60th Infantry Regiment, (9th Inf. Div.)
(30 January - 10 February)



Interview: Colonel John G. Van Houten, CO, 60th Regt. Major N. J. Hennen, Regtl S-3

Time and Place: This interview took place on the afternoon of 15 February, in the CP of the 60th. The CP was located in a shell-pocked house in DREIBORN. The CO was out of the CP during the first part of the interview, but returned in time to add pertinent details in so far as command decisions were concerned. Outside of a few normal telephone conversations, and several single mortar and artillery shells landing m the vicinity of the CP, there were no interruptions

Maps: GSGS 4414 1:25000 Sheets No 5304, 5403, and 5404.

Interviewer: 2nd Lt. A. J. Webber (V Corps)


Previous to the attack on 30 January, the 60th Infantry Regiment was in position in the vicinity of MUTZENICH. Activity was confined to patrol actions probing the enemy defenses to the east and northeast, to ascertain the degree of strength that the enemy held in that sector, as well as their dispositions (Col. Van Houten).

On the night previous to the attack, the 60th moved into positions abreast the MONSCHAU-HOFEN road preparatory to the jump-off, with the 3-60 on the left of the 2-60. A piece of good fortune occurred between 2000-2200, 29 January when 8 deserters gave themselves over to the 395th Infantry Regiment, 99th Division. Upon interrogation, the PWs disclosed the important information that they ad been outposting a line running perpendicular to the HOFEN-ROHREN road about 1500 meters southwest of ROHREN (965165), (information given by Major Hennen).

The Division objective for the initial phase of the attack was ROHREN, with the 60th Infantry making the main effort. The Regimental plan envisioned an early morning, pre-dawn attack on ROHREN by the 2-60, while the 3-60 protected the 2nd bn's left flank by advancing to the horseshoe-shaped high ground west of ROHREN in a pocket formed by the curve of the road. 1 platoon, each of tanks and TDs, were to support the 3-60 in obtaining its objective. After the two battalions were on their way, the reserve battalion was to close into HÖFEN, to be more readily available for support of either of the units (Col Van Houten).

The line into which the attack was to be made had been static for four months. The enemy had utilized the period of inactivity by improving dugouts and booby trapping and mining all routes of approach, especially firebreaks, which were the only paths open through the heavy timber plantations. The terrain further dictated the time and method of attack, for it is particularly well suited for defensive action. The hills are very steep, cut by narrow valleys. Interspersed woods and bald open spaces on the commanding terrain give excellent observation to artillery and mortar observers. Furthermore, it was necessary to employ night and pre-dawn maneuvers for the surprise effect as well as a measure to guard the safety of the assaulting troops.

The weather during this period was an additional detriment to the efficiency of the infantry. Snow drifts were often arm-pit deep, while the roads were indistinguishable from the fields or firebreaks. A swept road was soon covered through the action of a violent wind. Wheeled vehicles were inoperative while tracked vehicles often experienced great difficulty in maneuvering. Mine-detectors were useless due to the heavy covering of snow over the mines. The temperature added to the tribulations of the infantrymen. The assault troops wore snow capes.

The attack commenced at 0400 30 January, with the 2-60 marching cross-country in a column of companies, using the HÖFEN-ROHREN road as a guiding line. The route of march took the battalion through the gap in the German lines held previously by the deserters who had surrendered to the 395th Infantry, and whose outpost had not been manned. The battalion closed into ROHREN and had the town under control before daylight. There were no German soldiers in the town itself and not one man was lost en route.

