70 Years Ago Felix and the 45th Signal Company Cross the Rhine

Gorak_crossRhine1[1]

DUKW (amphibious 2½ ton truck) transporting a 105mm howitzer and men of the 158th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry Division over the Rhine. (See glossary below for meaning of DUKW.)

This may have been about the same place where the 45th Signal Company crossed and some of the DUKWs that transported them

No photos have been found of the 45th Signal Company crossing the Rhine.

Fair use of photo from the collection of Edwin Gorak

On March 25, 1945 the 45th Signal Company received a DUKW to use in the laying of communication cables across the Rhine.

Early on the morning of March 26 the construction section laid two cables across the Rhine. The telephone section crossed and established switching central on the east bank of the Rhine.

The conditions under which the men of the 45th Signal Company laid those cables were life threatening.

While the ground fighting had moved east, the Nazis were still firing artillery and rockets and launching air attacks at the Rhine crossings.

Along with the risk of drowning they also risked hypothermia, frostbite, or immersion (trench) foot. The water temperature was probably 32° F (0° C) and the March air temperature averaged about 41° F (5° C).  My late father Felix A. Cizewski would have been very aware of that as he had just returned to duty after recovering from severe frostbite 3 months earlier.

On March 27, the rest of the 45th Signal Company crossed the Rhine and set up the normal Command Post communications systems in Zwingenberg.

Several Nazi soldiers surrendered to members of the company.

The company reported that their trucks and other vehicles were in bad shape because of constant use. A jeep threw a rod.

I do not know in which section of the 45th Signal Company my late father Felix A. Cizewski served so I do not know if he crossed the Rhine on March 26 or 27.


Glossary:

What does DUKW mean?

D = built in 1942

U = amphibious 2½  ton truck

K = front wheel drive

W = rear wheel drive


Acknowledgements:

The detailed information about the 45th Signal Company’s crossing of the Rhine is from the March, 1945 Company History which Dave Kerr obtained from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

A discussion with free lance writer Anne Gafiuk resulted in the addition of details of the life threatening conditions under which the 45th Signal Company worked.

The details with links about DUKWs was in response to a question from Jeff Spitzer-Resnick.


Links, sources, and more information:

Felix A. Cizewski and the Central Europe Campaign


Revised: March 26, 2015

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-Ho

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