At 1600 on April 5, General Melasky was notified by 15the Army, that the 86th Division had been assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps, of the US 1st Army, and that the Division was to leave immediately to an assembly area in the First Army sector. All of the regiments were alerted and within a few hours were actually on the move into the Remagan Bridgehead. By putting every available truck into use, the Black Hawks were rushed southward through Bonn, pass the Bonn Repple Depple, across the Rhine River on pontoons and up and over treacherous mountain trails to the new Division concentration area near Eibelshousen, where the Division CP was set up. The 86th Division passed to XVIII (A/B) Corps control at 2400 April 5. The 341st Regiment CP was set up ut Kerscheid, and then later in the day at Mehren. The 342nd Infantry CP was at Obr. Dieten and the 343rd Infantry was at Dillenburg. In early April, as the Allied armies poised for the last big offensive, Gen. Eisenhower listed the following order of battle for the Army Reserve 20th Armd. Div.
At 0530 General Pope radioed to General Melasky that the Task Force had just passed through the first of a series of road blocks known to be set up on the road to Ludenscheid. A hand full of Germans defended the road block but our attached TD\'s quickly knocked them out of the war. As the Task Force advanced, the 332nd FA and 911th FA, which were given direct support, kept a barrage falling in front of the troops which was controlled by forward observers. Black Hawk infantrymen passed continously dead and wounded Germans lining the road, who had felt the effect of our artillery. At 1100 the infantrymen reached the outskirts of Ludenscheid, which lay around a high hill from the present position of the Task Force. General Pope halted the column and deployed the three rifle companies in a direct attack toward the city. Co. K. and Co. L were to attack along the main road into town while Co. I was to go over the wooded hill and give the companies approaching up the road direct fire support.
A large factory was situated at the near end of town and soon as the Task Force started around the end of the hill the enemy turned every thing he had loose on the doughboys. Co. K suffered heavy casualties but managed to countinue to advance into the face of the enemy. After a half hour advance units of Cos. K and L were cleaning up the pockets of resistance within the factory site. It developed that numerous Russian slave laborers were working in this factory, and one of them braved the German MG bullets to pass out dry and warm socks, which were stored in the warehouse, to the Black Hawk troops. Co. K still met heavy resistance but Co. L, which was now entering the buildings along the north side of the town, found themselves behind the enemy, and succeded in knocking out several 88 crews.
Meanwhile Co. I, advancing over the wooded hill on the left flank of the Task Force, ran into a hotbed of MG nests on the hill overlooking the town. Pfc. Cleo Shoultz, Princeton,Indiana with utter disregard for his own safety, left protective cover and single-handedly attacked a MG nest which had his company pinned down and neutralized the position. Although wounded in the fray, he remained with his company and continued to spark its advance. Meantime a few yards away, Lt. John F. Seaton, in attacking another enemy position, fell mortally wounded when struck by an enemy shell.
During the the hieght of the battle, General Pope receivd the admiration of all of his men by personally leading the rifle companies through the various phases of the engagement. At 1645, after an extended negotiation, the city finally subdued to the superior Black Hawk forces and several hundred PW\'s were captured, including a detachment of SS troops, which provided plenty of souvenirs for those inclined toward them. The 3rd Bn., 342nd Inf. then mopped up several points of resistance within the city and set up a defense line for the night.
Meanwhile the 343rd Infantry, which was on the offensive east of Ludenscheid, formed a Task Force whose mission it was to swing north and take the high ground south of Osterich. This Task Force was composed of the 3rd Bn., 343rd Inf., and elements of the 740th Tank Bn., and 644 TD Bn. Upon reaching the town of Huinghausen, forward elements of the Task Force were pinned down by artillery and 20 mm flak. Upon reconnaissance it was discovered that the enemy held all of the dominating ground nad movement was impossible. For three hours the 3rd Bn., 343rd Inf. was pinned down with any sort defense impossible due to the intensity of the fire from the flak guns. After another two hours of pounding the German positions with heavy artillery from the 911th FA Bn., the rifle companies were able to advance and late in the afternoon Huinghausen fell to the Battalion and over 1,000 prisoners were taken by the force.
