be on their way. Lobenrot is occupied at midnight April 21. The town is so small that every house is used and still the men are crowded.

Everything is a big rush southward. TD’s loaded with dusty dogfaces, a few carrying radios, others wearing derby hats or toppers, one guy nearly falling off waving a lady’s panties, artillery and chow trains capturing towns for themselves. At about noon on April 23 the Company rolls into Oberesslingen. Word is received that the French have taken Stuttgart. The realization sets in that Able Company will not see combat again. There are only a handful of the 190-odd originals left. The men are a long way from home and the future is clouded by the realization that there still is a war on the other side of the world.

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2 responses to “Bill in Combat April 16-24, 1945

  1. My Dad was in the 1ooth div 399th reg. 2nd Bn during ww2. He was in a anti tank platoon. He saw much action, Pfc. Serry Gouveia 399th

  2. My father was in the 100th Division 399th regiment, Company M. He said that his company or regiment was preparing to attack the German forces somewhere in the area of Stuttgart (maybe Stuttgart itself) sometime between April 14 and April 21, but the attack was called off when African troops (possibly Algerian) went ahead, passing through the town where he was staying during the night. Does anyone have information that could help me identify the town he was in or the battle he was about to engage in?

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