Document Source: After Action Report, 82nd Airborne Division, April 1945. Preface; Narrative; Intelligence Phases; Supply; Military Government, Annexes.
In late March 1945, the 82nd Airborne Division was engaged in training activities at its base in Camp Sissonne, Laon, France. Reorganization under the new Table of Organization (TOE) was underway and a schedule of intensive airborne training was being carried out. Experiments also were being conducted with new equipment, including the Recoilless 57-MM gun. Several tentative airborne missions were in the planning stage at Division Headquarters at Sissonne.
Late in the afternoon of March 30, the Division Commander, Gen James M. Gavin was called to the XVIII Corps (Airborne) Headquarters at Epernay, France. Here he received instructions to the effect that the 82-A/B and the 101-A/B Divisions were to concentrate southwest of Bonn, Germany. On March 31, the 82-A/B was attached to the US 15-A at 1400 and given the mission to patrol a section of the west bank of the Rhine River. This river was the western boundary of a huge pocket of German resistance in the Ruhr area. Aside from patrols, the Division probably would not cross the river. Movement of the Division to the new area would begin on or about April 3.
SECTION II – NARRATIVE
1. Action on the Rhine River
April 1: The Division Commander, G-1, G-3 and a small group of staff officers and key enlisted men departed for the new Division area by plane during the day. Gen Gavin reported first to the Commanding General, US 15-A, and then to the Commanding General, US XXII Corps. He also conferred with the Commanding General of the US 86-ID which the 82-A/B was to relieve on the west bank of the Rhine River on or about the night of April 4/5. At base camps, plans were completed for the movement of the Division which, it was learned during the day, would begin on April 2.
April 2: Movement of the Division by rail and motor began at 0500. Eight trains left Sissonne, Swippes and Laon between 0701 and 0807. Most of the motor echelons closed into new areas by 2400. Division Headquarters was established at Weiden, Germany, a few miles from Koln.
April 3: The process of closing into the new areas was handicapped by the fact only one train at a time could be unloaded at the railhead at Stolberg, Germany, there being only one siding. However, before 2400 a majority of the units had closed and relief of the 86-ID had begun. The 82-A/B Field Order No. 19 was published giving details of effecting relief of the 86-ID in the sector from Worrigen, inclusive eight miles north of Koln, to Graurheindorf, inclusive, 13 miles south of Koln, a total front of about 32 miles along the river. The 325-GIR began relieving the 343-IR in 2000, with exception of the 3/325-GIR, which became the Divison reserve. The 504-PIR began relieving the 342-IR at 2045, the 1/504-PIR completing its relief at 2345 or less than 40 hours after it had entrained at Laon, France.
April 4: The 82-A/B officially relieved the 86-ID at 0829. The 325-GIR completed the relief of 342-IR at 0159, and the 504-PIR completed the relief of 343-IR at 0330 and the 82-A/B Artillery relieved 86-ID Artillery at 0400. The 341-IR (86-ID), came under the control of the 82-A/B from 0829 until 2330 when its relief by the 505-PIR was completed. The Division improved defensive positions. Artillery fired a total of 478 rounds of harassing and interdiction fire. Field Artillery dispositions, made under provisions of Field Order No. 19, were as follows: 319-GFAB in general support, 320-GFAB in direot support of 325-GIR, 376-PFAB in direct support of 504-PIR, 456-PFAB in direct support of 505-PIR. An XXII Corps letter, dated April 1, 1945, had directed that patrolling along the Corps front would be intensified beginning the night of April 2/3 to the extent of not less than one patrol per front line battalion per night. Operations Instructions No. 2, 82-A/B, added that within the discretion of the Regimental Commander, up to one rifle company may be left on the far bank of the Rhine River to screen, observe, and report on enemy activity.
April 5: The Division continued to improve its defensive sector. Two patrols of the 325-GIR and four patrols of 504-PIR crossed the Rhine River during the night of April 4/5 and made contact with enemy troops. One prisoner was taken. Artillery fired 104 missions, 2215 rounds.