Meanwhile, 3-60 was advancing to the high ground around (9517), two companies abreast with Company I on the right and Company L on the left. Though the distance from the LD to the objective was approximately 2000 meters, the advance had been accomplished to this point under the cover of darkness and under extremely difficult weather conditions. A blinding snow storm together with the constantly rising terrain, worked a hardship on the men (Col. Van Houten). The snow was quite deep and the wind blew continually. At the break of dawn, the men were open to enemy observation as they proceded to their objective, up a bald ridge. During the hours of darkness, Company I had passed an enemy CP pillbox (960176) on their right flank. As visibility increased with the passage of time, the infantry and their supporting tanks came under intense flanking small arms fire from the right. Three tanks and one TD had been lost in an AT mine field at (955173). After reaching a point due west of the pillbox (953176), it was necessary for Company I to withdraw 100 yards and reorganize. The left company, Company I, proceded without too much opposition, cleaning out one pillbox (948178), swung to the right as they hit the road (948180) to aid in the envelopment of the strong points within the pocket, opening the road as they went. That night, I Company was relieved by Company K.

As soon as day broke, the Germans discovered the 2-60 in ROHREN. Groups and single Germans, going both ways, crossed the road (964193) between the woods. Lt. Col. Quentin R. Hardage, battalion commander, organized a perimeter defense of the town. Making full use of the platoon of tanks and the platoon of TDs which accompanied the reserve Company G into the town at 0915, Hardage was ready for any attack the enemy might launch. The enemy did not molest the reserve column as they passed down the road in their view (Col. Van Houten). (See overlay of defenses of Rohren). The armor was placed to guard the roads and entrances to the battalion area. Finally, at 1400, about 60 German infantry counterattacked the position, pushing from the northwest. They walked into the loaded muzzles of the waiting armor and infantry and the attack was repulsed quickly, without the loss of a man.

The problem of resupply of food and ammunition and the evacuation of the wounded from the sector was quite a difficult one. Weasels were used in the 3-60 area, and only full tracked vehicles could negotiate the roads to ROHREN.

By Division order coming at 2000 30 January, the 60th Infantry mission included a battalion attack on WIDDAU in order to make contact with the 78th Infantry Division and the 7th Armored Division driving down from the north. The attack was again to be made under the cover of darkness.

With this new development (a battalion attack on WIDDAU instead of a strong patrol), the 1-60 was ordered from its reserve position in HÖFEN to take over ROHREN while the 2-60 pushed on to WIDDAU (945180?). 1-60 was ready by 0300 31 January. At the same time, a 10-battalion artillery concentration of TOT rocked WIDDAU. 2-60 passed the LD (975180) at 0430 in a column of companies, G leading (See 2-60 interview). About 800 yards from the town, the column came upon enemy entrenchments and bunkers situated on both sides of the road. These Germans had not been aroused by the artillery bombardment and 83 PWs were taken. WIDDAU too was taken without the loss of a man despite a short, brisk fire fight in the town. There was complete surprise in the attack, despite the preliminary barrage. (The jump-off was postponed long enough after the artillery preparation so that the enemy was lulled into a feeling of security when the attack did not follow immediately) . Contact was made (982192) with the 78th Infantry Division and the 7th Armored Division at 0950. This maneuver sandwiched the enemy between the 9th Infantry Division, the 78th Infantry Division and the 7th Armored Division on the north. These entrapped Germans attempted to escape by infiltrating in small groups to the north and east.

The 60th Infantry was relieved on 31 January by the 102nd Cavalry Group, which took over the infantry's positions in ROHREN and WIDDAU. 1—60 was withdrawn from ROHREN 1 February.

The new mission was assigned to the regiment:, that of taking the town of DREIBORN. 1-60, making the initial push, moved to CR 604 while 3-60 assembled in an area west of the road junction. The reserve battalion was to occupy 3-60's positions after 3-60 moved out.

The assaulting battalion left the RJ and passed the LD at 1500 1 February. There was sporadic small arms shooting as the column pushed northwest through the woods. Snow and enemy mines constantly slowed the tempo, even more than the rearguard action by the enemy. However, at nightfall, the infantry hit a German line around the Forsthaus ROTHEKREUZ. In the ensuing stiff action, the 1-60 succeeded in taking all but one of the houses. (See 1-60 interview). That night a counterattack was beaten off at pistol range.

