Archive for February, 2020

We’ve been thinking about what the men of the 111th were doing 75 years ago this month. This was when the unit finally crossed into Germany. They must have felt optimistic — the end of the war was in sight. On the other hand, there were still dangerous days ahead.

“After our three months’ stay in Heerlen [Holland], we moved [about 15 miles east] to Alsdorf [Germany],” Lt. Perry Witt wrote. This was February 6, 1945, and they traveled along the Siegfried Line, through Herzogenrath, noting destroyed German pillboxes along the side of the road.

Pillbox between Herzogenrath and Alsdorf, Germany

German pillbox along the Siegfried line

“Here we had more excitement; besides all of the air activity, this was the first time that I had actually seen a V-bomb in flight. There were plenty of them going over but they were not falling near us.” They also witnessed an Me 262 [Messerschmitt] shot down, many buzz bombs, and heard the biggest artillery barrage of the war as the Army prepared to cross the Roer River.

On February 9, the 111th’s commanding officer, Cpt. James Goode, was transferred to the 79th Ordnance Group, and Lt. Art Brooks was promoted to captain and took over as commanding officer. Things remained relatively quiet during most of the month in Alsdorf, where the men stayed at a gas works (see 1945 and 2019 photos below).

Lt. Witt continued, “A few days passed, then one afternoon late, all of the amphibian equipment rolled out towards the lines. It was the next morning, about 3 a.m. [February 23], that the biggest artillery barrage of the war broke out of the quietness of the night. The crossing of the Roer River was underway. Fifty-caliber machine gun barrels were brought back to our Company that had been completely burned out. They’d been fired so long without cooling that they had almost melted.”

Lt. Fred Kent recalled, “One afternoon while we were still in Alsdorf, I happened to be outdoors when the sound of aircraft in the sky drew my attention to a dogfight between two planes, one being ours and the other a German plane. Suddenly the German plane gave of this puff of smoke and took off like a rocket, making our plane appear to be standing still in comparison. It wasn’t until some time later that I realized what I had observed: a German jet-propelled plane, the first I had ever seen.”

“With the Roer River crossing success and the troops forging ahead at a rapid pace, it was obvious that we would soon be following in the footsteps of the doughboys,” 111th company clerk Frank Sossi (in Alsdorf in photo on left, above) wrote in his monthly history report. “Actuality practically preceded the anticipation, for on the 4th of March the company pulled its stakes in Alsdorf and moved 36 miles northwest to Munchen-Gladbach, a city that had been taken only 3 days previously.”