Ein Kriegsende - Garmisch-Partenkirchen in den letzten Apriltagen 1945

 

 

 

 

Lester M. Nichols, Impact – The Battle Of The Tenth Armored Division (1954)

 

VITAL ASSIGNMENT

This phase provided one of the most dramatic episodes in the Tenth Armored's distinguished battle campaign. For it contributed in no small measure to shattering the hope of remaining die-hard Nazis for a last ditch stand in the western sector of their National Redoubt. The vital Echelsbacher Bridge connecting the lowlands of southern Bavaria with the German Alpine country had to be seized intact if the Tigers were to be permitted to continue their attack. The important mission fell to Troop C of the 90th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron commanded by Captain John J. D'Orazio. At midnight on April 28, the Troop wheeled out of Schongau with the mission of penetrating some 15 kilometers behind enemy lines to seize and hold the great bridge which was 1,000 feet long and spanned a 250 foot gorge. The Troop closed in on the structure and in quiet darkness Lieut. Eugene C. Patterson called for volunteers to accompany him on the last and most dangerous phase of the assignment. Immediately, Corporal Dennis F. Hinke, Pfc Thomas H. Scurlock, and Pvt. Herbert W. Biles, Jr., stepped forward. The four Tigers then crept cautiously to the northern approach to the bridge and over-powered the guards who were found snoozing peacefully. Though they were certain that the bridge was rigged for demolition, they raced to the other side to silence the other guards there. Thus, at 0300 on April 29 an important new bridgehead was establishcd across the Ammer River. Troop C had carried out its duties with absolute perfection.

During "Red" Hankins' rapid movement south from Schongau, it was necessary to by-pass an enemy airfield. At about dusk on April 29, three light German planes took off from the field and flew over the column, dropping panzerfaust as bombs. One hit dangerously near "Red" Hankins' vehicle and blew off his right rear tire. Fortunately, none of the occupants were injured when they were thrown from the jeep.

ARTFUL ENEMY

On the same day, General Brooks contacted General Morris to discuss the problem of getting around blown craters in the roads which effectively slowed the Tigers. As a result of the conference, the infantry was brought up to clarify the situation. Of particular irritation were the enemy who perched on the high ground overlooking the roads. Using panzerfaust, they succeeded in wrecking some of our Mediums but in short order, they were knocked off the hills by the rugged infantry called up to do just that kind of a job. On April 29, General Brooks told both armors and infantry, "I want speed today. The tanks will take care of the roads and the infantry will take care of the hills." The Tenth cooperated fully as its units drove deeper into the Alps. Combat Command B, after grabbing Fuessen, sent Task Forces Chamberlain and Duncan south along the Lech River to careen across the Austrian border and become the first units of the United States Seventh Army to enter Austria. Entrenched German infantry blocked CC B’s way for awhile but were brushed aside as the attack proceeded. The last kilometer however, was recorded when CC B's tanks ran into an absolute impasse. The only two available routes remaining for these Tigers were effectivly plugged by the artful enemy who utilized a concrete roadblock on one highway and blew a giant crater on another. No longer was it possible to by-pass in the Alps. On April 30, the Tenth Armored Division bagged 2,500 prisoners and in just five days had negotiated more than 100 miles of difficult terrain. Only a few more kilometers were left now, for the remainder of the Division's fighting Tigers.

Task Force Hankins, driving southeast, shoved enemy opposition aside at Oberammergau and rolled on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, scene of the 1936 Winter Olympics. Here, a stiff-necked German colonel drove up to Hankins and offered to surrender the city. He was quickly accommodated. During the fast few days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Division took a German field marshal and five generals. Lieut. Kurt Meyer was surprised to hear his German telephone ring one morning. Answering it, he heard a pompous voice ask, "Are you ready to pick up the general tomorrow?". He answered, "Sure, just tell me where to meet you." With address in hand, Meyer and his men proceeded to the rendezvous the next day. When he arrived there, he found in addition to the general, 7 staff officers and 150 men. Before they departed, the general had one more request. "I have three other colonels here", he said,"may they come along too?" Lieut. Meyer obliged. The same day, a platoon headed by Lieut. Edward Gurocky uncovered a cache of 100 American and Canadian Red Cross parcels. While destroying a German ammunition dump, Sergeant Bert Treadwell and his squad noticed that the earth was loose. Investigating, they found a log covering a trench full of parcels. This was one of many instances in which the Germans had diverted Red Cross parcels for their own use.

ACHTUNG!

Prize catch of the day was that of Field Marshal Wilhelm List by Lieut. Warren P. Moss. Along with the author who accompanied Moss, an intensive search was rnade for the much-wanted List. He was found in mid-afternoon on April 30 hiding in the outskirts of Garmisch and delivered to the Tenth's stockade. In typical militaristic style, the other prisoners there clicked to immediate attention when he entered the PW cage. During the same day, he was hustled to Corps and then to Army headquarters and later, was shuttled to SHAEF. Finally, he was imprisoned in Nuremberg's prison where he resides even now. In 1942, he commanded Army Group A in Russia. In September, 1942, he was ousted from his command by Hitler for refusing to make a suicidal attack on Stalingrad. Before that he commanded the 14th German Army in Poland in 1939, the 12th German Army in France in 1940 and in Greece in 1941.

On April 30, too, Task Force Duncan pushed to within 35 miles of the Italian border and was also stopped because of road craters. Earlier, a final Tenth Armored Division Field Order was issued which called for the capture of Innsbruck, Austria. How-ever, the Germans had already blown out great chunks of the road just south of Mittenwald to prevent further armored advance and the Innsbruck Field Order had to be scrapped. At this juncture, the steady doughs of the 44th Division came to the fore and penetrated for a short distance, through the narrow mountain passes. So intent were the Tigers in grinding out the last mile, that they even tried to roll their tanks over the railroad tracks. The going was extremely difficult however, as the steel rails did not match the width of the tank tracks. Furthermore, signal block devices along the railroad completely prevented the tankers from making any further headway. The last kilometer was now a matter of record anyway. The big fight was over. And Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in the opinion of the Armoraiders, was a fine place to end the war on this, the last day of April of 1945. The final major battle Operation of the Tiger Division consumed seven weeks. This period was marked with continuous combat, sleepless days and nights, sizzling speed, strained nerves, rain, snow, mud and cold. But at last, the ordeal was over…

XIV THE OCCUPATION

... On V-E day, the Tenth Arniored staged a full-dress Review on the main street in Garmisch. Many Tigers suspected at the time, that higher headquarters had ordered the parade to give the Germans a good look at the men and machines which had helped to destroy Hitler's Nazi legions. For the author, it was a fascinating experience to watch the Germans turn out en masse to admire Tiger warriors and their equipment. The intense spectator interest indicated once again the military-minded type of philosophy of the Germans.

The Division's tanks, tracks and trucks were given a hurried bath for the big show to remove all signs of combat-accumulated mud. In the reviewing stand were Major General H. Edward Brooks, Commander of the VI Corps, and Major General William H. H. Morris, Jr., Commander of the Tenth Armored. The weather was perfect, the spirit of the troops high, and everyone agreed that the Review was a huge success. There was much speculation in the next few days as to the Division's next assignment. To the great satisfaction of all, uncertainty was removed by tbe announcement that the Tenth would occupy the area. The Tigers of tbe Tenth were fortunate indeed in being assigned to one of the most strikingly beautiful areas in all Europe.

 

Aus: Lester M. Nichols, Impact – The Battle Of The Tenth Armored Division (1954) S. 286-302

 

© Alois Schwarzmüller 2006

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