The only importance that could be attached to the houses as the cover from the elements, because these were the on!y dwellings in the vicinity. After the attack had been beaten off, the Germans withdrew from the one house that had remained in their position.

The scheme for 2 February was for the 1-60 to seize RJ (005160) after which the 3-60 was to pass through the leading battalion, while 2-60 remained in reserve. The ultimate objective was DREIBORN.

1-60 jumped off at 0730 but soon ran into trouble from a mine field (003159) and emplaced Machine guns firing from the firebreaks near the road function (005160). The engineers found it impossible to sweep the mine field until the infantry had cleaned out the source of the fire. Col. Van Houten ordered the supporting tanks up to clean out the bunkers which were delaying the infantry. The tanks came forward, fortunately missing the mines, and cleared the area. 11 PWs were taken from the strong point. The assault battalion, with Company A on the left and Company B on the right, pushed on to their objective - the hair-pin turn (009166) in the road and 3-60 passed through, taking the bridge (008158) intact (Col Van Houten).

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, 3-60 moved forward, beating down rear-guard action from withdrawing Germans, until the infantry reached (0316).

Tanks and TDs attempted to follow the foot elements but the armor was delayed at the stream (022155) and were forced to take another route. Since supply would have been impossible if the 3-60 were to push on to DREIBORN, and because of the difficulty which the armor encountered in its advance, Col. Van Houten decided to hoId in the positions until morning and again make an early morning assault on the objective for he knew that his right flank was secured by the 2nd Infantry Division on the south. (Supply would have been impossible because of the great difficulty that wheeled vehicles experienced in traveling over the icy and snow-banked terrain. Tracked vehicles were the only means of supply and it was impracticable to shuttle them from DREIBORN to the rear, when they were needed for future and immediate defensive and offensive operations. Hand resupply was the only other way of supplying necessary items to the infantry. Van Houten said that had it not been for armor difficulty at the ford, which necessitated backing the tanks and TDs down and going up a trail to the north, his regiment could have proceded to DREIBORN that day, 2 February, and cut off all of the Division Artillery belonging to the Germans. (Col Van Houten).

Zero hour for the attack was 3 February 0400. In the absence of visual reconnaissance, excellent aerial photographs were used (1:10,000). The 1-60 and 2-60 were to attack abreast with 1-60 on the right, taking the southern half of the town.

Both battalions were to move out in a column of companies. In the 1-60 the order of march was C, B, A, while in the 2-60 it was F and G. Company F was to enter the town from the northeast. The armor was attached to the lead company and enter the town from the northeast. The armor was attached to the attacking battalions and was to come into the town at dawn. In order to clear the known minefields, the oldest and most battered tank was to precede the column until stopped by a mine. Then the sappers were to carry on and clear the field so that the armor could be on hand when the infantry needed them.

Several hours (0200) prior to the attack, artillery placed TOT (time on target) on the town. The two battalions jumped off at 0400 and passed through the enemy outposts without alarming anyone. The first contact came at a house (053105). The house contained 8 sleeping Germans with one guard. The guard was removed without any difficulty and 9 PWs were apprehended without arousing the town.

Company C hit pillboxes southwest of town and it took two hours to neutralize them. At dawn, Companies A, B, F and G entered the extremities of DREIBORN. Company A soon became over—extended and it was necessary for Company B to pass through to continue,the mopping—up process. With the aid of the tanks and TDs, which arrived at daybreak, the town was quickly reduced, after a house to house fight. The Germans lost 227 PWs and 50 KIAs while the two battalions suffered one officer and eight enlisted men killed and 5 wounded. By 1030, the entire town was secure with the exception of a castle at the east end of DREIBORN.

This maneuver cut off the German outposts. According to PW reports, the enemy had been waiting for the amor to come up from WAHLERSCHEID CR only to find the tanks and TDs behind them. In their estimation the route taken by the armor was impassable.

The task of taking the castle was given to the 1-60, and its mission was accomplished in time for 3-60 to jump off for the next objective, HERHAHN. The order to take HERHAHN was received at 1200 {Col. Van Houten). The garrison in the castle capitulated at 1710, and the 3-60 passed through the LD (which was at CR (069174) at that time.

One platoon each of tanks and TDs accompanied the assaulting battalion, but ran into AT mines at (083180) and all but one vehicle was put out of commission.

By 2400, the CR on the west side of HERHAHN was gained, through no small part played by American artillery, which had been interdicting the road during the greater part of the day. A strong German counterattack with infantry and 2 supporting SPs was launched by the Germans during the early morning hours of 4 February. The fight continued throughout the hours of darkness and then the Germans withdrew.

Meanwhile Company I drove into MORSBACH. There were a few members of a German aid station in the town, in addition to the civilians. The civilians were awakened by the infantrymen and coffee and cake was served to the soldiers.

That morning at 0800, the 60th Infantry was relieved by the 39th Infantry. The 60th went into Division reserve in DREIBORN and remained there until 6 February.

At 1145 8 February, the 60th was ordered by the Division to an assembly area between STRAUCH and SCHMIDT. (0329). After issuing a fragmentary, oral field order to the battalions, Col. Van Houten proceeded to the area with his staff and battalion commanders. All possible visual reconnaissance was performed before the hour of darkness, but the company commanders were able to see but little of what they wanted, and relied on aerial photographs again for reconnaissance (Col. Van Houten).

It was necessary for the attacking battalion to leave the assembly area just before midnight in order to hit the LD, 1000 yards east of SCHMIDT before daybreak.

The plan for the attack on HASENFELD called for the 2-60 to pass through the 310th Infantry, while the 3-60 swung north, and went into an assembly area behind the LD prepared to assist the 2-60. The 1-60 was to displace forward and relieve the 3-60 when the 3-60 was committed.

The 2-60 ran into trouble as they hit the LD. The Germans infiltrated to some of the houses on the outskirts of SCHMIDT during the night. It became necessary to commit the 3-60 almost immediately and the two battalions advance abreast. The 2-60 advanced following the conformation of the road with tanks on the road; thee 3-60 swung in a large arc on the left of 2-60.

There were 2-3 enemy tanks or SPs on Hill 418 (090285) which were holding up the troops and tanks advancing to the southeast. The fear of a mine field further delayed the tanks in relieving the pressure of enemy small arms and SP fire coming from the high ground. Van Houten ordered the CO of 2—60 to commandeer a mine flail to pre— cede the tanks and explode the mine field. Artillery and Cannon Company placed smoke on the enemy positions. Simultaneously, the tanks rushed up behind the firebeak and fired at the German positions on the hill. The enemy SPs withdrew several hundred yards towards HASENFELD and the dam. The supporting tanks advanced, following in the tracks made by the enemy. Company E and F then occupied the high ground, and reorganized, while 3-60 took over the area on the north side of the road. Company G with the tanks processed into HASENFELD and held th is in a saucerlike depression, with hills surrounding the town from three sides. It is a very exposed position, for observers in the hills about are able to place accurate observed artillery and mortar fire on the town (Col. Van Houten).

Companies I and L helped Company G to complete the capture of HASENFELD. A sizeable force of German infantry aided by 3 tanks held tenaciously to the town.

During the night, the enemy withdrew, blowing the bridges at (094264) and (107271).

By morning 10 February, Co K occupied the high ground in the boot of the river without any difficulty. Co G sent patrols to the blown bridge at (094264).


Honoring Pvt. Wallace G. Pelkey, Company C, 60th Inf. Regt., 9th Inf. Div.

Note by his granddaughter Cindy M.:
My grandfather arrived in Germany sometime around Sept 17, 1944, and was injured the first time Oct 12, 1944.

Granddad was sent back to the frontlines after he was injured on Oct 12, 1944 and was injured again on Feb 1, 1945. He was emotionally and physically disabled. I believe he may have stepped on a land mine.

Source: N.A.R.A. Archives

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