After a railroad trip through Germany we disembarked early on 09/17/44 in Jülich and then marched to Eschweiler. Fortunately the American air forces remained invisible. We took up positions at the eastern fringes of Eschweiler, at a dumpsite that was covered by trees and brush, well covered against air raids. The company had fighting strength and the officer posts were all filled. We had the following lineup: Company CO captain Gust, Platoon leaders: 1st Platoon Lieutenant Wolf, 2nd Platoon Sergeant Gockel, 3rd Platoon Staff Sergeant Martens, 4th Platoon Lieutenant Metscher, commander of the train: Sergeant Major Kienitz.
All we knew about the enemy was that he had already taken most of the Westwall in our area and that an attack against Eschweiler, by way of Werth and Hastenrath was likely to occur on 09/18.
I was assigned – along with my JG Platoon – to I./89, Captain Grönbold, and had to rely on cooperation with 1./89. In the morning of 09/18 I moved with my platoon into the prepared positions behind the slopes south of Werth. My guns were positioned south of Werth, "Am Oberen Busch." The I. Battalion had orders to take Diepenlinchen and then to attack to the southwest. The battalion had no neighbors to the left or right. Due to heavy ground fog, the attack was delayed and after it had cleared up we had to wait for artillery support. Suddenly, left of the battalion command post in the slopes, gunfire. An American reconnaissance squad had infiltrated our positions under cover of the fog. The American artillery began tentatively to sound out our positions behind the slopes with phosphorus grenades. Ourselves, we weren't permitted to take aim or to maintain radio connections. The light battery received orders to shoot at the town of Diepenlinchen immediately. A short shoot was intended and 1./89 was supposed to capitalize on its effect and to take the town in an assault. The forward gave his orders for the artillery assault. We (1./89 and the company squad III./1st IG Platoon) worked our way forward under visual cover as far as possible. But we still had to overcome 600-700 meters of open terrain. When the first shells howled by above our heads the signal for the attack was given. It worked well, the open terrain was crossed easily. I think there wasn't a single shot fired on the other side. During the assault I received the order from the CO of 1st Company, to set up my observer post just short of Diepenlinchen in order to guard the wide-open right flank of I. Battalion against a small forest. In the forest, the enemy, strength unknown, tanks likely. Gradually, the Americans had recovered from their shock and heavy MGs began firing out of the forest. Meanwhile 1st Company had reached and taken Diepenlinchen. The artillery now shifted its fire forward to the terrain south of Diepenlinchen. 3rd Company under Lieutenant Rix was sent forward with the order to attack from Diepenlinchen to the right and to establish a connection to the neighbor to the right. Initially, this attack gained ground but didn't lead to success because no connection to that neighbor could be established. The Ami, now fully recovered from his initial shock, now brought in Sherman tanks, more and more Sherman tanks. The 1st IG Platoon fired at targets on the edge of the small forest west of Diepenlinchen. In the afternoon the Ami attempted two counterattacks with tanks and motorized infantry. The tanks came out the forest to our right and gained open field. Fortunately, there were none of our units. It was time for me now to secure the open flank. Fortunately the radio connection worked well. I directed the mortar fire to the tanks so that the infantry had to get off their vehicles. I tried hard to hit the infantry first instead of the tanks but nevertheless we achieved tow direct hits on two different Sherman tanks. Both tanks didn't advance any more but served as rear-guard instead. The mortars fired salvo after salvo as fast as possible, everything that could left the barrels! The artillery also hit. But then the Ami managed to locate our radio. Their fire now hit our position so precisely that the radio personnel could no longer move. Shortly before dark disaster struck, the accumulator was empty. At dusk the American fire at our radio position ceded. My runner and an intelligence orderly received the order to exchange the empty accumulator and to bring two for the next day of possible. Connection by wire wasn't an option because the tanks and our own assault guns tore up the wires.
In the evening, a Corporal of 3rd Company and his group reported to me. He brought reinforcements that I had asked for in the morning because I couldn't direct the IG Platoon and lead a defensive struggle with assault riles and rifles on the side. [I think IG may stand for "Infanteriegeschütz," i.e. mortars – The Translator.]
It was very audacious to secure the open flank of an advancing battalion with only the firepower of one IG Platoon. We were lucky and got away with it.
Impatiently, I waited all night for the return of my two men and for the arrival of the rations, but none of them showed up before dawn. Later we learned that there was no accumulator left due to the heavy radio traffic of all IG platoons of the company and that our accumulator had to be taken back all the way to the charging-console of the regiment. The runner who was supposed to bring our rations had been wounded just 100 meters short and had been taken back to the rear by soldiers of 3rd Company. Through back channels I received the following message: "Wait, accumulator on its way from the regiment, will be brought up front immediately after arrival."
The night was also unpleasant because we had to live with artillery fire from both sides. We could understand to be targeted by the Ami, but why did one of our 15-cm mortars shell us with obstruction fire? Every 10-15 minutes such a shell hit right next to us. A disgusting situation!
The second day near Diepenlinchen approached. We still had no accumulator and thus no radio connection. We couldn't get a connection to work all day. The Ami started a counterattack and drove the I. Battalion, which had taken Diepenlinchen the day before, back to its initial positions after fierce combat. During the retreat they simply forgot all about us and so we had to stay. In our position hell had broken lose too on the mean time and thus we didn't even notice the retreat of I. Battalion. A tank with mounted infantry got under our skin, there was even an MG mounted to its turret. The fire hitting us from only about 75 meters out was about all we could handle.
