In early 1945, American war planners were seriously considering possibility of taking an intact bridge across the Rhine River. The likelihood of success was discounted by the planners but considered it a worthy goal. General Eisenhower also was interested in the Ninth Army plans to capture a bridge (MacDonald, 1993).
On March 1 the 2nd Armored Division and the 83rd Division were given the mission of capturing Neuss and securing 3 bridges (a railroad bridge 2 highway bridges) and a bridge near Oberkassel. Neuss was cleared but found 3 bridges destroyed. At Oberkassel, a task force, (elements from 736th Tank Battalion, 643rd Tank Destroyer Battalion and 330th Infantry) were discovered approaching the Oberkassel Bridge. Although the task force hurried toward the bridge, the Germans were able to destroy the bridge (MacDonald, 1993). Interestingly this task force was disguised as Germans (Düsseldorf-Oberkassel, n.d.).
North of the Nuess at Krefeld-Uerdingen was the 1640 foot intact Adolph Bridge. The Adolph Hitler bridge was within the XIII Corps zone with the 5th Armored Division probable candidate to take the bridge. However, the gains made by the 2nd Armored division of the XIX Corps made it a possibility to take the bridge. However, the 2nd Armored division position was about 13 miles from the bridge with the Nord Canal an obstacle to be crossed. The Nord Canal was a narrow and deep serving as an effective an antitank barrier (Smith, 2003). The XIII Corps contingency plans were to shift northward should the 2nd Armored take the Nord Canal. On March 1, a task force from the 2nd Armored Division Combat Command A, crossed the canal and by nightfall were only three miles from the Adolph Hitler Bridge. This success facilitated movement of the XIII Corps to move north, enabling the XIX Corps to continue along the west bank of the Rhine (MacDonald, 1993).
Although arrangements were fixed to allow the XIX Corps to pursue the Adolf Hitler Bridge objective, the XIII Corps commander, protested. He cited terrain issues including canals, road and rail way embankments (not ideal for armor) and that two of his divisions should continue their movement toward the Rhine. With this situation, Generals Meade (XIII) and Simpson (XIX) inspected the forward areas and learned that heavy fighting was delaying movement of the 102nd Infantry Division. It was agreed that in order to break the stalemate, it was necessary to take advantage of the 2nd Armored Division momentum. In the end, the mission to capture Uerdingen (and the Adolf Hitler Bridge) was passed to the XIX Corps. Specifically this mission involved the Combat Command B of the 2nd Armored Division (MacDonald, 1993).
Note: The 67th Armored Regiment, 3rd Battalion was a unit in Division Reserve. Kenneth was assigned to Company H, 3rd Battalion.
Note: Different from a military reserve force (Military Reserve, n.d. and Combat Command, n.d.), a division reserve consisted of a group of personnel or units that are not initially committed to a specific operation. This organization allowed for operational flexibility by its availability for unforeseen circumstances or exploitation opportunities .
2nd Armored Division
Early on 2 March, the 2nd Armored Combat Command B received orders assault the Adolf Hitler Bridge. Divisional intelligence revealed that the Adolf Hitler Bridge was still intact. Late on on March 2 Combat Command B was on the approaches to the bridge but movement to the bridge was impeded by a group of Dutch SS troops (2nd Parachute Division??). During the day on March 3, the Dutch SS were cleared and the approaches to the bridge were unhindered. In this engagement the 2nd Armored artillery pounded the east side of the bridge with air burst shells to prevent German engineers from laying demolition (Smith, 2003). After dark, a company from the 379th Infantry was set to scout the bridge. The company progressed about 320 feet on to the bridge before finding obstacles to prevent movement of tanks across the bridge. As options for dealing with the obstacles were considered an explosion rocked the bridge. The German's attempt to drop a bridge span into the Rhine resulted in a 13 foot hole. Volunteer combat engineers crept over the bridge to remove any remaining demolition wiring. However, the engineers found no demolition wiring and reported that the bridge was suitable for an infantry attack (Smith, 2003).
There were problems from the very start of the assault with four tanks being knocked out, blocking passage of other tanks. The assault resumed later in the afternoon and reached the vicinity of the bridge but ground to a halted due to heavy mortar fire followed by antitank or Panzerfaust fire (McDonald, 1993).
67th Armored Regiment
During the darkness on 1 and 2 March, fighting continued within the town of Schiefbahn. There was close quarter fighting between German Bazooka teams and burp gunners, supported by tanks and self propelled guns. On 2 March at 0830, the 3rd battalion was directed to move to an area near Willich-Duepeskreuz. While waiting on the south side of the North Canal for company commanders to assemble, Captain Lester Rice, H Company commander, described an incident involving P-47 aircraft during the early morning. There was a flight of P-47s circling over the area as if they were unable to positively identify the ground units. Eventually, the P-47s made a run over the area dropping bombs which knocked at a 155 mm self propelled gun and killing the battery commander (and wounding a number of others). The planes were marked with British insignia but with a dull coloring and not the bright luster characteristic of P-47 aircraft (Regimental Reports, 1945).
Note: Kenneth witnessed the P-47 attack per his annotation in his book, History - 67th Armored Regiment.
