Purple Heart Private First Class
Joe E. Moss

1920 - March 28, 1945

Cape Girardeau, Missouri - Gladback


 

Joe E. Moss was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri in 1920. He moved to Tennessee and got married. Before he enlisted he worked as a geographer.

He joined the army in August 1942 and became a Private First Class in company F, 134th Infantry regiment, 35th "Santa Fe" Infantry Division.

The Division was shipped to Europe and landed in Normandy in early July 1944. It played a important part in the capture of St. Lo and joined in the route of the German Army. The division fought in Northern France the Rhineland the Ardennes and Germany.

 

 

134th Infantry Regiment

35th Infantry Division

In March of 1945 the division found itself near Gladbeck in Germany. Gladbeck is located to the Northwest of  Gelsenkirchen.

The 134th Regimental History writes the following about the action of late March:

"With the hope of achieving a break-out on the plains of northern Germany, General Eisenhower had decided that the main effort in crossing the Rhine should be made north of the Ruhr, that is, in the area of Field Marshall Sir Bernard L. Montgomeryís Northern (21st) Group of Armies. In a great windfall of the war, however, troops of General Courtney Hodgesí First Army (the 9th Armored Division) had seized intact the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, and before the main effort could be mounted in the north, First Army already had developed a bridgehead 25 miles long and 10 miles deep, and its three corps were ready to strike out. This major threat to the Germans in that region south of the Ruhr lent a considerable assurance of success to the big attack of the British, Canadian, and U.S. Ninth Armies in the north (in Operation PLUNDER) when the great air fleets of the First Allied Airborne Army and the waves of boats - operated mostly by naval personnel - began crossing the great barrier early on 24 March, 1945.

At a meeting at the Regimental C.P. that morning Colonel Boatsman reported the progress of the operation and announced plans for the Regimentís participation in it. Two British corps had attacked at midnight, and Commandos were now taking Wesel. At 0200 the 30th (U.S.) Division had begun crossing at three sites in the area south of Wesel, and by 0400 six battalions were across, and now they had penetrated to a depth of 2,000 yards. An hour later troops of the 79th Division had begun crossing some distance to the right (south) of the 30th, and by 0400 it had three battalions across and likewise had achieved a penetration of 2,000 yards. Opposition had been surprisingly light.

A quartering party left with Captain Lysle Abbott in mid-morning to reconnoiter an assembly area near Rheinberg, and the Regiment was alerted to be prepared to move on 30 minutes notice after 1700. (Earlier plans had contemplated use of the 35th Division to exploit a breakthrough no earlier than D plus 4.) Later orders indicated that there would be no movement toward the bridgehead until the next day.

Task Force Miltonberger was attached to the 79th Division for the operation. The task force included, in addition to the 134th Infantry, the 161st and 127th Field Artillery Battalions; Company A, 784th Tank Battalion; Company A, 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Company A, 60th Engineer Battalion, and Company A, 110th Medical Battalion.

Soon after arrival of the Regiment in the Rheinberg area, where the line companies detrucked, orders came for an immediate crossing of the river. Night was falling as the 3rd, 1st, 2nd Battalions marched across the great pontoon "Love" bridge at "Blue" beach, and even the night sky assumed a look similar to that of the first night in Normandy when airplanes of the Luftwaffe exchanged colorful streams of tracers with anti-aircraft guns near the bridge.

Completion of plans, coordination with units of 153rd Infantry (79th Division), issuance of orders in all echelons, movement into position - all these consumed most of the night, but the battalions, the 3rd on the right and the 2nd on the left, jumped off on time at 0800. Line of departure was the front of the 315th Infantry, and after that area had been cleared, the 79th Division turned generally southeast to protect the right flank of the XVI Corps. Although the Regiment was going into the industrial Ruhr region, this first dayís attack was mainly through patches of woods. Opposition - primarily from direct fire of 20mm and larger caliber SP guns - was somewhat more pronounced in front of the 3rd Battalion, and these same centers of resistance held up to a similar pace the 2nd Battalionís right - G Company. Company E, however, advanced rapidly from the first. Further delay came to the 3rd Battalion when its attached tanks bogged down in the mud of an autobahn roadbed which was under construction. (Tanks attached to the 1st Battalion, in reserve, were sent forward to the 3rd.) By 1430, both battalions were on the task force objective, and the 3rd Battalion had seized a bridge intact over the Schwartzer creek.

With arrival of the remainder of the 35th Division east of the river, Task Force Miltonberger was dissolved at 1800, and CT 134 reverted to division control. The 137th Infantry came into the line on the right, and the two regiments prepared to launch a coordinated attack at 0600 on the 27th.

As far as the 134th was concerned, there was something of a shift in emphasis in enemy opposition. Woods were even more prominent in the terrain now, and it was deep within the timberland that the 3rd Battalion met its first center of resistance. A vigorous fire fight on the part of Company I eliminated that, and by 0900 the battalion, after an advance of about 3,500 yards from the line of departure, had debauched from the woods (Forst Wesel) to arrive at the first phase line, designated "Able." A major problem here was the resupply of ammunition to replace that expended in the woods. Spring had come to the Ruhr on time, and winterís snows were gone, but thaw and spring rains had made the trails through the woods impassable for any wheeled vehicles. Once again M-29 carriers (weasels) provided the solution until an alternate route could be found. This done, Company K moved up abreast of Company I to follow a parallel route on the left toward new objectives - another 3,000 yards to the east - by 1450.

