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Here follows a passage from the original Combat History of the 415th Regiment of the 104th Infantry Division and a short part of Timberwolf tracks.

We hope no one will object to this publication, if we are wrong please tell us and we'll remove this at once.

Klik hier voor de Nederlandse Vertaling.

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first baptism of fire

Achtmaal

When we started to collect we would always try to find out more about the history of the liberation of Achtmaal.

First we asked people who lived here and then we tried to find information in books and by emailing with veterans.

We had Timberwolf tracks where Achtmaal was mentioned and we found a volume of the Monthly Operations Reports of the 415th Infantry Regiment but it started in November 1944 so Achtmaal wasn't in there as the archives had had a fire and the part about October was lost.

It is now March 2004 and this week at last we got a copy of the Combat history of the 415th.

We can't begin to tell you how pleased we are that here Chapter three says: Battle of Antwerp and the Scheldt Estuary Fight for Achtmaal

If anyone who reads this should have a picture of this period, can we please ask you to copy or scan it and send or mail it to us, it would be so nice to post it with this report.

415th Company B Picture thanks to Mrs. M. Galione

CHAPTER THREE

Battle of Antwerp and the Scheldt Estuary

Fight for Achtmaal

The twenty-first Army Group, under the command of Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, had the difficult mission of securing the approaches to Antwerp, thus securing the largest port in western Europe for the Allies. Use of the port was impossible so long as the Germans held the area to the north of Antwerp, bound by the Scheldt Estuary of the Maas River.

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The importance of Antwerp to the Allied cause was shown later in the War when it became the target for more buzz-bomb attacks than battered London. A captured enemy document stressed the strategic value of the port:

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The defense of the approaches to Antwerp represents a task which is decisive for the future of the War. After overrunning the Scheldt Estuary defenses, the English would finally be in a position to land great masses of material to deliver the deathblow at the northern German plateau and at Berlin before the onset of winter. We must hold the Scheldt fortification to the end. The German people are watching us."

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The Division, attached to the First Canadian Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Guy G. Simmonds, moved up to relieve elements of the 146th British Brigade. The first field order, issued 24 October from the Command Post at Hofstrade (Hoogstraten), Belgium, directed the Regiment to assemble at Wuestwezel (Wuust-Wezel) in preparation for the relief on 25 October 1944.

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The First and Third Battalions completed relief of troops of the British 49th Highlanders, then in a defensive position with no enemy contact, at 1130. First Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. John H. Elliott, was on the right in contact with the 414th. Third Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. Gerald C. Kelleher, was on the left with an exposed flank. Second Battalion was in reserve. A squadron of the 147th Royal Air Force was attached to the Combat Team. Terrain was flat, spotted with patches of woods.

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First contact with the enemy was made in mid-morning, when both Battalions encountered scattered small arms fire while moving to Phase Line "A", a few yards short of the Dutch border. They reached the objective early in the afternoon, and at 1507 received orders to set out for Phase Line "B", about one mile forward. After advancing about 200 yards, Third Battalion was fired on by half a dozen Germans armed with machine pistols, in earthen emplacements along the edge of a woods, and the fight was on.

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First Battalion, moving across the Dutch border and through the small village of De Paal, encountered mortar and artillery fire from the vicinity of Achtmaal and Ostaaien, Holland. Both Battalions, under heavy fire, stopped to reorganize under cover of darkness in preparation for an early morning attack.

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On this night T/4 Guillermo C. Alvarez (Awarded Silver Star, Go#20, 1 Dec. '44, 104th Inf.Div.) of the Medical Detachment left his covered position under withering machine gun fire to go forward and give aid to and to evacuate a badly wounded man 100 yards away. The leg wound of the man made the process of the evacuation very slow, but Alvarez continued until he was brought back to safety.

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Under cover of early morning darkness on 26 October, Third Battalion moved out across flat, marshy terrain commanded by German machine gunners and riflemen on high ground. While crossing a swamp in an attempt to flank the stubborn enemy the Battalion ran into heavy mortar fire which inflicted several casualties and halted them astride the north-south road southeast of Achtmaal.

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It was necessary for the men to wade through water up to their armpits in bringing up ammunition and evacuating wounded, with the Battalion receiving fire from well-emplaced machine guns, riflemen, and machine pistol artists hidden in buildings.

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The First Battalion had an exposed fight flank, due to the withdrawal of the 414th Infantry to Phase Line "A" after they had run into heavy machine gun crossfire. The Battalion itself was pinned to the ground for an hour and a half and subjected to

an intense artillery and mortar barrage. The opening bursts of a machine gun killed Capt. Bernard S. McKernney, Commander of Company A, and a mortar round severely wounded Lt. Col. Elliott, Battalion Commander as he was attempting to contact Company C to bring it up behind Company A. Capt. Martin Prevics assumed command of the Battalion.

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Sgt. Clifford P. Hinkle (Awarded Distinguished Service Cross, GO #23, 30 Jan 45, Ninth U. S. Army), Company D, dragged a heavy machine gun through a hail of fire and from his exposed position poured fire into the enemy for a half hour, finally neutralizing the enemy fire, thus saving his Battalion from heavier casualties.

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Second Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Peter Denisevich, was motorized and moved up to secure the Division right flank. Col. Cochran issued the order to straighten the lines and maintain contact with the enemy. Aggressive patrolling was initiated.

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On this day T/Sgt. Edward P. ArbogaSt(Awarded Silver Star, Go #16, 21 Nov 44, 104th Inf. Div.), Company A, crawled under devastating machine gun and mortar fire to a position where with hand grenades he silenced one of the enemy machine guns. A full moon added to the hazards of the exploit, but all night he continued his harassing fire at enemy positions, bolstering the morale of his platoon greatly by his actions.

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Company K was being harassed by mortar, artillery and machine gun fire when Pfc. David W. Piker (Awarded Silver Star, GO #20, 1 Dec 44, 104th Inf. Div.), unheeding of his own danger, set about on the self-appointed task of aiding and evacuating wounded comrades for a fourteen-hour period until further evacuation was possible.

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In the early morning hours, Chaplain Gerald A. Quinn (Awarded Silver Star, GO # 12, 12 Nov 44, 104th Inf. Div.) constantly exposed himself, moving about the field in the Third Battalion sector in spite of intense fire to comfort the wounded. In one instance he moved across an open field being raked by fire to reach a wounded man in a ditch, and returned to lead litter bearers to evacuate the man.

There was little rest for the two Battalions during the night, as the enemy used many harassing patrols. The Germans reoccupied two earthworks with men armed with machine pistols, who diverted attention while patrols slipped in to the First Battalion area. Germans twenty-five yards away attempted to lob potato-masher grenades into Third Battalion foxholes and used automatic weapons to impede the advance.

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Cannon Company, under the command of Capt. Forrest L. Gregory, during the afternoon and night 26-27 October pinpointed tanks and self-propelled guns. Fire order corrections were supplied by First Lt. William M. Tifts, forward with a Company C outpost. Cannon-ballers, augmented by fire from the 929th Field Artillery Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Vernon G. Gilbert, fired missions on church steeples and radio transmitters and laid harassing fire on Achtmaal. A fire mission on troublesome Aartsberg Woods caused the Germans to retreat, leaving behind large stores of supplies.

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During the day six Germans had come out of the woods carrying a white flag, but their own troops opened fire on them, forcing them to return. A "German"taIking Polish, came toward the Company L lines. When First Lt. Thomas Danowski answered him in his native tongue, he threw himself on his knees and cried,

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Company I had set fire to a house employed as an enemy stronghold and shot six "civilians" fleeing the flames. They proved to be soldiers in civilian outer dress. Troops were subjected to a great deal of behind-the-lines sniping and to mortar file obviously directed by these "civilians." Snipers who were killed or captured often wore civilian clothes under their overcoats. It was found expedient for these reasons to evacuate all civilians from the combat area, sending them to interrogation points where suspicious individuals were held for further investigation.

