HEADQUARTERS 4TH ARMORED DIVISION
APO 254, U.S. ARMY
10 April 1945
(This is the report of Captain Abraham J. Baum which he made at HQ 4th Armored Division when he returned 10 April 1945)
Notes on Task Force Baum
We broke through at SCHWEINHEIM and started to clean out that town at 20:00 hours that night. It took us until 00:30 hours before we could pass anything through. From there we went to HAIBACH, GRUENMORSBACH where we received our first bazooka fire. I lost a few infantrymen but no vehicles. We continued on to STRASSBESSENBACH and turned north to KEILBERG. This was somewhere between 01:30 hours and 02:30 hours in the morning. At KEILBERG we got on the main road and went through FRONHOFEN, LAUFACH and HAIN and then went through a stretch of woods. All during this operation we lost infantrymen in these various towns from small arms and bazooka fire. We kept on going through that stretch of woods and got to RECHTENBACH.
Just outside of the town of LOHR we lost our first tank. Of course, during our trip we shot up various vehicles and Krauts in all towns but the momentum of our column was too fast and too great and so we went straight through. In the town of LOHR itself we got a Kraut column of twelve vehicles coming toward us. The town was so situated that we just happened to get on the right road and pass on through and out of it. We then got on the road junction and all along the railway from LOHR to NEUENDORF to LANGENPROZELTEN to GEMUENDEN were trains. I estimate there must have been about twelve trains each consisting of about twenty cars. It was just getting light and it was there that I realized that I was going to run into something. We shot up these trains and a big thirty‑car ack‑ack train which was loaded with antiaircraft weapons and concrete pillboxes. The infantry cleaned that out. We got some 20 mm fire from the vicinity of GEMUENDEN and from the other side of the train but they stopped firing as soon as the column really started rolling. We got into GEMUENDEN and lost three tanks and a bunch of infantry including a platoon leader and to this day I don't know whether he's dead or alive. They blew a bridge right in our face. This bridge was the only one that would take us to the place we were going to. After further investigation, a PW informed us that the region around LOHR and GEMUENDEN was a marshalling area for two divisions, one division having just unloaded in GEMUENDEN. I believed it as the Krauts were filtering all over the place. After losing three tanks and finding the town was loaded, I decided it was best not to go in and seek another route. We backed out of town and went north.
It was about 08:30 hours when we got into RIENECK. SHAIPPACH was the town before that. The momentum of the column was quite great and we picked up a couple of Germans in that town and used them to guide us to BURGSINN as there was no bridge in RIENECK. In BURGSINN we captured a Kraut General and his staff. I also picked up a Kraut civilian to guide us to the town of GRAEFENDORF. We took off cross‑country and went up a mountain trail. In and around GRAEFENDORF the task force freed 700 Russians. These Russians took a magazine and some of them armed themselves and took to the woods in the direction from which we came. We crossed the bridge at GRAEFENDORF and followed the river and railroad until we came to WEICKERSGRUEBEN. At this time - 14:00 hours in the afternoon - I noticed a Kraut liaison plane in the air. I also heard vehicular movement other than my own column when we stopped. I then stopped to orient myself and decide which way to attack this town where the PW camp was located and also find out exactly where the American prisoners were. We left WEICKERSGRUEBEN heading northeast and were engaged in a tank fight at OBERESCHENBACH. We didn't lose anything nor did the Krauts.
The column started moving again but I knew damn well that we were going to have a tank fight real soon. From OBERESCHENBACH to the camp site we went over two bridges - bypassing the town of HAMMELBURG. We had a tank fight and my platoon of lights, one assault gun, the majority of half-tracks and a platoon of infantry went on and started making a move to free the camp. Meanwhile, my medium tanks of which I had about six left engaged these tanks and knocked out three of them, also knocking out three or four ammunition trucks that were in the Kraut column. I kept pushing the task force over the ridge onto this high ground where about two companies of Kraut infantry were dug in. It took us two and one‑half hours to clean it up so that the infantry and tanks could move in. In the meantime, the Kraut tanks had knocked out five of my half tracks and three peeps, one being a medical peep - one of the half-tracks contained gas and one other 105 mm-ammunition. It was about 16:30 hours when the first shots were fired on the guards of this military camp. It was about 18:30 hours or 19:30 hours in the evening when the American PW's came out of the camp. I gave them instructions and as many of them as possible rode on my vehicles, reorganized and got ready to go back.
