Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Virgil W. Westdale Interview
Narrator: Virgil W. Westdale
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 21 & 22, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-wvirgil-01-0039

<Begin Segment 39>

TI: So let's pick it up there. So you're with the 522, and you now are continuing with General Patch, and you go into Germany. What happened next?

VW: Well, okay, it was at night, I know that, and we were near Worms, Germany. And our major, who was one of the S-2 officers, walked into the command post right there and he spotted a general, a brigadier general. And the two had been in the same training area back in the States, and so they knew each other. But the general says, "Now," he says, "we're going to send you across the, the new pontoon bridge," which crossed the Rhine. And that, "You'll be the first ones across, and you'll be going around midnight. And no, and you'll have only blackout, blackout lights." And so that's almost no lights at all. And so we had to get lined up and get ready to cross on the pontoon bridge. And I remember it's kind of bowed because the current took the pontoon bridge and bowed it in the middle. And I was hoping that none of our guys would run off the track, 'cause if the, one of the people ahead of us got stuck, there wasn't anything we could do. We couldn't even back up because it was too narrow, and we had all this equipment behind us and heavy equipment, too, and the artillery pieces and so on. So I was just hoping that the, no one would run off because they couldn't see where they were going. And they didn't, though, they were good drivers.

TI: Now, the significance of being first, was that a good thing for the unit, or was that a more dangerous thing? To be the first one across those pontoon bridges?

VW: Oh, well, I was often wondering why they sent us, sent us through first. [Laughs] Why didn't they send somebody else through? I didn't know why they didn't, but there were two reasons, maybe. Maybe one was, "Well, we'll let the 442nd go first and see what happens." Or, or they thought, "Well, we better get them across while it's dark and get them set up as soon as they can, 'cause we'll need 'em to penetrate that Siegfried Line," which they did. So we made it, and so things are, things were okay then, since we made it.

TI: Okay, so you crossed the Rhine, and then what happened next?

VW: Well, I remember going through the Siegfried Line, they had a bunch of concrete pillars sticking up, maybe about three feet high, and that was to stop the tanks or the, or the mobile units bringing supplies and equipment in. And I'm not sure how, how we maneuvered around that, but we did. I remember I walked around it and so did all the other, lot of other guys, but you couldn't drive the truck through. And I'm not sure how they made it, whether they built quickly a ramp to go across, I'm not sure. Maybe they did. But we were gone by the time they had to pull the trucks through and I suppose the tanks, too. But we didn't have any tanks, but other outfits had to get their tanks across some way or other.

TI: And in general, how heavy was the fighting after you went to the Siegfried Line?

VW: Well, I know that they were fighting when we were going across the pontoon bridge, that I know, in a town not too far from where we were. And now, if the Germans had been pretty, a little bit more agile and known, knew what they were doing, they would have attacked that end of the bridge that was over on the other side of into Germany. If they would have broken that through when we were on that bridge, we'd have been dumping into the Rhine River. I don't know why they didn't do that, but that would have been a perfect thing to do. But they didn't do it. And whether they tried to get over to the pontoon bridge and they met some resistance there from the infantries that were ahead of us a little bit, maybe that's why, I'm not sure.

TI: So, so what I've read is that after the breaking the Siegfried Line, pretty much the Allied troops sort of overran the Germans. I mean, the Germans were in heavy retreat.

VW: Yes.

TI: And so that oftentimes, the 522, I mean, they were advancing ahead of infantry, I mean, it was just like a...

VW: Sometimes we got ahead of the infantry.

TI: And things were just moving very rapidly.

VW: In fact, we had direct fire on our Howitzers, if you can imagine that. I remember, I remember walking around them, and they were pointin' right at, direct fire. Didn't have to use 'em that way, but they were ready in case the infantry had, all of a sudden, the enemy infantry would maybe want to counterattack or something. And so our Howitzers were pointing direct fire. We were, we were quite a bit ahead of, lot of times, on the infantry. In fact, the 92nd Division said that they had a hard time, their tanks and so on had a hard time keeping up with us at the time.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.