443rd AAA Bn in World War II

CENTRAL EUROPE CAMPAIGN

FINAL VICTORY

443rd Batteries then moved to the assembly areas of the regiments to protect them in the coming move. The 443rd moved rapidly for several days until the 36th had relieved the 63rd Division on 28 April at Landsberg. At this time it became attached to the XXI Corps. Within this Corps the 443rd was under operational control of the 34th MA Brigade. For a time the 36th guarded the Landsberg Prison — Adolph Hitler’s "Festung Landsberg", where he was interned for 14 months in 1923-24, and where he dictated "Mein Kampf" to Rudolph Hess, in a steam-heated room. At the time the 36th assumed control of the prison, it was filled with both criminal and political prisoners — 14,000 in facilities built for 500. Prisoners were in various stages of starvation in their black and gray striped shirts and pant. They lay side by side in five to six foot high stacks of "beds" on 12' hard pine boards, with 15' of space between one layer and that above it. Some were motionless or dead and others just moaned, crying out for food or drink. Medical personnel went to work doing what they could. Around the fenced-in prison enclosure were bodies of some who had tried to escape when they heard the Americans approaching. In a nearby wood were bodies of three prisoners who had been decapitated. General Dahlquist forced the citizens of Landsberg to line up and go through the prison and see what had occurred. They were also made to dig large, open pit graves and bury the dead prisoners who were little more than skin and bone.

The 36th then began pushing farther into the heart of Germany’s "National Redoubt" — a rumored area of cached supplies and weapons meant for a last stand in Bavaria. The Division followed the 12th Armored Division and was responsible for mopping up pockets of by-passed enemy resistance. When Americans and Russian troops made contact to the north at the Elbe River, any more transfer of troops and supplies to the south was cut off. Enemy resistance began crumbling completely. Truckloads and trainloads of German troops began coming in to surrender but a few, die-hard groups continued to fight and had to be eliminated.

The 443rd noted many German fighter planes hidden among the trees along some of the German main highways (autobahns). Some of these highways had their center divider strip painted mottled green to resemble vegetation. These roads had then been used as landing strips, since Allied bombing had put most of the military and civilian airports out of business. Fuel shortages had helped ground the Luftwaffe and Allied air dominance did the rest.

In the Bavarian Alps the 141st Regiment trapped 66 Germans on top of Hill 1538. They refused to surrender until the 3rd Section of 443rd Platoon C-2 fired into their positions, killing one and wounding another. The rest surrendered at once. As the 36th Division continued its drive to the south and east, picking up German stragglers heading for Alpine hideouts, it captured a number of Nazi bigwigs. One of the first of these was Field Marshall Gerd Von Runstedt, taken at Bad Tolz. Pressing deeper into Germany, Berchtesgaden was taken and the Division roared into the Inn River Valley. By the time that German Army Group G surrendered at 12:00 noon 6 May 1945, the 36th Division had bagged more Nazi leaders and had freed a number of high ranking French prisoners.

On 7 May General Von Brauchitsch came to 36th Division Headquarters on behalf of Reichsmarshall Herman Goering. Assistant Division Commander Stack then intercepted Goering on a road near Radstadt, 35 miles south of Salzburg. His wife and daughter and a few military aides were with him.

Reichsminister Dr. Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland and infamous perpetrator of Jewish extermination pits was trapped in his office by a major of the 36th Division AMG team.

Admiral Nicholas Hoarthy, Hungarian ruler and associate of Hitler, who set up one of Europe‘s first dictatorships, was taken into custody in the palatial Schloss Waldbichl near Wielheim.

Max Amann, Nazi publicist and third man to enter the National Socialist Party, publisher of Mein Kampf, was captured in his summer home near Tegernsee.

Twenty-two additional high Nazi officials were captured by the Division including: Air Marshalls Ritter Von Greim, who succeeded Goering in command of the Luftwaffe, Hugo Sperrle who invented dive-bombing techniques, planned the London Blitz and defended the Normandy coastline in 1944, plus SS General Sepp Dietrich, the defender of Vienna against the Russians and one of Von Runstedt’s cruel fledglings in the Ardennes and nineteen lesser generals.

French leaders freed were: General Maurice Gamelin, former French Army Commander, Edouard Daladier and Paul Reynaud, former French Prime Ministers, General Maxine Weyand, Army Commander at the time of the French defeat, and his wife; Mme. Alfred Cailiau, who was sister of General Charles DeGaulle, and her husband; Michel Clemenceau, son of the French statesman; Jean Borotra, internationally known tennis star; Leon Jouhaux, Secretary of the Confederation General Du Travail; and several secretaries.

The official end of the Central Europe Campaign came on 11 May 1945. At appointed places in towns across the country (usually the town squares) the Germans surrendered their arms, ammunition and motor transportation. The 36th Division patrolled the towns of St. Johann, Kitzbuhl and Mittersill in Austria, enforcing the unconditional surrender.

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