At 1000 hours, the 3rd Battalion moved across the Nord Canal. The Battalion moved through Underbruck and Hobesfeld and then through Wilich. The Battalion assembled at Depeskreuz and opened a command post. Orders were issued to attack a factory and an adjacent road junction. The attack was slated to commence at 1500 with H company to attack left on the main road, I company on the right followed by C Company and H Company 41st Infantry astride the road. Shortly after H hour, the attack was called off due to the presence of 5th Armored Division M-4 tanks which were attacking from west to east across the 3rd Battalion Front. (Regimental Reports, 1945)
At about 1545, the 3rd Battalion was placed under the control of Combat Command A and received orders to move to the southern outskirts of Fischeln. At Fischeln, a tank from I Company discovered a self propelled gun partially hidden in a barn. The self propelled gun was destroyed and one of the I Company tanks was hit by fire from the northeast. About this time, the 3rd Battalion received orders to move to and occupy Boshinghoven. Although, there was direct fire from the north and northeast, Bosinghoven was occupied without incident (Regimental Reports, 1945).
At 1945, the Battalion was placed under Combat Command B control and received orders for a daring attack. The 3rd Battalion received orders to take a task force across the Adolf Hitler Bridge to the east bank of the Rhine. At 2130, company commanders and attached officers met with the Battalion commander. Here, the Order of March was given with H Company in the Order of March Advance Guard. (Regimental Reports, 1945)
The attack was set to commence at 0100 on 3 March. The start time was moved to 0200 in order to give company commanders sufficient time to brief their troops and to permit the infantry support to move to the assembly area. The plan was to move straight north out of Bosinghoven to the Autobahn, turn east on the Autobahn, cross the Adolf Hitler Bridge and establish defensive positions near Munderheim on the east side. The Combat Command B intelligence estimated the enemy capabilities as: "You should have no trouble, there is nothing out there" (Hawkins, 1946 and Regimental Reports, 1945).
The attack jumped off as planned and the Advance Guard rapidly moved forward until it encountered heavy direct fire from large caliber artillery. The lead tank was hit multiple times, bursting into flames and illuminating the area on either side of the road for several hundred yards. With the illumination of the area, the second tank in the column was quickly hit. The remainder of the Advance Guard made several attempts to bypass the knocked out tank but were met by enemy fire on each attempt. Over the next hour, three tanks were damaged with casualties sustained from near misses by heavy caliber artillery. In this action, four troops on the lead tank were killed, three infantry troops riding and the tank commander. Further attempts to move down the road were abandoned (Hawkins, 1946 and Regimental Reports, 1945).
Colonel Sidney Hinds, Combat Command B, ordered the 379th infantry from a reserve position to make a dawn attack (supported by I company, 67th Armored Regiment) to secure the underpass west of Krefled-Linn. The attack was successful and the underpass was secured at 0900. This task force continued toward the Autobahn (I Company replaced H company in the Advance Guard). Nearing the Autobahn, the task force came under heavy fire from small arms, bazooka and self propelled anti tank guns. This fire came from apartments near the Autobahn and from dug in positions along the Autobahn. The infantry dismounted the tanks to clear the apartments of the enemy and was supported by nearby artillery, main tank guns and machine guns. This close quarters fighting continued for several hours. I Company exhausted its supply of ammunition (Hawkins, 1946 and Regimental Reports, 1945).
Soon after 1200, the Advance Guard was on the Autobahn and sent a tank toward the Bridge. As it moved over an arched overpass and nosed down, it was hit and rolled down the grade out of the line of fire. The knocked out tank was followed by a 1/4 ton truck which was hit before going 200 yards (Regimental Reports, 1945).
At 1230, C Company reconnoitered an alternate route through Krefeld-Linn to the cross roads at the north. The Adolf Hitler Bridge was reported to be clear and the task force turned east through Krefeld-Linn with H company and the 41st Armored Infantry acting as the Advance Guard (I Company had withdrawn to replenish its ammunition). The tanks and infantry encountered no difficulty in reaching Krefeld-Rheinhafen, but did engage in a sharp fight as they approached the Bridge embankment. Here, the tanks could not support the infantry since only the width of the road and the embankments separated the combatants. Success in disposing of the enemy was attributed to the enemy depleting its supply of grenades. Prisoners taken were from the 23rd Parachute Regiment which arrived from Holland on 2 March (Hawkins, 1946 and Regimental Reports, 1945).
Reconnaissance scouted the Bridge and a Special Demolition Squad searched for explosives. Reconnaissance reported that a section of the Bridge was destroyed prohibiting armor movement across the Bridge. However, it was reported that infantry could cross over intact main bridge structures. Colonel Hinds decided to send a battalion from the 379th Infantry and two companies from the 41st Armored Infantry across the Bridge. However patrols from the 379th Infantry reported the Bridge as impassable and the battalion commander cancelled its participation in the attack. At 0700 on 4 March the Germans finally blew the Bridge resulting in the collapse of the center span into the water (Hawkins, 1946; Regimental Reports, 1945 and Smith 2003).
Silver Star Award
On April 27, 1945, Kenneth was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action during efforts to seize the Adolph Hitler Bridge on 03 March 1945. Kenneth led his platoon as a task force to secure the Adolf Hitler Bridge near Uerdingen-Krefeld Germany (the citation identifies the vicinity of Bosinghoven). In this action, he led his platoon of medium tanks several miles into enemy held territory in the face of very heavy artillery and anti-tank crossfire. In this engagement, two of the platoon tank commanders were killed and another tank was set ablaze. One option was for the task force to fall back with the potential of endangering his wounded men with possible capture and death. For three hours, he directed his platoon in holding the the hard won territory until medics evacuated the wounded and reinforcements arrived. With the arrival of reinforcements and reorganization, the attack led to the capture of the Adolph Hitler Bridge and securing a bridgehead on the east bank of the Rhine River.
During this engagement, there were times Kenneth exposed himself from the turret of his tank and, at one time, dismount from his tank in order to organize units in his platoon.
Note: At the time of this action, Kenneth was assigned to H Company, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment (Per newspaper article: See the following images).