History - 36th Tank Bn.
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The blood-red clouds in the sky that greeted the sun on the morning of 5 March 1945 were a forecast of the shedding of the blood of men of the Thirty-Sixth who were to die that day on German soil. The tankers were to meet an overwhelming force, yet in spite of great odds they were to emerge victorious from the ordeal.

On the morning of the 5th, the Invincibles, as a part of CC "B," 8th Armored Division, were attached to the 35th Infantry Division with the mission of moving forward, seizing Lintfort and Rheinberg and then, if ordered, to seize the bridge across the Rhine at Wese!. Our G-2 information was that there was only minor opposition to be expected; that there were only three self-propelled weapons, one anti-tank gun, no tanks and about 300 disorganized and demoralized soldiers on this side of the Rhine. That information, we were to learn soon, was "all wet."

Task Force Van Houten that fateful day was composed of the 36th Tank Battalion, minus "en Company and Service Company, and included "A" eompny of the 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, a platoon of "B" Company of the 809th Tank Destroyer Battalion and a platoon of "B" Company of the 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion. "C" Company of the 36th was attached to the 49th Infantry, and Service Company was moving with CC fiB" trains.

Task Force Van Houten moved out of Aldekirk at approximately 0800, following Task Force Roseborough (the 49th). When TF Roseborough reached Lintfort, it encountered minor resistance and TF Van Houten was ordered by the combat commander to double the combat command column and pass through TF Roseborough which was to remain behind to secure the east side of Lintfort, an important mining town.

When the 36th reached Lintfort, which was still being cleaned out, they learned that reconnaissance had been sent ahead to check on routes through the town but had not yet returned. The combat commander then decided not to wait for the reconnaissance report and ordered TF Van Houten to continue through Lintfort and to seize Rheinberg and destroy all the enemy in that zone. At this time the leader of the "recon" troop called in and reported that he had not yet heard from his platoon but that he would send a guide to lead us out of Lintfort.

This guide took us to Schmidt Brook where the "recon" platoon had been held up by small arms fire. Captain "Cowboy" Tucker, commanding officer of "A" Company of the 36th, at the head of our column, reported this condition over the radio and inquired, "Shall I by-pass and double the "recon" column and keep on going?" As only small arms fire had been encountered, he was ordered to keep moving. His tanks proceeded north into a patch of woods, where they drew fire and returned it, killing Germans both to their right and left. At this point, Captain Tucker, doomed to die that day himself, reported "I'm killing Germans left and right. lust got a Mark IV tank. Having a good time. I also got a truck and a half-track."

Leading "A" Company, he continued to a point along the Fossa Canal road which goes north to the canal bridge, which was blown as the tanks approached. At this time there was heavy fire from both sides of the road. as well as from fox-holes, houses and the woods. One of our tanks was knocked out by a mine while several others burned up after being hit by bazookas or anti-tank guns.

Meanwhile the infantry platoon which had been attached to "A" Company was pinned down by fire from the woods north of the canal and from southwest of Rheinberg. The rest of the infantry company, which was following Captain Tucker, was engaged in a fire fight near Retschenhof and Kereschenhof. Following orders, Captain Tucker got in front of his infantry with the tanks he had and headed toward Rheinberg, moving parallel with the canal, under a continual mortar and anti-tank fire, including shells from 150mm guns.

In the meantime, "B" Company of the 36th, commanded by Captain David B, "Irish" Kelly, moved to hit the main road to Rheinberg and ran into intense small arms fire. Destroying many of the enemy and knocking out a German tank in the vicinity of Winterswick, they ran into more anti tank and bazooka fire. Part of "A" Company of the 49th were sent to assist "B" Company in cleaning out this anti-tank fire so it could move forward.

Accompanied by this infantry now, "B" Company moved north to the outskirts of Rheinberg. Three tanks of the company, found the next day, actually penetrated into the town upder heavy fire before being knocked out. Two were found north of the town and the third was in the center of town. During this assault, "B" Company knocked out four 88s and six 20mm guns protecting the larger weapons. These guns were in addition to a half -track, a tank and a truck also knocked out by the company.

During this period, "D" Company, the light tank company of the 36th, commanded by Captain Arthur C. "Ace" Erdmrinn, moved over Kamperbruck to an attack position southeast of Alterspan Wood. Enemy guns engaged the company but were speedily knocked out. The combat commander then sent a platoon of infantry to "D" Company and ordered an attack on Rheinberg from the southwest. Receiving fire from anti-tank guns, small arms, mortars and artillery, the company nevertheless moved forward and after the third assault, three tanks, later knocked out, entered Rheinberg. The attack wa.s costly both in tanks and men. Captain Erdmann lost a foot as the result of stepping on a mine and platoon leaders, Lt. Frank Rich and Lt. Kenneth Robinson died heroes' deaths as they led their men forward.

