5 - 11 February 1945
309th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division
Interview with: Colonel John G. Ondrick
Outskirts of Schmidt, Germany, Regimental CP, 19 February 1945.
Interviewers: M/Sgt. F. C. Pogue and T/3 Jose M. Topete (V Corps)
The operation to take Schmidt and the Schwammenauel Dam was devided in four phases:
- The first one was designed to break the last line of the Siegfried defenses. It was the job of the 309th Infantry to break this line and then to seize the barracks area.
- The 310th Infantry had the main job in the second phase which consisted in the capture of SCHMIDT, KOMMERSCHEIDT and HARSCHEID.
- The third phase was relegated to the 311th Infantry and it was to take the high ground around HASENFELD.
- The 309th was to come in on the 4th day of the attack and jump for the dam. Therefore the bulk of the fighting done by the 309th Infantry came on the first and fourth days of the attack. (The 5th and 9th of February).
On the morning of the 5th of February the Commanding Officer of the 309th planned to made a break or "rupture" in the German lines in the barracks area. It was first softened with artillery. STRAUCH was easy to take. STECKENBORN was the key to a movement behind the Siegfried Kibe. Once inside the dragon's teeth and pillboxes the rest would be easy. This maneuver would save a lot of lives.
Colonel Ondrick sent E Company across the KALLTALSPERRE DAM.
SILBERSCHEIDT was taken to protect the left flank of the Division.
The 3rd Battalion was sent at 0300 on the morning of 5 February with the idea of getting behind the enemy defenses. The leading Company, L Company, made a wedge to protect both flanks. By daylight "a lot" of pillboxes had been bypassed. Then the Regimental Commander pushed the whole 3rd Battalion right through the wedge. Right after it, another Battalion, the 2nd, was pushed right through. L Company was engaging the enemy while the Battalion slipped through. Then the 2nd Battalion by this breakthrough held the situation and gave back L Company to the 3rd Battalion. The 2nd day (6th February) the 2nd Battalion cleaned up the pillboxes. They took 35 pillboxes and 135 PW's.
The enemy was surprised by the attacks from the rear. Anybodu who saw a pillbox worked on it and consolidated with the 3rd Battalion. On the 2nd day of the opeeration (6th) the 1st Battalion was also moved up, when another outfit bogged down.
On the 6th of February, the 309th Regiment was ordered to attack the following day. Colonel Ondrick took the 3rd Battalion hoping he could fool the enemy again. The task this time was to take KOMMERSCHEIDT. The 3rd Battalion was marched north them east. They came into KOMMERSCHEIDT through a 500 foor drop. The Germans never thought the troops would ever attack through such a terrain. "They said nobody would be fool enough to try it". The 3rd Battalion was followed by te 2nd Battalion into KOMMERSCHEIDT.
The 309th Regiment used maps made in colors from aerial photographs. Colonel Ondrick stated that they were a great help and were widely distibuted down to the squads. (See sketch of dam).
The minute the 3rd Battalion was in KOMMERSCHEIDT, the 2nd was brought close by. Colonel Ondrick stated: "We are famous for our advance CP's in this Regiment." The Battalions were taken out of KOMMERSCHEIDT during the day.
Thursday, the 8th of February, the 60th came in to assist the 309th Regiment.
DAM OPERATION: Colonel Ondrick moved the Regiment, 200 yards to the north of the dam. The fighting started 200 yards outside the assembly area.
On the 9th of February, Company A cleared the upper portion of the Dam and Company B the base of the dam. They fought all the way down. The whole Regiment was ready to dive in to help if necessary.
(Colonel Ondrick told us that the 2nd Battalion took very little part in the action, being held in reserve through most of the action. He said that the story of the Regiment's action could be gotten from the 1st and 3rd Battalions.)
T/3 José Manuel Topete