Personal recollections from world war two veterans and civilians.

Okey E. Taylor, Co. C, 58th A.I.B, 8th Armored Div.

Operation Varsity

After we were relieved and moved back to Krefeld, we mainly performed maintenance on our equipment, had a little training and went on patrols. The patrols were mounted using one of the half-tracks. We had a driver and one or two men and we were told to patrol in any direction we wanted to and to run at least two, maybe three a night but not to be consistent. I was in charge on one of the patrols probably two or three times while we were stationed there. We had local maps and tried to pick a route which would take us out ten or fifteen miles to make a big circle since we didn’t want to take the same route back as we did going out.

On one of my patrols we crossed a road which a column of transport vehicles went down toward the Rhine shortly after we had crossed. The vehicles were carrying Navy LCI craft to be used in a few days for crossing the Rhine. They were so wide that they blocked the entire road. It took us quite a while to get back to our area because we couldn’t get past them. We wandered around looking for a way back and wound up in the Fifth Armored Division area and completely off our local map. They had some maps and showed us how to find our way back.

The crossing of the Rhine

On March 22nd, they began to bombard the eastern side of the Rhine. Okey E. Taylor, Co. C, 58th A.I.B, 8th Armored Div says: "We sent some of our tanks and field artillery to help. Most of the artillery in the Ninth Army area was used to fire at the eastern bank of the river. The area was also bombed by the air force. I later learned that one of the bomber pilots was a high school classmate and distant cousin, Dorsel Jackson."

At this time John J Parry who was an Infantryman in the 83rd Infantry Division was busy training for the final Rhine Crossing. He and the others in his division had spend several days paddling back and forth the Albert Canal, in Holland at Ohe en Laak. On the 22nd while the men were in the boats when they saw hundreds of cargo planes coming back with the paratroopers' static lines still flapping out of the open cargo doors. Then he knew that they had crossed the Rhine without him.

One of the men that did take part in the operation on this day was Lt. Col. Wm. L. Johnson. He was one of 600 twin-engine flight instructors that had been flown over from the States, to participate in Operation Eclipse, the Airborne drop on Berlin. This operation never took place. Johnson was placed with the 62nd TCS which had dropped the British Airbrones at Arnhem in September 1944. For Johnson this was his first combat mission. For the all the men in this squadron it was the first mission in which they towed gliders. Flak was heavy over the dropzone and the 62nd TCS alone lost five gliders on one mission. (Fifty years after the battle, Johnson met a german who had manned an AA gun at the age of 16. The gun had shot down 16 gliders during the Rhine crossing.)

The 8th Armored Division was the first armored division to cross the Rhine in the Ninth army sector. Okey Taylor says: "We crossed on Mar. 27, 1945 near the town of Wesel. Being in an armored division was nice since we got to wait until the infantry and engineers had crossed the river, established a bridgehead, and built a bridge for us.

After the engineers had built a pontoon bridge across the river, we went across. I can’t recall now whether we crossed in late afternoon or after dark but I do know that it was a harrowing ride. All they have over the pontoons are two tracks, which you stay in while you are crossing. The Rhine river is almost as big as the Mississippi or at least it seems like it when you are riding in a half-track about three feet above the water. It also seemed like it took us an awful long time to cross but I’m sure it wasn’t as long as I remember. I do remember that we were worried about air attacks and had all our machine guns ready."

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