THIRTY-SIXTH TANK BATTALION
APO 258 USA
13 March 1945
AFTER ACTION REPORT
On the 5th of March this Battalion, as part of Combat Command B, 8th Armored Division, was attached to the 35th Infantry Division with the mission of moving in its zone, seizing Lintfort, Rheinberg, and then, on Division's order to seize the bridge at Wesel and destroy the enemy in this zone.
The G-2 information at that time was that only minor opposition could be expected; that there were only three (3) self-propelled weapons, no AT guns, no tanks and 300 enemy soldiers who were disorganized and demoralized in this area on this side of the Rhine River.
Task Force Van Houten was composed of the 36th Tank Battalion minus C company, minus Service Company, plus A Company 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, plus a platoon of B Company 53rd Armored engineer Battalion, plus a platoon of B Company 809th Tank Destroyer Battalion.
Task Force Van Houten followed Task Force Roseborough and moved out from Aldekerk, Germany at approximately 0800.
The order of march was A Company 36th, plus the first platoon of A Company 49th Armored Infantry Battalion; A Company 49th Armored Infantry Battalion minus the first platoon; a platoon of Company B 809th Tank Destroyer Battalion; a platoon of engineers; B Company 36th Tank Battalion; Headquarters and Headquarters Company 36th Tank Battalion; and D Company 36th Tank Battalion.
Task Force Roseborough reached Lintfort where it encountered minor resistance and Task Force Van Houten was ordered by the combat commander to double the combat command column, to pass thru Task Force Roseborough who was to secure the east side of Lintfort.
We doubled the column to Lintfort. The town was not yet completely cleaned out. The combat commander said that reconnaissance was sent ahead to reconnoiter the route thru town into the road leading to Rheinberg from the south but he had not heard from them. He then asked me to move on thru town, pass thru Task Force Roseborough, to seize Rheinberg and destroy all of the enemy in the zone without waiting for a reconnaissance report. As I was about to leave, the commanding officer of the reconnaissance troop called the combat commander saying that he was being held up by small arms fire east of Lintfort and that he had not heard from his platoons, and that he would send a guide to lead us out of town (actual route of Task Force Van Houten is attached, drawn on 1:25,000 map by Major Van Houten).
The reconnaissance guide took us to Schmidt Brook where the reconnaissance platoon was held up. The commanding officer of A Company 36th Tank Battalion called and said that the reconnaissance was held up and asked what should he do. He said "Shall I by-pass and double the reconnaissance column and keep on going?" There was only some small arms fire up to this point. Captain Tucker was ordered on and turned north at a patch of woods shown on the map. All along he was drawing fire and returning fire, killing Germans on the left and right of the route.
I saw Captain Tucker moving to the north and I called him and told him to get farther to the east. He replied "I'm killing Germans left and right. Just got a Mark IV tank. Having a good time. I also got a truck and a half-track!" He was going along here when he reached a point along the Fossa Canal road which goes north to the canal bridge which was blown as the A Company tanks approached. There was heavy fire from both sides of the road, from foxholes, houses and woods all along. One tank went up from a mine, a couple burned up here from bazooka or AT fire. When I was up there Captain Tucker had tanks on the south bank of the canal, above Ratschenhof.
The infantry platoon which was attached to A Company 36th Tank Battalion was pinned down by fire from the woods north of the canal and from the southwest of Rheinberg. A Company of the 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, following A Company 36th Tank Battalion (minus the first platoon) was engaged in a fire fight in the vicinity of Retschenhof and Kereschenof. An AT gun was knocked out at the east end of the woods north of the canal; another, north of that, was knocked out later. (The 137th Infantry was not visible on the northwest where they were expected to be throughout this part of the action.) I ordered Captain Tucker to get in front of his infantry with the tanks he had and move on to attack Rheinberg from the southwest, and to secure the crossing and get into Rheinberg. They moved across country parallel to the canal, the infantry followed on foot and some rode the tanks until they were stopped by terrain, AT fire and mortar fire in an arc from north to east. The fire also included a 150mm weapon.
