At the beginning of September 1944, the American Third Army under the command of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton entered upon operations against the German forces defending the territory between the Moselle and the Sarre Rivers. These operations, which lasted well into December, were subsequently to be known, although quite unofficially, as the Lorraine Campaign. The troops under General Patton's command faced the Moselle line and the advance into Lorraine with an extraordinary spirit of optimism and a contagious feeling that the final victory of World War II was close at hand.1 They had just completed, in their pursuit of the enemy across northern France, one of the most successful operations in modern military history--and that with comparatively slight losses. Their present mission of driving through Lorraine was to be an important part of the strategy of advance on a wide front which had been laid down by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, who on 1 September assumed direct operational command of the Allied forces in northern France.
Two corps, the XII and XX, were to take a continuous part in the battles for Lorraine fought by the Third Army. Both of these corps had participated earlier in the Third Army dash across northern France. The XV Corps, originally assigned to General Patton's command, fought for some time with the American First Army, but was to rejoin the Third Army during the latter part of September to take a brief though important part in the Lorraine offensive. Some of the divisions now with the Third Army were still licking wounds suffered earlier in Normandy and in the enemy counterattack at Mortain. The 90th Infantry Division had been badly mauled during the June fighting west of the Merderet River. The 35th Infantry Division had sustained some 3,000 casualties in operations at St. Lô, Vire, and Mortain. The 4th Armored Division had lost about 400 of its trained and irreplaceable armored infantry in July while holding defensive positions. But on the whole relatively few officers and
1 September 1944
men of the Third Army had taken part in the bloody, tiring, and often demoralizing hedgerow battles in Normandy; for the most their portion had been speedy advance and quick successes. General Patton's victories in northern France, following those of Africa and Sicily, had not only added to his own characteristic assurance but had infected the Third Army as a whole.
A series of happenings just at the close of August had acted to heighten still further the spirits of General Patton's command and gloss over the first sobering effects of the oncoming gasoline shortage. First, the advancing army had captured the champagne caves and warehouses at Reims and Epernay. It is unnecessary to dwell on the importance of this event. Second, the Third Army had passed through the obstacle of the Argonne without a fight--in spite of the gloomy and frequently expressed forebodings of the older officers whose memories harked back to the bloody experiences of the AEF in the autumn of 1918. Finally, with hardly a blow being struck, on the last day of August Patton's tanks had seized Verdun, where scores of thousands had died in World War I.
The last German troops west of the Seine River had been mopped up on 31 August; but in point of fact the area between the Seine and the Loire Rivers, designated in the OVERLORD plan as the "Initial Lodgment Area," had to all intents and purposes been secured as early as 25 August, ten days ahead of the OVERLORD timetable.2 By 1 September the Allied forces were across the Seine, not having met the stubborn and time-consuming opposition that had been expected at this river, and were moving speedily northeast and east of Paris in pursuit of the fleeing German armies. (Map I) Thus far the Allied losses had been moderate, when viewed in relation to the territory won and the casualties inflicted on the enemy since 6 June. The build-up of the Allied armies in Northern France had been markedly successful. On the afternoon of 31 August the rosters of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), showed that a cumulative total of 2,052,297 men and 438,471 vehicles had landed in the American and British zones. Although losses and withdrawals had reduced this strength, at the moment General Eisenhower assumed direct command he had at his disposal on the Continent
23 infantry divisions and the equivalent of 15 armored divisions. Of this total the British and Canadians had furnished 17 divisions (including 1 Polish armored division). The Americans had provided 21 divisions (including 1 French armored division).3 Further increase in the number of Allied divisions in northern France would have to be produced by American effort. The British, whose effective manpower had been drained away in five years of war, could at most be expected to keep their existing divisions up to strength.
General Eisenhower's 38 divisions were opposed, on 1 September, by 41 German divisions--5 of which were already penned in the coastal fortresses and the Channel Islands. An additional 5 enemy divisions were on the march to reinforce the German Western Front. Below the Loire River 2 reserve divisions were withdrawing from western and southwestern France. In Holland 1½ German divisions still remained in garrison.4 This apparent general parity between the Allied and German forces existed only on paper--and in the mind of Hitler. The ratio of combat effectives was approximately 2 to 1 in favor of the Allies. Hardly a German division was at normal strength. Most had sustained very severe losses in men and equipment. Many were badly demoralized as the result of constant defeats in the field. At no point since the Seine River crossings had any large German force been able to dig in and make a stand in the face of the persistent Allied pursuit. The Allied superiority in heavy weapons and motor transport was far greater than a comparative numerical tabulation of the opposing divisions would indicate. No complete matériel figures for this period now exist in either the Allied or captured German files, but the Allied superiority in guns was at least 2½ to 1, that in tanks approximately 20 to 1.5
The transcendent strength of the Allied ground forces at the beginning of September was eclipsed by the overwhelming superiority which the Allied air forces held over the Luftwaffe in western Europe. SHAEF had three tactical air forces capable of providing air cover and close tactical support for the armies advancing on the ground: IX Tactical Air Command, XIX Tactical Air Command (both under Ninth Air Force), and the 2d Tactical Air Force (British). The combined Allied air strength operating from bases in the United Kingdom and France consisted of 5,059 American bombers, 3,728 American fighter planes, 5,104 combat aircraft in the Royal Air Force, and additional hundreds of miscellaneous types for reconnaissance, liaison, and transport.6 The German armies on the Western Front were supported by one weak tactical air force, Third Air Force (Luftflotte 3), which possessed only 573 serviceable aircraft--and these of all types. The total number of first-line planes in the entire Luftwaffe (including every type) was 6,232, of which number 4,507 were reckoned to be serviceable. These planes, however, had to be divided between the air defense of the Third Reich and the several theaters of German operations.7 Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model, the German commander in chief in the West, and Generaloberst Otto Dessloch, commander of the Third Air Force, had pleaded in vain for additional air support. On 21 August they asked Hitler to send at least 700 fighter planes to France, plus the new jet fighter, the Messerschmitt 262, for which great things had been promised. Hitler, however, could not or would not release any of his fighter reserve; as for the new jet type there were only a few test models in existence.
On 31 August and 1 September Allied tanks and mechanized cavalry squadrons, operating far beyond Paris, seized crossings over the Somme, the Aisne, and the Meuse Rivers. The Allied left, formed by the two armies under the 21st Army Group (Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery), was moving rapidly in a zone about fifty-eight miles wide. In the north the First Canadian Army (Gen. H. D. G. Crerar) swept along the Channel coast in a drive aimed at the Belgian city of Bruges. On 1 September Canadian troops re-entered Dieppe, the scene, two years before, of one of the most heroic episodes in Canadian military history. The following day, Canadian tanks crossed the Somme River. To the south the Second British Army (Lt. Gen. Sir Miles C. Dempsey)
Seventh Army Front
1 September 1944
advanced in the direction of Brussels and Antwerp, the latter, with its deepwater port, now a main target for the Allied arms. British armor crossed the Somme River midway between Amiens and Abbeville on 1 September, striking toward Belgium with such speed as to win the plaudits of that most severe of American critics, General Patton.
The Allied center, driving northeastward in support of the 21st Army Group, was formed by the First U.S. Army (Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges), which, teamed with the Third U.S. Army, comprised Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley's 12th Army Group. The First U.S. Army was making its advance in a zone some sixty-five miles across, with armored divisions pushed forward on the wings like prongs. On 31 August elements of Hodges' right wing were across the Aisne River and operating between St. Quentin and Rethel. The next day, however, General Hodges turned the VII Corps, which held the right-wing position, directly north, in a maneuver to trap the Germans who were retreating from the British front in the area west of Mons.
The Allied right, composed of two corps under General Patton's Third U.S. Army, was engaged in the eastward drive toward Metz and Nancy as a subsidiary to the main Allied effort being made in the northeast. The VIII Corps (Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton), also a part of General Patton's command, had been left in Brittany to reduce the Brest defenses and contain the other German coastal garrisons. By this time, however, the VIII Corps was so far removed from the rest of the Third Army that of necessity it had become a semi-independent force both for tactics and supply. General Patton's "eastern" front was about ninety miles in width. But in addition the Third Army held the line of the Loire River, marking the right flank of the Allied armies in northern France, which gave the Third Army front and flank a length of some 450 miles. On 31 August, Third Army tanks and cavalry crossed the Meuse River at Verdun and Commercy. By 1 September small cavalry patrols had arrived on the west bank of the Moselle River.
One hundred and seventy-five miles south of the Third Army, advance detachments of the Seventh U.S. Army were fighting in the vicinity of the great French industrial city of Lyon. (Map Ia) The Allied invasion of the French Mediterranean coast, begun on 15 August under the code name DRAGOON, auxiliary to the main Allied operations in northern France, had cut off the German garrisons in the port cities of Marseille and Toulon and pushed rapidly northward through the valley of the Rhone. The DRAGOON forces, under the tactical command of the commanding general of the Seventh Army,
Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, consisted of the Seventh Army and French Army "B" (Gen. Jean de Lattre de Tassigny)--the latter functioning as a provisional corps.8 Of this force the French had provided five divisions (including one armored division); an additional French infantry division was in process of landing on 1 September. The American complement numbered three infantry divisions and an airborne task force of approximately divisional strength. At the beginning of September the DRAGOON forces had the German Nineteenth Army on the run. The Allied plans then in force called for a continuation of the northward advance to the line Autun-Dijon-Langres. Such a drive would establish contact between the Seventh and Third Armies, thus sealing off the escape routes along which the enemy troops were fleeing from western and southern France and permitting the creation of a continuous Allied front from the Mediterranean to the English Channel.
On 29 August General Eisenhower had dispatched a letter to all his major commanders, outlining his intentions for the conduct of future operations. This letter reflected the optimism current throughout the Allied armies and the general feeling that now was the moment to deal the final and destroying blows against Hitler's forces west of the Rhine:
The German Army in the West has suffered a signal defeat in the campaign of the Seine and the Loire at the hands of the combined Allied Forces. The enemy is being defeated in the East, in the South and in the North; he has experienced internal dissension and signs are not wanting that he is nearing collapse. . . . We, in the West, must seize this opportunity by acting swiftly and relentlessly and by accepting risks in our determination to close with the German wherever met. . . . It is my intention to complete the destruction of the enemy forces in the West, and then--to strike directly into the heart of the enemy homeland.
This letter directed the Allied commanders to undertake a general advance--an advance which in fact was already under way--but assigned the principal offensive mission to the British and American armies in the north. General Bradley, however, was ordered to build up incoming forces east of Paris, in
Situation in Europe
1 September 1944
preparation for a rapid advance toward the Sarre Valley designed to reinforce the main effort in the north and assist the Seventh Army advance "to and beyond Dijon."9 (Map I)
So rapid was the Allied advance and so complete the disintegration of the German field forces that by 1 September much of the instructional detail in the Supreme Commander's letter of 29 August was out of date. The Allied
Expeditionary Air Force (AEAF), for example, had been instructed to deny the enemy the crossings of the Somme, the Oise, and the Marne. But by 1 September the fleeing enemy already was behind these rivers. General Eisenhower's letter had directed Montgomery and Bradley to destroy the German forces still in front of the Oise and the Somme, then seize a hold across the Somme in preparation for further advances toward Antwerp and the Sarre Valley. This maneuver was close to completion on 1 September, for the enemy retained his position only on the lower Somme and the middle Oise. Under these circumstances the SHAEF operations staff advised the Supreme Commander that the directive of 29 August "should be followed without delay by additional instructions."10
During the preparatory period just preceding the Normandy invasion, General Eisenhower and the SHAEF planners had agreed on a strategic concept--eventually to assume the status of strategic doctrine--derived from the basic directive which the Combined Chiefs of Staff had given the Supreme Allied Commander: "to undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces."11 The ultimate goal, obviously, was the "political heart" of Germany--Berlin. But, it was agreed, the Third Reich had an "economic heart"--the great industrial center of the Ruhr. It could be assumed that the German forces in the West would concentrate to defend the Ruhr. Therefore, an Allied advance directed toward the Ruhr, if successful, would fulfill a dual mission, crippling beyond repair the German war production, and engaging and destroying the main German armed forces on the Western Front.
Geography offered four avenues leading from northern France to the Ruhr: south of the Ardennes, by way of Metz, Saarbruecken, and Frankfurt; straight through the Ardennes, on a west-east axis; north of the Ardennes, via Maubeuge and Liége; and through the plains of Flanders. But even before the Allied invasion SHAEF planners had ruled out two of the four possible avenues to the Ruhr because of their difficult terrain--at least insofar as the direction of the main Allied effort was concerned. Two approaches to the Ruhr still seemed feasible, although not equally so: the direct route north of the Ardennes and the circuitous route along the Metz-Saarbruecken-Frankfurt axis. On 3 May the SHAEF Planning Staff had reviewed the possible
courses of action after the capture of a lodgment area on the Continent and recommended that the advance eastward be made on a broad front along two mutually supporting axes: the main advance to be aimed toward the northeast "with the object of striking directly at the Ruhr by the route north of the Ardennes"; the "subsidiary axis" to lie south of the Ardennes and provide a threat to Metz and the Saar.12 General Eisenhower had concurred in this plan.
