While the First Army was focusing on the Roer River dams and the Third Army probing the Eifel and clearing the Saar-Moselle triangle, Field Marshal Montgomery's 21 Army Group was launching the new Allied main effort. Under Montgomery's plan, General Crerar's First Canadian Army was to open the offensive with Operation VERITABLE, a drive southeastward up the left bank of the Rhine from positions gained by the big airborne attack the preceding fall in the vicinity of Nijmegen. A few days later General Simpson's Ninth Army from positions along the Roer River generally northeast of Aachen was to launch Operation GRENADE, an assault crossing of the Roer followed by a northeastward drive to link with the First Canadian Army along the Rhine. From positions along the Maas River in between Americans and Canadians, the Second Army was to be prepared to make a complementary attack if required.
Youngest Allied army then operational on the Continent, the Ninth Army nevertheless had seen considerable fighting--in the conquest of the Brittany peninsula in September and in the drive from the German border to the Roer River in November and early December. The Ninth Army's commander, General Simpson, was an infantryman with a distinctive appearance; he stood over six feet tall and kept his head clean shaven. Most of his staff were infantrymen, too, including the chief of staff, Brig. Gen. James E. Moore, and had come to the theater from a training command Simpson earlier had held in the United States. The headquarters already had established a reputation for steady, workmanlike performance. As General Bradley was to put it later, the Ninth Army, "unlike the noisy and bumptious Third and the temperamental First," was "uncommonly normal."1
During the Ardennes counteroffensive, the Ninth Army had remained on the defensive, extending its lines north and south in order to free troops to reinforce the First Army. All through January the army had held a 40-mile front extending from the vicinity of Monschau near headwaters of the Roer downstream to Linnich, northeast of Aachen. The command included only five divisions under the XIII Corps (Maj. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem, Jr.) and the XIX Corps (Maj. Gen. Raymond S. McLain).
To prepare for Operation GRENADE, it was necessary both to narrow the army's front and to build the army's strength to at least ten divisions. Reducing
the frontage by shifting the boundary between the First and Ninth Armies northward left the Ninth Army with only its two northernmost divisions, so that during the early days of February eight others were moved in.2
With seven of the army's ten divisions in place, boundaries were adjusted on 5 February. The First Army's VII Corps relieved the XIX Corps in place from the vicinity of Monschau to an unfinished autobahn (express highway) running from Aachen to Cologne; General Collins assumed control of the 8th and 104th Divisions and subsequently received the 3d Armored and 99th Divisions. With a zone narrowed to about eight miles from the autobahn north to a point beyond Juelich, the XIX Corps retained the 29th Division on the corps left and received the 30th Division for commitment on the right, plus the 2d Armored and 83d Divisions as reserves. Although the zone of the XIII Corps remained unchanged (from midway between Juelich and Linnich to a point four miles downstream from Linnich) and General Gillem retained control of the 102d Division, the 84th Division moved in on 3 February to take over the northern half of the corps sector and the 5th Armored Division arrived as a reserve.
Through the Ardennes fighting, the Ninth Army's north flank had rested on the little Wurm River a few miles northwest of Linnich. On the other side of the Wurm, a corps of the Second British Army had been containing a German bridgehead west of the Roer, the Heinsberg pocket, which the British cleared during January. The Ninth Army on 6 February then assumed responsibility for eighteen miles of the British line as far as the confluence of the Roer and Maas Rivers at Roermond, thus enabling the British to release forces to the First Canadian Army for Operation VERITABLE. To occupy the new sector, General Simpson attached the 8th Armored and 35th Divisions to a previously uncommitted corps headquarters, the XVI Corps (Maj. Gen. John B. Anderson), and subsequently provided the 79th Division as a reserve.
The Ninth Army thus had ten divisions along the Roer River with the greatest weight in the southernmost XIX Corps. In addition, the army held an infantry division, the 95th, in
reserve.3 The total strength of the army was 303,243 men. Because the First Army's VII Corps, which had four divisions, was to support the Ninth Army's attack, the corps in effect added additional strength to the GRENADE force of approximately 75,000 men.4
In direct support of the Ninth Army was the XXIX Tactical Air Command (Brig. Gen. Richard E. Nugent), employing five groups of fighter-bombers (375 planes) and one tactical reconnaissance group. For ground fire support the GRENADE force (the Ninth Army and the VII Corps) had 130 battalions of field artillery and tank destroyers, totaling more than 2,000 guns, one of the heaviest concentrations to be employed on the Western Front. The two corps making the main effort (XIII and XIX) had one artillery piece for each ten yards of front, plus tanks, tank destroyers, antiaircraft guns, and infantry cannon.5 In armor the GRENADE force had only what had come to be regarded as normal in the theater, but a powerful assembly nonetheless. Each corps had an armored division and each infantry division had an attached tank battalion, a total of 1,394 tanks. More than two-thirds of these were the old Sherman with the 75-mm. gun.6
As the target date for GRENADE approached, the Ninth Army's accumulated stocks of supplies rose to huge proportions. In one 5-day period (10-14 February), for example, the army received well over 40,000 long tons, the biggest delivery to any army in the theater in a comparable period. Most of it arrived by rail in more than 6,000 freight cars.7
Stocks of gasoline in the army's depots rose to over 3 million gallons, representing over five days of supply with five days' reserve. Augmenting ammunition deliveries with strict rationing, the army amassed 46,000 tons of ammunition, equivalent to at least twenty days' supply at normal rates of expenditure, four times the normal army stockage in the theater. It enabled all artillery units of the XIX Corps to place two units of fire at battery positions in addition to basic loads. The XIII Corps provided two units of fire for artillery of two of its divisions and one unit for that of the other two. The weight of the artillery projectiles that the XIX Corps alone could throw at the enemy in six days of combat on a 2-division front was 8,138 tons.8
The Terrain and the Enemy
In attacking across the Roer River in the vicinity of Linnich and Juelich and advancing northeastward to the Rhine,
the Ninth Army was to drive diagonally across the Cologne plain. Generally flat, open country traversed by an extensive network of hard-surfaced roads, the Cologne plain stretches from the highlands of the Eifel to the lowlands of northern Germany and the Netherlands. The only high ground worthy of the name in that part of the plain to be crossed by the Ninth Army is an eggshaped plateau extending eastward from the vicinity of Linnich and rising no higher than 400 feet above sea level. Although this gently sloping plateau was not a critical feature, it drew attention from the Ninth Army's planners because once it was taken, "the remainder of the attack was all downhill."9 The land throughout the plain is mostly arable and was planted predominantly in grain and stock beets. Observation and fields of fire were excellent.
The only natural military obstacles were two big forests and two rivers, the Roer and the Erft. The larger of the forests was in the north. Beginning on the east bank of the Roer opposite Heinsberg, it extended northward some twenty miles to the Dutch border near Venlo and secreted a portion of the West Wall. Along with the presence of a number of small streams immediately west of the Roer, this obstacle prompted the Ninth Army's planners to forgo Roer crossings in that sector. The other wooded area was the Hambach Forest, east and southeast of Juelich. Although planners originally assigned its capture to the First Army, on the theory that responsibility for a critical terrain feature should not be split, when it became apparent that the Ninth Army needed a broader base for attack, they assigned the northwestern third of the forest to the Ninth Army.