April 6: The Division continued active patrolling and also improved its defensive sector. Three patrols, exclusive of a company-sized patrol of the 504-PIR, captured two prisoners during the night of April 5/6. Able Co, 504-PIR, crossed the Rhine River during the same night and seized HHitsdorf as a base for further patrol action. This company captured 60 prisoners during the day, and repelled a counterattack by 60 infantry and two tanks, but plans to withdraw the company was begun early in the night on XXII Corps order when it appeared the enemy was threatening the position with at least two battalions. Artillery fired 111 missions, 1919 rounds.
April 7: While the Division continued its active defense, withdrawal of Able Co, 504-PIR, was completed during the night of April 6/7 after the company destroyed a Mark IV tank and inflicted casualties when attacked at about 2400. Two platoons of Item Co assisted in covering the withdrawal. Casualties received by the company were six killed in action, 14 wounded or injured in action, and 26 missing in action. A patrol from 505-PIR received 12 casualties when it became entangled in a minefield. Artillery fired 128 missions, 2357 rounds.
April 8/16: No additional large patrols were sent across the Rhine River, due in part to strict rationing of artillery and mortar ammunition allotments, but the Division continued to improve its defenses and to send small patrols across the river until its positions were masked by the attack from the south by elements of the XVIII Corps (Airborne) on the east side of the Rhine River.
April 8: Practice smoke screens were laid down along the opposite river bank. Four successful patrols reconnoitered the east bank. Artillery fired 76 missions, 1063 rounds.
April 9: Despite adverse wind conditions, practice smoke screens were laid in sections of the Division area. Mortar and machine gun fire was placed on observed enemy positions. There were two patrols. The Division relieved the 761-FAB of responsibility of guarding bridges on the Erft Canal at 2300 hours. Artillery fired 57 missions, 704 rounds.
April 10: The Division continued to maintain its defensive positions sending one reconnaissance patrol to the east bank of the Rhine River. One practice smoke screen was laid. Artillery fired 91 missions, 1543 rounds, part of the fire being at request of the XVIII Corps (Airborne) Artillery on a reported location of the Command Post of the German 3.Fallschirmjäger-Division.
April 11: Aggressive defense of the west river bank was maintained and four patrols crossed the river. Ten casualties resulted in a 325-GIR patrol when a hand grenade exploded in a boat, Artillery fired 88 missions, 1053 rounds. Operations Instructions No. 3 was issued in the nature of a warning order, listing areas in which units of the Division would carry out occupational duties. The Division Military Police and Reconnaissance Platoons were instructed to begin a thorough search of rear areas.
April 12: Liaison was maintained with the US 13-AD which was advancing to the north on the east side of the Rhine River. Surrender propaganda was broadcast to the German troops. The military government was enforced in the Division area. Artillery fired 34 missions, 913 rounds.
April 13: Active defense of the west bank of the Rhine River was maintained, and, in addition, the 505-PIR obtained letters of surrender from the Mayors of Lülsdorf, Langel, Niederkassel, and Zündorf on the east bank. Two reconnaissance patrols were sent across the river. Artillery fired 38 missions, 849 rounds. Artillery organic to the Division did not fire and other fire was in support of the XVIII Corps (Airborne) advance. Operations Instructions No. 4 (amended slightly on April 16) was issued. It outlined occupational areas and plans for conducting thorough searches for caches of arms, ammunition, explosives, and for enemy soldiers.
April 14: The 325-GIR and the 505-PIRcontinued to outpost the river line but began assembling in Battalion areas. The 746-FAB was relieved from the 417-FA (Group), converted to Special Guards, and attached to the 82-A/B. It assumed responsibility for guarding bridges over the Erft River and displaced Person camps in 1800. Artillery fired 16 missions, 475 rounds.
April 15: Patrol contact was established with the US 97-ID on the east bank of the river. The 746-FAB (converted) relieved organic units of the Division of responsibility for the security of utility installations in the Division zone. Attached artillery fired 24 missions, 572 rounds.
April 16: Friendly troops advancing along the east bank of the Rhine River masked the last of the 82-A/B’s positions during the day. The 504-PIR was rel1ivd of its mission of active defense of the west bank at 1800. The 417-FAG fired six missions, 288 rounds, at the request of the US 13-AD, before being relieved from attachment to the 82-A/B at 1200 hours,
April 17: Reallocation of troops within the Division area was made in order to secure and enforce military government in the sector. Preparations were made to carry out provisions of 82-A/B Operations Instructions No. 4. During the period April 3/17, the Division captured 166 prisoners and killed a known total of 378 Germans. Casualties within the Division and within Able Co, 504-PIR were as Follows:
Division: 2 OF, 11 EM KIA; 5 OF, 102 EM, WIA; 6 OF, 36 EM, MIA.