The Supreme Commander's pre-D-Day decision to direct the main Allied attack along the route which led northeast from Paris to the lower Rhine and the Ruhr, via Maubeuge and Liége, could and would be defined in modern terms: the extent of terrain suitable for airfields, the number of flying bomb sites, and the war potential of the Ruhr. Additional factors probably had weight in this great strategic decision, even if applied subconsciously, factors that appeared only indirectly in planning papers but whose importance ante-dated fighter planes and Bessemer furnaces. The route along which Eisenhower intended to direct the Allied main effort had been through history the most important of the invasion routes between France and Germany. This military avenue had exercised an almost obligatory attraction in wars of modern date, as in those of earlier centuries. It provided the most direct approach to the heart of Germany. It presented the best facilities for military traffic, whether tanks, trucks, or marching columns. Although canalized, this approach to Germany followed terrain well suited to maneuver and debouched onto the level expanse of the North German Plain. The western entryways to the historic highway lay adjacent to the Channel ports, through which support for the Allied armies would come. The eastern termini gave direct access to the most important strategic objectives in Germany, the Ruhr and Berlin.
The Metz-Saarbruecken-Frankfurt route also had considerable historical significance and prior military usage. It should be noticed, however, that armies had taken this road in periods when the neutrality of Belgium and the Netherlands had checked maneuver farther to the north, or in a time before
the hegemony of Prussia and the impact of the industrial revolution had shifted the strategic center of gravity to northern Germany. This eastern route offered an opening into Germany, but was less direct than the route northeast from Paris. Operations in this area would suffer from a rather rigid localization, both as to development and results. The immediate strategic objectives on the eastern axis, Rhine cities such as Mannheim and Frankfurt, no longer had any great military value. The Saar Basin, with its mines and smelters, lay on the Metz-Frankfurt axis. But the industrial capacity of the Saar, although of considerable military importance, was far less than that of the Ruhr. Once across the Rhine the eastern route was constricted by the Mittelgebirge, whose western ranges left only a narrow exit from Frankfurt. Given the conquest of the Ruhr as a necessary preliminary to the defeat of Germany, an advance on the eastern axis would have to make a wide turning movement and negotiate the unsatisfactory approach to the Ruhr along the narrow Rhine Valley. Translated in terms of those weapons of modern war in which the Allies might expect superiority, tanks and planes, the Metz-Frankfurt route and Rhine Valley approach would offer more difficult tank going and fewer airfield sites than the road via Paris, Liége, and the lower Rhine.
Behind the pre-D-Day decision for a main drive on the northeast axis and a subsidiary thrust to the east lay the desire to secure the greatest freedom of maneuver and the most advantageous application of force by widening the front of the Allied advance. This line of thought had been stated in brief but precise form in the 3 May draft of post-OVERLORD plans:
It may be as long as eight months after D Day . . . before the allied land forces can be assured of a steadily increasing superiority in the field. . . . We must, therefore, avoid a line of advance which leads us to a head-on collision with the main German forces without opportunity for maneuvre . . . we must advance on a front sufficiently broad to threaten an advance by more than one of the "gaps" into Germany. By so doing we should be able to keep the Germans guessing as to the direction of our main thrust, cause them to extend their forces, and lay the German forces open to defeat in detail.
In the weeks that followed the invasion, strategy bowed to tactics as the Allied armies fought to break out of Normandy and to secure the lodgment area between the Seine and the Loire. The beginning of the pursuit across northern France introduced logistical complications of a complexity which had not been anticipated in the strategic planning of the pre-D-Day period. The systematic development of a supply system adequate to support the type of orthodox advance envisaged in the OVERLORD plan failed to meet the requirements of the war of movement suddenly begun in August. The strategic
possibilities offered by the collapse of the German armies east of the Seine were attractive and varied, but the Supreme Allied Commander had at his disposal neither the strength nor the supplies necessary to take advantage simultaneously of all the glittering opportunities presented.
As early as 24 August General Eisenhower had written to Gen. George C. Marshall, the United States Chief of Staff, explaining the quandary in which he found himself: "For a very considerable time I was of the belief that we could carry out the operation of the northeast simultaneously with a thrust eastward, but later have concluded that due to the tremendous importance of the objectives in the northeast we must first concentrate on that movement." The objectives to which General Eisenhower referred were those which in earlier plans had long underscored the paramount importance of the northeastern approach to the Ruhr. In the first place the principal concentration of enemy forces in western Europe would be met in this area, including some divisions from the Pas-de-Calais strategic reserve which had not yet been fully committed against the Allies. Next, and highly important to the hard-pressed civilian population of London and southeastern England, was the opportunity to seize the CROSSBOW (flying bomb) sites in the Pas-de-Calais area before new and more-destructive missiles could be hurled across the Channel. In addition, a drive into western Belgium would give the Allies access to the best airfields between the Seine Basin and Germany proper, while denying these forward bases to the Luftwaffe. Finally, an advance astride the northeastern axis would bring the Allies to the deepwater port of Antwerp, which General Eisenhower and his operational and supply staffs regarded as "a permanent and adequate base," essential to further operations to and across the Rhine.13
Although General Eisenhower assigned priority to the northeastern operation, he was nevertheless unwilling to relinquish the idea of the subsidiary thrust to the east via Metz. On this point General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery were in fundamental disagreement. Montgomery categorized Eisenhower's strategic concept as the "broad front policy," his own as the "single concentrated thrust." The 21st Army Group commander's thesis, advanced in the last days of August and recurrent in various forms for some months afterward, held that the war could be brought to a quick conclusion by "one powerful full-blooded thrust across the Rhine and into the heart of Germany, backed by the whole of the resources of the Allied Armies. . . ."
Montgomery contended that a quick concentration of men and supplies on the Allied left wing and an energetic employment of the same in the 21st Army Group zone of advance would make it possible to force a breach in the German West Wall (the Siegfried Line) and "bounce" a crossing over the Rhine while the enemy was in full retreat.14 He had insisted that one whole American army should be moved in on his right flank during the drive toward Brussels and Antwerp, but Eisenhower refused on the grounds that the enemy strength in front of the 21st Army Group did not warrant such a reinforcement. However, the Supreme Commander did agree that the objectives to be attained by an advance toward the northeast had an overriding priority; for this reason the First U.S. Army, by orders issued on 26 August, was committed to a drive close along the right boundary of the 21st Army Group.
By 1 September the marked inability of the enemy to offer any really effective resistance and the speed with which the highly mobile Allied formations were cutting in on the German escape routes led General Eisenhower to order a maneuver in which a part of the American forces would be turned to the north. In the Pas-de-Calais area west and north of the line Laon-Sedan, Allied intelligence estimated that the main German forces were grouped in a strength equivalent to the combat effectiveness of two panzer and eight to ten infantry divisions. General Eisenhower wished to engage and destroy this enemy concentration before driving on toward the Rhine and the Ruhr. Because Montgomery's divisions were insufficient for this task the Supreme Commander assigned two corps from the First U.S. Army to move north in the direction of Antwerp and Ghent, this maneuver, in conjunction with the British, being intended to trap the retreating enemy in the vicinity of Mons.
The execution of the maneuver to close the Mons pocket would shift the 12th Army Group center of gravity far from General Patton's Third Army, which at this time was deployed with its main body between the Marne and the Meuse Rivers. But General Eisenhower still was anxious to start the Third Army driving east as soon as the supply situation on the Continent would permit. On 2 September he called Bradley, Patton, Hodges, and Maj. Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, the new commander of the Ninth Air Force, to his headquarters near Granville, outlined his plans for the proximate future, and indicated the role envisaged for the Third Army. He told his field commanders that as soon as the First Army forces had completed the move to the north
both the First and Third Armies would remain "generally static" until sufficient gasoline and other supplies could be accumulated "to permit the Third Army and the V Corps of the First Army to move to the Siegfried Line [West Wall] and seize and hold that line with at least a part of each Corps."
This last outlined the general directive under which General Patton and his Third Army would begin the sixteen-week Lorraine Campaign. But at this juncture in the victorious Allied march toward Germany the eyes of the high command--and the common soldier as well--were drawn irresistibly to the Rhine River, a goal seemingly close at hand. Following Eisenhower's statement of the over-all plan, Bradley sketched in the army plans, giving General Patton a future axis of advance calculated to take the Third Army across the Rhine in the Mannheim-Frankfurt sector. General Bradley added that two more divisions, the 79th Infantry Division and the 2d French Armored Division, would be given to the Third Army, but pointed out that Patton would not need the first of these divisions (the 79th) until after the Third Army was beyond the West Wall and attacking toward the Rhine.15 Such was the optimism prevalent in all echelons of the Allied armies at this stage of the war in western Europe.
In the middle of the afternoon General Patton telephoned the Third Army headquarters from the meeting of the commanders, giving orders that the army should not advance beyond the Meuse bridgehead line. Cavalry reconnaissance, he added, might continue to push to the east. These orders were promptly relayed to the commanders of the XII and XX Corps--gratuitously, it may have appeared to General Eddy and General Walker, whose forward formations already were immobilized at the borders of Lorraine by the shortage of gasoline.
Composition of the Third Army
The Third Army staff, as well as most of its combat formations, was by this time experienced and battlewise. General Patton's immediate headquarters was filled with men who had served as his staff officers in the Western Task Force and the Seventh Army during the North African and Sicilian campaigns. Many of them had come from the cavalry arm, as had Patton, and were thoroughly imbued with the cavalry traditions of speed and audacity.
GENERAL PATTON AND HIS CHIEF OF STAFF, Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey.
Although the Third Army commander was by nature prone to make decisions on his own, he was equally inclined to place responsibility on his staff and subordinate commanders in matters pertaining to the implementation of his decisions. As a result the Third Army staff was a tightly knit and smoothly functioning body, although its members all were overshadowed by the personality of the army commander.
The chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey, was an armored expert who had served for a brief period as chief of staff of the II Corps while it was under General Patton's command in North Africa. He had subsequently commanded the 2d Armored Division in Sicily and in April 1944 had joined the Third Army in England, again as Patton's chief of staff. The deputy chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Hobart R. Gay, had been well known in the prewar Army as a horseman and cavalry instructor. Like many another cavalryman he had transferred to armor. He had been chief of staff for General Patton in both North Africa and Sicily. During the Lorraine Campaign General Gay and Col. Paul D. Harkins, who was the Third Army deputy chief of staff for Operations and had held the same post during the Sicilian campaign, were to act as Patton's closest tactical advisers.
Most of the other top-ranking members of the Third Army general staff had shared a common experience in the peacetime cavalry and armored force, in North Africa and in Sicily. Col. Oscar W. Koch, G-2, and Col. Walter J. Muller, G-4, had held these same positions on the staffs of the Western Task Force and the Seventh Army. The G-3, Col. Halley G. Maddox, a well-known army horseman, had been a member of the G-3 Section of the Western Task Force and then, in Sicily, had served as Patton's G-3. Only the G-1, Col. Frederick S. Matthews, was a newcomer to Patton's general staff. The Third Army special staff also included officers who had earlier served with General Patton in the same positions they now occupied: the Adjutant General, the Army Engineer, the Army Signal Officer, and the Army Ordnance Officer.16
General Patton had three army corps under his command at the opening of the Lorraine operation (VIII, XII, and XX). The VIII Corps, commanded by General Middleton, was still fighting in Brittany, far from the scene of the forthcoming campaign, and on 5 September would become a part of the new Ninth Army.
The XII Corps had fought its first battle, at Orléans, under Maj. Gen. Gilbert Cook, an officer admired by both Eisenhower and Patton. General Cook's physical condition was poor when he left the United States and proved unequal to the strain imposed by a field command. On 19 August, therefore, Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy, who had won distinction as division commander, was named commanding general of the XII Corps. General Eddy had been a Regular Army officer since 1916, but was not a West Pointer. During World War I he saw much combat, served with a machine gun detachment, and was wounded. Eddy was well known to General Patton and the Third Army staff since he had commanded the 9th Infantry Division in North Africa and Sicily. Later, in Normandy, Eddy received the DSC for his brave and aggressive leadership of the 9th during the Cherbourg operation.
The XII Corps included the 4th Armored Division and the 80th and 35th Infantry Divisions. The 4th Armored commander, Maj. Gen. John S. Wood, was a onetime field artillery officer who had entered the young Armored Force in 1941 as an artillery commander. He was graduated from West Point in 1912 and in the course of World War I took part in the operations at Château Thierry and St. Mihiel as a division staff officer. General Wood and most of his officers had been with the 4th Armored Division, a Regular Army outfit, since the spring of 1942. During the lightning sweep into Brittany and the dash across France the 4th Armored won a considerable reputation and endeared itself to the heart of the Third Army commander. General Wood had already received the DSC on General Patton's recommendation.
Maj. Gen. Horace L. McBride, who commanded the 80th Infantry Division, was graduated from West Point in 1916 and later served as a field artillery battalion commander in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. He had joined the 80th Infantry Division, a Reserve formation, as its artillery commander. In March, 1943, McBride was promoted to command the division; he completed its training and brought it to Europe. The 80th saw its initial action in the second week of August during the battle of the Falaise pocket, but had sustained relatively few casualties. The 35th Infantry Division commander was Maj. Gen. Paul W. Baade, who had held this post since January 1943. A West Point graduate of 1911, General Baade joined the infantry, served on the Mexican border in 1914, and acted as a regimental officer in the Vosges and Verdun sectors in 1918. The 35th, a National Guard division, landed on the Continent during the second week of July. It received its baptism of fire at St. Lô and incurred severe losses there and in the Mortain counterattack.
Maj. Gen. Walton H. Walker commanded the XX Corps, which, like the XII Corps, was one of the formations originally assigned to the Third Army in the United Kingdom. General Walker was graduated from West Point in 1912. Two years later he took part in Funston's expedition to Vera Cruz. During World War I he commanded a machine gun battalion in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives, where he was twice cited for gallantry in action. Although originally an infantry officer, Walker had joined the Armored Force in 1941 and there won a reputation in armored training. He was commanding general of the IV Armored Corps at the time it was redesignated as the XX Corps. At the beginning of August the XX Corps had become an operational command. Shortly after his corps entered action Walker was awarded the DSC for his part in the Seine crossings.
