Mann found Sparks a curious figure. The Finnish pursuit was halfhearted, and the 6th SS succeeded in reaching Norway, where it boarded trains for home. Headquarters company used every available man to move ammunition and food to the rifle companies. Support units such as the 45th Signal Company also suffered casualties and required replacements to be reconstituted as did the combat units. Smoke poured out and Voss watched the crew bailing out and taking cover behind the second tank. The assault had started relatively easily, giving rise to the nickname “Champagne Campaign,” as Allied troops quickly put the Germans to flight. After only 10 yards, he fell as bullets ripped through him. One of the battalion officers told O’Brien about Sparks leading the tanks on a rescue effort. Arrival in the harsh terrain of the Vosges, coupled with the onset of a fierce winter, ended any thought of a lightning thrust into southern Germany. Organization: Company E, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division Place and date: Near Grammont, France, 12-13 September 1944. A few minutes later two soldiers from a different squad joined them. Still, they held out, refusing to give in and praying for their fellow Thunderbirds to reach them. When Sparks was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on January 18, Frederick denied it. He positioned them on the supply route to ensure it stayed open and sent every spare soldier from his own headquarters company to carry ammunition and food to his battered riflemen. 157th Infantry Regiment T-shirts, Mugs, stickers and more with the 157th Infantry Regiment unit crest. One soldier overheard an officer talking about holding a nearby American-occupied position at all costs. Casualties and attrition had drained the original membership away, so many soldiers were replacements from across the nation. A trailer was hooked to each tank to carry supplies. The regiment was a subordinate unit to the 45th Infantry Division, initially formed in Oklahoma. Sparks didn’t seem to care anyway. © STIWOT, 1999-2021. The advance continued until 12:30 pm. All units would hold in place except the 179th soldiers and the 1/157. To this point, 3/157 had lost 118 soldiers over the past three days; a third of the battalion’s strength was dead or wounded. Only a few men remained from the regiment’s muster in 1940. The SS officers also promised not to mistreat any prisoners. At 4:15 pm, a company of German troops counterattacked Company K, hitting hard on its left flank. Fleming told his men to lay down suppressing fire; every man in the hole opened up with whatever he had. Divisional information Divisional troops Attachments Assignments ... 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division (less 3rd Battalion) ... 157th Infantry Regiment: 44th Infantry Division: 25.11.1944-27.11.1944: 160th FA Battalion: Private Emmett Neff, a radioman, volunteered to go. We had no way of evacuating the wounded, much less the dead, until night.” GIs searched the enemy corpses and found papers showing them to be from the 12th Company, 11th Regiment, Nord Division. Benjamin Melton and Private Walter Bruce, both from Company I. Melton reported they set out with another man who was soon killed by machine-gun fire. He loaded all the supplies onto the back deck of the remaining Stuart and abandoned the trailer. - Fold3 But there’s NEVER been anything like THIS before. The tank stopped cold and jerked off the road,” Voss wrote. The unit that the 157th would face at Reipertswiller had likewise traveled a long way to arrive in the Vosges Mountains in January. Before long artillery started falling, sending lethal shards of shrapnel ripping through the freezing air. A fireball! For the Germans it was “a fierce, uphill fight.” American mortars and machine guns swept them as they struggled to advance on January 16, and it didn’t seem much progress was being made. As the Americans pressed forward they came under enemy fire; the lieutenant leading the armored cars was hit by a sniper while in his vehicle. This was the last resupply the trapped Americans would receive. They had just finished moving around the American-held hill when they almost fell victim to their own artillery. Fleming decided to send a runner to the battalion command post. As the night continued, Sparks reorganized for the next day. They began pressing the Germans, and Voss feared they might break through. In effect, Sparks’s 3/157 had been wiped out, and the other two battalions had taken grievous casualties. After a while they reached their objective, a position directly behind Company I and near the trail the Americans were using to bring up supplies. Mann didn’t know it, but Sparks had grown up hunting in Arizona to help feed his family during the Depression. The