It was in front of the 2nd Battalion that opposition - still characterized by direct-fire cannon and anti-aircraft guns - developed strongest. When the 3rd Battalion forged ahead on the right, the possibility of an enveloping action against the right flank suggested itself. Men of E Company mounted attached tanks and TDís, and, swinging down through the zone of the 3rd Battalion, hit the rear of the enemy positions. This assisted toward some advance, but in the afternoon new troubles appeared. First there were a pair of German tanks camouflaged as haystacks, and when they withdrew, assault guns, supplemented by mortars and small arms, took their place. Now that battalion was deployed on a two-company front, with F on the right and E on the left, and G closely following E.

Visiting the regimental C.P. at 1500, the division commander ordered the Regiment to reach phase line "Uncle" (a railway cutting across the front) by night. At this point the 3rd Battalion was at least 1,200 yards from that goal - with some threat of counterattack, and the 2nd was nearer 4,000 yards away. To accomplish this mission it would mean for the 2nd Battalion a greater advance in two hours (and there were no immediate signs of any diminishing trend in opposition) than had been battered out the whole day. Colonel McDannel committed his reserve company (G) on the left and shifted E somewhat to the right in order to bring all possible firepower against the enemy.

A new potential threat appeared shortly after General Baade issued his order for continuation of the attack. The 137th Infantry had been having considerable difficulty advancing along the autobahn (Hitlerís super highway) on the right, and, as a result of the 3rd Battalionís rapid advance, an important gap in depth now existed between the forward elements of the two regiments. A call from the 137th at 1520 warned that a group of about 75 enemy infantrymen had been flushed out, and were withdrawing to the northeast - toward the rear of the 3rd Battalion.

As darkness threatened to overtake the whole operation, Colonel Boatsman decided to shift his troops in a final effort to reach the objective. He committed Major Davisí 1st Battalion, in reserve so far, on the right, with a mission of maintaining contact with the 137th - which required a considerable extension of that battalion; and he directed Colonel Wood to renew the attack to the northeast with the 3rd Battalion - into the zone of the 2nd. The 2nd Battalion had gained another kilometer by 1700, and then orders came to halt the attack at 1800. Confidant that, with these dispositions, the Regiment could reach the objective, and convinced that it would be an easier task to accomplish now than after the enemy had been given further opportunity for consolidation, the regimental commander asked permission to continue the attack after dark. On resumption of the attack at 2000, one of the Tanks of Company E was knocked out, and there still was 20mm and SP gun fire. But a platoon of Company K attained a patch of woods near the railway, and then other elements of the 3rd Battalion moved up to occupy the objective before midnight.

Attacks during the next day (28 March) were aimed at clearing pockets of resistance which remained in front of the 2nd and 1st Battalions. With the 2nd advancing again on the left, the 3rd now turned back toward the southeast as Company I attempted to neutralize some of the serious opposition which had developed in front of the 1st, but it was unable to cross the railroad. Areas of opposition which were proving so troublesome for the 137th were becoming thorns in the side of the 134th, and it was fire from that area (around Bottrop) that was giving the 1st Battalion much of its difficulty.

It doubtless would be hard for most infantrymen to say which was the more eerie experience, an attack at night through enemy-infested woods, or an attack at night through the streets of a large enemy city. Men of the 134th Infantry had an opportunity to make such a comparison in the Ruhr. First major urban objective for the Regiment in the urban Ruhr area was the city of Gladbeck (peace time population: 61,000), and at 2100 that same night long columns of the 3rd and 2nd Battalions moved down through a railway overpass, and then out into "no-manís" land over the blacktop highway. A few aroused Germans delayed the advance with some small arms fire, and the difficulty of restoring control in the leading companies after a night fire fight delayed it some more, but well before morning both battalions were in good positions in the smaller section of the city which lay to the west of the first main railway."

The After Action Report of the 134th Regiment for March 28, 1945 says:

"At0600, the attack was resumed, with the First Battalion advancing northeast, meeting moderate artillery fire and some direct fire from self-propelled guns, developing into heavy small arms and machine gun fire as the unit approached the railroad tracks in the vicinity of 442299. Heavy enemy small arms, final-protective-line fires, originating in the zone of the regiment on the right, denied the crossing of this railroad at the end of the period. Resuming the attack at 0600 with Company F on the right and Companies E and G in colomn echeloned left rear, the second Battalion advanced another one and a half kilometers. Opposition consisted of direct fire from self-propelled guns and 20mm fire, with small arms fire increasing as the units approached the railroad. After having cleared the area in the vicinity of 440320, the Third Battalion attacked with Company I through the woods to the southeast in an effort to reach the railroad as assist the advance of the First Battalion, but by the end of the afternoon's advance had been unable to cross this line. Heavy concentrations of artillery fire, followed by heavy small arms fire were received in the First Battalion zone. It was felt that this was intended to be the build-up for a counterattack, but if such was the case, it was broken up by supporting artillery fire before it could hit the position. At 2100, the Second and Third Battalions, in colomn of companies, battalions abreast, again attacked, securing positions of the railroad west of Gladbeck."

Pfc Moss was killed on March 28, 1945 in the fight for the railway near Gladbach.

He is buried at Margraten American Military Cemetery, Plot E Row 18 Grave 23.


(Picture courtesy of Mr. Jim Moss)

Margraten, The Netherlands

See also:
Pfc Joseph Shimoskie

Sources:
Mr. Jim Moss
134th Infantry Regiment Combat History

After Action Reports, March 1945, 134th Infantry Regiment


Directions to Margraten American Military Cemetery

Updated 6 December 2005

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This website is dedicated to the men and women who died and/or are buried in The Netherlands during World War II.

 

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