Like the XII Corps the XX Corps contained one armored division, the 7th, and two infantry divisions, the 5th and 90th. Maj. Gen. Lindsay McD. Silvester's 7th Armored Division, an AUS formation, first saw combat during the pursuit across France but as yet had taken part in no major fighting. Although not a graduate of West Point, General Silvester had been commissioned as a Regular Army officer in 1911. His combat record as an infantry officer in World War I was outstanding: he had fought in all of the major American engagements, been wounded, and awarded the DSC. The 5th Infantry Division, now under the command of Maj. Gen. S. LeRoy Irwin, was a Regular Army division which had been sent to outpost duty in Iceland early in the war. The first elements of this division were committed in Normandy in mid-July, but thus far losses in the 5th had been small. General Irwin, a West Point graduate in the class of 1915, already had fought the Germans at Kasserine Pass and El Guettar in North Africa as artillery commander of the 9th Infantry Division. In December 1943, he was promoted to the command of the 5th Infantry Division. It may be mentioned in passing that such a transition--from artillery commander to division commander--would be a fairly common occurrence in the European Theater of Operations.
The 90th Infantry Division, a Reserve unit, got off to an unfortunate start in Normandy17 and by 31 August had an accumulated casualty list equal to 59 percent of its T/O strength. During August the 90th was settling into a veteran outfit under Brig. Gen. Raymond S. McLain, the division's third commander since D Day. General McLain, a National Guard officer, saw action
in World War I as a machine gun officer in the Champagne and Meuse-Argonne offensives. He next encountered the Germans in 1943 during the Sicilian campaign and there received the DSC from General Patton. Later McLain took part in the Salerno and Anzio operations in Italy. On the strength of his record in the Mediterranean, General Eisenhower brought General McLain to the European Theater of Operations as a prospective division commander. However, the 30th Infantry Division had been in need of an artillery commander and McLain served with the 30th through the Normandy campaign, leaving it at the end of July to assume command of the 90th Infantry Division.
The Third Army numbered an estimated 314,814 officers and men at the end of August, including the three divisions and supporting troops assigned to the VIII Corps in Brittany.18 The first troop list for the Lorraine Campaign, issued on 5 September, shows five separate tank battalions assigned to the Third Army, which, added to the armored divisions, gave General Patton 669 medium tanks. Contrary to the flamboyant reports reaching the American press during this period, the Third Army could hardly be considered "top-heavy with armor"; indeed, during the month of September, the Third Army would average 150 to 200 fewer medium tanks than in the First Army. The troop assignments as of 5 September also included 8 squadrons of mechanized cavalry, 23 antiaircraft battalions, 15 tank destroyer battalions, 51 field artillery battalions, 20 engineer combat battalions, and 3 engineer general service regiments. However, the constant shifting of army and corps troops along the front would mean that on the average a lesser strength than that shown on the troop list of 5 September would participate in the Lorraine Campaign.
No appraisal of the Third Army strength at the opening of the Lorraine Campaign is complete without reference to the XIX Tactical Air Command. Although the XIX TAC did not "support" the Third Army but rather--according to regulations--"co-operated" with General Patton's troops, the tightly knit character of this air-ground team had already set a pattern for operations in the ETO. Brig. Gen. Otto P. Weyland, who had taken command of the XIX TAC early in 1944 after considerable combat experience with the 84th Fighter Wing, was held in high esteem by the Third Army commander and staff. The forward tactical headquarters of the two commands were kept close together. And at the morning briefings held in the Third Army war tent
AMERICAN COMMANDERS. Left to right: Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, 12th Army Group; Brig. Gen. Otto P. Weyland, XIX Tactical Air Command; Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Third Army. General Patton's dog, Willie, is shown in the foreground.
The Battle Area
General Weyland sat next to General Patton. This close co-operation assured the Third Army of very effective tactical air support, except, of course, when larger operational considerations intervened.
On 1 September the XIX TAC had in operation on the Continent two fighter wings, the 100th and 303d, comprising eight fighter-bomber groups and one photo reconnaissance group. The airfields used by General Weyland's 600 planes were distributed from the neck of the Brittany peninsula as far east as Le Mans. Since the Third Army had just overrun excellent Luftwaffe airfields in the Reims and Châlons-sur-Marne area the XIX TAC would be able, on 10 September, to move reconnaissance planes and some P-47's forward to the Marne.
During the penetration and pursuit phases of the Third Army's August drive the XIX TAC had been given three major tasks: (1) flying cover for the mechanized spearheads, together with air reconnaissance ahead of the ground advance; (2) sealing off the battlefield; (3) protecting the lengthy and exposed right flank of the Third Army. This combination of missions required a considerable dispersal of Weyland's squadrons; for example, on 1 September the XIX TAC was flying missions as far apart as Brest and Metz, while still other forays were being made 150-200 miles south of the Loire River. But although the speed and extent of the Third Army advance presented numerous problems in the matter of air-ground co-operation it also provided a wealth of targets for the American fighter-bombers. On 1 September XIX TAC was able to claim the largest bag of any single day since it had begun operations: 833 enemy motor vehicles destroyed or damaged.19 The kill on 1 September, however, would not be soon repeated. The following day poor flying weather intervened. Then, on 3 September, General Eisenhower ordered the Ninth Air Force--with the XIX TAC--to turn its main effort against the fortified city of Brest, nearly five hundred air-line miles away from the Meuse bridgeheads occupied by the Third Army, in an attempt to open that Atlantic port.
The Pause in the Third Army Pursuit
The seizure of bridgeheads east of the Meuse River on the last day of August marked the end of the Third Army's rapid pursuit across northern France. (Map II) The brief lull which now ensued, and
which would be followed by operations of a far less mobile character than those of August, must be explained in terms of logistics rather than tactics.
As early as 27 August the growing realization that the Allied armies had outrun their supplies and that there was not sufficient logistical support for a double-headed advance toward the east and northeast had forced the 12th Army Group to allocate priority in supply to the First Army, in accordance with the Supreme Commander's decision to strike toward Antwerp and the Ruhr.20 General Bradley visited General Patton on 28 August, discussed the unfavorable supply position, and then authorized the Third Army commander to continue the advance to the Meuse River if he deemed it "advisable and feasible." Patton had not even considered a halt short of the Meuse and the following day ordered his corps commanders to continue the drive eastward, General Walker's XX Corps to establish a bridgehead over the Meuse at Verdun and General Eddy's XII Corps to cross the river in the vicinity of St. Mihiel and Commercy.
At this time the Third Army was beginning to experience the first serious effects of a logistical situation which its own dashing successes had helped create. On 28 August the Third Army G-4 reported that the amount of gasoline received was markedly short of the daily consumption. General Gay noted in the Third Army Diary "a small bit of anxiety for the time," but in general the first reaction to the gasoline shortage was irritation rather than pessimism. General Patton took his supply problem to General Bradley's headquarters the following day but was told that the Third Army could expect no appreciable amount of gasoline until 3 September. General Gay wrote: "If this is correct . . . the Third Army is halted short of its objective, the Meuse River." Actually the Third Army had enough fuel in its leading armored columns to make the last jump which would carry the advance across the Meuse. There were no signs of any enemy determination to stand and fight, and when General Eddy raised the question as to whether he could allow his tanks to become stranded east of the Meuse General Gaffey assured him that the army commander would not object.
On 31 August, Combat Command A, of the 4th Armored Division (Col. B. C. Clarke), raced across the Meuse bridges at Commercy and Pont-sur-Meuse, three miles to the north, before the German rear guard could set off
the demolition charges planted on the structures. In the north a task force led by Lt. Col. Edward McConnell, from CCA, 7th Armored Division (Col. Dwight A. Rosebaum), entered Verdun and seized a bridge that the demoralized Germans had left intact. By the night of 1 September the XX Corps bridgehead at Verdun and the XII Corps bridgehead at Commercy were held solidly by infantry, artillery, and armor. Other crossing sites now were in American hands; additional bridges were under construction; and the corps cavalry was pushing out from the Meuse toward the north, the east, and the south, attempting to regain contact with the fleeing enemy and scouting along the Moselle. The Third Army had achieved its objective and secured the line of the Meuse--but this was the last gasp of the month-long dash across northern France. On the morning of 2 September reports from immobile formations flooded into the army and corps headquarters. The Third Army was at a standstill.
Much ink has been spilled in varied and polemic explanations of the Third Army halt west of the Moselle River. For the historian it is sufficient to say that at this period the iron rules of logistics were in full operation and that the Third Army, making an attack subsidiary to the Allied main effort, would be the first to suffer therefrom.21
All through August General Patton's determination to override every obstacle and continue to advance had so inspired his army that it had violated with impunity many an accepted tactical or logistical dictum and had surpassed the most sanguine expectations of success. However, the Third Army successes in August had been matched all along the Allied front, in concrete results if not in brilliance. The total impact of these successes could not but disrupt a system of supply based on the expectation of a more gradual and evenly paced advance across France. During late June and the month of July determined German resistance had held the Allies to an exceedingly constricted area, making it impossible to carry out the scheduled and methodical forward movement of supplies, supply installations, and transportation facilities on the Continent. In August the great Allied advance had quickly regained the operational schedule which had been lost in Normandy and then had as quickly outrun it. Motorized and mechanized columns fighting a war of movement could function on a flexible tactical timetable. But the time element in the movement of low-priority service troops, cargo unloading, the creation
of forward supply dumps and depots, the construction of pipe lines, the rebuilding of railroads, and the acquisition of adequate rolling stock could not be treated so cavalierly. In short, the tactical situation which had resulted from the stalemate in Normandy and the unexpected speed of the advance over the Seine and across France had created an extraordinary logistical lag.
On 31 August the Third Army was 150 air-line miles beyond the line of the Seine, which, in the OVERLORD plan, was to have been attained by the Allied armies on 3 September. According to the more tentative phase lines laid down in the POST-OVERLORD Outline Plan, the Third Army forward positions on this date were at the phase line set for 2 April 1945 (D plus 300) Obviously the phase lines set forth in the OVERLORD schedule had been tentative and hypothetical; they were probably even more so in the case of the POST-OVERLORD timetable.22 Admittedly the papers showing these phase lines had been issued "for planning and procurement purposes only." But on this basis supply plans had been made, and improvisation in the field of logistics would prove to be far more difficult than in the sphere of tactics.
In the last days of August the Allied armies had reached the stage of "frantic supply." The bulk of all supply was still coming in over the Normandy beaches and being carried by truck directly from coastal dumps and depots to the combat zone. The beach areas were congested. An insufficient number of transport vehicles, coupled with the long haul from the beaches to the front lines, made it impossible to move supplies forward in the quantities required for the daily maintenance of the armies. The stalemate in Normany and the hand-to-mouth supply in August had prevented the stocking of supplies between the Normandy coast and the army dumps. None of the Allied armies had been able to build up large operational reserves. The railroads west of the Seine had been crippled by Allied air bombardment in the weeks before D Day and could not be rebuilt overnight. The heavy landing craft shuttling between cargo ships and the beaches were busy bringing much-needed motor trucks ashore and could not be diverted to handling locomotives and freight cars. Pipe lines and pumping stations to carry gasoline forward took long in building; meanwhile gasoline was being drained out so fast for immediate use that the sections of pipe line which were finished could not be
kept full. Attempts to supplement an inadequate ground transport by the use of air transport proved markedly effective, but such attempts could be made only when the AEAF was not engaged in mounting or carrying out large-scale air operations.
The most telling shortages in this period were gasoline and transportation. As stores accumulated at the Normandy beaches and ports, the logistical problem turned on the allocation of transportation rather than on the allocation of the supply items themselves. Ammunition, which had a low priority in the unloading schedules then in force, presented no immediate supply problem, nor would it while the German armies were in retreat. Rations took a fixed but limited portion of the tonnage reaching the army dumps. During these days food would be monotonous--mostly K and C rations--but available in sufficient quantity. In the Third Army area the capture of the great Wehrmacht warehouses in and around Reims provided huge stores of beef, sauerkraut, and tinned fish, which added another kind of monotony to the army diet but freed some of the truck space hitherto given to rations.
At the end of August, Third Army trucks still were picking up their loads west of Paris, where the famous Red Ball Express had established the forward communications zone dumps, or were driving clear back to the beaches. The average round trip from the Third Army zone took three days. It was intended that the First and Third Armies would each have a supporting railroad. On 31 August a railway bridge was completed at Laval and rail operations were extended from Cherbourg to Chartres. But the first train movement to the Third Army zone would not commence until 6 September. The POL (petrol, oil, and lubricants) pipe line reached Alençon on 27 August, but it carried relatively small amounts of gasoline and was to have little immediate effect.23
Gasoline was the one item which was essential to further movement by the Third Army. The first severe impact of the supply shortage on Patton's operations had been staved off for a brief period when, on 26 and 27 August, over a thousand planes were used to fly gasoline and rations to the Third Army. On 28 August, however, gasoline deliveries were 100,000 gallons short of the daily Third Army consumption--an amount roughly equivalent to that used by one of Patton's armored divisions in a single day of cross-country fighting. On 29 August the Third Army was given priority on supply by air, and gasoline
was flown to the airstrip at Bricy, near Orleans; but this delivery accounted for only about half the daily army consumption, and the over-all shortage was increased. Gasoline receipts on 30 August amounted to 31,975 gallons, approximately 368,025 gallons short of the estimated daily consumption in the Third Army. When, on 31 August, the 12th Army Group sent out an order that the Third Army would not build up more than a one-day reserve of gasoline, the Third Army G-4 was forced to reply that the army had no gasoline reserve of any kind. By 1 September gasoline was reaching the Third Army only in driblets, precluding even limited operations.24 Fortunately, however, the enemy forces in front of the Third Army were in no position to counterattack General Patton's immobilized and widely dispersed formations; the month of September would begin with relative quiet along the western borders of Lorraine.
