Sunday, 1 April, was Easter, and church services were held in a beautiful cathedral in town. A captured German food depot yielded eggs and wine. 2nd BN's elements were pulled from the line during the week for guard duty around intelligence targets in the area.
On 6 April, the 17th Airborne Division relieved the 79th Division in the Sterkrade area, and the 79th moved about five miles northeast to Bottrop. There, they went into Division reserve to rest and refit for what was to be the Division's last attack mission. The objective was the large city of Essen and its surrounding hamlets, including Steele.
Early evening, 7 April, the 1st and 3rd BN's crossed the Rhine-Herne Canal in preparation for the attack toward the town of Steele. At 0930, 8 April, the attack jumped off to virtually no resistance. 2nd BN was deployed eastward to the town of Sevingham. All three battalions were on their objectives quickly. 1st BN patrols had an excellent observation point in Steele of across the Ruhr River. Opposite the position was a strongly built German AA battery. The fire was almost constant until the 311th Field Artillery took the German position out.
The 3rd BN position was relieved by the 315th Regiment on 9 April, and moved into reserve. 10 April, 1st and 2nd BN's attacked to advance the Regiment's position all the way to the Ruhr. B and C/Companies were hit hard by another concrete surrounded AA position, and sustained heavy casualties. Tank support pushed the enemy back, and the battalions moved forward again. At sunset, led by the 3rd BN, the entire Regimental rear elements drove to the river banks, and before midnight, 10 April 1945, the entire area was secure. This completed the 314th Regiment's last attack mission.
Dortmund, Czechoslovakia, and Home
The 314th Regiment, being relieved again by elements of the 17th ABN, moved to the city of Dortmund on 14 April. The task was to outpost the Ruhr River line. German troops were observed in several large concentrations, occasionally throwing harassing artillery. Return fire from the 314th was not called for as long as the enemy remained on the opposite side of the Ruhr. Late that night, it was reported that I/Co had linked with the relieving elements of the 8th Infantry Division. The 314th Regiment's part in the war was over.
Contact with the enemy was lost on 16 April, and the 314th officially passed into the next phase of the war - military government. This occupational function would include everything from governing and policing, to caring for the "displaced persons" (slave laborers from all over Europe) and guarding POWs. Dortmund was the center of the factory district and most of the displaced had been working there, so the problem of dealing with so many people was particularly bad for the 314th. There were over 19,000 people who needed repatriation to their homelands. Hospitals were set up and staffed, and troops acted as "guards" to quell looting attempts. Sea of refugees in Dortmund. By 1 May, 1945, the entire area, including the camps, was secured and running smoothly.
On 7 May, 1945, a Liaison Officer brought the following written message from Division HQ signed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower:
"A representative of the German High Command signed the unconditional surrender of all German Land, Sea and Air Forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Force and simultaneously to Soviet High Command at 0141 hours European time 7 May, 1945, under which all forces will cease active operations at 0001 hours 9 May, 1945. Effective immediately all offensive operations by Allied Expeditionary Forces will cease and troops will remain in present positions. Moves involved in occupational duties will continue. Due to difficulties of communication there may be some delay in similar orders reaching enemy troops so full defensive precautions will be taken..."
It was all over.
Beyond V-E Day
After the glorious V-E Day celebrations, the troops began training for the possibility of entering the Pacific Theater of Operations. Dortmund was still considered a hostile area, so guard duty was kept up, along with administering to all the displaced. Dortmund fell within the British zone of occupation, and on 28 May word came in that the 48th BN Royal Artillery would take over duties there sometime between 2-7 June. On 30 May, a Memorial Service for the entire Regiment was held at Garden Suburb, a large park in Dortmund.
Boarding ship to leave Marseilles, France for home. Photograph courtesy of Bill Ryman.
On 5 July, after being relieved in Dortmund, the 314th moved out for a 400 mile journey to Cheb, Czechoslovakia. On 9 June, the 79th was transferred to the control of V Corps, 3rd Army. Regimental HQ was established in Konigsberg, in relief of the 1st Infantry Division. Duties for the Regiment included maintaining road blocks, guard and patrol duty, military governing, and training. This section of Czechoslovakia was opposite the Russian positions. Life in Czechoslovakia was a repetition of the site in Dortmund as regards to the displaced persons.
The Division was assigned "Category II" status: re-equip, retrain and ship back to America as reserves for possible deployment to the PTO. A review of personnel took placed based on the "point" system: high-pointers were to be moved out to units due for departure home, mid-pointers moved to units assigned occupational duties, and low-pointers scheduled for training. The unit was moved on 3 August to an isolated village named Dalherda in Bavaria. This location was an old German Panzer Division facility - perfect for training. But the conditions were horrible - what buildings remained were roofless, and it rained almost non-stop.