Meanwhile, B Company 36th Tank Battalion had moved as shown on the map in an east to north-easterly direction to hit the main north and south road at 219246. They received intense small arms fire and they destroyed a large number of the enemy. They knocked out a German tank in the vicinity of Winterswick; they received intense AT fire from the north and northeast and there were bazookas all around. Captain Kelly was calling for infantry. I left A Company's position and collected A Company 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, as many of those I could collect, who had been pinned down and took them down the southeast road. Lt. Col. Lilly of the 399th Armored Field Artillery Battalion with an AT platoon of the 49th and four Tank Destroyers had been pinned down for an hour and a half on this road by fire from the northeast. My tank destroyed this machine gun fire which was pinning down Colonel Lilly and we got this AT platoon to follow along. We continued southeast to bring infantry to help out B Company.
At about this crossroad over the Asdunks Creek I saw Colonel Roseborough and I asked him for a company of infantry. He gave me B Company which followed along with A Company 49th. At the same point I told him to send his C Company due north to clean out the area around Keuschenhof and Ratschenhof and then I took the elements of A Company and B Company of the 49th, joined these infantry units with B Company of the 36th, at Winterswick, which then moved north and into the outskirts of the town of Rheinberg. Three tanks of B Company 36th, which were found later, penetrated thru Rheinberg. Two were found north of the town and one was found near the center of the town. B Company of the 36th knocked out four 88mm's situated in here and six 20-mm guns which were located near the larger guns. They also knocked out a half-track at the southeast end of Rheinberg, and also a tank. A truck was knocked out at the railroad crossing.
At about 1900 the 3rd Battalion of the 137th Combat Team moved into Rheinberg, into the foothold already established by B Company of the 36th and effected a relief for B Company which withdrew to the vicinity of Winterswick.
Meanwhile, Company D 36th Tank Battalion moved over Kamperbruck, generally to an attack position in the southeast edge of the Alterspan Woods. On the route they received fire from the woods above Gessman on their north flank. This fire was engaged and knocked out.
When Major Gurney turned up the canal road at Kamperbruch that area was filled with A Company 137th with attached tanks in a fire fight with a company of German infantry. Major Gurney had a mission to perform and he could not stop. Major Gurney called me and asked if he could attack. I told him not to attack until I could get him some infantry. Meanwhile the combat commander had assembled a platoon of infantry under Captain Look, S-2 of the 49th Armored Infantry, attached this to Company D 36th Tank Battalion and ordered them to attack Rheinberg from the southwest. They received fire by AT guns, small arms, mortar and artillery. After the third assault, three tanks penetrated the outer defenses of Rheinberg and were knocked out (these were led by Lt Rich). At dark the remaining tanks of D Company withdrew to Lintfort. I received reports from Major Brown, the Executive officer of the 49th Armored Infantry that Major Gurney and Captain Erdmann were wounded and were in a courtyard in one of the houses on the southwest side of Rheinberg. Two patrols were sent out to rescue them but both were pinned down by fire from Rheinberg and had to withdraw. It is estimated that D Company knocked out three 88-mm's, one tank and one 150-mm gun.
All toll we knocked out three Mark IV's, one truck, 2 half-tracks, two 150-mm guns, 12 AT guns (six 88mm and six 20mm's), 512 prisoners and 200 to 350 enemy dead.
During the action, C Company 36th Tank Battalion which had been attached to the 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, was returned to my control and I ordered it to go to the rear of B Company 36th Tank Battalion to assist in the attack on Rheinberg from the south. They were held generally in reserve and they knocked out one enemy AT gun.
On the morning of the 6th of March 1945 at 0230 the 36th Tank Battalion was attached to the 3rd Battalion of the 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. The 2nd Platoon of C Company 36th moved out with I Company of the 137th and secured a foothold in houses at 210287. This area was known as "88 Lane". That day the town of Rheinberg was hit heavily by mortar and artillery fire from 88-mm guns, 170-mm's and Tiger Tanks. We later got the Tiger Tank with nine rounds. There were also a Mark II and Mark IV in a factory which we got. When we attacked again the next night we had another platoon of C Company and the 3rd Battalion of the 137th Infantry and secured the crossroad at 201298. The next day our forces broke into the factory and knocked out the two tanks. They also destroyed the 170-mm's, 3 88-mm's and 4 20-mm's. (The Germans seem to place two 20-mm guns with each 88-mm weapon).
The factory area, the Solvoy works, was secured. The following morning at five o'clock the 2nd Platoon of A Company 36th and the 3rd Platoon of A Company 36th Tank Battalion relieved C Company and continued the attack with the infantry thru Ossenberg, secured Borth, blew up two ammunition dumps and continued the attack to Wallach which was secured after an AT gun was knocked out.
JOHN H. VAN HOUTEN
Major – Cavalry