As planning for the attack began, the Roer River dams were still under German control, making of the Roer River a disturbing question mark. While the Roer is normally a placid stream only some ninety feet wide, the Ninth Army's engineers estimated that a combination of spring thaws and destruction of the Roer dams would convert it into a lake as much as a mile and a half wide. Even after the waters subsided, the Roer valley would be soft and marshy, impassable to vehicles operating off the roads.10 The planners chose crossing sites at the narrowest points of the river, mostly at the locations of destroyed bridges.
As the Roer was critical in determining the line of departure, so the Erft guided the northeasterly direction of the main attack. Cutting diagonally across the Cologne plain, the Erft splits the 25-mile distance between the Roer and the Rhine almost in half. It enters the Rhine at Neuss, opposite Duesseldorf. Neither the Erft nor the Erft Canal, which parallels the river for much of its course, are major military obstacles, but a boggy valley floor up to a thousand yards wide helps turn the waterways into a good natural defense line. Conversely, the river-canal complex might be utilized as flank protection for northeastward advance to the Rhine in the vicinity of Neuss, the use that the Ninth Army intended to make of it.
Although American intelligence officers assumed the enemy would achieve
some defensive advantage from these natural features, particularly the Roer, they looked to the villages, towns, and cities on the plain to provide the core of resistance. The assumption was natural in view of the Ninth Army's experience in November and December in driving from the German border to the Roer, where the Germans had turned villages into mutually supporting strongpoints.
The biggest city in the zone to be crossed by GRENADE forces was Muenchen-Gladbach, a textile center. With suburbs and a contiguous city of Rheydt, Muenchen-Gladbach had a prewar population of 310,000. Considerably smaller but vital as road centers were the towns of Dueren and Juelich on the Roer, both already almost obliterated by Allied bombs, and Elsdorf, Erkelenz, Viersen, Duelken, and Krefeld.
The Germans had augmented the built-up sectors with extensive field fortifications that a large foreign labor force had been constructing since late fall. There were three lines. The first hugged the east bank of the Roer. The other two ran six and eleven miles behind the Roer, the third tying in with the Erft River. In the main these fortifications consisted of entrenchments in a sawtooth pattern with exits into the towns and villages. Antitank obstacles and emplacements for antitank, antiaircraft, and field pieces were located at irregular intervals within and between the lines. Mines and barbed wire were placed rather spottily along the east bank of the Roer.11
While American G-2's deemed the defensive network well planned and organized, all indications were that the enemy had far too few troops to man the lines. This strengthened the belief that the defense would be based on strongpoints in towns and villages rather than on a continuous prepared position in depth.12
Along the entire Roer front from south of Dueren to Heinsberg, intelligence officers believed, the Germans had about 30,000 men supported by 70 tanks. They estimated six divisions with 23,500 men and 110 tanks to be in reserve near Cologne. Four miscellaneous divisions that had been out of contact for some time were presumed capable of intervention with 17,000 men and 55 tanks.13
That was the view on 1 February when General Eisenhower gave the word to mount GRENADE, but from that day on, the Ninth Army noted a steady decrease in German strength. On 6 February, for example, General Simpson observed that the Fifth Panzer Army still was committed defensively in the Eifel. Simpson's hopes rose for a speedy penetration of the Roer defenses. "We will have some tough fighting," he said, "but I think we are going right through."14
After 8 February, the First Canadian Army's drive southward from the Nijmegen bridgehead (Operation VERITABLE)
forced the Germans to commit in the north units from both the general reserve near Cologne and the line of the Maas River opposite the British. Yet in spite of mud and flood, the Canadian attack steadily crushed everything the Germans could throw in the way.
By the end of the first week, the attack had drawn in parts of two parachute divisions, the bulk of an infantry division from the Maas line, and the 15th Panzer Grenadier and 116th Panzer Divisions. Most intelligence officers then believed that the Panzer Lehr Division was the only armored reserve left to Army Groups B and H together. During the next week another parachute division also was drawn into the fight, and at the end of the week the Panzer Lehr too appeared opposite the Canadians.15
The rapid shuttling of German troops confused the intelligence picture. Although commitment of the Panzer Lehr Division removed the last known armored division from German reserves, it was hard to believe that the Germans would strip their defense of the Cologne plain completely. Various G-2's tried to guess what divisions the Germans might be able to muster, but the facts remained elusive. The last-minute picture was of an enemy along the Roer totaling some 30,000 men supported by about 85 assault guns and 30 battalions of artillery. Two weak infantry divisions and possibly two armored divisions might be used to bolster the line. On the whole, even if the worst possibilities envisaged by the G-2's materialized, the enemy probably would be outnumbered by at least five to one.
Having long anticipated that the Allies would strike again toward the Ruhr once they eliminated the Ardennes bulge, Hitler on 22 January, when ordering the Sixth Panzer Army to the east, had directed the Commander in Chief West, Field Marshal von Rundstedt, to regroup to the north. To meet the threat, Rundstedt proposed strengthening the southern wing of Army Group H opposite the British and Canadians with three divisions culled from various points. Once Army Group B had shortened its lines by withdrawing its southern wing from the Ardennes, the forces thus released--about three volks grenadier and three armored or motorized divisions, plus volks artillery and volks werfer brigades--were to be shifted to the army group's northern wing along the Roer.16
A major step in readjusting the front involved the exchange of sectors between headquarters of the Fifth Panzer and Fifteenth Armies. Controlling most of the remaining armored units, Manteuffel's Fifth Panzer Army then would be on the north in the most threatened sector and on terrain suited to armor. The LVIII Panzer Corps (General der Panzertruppen Walter Krueger) was to be fitted with three armored or motorized divisions and positioned behind the Roer line as an army group reserve.
No one--least of all Rundstedt--could have been sanguine about the situation. No one more than this old
soldier appreciated the difficulties of making the various transfers and meeting the new drive once it began. Gasoline shortages, unseasonal February thaws that turned highways previously blocked by ice and snow into quagmires, bomb damage to the limited rail net in the Eifel, responsibility for shipping the Sixth Panzer Army to the east, the way Allied aircraft denied almost all daylight movement, personnel and material losses in the Ardennes--all combined to project a dismal picture.
"I am not a pessimist," Rundstedt reported on 12 February, "but in view of the decisive nature of the coming battles, I consider it my duty to give a clear report of the situation as I see it."17
In all of Army Group B, Rundstedt said, infantry strength amounted to the equivalent of forty-five battalions or six and a half full divisions. Within the Fifth Panzer and Seventh Armies, each battalion faced two-thirds of an enemy division, and within the Fifteenth Army, most threatened of all until the shift with the Fifth Panzer Army could be made, an entire division. Nor could reserves to improve the balance in the Fifteenth Army be assembled and shifted as quickly as additional American forces could be expected to arrive. The proportion of forces on the Fifteenth Army's front was destined to be at least two and a half times less favorable than during the prolonged fighting west of the Roer in November; available artillery ammunition would be less than a third that expended in the earlier fighting.