The Military Topography of Lorraine25
That part of eastern France conventionally known as Lorraine roughly corresponds to the departments of the Meuse, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, and the Vosges--although the western part of the department of the Meuse and the southern section of the department of the Vosges lie outside of Lorraine. Historically, Lorraine represents the territories belonging to the three bishoprics (Trois-Evêchés) of Metz, Toul, and Verdun in the upper basins of the Meuse and Moselle Rivers. (Map III) Geographically, the area of Lorraine is more difficult to define and French geographers have never agreed on a precise and commonly accepted delimitation of its natural boundaries. In general Lorraine exists as a plateau, with elevations ranging from 600 to 1,300 feet. The western boundary may be designated by the Moselle valley, although some geographers extend the western limits of the plateau to the Meuse Heights (the Côtes de Meuse). From the viewpoint of military geography Lorraine is bounded on the east by the Sarre River, on the north by Luxembourg and the western German mountains, and on the southeast by the Vosges Mountains.
Insofar as military topography is concerned Lorraine through the centuries has been a route of invasion for armies moving from central to western Europe. On the western side of the Lorraine plateau, however, a succession of escarpments rises out of the plains of northern France (the so-called "Paris Basin") in a series of military barriers. These escarpments, the Argonne, the Meuse Heights, and the Moselle Plateau, all have gradual western slopes but drop abruptly on their eastern faces, presenting a difficult military approach from the east and affording the defender greater advantages if he faces to the east. But it should be noted that a hostile advance from the west across the Moselle River will have to traverse a long natural glacis and negotiate a deep river trench, beyond which lie still other heights representing the eastern continuation of the Moselle Plateau, generally somewhat lower than those on the west bank of the Moselle River but still of very considerable tactical importance.
The sector of the Moselle toward which the Third Army faced at the beginning of September was reinforced by two nodal defenses--the outposts of Lorraine--one of which might properly be said to face west, one east. In the north the river line was barricaded by the so-called Metz-Thionville Stellung, a position based on the fortifications around Metz and Thionville. Originally built for the defense of France, these works had passed into German hands during the period 1870-1918 and again in 1940, with the result that the most modern parts of the Metz-Thionville system of fortifications were oriented to face the west. On the eve of 1914 the Germans had constructed two new works north of Thionville at Illange and Koenigsmacker, thus extending the original Metz-Thionville Stellung and further strengthening the line against attack from the west.
Thirty miles south of Metz lies Nancy, the historic ruling city of Lorraine. Unlike Metz the city of Nancy has never been fortified in modern times. The French had looked upon Nancy as a "bridgehead" from which their armies could debouch to the east, and had relied upon a combination of natural barriers and strong forces in the field to give it adequate protection. On the east Nancy is covered by a bastion of scarps and buttes, erupting from the Moselle Plateau, known as the Grand Couronné. On the west the city is protected by a triangular, heavily wooded, and rugged plateau known as the Massif de Haye. Still farther to the west the Moselle River swings out to pass around Nancy in a wide loop, adding one more barrier to defend the city. At the extremity of this loop the city of Toul guards the western approach to Nancy
and the Massif de Haye and, conversely, provides a bridgehead east of the Moselle. Toul itself possessed some outdated forts and was the center of a circular series of small works, such as those at Gondreville and Villey-le Sec, which had been partially modernized prior to 1940.
Between Toul and Epinal, a little over forty miles to the southeast, an opening known as the "Charmes trough" (Troutée de Charmes) offered a western entry into Lorraine and the means of flanking the Metz-Thionville Stellung and the Nancy-Massif de Haye position. Prior to 1914 the French frontier defense system built by Gen. Sere De Rivières had purposely left this sector undefended as an open trap for the invading German armies. French military thought therefore had accepted the necessity of a "Bataille de la Troutée de Charmes," an action that finally took place in September 1914 and resulted in defeat for the Germans. In 1940 the German First Army followed this same path and outflanked Nancy, this time successfully. In 1944 the Charmes Gap still afforded a convenient route bypassing Nancy. But an advance from west to east would be made more difficult by the three major "M" rivers--the Moselle, the Mortagne, and the Meurthe--which formed traverses barring the exit from the "gap."
The Moselle River in particular is a military obstacle of no mean proportion. Unlike the neighboring rivers it has a high rate of flow and a relatively steep gradient. It drains the western slopes of the Vosges and during the rainy season is torrential and flooded. West of Nancy the Moselle valley is relatively narrow, but expands as it wends northward until, between Metz and Thionville, it attains a width of between four and five miles. North of Remich the Moselle enters a narrow, tortuous gorge, finally emptying its waters into the middle Rhine near Koblenz.
East of the Moselle, as has been noted, the plateau formation continues for some distances. Metz and Nancy lie close to the wide valleys of the Nied and Seille Rivers, known as "the Lorraine plain" (La Plaine). This rich, rolling agricultural region is interlaced with small streams, dotted with occasional woods and isolated buttes, and intersected at intervals by flat-topped ridges. Here are found the characteristic Lorraine villages, small, compact, and with buildings and walls of stone.
Moving from south to north across Lorraine, the following features, important in the course of the Third Army campaign, should be noted. Bisecting the southern section of Lorraine runs the Marne-Rhin Canal--between sixteen and twenty yards in width--which originates at Vitry-le-François and
ends at Strasbourg on the Rhine. West of Sarrebourg another artificial waterway, the Canal des Houillères de la Sarre, connects the Sarre River and the Marne-Rhin Canal. In this area a complex of swamps and forests forms a triangle pointing toward Dieuze, an impassable sector which canalizes large-scale troop movements through the narrow Dieuze corridor. West of Dieuze two roughly parallel ridges form another corridor, extending diagonally from Château-Salins toward the tableland at Morhange. Once past Morhange the country leading to Sarreguemines and the Sarre forms a pond-studded corridor some sixteen miles wide, perhaps the most open area east of the Moselle. Farther north the ground is much rougher and more wooded, especially as it nears the Sarre River. Still farther north the Sarre River runs into the Moselle, which here curves away to the northeast. The triangle formed by the confluence of the two rivers is in effect a kind of cul-de-sac at the northern edge of Lorraine. Since the Lorraine plateau narrows as it approaches its eastern terminus, hemmed in as it is by the middle and lower Vosges and the western German mountains, there is not enough room to accommodate a modern army in advance on a wide front. As a rule, therefore, any advance east of the Moselle will tend to move diagonally toward the northeast on a constantly narrowing front.
The main Lorraine gateway on the northeast opens at the Sarre River, with its center at Saarbruecken and the gateposts in the vicinity of Saarlautern, on the left, and Zweibruecken, on the right. Beyond this opening the Hunsrueck tableland and the Hardt mountains rise to deflect any large-scale northeastward march to the Rhine Valley onto a flat-topped, forested plateau, known as the Palatine Hills (Pfaelzer Bergland). Beyond this plateau lie the Rhine Valley and the cities of Mannheim, Darmstadt, and Frankfurt. This gateway has always been important in the military topography of Europe. In 1814 the Allies took possession of Saarlautern in order to provide an immediate entry into France in case it should become necessary to deal again with Napoleon. In 1870 the main German armies crossed the Sarre in this sector to invade France and defeat General Bazaine's army at Metz. And here, in the period before 1940, Hitler had built the strongest section of the West Wall facing the strongest part of the Maginot Line.
Two main highways pass across Lorraine. One follows the old Roman road from Metz to Saarbruecken and thence to Mannheim. The other leads from Nancy, across the Vosges to Strasbourg. In general the area east of the Moselle is covered with an adequate road net, often hard-surfaced, which spreads out
from the great road centers at Metz, Nancy, and Lunéville. The main trunk railroad lines which cross Lorraine largely follow the routes of the two primary highways.26 At the Sarre River two junction points--Saarbruecken and Sarreguemines--tie the French railroad system to the German. A third important rail center, at Sarrebourg, continues this lateral line to the south, and with the other two permits considerable movement by rail on the eastern edge of Lorraine.
The climate of Lorraine--due to play so important a role in the operations of the Third Army--tends to extremes of heat and cold, precipitation and dryness. The westerly winds do not lose their moisture until after passing over the plateaus east of the Paris Basin, with the result that two to three times as much rain falls in Lorraine as in the Champagne country just to the west. Weather records--which have been kept for a ninety-year period in Lorraine--show that in normal times the wet season begins in September and that October has the greatest amount of rainfall of any of the autumn and winter months. The average monthly precipitation in Lorraine during September, October, and November, is between 2.4 and 3.0 inches. In the autumn of 1944, however, the rain which fell on the underlying Lorraine clay was two and three times the amount usually recorded; in November 1944, 6.95 inches of rain during the month.27
The Enemy Situation on the Western Front
At the beginning of September 1944, the collective ground forces of the Third Reich numbered 327 divisions and brigades, greatly varied as to strength and capabilities. Of this total, in some respects a paper roster, 31 divisions and 13 brigades were armored. The confusion introduced in the German reporting system by the reverses suffered during August makes it difficult to determine what proportion of this strength was actively engaged on battle fronts. A careful study of the German situation maps maintained by OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres) and OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) indicates that elements of some 252 divisions and 15 to 20 brigades were deployed within the
combat zones of the several German theaters of operations on 1 September. In addition, the ground forces of the Wehrmacht were augmented by the presence of approximately 55 allied divisions (Finnish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian) on the Finnish front, the Eastern Front, and in the Balkans. One German division, it may be noted, was reckoned as the equivalent of two of these allied divisions.28
In the five years of war that had elapsed since the invasion of Poland cumulative German losses had mounted to 3,630,274 men and 114,215 officers. The Army accounted for the largest share of these losses: 3,266,686 men and 92,811 officers. These enormous casualty figures included only the dead, the missing in action, and soldiers demobilized by reason of physical disability or extreme cases of family hardship. Nonetheless the numerical strength of the German armed forces still represented a relatively high proportion of the population, although the quality had deteriorated somewhat as conscription broadened to make good the earlier losses by reaching into older and younger mobilization classes, and as training periods of necessity were shortened. The total paper strength of the Wehrmacht, at the beginning of September, was estimated to be 10,165,303.
Army and Waffen-SS 7,536,946 Navy 703,066 Luftwaffe 1,925,291
In actual fact the available fighting strength of the German ground forces was considerably below the total ration strength. This disparity had increased as the war progressed and was a continuing source of irritation to Hitler. The Field Army (Feldheer) now was estimated to number 3,421,000 officers and men. The Replacement Army (Ersatzheer), whose composition could be determined with a little more precision, totaled 2,387,973. Units of the Waffen-SS which were serving in the field independent of Army control had a strength reckoned as 207,276. The remaining million and a half members of the Army included miscellaneous Luftwaffe ground troops and SS personnel, police, foreign volunteers such as Italians, Indians, Frenchmen, and Spaniards, members of the services of supply, East European auxiliaries (Hilfswillige), and so forth. The greater part of the German Field Army was concentrated on
the Eastern Front. Of the 3,421,000 men on the rosters of the Field Army, 2,046,000 belonged to the East Army (Ostheer).
The months of June, July, and August had brought one German defeat after another on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. The resultant breakdown of communications, the loss or destruction of personnel records in hasty retreats, and the failure to retake the battlefields where the German dead and wounded lay made any strict accounting of battle losses impossible. Casualty tables dated in April 1945, but still incomplete at that time, give some idea of the losses inflicted on the Field Army in the summer disasters of 1944. In July the number of wounded who had to be hospitalized on all the German fronts was at least 195,332, the largest total of seriously wounded for any month of the war. August was marked by the greatest number of killed and missing which the collective German Field Army would endure in any month of the entire war. Incomplete returns show 60,625 officers and men officially declared dead, and 405,398 missing. The mobility of the Field Army also had been gravely impaired in August, with the loss of 254,225 horses during the great retreats in the East and the West.
The Russian offensives against Army Group Center and the forces in the Ukraine had accounted for the largest proportion of German ground force casualties during June, July, and August: at least 916,860 dead, wounded, and missing. On the Western Front, where substantially fewer divisions were engaged on both sides of the line, the German Field Army had lost a minimum of 293,802 dead, wounded, and missing in the battles from D Day to 1 September. To this number may be added 230,320 officers and men of the Wehrmacht (86,337 of these belonged to the Field Army) who had retired into the Western fortresses, there to be contained with relatively small effort on the part of the Allies, and eventually to surrender.
