Bill in Combat April 6-9, 1945

It requires most of the night of April 5-6 for Able Company, relieved of Schweigern by the Second Battalion, to occupy Böckingen across the river from Heilbronn. The platoon leaders on their reconnaissance make, in effect, a single-handed capture of the town. It is believed that they are the first Allied troops in.

Heilbronn, on the Neckar River southeast of Frankfort, was, before Air Corps attacks and the arrival of the First Battalion with the rest of the Division, a vital rail and communications center whose marshaling yards and switchboard served the whole of Würtenburg and connected the redoubt of Southern Germany with Cologne and the Ruhr. Its strategic value is not underestimated by higher echelon, for the 10th Armored and 100th Infantry are ordered to attack it from two directions while the 44th, held in reserve is called on for support. As the action becomes tougher and German tactics more tenacious, much Corps Artillery, mainly the 250 and 36th FA Battalions are called on to help the howitzers of the 100th and the 10th Armored Artillery level the town. The 10th Armored, using typical armored tactics sweeps around the town from the north and holes up in Crailsheim, behind Heilbronn, and waits for the Infantry to clear the place. But the enemy had blown the bridges and set up prearranged artillery to cover most of its length. The 397th, however, crosses in assault boats, secures a foothold north of the outer town, and is closely followed by the 398th. Meanwhile, the First Battalion, in Böckingen all this time, has Charlie Company commit to assault boats at the southern section of the town. The 36th Engineer Battalion throws a half-dozen pontoon bridges over the river. At one time every combat unit of the 100th Division is fighting in the streets of Heilbronn save the Third Battalion of the 399th Regiment.

On April 8, the Second Battalion arrives at Böckingen. Able and Baker Companies, moving from two directions, arrive simultaneously at the footbridge. There is much confusion from a considerable store of “Weinbrand” found in Böckingen, and also from the fact that the bridge is under a heavy Jerry barrage at that moment. The state of confusion is best demonstrated by the fact that Company HQ of Able spearheads the crossing of the bridge into Heilbronn and runs into the midst of Baker’s Third Platoon. In addition some D Company mortars are on the other side, ahead of the riflemen. In due time the disposition of troops is straightened out and Dog’s mortars are recalled. Orders are issued to attack and clear the southern half of Heilbronn, up to the apartment houses at the city limits. In short order this is accomplished with little disturbance except to the civilian population and a few Russian factory workers hanging out their washing during the attack. Then the area is organized defensively with the First Platoon on the right near the river, Second in front straddling the main street, and the Third Platoon joining with Baker Company across the railroad tracks; the tactics become passive, the mortars and artillery commence tearing hell out of a few quite innocent looking houses. “Sweating it out” is the order of the day. Then come the “Screaming Meemies,” Hitler Jungend snipers, French fries, and the order to clear the rest of the town.

The First Platoon, having the most trouble, spreads out and moves forward until it holds the stretch between the river and Main Street at the edge of town. The Second Platoon captures three rows of two block long apartments with hack yards, no electricity, and connecting cellars. The Third swings left, facing the hills beyond the Heilbronn Garrison. At the same time Baker occupies the section of town at the front gate of the garrison.

The Battle of Heilbronn has become a battle of supply boats and communications, counterattacks and house to house battles, panzerfaust teams and automatic weapons, snipers and Screaming Meemies, King Tigers and Hitler Jugend. The food situation is never pressing: the doughboys diet on French Fries and bottled cherries.


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