As Allied intelligence had detected, the American drive from the Ardennes into the Eifel and the Canadian attack southeastward from Nijmegen seriously interfered with German efforts to strengthen the line behind the Roer. Of particular concern was the necessity to shift the 116th Panzer and Panzer Lehr Divisions to oppose the Canadians. The 116th still would be engaged there when Operation GRENADE jumped off, and the Panzer Lehr would be withdrawn into reserve only on the very eve of Operation GRENADE. General Krueger's LVIII Panzer Corps could not be withheld as a reserve but had to be committed in the line in command not of armor but of infantry. Nor would the projected shift of headquarters of the Fifth Panzer and Fifteenth Armies be completed before the American attack began. Because of the continuing American drive in the Eifel, the exchange would be delayed until the Americans were well beyond the Roer.18
As D-day for Operation GRENADE approached, the German lineup in the threatened sector was as follows: From a boundary in the north near Roermond, corresponding to the boundary between British and Americans, Army Group B's Fifteenth Army (General von Zangen) was responsible for a front some fifty miles long, extending south to include Dueren. The northern third was held by the XII SS Corps (Generalleutnant Eduard Crasemann) with two infantry divisions; the center around Linnich by the LXXXI Corps (General der Infanterie Friedrich Koechling) with two infantry divisions bolstered by a volks artillery corps; and the southern third around Dueren by the LVIII Panzer
Corps (Krueger) with a volks grenadier division and an infantry division, also bolstered by a volks artillery corps.
The Fifteenth Army had no reserves. Army Group B's reserves consisted of the 9th Panzer Division, assembled along the Erft River east of Juelich, and the 11th Panzer Division, the latter in process of assembling near Muenchen-Gladbach after Hitler personally ordered the division pulled out of the Saar-Moselle triangle. Neither panzer division was anywhere near full strength. Tanks and assault guns in all of Army Group B totaled only 276.19
Operation GRENADE was destined to strike a front manned and equipped on a catch-as-catch-can basis.
Objectives and Maneuvers
Against this enemy whose numbers were small, whose arms were weak, whose spirit faltered, the GRENADE force planned to deliver a paralyzing blow. So obviously expected, the attack permitted no subtlety; success was staked on power. Although General Simpson decided against air bombardment in favor of starting by night, more than 2,000 big guns were to pound the enemy for forty-five minutes before H-hour. Of the four American corps, three were to cross the river at H-hour, each with two infantry divisions to the fore, on a front from Linnich to Dueren, only seventeen miles long. The remaining corps was to move at H-hour to clear a few enemy nests remaining on the west bank of the Roer while simulating a
GENERAL VON ZANGEN
full-blooded crossing north of Heinsberg.
The objective of the first phase of operations was to place the Ninth Army astride the egg-shaped plateau east of Linnich with the army's right flank anchored on the Erft River. Since this involved a wheel to the north, General McLain's XIX Corps on the outer rim would make the longest advance, while the First Army's VII Corps protected the Ninth Army's right flank by establishing a bridgehead around Dueren and then clearing the bulk of the Hambach Forest and gaining the Erft near Elsdorf.
In the second phase, the Ninth Army was to extend its bridgehead north and northwest, with the main job falling to
General Gillem's XIII Corps. By taking the road center of Erkelenz and clearing the east bank of the Roer to a point west of Erkelenz, the XIII Corps was to open the way for an unopposed crossing of the river by General Anderson's XVI Corps.
What happened next depended on whether conditions favored rapid maneuver or forced a plodding infantry advance. Given slackening resistance and firm footing for tanks, General Simpson intended to push immediately with full strength to envelop Muenchen-Gladbach from south and east, then drive on to the Rhine. Should the armor be roadbound or the enemy stubborn, the two corps on the left were to make the main effort, rolling up the West Wall fortifications as far north as Venlo and clearing the big forest lying between Roermond and Muenchen-Gladbach. With supply routes then open from Heinsberg to Roermond, the army was to hit Muechen-Gladbach from west and south and push on to the Rhine.
Both plans conservatively assumed organized resistance throughout the Cologne plain. On the other hand, General Simpson added, "If the violence of our attack should cause disruption of the enemy resistance, each corps will be prepared to conduct relentless pursuit in zone, and phases will be abandoned in favor of taking full advantage of our opportunity."20
All plans were complete in expectation of a D-day on 10 February when, on the eve of the attack, the Germans destroyed the discharge valves on the Roer dams. Not for about twelve days would the water in the reservoirs be exhausted.21
Upstream from Dueren, where the river's banks are relatively high, the worst effect of the flood was to increase the current sharply, at some points to more than ten miles an hour. Downstream along most of its length, the Roer poured over its banks and inundated the valley floor. Just north of Linnich where the river is normally 25 to 30 yards wide, it spread into a lake more than a mile wide. More common were inundations of 300 to 400 yards. The ground on both sides of the flooded floor was soft and spongy. While engineers watched over the slowly receding river, GRENADE underwent successive postponements.22
Acting on advice of the engineers, General Simpson at last set D-day for 23 February, one day before the reservoirs presumably would be drained. Although the river still was in flood, it had receded eight to fourteen inches below the peak, and the current at few places exceeded six miles an hour. By seizing the first practicable moment when the river might be crossed with reasonable chance of success instead of awaiting a return to normal, General Simpson hoped to achieve some measure of surprise.23
In making the attack, leading waves were to cross the river in assault boats, while follow-up troops were to use foot
BURSTS OF WHITE PHOSPHORUS SHELLS LIGHT UP THE ROER RIVER AT LINNICH
bridges that engineers were to begin constructing at H-hour. In all divisions except the 84th, which was to cross on a one-battalion front, the number of assault boats was insufficient for the first wave, so that units had to plan to shuttle or find other means of crossing. Since shuttling in frail assault boats might break down in the face of a strong current, the 8th Division proposed to make motor-driven double-boat ferries of its assault boats. Some other units planned to rely on cable ferries or LVT's (land vehicles, tracked), amphibious tractors nicknamed alligators.
Each assault division in the Ninth Army planned to screen its crossing sites, either by smoke generators and pots placed on the west bank or by phosphorus shells fired across the river by chemical mortars. A smoke generator company and a chemical mortar battalion were in support of each corps. In the adjacent VII Corps, General Collins delegated the decision on using smoke to the assault division commanders.24
Within each division sector, attached corps engineers were to start at H-hour
22 February-11 March 1945
to build at least three vehicular bridges. Although the threat posed by the Roer dams had passed, each division still was to carry five days' supply of rations and gasoline against the possibility that bridging might be delayed or knocked out. To assure ammunition supply points beyond the Roer soon after the crossings, the XIX Corps attached two truck companies to each of its two assault divisions, while the XIII Corps planned to use three companies under corps control for the same purpose.25
In case bridges went out, LVT's and dukws (2½-ton amphibious trucks) were to ferry essential supplies. Although emergency airdrops probably would be unnecessary since the threat from the Roer dams had ended, 500 C-47 transport planes loaded with enough supplies to maintain one division in combat for one day remained on call.26
Challenging the Swollen River
On the night of 22 February, the GRENADE force stirred. No sooner was it dark than infantrymen began moving into cellars as close as possible to the river's edge. Engineers started transporting boats and bridging equipment to within easy carrying distance of the water. Artillerymen were careful to fire no more than normal concentrations lest the enemy discern from increased fire what was afoot.27
The enemy thus far had given no sign that he knew the long-expected attack was at hand. Although an occasional German plane appeared over the flatlands west of the Roer before dark, all seemed to be on routine reconnaissance or bombing and strafing missions. Incoming artillery and mortar shells were few.
