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BEFORE THE ATTACK

10 MARCH - 3 APRIL

 

On 10 March, the division occupied a sector on the west bank of the Rhine, from opposite DUISBERG on the south to opposite WESEL on the north. Its mission was to defend the west bank against enemy attack or patrol activities; to guard communication lines, utilities, bridges, and culverts; to improve the defensive positions; to dispatch night patrols to the east shore in order to discover the enemy strength, order of battle, and the terrain situation. Material assistance in performing the internal security mission was received from th« 15th Belgian Fusilier Battalion.

If the RHINE crossing was to have the advantage of surprise, the preparations of the assault divisions had to be screened from the enemy. This necessitated intercepting enemy patrols which might cross the RHINE for the purpose of collecting data on the build up. During the division's stay on the west bank, not one of the ten German patrols engaged by our troops was able to return to its lines. Typical encounters were those of 16 March, when Company I, 289th Infantry, fired on an enemy rubber boat and forced it to with- draw; of 17 March, when Company A, 290th Infantry, killed two and captured one of a three-man patrol; and of 22 March, when a 7-man patrol in the 290th Infantry sector was entirely killed or captured.

Our own patrols to the enemy shore during the period 10-24 March were as successful as the enemy's were unproductive. Of the more than 30 patrols organized by the three regiments, 19 were able to produce valuable enemy intelligence, including information of enemy strength, dugouts, trenches, pillboxes, wire, observation posts, 88mm guns, antiaircraft, machine gun, mortar and artillery positions. Several enemy prisoners were taken. These operations were made hazardous by the river itself, with its cold waters and swift currents; by enemy searchlights; and by enemy counter-patrol activities. As a result, several of the patrols suffered casualties.

On 24 March, the division supported the river crossings of the 30th and 79th Infantry Division in the vicinity of ORSOY by artillery and heavy weapons fire, and with smoke furnished by the attached Provisional Smoke Generator Company. Division Artillery fired 26,999 rounds during the preparation, which was participated in by 62 artillery battalions.*After bridges G and H across the RHINE had been completed, the 290th Infantry was charged with their security and deployed a battalion in defensive positions on the east Shore. The 291st Infantry assumed responsibility for the security of L and N bridges on 26 March. Attempts of the 276th Engineers Battalion to launch a boom as protection against enemy craft, swimmers, and other saboteurs were frustrated when enemy artillery fire cut the moorings. The location of the boom was finally changed to just south of N bridge where it was completed. The 440th Antiaircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion was active in antiaircraft protection in the division area, downing two enemy planes on 27 March.

The 290th Infantry was attached to the 30th Infantry Division on 26 March. The 1st Battalion cleared the HUNXE area, against light opposition, on the next day. On 29 March the regiment, then attached to the 8th Armored Division, moved from behind the tatter's armor to take DORSTEN. Fierce

*672 Artillery pieces fired a total of 378,000 shells on the east side of the Rhine River.

 

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fighting was experienced in digging the Germans from their cellars, and the town was badly mauled before it fell. 

 

By 29 March the Division had completed its movement to the east bank and was assembled in the vicinity of HIESFELD, except for elements still guarding the bridges, and for the 290th Infantry, which had been attached to the 8th Armored Division on 27 March.  Meanwhile, the 30th Infantry Division and the 8th Armored Division had been advancing slowly east of the RHINE, in the area between the LIPPE River on the north and the RHINE - HERNE Canal on the south, with the 30th Infantry Division on the north.  The 75th Reconnaissance Troop reconnoitered routes to the forward assembly area in the vicinity of IM LOH, where the Division completed concentration by 1200 on 30 March.

 

The Corps attack order - Field Order Number 14 - Issued at 1700, projected a continuation of the Corps attack on the axis already begun;  toward and across the DORTMUND - EMS Canal where it ran parallel to the RHINE River.  The enemy order of battle, as disclosed in the Intelligence Annex to the Field Order, indicated that the principle opposition in the Division zone would be the 116th Panzer Division, composed of the 16th Panzer Grenadier Regiment in the north, the 156th Panzer Grenadier Regiment in the center, and the 116th Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion in the south, in addition to reported elements of the 180th Division and of nine other miscellaneous units.

 

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