At this late date it is impossible to give more than the approximate strength of the German armies in the West on 1 September. Casualty returns were only "estimates." The changes in the Replacement Army, following the attempt on Hitler's life and the appointment of Himmler to its command, seem to have caused extensive confusion and disorder throughout the replacement system. As a result the Germans themselves could not be certain as to the exact number of replacements sent to the Western Front during this period. They later estimated the fighting strength of the ground forces in the West on 1 August 1944, as 770,000 officers and men. Tables compiled at the same time for the status on 1 September give a fighting strength of 543,000. These tables, however,
do not include the division and army troops which had been sent to the Western Front during August, or the numerous separate replacement battalions. It is probable, therefore, that the 49½ German divisions and supporting troops in the West at the opening of September numbered over 700,000.29
The heavy losses suffered in the West and the continuing high rate of attrition on the Eastern Front forced Hitler to provide some program for bolstering up the two main fronts with new or reconstructed divisions. In early July, while the Allies still were held in check in Normandy, Hitler had ordered the formation of fifteen new divisions to strengthen the German lines in the East and stem the Soviet tide. These fresh formations were obtained by utilizing troops returning to duty from the hospitals, drastically reducing the number of ground troops assigned to the Luftwaffe, converting naval personnel to infantrymen, enrolling new classes that had come of military age, and stripping industry of able-bodied men who previously had been exempted from the operation of the conscription laws. By the beginning of September, the fifteen new divisions and three "static" divisions had been raised and dispatched to the combat zones, fifteen of the total going to the East, two to the West, and one to Norway.30
During the early summer of 1944, Hitler and his closest military advisers had showed more concern with the collapse of the central section of the Eastern Front and the Soviet threat to East Prussia than with the Allied drive toward the boundaries of western Germany. The number of divisions engaged on the Russian front was much greater than the number engaged in the West. The Eastern theater of operations had been draining German resources since 1941. A long-continued, virulent, and effective propaganda had made the primacy of the struggle against "Bolshevism" an article of faith with the German people and the German Army. Equally important was the reliance which
Hitler and the higher staff officers in OKW placed in the West Wall, regarding this fortified line as a final and impenetrable barrier to an invasion of western Germany. On the Eastern Front, however, there was no such system of fortifications--indeed Hitler had decided against any thoroughgoing program of permanent defense31--and the only barrier between the Soviet armies and the Third Reich was that constituted by the German armies in the field.
Nevertheless, the rapid disintegration of the western German forces during August forced Hitler to turn his attention from the East and consider ways and means of shoring up the armies in front of the West Wall. It appears also that Hitler was already thinking in terms of some large-scale operation to regain the initiative, which had been everywhere surrendered. On 2 September Hitler gave instructions for the creation of an "operational reserve" of twenty-five new divisions, to be made available between 1 October and 1 December. Nearly all of these formations were destined for the Western Front.
The twenty-five new divisions and the eighteen raised in July and August now were designated volksgrenadier divisions, an honorific selected by Hitler to appeal to the national and military pride of the German people (das Volk). Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler and the SS were assigned the political indoctrination and training of these units, although they would not be included in the Waffen-SS, and Hitler personally concerned himself with attempting to secure the best arms and equipment for the new formations. Some of these divisions were assigned new members, generally in the "500" series. Many, however, would carry the numbers belonging to divisions that had been totally wrecked or destroyed, for on 10 August Hitler had forbidden the practice of erasing such divisions from the Wehrmacht rolls.
The organization and equipment of the new volksgrenadier divisions reflected the tendency, current in the German Army since 1943, to reduce the manpower in the combat division while increasing its fire power. Early in 1944 the standard infantry division had been formally reduced in strength from about 17,000 to 12,500 officers and men.32 The volksgrenadier division represented a further reduction to a strength of some 10,000, this generally being effected by reducing the conventional three infantry regiments to two rifle battalions apiece and paring down the number of organic service troops. Although equipment varied, an attempt was made to arm two platoons in each company with the 1944 model machine pistol, add more field artillery,
and provide a slightly larger complement of antitank weapons and assault guns. Theoretically, fourteen assault guns, the basic accompanying weapon for the German infantry platoon in attack, were assigned to each division, but this number seldom would be available in the field. Approximately three-quarters of the divisional transportation was horse-drawn. One unit, the Fuesilier battalion, was equipped with bicycles.
Although a desperate shortage of heavy weapons had forced Hitler to accept a Table of Equipment for the volksgrenadier divisions much weaker in antitank guns and artillery than he desired, he sought to remedy this weakness by ordering the construction of twelve motorized artillery brigades (requiring about 1,000 guns), ten Werfer (rocket projector) brigades, ten tank destroyer battalions, and twelve 20-mm. machine gun battalions. These GHQ (Heeres) units were intended to reach combat at the same time as the last twenty-five volksgrenadier divisions; most were slated for the Western Front.
In addition, ten panzer brigades were in the process of formation or just going into action on 1 September. Their equipment varied according to the ebb and flow of German industrial production, but in general these first brigades, numbered from 101 through 110, would be built around a panzer battalion that contained some forty Panther tanks (Mark V). As early as 26 June Hitler had ruled, on the basis of the German tank losses in Normandy, that the basic tank model, the Mark IV, should be matched one for one by the heavier Panther. Since even the most sanguine heads of the various German armaments offices were as one in agreement that the Third Reich could not equal the tank production of the United States, Hitler hoped to redress the armored balance on the battlefield by giving priority to the production of tank models tactically superior to the American Sherman. During July and August, therefore, the German factories stepped up the output of the Panther and the superheavy Tiger--the latter optimistically estimated to be equal to twenty Sherman tanks. In spite of the Allied air effort against German industrial centers, tank output during these two months fell only slightly short of production schedules, with tanks actually delivered as follows :
July August33 Mark IV 282 279 Panther 373 358 Tiger 140 97
Early in August Hitler ordered that the Western Front should be given priority on the tanks coming off the assembly lines. Contrary to the advice of his armored experts he decreed that the Panthers should not be used to refit the depleted and burned-out panzer divisions already in being but should go straight from the factory to the new panzer brigades, which he envisaged as mobile reserves capable of immediate commitment.
Still other drastic steps were taken in midsummer to meet the crisis in the West. Approximately a hundred fortress infantry battalions, made up of the older military classes and heretofore used in rear areas, were hastily and scantily re-equipped and sent forward to the field armies. About four-fifths of these battalions eventually would be sent to the West; by the beginning of September many were already in the line. On 4 September OKW took note of "the threatening situation" in the West and assigned priority on all new artillery and assault guns to that theater, following this with orders for a general movement of the artillery units in the Balkans back to the Western Front.34
Unlike the German high command of World War I, Hitler and his household military staff were unable to utilize fully the play of internal lines by shuttling divisions back and forth between the two main German fronts. Continuous pressure in the East and the West made it impossible to strip one front in order to reinforce the other, and, equally important, the great Allied air offensive against the railroad systems of Central Europe denied any rapid and direct large-scale troop movements.
In general the carry-over from the older Eastern Front to the newly opened Western Front would be indirect in nature. The survivors of divisions destroyed by the Soviet armies in many cases would be returned to Germany, there be used as cadres in the formation of new divisions, and finally be sent to the Western Front as the veteran core of these inexperienced formations. In addition, the long campaigning in Russia had produced a number of ranking
and experienced commanders who were ready for promotion to higher posts. As vacancies occurred, or were purposely created on the Western Front, many high-ranking officers would be relieved from duty in the East and promoted to still higher commands in the West, bringing with them the experience, tactics, and techniques derived from the hard months and years of battle in the Russian theater of operations. This carry-over in experience would have some important effects on the conduct of the war in the West--not all favorable to the Germans.
Hitler's intense and direct personal concern with every small detail involved in the preparation of new forces during the summer of 1944 was indicative of the degree to which the direction of the war had passed from the hands of the higher field commanders and the General Staff Corps to those of Hitler and his immediate entourage in the headquarters of OKW. The Polish campaign of 1939 had been fought by the field commanders and the General Staff planners in general accordance with the conventional German theories of command responsibility. In 1940 Hitler had intervened in the conduct of the campaign in France on two occasions, personally selecting Sedan as the point of penetration for the drive through the Maginot Line and personally halting the German armored formations from pursuing the British Expeditionary Force through the flooded areas in the Dunkerque sector.35 Up to this point in the war the prestige of the Wehrmacht generals and the German General Staff had been sustained by quick and easy victories. The reverses suffered on the Russian front during the winter of 1941-42, however, gave Hitler the excuse for entering more and more into the picture as the supreme military leader. Through 1942 and 1943 he tried to run the war from his headquarters in East Prussia. By 1944 Hitler's personal control over military matters was so well established that a general with the prestige of Rundstedt could not move an army corps a few miles without the permission of Hitler and the OKW staff. The unsuccessful attempt on Hitler's life in July 1944 ended most of what little influence the field commanders and the General Staff had managed to retain.
Now Hitler stood alone as the supreme arbiter in all phases of the German war effort, embodying in himself the "Fuehrer Prinzip" so long the core of
Nazi faith. Directly below Hitler the OKW acted as his personal military staff. Generalfeldmarschall William Keitel, the head of OKW, and Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff (Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab), served here as technical advisers only, seldom making any decisions on their own. But the importance of Keitel, Jodl, and the OKW staff should not be underestimated; through them Hitler received his impression of the situation in the field, and through them the field commanders had to go to reach Hitler. The complete abandonment of the prewar system of German command organization also brought still another staff under Hitler's direct domination, that of OKH, which had responsibility for the conduct of the war on the Eastern Front. All other theaters of operation were subordinate to OKW.
On the Western Front OB WEST36 exercised an illusory "supreme command" in the field under OKW. The relations between OKW and OB WEST, in the summer of 1944, indicate the disrepute and desuetude into which all the field commands had fallen. Hitler and the OKW staff mistrusted the field commanders and sought evidence of treason in each defeat suffered at the hands of the Allies. Even successful operations, such as the Nineteenth Army withdrawal from southern France, more often than not would be rewarded with suspicion, calumny, and the relief of the commanders concerned. The field commanders and staffs were fearful for their lives at the hands of the Gestapo. When they visited the headquarters of OKW they found it chilling and aloof, with little knowledge of the conditions actually prevailing at the front and even less desire to learn. The atmosphere of distrust and suspicion corroded all sense of responsibility. The field commanders feared to exercise initiative and referred all important decisions to OKW. Orders emanating from OKW were seldom amended but were simply passed on to lower echelons with the remark "copy from OKW."
The disposition of command and decision in the person of one man, far removed from the practical considerations of the battle front, was evidenced in the late spring and early summer of 1944 by an almost complete abnegation of the principles of maneuver and mobility in the conduct of the war in France. From Normandy onward Hitler's idée fixe was that each German soldier in the West should stand his ground--even if this permitted the enemy to cut him
off--until he was struck down or was victorious. Basically this concept seems to have been derived from earlier successes on the Russian front in which German formations had held fast, although surrounded, and then had blunted the Soviet thrust and cut their way free.
As a result of these Eastern Front experiences, Hitler had issued a long directive in September 1942 which contained the essence of the Hitlerian dogma on the unyielding defense and which still further stripped the German field commanders of authority and initiative. No army commander or army group commander, Hitler had written, could undertake any "tactical withdrawal" without the express permission of the Fuehrer. So far as the records show this order was never rescinded. In 1944 the precipitate German surrender of Cherbourg added to Hitler's innate distrust of the loyalty and courage of his commanders and provoked more diatribes on the "last ditch" defense. The results of this monomania were to deprive the German ground commanders of their chief operational concept--maneuver--at a time when Allied matériel superiority was stripping the German forces of the means of mobility in maneuver. Hitler's insistence on defending each foot of ground cost the German armies in the West dearly in men and matériel, but did not retard the pace of the August retreat across France. The German field commanders sought to protect themselves by a convenient formula, apparently first advanced by General der Infanterie Guenther Blumentritt, the chief of staff at OB WEST, which appears over and over again in dispatches to OKW: "Thrown back. Countermeasures are being taken." With the whole front in collapse Hitler could hardly single out the officers who ordered retreat.
At the beginning of September OKW sent a new Hitler "intention" for the conduct of the war in the West to Field Marshal Model, C-in-C West.37 In it Hitler ordered that the retreating German armies must stand and hold in front of the West Wall in a battle to gain the time needed for rearming the West Wall defenses, which in the years since the conquest of France had fallen into disrepair, but which he regarded as potentially impregnable. The holding line designated by Hitler ran from the Dutch coast, through northern Belgium, along the forward positions of the West Wall segment between Aachen and the Moselle River, and thence via the western borders of Lorraine and Alsace. A successful defensive battle along this general line, so Hitler reasoned, would have several important results:
The Netherlands would be retained as an important center of German air and naval activity, while its industrial and agricultural production would continue to flow to the Third Reich.
No German soil would be lost.
The Allies would be unable to use the port of Antwerp, so long as the Schelde mouths were denied them.
Allied air bases would be kept as far as possible from central Germany.
The great industrial production of the Ruhr and the Saar would be protected.
This "stand and hold" order, like those issued earlier through OKW, showed little appreciation of the difficulties facing the German troops and commanders in the West. Field Marshal Model, who was now acting both as the C-in-C West and as the commander of the group of armies in northern France, Army Group B, had done what he could to convey to Hitler some sense of the crisis in the West, sending report after report to Jodl with the urgent plea that they be brought to Hitler's attention. On 24 August Model reported that the Allies had sixty-one divisions on the Continent, "all thoroughly motorized and mechanized," and that these ground troops were supported by 16,400 planes, of which a minimum of one-third to one-half could be considered operative at any given time.38 Five days later Model reviewed the rapidly worsening situation. The retreating troops, he warned OKW, had few heavy weapons and were mostly armed with carbines and rifles. Replacements and new weapons were lacking. The eleven German panzer divisions would have to be refitted before they could equal the strength of as many regiments; few had more than five to ten tanks in working order. The infantry divisions possessed only single pieces of artillery. The panzer divisions seldom had more than one battery. The horse-drawn transport of the German formations made for an unequal struggle with a fully motorized enemy. The troops were thoroughly depressed by the Allied superiority in planes and tanks. Finally, there now existed a wide gap between the two German groups of armies, Army Group B and Army Group G.39
On 1 September Model asked OKW for three fresh infantry divisions to cover this gap between the two army groups in the Lunéville-Relfort sector. OKW acceded to his modest demand, after some haggling, but on 2 September
Model reported that the Lunéville-Belfort gap was no longer the chief danger point; the entire Western Front must be propped up lest it give way completely. On the same day Model made an urgent plea that some of the Flak artillery concentrated in Germany against the Allied air offensive should be sent to the West for use against the Allied tanks. This request was denied. Model's request on 3 September for three panzer divisions from the Eastern Front met the same fate.