In higher German headquarters, attention still was focused on the Third Army's attacks on Bitburg and Trier and the First Canadian Army's drive in the north. Employing a Canadian corps on the left and a British corps on the right, Operation VERITABLE had carried approximately seventeen miles from jump-off positions along the Dutch frontier near Nijmegen, more than a third of the distance to final objectives along the Rhine upstream from Wesel.28
Beginning at 0245 on the 23d, the massed artillery began its thunderous bombardment. Forty-five minutes later, infantrymen of six divisions lowered assault boats into the swollen Roer to do battle from the first with a treacherous current.
Because the river spread into wide inundations both north and south of Linnich, the 84th Division (Maj. Gen. Alexander R. Bolling) of the XIII Corps had to cross at a destroyed highway bridge on a one-battalion front within the town, where, by contrast, the river was still in a narrow channel. (Map VI) The first wave got over with relative ease. "I really don't know whether
CROSSING SITES AT LINNICH
the enemy fired any shots at us or not," said 1st Lt. Richard Hawkins of the 334th Infantry's Company A. "Our own guns going off all around us . . . drowned out all other sounds."29 Although the current hurled two boats far downstream, the bigger problem was a drift of almost all boats some seventy-five yards downstream, making it difficult in the darkness to get them back to the crossing site for the second wave.
Engineers beginning at H-hour to build three footbridges ran into difficulties with all three. One was almost completed when bypassed Germans opened fire with automatic weapons, making it impossible to anchor the bridge on the east bank. Another had no sooner been completed when an assault boat plunged downstream from the neighboring division's sector and knocked it out. A direct hit on a cable by an enemy shell knocked out a third just as it too was almost completed.
The follow-up battalion had to cross by shuttle with the few assault boats that could be retrieved. When one footbridge finally completed just before noon stayed in, the engineers abandoned attempts to build others and concentrated on vehicular bridges. An infantry support bridge was ready for light vehicles by 1730, but a treadway bridge, finished three hours later, had to be closed when a German plane strafed and damaged it. Only after more than four hours were spent on repairs was the treadway again ready for traffic; men of the 84th Division thus spent all of D-day on the east bank without tank or tank destroyer support.
In the sector of the 102d Division (Maj. Gen. Frank A. Keating) on the right wing of the XIII Corps upstream from Linnich, two regiments made the assault. As in the 84th's sector, fire from the east bank was meager, partly because a patrol had crossed thirty minutes before H-hour and knocked out four machine guns in front of the 407th Infantry. Near misses from mortar fire upset several craft carrying men of the 405th Infantry, but rubber life vests saved the men from drowning.
Again it was the second wave that ran into most difficulty, for the current carried many of the boats used by the first wave far downstream where they impotently sat out successive stages of the assault. When the follow-up battalion of the 405th Infantry reached the river, the men could find at first only two boats. After an intensive search turned up a few more, one company got across. Other men meanwhile tried LVT's, but so muddy was the far bank that these craft could not get far enough up for the men to disembark. As in the 84th Division's sector, an LVT went out of control, crashed into a partially completed infantry support bridge, and sent parts of the bridge careening downstream.
The struggle to build bridges was for the 102d Division also a discouraging task. When engineers completed the first footbridge for the 405th Infantry just before daylight, German artillery promptly knocked it out. They put in another about the same time for the 407th Infantry, but enemy shelling was too intense for the infantry to use it. Spattered by shell fragments, the bridge spanned the river for three hours before a tree fell on it, snapped a cable, and set the pontoons adrift. Shortly after
DERELICT ASSAULT BOATS NEAR LINNICH
midday the engineers at last opened a workable footbridge and a support bridge suitable for light vehicles.
The infantry support bridge had a short life; no sooner had the 407th's antitank company with its towed 57-mm. guns crossed than a shell knocked it out. Getting sufficient antitank support to the far bank became a major concern, for by noon signs of impending counterattack had begun to develop in front of the 102d Division. With the infantry support bridge finally operating again about 2100, General Keating ordered every 57-mm. gun in the division to be towed across immediately.
Although other engineers opened a treadway bridge about the same time, just as a company of tank destroyers started to cross three low-flying German planes knocked out the bridge. Another treadway was completed before midnight, but before tank destroyers could use it trucks loaded with rubble had to cross and build up a soggy exit route on the far bank.30 It was well after midnight
SMOKE POTS ALONG THE ROER NEAR DUEREN
before tank destroyers in appreciable numbers began to move beyond the river.
Two miles upstream to the south in the sector of General McLain's XIX Corps the swollen river proved as big an obstacle to successful assault as it had for the XIII Corps. There the 29th Division was to cross around Juelich, the 30th Division three miles farther upstream.
Both assault regiments of the 29th Division (Maj. Gen. Charles H. Gerhardt) faced special crossing problems. North of Juelich, no bridges were to be built for the 115th Infantry because the flooded Roer was more than 400 yards wide. Both the first wave and the followup units were to cross in assault boats and LVT's, with additional forces crossing later over bridges to be built at Juelich for the 175th Infantry.
The 175th, on the other hand, was to depend almost entirely on bridges, since the river alongside the east bank town of Juelich flows between high banks. Half an hour before the end of the artillery preparation, two 25-man patrols were to cross in assault boats to stake out small holdings where engineers,
CROSSING SITES AT JUELICH
working under a smoke screen, could anchor footbridges over which the assault battalions were to cross.
Despite fire from German machine guns, one patrol got across the river. Of two boats carrying the other patrol, one capsized and the current washed the other far downstream.
Working at the site of a destroyed highway bridge, engineers completed a footbridge in less than an hour. Although an assault boat loaded with men crashed into the bridge and knocked it out, engineers had it back in service by 0600. The first infantrymen then crossed on a dead run. Within another hour, two more footbridges were in.
Previously undetected mines on west-bank approaches to the 115th Infantry's crossing site meantime threatened to delay the other assault. A tank maneuvering into a supporting position struck a mine, blocking the road leading to the river, and a tank-dozer trying to remove the disabled tank set off another mine. The leading LVT bringing troops to the site also hit a mine, blocking the column of LVT's behind it. Officers on the scene directed the infantry to dismount and join other units crossing by assault boat. The mishap delayed the first wave by twenty minutes, but the LVT's soon found a bypass around the disabled vehicles.
From this point German fire added a new dimension to the problems facing the engineers. Long-range machine gun fire played on one footbridge for much of the morning. A mortar shell struck another while stretcher bearers were crossing with a wounded man.31 Two artillery hits on a partially completed treadway bridge prompted engineers to shift the site a few hundred yards upstream where houses in Juelich provided a measure of concealment. Tanks and bulldozers began to cross in late afternoon, the bulldozers to clear paths through the rubble that air and artillery bombardment had made of the town.
Upstream from Juelich, the 30th Division (General Hobbs) faced perhaps the most forbidding stretch of waterline along the entire front. At only two points, both on the division's right wing, was the river considered at all narrow enough for crossings.
Going the 29th Division one better, the 119th Infantry near the village of Schophoven sent a patrol of twenty-five riflemen to the east bank more than an hour before start of the artillery preparation. With the patrol providing a screen, engineers were to begin work on a footbridge at the same time the preliminary shelling began.
