About this blog

As the author of this blog, Karen L Garner Martin Messick, I am the daughter of an American soldier, Wilbur (Bill) C. Garner, Sr. and Women's Royal English Navy service woman (British Wren) Gwendoline Rosa Wilkins, who met and married during World War II. They lived and loved for over 50 years before Mother passed in 2000. When she did I helped Dad with every day chores when I could. One day I was helping him clear things out and I lifted a plastic bag out of the seat of Mom's piano stool, asking Dad, "Whats in this bag?" to which he replied, "Just some of Mary's old letters." Mary, his older sister, was still alive at the time, residing in an assisted living facility, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I put the letters back in the piano seat thinking he did not want me to open the letters.
When Dad passed two years later, I inherited Mary's letters.
When I began to read them, I found they were mostly letters from Dad to Mary while he was in World War II ("The War"). I could not put them down. I wished I had opened them the day I first saw them so that Dad and I could have had conversations about them, but that was not to be...so as I read through these "Letters to Mary" I began to get a glimpse into Dad's young years when he met Mom and his time as a soldier. I have researched events during World War II to enhance my understanding of what was happening in the war as each letter came to broaden my understanding of what he might have been experiencing. I knew he landed on the beaches of Normandy, France D-Day plus 1 as he recounted his memory of that day to me when he was dying from Leukemia. It was horrifying. There were also letters from a companion Mary had met while in Minneapolis, he had been deployed overseas. I have entwined them chronologically with Dad's letters as it gives a greater dimension to the war itself. I intend to editorialize as necessary to explain personal relationships and situations as the story unfolds through the "Letters to Mary." I welcome any questions, comments and feedback. As the "Greatest Generation" fades away, I felt compelled to share these letters and story in hopes of continuing the legacy they left for the world. Let us never forget the untold years and lives that were sacrificed for freedom!
If you have stumbled upon this blog I have added a blog archive at the bottom of the blog page. Continue to scroll down to access the Blog Archive. The posts are chronologically listed and to follow the story it is best to start with the first post in December 2013.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The XIX Corps March 1945 After Crossing the Roer

Text excerpted from the XIX Corps Newspaper 1946

 "The Tomahawk Strikes"
"From the Siegfried Line to Victory"

From their toe-hold on the east bank of the Roer, the 29th and 30th Divisions picked up speed and momentum. The 29th took Juelich, by-passed and later wiped out the resistance in the ancient citadel; the 30th made speed through the Hambach Forest to take Steinstrasse. Both divisions made full use of their maneuver-room, taking the towns that dotted the area with speedy and economical flanking attacks both day and night. that gave the Germans no chance to dig in anywhere. It was muddy, disagreeable moist country, of small farms with clusters of slate-colored plaster and brick farmhouses; the tree-lined roads of brick or cobblestones slippery with mud. Open stretches of fields were commanded by 88's and self propelled guns, and systems of trenches on the commanding ground. Each town was a strong point, or had been intended to be. In many of them however, the Volkssturm forces were so quickly inundated by the American advance, that they got no warning at all, and dissolved into civilians without firing more than a few shots. In some places, where the forces from in front managed to withdraw and fight a delaying action, or reserves came up from the rear, there was sharp fighting.The enemy rushed some of the best troops we had on the West Front - 9th Panzer, 11th Panzer, 130th Panzer Lehr, elements of 2nd Parachute and 15th Panzer Grenadier, plus assorted infantry divisions - to attempt to halt the threatened disaster. Our battle-hardened 29th and 30th, and 2nd Armored Divisions knew what to do and did it speedily and expertly.

On the fifth day of the attack, the stage was considered sufficiently set to let go with the finishing blow. The 2nd Armored Division was ordered in for a powerful smash to finish off the industrial area on the west bank of the Rhine centered around Muenchen-Gladbach, Neuse, and Krefeld-Jerdingen. The whole 2nd Armored attacked all along the line, and despite heavy resistance the first day, made an advance of six miles. The blow was stronger because elements of the 83rd Division attacked with the armor. Meanwhile the 29th Division continued its drive, and by the first of March had taken and cleaned up the last resistance in Muenchen-Gladbach - Rheydt. This was an important manufacturing city, with large cloth and steel mills.

The 2nd Armored drove between Muenchen-Gladbach and Neuss and continued north to reduce the manufacturing centers of Uerdingen. The 83rd Division, an outstanding newcomer to the Corps, peeled off to the right, and proceeded to clean up Neuss, and came very close to seizing the big Rhine bridge there intact. The 2nd Battalion of the 331st Infantry was the first to reach the Rhine just south of Neuss. Meanwhile the 30th Division and the 113th Calvary Group had been guarding the right flank of the Corps along the Erft River, until the units of the VII Corps came up the other side of the river and relieved them of that task.

By the fifth of March the 2nd Armored had taken Uerdingen, and the task of the Corps was finished, for this operation. The speed of the Corps advance came near taking several of the bridges across the Rhine, but the enemy finally succeeded in blowing them all at the last moment, often marooning considerable numbers of enemy troops in the process.

XIX Corps was ready and anxious to forge the Rhine forthwith, and believed firmly it could be done. But higher headquarters decided to wait until the drive could be set up to go all the way to Berlin, once we were across. The divisions of the Corps moved up solidly along 26 miles of the Rhine's left bank.

In the ten day drive, XIX Corps took more than 11,000 prisoners, 353 towns, and over 300 square miles of territory at the price of a proportionately very small casualty list. Corps Artillery fired nearly 2500 missions for a total of about 250,00 rounds; Corps Engineers built 3040 feet of all types of bridges; the Tank Destroyers destroyed 65 enemy tanks and armored vehicles, and the Corps AAA shot down 30 planes. It was a dashing example of fine teamwork and dynamic direction.

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