About what happened in Kastel, Germany, on March 17, 1945
Official report and eye-witness account
File 610-2.0 Journal G-2 10th AD
period 171600A Mar 45 to 181600A Mar 45
CP: Mitlosheim, Germany
entry # 29
Info from Capt. Cranford: Been in town of KASTEL for about 15 minutes. One platoon had seized bridge and was going across, one platoon has just started cleaning out the town when four Mk IV tanks with 6-10 inf on each tank moved into town from North at 1755A. Major Hankins, Captain Bush and the Team Commander were all in building in the town when the tanks moved in. The tanks knew someone was in that building and these tanks shot into building. The building was completeley surrounded and the tanks fired into the building. Major Hankins and his staff moved from room to room just ahead of the 75's coming in and finally got down to the basement. The Germans started coming in the house; one came down in the basement. Hankins and others shoved pistols in the mans ribs and he was taken PW. An infantry platoon sergeant outside came to rescue and knowcked out crew of 2 tanks by rifle fire. One tank got away. These tanks had come down with mission to cross bridge and blow same which was prepared for demolition with a 500 lb bomb. Hankins had not received any artillery or mortar fire for past two days.
Augustino Carrillo from San Antonio, Texas, was a gunner of one of the Sherman tanks of Task Force Hankins.
"For historical purposes to the best of my knowledge what took place at Kastel on or about 17 March 1945 is as follows:
1. we approached Kastel from high ground with four medium tanks (Sherman) and two light tanks and some armored infantry in half tracks.
2. We proceeded into the village. The lead tank stopped near the rock wall next to the church. Another tank took position across the road from a lead tank.
3. Two light tanks stopped at the intersection where the street rounded to the right. One tank was behind the other.
4. Another medium tank positioned adjacent to a building on the right side of the road before getting to the corner.
5. My tank was positioned across and slightly to the left of the road from the tank mentioned in Line 4 above.
There was no action at the moment, and the Americans relaxed and let their guard down. Several soldiers dismounted from their vehicles. I remained alone in my tank because I had a strange feeling that things were just not right. There were no white flags hanging from the windows which was normal procedure to be expected from the civilian population trying to protect their property. At this point the Americans were unaware of the presence of German tanks in the village.
Suddenly the Germans attacked. The lead American tank stationed by the church was hit. The other medium tanks across the road from the lead tank may have been hit also, but I am not sure about that. Two German tanks turned right toward my location and, as they climbed the slope, the lead tank fired and hit one of our light tanks positioned about 75 feet in front of me. The other light tank managed to get away as soon as the first American tank had been hit. The lead attacking German tank kept coming and fired a second round at the light tank just as a crew member was trying to exit. I saw his body fly out of the tank. I believe he died.
The street corner was not very dark with smoke because the light tank was burning. I could hear the German tank approaching the corner and wondered what I should do. At this point Steve Compoginis, the gunner, came running and jumped into the tank. I asked, "What are we going to do?" He replied, "We are going to stop that tank!" I loaded the tank gun. Compoginis ordered me to direct the fire as he could not see the corner of the building because of the smoke. As soon as I saw the German tank clear the corner, I yelled "fire". I instantly attempted to reload, but our gun jammed and the empty casing would not eject. I yelled to my gunner about this, and we both bailed out of the tank because we were not sure at that moment whether we had hit our target. We were now out of action as far as we could think at the time. As it turned out, we had indeed stopped the counter attack.
The second German tank, upon seeing what happened to his lead tank, wheeled around and left the battle scene. I did not personally see what happened to the two remaining German tanks. My comrades told me later that the American infantry disabled them with bazookas (Panzerfaust), but since I was around the corner and could not see, I cannot say for sure what happened there. I know that we had some casualties as well as the Germans. I am unable to give exact figures. Also, I believe we took some prisoners but again I do not know or remember the figures. I recall vividly one of the crew members of the American lead tank being carried past my tank, and he was badly burned. He was one of the older soldiers - about thirty-five or forty years of age. I knew him, but I cannot remember his name.
The crew of the attacking German lead tank attempted to bail out after getting hit, but they were mowed down by small arms fire from Americans. To my knowledge all of that crew perished.
I'm now seventy-five years old and am recalling things that happened to me 50 years ago. If there is any deviation from my story as I recall it, it is logical to assume that my memory is getting fainter with the year."