At 0215 engineers followed the patrol across in assault boats, dragging behind them prefabricated duckboard bridges to be used to get the infantry across a canal that at this point parallels the Roer. (A patrol had discovered only forty-eight hours before the attack that the canal was too deep for fording.) As the big artillery bombardment began, a battalion of infantry started crossing in assault boats. By the time the last shells fell, a footbridge was in place and the rest of the regiment was racing across.
The 120th Infantry a few hundred yards upstream had no such success. Although the original plan for crossing had
FOOTBRIDGE ACROSS THE ROER SERVES MEN OF THE 30TH DIVISION
been much the same, a patrol only the night before had discovered that the current was too swift at that point for assault boats. The engineers quickly made plans for two cable ferries, but they were able to fasten a rope on the far bank for only one. Almost two hours before the artillery preparation began, a company of infantrymen began to pull themselves across in rubber boats, but the current proved too swift even for that method. Only thirty men reached the east bank.
Engineers succeeded finally in fastening an anchor cable for a footbridge just before the preparation fires began. Yet from that moment everything seemed to go wrong. German artillery fire cut the first cable. A second snagged in debris and snapped. A mortar shell cut a third. A fourth held long enough for engineers to construct about fifty feet of bridge before the current snapped the cable and the bridge buckled. Doggedly, the engineers tried again. This time the cable stayed, but the coming of daylight brought such increased German shelling that darkness had fallen on D-day before they got a footbridge in.
The 120th Infantry had resorted to
LVT's to get the bulk of two companies across the Roer not long after the official H-hour of 0330, while the rest of the regiment later in the day crossed on the footbridge constructed for the 119th Infantry. The problem of getting the infantry across at last solved, all hands could turn to a treadway bridge that other engineers already had started. Not until midnight was this bridge completed; men of the 30th Division, like those of the 84th, had spent all of D-day without tank or tank destroyer support.
As costly as German shelling proved to be in the 30th Division's sector and elsewhere, it would have been considerably greater had it not been for the use of smoke. The 29th and 30th Divisions used both smoke pots and chemical smoke generators. The 30th Division began its screen before dawn and kept it up, not for twelve hours as planned, but for thirty-three, in itself testimony to the effectiveness of the screen. The 29th Division discontinued its screen after less than two hours because it interfered with directing artillery fire. The other two divisions, the 84th and 102d, depended primarily on smoke pots emplaced along the west bank, although both used white phosphorus shells fired by chemical mortars to assist the first waves. The 102d Division maintained one smoke screen as a feint at a point where no crossing was contemplated. The smoke drew enemy fire while at the true crossing site nearby, unscreened, scarcely any shells fell.
The First Day on the East Bank
The Roer was unquestionably difficult. In the face of a capable, determined enemy on the east bank, it could have proven far more costly. Fortunately for the eventual outcome of Operation GRENADE, the enemy in general was neither capable nor determined.
Opposite Linnich, the 84th Division had the good fortune to strike almost astride a German corps boundary. The lone unit in the assault, the 334th Infantry's 1st Battalion, hit the extreme north flank of the 59th Infantry Division of Koechling's LXXXI Corps, taking the Germans by surprise and occupying the village of Koerrenzig before daylight. At that point the 1st Battalion turned north in keeping with the mission of clearing enough of the east bank of the Roer for the neighboring XVI Corps to cross unopposed. In the process the battalion began to roll up from the flank defenses of the 183d Infantry Division of Crasemann's XII SS Corps. By nightfall the 1st Battalion was approaching the crossroads village of Baal, three miles from the crossing site, while the 335th Infantry came in to seal the 334th's flank to the east.
Baal was one of only three places where the Germans on D-day mustered counterattacks. As night was approaching, a battalion of the 183d Division supported by several tanks or assault guns drove south out of Baal at the same time men of the 334th Infantry were trying to break into the village. American artillery and eager Thunderbolts of the XXIX Tactical Air Command broke up the enemy thrust before the opposing forces could actually clash on the ground. Occupying Baal proved relatively simple after that, though just before midnight three understrength German battalions struck with considerable verve. For a while the conflict was intense on the periphery of the village,
but by morning small arms and artillery fire had driven the Germans off.32
The day's strongest German counter-action developed to the south against the 102d Division. There the 407th Infantry on the north wing had taken the enemy in the village of Gevenich by surprise, seizing 160 prisoners, and in the afternoon occupied an adjacent village to the north. The 405th Infantry on the south wing entered Tetz, southernmost of the day's objectives, against minor opposition; but because of difficulties at the crossing sites, it was midafternoon before the regimental commander, Col. Laurin L. Williams, could send a force northeastward against two other objectives, Boslar, two miles from the Roer, and Hompesch.
Despite a 20-minute artillery preparation fired by fourteen battalions, the men of the 405th Infantry had gotten no farther than Boslar when darkness came. Something had infused new spirit into the defending troops of the 59th Division, whose performance elsewhere on D-day had been, at best, lackluster. That something was an impending counterattack, signs of which the Americans had been detecting since just before noon.
As the broad outlines of the Ninth Army's attack emerged during the morning of 23 February, the Army Group B commander, Field Marshal Model, had acted swiftly to place his reserves, the 9th and 11th Panzer Divisions, at the disposal of the Fifteenth Army. Although Model had intended to employ the two divisions together under an ad hoc corps commanded by a tank specialist, Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein, not enough of the 11th Panzer Division had yet arrived from the Saar-Moselle triangle to justify that arrangement. The Fifteenth Army commander, General von Zangen, early decided to attach increments of the two divisions as they arrived to Koechling's LXXXI Corps. Although Zangen had yet to determine the exact location of the American main effort, he deduced from analysis of crossing sites along the Roer that it probably was directed against the LXXXI Corps.33
While attachment of the panzer divisions augured well for the future, it would be at least the next day before any part of the divisions could arrive. For immediate counterattack, the LXXXI Corps commander, General Koechling, had to depend on his own slender resources. These were two infantry battalions, one each from his two divisions, plus remnants of two separate tank battalions and an understrength assault gun brigade.
Returning the infantry battalions to division control, Koechling gave each division a company of the assault gun brigade with twelve to fourteen 75-mm. guns and smaller portions of the two tank battalions. The 59th Division then was to strike toward Gevenich, the 363d Infantry Division toward Boslar and Tetz.
The 102d Division commander, General Keating, meanwhile reacted to the indications of impending counterattack
by ordering his reserve, the 406th Infantry, into position south and east of Tetz. The 405th and 406th Infantry Regiments then formed a defensive arc extending from high ground between Gevenich and Boslar, through Boslar, and back to the river south of Tetz. The 407th Infantry on the north continued to hold Gevenich and the next village to the north. Confident of his strength in infantry, General Keating felt keenly his lack of antitank support on the east bank. It was this concern that through the afternoon and evening punctuated the engineers' futile efforts to keep bridges functioning across the Roer in hope of getting tanks and tank destroyers across.
As it turned out, the defenders at both Gevenich and Boslar had to rely primarily on artillery fire and bazookas. Although the German thrust at Gevenich proved relatively weak and caused little concern, the Germans at Boslar attacked at least seven times. The first thrust hit just before 2100, employing a mixed force of about 20 assault guns and tanks accompanied by about 150 infantry. While American artillery fire was dispersing tanks and infantry before they reached Boslar, some of the infantry bypassed the village and penetrated the lines of a battalion of the 406th Infantry. A reserve rifle company sealed off that penetration.