Finally, on 4 September, Model sent his last request to Jodl, this time urging that it be placed before Hitler "in the original." In this message Model painted a gloomy picture that must have been most irksome to Hitler, who at this stage in the war was prone to charge his field commanders with defeatism. In a detailed appraisal of the front held by the three armies under Army Group B, against which the bulk of the Allied forces were concentrated, Model estimated his "actual combat strength" as the equivalent of 3¾ panzer and panzer grenadier divisions, and 10 infantry divisions. Army Group B would need, he said, a minimum of 25 fresh infantry divisions and 5 or 6 panzer divisions.40 These estimates, it will be noted, took no account of the dire situation of the shattered divisions under Army Group G, now ending a long and costly withdrawal from the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean coast.
Model received no answer, for he was about to be relieved of his unenviable dual post as "Supreme Commander" in the West and commander of Army Group B. On 1 September Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt had been ordered to leave the rustic watering spot at Bad Toelz, where he had been taking the cure, and to proceed at once to Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia. This was not Rundstedt's first visit to the Fuehrer Hauptquartier. At the end of June 1944 Rundstedt, then in command of OB WEST, had journeyed to the Berghof at Berchtesgaden in company with Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, then commander of Army Group B. What the two famous officers told Hitler will probably never be known. Rundstedt and Rommel seem to have warned Field Marshal Keitel against continuing the war and may have said as much to Hitler. In any event Rundstedt was allowed to plead ill health and retire from his post; even Hitler dared not touch a man with Rundstedt's distinguished record of fifty-four years in the German Army. Rommel had returned to the front and there been injured. Lacking officers
of the experience needed to fill these two posts, Hitler had given both to Generalfeldmarschall Guenther von Kluge. Model, who had succeeded Kluge after the latter's "sudden" death, continued the dual command.
Rundstedt's recall in September ostensibly stemmed from this untenable command situation. Other factors, however, were at work. Rundstedt had a reputation as a great strategist. He was well known to the troops, and his return to the front might be expected to give some much-needed encouragement. He had many friends in high places and although outspoken had rigidly adhered to the divorcement from politics which had characterized the old German Army. Rundstedt, therefore, would be returned to his old command as C-in-C West. Model, much to his own satisfaction, would be relieved and would retain only his position as the commander of Army Group B. Generalleutnant Siegfried Westphal, a young, energetic, and skilled staff officer, would be named Rundstedt's chief of staff. Westphal had fought the Allies in North Africa and Italy; during the latter campaign he had been chief of staff for Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring. His selection for the new assignment seems to have resulted from Hitler's conviction that General Blumentritt, the incumbent chief of staff at OB WEST, lacked the practical experience and ruthless energy necessary at this stage of the war.
From 1 to 3 September Rundstedt and Westphal were briefed by the OKW staff and cursorily by Hitler. Hitler expressed himself as unworried about the situation on the Western Front. He believed that the Allies were outrunning their supplies and would soon be forced to a halt. In any case the Allied advance was being carried by "armored spearheads." These could be cut off by counterattacks and the front would then be stabilized. The best opportunity to truncate these armored spearheads would be found in the vicinity of Reims, on the south flank of the northern Allied forces. Finally, like the OKW staff, Hitler stressed the importance and impregnability of the West Wall. His verbal orders to Rundstedt were brief: stop the Allied advance as far to the west as possible; hold Belgium north of the Schelde and all of the Netherlands; take the offensive in the Nancy-Neufchâteau sector by a counterattack toward Reims. The task assigned Rundstedt was formidable, but would be made somewhat easier by the fact that Westphal had succeeded in bringing Jodl to modify the "hold at all costs" concept which had so stultified all maneuver in the West.41
5 September 1944
On the afternoon of 5 September Rundstedt assumed command in the main OB WEST headquarters near Koblenz. OB WEST was far from being a "supreme headquarters" in the sense of SHAEF. Nominally it represented a unified command, but jealousies among the men close to Hitler and the conventional totalitarian philosophy of "divide and rule" would allow only limited exercise of over-all command by an Army general. The Luftwaffe, the Navy, the Waffen-SS, and the party appointees holding political posts in areas behind the Western Front all possessed and would exercise a very considerable independence despite Rundstedt's "supreme command."
One of Rundstedt's first and most urgent problems--a problem he never completely solved--was the restoration of a collective strategy for the whole of the Western Front. (Map IV) Model had concerned himself almost entirely with hard-pressed Army Group B, on the German right wing, and had paid only cursory attention to the plight of Army Group G, on the left, or to the threat of a rupture along the thin security line that formed the only link between them. The counterattack ordered by Hitler against the south flank of the American Third Army might be expected to check the Allied thrust into this gap, but Rundstedt was none too optimistic of success in such a venture and warned that the forces needed could not be gathered before 12 September at the earliest.
In Rundstedt's opinion the Allied advance posed two additional threats to a collective defense on the Western Front. First, the Allies were pressing in the direction of the Ruhr industrial areas. Aachen and the sector of the West Wall covering the approaches to the Ruhr appeared to be particularly endangered. Second, the Allies possessed airborne forces that were not committed; Rundstedt agreed with Model's earlier estimate of the "acute threat" of an Allied airborne attack in the rear of the West Wall or east of the Rhine.
On 7 September Rundstedt forwarded his first estimate of the situation in the West to OKW, confirming Model's pessimistic reports. The C-in-C West estimated that the Allied forces in northern France and Belgium now numbered fifty-four divisions, "thoroughly mechanized and motorized." He predicted that there were at least thirty additional divisions in England--of which six were airborne. The German formations were extremely hard pressed and in considerable measure "burned out." They lacked artillery and antitank weapons. The Allied superiority in armor was tremendous--Army Group B had only about a hundred tanks fit for combat. Reserves "worthy of the name" were nonexistent. The sole reserves available were the "weak" 9th Panzer Division,
one "weak" Sturm panzer battalion, and two assault gun brigades. These reserves were already en route to the Aachen sector. Reinforcements were needed at once, said Rundstedt, at least five "and better" ten infantry divisions, properly armed with assault guns and heavy antitank weapons, plus "several" panzer divisions. Tanks and tank destroyers, Rundstedt repeated, were needed desperately to defend the Aachen front against the Allied armor concentrating there.42
The immediate effects of Rundstedt's report were negligible. Hitler reiterated that the Western Front must be spiked down and held as far to the west as possible, the shattered divisions in the line must be withdrawn and reconstituted, and the counterattack against the southern flank of the American Third Army must be made as scheduled.
Enemy Dispositions in the Moselle Sector
During the first few days of September the German front in the West had begun to stabilize itself somewhat, although a co-ordinated and homogeneous defense still was lacking along the four hundred miles between Switzerland and the North Sea. Logistical difficulties were harassing and impeding the advance of the Allied armies. A few fresh formations had arrived to reinforce the tired and disheartened German divisions. Furthermore, the German forces had now been driven back onto a system of rivers, canals, mountains, and fortifications which, although far from impregnable, favored the defender.
When Rundstedt assumed command on 5 September the paper strength of the combined German armies in the West showed a total of 48 infantry divisions, 14 panzer divisions, and 4 panzer brigades. Of this number, 13 infantry divisions, 3 panzer divisions, and 2 panzer brigades were close to full strength, although 4 of the infantry divisions in this category were encircled in fortress positions behind the Allied lines; 12 infantry divisions, 2 panzer divisions, and 2 panzer brigades were greatly understrength but still usable; 14 infantry divisions and 7 panzer divisions were "fought out" and of little or no combat value; 9 infantry divisions and 2 panzer divisions were out of the line and in process of rehabilitation and refitting.43
The bulk of these German divisions were grouped under Model's Army Group B, whose front extended from the North Sea to a point south of Nancy,
GERMAN GENERALS OPPOSING THIRD ARMY
Upper left: General der Panzertruppen Hasso von Manteuffel
Upper right: Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz
Lower left: General der Panzertruppen Otto von Knobelsdorff
Lower right: General der Panzertruppen Hermann Balck
in Lorraine. Army Group B commanded four armies, the Fifteenth Army (General der Infanterie Gustav von Zangen), the First Parachute Army (Generaloberst Kurt Student), the Seventh Army (General der Panzertruppen Erich Brandenberger), and the First Army (General der Infanterie Kurt von der Chevallerie), aligned from north to south. Army Group G, commanded by Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz, formed the exceedingly amorphic German left wing. It lacked a recognizable forward line in the first days of September, but was charged with the establishment of a front west of the Vosges mountains in the area between the Nancy sector and the Swiss border. Blaskowitz' command comprised only the independent LXVI Corps (General der Artillerie Walther Lucht), operating on the north flank of the army group in the Neufchâteau-Langres sector, and the Nineteenth Army (General der Infanterie Friedrich Wiese), a total of seven divisions.44 The advance of General Patton's Third Army toward the Moselle would strike directly into the German First Army front, brush against the northern flank of the Nineteenth Army, and threaten to sever the extremely tenuous connection between the two. The First and Nineteenth Armies, therefore, would be the initial opponents of the Third Army in the battle for Lorraine.
Hitler had intervened directly to nominate a new commander for the First Army, writing a personal letter to General Chevallerie, who had led the First Army during the withdrawal across France, relieving him on the grounds of "ill health." Chevallerie had been an infantry officer, a veteran of the Eastern Front.45 The new appointee, General der Panzertruppen Otto von Knobelsdorff, also was a veteran of the Russian campaigns but had an armored background. He had first commanded a panzer division on the Eastern Front and then had led three successive panzer corps. During the attempt to relieve the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, Knobelsdorff's corps had won considerable distinction--which may explain his subsequent appointment in the West. He was reputed to be a brave officer, had received several wounds, and as a corps commander had been much in the front lines. Hard, forceful, "steady in times of crisis," and an "unflinching optimist," Knobelsdorff possessed the characteristics that Hitler valued most. But his military superiors had agreed that he was "no towering tactician" and that he lacked somewhat
"in the realm of ideas." It should be noted in passing that when Knobelsdorff took command of the First Army on 6 September he was already physically weakened by the rigors of long months on the Eastern Front.
Friedrich Wiese, the Nineteenth Army commander, was an infantry officer. After fighting through the four years of World War I, he had become a police official and then, like many of the German police, had transferred to the Wehrmacht in 1935. Wiese made the Polish campaign in command of an infantry battalion and did not rise to division commander until the fall of 1942. A year later he was given command of an army corps on the Eastern Front, where he won a good reputation. In June 1944 Wiese was brought directly from the Eastern Front to assume command of the Nineteenth Army, then employed in watching the Mediterranean coast. During the retreat from southern France he had shown considerable talent as a tactician and was commended by his superiors for the dispatch with which he had oriented himself in the battle practices of the West.
Far superior in reputation to either Knobelsdorff or Wiese was Blaskowitz, the Army Group G commander. Since the First and Nineteenth Armies would be grouped under his command on 8 September, General Blaskowitz was to be the chief ground commander opposed to the Third Army in the first weeks of the Lorraine Campaign. An East Prussian, a stanch religionist, and avowedly nonpolitical in his affiliations, Blaskowitz, like his friend Rundstedt, represented the traditions of the old German Officer Corps. In October 1939 he had been promoted to command the Eighth Army. Subsequently he had spent the four years of occupation in France as commanding general of the First Army. On 10 May 1944 Blaskowitz had been raised, at Rundstedt's insistence, to command Army Group G. Actually Blaskowitz was already persona non grata at OKW, which attempted in various ways to limit his authority. This tacit antagonism seems to have stemmed from the fact that Blaskowitz was lukewarm toward the Nazi regime and had run afoul of Himmler in Czechoslovakia and Poland, provoking an enmity from the latter which would continually plague Blaskowitz in his conduct of combat operations. This old feud came to the fore again on 3 September 1944, when Blaskowitz protested a Himmler order, issued in the latter's capacity as chief of the Replacement Army, for the construction of a defense line that would be under Himmler's command immediately behind the battle front in the Nancy-Belfort sector. OKW in this case supported Blaskowitz' authority, possibly because of the imminent return of Rundstedt to the West. The latter
German Front, in Northeastern France
Evening, 5 September 1944
regarded Blaskowitz as a top-flight organizer and an able commander, a judgment that Blaskowitz' successful withdrawal from southern France appeared to sustain.
In the last days of August the First Army had retreated across the Meuse with a force numbering only nine battalions of infantry, two batteries of field guns, ten tanks, three Flak batteries, and ten 75-mm. antitank guns. Advance detachments of two veteran formations from Italy, the 3d and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions, had arrived in time to see some action during the withdrawal from the Verdun-Commercy line. The main bodies of these two divisions finally came up on 1-2 September and took positions along the east bank of the Moselle. During the retreat from Châlons-sur-Marne the exhausted 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division ("Goetz von Berlichingen") had been withdrawn to the First Army rear for rest and refitting in the Metz area. On 31 August, however, the situation had deteriorated so markedly that two battalions of the 17th SS hastily were gathered to form an outpost line west of Metz.
