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 Desroyer 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 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 Divsion 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 Rine (MacDonald, 1993).
Although arrangements were fixed the XIII Corp would make accommodations 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
On the evening of March 2 the 2nd Armored Combat Command B received orders assault the Adolf Hitler Bridge. 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 was 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).
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).
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.
At the time of this action, Kenneth was assigned to H Company, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment (Per newspaper article: See the following images).