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Diary recounts weeklong march to Remagen Bridge

(Reprinted from the Weatherford (TX) Democrat.)

The Democrat printed a feature story about 99er Charles Katlic in the May 29 issue. This diary was included in the story. F/394 clerk Robert Root kept the diary, covering a week in the company's march to the Rhine River.

On March 10, 1945, at 0600, company de-trucked and moved out toward Bengen, Germany. After a two-mile march, we arrived at 1400. At Bengen we were billeted for the night, but on a half-hour alert. At 1900 the company moved out on the march toward one of the most important moves since D-Day — to cross the Rhine River.

After a 10-mile march, losing no men, we arrived in the vicinity of the Remagen Railway Bridge, which was about 75 yards distant and partly damaged.

At this point, Company F came under severe German artillery fire, three shells landing in our area, causing a number of casualties and causing our company to split up in different directions looking for cover. It was very dark, and wounded and dead lay all around.

The intersection at Remagen and the west side of the bridge was called Dead Man's Corner. It was hard to walk without tripping over someone. From the shelling and darkness we were unable to reach the bridge.

Captain Goodner, our company commander (and a good one, too), with part of second platoon and some men from Headquarters had crossed the bridge to the railroad tunnel on the east side of the river. First Sgt. Halloway came across the bridge, reorganized the company, explaining the intervals of the shelling. In our minds, this action saved a lot of our men crossing the bridge.

I remember crossing the bridge at approximately midnight. The only light was the flash from artillery bursts. You could see and hear the swiftness of the river below the bridge. It was a scary night. My religion went from foxhole religion to bridge religion that night.

Twenty-four casualties were suffered in Company F after going through the railroad tunnel on the east side of the river. Men started digging foxholes for the night, waiting for daylight to attack and enlarge our bridgehead.

Our ninth consecutive day on K-rations. One Jerry plane shot down. Company objective taken at 1400 on March 11. Small counterattack encountered. Moved ut in route march for approximately two miles, taking approach march for 2,000 yards, bringing us to the top of a very high hill at around 0900. At 0930 the company jumped off in attack. Moved to the right flank and took high ground with little resistance. Moving on to the left flank, heavy enemy resistance from machine guns and small arms fire encountered. At this point, artillery and mortar fire was called for. The company moved forward using rifle grenades, bazookas, mortar fire, and rifle fire. The 395th Regiment was pushing the enemy in our direction, which may have caused much resistance from the enemy. After knocking them out, prisoners surrendered without resistance. Lt. Fowler took out a patrol to clean out the remainder of some Krauts still in the woods, but as a result of a sniper, Fowler died in action. The rest of the patrol returned to platoon positions. Finally the enemy withdrew. Company F then withdrew and went on to next objective, a knoll on top of a heavily wooded hill. Company encountered burp gun and machine gun fire on left flank and was pinned down. Mortar fire was called for. Germans withdrew and some prisoners taken. Company dug in.

An enemy patrol of six men came into platoon area. Three were killed by rifle fire, two were killed by 60m m mortars and one escaped. After taking next objective, company dug defensive positions for the night and patrols were sent out.

On March 13 weather was clear and warm. At approximately 0830 we pushed off, following a narrow trail east for 800 yards, when company contacted German forces in dug-in positions on commanding ground. Heavy enemy artillery was landing on our troops. At 1300 our artillery opened up on the Jerrys. We took our objective. Twenty-four German prisoners were captured. One short round from our artillery caused three casualties. At 1530 company began digging defensive positions. Later, our snipers go two Jerries. Our losses: three men wounded, one KIA.

On March 14, weather was warm and clear. Although morale was still good, men were disgusted with the hill fighting, some hills being like mountains and almost straight up. Our company commander went back to the rear area for a court-martial case. Cookies, baked by our kitchen were sent up to our men. Recon patrols operated during the day and observed Germans digging in on the next hill. Company platoons were rearranged for better protection against German counter-attacks. Men enjoyed a warm night of sleeping, due to bedrolls arriving from supply.

On March 15, the weather was clear and warm. Company got up at 0530, was oriented on attack scheduled for 0700, but due to change, was delayed. Attack started at 1400. After pushing forward about 600 yards, company met enemy resistance. With the support of artillery and mortars and skilled maneuvering, company reached its objective at 1630. Received orders to continue on to next objective. After moving forward 400 yards over tough terrain, company was ordered back to former position due to G Company being held up by artillery and small arms fire. Company moved back and dug in. Kitchen prepared hot coffee but couldn't send it to troops as transportation was too slow.

March 16 — Light rains during the day. At 0600 Company F pushed off for attack. After passing through E Company and forward 3,000 yards, company was held up by enemy burp gun fire. Burp gun was knocked out by Third Platoon. Reached our objective at 1130 and immediately dug in defensive position.

Again at 1500, company advanced through E Company and 500 yards through a deep draw and part way up a steep hill when word was received to withdraw to old positions as we were too far advanced from the rest of the battalion. Men's morale dropped a little, this being the second time we had to withdraw. Back in old position, we began digging in. One patrol sent out and eight prisoners captured. Something strange happened. Before going through a wire fence, both POWs were accounted for. Our lead guard got his rifle hung up in the fence and one of the POWs helped him get it loose. No casualties suffered today.

March 17 — Today the Germans became desperate in their attempts to blow the bridge over the Rhine. They had failed to destroy the Ludendorff (Remagen) Bridge. In their withdrawal, their artillery fire was ineffective after their observation had been driven off the high ground now held by the 99th. Their air attacks were unsuccessful and their dive bombing had failed. Now they threw in their last card — an amphibious demolition team (frogmen) — clad in waterproof rubber suits with webbed feet and hands. These SS troops, members of an amphibious team, looked like something out of Flash Gordon. As they swam downstream, pushing floating TNT blocks toward the pontoon bridge and the railway bridge, machine gunners on the shore with orders to shoot at anything in the river, opened fire. The TNT and the Nazi hopes were over. They were captured by members of the 18th Cavalry Group attached to the 394th Infantry Regiment. The Ludendorff Railroad Bridge (Remagen) weakened by initial charges, artillery fire, near misses by bombs and heavy traffic, tired and weary, finally collapsed at 3 p.m.

The bridge had served its purpose. Two companies of engineers were working on the bridge at the time of its collapse. They suffered 90 casualties.

Company F continued to take ground and win objectives, getting ready to clear out the Ruhr Pocket.