After dark, the remaining tanks of the company withdrew to Lintfort. During the action "D" Company was credited with knocking out three 88s, one tank and one 150mm gun.

"C" Company, commanded by Captain Stanley "Big Ears" Bodin, which bad been attached to the 49th Infantry, was now returned to battalion control and was ordered to assist "B" Company of the 36th in the attack on Rheinberg from the south. They were held generally in reserve and knocked out one anti-tank gun.

All told, the battalion knocked out three Mark IV tanks, one truck, two 150mm guns, twelve anti-tank guns (six 88s and six 20mm guns), took 512 prisoners and killed at least' 350 of the enemy, crushing the last core of enemy resistance in the area and capturing Rheinberg.

The battle of Rheinberg was not a battle of one man or one tank or one company. It was a battalion fighting against great odds and despite great losses carrying on and refusing to quit. Tanks were knocked out but. other tanks moved on and continued the attack. Men who were not too seriously injured grabbed their weapons from their tanks and continued forward on foot. Even the seriously wounded waved on tanks which stopped to assist . them.

The next morning the battered but proud battalion reassembled in Rheinberg and took count of itself. We had lost 41 tanks and 131 men were either dead, missing, or wounded. Stories of heroism were then pIeced together by the men, still groggy from the shock of battle and close communion with death. Captain Tucker's final radio message, after his arm had been shot away, sent shortly before he was killed, was recalled. Typical of the men who refused to stop, it was "I am a one-armed Cowboy now --- let's go, Cowboys." The story of Lt. Erickson of Baker Company, who was last seen, wounded and armed with a carbine, a submachine gun, a pistol and hand grenades, advancing toward the German lines was also told.

Great credit was also given the medical detachment, the unarmed heroes, who, working under fire, went about their work of aiding and evacuating the wounded calmiy and skillfully. That day alone they proved their worth to the men of the battalion.

Rheinberg doesn't look like much of a place on a map but it is written indelibly on the hearts of the men of the Thirty-Sixth because it was there that they received their baptism of blood and proved themselves worthy of the title of "Soldier." Refusing to give up when things were darkest, they battled on forward against a fiercely resisting and well-dug-in enemy. Rheinberg, to tankers of the Thirty-Sixth recalls narrow escapes from death, the buddies who died there and who now lie beneath white crosses in some lonely Army Cemetery in Europe far from their homes and loved ones, and the day when the battalion was tested in the flame of battle and emerged seared but victorious.

The fighting wasn't over yet though. The next morning after the battle, 6 March, at 0230 the Invincibles were attached to the Third Battalion of the 137th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division. The second platoon of "C" Company moved out with "I" Company of the 137th and secured a foothold in houses in Ossenberg, the next town north at 2100. This entire area between Rheinberg and Ossenberg was under heavy artillery fire and gained the name of "88 Lane." Rheinberg itseIf, though cleared of the enemy, also remained under heavy mortar, tank and artillery fire with the Germans concentrating their fire on the area near the town's church. This area soon was dubbed "Suicide Corner" and those who were wise went through it on the double, ready to hit the dirt as soon as they heard the ominous whistle of an "inbound" shell. The artillery, which ranged up to 170mm, took a toll of both dead and wounded in the newly-won city.

Meanwhile at Ossenberg, one Tiger tank was knocked out, though nine rounds were required to disable it. The next night, 7 March, another platoon of our "C" Company and the 3rd battalion of the 137th secured the crossroads and by 0500, 8 March, had taken the entire Solvay Factory area, in which they also captured a Mark n and a Mark IV tank. The second platoon of "A" Company of the 36th then relieved the weary "C" Company men and continued the attack with the infantry through Ossenberg, securing Borth, blowing up two ammunition dumps there and then continuing the attack to Wallach which was captured after an anti-tank gun there was knocked out.

In the meantime, the battalion was receiving new tanks and the battalion maintenance section was busily engaged in recovering disabled tanks, some of them under fire. Service Company, during this period, had not been idle and its trucks had been engaged in bringing up ammunition, gasoline and weapons to replace those lost on the field of battle. Some of the replacements we received were very green and one of them actually fell out of the assistant driver's seat on his first ride in a tank and was evacuated.

On March 11th, another division was sent into the area and we were ordered to move to Venlo, Holland, to prepare to cross the Rhine. We welcomed the well deserved rest and left shortly before noon for another visit to hospitable Holland.