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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

American Troops cross the Siegfried line into Germany

On Monday, October 2, 1944, the weather cleared a little and all plans were made for an all-out assault with all the firepower to break through the West wall of the Siegfried line. All firepower concentrations were set to break through a small piece of land less than 2 miles wide between Rimburg, the town next to where I lived, and Marienberg, a small town just across the German border. Before the combat troops could move in, more than 300 allied bombers would clear out the Siegfried line and totally burn the surrounding forest area with napalm bombs. One formation after the other unloaded their explosive cargo, but everything went wrong. The soaking wet forest wouldn't flame, and not one bunker was hit. The Worms was a small water stream which ran all along the borderline between Germany and Holland. Once you crossed the Worms you landed in Germany. After the allied bombers had dropped all their explosives, more than 400 American cannons and mortars tried to clear the area. Then the 117 Infantry, which was a regimen of the 30 American infantry division, followed by tanks went down the hills toward the Worms. Under terrible artillery fire from the Germans the American combat soldier had to wrestle himself to the muddy fields to try to cross the water stream of the Worms to get into Germany. With tremendously high casualties the Americans were finally able to break through with a thousand men and 20 tanks into German territory. Once they got across there was a small town (Palenberg) which was occupied right away. The 119 Infantry made even a bigger gap after a fierce fight around the castle of Rimburg which had been a no-mans-land for several weeks when American troops were waiting for their supplies.

Holland-Germany border
The Holland-Germany Border

The 120 Infantry was still trying to break through the heavily defended town of Kerkrade. Since the German army had driven all the people (30,000) from their homes, the town had become a defense fortress for the 49 German Infantry division. But with the 117 and 119 Infantry regiment at the Germans' backs it became obvious to the Germans that they were not able to defend this town. On October the 4th, 1944, two American battalions moved into the town of Kerkrade. Under tremendous defensive fighting conditions the Americans were able to drive the Germans away. The town was totally left in ruins and everything was stolen by the German army. During this drive Lt. Colonel McCollum who was Battalion commander died by artillery fire.

The Siegfried line had bunkers with concrete steel walls six feet thick. Heavy artillery and bombs were no match to put them out of order. Most of the infantry soldiers used Bangalore torpedoes. First they had to use flame-throwers to get close to the bunker. Then they used a ten foot pipe which they moved into the bunker entrance with an explosive Bangalore torpedo. In seven days those American infantry men knocked out 43 fortified German bunkers around the Siegfried line. In the beginning of October it was already bitter-cold. Off and on the sun would come through, but most of the time the weather was foggy or it was raining. To stop the Americans from getting any closer to the city of Aachen, the German army moved all kinds of defensive troops around the Worms area. With all those extra Americans to occupy all of the West wall area. Little by little, the men from the 120 Infantry 3rd Battalion fought around the Siegfried line. They occupied the German town of Merkstein-Herbach, and the next day they took 406 German war prisoners. Under very heavy mortar fire and small arms from the Germans, they were still able to occupy the town of Merkstein-Hofstad. From the other side the 117 Infantry occupied the town of Alsdorf. By occupying all of these small towns, officially the Americans had broken through the West wall and finished the battle of the Siegfried line. But this was just all on paper. For the man in the battle field there was still no end in sight for a decent rest. What had been the battle of the West wall had become now the battle of Aachen. It was still 24 hours of routine for keeping on going, fighting, dig-in and move on again.

On October 8, 1944, the 119 Infantry moved from Kerkrade, that was a town not too far packed with booby-traps. The next day, the 119 Infantry reached the town of Wurselen. For five days the 119 Infantry had to put up a fierce fight around the little towns the make eventual contact with the American combat men of the 7th Corps. The city of Aachen was now surrounded, but it still took five days of heavy fighting before this old Karelstad, which was totally in ruins, was taken by the American army.

In the ten days, more than 3,000 combat soldiers lost their lives to break through the Siegfried line West wall. When it all started, Lieutenant Oren Sterchi from Dallas, Texas (9th U.S.A Division) watched from his watch post high in the tower from our Catholic Saint Jozef Shurch, how hundreds of his friends were mauled down by German mortar fire.

CONTINUED: American Troops fortify their positions
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index