During a night attack that evening, Pfc. Richard M. Mapes went into an artillery barrage and advanced 75 yards in front of this company to set up his weapon and open devestating fire upon the enemy. Pfc. Laureen A. Willison, undaunted by the heavy barrage he had been through, stayed with his MG and continued the attack although he had been wounded twice. Also in the 343rd Inf. sector the enemy offered probably his strongest thrust of the day against the 2nd Bn. near Herscheid. Heavy SA und AW weapons were unleashed against the troops and at 1100 the 2nd Bn. fought off a well organized counter attack, which was well supported. The 2nd Bn., 343rd Inf. took 1600 prisoners during the day, in repulsing two attacks, one led by 6 Tiger Tanks and a company of grenadiers. Plattenburg (\"Plettenberg\") fell to the 1st Bn., 343rd Inf. during the day. S/Sgt. Benj. Alexander, Brooklyn, N. Y., Co. A platoon leader, distinghuished himself in this engagement by rushing across an open field to assist two wounded men when no aid men were available.
At dark, the 343rd Inf. Reported to General Melasky an advance of 3000 meters during the day, and the capture of Plattenburg, Herscheid and Huinghausen. The 341st Infantry, which was committed to action under the 86th Division control in the Ruhr for the first time on April 13, also was on the attack, and things were just as hot in its area as it was for the 343rd und 342nd. The 341st mission was to advance along the main road net in the division zone of advance to the \"Stop Line\" near Hagen. After being held in tactical reserve at Helberhausen, the 341st was motorized und moved out at 0600. The 2nd Bn., 341st Infantry were placed in the point of the attack with the Cannon Co., 341st Inf. attached. At 1200 the general attack started with a road block near Brugge being the first objective to fall. At 1600 the force was brought to a halt by small arms and panzerfaust fire, with several vehicles being knocked out with severe casualties. The 2nd Bn. was able to regain the offense after a slight delay and continued to gain until the battalion reached Priorie (\"Priorei\").
At Priorie, the 341st ran into one the well-established flak emplacements which were scattered throughout the Ruhr; such as at Bonzel and Seigen (\"Siegen\"). The entire 2nd Bn. was pinned down for a lengthy period and Cannon Co., 341st attempted to come to their assistance. A panzerfaust hit one personnel carrier killing four men and wounding ten others. Pfc. Rudolph A. Kovic, of Pittsburg, was a crewman on a Cannon Co. gun and his crew was subject to intense fire from a nearby house. On his own initiative he secured a bazooka and advanced to within 50 yards of the house and destroved it, capturing 18 Germans. When Co. F. 341st Inf. was halted by the heavy opposition near Priorie. Pfc. Lynwood B. King, Jr., of Savannah, Ga., received severe flesh wounds. Nevertheless he refused medical assistance and continued to fight with the platoon until the enemy strong point was reduced.
By 1800 the enemy forces were in rout at Priorie and the 2nd Bn., 341st continued the attack and at 2400 on April 13, the Black Hawk units were drawing up on the outskirts of the huge industrial city of Hagen, where the 341st set up a perimeter defense. During the day, Generals Eisenhower, Bradley and Hodges visited the 341st Regiment CP at Attendorn. After the ordeal the 2nd Bn., 341st had been through the previous day in advancing to the outskirts of Hagen, it was relieved at 0600 by the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 341st Inf. and the 2nd Bn. went into regimental reserve. Col. Henry Hunt then brought his 341st Inf. CP forward and set up in the outskirts of Hagen, actually forward of the Battalions CP in order to better direct the battle for Hagen. With the 341st given the mission to take the entire city of Hagen, Col. Hunt\'s regiment attacked with the 1st Bn. on the left and the 3nd Bn. on the right, with the 2nd Bn. in close support. At 1130 the attacking forces reported as having advanced to within sight of the center of town. At 1400 leading elements of the 1st Bn. reported reaching the objective and about an hour later the 3rd Bn. drew abreast after having met heavy opposition. In the center of town, one 341st Inf. jeep driver found a bucket of paint and a brush and immediately inscribed on his jeep, \"The Hagen Hearst\". As the 3nd Bn. 341st combed high ground to the south of Hagen, Co. Hunt finally had to move his CP about 500 yards after it heaving been harassed by sniper fire all day.