By 1 September the First Army had a battle strength in the Thionville-Nancy sector which OB WEST reckoned as the combat equivalent of three and a half divisions. Reinforcements, however, were close behind the First Army lines, with advance sections from two of the new volksgrenadier divisions and a panzer brigade in process of arrival on 1 September. East of Metz one regiment of the 559th VG (Volksgrenadier) Division had unloaded. The 553d VG Division was detraining at Saarbruecken, en route to Nancy. And the 106th Panzer Brigade was moving its new Panther tanks off flat cars in the Trier rail yards.
The ensuing lull, as American pressure eased in the first days of September, permitted the 3d, 15th, 553d, and 559th to complete their assembly and assume positions along the First Army front. The lone armored brigade gathered its tanks and armored infantry west of Trier. The 17th SS proceeded with the work of refitting and absorbing large numbers of replacements from the 49th and 51st SS Panzer Grenadier Brigades.
On 5 September the German First Army held a loosely formed front reaching from Sedan, in the northwest, to an ill-defined boundary south of Nancy. (Map V) Here the immediate problem was that of establishing a coordinated security line to meet the American attack. More specifically the First Army was charged with defending the mining and industrial area around Longwy and Briey, as well as that of the Saar, establishing secure bridgeheads
west of the Moselle River at Metz and Nancy, and re-establishing firm contact with the Nineteenth Army.46
Although only a collection of weak "splinter detachments," individual regiments, and staffs without troops at the end of August, the First Army now was the strongest of all the German armies in the West, with a combat strength which OB WEST estimated as equal to 3 panzer grenadier divisions, 4½ infantry divisions, and 1 panzer brigade. On the extreme north wing the LXXX Corps (General der Infanterie Dr. Franz Beyer) was deployed between Sedan and Montmédy along a line echeloned somewhat forward of the main First Army front and facing the American V Corps. On 31 August a regiment of the newly arrived 25th Panzer Grenadier Division had been put into line to reinforce the five weak battalions of police and security personnel with which the LXXX Corps was conducting a northeasterly retreat from the Reims area. No further attempt was made to reinforce Beyer's corps, which, at less than the strength of a division, could do no more than establish a chain of outpost positions.47
The LXXXII Corps (General der Artillerie Johann Sinnhuber) formed the First Army center, with the mission of defending the Moselle River position from north of Thionville to south of Metz and maintaining the bridgehead west of the latter city.48 This corps faced the American XX Corps. Since there were several Waffen-SS units in this sector, control would pass on 7 September from the LXXXII Corps to the XIII SS Corps, the former staff moving north to assume command on the right wing. Generalleutenant der Waffen-SS Herman Priess, commander of the newly formed XIII SS Corps, had gained distinction on the Eastern Front while commanding the crack "Death's Head" Panzer Division (3d SS Panzer Division). The defense of Metz would be his first experience as a corps commander, but he was known to be a determined and resourceful leader. The First Army center had been considerably reinforced since the end of August and now existed as an organized front. The 27th SS Panzer Grenadier Division and the 48th Division were in the line, after having fought in late August as a covering force to permit the organization and deployment of fresh formations. The new 559th VG Division and Division Number 462, which had just been reorganized at Metz, completed the LXXXII Corps order of battle.
The left wing of the First Army was held by the XLVII Panzer Corps, whose sector extended along the Moselle from Arnaville to Bayon, roughly opposite the American XII Corps. North of Nancy the line was manned by the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division and one regiment of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division. The new 553d VG Division was deployed in and around Nancy. In addition a large number of replacement and school troops belonging to the First Parachute Army had been placed under the command of the 553d. Some attempts had been made to extend the XLVII Panzer Corps front far enough south of Nancy to make a hard and fast connection with the Nineteenth Army, but on 5 September the German forces on the extreme left wing of the First Army consisted only of outposts and security patrols.
Although the staff of the XLVII Panzer Corps at the moment had no armored divisions under its control, word had already been given that it would take charge of the armor released by Hitler for use in the prospective counterattack against the right flank of the Third Army. The corps commander, General der Panzertruppen Heinrich Freiherr von Luettwitz, was a onetime cavalry officer and one of the expert horsemen of the German Army. With the introduction of mechanization he had turned to armor, had fought in Poland and in Russia, and then had returned to the West in command of the 2d Panzer Division. Although his division had been almost completely destroyed in the Falaise pocket, Luettwitz' prestige had grown apace--even General Patton had referred to the 2d Panzer Division as the best German armored division in the West--and on 5 September Luettwitz was promoted to command the XLVII Panzer Corps. Several times wounded in action, he had won a reputation for personal bravery. Although domineering in manner and harsh, he was considered one of the ablest of German field commanders and armored tacticians.
While the First Army was numerically stronger than its neighbors on the right and left, it possessed very limited means of antitank defense. There were only single antitank weapons for the army to give the corps. The volksgrenadier divisions had not yet received their allotment of assault guns. Not one of the panzer grenadier divisions had the tank battalion normally organic to this type of formation, and at best they retained only a few self-propelled guns. The chief defense against mechanized attack in the First Army area, therefore, would have to be the natural antitank barrier formed by the Moselle River. Artillery support also was limited, and for this reason the German guns were spread along the front in two- and three-gun sections, isolated batteries,
and occasional battalions. The system of communications was extremely poor. The XLVII Panzer Corps had virtually no signal equipment and the First Army had only one signal battalion, which was run ragged repairing the wire breaks caused by Allied air attacks.49
The 106th Panzer Brigade in Luxembourg constituted the sole First Army reserve. It was also the only armor at Knobelsdorff's disposal. Two divisions, the 19th VG and 36th VG, were en route to the First Army front by rail. Hitler had personally selected the 19th VG Division as a replacement for the troops that were to be taken from the First Army for the projected counterattack against the American Third Army. The 36th VG Division was slated to reinforce the inexperienced 553d VG and 559th VG on the Moselle line. However, forthcoming American attacks would divert the 19th and 36th to other uses.
The dispositions of the Nineteenth Army on 5 September are more difficult to trace than those of the First Army. Some parts of the long Nineteenth Army front had solidified and now presented an organized defense, but other sectors were completely bereft of troops or were held lightly by outpost detachments and roving patrols. In general the Nineteenth Army was extended along a wide, west-reaching salient. The southern shoulder of this salient--or bulge--rested on the Swiss frontier near Pontarlier, with a hastily organized line at the Doubs River facing the Allied advance from the south. Two weak corps, the LXXXV and IV Luftwaffe Field, held this sector, reinforced by the famous 11th Panzer Division which had covered the Nineteenth Army retreat up the Rhone Valley.
The western sector, which extended from Autun to Chaumont, was not an organized line but rather a gap or "bridgehead" west of Dijon held open by the German forces on the north and south, through which moved the long march columns retreating from the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic coast under the command of the LXIV Corps (General der Pioniere Karl Sachs). This hegira comprised about 80,000 men and some 2,000 women, mostly toiling slowly on foot toward the German lines. The retreat, which had begun in organized fashion on 20 August, could not be made in a straight line to the northeast because the Maquis held the Massif Centrale; therefore the German march columns were forced to move circuitously by way of Poitiers, Bourges,
and Nevers. On 1 September a liaison officer from Army Group G reached the LXIV Corps with a reprimand from Blaskowitz for the slow progress of the retreat and orders to send the combat elements of the 16th Division and 159th Reserve Division on ahead. By 5 September the main elements of these divisions had arrived in the "Dijon bridgehead," the 159th moving south to support the 11th Panzer Division and the 16th going to the LXVI Corps.
The north shoulder of the German salient was held by General Lucht's LXVI Corps, which operated directly under General Blaskowitz and the headquarters of Army Group G. As early as 1 September Blaskowitz had reported to OKW that he was no longer worried about maintaining his left-wing anchor position on the Swiss frontier and that the Nineteenth Army possessed a cohesive front facing the Allied attack from the south. His chief concern was with the north flank of the Army Group G salient where there were very few troops and where a fast link with the First Army was lacking. Blaskowitz' immediate problem was to hold this north flank long enough to permit the escape of the LXIV Corps, but he also took occasion to warn OKW of a possible irreparable breach between Army Group G and the First Army.50
The men around Hitler were not unaware of this latter danger. Indeed, reports from secret agents working behind the Allied lines in France had led OKW to warn Blaskowitz that the American Third Army might turn southeast in the direction of Epinal instead of launching an attack on the Metz-Sarreguemines axis as had originally been anticipated. In addition Hitler was insistent that the prospective counterattack against the Third Army flank should jump off from the forward areas covered by the Army Group G north flank. However, Blaskowitz' request for a mobile, armored force to hold this blocking position went unheeded. Instead, Hitler sent a personal order that the 16th Division would be thrown in on Blaskowitz' endangered north flank and there would "hold at all costs."
On 5 September the advance echelons of the 16th Division had reached the important communications center at Langres and were preparing to deploy in the north and northwest. The 16th constituted the only division under the LXVI Corps command. The German line along the north shoulder, Chaumont-Neufchâteau-Charmes, was manned in sketchy fashion by over-age
police and security battalions, backed up by a mobile reconnaissance battalion and a small Kampfgruppe from the 21st Panzer Division. Troops from the 21st had joined with security patrols from the 553d VG Division south of Nancy on 4 September, making the first tactical link between the First Army and Army Group G since 26 August; but this connection was most insecure and there were no reserves west of the Rhine River in position to do a quick soldering job if the need should arise. All of the German commanders on this part of the Western Front, therefore, looked with apprehension at the Nancy-Neufchâteau sector when, on 5 September, the Third Army finally resumed its attack toward the Moselle.
The Lull in Operations Comes to an End
The priority on gasoline which had been assigned the First Army, in consequence of General Eisenhower's decision to make the main Allied effort in the north, left the Third Army virtually immobilized from 1 to 5 September. During the period 26 August-2 September the gasoline received by the Third Army averaged 202,382 gallons per day.51 Since Patton's tanks and trucks had habitually consumed between 350,000 and 400,000 gallons a day during the last phases of the pursuit, and since some 450,000 gallons per day would be needed east of the Moselle, there could be no real question of mounting a full-scale attack against the Moselle line until the supply situation improved. On 2 September the gasoline receipts at Third Army dumps reached the lowest figure of the entire arid period--25,390 gallons. But finally on 4 September the gasoline drought started to break, only a day later than General Bradley had predicted to General Patton. On this date the Third Army was issued 240,265 gallons; during the next three days 1,396,710 gallons arrived, and by 10 September the period of critical shortage was ended.52 In the meantime, however, General Patton had been given permission to resume the Third Army advance.
The knowledge that the logistical situation was improving had an impact on each level of the Allied command. On 4 September General Eisenhower directed a letter to the Allied commanders which contained a confident appraisal
of the situation and a concise statement of his plans for the conduct of forthcoming operations. "Our best opportunity of defeating the enemy in the West," he wrote, "lies in striking at the Ruhr and the Saar, confident that he will concentrate the remainder of his available forces in the defense of these essential areas." Such a strategic concept would require a simultaneous attack both by the forces north of the Ardennes--the 21st Army Group and the First Army--and by Patton's Third Army. The directive of 4 September reiterated the original strategic assumption that the enemy would regard the Ruhr, with its greater resources, as more important than the Saar area and would concentrate more heavily in defense of the former. The Allied forces moving on the Ruhr (the 21st Army Group and First Army) would have as their mission securing Antwerp, breaching the sector of the West Wall (Siegfried Line) covering the Ruhr, and then seizing the Ruhr. The offensive mission assigned the Third Army by the letter of 4 September would serve in effect as the green light for General Patton's forces: "[The Third Army is] to occupy the sector of the Siegfried Line covering the Saar and then to seize Frankfurt. It is important that this operation should start as soon as possible, in order to forestall the enemy in this sector, but [the] troops . . . operating against the Ruhr northwest of the Ardennes must first be adequately supported." In addition the Supreme Commander ordered that the Third Army "take any opportunity of destroying enemy forces withdrawing from southwest and southern France."53
On the day following the issuance of this letter of instruction the Supreme Commander dictated an office memorandum explaining his employment of the Third Army:
For some days it has been obvious that our military forces can advance almost at will, subject only to the requirement for maintenance. Resistance has largely melted all along the front. From the beginning of this campaign I have always envisaged that as soon as substantial destruction of the enemy forces in France could be accomplished, we should advance rapidly on the Rhine by pushing through the Aachen Gap in the north and through the Metz Gap in the south. The virtue of this movement is that it takes advantage of all existing lines of communication in the advance towards Germany and brings the southern force on the Rhine at Coblentz, practically on the flank of the forces that would advance straight eastward through Aachen. . . . I see no reason to change this
Third Army Dispositions
Evening, 5 September 1944
conception. The defeat of the German armies is complete, and the only thing now needed to realize the whole conception is speed. . . . I now deem it important, while supporting the advance on eastward through Belgium, to get Patton moving once again so that we may be fully prepared to carry out the original conception for the final stages of this campaign.54
General Bradley and General Patton were ready and waiting for the order that would start the Third Army "moving once again." Indeed, on the afternoon of 4 September the Third Army commander had given General Eddy permission to start the 317th Infantry marching toward the Moselle north of Nancy. The following day, while the 317th was actually engaged in the fight for a crossing, the 12th Army Group commander met with General Patton and his corps commanders at the Third Army headquarters east of Châlons-sur-Marne and there outlined the plans for the Third Army attack. Gen. Wade H. Haislip's XV Corps had already been assigned to flesh out the Third Army but as yet had nothing but corps troops, since it had left its divisions with the First Army. General Bradley promised Patton that the 79th Infantry Division and 2d French Armored Division would be returned to the XV Corps. The 6th Armored Division and 83d Infantry Division--both still in Brittany--would be available as soon as the incoming 94th Infantry Division and 95th Infantry Division could relieve them. The addition of these divisions would give General Patton the three corps which the SHAEF operations staff had set as the necessary strength when, on 1 September, it had suggested to the Supreme Commander that "there may be an opportunity to breach the Siegfried Line by rapid, aggressive movement by the Third Army on the Saar and thence on Frankfurt."
