My commanding officers were: Col. John C. Welborn, commanding officer 33rd Armoured Regiment (deceased afterward): Lt. Col. Herbert M. Mills, commanding officer 1st Battalion, killed Hastenrath, November 17th, 1944; Capt. E. Gunderson, commanding officer I Company. Believed killed in attack on Hastenrath, November 16th, 1944.
Upon recovering from wounds received in Normandy, I was transferred from the hospital back to my original unit, I Company, 1st Battalion which, to the best of my recollection, was located in the town of Breinig. On November 9th the 1st Battalion moved forward to take up positions, awaiting the new Allied offense. I Company moved in position on the reverse slope of a small hill just short to the later departure.
I was a 1st Lieutenant in command of five sherman medium tanks. I Commanded the tank that was to lead and to guide the attack, all observations made and knowledge gathered during the attack on Hastenrath was on a rather limited scope. The responsibilities placed on the lead tank and the action it encountered prevented a broad knowledge of what was taking place with the tanks that were following. On the evening of November 16th the lead tank was destroyed on the outskirts of Hastenrath. Its crew members were taken prisoners. Therefore, no reports were received from the remaining tank commanders as to their action, their observations, or damage inflicted on the enemy. The planned attack by the 1st Battalion on Scherpenseel and Hastenrath is as follows: A 19 tank attack force, I Company with 17 medium tanks plus 2 medium tanks attached, one a forward observer's tank, the other a medium tank with mine frailing equipment.
This force was to proceed along the left edge of the battalion's sector, skirting the left flank of Scherpenseel, and heading directly down to Hastenrath. They were to hold until joined by elements of the 36th Armoured Infantry Regiment. At this point a 600 gun artillery barrage was to be laid on the town of Hastenrath. The infantry was to dismount from their armoured half-tracks, follow close in behind the tanks for protection. The tanks were to be led by the mine flailer. Once through the mine-field the tanks were to fan out with the infantry still close in behind. The barrage was then to be lifted. As soon as the tanks reached the first buildings, the infantry was to go around the tanks and lead the attack with the tanks supporting. The greater force of the infantry was to remain in their armoured half-tracks, follow the tanks through the mine field, proceed to the edge of Hastenrath, dismount and join the lead infantry units. Coordinated with this, F Company with other elements of the 36th Armoured Infantry Regiment produced a similar assault on Scherpenseel from the right flank. A Company would be held in reserve.
The Attack: Phase 1
Preparatory fire. On November 9th when I Company moved into position, the tanks were laid in parallel in the same manner artillery guns are laid in parallel in preparation for indirect fire. Note: The tanks were equipped with the same instruments as artillery guns, so that they could be used for indirect fire.
The following day one tank was issued extra highexplosive shells, with the aid of an artillery spotting plane the gun adjusted on a pre-determined target. The target, a small wooded area, with a heavy concentration of German infantry. Once the gun had adjusted, it fell silent. The tanks were ready to go, each with 250 gallons of gasoline, over one ton of high explosives, 97 rounds for the tank gun, and 2,500 rounds for the 30 calibre machine guns. All we could do now as to wait. On the morning of November 16th, each tank was issued an extra 50 rounds of high-explosive shells; they were stored on the floor of the turrent.
Note: Three tanks with a newer gun with a much higher muzzle velocity could not join the remaining 14 tanks in the preparatory fire.
The correct azimuth reading and range were given to each gun. As the second hands swept down to H hour, thousands of guns along the entire front erupted. Our fourteen guns joined in. In less than five minutes we had fired 700 rounds on the predetermined target. We threw the empty shell cases out of the turrent, and were ready to `move out'.
Phase 2: The Attack:
As I Company moved forward, enemy artillery fire became increasingly heavy. Shortly after crossing the line of departure, one of our tanks struck the mine field and was disabled. However, we did not lose any time on the mine field, nor did we lose several tanks.
Capt. Gunnarson immediately ordered the mine flailer into the mine field. The lead tank dropped in behind and followed. Each succeeding tank dropped in line and followed. The mine flailer was struck by an armour piercing shell and destroyed. Thoughts raced through the lead tank commander's head. If he ordered his tank around the mine flailer, he would take a hit from the same gun that destroyed the mine flailer. If any or all of his crews survived the hit, they would, as they crawled from their tank, be subject to small arms fire that covered the mine field. If they survived this and had not cleared the mine field, then would not last long in the minefield with all of its anti-personnel mines. With this thought in mind, he ordered his tank to pull around the