Able/504-PIR: 1 OF, 5 EM, KIA; 1 OF, 13 EM, WIA; 1 OF, 25 EM, MIA.
2. Military Government in Koln, Germany, area
From April 18 until its relief on April 25, the 82-A/B carried on occupational duties in the Koln area. A thorough search was made of the area by sectors to locate prisoners of war and caches of arms, ammunition, and explosives. Guards and administrative personnel were provided for Displaced Person Camps. Bridges and ammunition dumps were guarded and minefields were located and marked.
Operations Instructions No. 8 were published on April 18, amplifying duties of organic and attached units. As amended under the date of April 23, these instructions provided that 80-AB-AAB would first search its own area and then assist the 505-PIR. The 319-GFAB and the 320-GFAB would search Koln after completing work in their own area.
A temporary boundary was established for the US XXII Corps and the US XVIII Corps (Airborne) pending the time the XVIII Corp (Airborne) became operative. The 942-FAB was assigned control of the area between the permanent and temporary corps’ boundaries.
A total of 653 prisoners were taken during the search. Many of these had changed into civilian clothing.
The Division was alerted on April 23 for possible movement and later received orders to move by rail and motor to the Elbe River northeast of Hannover, Germany, where it was to operate under the XVIII Corps (Airborne). The Corps was to be attached tactically to the UK 2-A and, administratively to the US 9-A.
On April 25, at 1200, the 82-A/B was relieved in the Koln area by the 417-FAG and began the movement to the Uelzen area on April 26.
3. Action on the Elbe River
April 26/28: Major elements of the Division were en route by rail and motor to the new area. The railhead was established at Lehrte and the truck-head at Weyhausen. An overnight staging area for the truck movement was established at Wiedenbrück. The Division Command Post opened at Hohenzethen at 1200, April 27.
Operations Instructions No. 6, issued on April 28, provided that the 505-PIR and 13-IR (8-ID), attached, would relieve elements of the UK 5-ID along the Elbe River. The 505-PIR also would attack across the river and seize a limited bridgehead.
April 29: The 505-PIR closed at 1700, but elements of the Regiment effected the relief of the UK 13/5-ID, by 1315 hours. The 13th Infantry Brigade had relieved the UK 17/5-ID, at 0200 hours.
Three patrols from the Division Reconnaissance Platoon, each patrol made up of one officer and eight enlisted men, and one patrol from the 13th Brigade crossed to the north bank of the Elbe River during the night of April 28/29. Three patrols met little opposition, but one patrol from the Division Reconnaissance Platoon encountered stiff resistance when it landed on the north bank. One officer and five enlisted men were missing. The Division Command Post moved from Hohenzethen to Bleckede at 1000 hours.
April 30: The 505-PIR forced crossings of the Elbe River at four points and established a limited bridgehead along the general line 053253 – 05805 – 036322 – 005315. Resistance was moderate and this permitted the construction of a class 36 bridge by Corps Engineers which was completed by 2000 hours at 004268. Crossings were made in Buffaloes of the British 4th Royals, by assault and storm boats, manned by the 307-AECB (Engineer). The 504-PIR had not closed completely, but the 2/504 was preparing to cross the river as the day ended. The UK 13th infantry, less the 3d Battalion, was relieved from attachment to the Division, The 121-IR (8-ID) was attached at 1900 with other components of its combat team, and, with the 3/13th, was in the process of relieving 2/505-PIR, as the period and month closed.
Other major elements including the 325-GIR were still en route. Motor elements of organic artillery fired 13 missions, 221 rounds, and attached artillery fired 92 missions, 1832 rounds. A total of 588 prisoners were received at the Division Prisoner of War cages during the day, bringing the total for the Elbe River area to 606. Casualties received by the 82-A/B in the Elbe River sector during April included one officer and five enlisted men killed, 56 enlisted men wounded or injured in action. One officer and seven enlisted men were missing in action.
(Note: I have 5 pages more with this archive but 9 paragraphs are impossible to read. I have to let this part falls).