The Black Hawk Division was adcancing so rapidly at this stage of the Ruhr engagement, that it was hard to tell where the front lines were. On April 14, General Gjelsteen, 86th Division artillery commander, his aide and four enlisted men were captured by a German unit near Ludenscheid, as Division Headquarters moved up from Attendorn. The group was taken to the enemy\'s rear and held through the night, but an attacking force from the 99th Division liberated them the following morning. From this time on Division Headquarters was more careful with their flanks and rear security. Pvt. Charles E. Blankenship also found himself behind the German lines on his date, and much to his surprise right in the center of a German bivouac area. Alone he fast talked 89 Krauts into surrendering, had them strip their weapons of vital parts, and marched them back to our lines and turned them over to his Battalion PW cage. North of Ludenscheid, Lt. Warren W. Hanson was leading a volunteer patrol to seek enemy 88 positions. In doing his own reconnaissance, Lt. Hanson bumped into three SS troopers who called for his surrender. Instead Lt. Hanson opened fire killing two of them and wounding the other, quickly taking advantage of the situation, he rushed for- ward into the artillery emplacement and captured the 88 crew and the gun intact.
Pfc. Wilmoth C. Qualls, of the 332nd FA Bn., was another who found himself behind enemy lines near Priorie and managed to eliminate two flak guns and one mortar position single handed. While on a scouting patrol, armed only with a bazooka, Lt. Willie R. Jones, Co. D, 341st, stumbled into a German unit and using his bazooka as pursuasion, captured 45 prisoners. As the 341st Regiment captured Hagen, the 343rd Inf. advanced 7,000 yards and took 1,600 prisoners in an advance over high ground protecting Hagen flank. The 342nd Inf., was recommitted and went on the attack near Hohenlimburg, with the mission of securing that city and adjoining Latmathe (Letmathe). The regiment attacked at 0530 north of Ludenscheid and captured a series of small towns such as Warbollen, Vorth, Herde, Osmocke, Barenstein, Kleinhammer, Rutlenponi, Veise, Schonebecke, Vogelsing, Augustenthal, Rarin and Surin, before pulling up at the outskirts of Hohenlimburg at 1600.
As the 1st Bn. and 2nd Bn. of the 342nd attacked Hohenlimburg, the 3rd Bn. objective was Latmathe (Letmathe) on the Lenne River. At the small crossroad town of Lahmenhausen, Major Hankins and Sgt. Joe Umstetter, of the 342nd Inf. boldly walked into the woods and came across an entire German repple depple, and 5 replacement companies, which they talked into surrending intact, including the Battalion Comander. Maj. Hankins and Sgt. Umstetter then marched the entire column back to our lines under the white flag, which made a weird sight indeed, one thousand more or less Germans coming across the front lines led by two Americans. Hulscheid fell to the 1st Bn., 342nd Inf. at 1000 and Winklm fell to the 2nd Bn. at 1800. The 3rd Bn. was pinned down right on the hill above Latmathe at 1945, when ordered to pull back 500 yards and set up defense for the night.
The 343rd Infantry continued to advanced on the right and captured over 1,600 PW\'s during the day and advanced 7,000 yards before going in defensive positions for the night overlooking the Ruhr valley. When the 86th Division commenced its drive through the Ruhr Pocket from the south, XVII A/B Corps had given it a stop line, at the Ruhr River on the north and the Lenne River on the east, and orders were not to advance or fire beyound these rivers in order to control the Black Hawk advance and prevent any chance of the First Army firing on Ninth Army units which held a defense line somewhere north of the Ruhr River. As Black Hawk units approached the river, Corps Headquarters ordered all artillery firing ceased to prevent any possibility of the two American armies failing to identify each other and thus firing on each other.
