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The Capture of Dillingen Bridge

Transcript of a letter home by Sgt. Lester Porter. Click here to view original letter.

 23 April 45

Dear Mom,

Something has come up that will probably be made an issue of, if you get what I mean. By the time you get this it will all be out, so a good bit of this should get through the censor. I wouldn’t mention it at all, except somebody who was not at the scene of the action told the story and I want you to get it straight.

The other day my platoon was designated as “Point” for a continuation of an armored thrust into Germany. We drove with tanks and half-tracks about twenty something miles against light scattered resistance before the point of our armor overran a very damned large jerry convoy that was trying to get across some river.

Due to our speed we overran or by passed large elements of the enemy and forced a majority of the convoy personnel (jerry) to scatter into a town and adjoining woods.

Our armored column was stopped when the lead tank hit a minefield. The armored infantry dismounted from the half tanks and started clearing the houses next to our vehicles, leaving only enough infantry on the tanks and half-tracks to man the machine guns.

After my squad had cleared a couple of houses the order came down for my squad to proceed to the banks of the river to keep the Ferry from blowing the bridge. My Staff Sgt. was acting Platoon Sgt., so I had the squad and will speak of it as mine.

Sgt. Houston, my Staff Sgt. And Sgt. Welch, our machine-gun Sgt. And I were on the west bank of the river. Sgt. Houston called for a squad to cross the bridge and he started across.

Some of my men had been lost when another squard crossed through us, but I took what I had and started over the bridge with the tanks firing covering fire. Sgt. Houston, Sgt. Welch and my squad were out on the bridge a few yards when Sgt. Houston looked over a roadblock of sand bags and saw several airplane bombs and mines. Wires were running all over the bridge and we started running “Off” HA. You should have seen us.

Sgt. Houston went to report what we found, Sgt. Welch went to get his machine guns and my squad and I started clearing the bank of the river. Two of my men captured two jerries in the cellar of a house on the bank by the bridge. McLott, one of the men, really captured the jerries. When I got to him he was really weak. He told me that he had just discovered that his rifle was empty.

3 prisoners were taken in the woods, so Sgt. Houston took the 5 of them and had them cut a few, all known wires, on the bridge then came back. Sgt. Ruddell, our acting Platoon leader was all over the area and bridge organizing the platoon to cover the East bank of the river.

When Sgt. Houston came back, Sgt. Welch was in position and firing covering fire with his machine guns. Sgt. Ruddell told me to carry my squad across the bridge and finish checking for mines and wires. Oh, while we were in the house the telephone kept ringing every few seconds. We figured that it was wired to furnish the electricity to set off the explosives on the bridge so we left it alone and I do mean alone.

Sgt. Welch’s machine guns started throwing a steady covering barrage, so I and four men crossed at once, the rest followed after we were over. As we crossed the bridge we jumped huge bombs and mines expecting them to “GO” all the time. We built a small firing line on our small bridgehead and started checking for wires and booby traps around the bridge's east side. When we were across the rest of the platoon crossed under Sgt. Welch’s machine gun cover, then he brought his sqd. across.

The write up that you’ll see will probably say that no enemy resistance was encountered on the other side of the river. They took off. While we were clearing houses the tanks had pulled up beside the mine field and were burning up the east bank of the river with 4 machine guns and a 76 on each tank all firing as fast as practical. The platoon radio operator came and told me to hurry to the river and I’d get some good shooting because Jerry was taking off across an open field. We got some good shooting, too.

Civilians found the wounded and dead in the field and brought them in. I don’t think that the report will have that in it.

We got over a 1000 prisoners out of the town by the river. These are a couple of more oddities about this drive, but I’ll wait to tell them personally, I don’t know what the report will say, anybody could have done what we did only we did it. We didn’t see the dynamite under the bridge until we were over it. We were weak when we got across and looked back under the bridge. Oh well, it’s over and I’m glad. I hope that it hastens the end of the war so I can come home to you. I love you. The river was the “Danube”.

Love,
Les


24 April 45

Dear Mom,

This is some more about our little bridge. The Associated Press Agent and somebody else had all of the first that crossed the bridge to come to the Co CP. We went in and he took our names and addresses and said that he’s sent a little story home about it. None of the boys said anything and he did not ask any of us for an account of what we found, did or thought.

The Captain might have told of the running battle to the bridge and the covering fire of the tankers that ran the enemy from the east bank of the river. We all thought that the next fellow had told an account of the attack, but later we discovered that no one had even seen the reports.

Here’s what I’m getting at. If any story at all comes home, call Mrs. Page and tell her to forget it. If a picture comes, ask her for it and then you forget the whole thing too. I don’t know what the man might send.

Naturally I’m proud to have led the first American squad across the Blue Danube, but anybody could have done it. The only risk was from the wires, mines, bombs, booby traps and dynamite under and on the bridges. It all seems so silly now that it’s over. It’s not what actually happened, but what might or could have happened that made it mean something to us. Especially Sgt. Ruddell, Sgt. Houston, Sgt. Welch and myself, and I might say (I don’t know what the others really think) that I was proud to have the men follow me on such a mission. Sgt. Houston took the greatest chance and you might say – I followed his move. Let’s forget this whole thing shall we?