In subsequent thrusts, some infantry and tanks got into the streets of Boslar. It was a night, said the commander of the defending battalion, Lt. Col. Eric E. Bischoff, of "indescribable confusion."34 Infantrymen accounted for four Mark V tanks with bazookas. Still the Germans persisted.
What the Americans reckoned as the fourth try brought the gravest crisis. Three hours before dawn on 24 February, tanks and infantry swarmed into the village. While the Americans huddled in cellars, forward observers called down artillery fire on their own positions. By daylight the Germans had fallen back, and a count revealed a surprisingly low total of thirty American casualties.
In the sector of the XIX Corps, the Germans launched no counterattacks and in general proffered no stiffer passive resistance than against the XIII Corps. The defending troops were from the same 363d Division that gave the 102d Division such a hard time at Boslar.
The 115th Infantry, on the north wing of the 29th Division, had no trouble taking the village of Broich, but when the men moved out toward high ground to the northeast on which they intended to anchor the division's bridgehead, they encountered grazing fire from automatic weapons emplaced in farm houses and entrenchments on the reverse slope. Not until darkness came and the men made a stealthy night attack was this position secured.
The 175th Infantry in the meantime had run into less resistance in Juelich than expected, but clearing Germans from the debris of the destroyed town remained a slow process. By nightfall Juelich was in hand except for the Citadel, a medieval fortress surrounded by a moat. According to plan, the assault companies left the Citadel for follow-up troops to clear.
In the adjacent 30th Division, the advance
proceeded apace, despite the problems inherent in crossing at a wide part of the flooded Roer. A battalion of the 119th Infantry on the north was in the first village rooting Germans from cellars less than fifteen minutes after the artillery preparation lifted. Soon after dawn the same battalion cleared another village to the north.
Leading companies of the 120th Infantry had harder going because of an extensive antipersonnel minefield in a patch of woods near the village of Krauthausen. The 2d Battalion took at least seventy-five casualties in the woods but still jumped off before dawn against Krauthausen and the neighboring village to the south. One company employing marching fire took the latter village at the cost of one killed and two wounded, while two companies enveloped Krauthausen from south and north.
Both regiments then used follow-up units to push out to slightly higher ground to the east. The 119th Infantry also sent a battalion against a village at the edge of the Hambach Forest and took it by midafternoon.
Since the 30th Division would be on the outside of the Ninth Army's wheel to the north with the farthest to go of the four assault divisions, the commander, General Hobbs, decided to keep going through the night. Reserve battalions of both assault regiments moved northeastward before midnight against Hambach and Niederzier, the only villages remaining in the division's sector short of the Hambach Forest. Distant American searchlights bouncing light off clouds made twilight of the darkness.35
Five battalions of artillery fired at maximum rate to help men of the 119th Infantry into Hambach. They timed their concentrations to allow the infantry five minutes to cross on a dead run from the line of departure to the first houses. The village fell with only a few shots fired. Most of a 126-man German garrison had to be routed from cellars where they had retired to sit out the American shelling.
The scheme of maneuver and results in the attack on Niederzier were similar. When shells armed with proximity fuzes exploded over open trenches west of the village the Germans "just got up and left."36 The 120th Infantry lost not a man.
With some relatively unimportant exceptions, the XIX Corps as dawn came held all its planned D-day bridgehead; yet difficulties could still lie ahead in the Hambach Forest, where the Germans well might elect to stand, or might arise from an open corps right flank. The unprotected right flank had developed because the First Army's VII Corps, charged with protecting the flank, had been having the hardest fight of all to get across the Roer and stay there.
The VII Corps at Dueren
As protection for the Ninth Army's wheel, General Collins's VII Corps of the First Army had to make the deepest penetration of all, to the Erft River beyond Elsdorf, thirteen miles from the Roer at Dueren, and do the job with its
own right flank exposed for at least two days until another corps to the south joined the attack. The zone of the VII Corps further included two obstacles expected to be strongly contested: ruins of the town of Dueren and most of the Hambach Forest.
As in the corps of the Ninth Army, the VII Corps was to employ two divisions to assault the river line, the 104th (Maj. Gen. Terry de la Mesa Allen) on the left, the 8th (Maj. Gen. William G. Weaver) on the right.37 Because Dueren was the hub of communications to east and northeast, Collins divided the town between the two divisions. The infantrymen first were to establish a bridgehead anchored on high ground about four miles from the Roer, from the village of Oberzier in the north to Stockheim in the south. At that point Collins intended to send the 4th Cavalry Group to clear the Hamback Forest while the 3d Armored Division passed through the infantry to gain the Erft.
To even a greater degree than the rest of the GRENADE force, the VII Corps would find the swollen Roer the biggest obstacle to achieving D-day objectives. Because the current everywhere might prove too swift for footbridges, all the assault infantry were to cross by boat, each regiment with two battalions abreast. A platoon of engineers with fifteen or sixteen boats was assigned to each rifle company in the first wave, while corps engineers held sixty boats in reserve. At the last minute, both division commanders decided against using smoke lest it hinder artillery observation and confuse infantrymen moving through build-up urban areas on the east bank.
The bulk of the first waves of the 415th Infantry, on the north wing of the 104th Division, got across with little difficulty, although the current and small arms fire turned one company back. Crossing opposite the northern fringe of Dueren, the 413th Infantry's 1st Battalion had more trouble. After the first company had crossed without opposition, German artillery and machine guns opened fire. Eight boats of Company C stuck on the top of a check dam and then upset. The rest of the 1st Battalion shifted to the 415th Infantry's sector to cross.
By daylight German artillery fire began to make the engineers' job all but impossible. Northwest of the Dueren suburb of Birkesdorf, work began on an infantry support bridge at 0415, but fifteen minutes later artillery and mortar shells destroyed much of the equipment and killed or wounded nineteen men. Although the engineers persisted, their first success came only after nightfall and at a new site.
Upstream opposite Birkesdorf another group of engineers, working under seemingly constant fire, had completed about 160 feet of a support bridge by 1300 when an enemy artillery piece, apparently by indirect fire using long base observation methods, got the range and scored several direct hits. The men hurriedly laid out smoke pots, but through the smoke the German shells still came in on target. Much of the bridge was destroyed.
CROSSING SITES AT DUEREN
At three other sites artillery and often rifle and machine gun fire prevented engineers even from starting construction until after nightfall on D-day. All countermeasures failed; counterbattery fire, smoke, direct fire by tanks on machine gun positions, even gradual expansion of the bridgehead--none of these during 23 February checked the deadly accuracy of the enemy fire. The first bridge was not open to traffic until midnight. The 415th Infantry at the only feasible ferry site managed to get three 57-mm. antitank guns across, but those remained during D-day the only supporting weapons east of the river.
Fortunately, the enemy's 12th Volks Grenadier Division of Krueger's LVIII Panzer Corps failed to follow through with determined resistance once the infantry got across. The 415th Infantry took two villages en route to Oberzier without difficulty and by midafternoon had buttoned up along the Dueren-Juelich railroad, the D-day objective line. The 413th Infantry met only light resistance at first in Birkesdorf and Dueren, although enemy machine guns and artillery were increasingly troublesome as the day wore on. The regiment nevertheless cleared most of the northern half of Dueren by dark. In Birkesdorf the men captured an entire battalion of the 27th Volks Grenadier Regiment, complete with staff. "In comparison with its earlier achievements," the Fifteenth Army commander was to note later, "the 12th Volks Grenadier Division had very much disappointed the command during the initial defensive battle."38
More precarious by far through the day and into the night was the position of the 8th Division upstream to the south. Plagued by an open right flank and daylong observation from foothills of the Eifel highlands, the 8th had the roughest D-day experience of all.