A great number of the PW's were in no shape to go anywhere and they immediately took off in a group carrying a white flag back to the camp. Starting back, we hadn't gone fifty yards when we lost another tank by bazooka fire. I had to change my direction so took a compass reading and went cross‑country. Everything was fine until I crossed the bridge and got into HESSDORF and ran into two road blocks. At HOELLRICH three more tanks were bazooked. I lost a tank company commander there and a large group of infantrymen. Knowing that I couldn't mess around there, I backed out of the area into assembly for reorganization on Hill 427 - coordinates 495652. It was about 03:30 hours in the morning when I got back on this hill. I immediately got the people together and found out how much gas we had. We siphoned gas out of eight of the half-tracks and destroyed eight to give us some zone of radius for the vehicles. At this particular time I had three mediums and three lights, plus one command tank. It was then that I sent my last message to the battalion that the mission was accomplished and we were on our way back for the second time. I oriented the people and informed them to use half-tracks for bridging equipment if necessary to cross streams so as to avoid towns. The real seriously wounded were left in a building marked with a big red cross just before daylight.
I got the men together here on top of this hill and gave them a pep talk and upon finishing got into my peep when the Krauts attacked. They had an unknown number of SP's to my South, six tanks and the equivalent of two infantry companies advancing on the position from the southeast, backed by SP's which were stationery. To the northeast were six Tiger tanks that were in position firing. A column of tanks came in from the direction of WEICKERSBRUEBEN when the attack commenced and stayed in the northwest. At the time they opened up, everybody was just ready to move out, in fact, I had pulled my peep out to form the column when they hit us with the fastest automatic tank fire I had ever seen. My tanks returned the fire best they could and jockeyed for position. All the vehicles were knocked out and burning and the infantry advanced under this assault. They practically destroyed the building in which the wounded were in that was marked with the Red Cross. We moved out into the woods and assembled. We then tried to get back to see what we could salvage out of the mess, but each time we showed our faces, the infantry opened up with small arms and the advancing tanks started firing again. We went back into the woods and the two platoon leaders who had taken over told the men to split up in groups of four and take off in the general direction from which we had come. The entire fight lasted twenty‑five minutes, but that was the fight. At this time the Krauts had the situation well in hand and they continued blowing more bridges in preparation for a larger force. The infantry started mopping up the area with the aid of bloodhounds from the Hammelburg PW camp and captured quite a number of the men. In overrunning the positions, they also evacuated our wounded to the hospital in the prison camp that we had just set free.
Major Stiller, myself and a lieutenant (anonymous) took off in the woods. They ran us down - it got too close for comfort. I could barely walk and had been shot in the knee and in the leg with a P 38 pistol which convinced me I had enough for a while. After being captured, we were evacuated to the town of HUNDSFELD. The confusion was so great at that town nobody even bothered to search us and from there we were marched back to the prison camp. I was being partially carried - one man assisting me. Being wounded, I managed to get in the building that night while the other prisoners were being taken away. Some of these ex‑prisoners who knew the ropes told the Krauts I was one of the group who had escaped and should be sent to a hospital as I couldn't walk. Before I knew it, a Kraut woke me up and sent me by truck to a Serbian hospital at the PW camp - and I still had on my equipment with the exception of the pistol‑map, compass and everything else. When I got to the hospital, I found some thirty-five of the men who were wounded in my operation and recaptured. A German surgeon gave an American and Serbian complete control over all these wounded and left us alone.