On 6 August 1945, at 0815 the first atomic bomb was dropped from a B-29 bomber on Hiroshima. On 9 August, the second one was dropped on Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered - it was finally over.
The 12 August orders pending a trip home were rescinded for the 79th was to replace the 99th Division and the 6th Armored Division on occupational duties. On 23 August, the 314th relieved the 395th Infantry Regiment (of the 99th Division), and the 735th Tank BN. The 314th was again manning road blocks along the Russian frontier in Germany. 3rd BN found itself governing a huge civilian camp, previously known as the German camp Hammelburg-Läger. Men who had enough points started going home. The unit settled into what would be its last post in Europe: 1st BN at Konigshofen, 2nd BN at Mellrichstadt, 3rd BN and the Service Company at Hammelburg-Läger. The HQ Company resided in a small town called Munnerstadt, while the Cannon and Anti-Tank Companies camped in the resort town of Bad Bruckenau.
At the end of October, 1945, the Regiment was alerted to prepare to ship home. The 79th Division was relieved by the 1st infantry Division on 15 November 1945. The 314th moved to a tent camp in Aschaffensburg, and later taken by train to Marseilles, France, to board ships headed for America.
Sailing began the last week of November. The ships ported all along the eastern seaboard - from Boston to Norfolk, Virginia ten to fifteen days later.
On 11 December, 1945, the 79th Infantry Division, including the 314th Regiment, was officially deactivated. The men who wore the Cross of Lorraine and the Sign of the Falcon were finally home.
The 2nd Battalion - Captured at Drusenheim
Starting at 0630, 19 January 1945, German troops rained its artillery and mortar fire on the 2nd BN position in Drusenheim for more than an hour. The 2nd threw everything they had right back at the enemy. After the elements of F/Co had escaped, the rest of the battalion was trapped - essentially cut off from any help whatsoever. Facing 20 tanks and over 100 heavy artillery pieces, capture was close at hand.
Hand to hand combat took place until the early hours of 20 January. At 0430, the Battalion CP was captured, and within the next one-half hour, the remainder of the Battalion was taken by the enemy. The American POWs were relieved of their cold weather clothing and forced to march in the snow, gloveless and in stocking feet. At the German CP in Dalhunden, about 500 yards from the Rhine, the troops were separated; officers in one group, enlisted in another. On 22 January, the troops were ferried across the Rhine on their way to a POW camp. For four days, they marched through the Black Forest in Germany until they reached the camp at Baden-Baden. They were interrogated one by one by an SS officer posing as a representative from the International Red Cross. Food was very scarce, and some of the men hadn't eaten since their capture.
On or about 27/28 January, the troops were marched to a railroad station and loaded into cars to be transported to a second camp. After two days of being shoved into railcars in sub-zero temperatures, they arrived in Stuttgart. There was roughly 3000 POWs representing almost every U.S. Army outfit, and they were marched ten miles north to Ludwigsburg. After ten days of a hellish situation of no food and no warmth, the troops were loaded into railcars once again, and transported to a third location: Hammelburg-Läger. They spent roughly 45 days here.
On 27 March, report reached the camp that American troops had broken through and were moving on Hammelburg. The prisoners were ordered to gather their belongings and prepare to evacuate. Stall tactics forced the captors to turn the camp over to their captives. White flags were raised and small battles ensued. It was quickly over, and the joy of the win was soon dampened by the realization that the liberators equaled one company of tanks dispatched by General Patton. The tanks took as many men as they could carry, and the rest were left with finding their way back to the American front as best they could; the rumored front being Frankfurt. Every route the fleeing prisoners took, there were German troops waiting. Eventually, most were recaptured and returned to Hammelburg-Läger.
On 31 March, the remaining prisoners once again loaded into railcars and, 12 hours later, arrived in Nuremberg, Germany. They were fed well for three days, then began a 150-mile march to Moosburg on 3 April. For 17 days, they marched; borrowing, begging and even stealing food along the way. Most had been issued a Red Cross care package, the first of their long captivity.
Seven days after reaching Moosburg, on 29 April 1945, liberation came for good finally came for the men of the 314th Regiment's 2nd BN at the hand of the 14th Armored Division. They were taken to Ingolstadt and flown to Rheims, France on C-47 transport planes. Food, clothing, rest, and one more stop in LeHavre to board ships headed, finally, home.
This historical outline is compiled from research material provided by personal accounts, unit diaries, online sources, "The Complete History of World War Two" edited by Francis T. Miller (1948) and the 314th Infantry Association's "Through Combat." A special thanks to J.W. Campbell and Dwight Pruitt. 17 September 2003. Lori Cutshall.