MY name is Lawrence E. Bennett.I was a Sgt. in company D- 341st Infantry Regiment of the 86th Black Hawk Infantry Division. I served as as a machine gun squad leader. The division served in Europe and later in the Phillipines on the Island of Luzon. We did not see any combat in the Phillipines as the War had ended when we arrived there. The 86th Divison was activated in December 1942 at Camp Howze,near Dallas and Fort worth, Texas. Following ten months of training, the Divison left for manuevers in Louisiana. After four months in the field, the 86th Division was sent to Camp Livingston, Louisiana for furthe training. While there the Division was ordered to send many of it's men to The Pacific and to Europe as replacements for other units.
In September of 1944, the Division was ordered to proceed to California to undergo amphibious training for combat in the Pacific Theater of operations. When the trainling was completed the 86th was ordered to proceed to the East coast Camp Myles Standish near Boston, Massachusetts for shipment to France as Infantry troops were needed, because of the heavy casualties in the German Ardennes offensive.
The Division arrrived at LeHavre, in Normandy near the town of Yvetot. We were at Camp Old Gold a tent camp. We Spent some time there and underwent more training, such as long marches and practiced village fighting and classes were held to make us familiar wtih conditions on the front lines. The division was ordered to proceed to the Rhineland sector releaving the US 8th Infantry Division. The Division front was from Worringen in the North to Bonn on the South and included the city of KOLN (Cologne) on the Rhine.
We faced German units on the East Bank of the Rhine and the action consisted of Mortar and artillelry duels and patrol activity. Our casualities were light. After several days there we were relieved by the 82nd Airborne Division and crossed the Rhine River at Bonn and proceeded to the Remagen Bridgehead.
On April first German Army Group B commanded b Field Marshall Walther Model was caught in a pincer movement by the US 9th and First Armies. In this the "Ruhr Pocket" were some of the German Armies best units on the western front a total of 300,000 troops. The Germans made numerous Counter attacks in an attempt to break out of the trap and heavy fighting continued for eighteen days until the pocket was reduced and eliminated.
The surrrender of Army Group B was not carried out by General Model but others in his command. He thought surrender was not worthy of a Field Marshall and he commited sucide on April 18th 1945 near Dusseldorf.
Following the Ruhr campaign the 86th was ordered to Join General Patton's Third Army at Wurzburg in Bavaria. From April 21st to May 8th the 86th Division made assault crossings of four rivers the Altmuhl, Danube, Isar and the Inn. My Infantry Company suffered casualties at the Altmuhl and Danube bridgeheads. My friend Ian "Roy" Williams was shot by a sniper. To read his story click here.
The 86th Division liberated the Hungarian Crown Jewels near the end of the War. They were returned to Hungary during the Presidency of Jimmy Carter. Following the end of the war in Europe the Division was returned to the US to prepare fo the invasion of Japan. The decision by President Harry Truman to drop the Atomic bomb on Japan ended the War in September 1945.
If we were to invade Japan I would be one of the thousands of Infantryman killed and would not be writing this e-mail now. As stated earlier the 86th Division was ordered to the Philipines and was on the Island of Luzon from August 1945 until December 1946 when it was deactivated.