February 28. It was the same old story of walking and
fighting, panic-stricken civilians, old men armed with panzerfausts
they didn't dare fire, and French ammunition which wouldn't fit
their ancient Danish rifles. 407th Infantry turned eastward,
3d Battalion on the left, 2d on the right. After a 10 minute
artillery barrage, Company F captured the Wickrath railroad
station and the regiment was through the town by noon. Aside from a
little artillery fire, resistance was nothing for the Wehrmacht to
brag about. 3d Battalion ran into some enemy armor in the woods on
the outskirts of Rheydt, which provided good hunting for veteran
406th Infantry got off to a good start. Heavy machine gun fire
was a nuisance but at 1245, 1st Battalion was entering Hardt. The
afternoon saw some hard fighting when over two companies of Krauts
counterattacked A Co. Again they had little success and the regiment
was consolidating its positions by suppertime.
405th Infantry made a wide swing from north to east. With speed and
precision 2d Battalion justifyspacer
Top, Ozark troops wait in the partial shelter of a
German ditch while tanks of the 5th Armored Division,
in the background, move up toward Rheindahlen.
Bottom, in approach march formation, reserves
trudge forward to Rheindahlen on their long
hike across the Rhineland. 27 February 1944.
seized its objective. 1st Battalion cleaned up Dorthausen, Wulfsittard, and Helm, then waited
for the 3d Battalion which had a long march that day on the outside of the wheel. Co I mopped
up Vorstand by nightfall preparations were underway for March 1.
So far the 102d had cleaned up the major western defensive belt protecting München-Gladbach.
In four days they'd marched its entire length, cleaning up centers of resistance and strong
points as they went. Now, having encircled the city from the north, München-Gladbach,
one of the great prizes of the war thus far, was ripe for plucking. Bitter was their
disap-pointment when Ozarks learned that the city was to be by-passed. But they found some
con-solation in the fact that they would still be out in front in Ninth Army's now spectacular drive.
Dazed by Russian advances in February, with XXII SS Corps reeling back across the Cologne plain, the German high command was face to face with a major crisis. Reinforcements hampered by lack of transportation and disrupted communications, were far too few and always too late. Rear area units showed little inclination to make a stand. The Volkssturm, deserted by its leaders, armed only with foreign, outmoded or strange weapons failed to materialize as a fighting force. The enemy was now retreating posthaste on Viersen, possibly with the thought of effecting some reorganization behind the doubtful refuge of the Niers canal.
Few deliberate defensive installations were encountered from here to the Rhine. Old
anti-aircraft emplacements, part of the Ruhr perimeter defense system, were
troublesome. Along main routes of withdrawal short firing trenches were dug at
infrequent intervals, generally whereever a road could be enfiladed. A few fresh
L-type foxholes were found and in someplaces old convoy shelter holes were briefly
manned by delaying parties. Several anti-tank obstacles were encountered in the
outskirts of Krefeld. These defenses were not formidable, however, being scorned
even by the local inhabitants who dub-bed them "one hour one minute" obstacles be-cause
"the American tankers laugh themselves sick for one hour, tear 'em down in one minute".
At the same time a new method of aircraft identification was gaining popularity among
the Nazi troops. This method embodied the essence of simplicity running something
"If the planes are dark colored they're British.
If the planes are light colored they're American.
If the planes are invisible, that's the Luft-