The leading 13th and 28th Infantry Regiments were to cross in assault boats and in double assault boats driven by outboard motors. Cable ferries and footbridges were to be put in as soon as possible for the reserve companies.
Fifty minutes before the scheduled H-hour of 0330, only five minutes after the artillery preparation began, the 28th Infantry's 3d Battalion was to open the assault with the mission of cutting enemy communications to the south and southeast by taking Stockheim. No enemy fire opposed the 3d Battalion's crossing, but the swift river current caused trouble enough. While about three-fifths of the two leading companies got across, the current swept the rest downstream. Even many of those who made it lost their weapons in swamped or capsized boats. Fortunate it was that the crossing took the Germans by surprise; twenty-three rose up from riverside trenches and surrendered. The prisoners' rifles served the men who had lost their own weapons in good stead. Behind a rolling barrage of white phosphorus fired by a company of the 87th Chemical Battalion, the assault companies continued to the edge of woods overlooking Stockheim, there to await the rest of the battalion before seizing the village.
The 3d Battalion's crossing was the only real success the 8th Division could report. Almost without exception the units that began to cross at H-hour found one difficulty piled upon another.
In the cold, damp night air, men of
the 28th Infantry's other assault battalion, the 1st, could start none of the motors on their six power boats. The two lead companies then secured ten assault boats each and tried to paddle across. In the first company out, five boats made it, landing forty men on the east bank. The other five boats swamped. The next company lost all ten boats, sunk or destroyed by enemy fire. The remainder of the battalion pulled back to reorganize and wait for a footbridge.
The reserve 2d Battalion had scarcely better luck. Company F in the lead was supposed to cross in the boats used by the 3d Battalion, but only half of those returned from the first crossing and they had to transport the 3d Battalion's follow-up company. Eventually the men of Company F rounded up seventeen boats and paddled themselves across. Although most of the men reached the far side, all their boats swamped or overturned. Some 140 men who assembled on the east bank about 0630 had 30 rifles among them. Hardly had they begun moving southward toward their objective, a village close by the river, when heavy shelling from upriver and small arms fire from the village tumbled them into abandoned German trenches, where they remained under fire the rest of the day. They stood alone, for the rest of the 2d Battalion was stranded on the west bank without boats and would not get across until the next morning.
The footbridge for which the 1st Battalion commander waited never got built. A combination of enemy shelling and the swift current compelled the engineers to abandon the project. In the middle of the afternoon the battalion began a shuttle system, ten men paddling over, five bringing the boat back. Two companies crossed in that manner. The rest of the battalion began crossing after dark by a cable ferry. By 2130 that night the 2d Battalion was at last assembled east of the river.
For the 13th Infantry, in the meantime, almost everything went wrong from the first. The two leading battalions were supposed to cross in fourteen double assault boats powered by outboard motors. Near a destroyed highway bridge at Dueren, eighteen men of Company I actually landed in this fashion on the east bank. At the same time, Company K came under intense machine gun fire. One boat overturned. On all the others the motors failed, although the men in one boat succeeded in paddling across. Only thirty-six men of the 3d Battalion made it. Two platoons of Company I arrived by cable ferry later in the day. That was the sum total of the 3d Battalion's assault.
It was even worse for the 13th Infantry's 2d Battalion farther south. Short rounds of white phosphorus shells fired by American artillery knocked out four of company E's boats before the crossing began. Although ten boats were launched, all swamped. The mishaps reduced the three rifle platoons to fifty-six men and thoroughly disorganized the company.
Company F put twelve men over the river under 1st Lt. E. W. Coleman, but when motors on other boats failed and the men found they could not handle assault boats in the current, the rest of the company stayed on the west bank. Lieutenant Coleman's dozen men fought their way into a factory, capturing twelve Germans in the process, but other Germans promptly counterattacked
and besieged the small force the rest of the day. Coleman lost the prisoners and half his own men; he and six others managed to hold out, even though all were wounded.
As German fire became more and more intense, the 2d Battalion abandoned all efforts to cross. Although divisional artillery and the 4.2-inch mortars of the 87th Chemical Battalion smoked all known enemy observation points, neither the quantity nor accuracy of German artillery or mortar fire appreciably diminished.
The 3d Battalion continued trying to cross throughout the day but without much success. Ferries, which proved to be the only feasible way of conquering the current, were in operation only a few minutes before artillery or mortar shells severed the cables. By noon all ferries had ceased to operate, and the supporting company of the 12th Engineer Combat Battalion was down to eight men. Only with the coming of darkness did the harassed engineers and infantrymen gain any respite, but by midnight the 13th Infantry still had only four complete companies and elements of two others east of the Roer. These succeeded in pushing only about 400 yards beyond the river into the heaps of rubble that represented the southern half of Dueren.
Thus it was that the 28th Infantry's 3d Battalion, which had reached the woods line overlooking Stockheim, was the only unit of the 8th Division that came near accomplishing its D-day mission. That even this battalion, considerably understrength and inadequately armed, had made any progress had to be credited chiefly to the nature of German resistance. Having all but smashed the crossing with the aid of a rampaging current and the fire of a supporting volks artillery corps, neither the 12th Volks Grenadier Division at Dueren nor a weak 353d Infantry Division south of the town made any move to counterattack the disorganized bridgehead forces.
Through it all, attached corps engineers struggling to construct five vehicular bridges across the Roer had run into the same problem of shelling and current that beset those engineers who tried to build footbridges or cable ferries. At most sites the men worked in vain even to get an anchor cable across. At a site selected for an infantry support bridge for the 13th Infantry, enemy shells came in at an estimated rate of 125 an hour throughout D-day and into the night. The following day as the rate of fire increased to an estimated 200 rounds an hour, the engineers abandoned the site.
Although fire at that particular site was exceptionally severe, it was heavy enough at all bridge sites to deny any successful construction during D-day. The first bridge to be completed in the 8th Division's sector was a Bailey bridge put in on the masonry piers of the destroyed main highway bridge into Dueren. That span was open to traffic on the morning of 24 February. No others opened until the 25th. In constructing nine bridges for the 8th and 104th Divisions, engineers of the VII Corps incurred a total of 154 casualties, of which 8 were killed and 1 was missing.
The experience of the 8th Division revealed strikingly the extent to which the enemy depended on the flooded Roer covered by preregistered artillery and mortar fire to stop the attack. To that kind of opposition the 8th Division
was particularly vulnerable. The division's crossings were made at points where steep banks confined the river to its normal course and where the river emerged from a torrential descent through a twisting gorge from the highland reservoirs. The current in consequence was probably at least twice as swift as in the lower and broader reaches downstream from Dueren. The crossings also took place under the shadow of high ground from which the enemy could command the entire river valley around Dueren.
The First Day's Results
Despite the 8th Division's problems, the great hammerblow of GRENADE when viewed as a whole had effectively crushed the enemy. With contingents of six divisions on the east bank, there could be no real doubt henceforth of the outcome. The deep thrust of the 84th Division in the north as far as Baal and the advance of the 30th Division in the center into Hambach and Niederzier, more than two miles east of the Roer, made it particularly evident that GRENADE had irreparably torn the enemy's river line.