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Patrols entered Achtmaal to find that it had been abandoned by the Germans. According to civilians, the enemy had taken up positions about five kilometers to the north. In Achtmaal the Dutch underground leader met Lt. Col. Kelleher and conducted hum to a secret room where he showed the Third Battalion Commander plans for all the defenses of Holland by the Germans. The 413th took Zundert, the Division objective, and all troops advanced to Phase Line "B" for the night of 27 October

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Examples of heroism were in mounting evidence. T/4 Burton S. Gavitt (Awarded Silver Star, Go #19, 28 Nov 44. 104th Inf.Div.), Medical Detachment, as an aid man gave aid to the wounded under intense shell fire and, although twice wounded himself, continued his ministrations with utter disregard for his own personal safety. After eleven hours of ceaseless labor, he dropped, exhausted.

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Pfc. Michael Joseph Moroz (Awarded Silver Star, Go #19, 28 Nov 44. 104th Inf.Div.) Medical Detachment, another aid man, on the night of 27 October moved about open terrain further lighted by burning hedgerows to give aid to and to evacuate wounded. Although subjected to intense fire, he moved into adjacent areas to evacuate the wounded.

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Regiment sustained during the operation thirty-seven killed and 135 wounded.

On Page 66 of TIMBERWOLF TRACKS under the heading

THE ATTACK ON ZUNDERT, HOLLAND is the following:

The surprising efficiency of the Dutch "underground" which flourished in the Netherlands despite Nazi attempts to root it out, is illustrated by the following narrative of Lieutenant Colonel Kelleher, of the 415th Infantry, concerning the discovery of secret documents of incalculable importance to the First Canadian Army:

On October 27, 1944 1 entered the town of Achtenwaal (Achtmaal) with the advance guard of the 3d Battalion of the 415th Infantry (Regiment). At first the town seemed deserted. At the main intersection a uniformed man came out to meet us. He identified himself as a Dutch police officer and asked for the senior allied commander. When I made myself known he asked me for identification and then showed me his identification which was operator (No. -) of the Dutch underground. He then brought me into a house. In the living room on the ground floor he shoved back a stove which hung on a hinge. Where the stove had been was a concrete slab. This he removed and brought out a large neatly wrapped bundle of papers which had been given to him by Dutch underground operator with orders to turn them over to the first Allied officer he met. I immediately sent these back to the Division.

The "papers" upon inspection proved to be two bulky volumes of maps, overlays, and logistical data, which detailed town by town, the entire defense system of the Nazis in Holland. This priceless find was rushed by G-2 to First Canadian Army Headquarters on the outskirts of Antwerp, where the data saved many lives and insured the success of the final British drive through the Netherlands seven months later.

The 414th and 415th Infantry Regiments maintained pressure on the enemy in the center and in the left zone, while the 413th Infantry warily attacked toward Zundert.

In memory of our great Uncle Frans Oostvogels.

...

The obituary says: Pray for the soul of deceased Franciscus Jacobus Oostvogels Husband of Maria Petronella Peters, Born in Achtmaal. November 11, 1915 and deceased in Breda on October 24, 1944.

Provided with the goods of mercy of our Mother the Holy Church.

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Gods Holiness we are praised even if he all of a sudden asks the sacrifice of a young life.

But dead couldn't surprise him. Through his devote Christian life, he always was prepared to listen to the call of God.

My dear and badly hit wife, trust in Gods mercifulness and goodness.

And all of you, that I have loved here on earth, I'll stay in your memory, and I also will never forget you.

One day we'll all be joined again with God in and eternal and limitless happiness.

Lord, Give him eternal rest and the eternal light will shine on him. Amen.

R.I.P.

