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Oct-30-2010 13:10printcomments

Deadly Infantry: Sacrilegious Sacrifice at the Rhine Crossing

Losing friends on a German River...

GIs keep low inside a landing craft during an assault across the Rhine at Oberwesel, Germany
GIs keep low inside a landing craft during an assault across the Rhine at Oberwesel, Germany. March 22, 1945.
U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph.

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - Almost everybody made sacrifices in the Army Infantry. The catch was the lower ones rank the more and worse the sacrifices the Army expected one to endure.

U.S. Army 89th Division prepares to cross
the Rhine River in assault boats near
St. Goar, Germany. 26 March 1945. U.S.
Army Signal Corps photo by A. Graham.

It seemed that the “ninety day wonders” excreted from Ft. Benning were trained to be and were expected to be as bitchy and obnoxious to their underlings, we privates, as possible.

I had heard the comment, “I don’t want my men to like me, I want them to fear me”. In the ranks of the privates and maybe a few corporals we called this “chicken sh*t” and there certainly was an over abundance of that.

We had it thrown at us everyday but for me crossing the Rhine River under fire was the worst day of my life. My original title was MY TURN TO DIE: CROSSING THE RHINE. How I survived is a miracle of my life.

The day before there was scuttlebutt whether the Krauts would use poison gas on us. That thought was chilling enough. We marched about twenty miles all that day. The last five miles or so we were in a planted fir forest with trees about 30 feet tall and the German Artillery was firing projectiles which exploded in the trees and were called tree bursts.

Dr. Phillip Leveque's WWII uniform

The shrapnel would explode downwards on us. This kept up for about two hours. When we got to the last ridge overlooking the Rhine they shelled our mess tent at suppertime. It was a BAD DAY but the next day was even worse.

Apparently we were to start the crossing at about 2 in the morning in pitch dark. The river was about 400 yards wide and running between 5 and 10 miles per hour.

One of my friends from Oregon State College, now a Second Lieutenant in E Company was in one of the first paddle boats with 12 men. The Germans had a barge full of oil-soaked straw anchored in the middle of the river. They ignited the straw and the river lit up like day light. It turned into a “Turkey Shoot”. When they got to the far shore ten of the men were shot or drowned, two were wounded but I don’t think my Looey friend was. Very few boats got across with many casualties (150 men were lost just in this crossing).

My boat was delayed until early afternoon. The Engineers in charge were drunk. We made a full circle under fire in the river and ended up about 400 yards down river from where we should have been. I raced as fast as I could to the nearest house. I thought some were following me but none did.

In the ground floor, I discovered that German troops had just vacated. I thought they were upstairs so I kept quiet as a mouse just listening. I figured I was behind German lines or in no man’s land. After about 2 hours I decided to sneak house-to-house back to where we were supposed to be. It took about 2 hours more and I arrived at dusk.

My Sergeant had reported me missing in action. That was one very scary afternoon!

We heard that we lost 150 men that day, most were shot and killed or drowned. We also heard that we had 14 Battalions of Artillery but they fired only smoke which blew away. My Looey friend got a Silver Star for this mission as he was one of the few Officer survivors. I think my Battalion Commander a Lt. Colonel got one also for heroism sending some 150 men to their deaths or serious injuries. If many of your men get killed or wounded, the officer gets a medal.


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More information on the history of Leveque can be found in his book, General Patton's Dogface Soldier of Phil Leveque about his experiences in WWII.
Order the book by mail by following this link: Dogface Soldier.

If you are a World War II history buff, you don't want to miss it.<

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