On 24 February, barring unforeseen developments on the German side, all the Ninth Army's divisions were to expand their footholds on the east bank and begin the wheel to the north, while the VII Corps strengthened its admittedly weak flank protection. The only major change in plan was made late on 23 February upon the recommendation of General Gillem, commander of the XIII Corps, and General Anderson, commander of the uncommitted XVI Corps. Noting the quick success of the 84th Division, the two commanders agreed that Anderson need not wait to cross the Roer until Gillem had cleared the east bank as far north as Erkelenz; instead the XVI Corps might begin crossing as early as the following day, as soon as the 84th Division had taken the next village downstream from Baal.39
If the Roer crossing had proven expensive in terms of bridging equipment and assault craft, it had been relatively economical in what mattered most--men's lives. The entire Ninth Army lost 92 killed, 61 missing, and 913 wounded, a total of just over a thousand. The VII Corps incurred comparatively heavier losses: 66 killed, 35 missing, and 280 wounded, a total of 381.40
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (7) * Next Chapter (9)
1. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p 422.
2. A convenient summary of the moves may be found in Conquer--The Story of Ninth Army (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1947), one of the most objective of the unofficial unit histories.
3. A twelfth division, the 75th, while assigned to the Ninth Army effective 17 February, was placed under operational control of the British. NUSA Sitrep, 18 Feb 45.
4. NUSA G-1 Daily sum, 23 Feb 45; VII corps Estimated Loss Report, 2400, 1 Mar 45, VII corps G-1 Battle Casualties file.
5. NUSA Artillery Sec AAR, Feb 45, NUSA FA and TD Info sum 57, 26 Feb 45; 2d Revised copy of Appendix 1 to Annex 3, VII corps FO 15, 22 Feb 45.
6. NUSA Armored Sec AAR, Feb 45. One of the separate tank battalions had only light tanks.
7. NUSA G-4 Periodic Rpts and G-4 Jnl for the period.
8. NUSA Quartermaster and Ordnance AAR's, Feb 45; Annex 2 to XIX corps FO 30, 6 Feb 45; and Annex 5 to XIII corps FO 5, 8 Feb 45. Total ammunition allocation for the XIX corps for the period D-day to D plus 5 included: 202,880 rounds for 105-mm. howitzers; 64,800 rounds for 155-mm. howitzers; 14,400 rounds for 155-mm. guns; 4,500 rounds for 4.5-inch guns; and 9,000 rounds for 8-inch howitzers. XIX corps G-4 Jnl, 7 Feb 45.
9. Conquer, p. 147.
10. XIX Corps G-2, Terrain XIX Corps Front to Rhine, 30 Oct 44, 406th Inf Jnl, Feb 45; 1104th Engineer Combat Gp Rpt, 28 Feb 45, XIX Corps AAR, Sec III, Feb 45.
11. In addition to intelligence sources previously cited, see Photo Defense Overprint maps of 30 Jan and 1 Feb 45 in XIII corps G-2 Jnl, 3 Feb 45; VII corps Estimate of the Situation, 22 Feb 45; and 30th and 104th Div Estimates of the Situation, 5 and 7 Feb 45, respectively.
12. XIX corps G-2 Estimate, 17 Feb, and G-2 Periodic Rpt, 19 Feb 45.
13. NUSA G-2 Estimate, 2 Feb 45, in XIII corps G-2 Jnl file, 4 Feb 45.
14. NUSA Ltr of Instrs 13, 6 Feb 45; Notes on Conf with Officers of 115th Inf Gen. Gerhardt and Others, 7 Feb 45, in 115th Inf AAR, Feb 45.
15. Intelligence Sums issued between 11 and 21 Feb by the 12th AGp, 8 and 12 Corps, and XIII and XIX Corps.
16. Unless otherwise noted, German material is based on MS # C-020 (Schramm).
17. As quoted by Schramm.
18. Magna E. Bauer, Reorganization of the Western Front, MS prepared in OCMH to complement this volume.
19. MS # B-811, Fifteenth Army, 15 November 1944-22 February 1945 (General der Infanterie Gustav von Zangen) and Operationskarte West, Chef WFSt, 22 and 23 Feb 45.
20. NUSA Ltr of Instrs 10, 28 Jan 45; Conquer, pp. 147-51.
21. See above, ch. V.
22. For analysis of the flood, see II Corps Engineers, Operations in the European Theater, VI; NUSA G-2 AAR, Feb 45; XIII Corps G-2 AAR, Feb 45; XIX Corps G-2 Spot Rpt, 14 Feb 45; 102d Div G-3 Jnl, 10 Feb 45.
23. Conquer, pp. 165-66; 104th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 119, 22 Feb 45; 30th Div G-3 Jul, 20 Feb 45; 102d Div G-3 Jnl, 22 Feb 45.
24. VII Corps Engineers, Operations in the European Theater, VI.
25. XIX corps Admin Order 15, 7 Feb 45; XIII Corps Flood Plan, 8 Feb 45; XIII corps G-4 AAR, Feb 45.
26. XIII corps G-4 AAR and Engineer AAR, Feb 45; XIX corps AAR Sec IV, Feb 45; NUSA G-4 AAR, Feb 45.
27. Unless specifically noted sources for all combat actions are official records and combat interviews of units involved.
28. For operations of the First Canadian Army see Col. C. P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign--Operations in Northwest Europe, 1944-1945 "Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War," vol. III (Ottawa; The Queen's Printer and Controller of stationery, 1960), pp. 460-526.
29. Theodore Draper, The 84th Infantry Division in the Battle for Germany (New York: The Viking Press, 1946), p. 145. An excellent unit history.
30. Maj. Allan H. Mick, ed., With the 102d Infantry Division Through Germany (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1947), p. 129.
31. Joseph H. Ewing, 29 Let's Go! A History of the 29th Infantry Division in World War II. (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1948), p. 233. This is an excellent unit history.
32. MS # B-812, Fifteenth Army, 23-28 February 1945 (General der Infanterie Gustav Von Zangen); Draper, The 84th Division in the Battle for Germany, pp. 151-54.
33. German material from MSS # C-020 (Schramm); # B-812 (Zangen); # B-576, LXXXI Corps, 25 January-21 March 1945 (General der Infanterie Friedrich Koechling); # B-053, Corps Bayerlein, 11 February-5 March 1945 (Generalleutant Fritz Bayerlein).
34. Combat interview with Bischoff.
35. Among American units, the Ninth Army had pioneered in use of battlefield illumination during the drive to the Roer in November. See MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign.
36. Combat interview with Maj. Cris McCullough, ExecO, 1st Bn, 120 Inf.
37. Unofficial histories of these two divisions--Leo A. Hoegh and Howard J. Doyle, Timberwolf Tracks (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1946), and Lt. Marc F. Griesgach, Combat History of the Eighth Infantry Division in World War II (Baton Rouge: Army and Navy Publishing Co., 1945)--are useful more for color than for following the action in detail.
38. MS # B-814 (Zangen).
39. XIII Corps AAR, Feb 45.
40. 12th AGp, G-1 Daily Sum, Master File, 1 Jan-28 Feb 45.