In the book "Oorlog en Bevrijding Zundert en Rijsbergen 1940 - 1945"

Written by Joke Buiks - Hendrickx and Jan Bastiaansen it says on pages 285 - 286:

THE LIBERATION DAYS

FIGHTING AT THE BORDER

After the landing in Normandy on June the sixth 1944 the allies had to fight terrible battles. Thousands of casualties fell on both sides. They fought for every yard. It took weeks before a reasonable bridgehead was made. Slowly the allies progressed. Half October 1944 the frontline of the German army had on the Belgian Dutch border had a peculiar form.

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Between Woensdrecht and Alphen was a deep sack. Exactly in this sack were the villages Wuustwezel, Loenhout, Achtmaal, Wernhout en Zundert.

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The allies, the British 49th West-Riding Division and the Canadian 4th Armored Division, first wanted to get rid of this sack. The 104th American Timberwolf division was to relieve the British 49th division.

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Operation "Pheasant" code-name "Suitcase" started in the morning of Friday October the 20th just after seven AM. Artillery constantly fired on the German position. There was a rain of grenades. Much damage was done in the Belgian part. In the afternoon around three o'clock the St.Vincentius seminary Wernhoutsburg was unexpectedly hit by some grenades, especially the chapel got severe damage.

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This day the allies made some progress, they had; moved on to the Belgian custom bureau. Not to many extra problems were expected. But what they didn't know was that extra reinforcements were about to come for the Germans. Opposition was planned. The lost grounds had to be recovered. Even in the afternoon of October the 20th German troops were going in the direction of the Belgian border. Between 15.00 and 18.00 hrs on the road from Breda to BelgiŰ, German Artillery transport was going towards the border. Six tractors on tracks with two wheeled cannons with 2.5-meter fire-mouth came through Rijsbergen and Zundert. The next morning, October 21 between five and six, about fifty tanks and other vehicles rattled towards Zundert. With this column there were also flame-throwers on tracks and every 7th car was an ammunition wagon. Eight tractors on tracks pulled cannons of 8 to 12,5 meters. 5 full tracks transported the soldiers. Around half past six again 30 tanks passed. Part of them with short thick cannons and some with long and slim fire-mouths. Part of these tanks assembled in Zundert on the market, their fire-mouths aimed at BelgiŰ. All the others had to go towards Wernhout. On Stuivezand, Laarheide and Klein-Zundert extra cannons were placed. The extra troops should have arrived on October the 20th and the 21st but they only came in small groups. Hours later then planned the extra troops of the 245e Infantry division at last arrived in Wernhout on the border.

The tanks were situated in the park of the seminary. The troops moved in the corridors, classrooms and the chapel.

In the front room of the seminary in a conference room a German command post was made. Another conference room became a Red Cross post.

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In the front room of the seminary in a conference room a German command post was made. Another conference room became a Red Cross post October 1944.

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Headquarters for the surrounding troops was stationed In Achtmaal. Miles of phone cable were put in from different places where the Germans were towards Achtmaal.

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Headquarters consisted of a General, a General Major, Three majors, three captains ten lieutenants and one-hundred and thirty troops. The Generals quarters were in the parochial presbytery the telephone-unit was in the cellar of the post office in the Pastoor de Bakkerstreet. In the house of Mister van Bedaf. Also in this street staff-meetings were held. Besides this there were some panzer troops without cannons.

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Now that the German troops more or less had regained their strength they started their offensive on Saturday the 21st of October. In the front house of the seminary at 11.4 hr the German order "angriff auf Braken", (attack of Braken) was heard.

Achtmaal old Picturepostcards

We are still translating more information

 

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ęcopyright Jeanne Oostvogels van Dijk

Note/opmerking: as far as we know there is no copyright the shown pictures in this site, if we are mis informed please tell us and we'll remove the picture at once the story is of the original 415th combat history and Timberwolf tracks and for the others we asked permission/ zo ver wij weten is er geen coppy right op de getoonde foto's op deze site, als we verkeerd zijn ge´nformeerd meld het ons dan en wij zullen betreffende afbeelding verwijderen Het verhaal is van de originele gevechts historie van de 415de en van Timberwolf Tracks, voor de andere boeken hebben we toestemming gevraagd