before tomorrow night. All of the 10th CT was released to us, and directed to assemble in vicinity of
Alzey. Last battalion should be in by noon tomorrow.
"22 March 45. Clear. Night quiet. 11th Infantry (Regiment) is in Oppenheim. 3rd Battalion of
10th (Infantry Regiment) being relieved in Worms, and moving to assembly area near Alzey. 748th
Tank Italian attached and 737th Tank Battalion relieved. Received Corps order about 0700 which
extends our left considerably. Also got order (tentative) for operations east of the Rhine, giving Corps
bridgehead. Gen Eddy visited CP about 1000 and said Army Commander was insistent that we cross
tonight. Informed him that it would not be possible to make it well-planned and ordered crossing, but
that we could definitely get some sort of bridgehead. Moved CP to Undenheim, opening about 1300. I
went to CP of 11th Infantry (Regiment) at Nierstein, about 300 yards from Rhine River. Everything was
quiet there, and no evidence of enemy action. Col Black reported lack of proper reconnaissance of the
river's edge, but seemed confident of making a crossing. A great deal of special equipment is slow
arriving, particularly amphibious tanks and extra weasels, which latter have to be brought from Metz.
10th and 2nd (Infantry Regiments) have considerable moves to river, and traffic is heavy near the
crossing site, which may cause conflicts and delays. Ample artillery is in position, and so far we have
evidence of few enemy personnel or weapons on far shore on our front. It is a big and difficult
operation, however, and it is hard to predict the outcome at this time."
But by the evening of 22 March 45, Gen "Red" Irwin had done all he could to make the attack of
his division a success. The assault was scheduled for 2200. An hour before that, at 9:00 o'clock, he
went wearily to bed. He could not sleep and, as was his habit in such moments of tension, he took up a
mystery novel. He was reading it when, at 10:23, the telephone beside his bed rang and the thrilling
assurance of a good beginning to the great enterprise came to him: "The first two companies are across
2. The Fifth Infantry Division's Great Day
Spearpoint of XII Corps for the Rhine Crossing was the 5th Infantry Division. Just as the Third
Army Summary makes it clear who was doing the actual running with the ball, so the Corps After
Action Report leaves no doubt which division had the stellar role in the crossing.
"At 2200A on 22 March the 5th Infantry Division, crossing in assault boats with the support of
the 1135th Engineer Combat Group at Oppenheim, made the historic assault crossing of the Rhine... the
first assault crossing of the Rhine River in military history. Despite the swiftness of the move, the heavy
forward traffic on all roads, and the brief time for ground reconnaissance, the careful planning and long
experience in river crossings bore fruit. The crossing was made so swiftly and smoothly that only a
scattering of small arms and machine-gun fire was brought on the crossing troops. As the infantry
crossed, bridging and ferrying equipment was assembled, and landing craft operated by attached Naval
personnel were launched and ferried personnel and vehicles. Shortly after midnight of 23-24 March the
5th Infantry Division had a secure bridgehead, two bridges had been completed by the 1135th Engineer
Combat Group, and the 4th Armored Division was moving to the crossing points. "
The tale of those dark initial hours which established the XII Corps bridgehead could not be
better told then by reproducing the detailed account given in the 5th Infantry Division's own unit history,
which also can serve to outline a model for all such infantry operations: