US 71st Division still in combat as it pushes east

These men are scouting out the enemy for the 13th Armored Division, Third U.S. Army. 2 May 1945

These men are scouting out the enemy for the 13th Armored Division, Third U.S. Army. 2 May 1945

US Army 2nd Infantry "Indian" Division enter Domazlice, Western Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, May 5th, 1945

US Army 2nd Infantry “Indian” Division enter
Domazlice, Western Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, May 5th, 1945

Sergeant Dean P. Joy was with 5th Infantry Regiment, 71st Infantry Division, the American unit that penetrated furthest east in the European theatre. On the 5th May his battalion were driven in a column of trucks through Austria. They expected the war was nearly over and they passed many cheering civilians, some of whom threw flowers, and who acted “just like if they had been waiting to be liberated for years”, like the French the previous year.

They passed a column of over 2,000 German troops passing the other way, still fully armed. “No shooting unless shot at and an officer gives the order”. Then it was their job to move forward to meet the Russians:

I was a bit nervous when I heard Wooten say that our 2nd Battalion would go on across the river, knowing that we would probably meet the Russians over there. But other than that, I was elated, like all the rest of my buddies, to think that our war was surely over and done with at last. But it was not quite over.

It was probably about noon when our convoy crossed the bridge to the east, once again following the regimental jeeps. On a long stretch of highway, with hills rising to our left and right, a battery of dreaded 88s opened fire. I heard a screech-whoosh-blam as the first of several shells whizzed by our truck and exploded somewhere to the rear. Then those gunners got the range, and we heard the next two or three shells slam into, or very close to, the jeeps up ahead.

Our trucks instantly braked to a jarring stop, and an officer – it may have been Colonel Wooten himself — ran back along the convoy, pointing and shouting, “Second Battalion off the trucks! Everybody off! George Company, off the road to the left!”

Under Captain Neal’s direction, our entire company piled off of our eight or nine trucks as fast as we could and took cover in the culvert on the left side of the road. Bailey’s squad and my squad were told to leave our mortars on the truck, and were sent up the ditch to the front of the stalled convoy. We were accompanied by one of the company’s machine-gun squads.

A gruesome, never-to-be-forgotten sight sickened me as we ran past the jeep that had been in the lead. It had received a direct hit from an 88, and slumped behind its steering wheel was what was left of the driver — just his bloody, headless torso.

On the other side of the road we saw two or three officers, including our battalion executive officer, Maj. Irving Heymont, hunkered down behind a machine gun that was firing short bursts at a line of trees on a hill to the right. As we were to learn later, they were firing at two 88s that were partially hidden up on that hill.

Sergeant Joy and his section narrowly missed being hit by an artillery round as they went forward to take out the 88s in a flanking movement.

See Dean P. Joy: Sixty Days in Combat: An Infantryman’s Memoir of World War II in Europe

Meanwhile back in France Supreme Allied Commander had received a German delegation trying to negotiate. They were were not authorised to surrender and were sent back to Flensburg, the temporary German capital where Doenitz was based. Eisenhower’s Naval aide, Harry C Butcher describes the circumstances:

At dinner Ike said the reason the Germans were stalling for time was to let Germans escape from Czechoslovakia, where they are being overrun by the Russians. It seems German high officials had sent their wives and children to Czechoslovakia to avoid our heavy bombings of German cities. Now that area, once regarded safe, is one in which there is great fear.

Ike also detects a scheme of the Germans to get the Western Allies to accept a surrender and thus create a schism with the Russians. In the German mind, he thought, there is the desperate hope that we might yet succumb to Goebbels’ old propaganda about the Bolsheviks.

Once the Supreme Commander has the proper German representatives with suitable authority to act, he does not propose to let them dilly-dally. Furthermore, he wants the Gennan Army to know this time that it has been completely and decisively beaten in the field, so there will not be the cry that was heard after World War I that it was the German home front that caved in and not the Army.

General Ike wants to seal the Allied victory so completely that no one in Germany, civilian, soldier, airman, or sailor, will fail to appreciate the fact that the “superrace” has had the hell beaten out of it. He doesn’t want our kids to be left an inheritance of World War III.

See My Three Years With Eisenhower: The Personal Diary of Captain Harry C. Butcher, USNR, Naval Aide to General Eisenhower, 1942 to 1945

The 2nd Division are welcomed as they enter what the Germans called Bohemia but soon reverted back to Czechoslovakia. The German population was largely evicted after the war ended.

The 2nd Division are welcomed as they enter what the Germans called Bohemia but soon reverted back to Czechoslovakia. The German population was largely evicted after the war ended.

The progress of the 2nd Division was slowed by booby traps and lone snipers.

The progress of the 2nd Division was slowed by booby traps and lone snipers.

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