The American doctor, Captain Brubacker, put me in a room off in a corner and I was just a patient. The Germans didn't know who I was or anything about me. The following day the General of the camp came back with more guards after marching some 500 or 600 prisoners to NUERNBERG. They started to evacuate American wounded to BAD KISSINGEN which was declared an open city due to the fact that it had some thirty to forty Kraut hospitals. They had no Americans in the town and wanted to put an American flag up because they were afraid of trouble when the Americans came. In this town was either Goebbel's or Goering's family - I couldn't swear to which. Within the next four days, German ambulances came and evacuated some sixteen or eighteen Americans to this town. All during these days spent in the hospital, the Serbs had hid American PW's that came back in their barracks. The enlisted men's camp had no guards whatsoever, but we gave them instructions they were to stay in camp and not wander out. Only the French and Russians took off for the villages to get food. A batch had taken to the woods in the vicinity of the camp and they were in such a position to Krauts couldn't handle them to evacuate them - that's the way we wanted to keep them.
On 6 April 1945 the 14th Armored Division rolled in with a combat command reinforced and freed the place. Immediate evacuation of our medical patients was made. The enlisted men and sixty‑five or seventy officers that remained at that camp were taken care of through proper channels. These officers I refer to are exprisoners who had sneaked into the Serbian hospital - they knew the ropes. When we saw the difficulty we were going to have these sixty‑five remained and the balance went back to stockade. Quite a few of those sixty‑five were killed or wounded, but they were fighters. Regarding operations, that's what transpired going from the beginning to the end.
Additional remarks an corrections:
Three messages were sent by the task force. The first message was sent the morning of 27 March 1945 from Rieneck requesting air support against an enemy division marshalling area at Gemuenden. On the afternoon of 27 March 1945, Captain Baum called Lt Dahmen, who was in a plane, on the FM and gave his location which was on high ground between Rieneck and Graefendorf. A message was sent the morning of 28 March 1945 stating the mission was completed and that two attempts had been made to break out but losses had been heavy. It was also stated one more attempt would be made and if it was unsuccessful, the force would "hole up". The first and third messages were acknowledged by a "Roger" on the G‑4 net.
Approximately 700 Russian prisoners were freed near the town of Graefendorf. There were approximately 1.400 American officers and 200 NCO's in the stockade south of Hammelburg. A LTC was the highest ranking officer in the group.
The force had four light tanks left when they were fighting on Hill 427. Three of these were from a platoon of the 37th Tank Bn and the other was from his command section. There was no tank fight at Obereschenbach. One medium tank of the force was knocked out by bazooka fire between Gemuenden and Obereschenbach. A light tank was lost near Gemuenden due to a thrown track. The order of march at the beginning of the mission was as follows: medium tanks with infantry riding, infantry in half‑tracks, light tank, and assault guns. When no resistance was expected, the light tanks were sent to the head of the column.
Subordinate commanders in the task force were as follows:
Cpt Lange Infantry
Lt Nutto Medium Tanks
Lt Weaver Light Tank Platoon
T/Sgt Graham Assault Gun Platoon
Lt Hoffner Reconnaissance Section
There was a total of eleven officers in the force. The only briefing prior to the mission was the actual telling of the men the purpose of the mission. Fifteen maps with the route marked were issued. The men who comprised the force had slept only one night in the four days prior to the mission.
The column reached Gemuenden the morning of 27 March 1945 and found that 12 troop trains had just unloaded and crews were servicing the engines. All of the engines were destroyed by the force. Three medium tanks were knocked out by bazooka fire in going through the town. An enemy division was billeted in the town and the fighting soon became heavy. A platoon of infantry was dismounted and sent to secure a bridge over the river but the bridge was blown while two of the infantrymen were standing on it.
Because of increasing opposition, Captain Baum decided to withdraw from the town and follow another route. Captain Baum, Lt Nutto, and an infantry platoon leader were wounded in Gemuenden. The force then proceeded north and went 15 miles out of the way to find a crossing over the river. The enemy destroyed six bridges after the force had already crossed them and set up road block behind them.
The air mission arrived at Gemuenden there was no opportunity to use it as the force quickly from the town. The assault guns were all knocked out near Hammelburg. One was knocked out on the edge of town and the other two were destroyed on Hill 427 southwest of Hammelburg. The force did not enter Hammelburg.
Copy from the US National Archives
Corrections of German place-names and
geographical names by Peter
2002 © Copyright Peter Domes - Date of last change: 2006-04-19