The American infantry jumped off the tank, set out in the open field, and also started firing at us. All in all a lot of ammunition was wasted at us, fortunately only with minor success. We lay in tank cover-holes. These were about 50cm deep because the ground was rocks. The fireworks lasted until a counterattack was started at about noon. The Ami fired smoke shells and retreated. We had one casualty so far, the group leader of 3rd Company had died after having been hit by a heavy MG bullet. We could get active, as much as possible during the counterattack. We wanted to attack the tank with a panzerfaust that the group of 3rd Company had brought along. None of the chaps of 3rd Company was very eager to do and so I took the panzerfaust and looked for a suitable firing position. Before I could find one I heard the comrades shouting I should check the panzerfaust. And they were right, it didn't have a propellant. I soured on the tank-breaking attempt. I. Battalion reached our level again and they shouted that the town was going to be recovered. We breathed a sigh of relief. We were very relieved that we had a connection to our own troops again. But that fun situation was short-lived. I exhorted everyone to hang on and told them that even this day had to end at some point. I couldn't even have guessed how long it was going to be. Suddenly the situation changed, it was the Amis turn again. Shrapnel and phosphorus. I. Battalion ran, unhonored and unsung, and we were left without a connection once again. We couldn't even retreat because our old friend approached. It rolled toward us, firing from all barrels. To run, or retreat, as it also called, was no longer possible, especially we were in such a position that we would have had to cross open terrain that didn't offer any cover For us that meant: keep calm, wait, and crawl into the helmets. And how we had to crawl! This time the brothers really came close, so close that we could hear it when the lock inside the tank was opened and the cartridge fell out. The Amis continued their old tactics, trying to even the ground with their guns. It wasn't a surprise that the cry: "I am wounded!" could be heard twice in rapid succession. Asking back, I learned that it had only been flesh wounds, fortunately. A rifleman of 3rd Company and my RI, Corporal Kaismann had been hit. Corporal Kaismann eventually ended up with bullets through his thigh and buttocks. Some of us grew nervous during the barrage. Only when I yelled at them they calmed down. Surprisingly, the wounded lying in their cover holes without receiving any aid, staid calm. Time stood still. I had promised to everyone that I was going to lead them back at night, the wounded too. Then one of them lost his poise, he jumped up and deserted. It was the same guy who had talked about white handkerchiefs and other weird stuff all day. All the others had shown a faultless attitude, they clenched their teeth and hung in there. That was quite a performance, especially of those who were among the very young reinforcements. Once could monitor the advance of the tank since it was shooting star-shell ammunition. Our cover-holes got flatter and we could calculate the moment when our bones would be crushed. All of the holes were now only a few centimeters deep. Fortunately, dusk approached finally and the curses that came flying back from the holes ended in the words: "20 more minutes, 10 more minutes, then we can get out." Our will to live increased again. The Amis yelled something and gathered behind their tank. Those courageous warriors didn't even dare to come closer. Our deserter also kept his mouth shut because if he had told them that we had no anti-tank guns at all, things would have been ever bleaker. After a few lovely salvoes of honor the tank drove back and disappeared. We caught our breath and stretched the limbs. Only now we could help the wounded. This didn't win the war either, because we still had to get to our lines by way of the forward American lines! And all that not in a suit, but with our equipment, the dead corporal, and the two wounded soldiers. We knew the terrain behind us reasonably well. We studied the American obstruction shoots, which were completely schematic. A few salvoes to the left, then a few salvoes to the dump site behind us. We told ourselves that the enemy couldn't be where he fired at and so that was where we had to get through. The best place appeared to be the factory area next to the dumpsite. After all the load had been evenly distributed we left. I took the lead myself, carrying the wounded corporal on my back, all the others followed suit. It went well, not a shot was fired. It was almost as if the Ami allowed us to retreat honorably. After another 200 meters a guard of GrenReg 48 called upon us. We had made it and now took our wounded to the aid station in Werth. On my way I ran into Captain Gust who had taken over command of I. Battalion after Captain Grönbold had been wounded. He was very surprised to find me alive and well and he couldn't believe where we just came from. I had to follow him to the command post immediately and give him more details. My tasks were reported to the regiment and I had to wait. A little while later the orders arrived. I had to go the same way back. In Diepenlinchen about 30 wounded, including Captain Grönbold, the CO of I./89 lay in a tunnel. The combat engineer platoon, all with assault rifles, and stretcher-bearers accompanied me, an honest bunch. Things went smoothly, the march in, the taking on of the wounded, and the march out. We reached Werth at about 3 or 4 a.m.
Lieutenant Metscher, company CO of 13./89 had sent his orderly on a motorcycle to take me to the command post. Here I learned about the fate of the company in general and my platoon in particular. Fortunately the platoon hadn't suffered any casualties and head been shifted to the rear upon orders of the company. Its positions were now south of the tram tracks Eschweiler-Hastenrath. The other platoons had not been so lucky, Lieutenant Wolf of the 1st severely wounded, later he died, 2nd Platoon: shells into the positions, staff corporal dead, others wounded.
That night I took over the 4th Platoon as well and moved into the unoccupied observation post in the morning.