A Tribute from a loving son . . .

From Bastogne to the Rhine/Moselle Crossings
Includes a Sighting!

By Jack Schweitzer

My Dad, 3rd Platoon, Co A, 35th Engineer Combat Battalion, was attached to these specific units and in the “thick of it.”

He was in 3rd Plt, Co A, 35th Engineer Combat Battalion. After an assault crossing of the Mosel, preparations were underway for the assault crossing of the Rhine. (The assault crossing took place at 0001 on 25 March 1944 just north <downstream> of Rhens.) Dad was attached to the 347th Regiment of the 87th Inf. Div.

Note: "George Patton's US 5th Division crossed the Rhine River during the night of 22 Mar 1945, establishing a six-mile deep bridgehead after capturing 19,000 demoralized German troops. Patton, who actually did not have the orders to cross the river, did so under an extremely low profile: quietly, his troops crossed the river in boats without artillery barrage nor aerial bombardment. His commanding general Omar Bradley, who issued the order for him not to cross to avoid interfering with Bernard Montgomery's operations, did not know of the crossing until the next morning." — WWII Data Base  

You might imagine the trepidation with the assault from all concerned. A night or two before the actual crossing, as my Dad phrased it, "Some crazy SOB crossed the river and painted "Kilroy was here." on the cement wall on the German side of the river!" The men he served with took comfort in that fact.

Unfortunately, the crossing had the highest casualties (34) for the engineers who made multiple trips under fire ferrying the 347th. A Distinguished (now known as Presidential) Unit Citation was awarded for the action. "As a kid (I am 64) we drew Kilroy damn near everywhere." (Author: Jack Schweitzer)

Before that, he participated in another little mix-up that you might have heard of . . . Bastonne! The 35th formed the first defense east of Bastogne, (December , 1944) actually holding it until the 101st could get there. (see Master's thesis on fold3) Then, drawing the short straw, Dad was one of 28 enlisted men and a couple of officers who remained at the request of Gen. McAuliffe.
Idid not know this in any detail until recently when I spoke to one of the remaining officers, Bob Skinner, now deceased, who was my Dad's platoon leader. The official history of the unit details the story of the "lost platoon". They manned the roadblock where Patton's first tank entered Bastogne for its relief (this is private correspondence I uncovered between his platoon leader and the battalion commander

“Untere Rheinpforte”
(Rhens St. Joseph's Gate)
347th passed on way to boats

"From the Rhine gate in the downstream direction of the Rhine. The Josephstor (Joseph’s gate) is smaller than the Rhine gate and never had a Tower. A simple wall gate which, for security reasons, was bricked up during the thirty years period, as this passage did not hve to be used in times of necessity: the area behind the gate was at the time barely exploited. Until 18th century the gate had a gate House, at the second floor at the Rhine side in a wall cavity the statue of St. Joseph, an 18th century addition, the gate was formerly known as "Untere Rheinpforte". Another long forgotten name which was still used in the early 20th century was "Pützgassertor" (free translated: stucco alley gate)."

Josefstor, Trip Advisor

My Dad either spoke of the positive aspects of his military experience or spoke compassionately of others. He did not know, nor would he have cared that he was entitled to two Presidential Unit Citations, Belgian Croix de Guerre, Luxembourg Croix de Guerre. This behavior, that his three brothers, all in the Army, all in the Battle of the Bulge, also exhibited — as I am sure many veterans did as well. My Dad died unexpectedly in an accident in 1991. I was very close to Dad, but the only time he spoke of the grim aspects of war was when one of his "Army buddies" came by.

35th ECB 87th crossing Moselle from "Last Offensive"
Click image for a larger view

Moselle - Waiting to be ferried across the Moselle

(Lee) Ridenour was in my Dad's Company (A). The pic is after the assault crossing of the Rhine at Rhens, the west bank of the Rhine behind, landing on the east bank.

Dad fishing during "paid vacation" construction of Alcan Highway (1942) as a combat engineer.
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Click here for more on John Schweitzer

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