Elbe River Crossing
On or about March 15, 1945, the 30th infantry division had penetrated the very heart of Nazi Germany and it appeared that the end of the war was imminent. We were told that we would be in Berlin within two weeks. I was with the 119th infantry regiment, Company L and lst platoon. A Sergeant Farmer who was killed in action crossing the Rhine was my first platoon sergeant. I had joined the 119th towards the end of the Battle of the Bulge in Maastricht, Holland. My second platoon sergeant was Jerry Klingerman from Hazleton, Pa.

I was skeptical of the announcement that we would be in Berlin by April because the Yalta agreement, attended by Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, had stipulated zones of occupation and the area east of the Elbe was to be under Soviet occupation.

However, approximately 100 miles from the Elbe river, we were moved from 2nd armored attached status into trucks and one morning, approximately April 11, 1945, we were facing the Elbe river. This was Magdeburg, Germany. On the other side, about 50 miles distant was the target, Berlin. We crossed on Dukw vehicles, approximately 3 a.m. We immediately dug in because we were under heavy artillery fire from the German defense and small arms and machine gun fire.

It was a difficult time. Engineers built a bridge, but the bridge was knocked out and no further effort was made to restore it. The death of President Roosevelt on April 12 may have been a compelling reason. Winston Churchill and Field Marshall Montgomery were in favor of our assault on Berlin. When Roosevelt died, General Eisenhower asked General Omar Bradley: “How many casualties will we suffer if we move to Berlin?” Bradley answered: “Approximately 100,000.” Eisenhower made the decision not to proceed and we were “abandoned” on the east side of the river. Some of our boys made it back. In their communiqué for the day, the Germans called the action: “The Little Dunkirk.”

My battalion and perhaps others were ordered south on the east side of the river. We took the little town of Elbenau, near Schoenebeck, encountered fierce German resistance. Sergeant Klingerman was hit in the elbow. A number of our men, several German prisoners of war and several civilians hid in a cellar until we were surrounded and forced to surrender.

From Elbenau, we and others who had also been taken prisoner in the town were marched and transported by train (still running that late in the war with the air completely controlled by allied aircraft) to Luckenwalde and Stalag 3A.


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