Geoff Walden


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Schweinfurt, Part 5

End of the War in Schweinfurt, April 1945

 

Allied bombers strike Schweinfurt one last time on 10 April 1945, as the 42nd Bomb Wing (1st Tactical Air Force) "softens up" the city in preparation for the infantry advance the next day. In almost a duplicate of the first attack on 17 August 1943, bombs have fallen down Niederwerrner Straße from the Panzerkaserne barracks on the left, into the downtown area toward the right, ignoring the bearing factories (which were already in ruins).  (National Archives, RG 342-FH 3A22474)

Click here to visit a page concerning the fighting west of Schweinfurt, during the American advance from the Rhein.

The principle bridge across the Main River, the Maxbrücke, was collapsed by demolition on 11 April 1945, as German defenders retreated before the advancing American troops. When the new Maxbrücke was built in 1960, it was placed just east of the original site.  (U.S. National Archives, RG 111SC-323993, 334115, 323992)

 

42IDSfurt1t.jpg (222483 bytes)

After fighting stiff German resistance all the way from Würzburg since 6 April 1945, including dueling with the Schweinfurt flak batteries,
the American troops advanced into the city from the west on the morning of 11 April 1945. As they approached the city,
they observed a cloud of smoke resulting from the destruction of the Maxbrücke.
(42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division. Baton Rouge, LA, Army & Navy Publishing Co., 1946)

 

When the U.S. Army moved into Schweinfurt on 11 April 1945, much of the city was in ruins. Here, M4A3 Sherman tanks attached to the 42nd Infantry Division (probably from Combat Command A, 12th Armored Division) move along rubble-strewn Ludwigstraße. (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, courtesy Mike Haines; thanks to Klaus Roth for finding this photo location, which had eluded me.)

 

42nd Infantry Division soldiers move on up Ludwigstraße (above), to its intersection with Friedenstraße (below). (The white marking on the period photo below is an editor's crop mark.)  (above - U.S. Army Signal Corps photo NA RG 111SC-271389, courtesy Mike Haines; below - U.S. Army Signal Corps photo NA RG 111SC-341782)

 

This Sherman tank is moving through the rubble of the destroyed Gelatine Fabrik on Friedrich-Stein-Straße. The modern layout of this area precludes a matching view today, but the building in the modern photo can be seen in the right background of the 1945 photo (partially destroyed).  (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo RG 111-SC-336818, courtesy Mike Haines; thanks to Florian Lang for identifying this location.)

 

The 42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division held a memorial formation on 13 April 1945 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died the day before. The Division formed its famous color-guard of flags from all 48 states, with the bombed-out St. Kilian's Church as a background. The ruins of the church were torn down, and a modern design erected on the spot in 1953.  (42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division. Baton Rouge, LA, Army & Navy Publishing Co., 1946)

 

Two views of the devastation that the American forces found when they moved into Schweinfurt. The rebuilding took a great deal of work through the 1950s and 1960s, and even now one building that was damaged in one of the 1943 bombing attacks remains unreconstructed to its original height (this building is on Schillerplatz).  (left - U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey; right - U.S. National Archives, RG 111SC-205328)

 

The ball bearing plants had been severely damaged, and many of the buildings were in ruins. These views were taken by personnel of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey in April 1945.  (U.S. National Archives, RG 342FH-3A22459, 3A22460, 3A22467, 3A22461)

 

An M4 Sherman bulldozer tank clears the rubble in the Schweinfurt streets. On the right, Major General Harry J. Collins, commanding the 42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division, presents a Nazi flag taken from Schweinfurt to the 42nd Bomb Wing, U.S. Army Air Forces 9th Air Force, for their assistance in helping the infantry take Schweinfurt by bombing the city on 10 April 1945. This flag is held today in the collections of the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.  (42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division. Baton Rouge, LA, Army & Navy Publishing Co., 1946)

Note: A similar flag (larger) was presented by the 42nd Infantry Division to the 8th Air Force. This flag was inscribed "To the 8th Air Force - The Rainbow has avenged your losses at Schweinfort [sic]." This flag was later presented to the 305th Bomb Group in England in May 1945. Anyone having further info on this flag is asked to contact the page author at walden01(at)comcast.net.  (Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association "Briefing Letter" BL 15-04)

 

The mounds of rubble that had accumulated in the city were moved by narrow gauge railway to a dumping area north of the Kugelfischer factory. This formerly flat area was built up into a hill, which has been landscaped and is now a city park. This commemorative marker was erected on the "Schuttberg" (Rubble Hill) in 1960.

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The occupying U.S. forces set up a command post in the Goethe School, which had been used for the same purpose by the final German defenders of the city. On 12 April 1945 all Schweinfurt men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to report to a holding area near the Goethe-Schule and Goethebunker air raid shelter (seen on the right above), where they were questioned and processed for return to their homes. The large open area that served as the holding pen has been partially built over now, but the modern photo below shows the same side of the former Goethe-Schule - now the Friedrich-Fischer-Schule - that appears in the period photo.  (above - Life Collection; below - U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)

 

At the same time that the Schweinfurt men were required to assemble, Schweinfurt women were required to turn in all radios, cameras, binoculars, and firearms to the U.S. military authorities. This collection took place near the men's internment area at the Goethe-Schule. On the right, MPs watch as German POWs march past in Schweinfurt.  (U.S. Army Signal Corps photos)

 

When the U.S. Army moved into Schweinfurt in April 1945, famous Life Magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White noted in her memoirs that the GIs requisitioned some of the more elaborate houses on the east side of town as their temporary billets. This area was the furthest from the bearing factories, and thus largely escaped bombing damage, and several luxurious mansions were located here. This 1896 villa on Gartenstraße was likely one of those occupied by the U.S. Army.

 

Shortly after the end of the war, a U.S. pilot posed in the cockpit of a P-38 fighter parked on the airfield at the Schweinfurt Flugplatz. This post was used by the U.S. Army as Conn Barracks until it closed in September 2014.  (courtesy Mike Haines)

 

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Click here for a link to a MapQuest map of Schweinfurt.

 

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All contents copyright © 2000-2017, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.  All photos taken by or 
from the collection of Geoffrey R. Walden, except where specifically noted.  Please respect my property rights,
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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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