As the three Black Hawk regiments approached the Ruhr and Lenne River the task of advancing increased as German units on the opposite bank of those rivers fired freely at the 86th Div. units, which were prevented by the Stop Line order form returning fire. On the morning of April 15, the 341st Regiment continued its attack at 0630 with the 1st ans 3rd Bns. abreast. The 1st Bn. was subjected to intense artillery fire but at 1055 reached its objective and set up OP\'s along the Ruhr River, facing the Ninth Army, known to be only a few miles away. Meanwhile elements of the 3rd Bn., 341st Inf., (* continued a slow advance northwestward and reached the banks of the Lenne River, just upstream from its confluence(with the Ruhr at 1730. The 3rd Bn. was pinned down near Halden for a lengthy period by artillery fire directed from the opposite bank of the Lenne. The 2nd Bn., 341st Inf. set up its base of operations at Hurdsdieck and began a search for enemy artillery positions which were hindering the advance of the other two regiments of the 86th Div.
At 1130, April 15, the 1st Bn., 341st Infantry, sent a patrol across the Ruhr River and made contact with Co. C, 314th Infantry, of the 79th Infantry Division of our Ninth Army, which was in defensive position north of the Ruhr River. Once liaison had been made with the Ninth Army, the 86th Div. stop line was lifted and the Black Hawks ordered to press the attack until the final capitulation of all German resistance in the Ruhr had been accomplished. The 342nd Infantry also continued its advance on April 15, with its First and Second Battalions pressing on Hohenlimburg, industrial city near the Lenne River. The 2nd Bn., 342 Inf. entered Hohenlimburg at 1300 and after an afternoon of house to house fighting, secured the city at 1730. The 1st Bn. then drew up to the banks of the Lenne River and set up defense for the night. The 3rd Bn., 342nd Inf. was assigned the mission of taking Lathmathe (Letmathe), another smaller industrial city near Hohenlimburg. This Batallion was subjected to heavy artillery fire on the hill above the town, and then in a flanking movement instigated during the course of the attack, captured the city in late afternoon. The tacking of Latmathe was featured by house to house fighting, and the final objective was reached when Pfc. Ralph Madison, Co. L-342nd Inf. surprised a MG nest with a hand grenade and then led a bayonet attack on its stunned occupants.
At the edge of Latmathe Black Hawk doughboys found part evidence of what made life so miserable for them the past few days. The Jerry had in operation a battery of 16-inch naval gun, evidently made for some battleship, set up and in operation against our ground troops. Also captured at Latmathe was a Battalion of Railway Artillery guns. The 342nd Inf. took over 10,000 prisoners besides large quantities of war loot this day.
COMMAND AND STAFF
3 March 1945
Maj. Gen. Harris M. Melasky
Assistant Division Commander
3 March 1945Brig. Gen. George V. W. Pope
3 March 1945
Brig. Gen. Einar B. Gjelsteen
Chief of Staff
3 March 1945
Col. Charles P. Jones
Assistant Chief of Staff G-1
3 March 1945 Lt. Col. James R. Williams, Jr.
Assistant Chief of Staff G-2
3 March 1945
Lt. Col. William K. Weaver, Jr.
Assistant Chief of Staff G-3
3 March 1945Lt. Col. Robert Outsen
22 April 1945
Maj. Stanley M. Gotikov
Assistant Chief of Staff G-4
3 March 1945
Maj. George V. Nunn
Assistant Chief of Staff G-5
1 May 1945
Capt. Kalford K. Miazza (Acting)
3 March 1945
Lt. Col. Charles J. Perry
Commanding Officer, 341st Infantry
3 March 1945
Col. Henry J. Hunt, Jr.
Commanding Officer, 342d Infantry
3 March 1945
Col. Christian Hildebrande
1 April 1945
Col. Pete T. Heffner, Jr.
Activated 15 December 1942
Arrived ETO 3 March 1945
Arrived Continent March 1945
Entered Combat 29 March 1945
Days in Combat 442
Battle Casualties 760
Non-Battle Casualties 473
Distinguished Service Cross 1
Silver Star 8
Soldiers Medal 1
Bronze Star 45
Prisoners of War Taken 53,354
342d Infantry(My Unit)
86th Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
311th Engineer Combat Battalion
311th Medical Battalion
86th Division Artillery
331st Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
332d Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
911th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
404th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm Howitzer)
786th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
86th Quartermaster Company
86th Signal Company
Military Police Platoon