day’s results had been disappointing but understandable given the intense barrage, but none of the other attacking battalions had done any better. Winter’s early darkness descended over the thick woods, so Sparks ordered all three companies to dig in for the night. The 411th Infantry’s attack went in as planned but, like those before, achieved nothing. The site also has an historical sketch of the regiment. German troops hit the 1st and 2nd Battalions while they struggled to link up with their trapped comrades. They were successful and spent January 12 defending the two hills from attacks by SS men supported by artillery. There was no mention of a muster out date. 45th US Infantry Division "Thunderbird" home. The patrol returned to Company B just in time to man foxholes against a German attack from the northeast. Seventh Army. The sleeping bag absorbed much of the blast and, though in shock, he was uninjured. The mood on the American side was one of disappointment and anger. In addition, the RCT normally had a company of tanks from the 191st Tank Battalion, as well as engineer, tank destroyer, and medical assets at hand. Some of the American survivors later reported the enemy using flamethrowers. It quickly fell apart. Sparks was exhausted and wondered how he had survived. He also directed the gunner to open up with the tank’s long-barreled 76mm main gun. By 11:45 am, Company C had managed to link up with Company L’s right flank. The sergeant dashed to Neff and dragged him back to the hole. Sparks sent the battalion’s antitank platoon to shore up the beleaguered riflemen. Sparks’s battalion was the left flank unit of the division, with Krieger’s men to its right and a battalion of the 79th Division’s 315th Infantry to its left. Slowly, he and his comrades crept on through the dark, seeking to complete their encirclement. Yet, those who were there remember it vividly as a desperate struggle to stave off a German attack and rescue beleaguered comrades. Despite his experience, it was the first time the young soldier had seen a tank destroyed. A sergeant from Company K recalled, “It was the worst mess I ever saw. WWII Quarterly, the hardcover journal of the Second World War that is not available in bookstores or on newsstands, and can only be obtained and collected through a personal subscription through the mail. Other units along the front would attack as well. After terrifying moments, however, Fleming managed to make good his escape and found his platoon leader. He set to work translating the American transmissions. Machine-gun sections from the weapons companies were attached to each rifle company for added firepower. As the riflemen prepared, a platoon of 4.2-inch chemical mortars capable of firing smoke or explosive rounds set up in Reipertswiller. When they heard Fleming’s men firing, they made their way over. Dismissing his injuries as minor, Sparks felt he had to return to his duties; he had to be with his men. Since it was a relatively small battle coinciding with larger events, it received relatively little attention. Sparks did indeed mount a rescue effort using a pair of M-4 Sherman tanks, which had just arrived at the command post. The 2nd Battalion, 157th, was sent to retake the hills that night. He felt more comfortable with a shotgun than a carbine or rifle; he didn’t feel he could shoot either as well. In the coming weeks, other divisions of the Seventh Army were combed for replacements to rebuild the 157th to fighting strength. Fort Chaffee, Ark. After dark, Voss and his machine-gun crew were reassigned to a different company and again sent up the hill. The corporal gave his assent, cautioning the soldier to be careful not to draw friendly fire and to be back within a half hour. With those units in such exposed positions it was harrowing work, but they kept on through the night. Though the batteries were slowly dying in the cold, the surrounded companies still had tenuous radio contact with their headquarters. His .45 pistol had custom grips containing photos of either his wife Mary or a pinup girl, depending on which version of the story one believes. The whole time, no SS men fired at him. Thanks, this is such a long shot. Sparks continued to Fleming’s men farther along the path. With that, Fleming ran out to Mathiason and dropped down next to him, but the young GI was dead. One officer was hit directly and just disappeared. was KIA Jan. 15, 1945 in this engagement. About the same time, Colonel O’Brien sent part of the reserve force composed of antitank soldiers and engineers to clear the area behind 2nd and 3rd Battalions. On the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum invites you to immerse yourself in the lives and heroism of the men and women who fought for our country. Like many