Battle Babies now Combat Veterans

In 99 days, the 99th Division had learned much, done plenty. It was a green outfit when the last iron-spiked thrust of the Wehrmacht caught it smartly on the chin in Belgium. But even after von Rundstedt's panzers were blasted, the world still wondered when the big crackup would come—the fatal blow to Nazi might and morale.
It was the Rhine crossing that broke the German back; in this important action the 99th took effective part. On March 24, 1945—99 days older and wiser—the Battle Babies were seasoned fighting men who saw before them the demoralized, shriveled forces of their enemy running away.
Disappointed because it wasn't included in the drive to Berlin, the division suddenly faced west and was assigned the important job of helping to liquidate the Ruhr pocket. Spearheaded by the 7th Armd. Div., the regiments roared across the province of Hesse-Nassau, through Wetzlar and Giessen.
Between 25,000 and 150,000 Germans were cut off in the Ruhr pocket. No one bothered to count the number of steep-wooded hills and valleys the Checkerboarders would have to travel to sew them up. Soldiers prayed with Lt. Col. Henry B. Koon, Columbia, S.C., Division Chaplain, at services in Krofdorf.
The 99th's sector in the Ruhr drive followed the twisting Eder River towards its source in the Rothaargebirge (Red Hair Mountains), and wound down the north slope along the Lenne River to the Ruhr. When time permitted, using grenades instead of Royal Coachmen, fish lovers caught trout for breakfast.
It was steady day and night fighting through the mountains; rugged terrain added to the tough going. Because Germans chose to do most of their fighting in towns and on every hillside, doughs had to head straight up fir-clad hills and across crooked ridges. Air and artillery put the "convincer" on such villages as Oberhundem, Altendorf and Bracht before infantry went in to mop up.
The division now set its sights northwest on Iserlohn, largest Ruhr city in the 99th's path. When 7th Armd. right-hooked the middle of Field Marshal Model's Army Group B, the Battle Babies moved on as fast as they could march.
By April 13, PW counts doubled; the Nazi cave-in was under way. More than 1200 PWs were taken that day followed by a 2315 count on Saturday, 9043 more Sunday and a staggering total of 23,884 on Monday. Overwhelming loads of Krauts, many driving their own vehicles, including horse drawn carts, converged on the PW field at Sundwig, outside Iserlohn.
In four days, the division had corraled and processed 36,453 Germans. Monday's catch included three lieutenant generals, eight major generals and a land-locked rear admiral. The famed 130th Panzer Lehr Div., credited with the finest soldiers, equipment and highest morale of any unit in the pocket, surrendered intact to the 393rd. The roundup also included the 22nd AA Div. Luftwaffe), the 338th Volksgrenadier Div. and the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Div., an old enemy from the breakthrough days.
Iserlohn gave up at noon, April 16, when a battery of 128mm "Jagdtiger" self-propelled guns surrendered to Lt. Col. Robert L. Kriz, 2nd Bn. CO, 394th. Unlike other last-ditch artillery units, the "Jagdtigers" still had plenty of ammunition left.
At Hemer, the 99th and 7th Armd. set free more than 20,000 Soviet and Polish PWs, who had gone without food for a week. In a building sheltering the sickest Red troops, Lt. Col. K.T. Miller, Detroit, Division Surgeon, found them three to a bed while two German soldiers shared a room. Col. Miller immediately corrected the situation much to the dismay of the Nazis.
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S the Battle of the Ruhr ended, before the division could collect all its prisoners, the 99th was shifted to the farmlands of Bavaria to smother more German resistance. Checkerboarders now came under Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army, leaving Gen. Hodges, under whom the division had trained and maneuvered in Louisiana in 1943, held the shoulder of the Belgian Bulge in 1944 and crossed the Rhine in 1945.
The 99th entered the line again April 21 near Schwabach, with the Austrian border and Salzburg as its objectives. With the 86th Inf. Div. on its right and the 14th Armd. Div. on its left, the 99th was the veteran division in III Corps.
Now came the fast drive across such barriers the Altmuhl River, where the 99th forced a crossing against stiff resistance. Third Bn., 395th, waded the neck-deep river while 2nd Bn., 394th, held the enemy's attention on the opposite bank. Doughs forced another breakthrough and a fast drive across the Ludwig Canal down to the Danube.
As the division neared the Danube, the end of World War II in Europe was near. Far to the north, Red troops had joined hands with the Americans; Berlin was being pounded. To the south lay Munich, and Alpine Berchtesgaden, the heart and home of National Socialism. Time means nothing to the infantry, but men of the 99th were certain time was running out fast for the "Supermen."
Fight and drive... Day and night... No rest for the Germans... No rest for the 99th... Keep going fast... The Nazis were off-balance... Keep them that way... That was the spirit!... Down to the Danube... across the Danube... Landshut was captured... but not without a fight... Moosburg, another big PW camp, cleared... On to the Isar River... Keep hammering... across the Isar... Clean up the area and on to the Inn and the Austrian border.
Then it came. "Halt in place!"
In years to come, men who wear the Checkerboard patch will recall May 8, 1945, the day Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally, as the climax to the titanic European struggle of World War II. Proudly they can recall their individual efforts. The Battle Babies were in on the kill.