Biography of Paul Lee Schlegel
45th Inf Div, USA
Paul Lee Schlegel served in the U.S.Army with the Thunderbirds, the 45th Infantry Division.
The 45th Infantry was formed from the Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma National Guards on 16 February 1940. The unit trained in the United States until June 3, 1943 when it departed Hampton Roads bound for North Africa, arriving there on June 22nd. The unit trained at Arzew. The 45th then partook in the assault on Scoglitti Siciliy on July 10th, taking COmiso and Ragusa Airport and repulsing German counter attacks. The Thunderbirds met the Canadien 1st Division on July 12th, moved forward through Licodia and Monterosso on the 13th and crossed the Salso at Caltanisetta five days later. The unit engaged Italian rear guards on the 20th at Vallelunga and fought the Battle of Motta Hill from the 26th through the 30th of July. The unit engaged the enemy at San Mauro, Tusa and San Stefano through August 1st when relieved. The unit went into the rear but for the 157th Infantry Regiment which landed near Barcelona to block Axis withdrawals.
The 45th took part in the attack upon Salerno on September 10th, with the 157th and 179th heavily engaged at Ponte Sele and the Tobacco Factory. By the 19th the division was pressing forward up Highway 91 and by the 20th of OCtober had reached the Volturno River, taking Oliveto and Piedmont D'Alife among other objectives.
Relieved on the 20th, the division had a short respite resuming the offensive on the 3rd of November. Breaking the Hitler line during a ten day battle, the division then pressed the Germans into their mountain defenses, seizing Hill 769 and Mt. La Posta during December. The division was engaged in attempting to clear the hills north of Cassino when it was withdrawn on January 9, 1945.
The 45th next took part in the Anzio invasion on January 22nd. The unit defended the beachhead there and on February 11th made an attempt to recapture the factory area of that field. A German counter attack on the 18th isolated the 157th and pushed the 179th back to the beach head. The unit was placed in reserve thereafter till May 23rd when the 45th pushed up the Albano road. The division secured river crossings north of Rome by June 4, 1944 and was relieved on June 16th.
Therafter the division took part in the invasion of Southern France at St. Maxime, August 15, 1944 and pushed on from there through a battle at Barjols on the 18th and 19th and on to the Rhome and Ains rivers by the 30th. Heavy fighting ensued at Meximieux on the 1st and 2nd of September and then again in Villersexel on the 13th. The division engaged in heavy combat, crossing the Moselle, taking Epinal, Girmont, and Bruyeres and crossing the Mortagne until being relieved on November 1st through the 9th for rest.
The division then captured forts of the Maginot Line near Mutzig on the 25th and took Mertzwiller in heavy combat on the 5th of December. Thereafter the unit was engaged in heavy fighting which isolated some of its units, pushed it back into defensive positions and decimated a battalion of the 157th near Reipersweiler on January 18th, 1945. On February 17th the unit was relivieved for rehabilitation from its defensive positions along the Rothbach Aur-Moder River line.
The Division returned to the lines on March 15th, crossing the West Wall and then to the Rhine, on the 21st. The Division crossed the Rhine at Hamm on the 26th and raced to create a bridgehead across the Main River at Obernau on March 28th. The Battle of Aschaffenburg followed through the 3rd, entailing house to house fighting before the city was captured by the 157th.
The Division then fought in the Battle for Nuremburg 16-20 April before moving on to the Danube and Munich, crossing the Danube on the 26th of April. The Division occupied Munich through VE and VJ Days.
The 45th partook in the Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe campaigns and in those campaigns sufferred 3,547 killed, plus 533 more who would die of wounds and 14,441 wounded in 10 months of combat. Of these one was Paul Schlegel, who was wounded twice. He carried a piece of schrapnel in his back until he passed away 9 years ago.
Albert R. Panebianco, S/Sgt, 157th Regt, 45th Inf Div, USA, Use Back Key To Return
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