officers, the traits that made him a good combat leader also made him difficult with superiors, particularly those of whom he thought little. That essentially ended the efforts for January 18. Fighting continued throughout the day. Shortly after 6 pm a message came in from regimental headquarters warning of a German counterattack brewing in front of them. All too often, the snow was stained red from the blood of wounded and dead Americans. Once the way was cleared for the M-4s, Sparks climbed aboard and led them up the trail toward his trapped and wounded men. With their commander out of the fight, the executive officer, Captain John L. McGinnis, took over and got the battalion moving on schedule. A retreat lasting until November began, with Soviet troops chasing the Germans and urging the Finns to engage their former allies before they escaped the country. Do you want to create your own battlefield tour to sights of wars from the past? For the encircled GIs, the situation was getting desperate. Looking for reliable information or news facts about WW2? One historian called the unit the best German infantry formation in the Vosges in early 1945, perhaps the best on the Western Front. It changed the world more than any other single event in history. Still, the 157th had the same problems as other RCTs in the winter of 1945. If that weren’t enough, a W-shaped pattern of several dozen mines lay across the road, hidden by the snow but now visible upon closer inspection. They passed through part of the battle area and saw frozen bodies still on the ground. One of them told Fleming an order to withdraw had been given, but they couldn’t get away. The breakout attempt was stopped cold. Seconds later, Sparks’s tank slid sideways, leaving its right side exposed to the enemy. While the German shelling continued through the night, Sparks planned for the coming day. The 157th Infantry Regiment, one of the units that liberated the camp on April 29, 1945, initially mustered from the state of Colorado. One of them was a squad leader, Sergeant Bernard Fleming. The officer was not one for casual conversation and often carried a shotgun pitched over his shoulder. A battalion of the 179th Infantry, another regiment of the 45th Division, was committed to the fight but also unable to break the German deadlock around the surrounded 157th troops. Only two soldiers made it back to the 157th’s lines: Pfc. Voss viewed the man through his binoculars and thought he was an officer. Would any relative of any member of his outfit maybe have any info about my uncle Len? Fighting still raged, but this company skirted around it to infiltrate around the American flanks and into their rear. Artillery and armored assets were also given to the division. He went back and forth, taking wounded soldiers and laying them on the deck of a tank. When he told the lieutenant about the trapped men, “He told me to tell Colonel Sparks, who then took a tank and went to get the wounded out.”. Along the way Norwegian resistance fighters considered attacking the train, including a Hollywood-style scheme to blow a bridge, sending the train hurtling to its doom. He quickly returned to the front lines despite the harrowing artillery. Even after the attack stopped, mortar fire kept raining down as Sparks’s men struggled to bring up ammunition. There were indeed many replacements, not all of them trained as infantrymen. O’Brien told the man to have Sparks stop the effort and wait for approaching reinforcements. It was poor weather for a fight; snow was falling, wrapping the forest in its wintry embrace, muffling noise, and making it difficult to see. They reported they were beating back enemy attacks but the SS were still managing to infiltrate around them. As he lay there, Captain McGinnis was brought in, wounded by the heavy shellfire. As the tanks clattered up the trail, Colonel O’Brien called to find out what was happening. Without warning an explosion tossed the jeep violently; they had struck a mine. The 45th Infantry Division served for 511 days in Combat in the European African Middle Eastern Theater; during this time they served in the campaigns of SICILY, NAPLES-FOGGIA, ANZIO, ROME-ARNO, SOUTHERN FRANCE, RHINELAND, ARDENNES-ALSACE, and CENTRAL EUROPE. My moms’ older brother PFC Leonard F. Ordway Co. H 157 Infantry 45 Infantry Div. Voss had to be treated for frostbite to his toes. After a month of hard fighting across Sicily, followed by the amphibious landings at Salerno and then at Anzio where the division prevented German efforts to split the Allied beachhead, the Thunderbirds were nearly worn out. In turn, this exposed the flank of another battalion of the attached 314th Infantry, 79th Division, forcing them back as well. 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