After several days of what passed for R&R (Rest & Recreation) in Koblenz, we loaded up and climbed on trucks in the late afternoon of March 24 and moved upstream on the west side of the Rhine to the small town of Boppard. We began to cautiously filter down through the moonlit streets toward the shingled beach.
The enduring cold was gradually coming to an end. It was mid-March. The worst of it had been cold feet. They were numbingly cold all the time unless we could capture a village, occupy houses and build fires. If your feet were wet and cold, it was worse. Trench foot with blackened toes could send you back possibly with gangrene and amputation.
On January 15, the 345th Regiment again climbed on trucks and in freezing cold headed for the Duchy of Luxembourg along with the rest of the 87th Division to relieve the 4th Division, which had been on the southern shoulder of the Bulge. K Company occupied Berdorf near the west bank of the Sauer River.
Towering over a vast stretch of eastern Germany, the hills looked down on cities, rivers, mountain passages and tactical and strategic sites. Most significantly, Hills 648 and 649 were bastions of Germany’s Siegfried Line, a series of heavily-armed and mined bunkers dug into the hillsides.
After helping to free the besieged city of Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, the 87th Infantry Division soldiers were exhausted. And their ranks had been thinned of experienced infantrymen. Yet, acting under orders from Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., the two towering hills were the 346th Regiment’s newly-assigned targets.