General Bradley's verbal orders assigned the Rhine River as the Third Army objective--this barrier to be crossed as soon as the Third Army could breach the West Wall.55 (Map VI) In point of fact nothing had happened during the period of gasoline shortage to alter radically the Third Army mission. A 12th Army Group order on 29 August already had directed General Patton to drive toward Frankfurt and cross the Rhine between Koblenz and Mannheim; now, with the addition of one corps, the Third Army front was broadened to take in the entire sector of the Rhine that lay between Koblenz and Karlsruhe.
At the conclusion of the meeting with General Bradley, late on 5 September, the Third Army commander ordered General Walker to begin an attack at once on the Third Army left with the XX Corps. Part of General Eddy's XII Corps was already in action on the right, but since this corps was charged with the protection of the south flank of the army General Eddy could not commit the entire strength represented in his three divisions until Haislip's XV Corps was in position to relieve the XII Corps of this responsibility. Therefore, Patton was forced to limit the XII Corps attack to the 80th Infantry Division and 4th Armored Division until such time as the 35th Infantry Division could be freed to join in the advance.
General Patton's written operational directive to his corps commanders foresaw two phases in the forthcoming advance.56 In the first the Third Army would attack to seize a bridgehead east of the Moselle River. In the second the advance would be continued to seize a bridgehead east of the Rhine. Initially the XII and XX Corps would make an advance abreast, while the XV Corps covered the right flank of the army. Once the 79th Infantry Division and 2d French Armored Division had arrived, the XV Corps would join the Third Army attack. Patton planned to use the 6th Armored Division as his reserve, committing it with the corps which would have the greatest success or sending it, with the 83d Infantry Division, in a dash to capture Karlsruhe.
On the eve of this resumption of active operations General Patton, his staff, and his commanders showed no anticipation of any stubborn enemy resistance at the Moselle; nor is there evidence of unusual concern over the possible results of the enforced lull during late August and the first days of September. General Patton himself had expressed the opinion that the German forces in front of the Third Army might make a stand at or in front of the West Wall, but he was confident that this line could be breached by armored action. The Rhine seemed not too distant, at this period, and Patton's orders to the Third Army cavalry optimistically called for the squadrons to cross the Moselle "and reconnoiter to the Rhine River."57 At the close of hostilities in Europe, however, General Patton was to express the opinion that the decision to give logistical support to the 21st Army Group and First Army instead of the Third Army "was the momentous error of the war." His memoirs add: "At first I thought it was a backhanded way of slowing up the Third Army. I later found that this was not the case, but that the delay was due to a change
of plan by the High Command, implemented, in my opinion by General Montgomery."58
Actually General Eisenhower had not deviated from his original plan to make the primary effort in the northeast with the object of destroying the bulk of the remaining enemy forces, which he expected to be drawn into that area to defend the Ruhr. Nor had he surrendered to Montgomery any part of the responsibility for decision which was inescapably his own. And it is symptomatic of the problems and rivalries inherent in a great Allied command that Montgomery in his turn would question the wisdom of diverting supplies to support Patton's drive to the east.59 The Supreme Commander's attitude, however, did not change: " . . . we must push up as soon as possible all along the front [italics by the author] to cut off the retreating enemy and concentrate in preparation for the big final thrust."60
1. The Third Army official Diary (MS), hereafter cited as TUSA Diary, well reflects this optimism.
2. The OVERLORD plan is discussed in Gordon A. Harrison, The Cross-Channel Attack, the first volume in the present series.
3. SHAEF G-3 Daily Summary 88; 12th A Gp Situation Map, 1 Sep 44; OPD Situation Map, 31 Aug 44.
4. These strength figures include neither the German Nineteenth Army nor the U.S. Seventh Army, both in southern France.
5. Estimates of Allied matériel are based on the following: 21st A Gp Basic Statistical Rpt No. 5; 21st A Gp Daily Adm Bull No. 84, 2 Sep 44; 12th A Gp Armed Sec, Allocation of Equipment, 1 Sep 44; FUSA (First U.S. Army) Am Sup Rpt, 1-31 Aug 44; ETOUSA Progress Rpts CXI, 4 Sep 44, and CXV, 2 Oct 44. Estimates of German matériel are based on MSS #D-319 (Zimmermann), D-320 (Blumentritt), and D-321 (Blumentritt). See also Oberkommando des Heeres (hereafter cited as OKH), Stab General der Artillerie beim Chef Generalstab des Heeres, Anlagenheft Nr. 9 zum Kriegstagebuch (hereafter cited as KTB) Nr. 4/Band 2, 31. VII.-26. IX. 44, Anlage Nr. 699, 27 Aug 44. The dislocation and disregard of administrative routine and normal reporting procedures, during the August operations, show in the records of both the pursued and the pursuer. The 12th Army Group Ordnance Section Daily Journal has numerous complaints, during August, on the incomplete and inaccurate matériel figures supplied by the Third Army. The Journal concludes: "They don't know what they do have. . . ." matériel status reports maintained by the First Army and 21st Army Group are somewhat better, but are by no means complete.
6. AAF Staff Control Aircraft Inventory, Combined Allied vs. Axis Air Strength Reports, 1 Sep 44.
7. Figures furnished by the British Historical Section and based on Luftwaffe records. Cf. MSS #B-190 (Rendulic) and T-42 (Guderian).
8. The somewhat involved command situation represented here is explained in the Report by the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean: August 1944 (Washington, D.C., 1946), pp. 28ff. Lt. Gen. J. L. Devers would assume command in southern France on 15 September 1944. For explanation of the creation of the 6th Army Group see Maj. James D. T. Hamilton, Southern France and Alsace, a volume now under preparation in this series.
9. Directive, Eisenhower to Commanders, 29 Aug 44, SHAEF SGS file, Post OVERLORD Planning, 381, I.
11. For this basic directive see the discussion in Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command, a volume now under preparation in this series.
12. SHAEF Planning Staff draft of Post NEPTUNE Courses of Action after Capture of the Lodgment Area, 3 May 44, SHAEF SGS File, Post OVERLORD Planning, 381, I. Since most of the Lorraine Campaign was fought on French territory, French spelling is used for the Sarre River throughout the text of this narrative, although German spelling is retained in references to the Saar Basin, the industrial area that lies entirely in German territory. The maps accompanying the text use the German spelling, Saar, when the river lies on the German side of the boundary, and the French spelling when it lies on the French side. Names of places along the river generally retain the spelling of the country in which they are located.
13. Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 24 Aug 44, Gen Eisenhower's files.
14. Bernard L. Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic (London, 1947), Ch. 11, passim. For a study of this basic controversy see Pogue, The Supreme Command.
15. Memo for record, 2 Sep 44, sub: Notes on meeting of Supreme Commander with subordinate commanders, 12th A Gp files, Military Objectives, 371.3.
16. These officers were Col. R. E. Cummings, Col. J. F. Conklin, Col. E. F. Hammond, and Col. T. H. Nixon. See also page 608.
17. The earlier history of the 90th Infantry Division is given in R. G. Ruppenthal's Utah Beach to Cherbourg (AMERICAN FORCES IN ACTION).
18. TUSA G-1 Periodic Rpt, 26 Aug-2 Sep 44.
19. TUSA After Action Report (hereafter cited as AAR) II.
20. The allocation of supplies in late August and early September is treated in R. G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, a volume now under preparation in this series. See also 12th A Gp Rpt of Opns VI.
21. An exhaustive study of the supply problem in this period will be found in Ruppenthal, Logistical Support.
22. Maps in Post NEPTUNE Planning Forecast I, 27 May 44, SHAEF SGS File, Post OVERLORD Planning, 381, I. German surrender was assumed as of D plus 360; Reims was to be reached by D plus 180. Verdun between D plus 270 and D plus 330. These phase lines were based on the assumption that the German armies would make a stand at the Seine and Meuse Rivers.
23. See TUSA AAR II, G-4 Sec.
24. Ibid. See also Ruppenthal, Logistical Support.
25. E. de Martonne, Les Régions géographiques de la France (Paris, 1921); Lorraine Annexée, ed. Ministère de la guerre (Paris, 1917); OKH, Generalstab des Heeres (hereafter cited as OKH, Gen. St. d. H.), Abteilung fuer Kriegskarten und Vermessungswesen. Militaergeographische Beschreibung von Frankreich, 1940; TUSA Target Area Analysis No. 10, 5 Sep 44; Douglas W. Johnson, Battlefields of the World War, Chs. IX and X, passim; A Manual of Alsace-Lorraine, ed. The Admiralty (London, 1920).
26. Nancy is a rail center of international importance since it is the junction point for the Calais-Basel and the Paris-Vienna-Orient lines.
27. Wea Div Hq AAF, Weather and Climate as related to military operations in France, Sep 46; Hq Air Wea Serv, Weather conditions in the European Theater of Operations on D Day and in November, 1944, Sep 46.
28. The total roster for German divisions and brigades is taken from a tabulation in OKH, Gen. St. d. H./Organisations Abteilung (hereafter cited as OKH/Org. Abt.) KTB, 13 October 1944, with some revisions, such as the deletion of divisions which had headquarters but no troops. The figure given for German divisions actually engaged has been compiled from situation maps now in the possession of GMDS.
29. The strength, loss, and replacement statistics used in this section have been taken from a variety of KTB's and Anlagen files for 1944 and 1945. The most useful sources are Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, Organisations Abteilung (hereafter cited as OKW/Org. Abt.); OKH/Org. Abt.; OKW/Allgemeines Wehrmachts Amt, "Verluste der Wehrmacht bis 1944," 1 Dec 44; and OKH/Generalquartiermeister, der Heeresarzt KTB and Anlagen. German losses given for this period are only approximate. The card files of the Heeres-Personalamt have been partially destroyed; many have been lost. However, the figures used in the text are very close to those found in MSS #T-121, T-122, Geschichte des Oberbefehlshaber West (Zimmermann et al.). See also the loss statistics Major Percy Schramm, OKW historian, obtained from the 14 March 1945 issue of the OKW, Wehrmachtfuehrangsstab (hereafter cited as OKW/WFSt) monthly publication, Beurteilung der personellen and matériellen Ruestungslage der Wehrmacht. MS #B-716 (Schramm).
30. OKH/Org. Abt. KTB and Anlagen 1944; see also the respective OKH/Org. Abt. Karteiblaetter, 1942-45.
31. Hitler relaxed this order in late August 1944.
32. See discussion in Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack.
33. Monthly tables appearing in OKH, Der Generalinspekteur der Panzer truppen, Fuehrer Vortrag Notizen, Jul-Dec 44.
34. OKW/WFSt KTB Ausarbeitung, "Der Westen" I.IV.-16.XII.44 (hereafter cited as OKW/WFSt KTB Ausarbeitung Der Westen), 4 and 8 Sep 44. This draft War Diary (KTB) is based on the detailed daily working notes kept by Major Schramm in his capacity as historian at the headquarters of OKW. Until the end of 1943 the Diary was arranged purely chronologically, supplemented by information from participants in operations. After 1943 the Diary was arranged according to subject matter and fronts (Ausarbeitungen), for example, the Anzio Beachhead, Shifting of Divisions between Fronts, and so forth, and was supplemented by a Merkbuch kept by Schramm, with notes of the discussions at the situation meetings he attended and notes obtained from special interviews with the Deputy Chief of WFSt, General Warlimont. From 1 January 1945 the chronological order was reintroduced. In view of the subsequent destruction of the OKW records ordered by General Scherff, the copies of the Ausarbeitungen for 1944 and the personal commentaries preserved by Schramm represent a unique and valuable source. Also in Historical Division files as MS #B-034 (Schramm).
35. Gruppe von Kleist (GKdo XXII A.K.), Ia: Anlagenheft 3 zu KTB Nr. 4, 24-31 May 40; Heeresgruppe A, KTB West II. Teil, 17-25 May 40. See also interrogations of Warlimont (State Department Special Interrogation Mission, 20 Sep 45), Guderian (State Department Special Interrogation Mission, 7-8 Sep 45), and Rundstedt (CPM, MIS, 6 Sep 45).
36. The German term, "Oberbefehlshaber West," which may mean either the Commander in Chief West or his headquarters, has been rendered as "OB WEST" when it refers to the headquarters and as "C-in-C West" when it refers to the person.
37. MS #B-308 (Zimmermann); OKW/WFSt KTB, Ausarbeitung Der Westen.
38. Heeresgruppe B (hereafter cited as Army Group B), Lagebeurteilungen Ia. Actually the Allied strength was some fifteen divisions short of Model's estimate.
39. Army Group B, Lagebeurteilungen, Ia.
41. MSS #T-121, T-122 (Zimmermann et al.); see also MS #B-308 (Zimmermann).
42. Army Group B, Lagebeurteilungen, Ia.
43. OKW/WFSt KTB, Ausarbeitung Der Westen.
44. The German situation in the West at the beginning of September is taken from situation maps maintained by the OKH, Gen. St. d. H./Operations Abteilung and OKW/WFSt.
45. This and subsequent biographical notes are taken from the Personalakten of the officers named. The German Personalakten correspond to the 201 files kept by the U.S. Army. They are now in the GMDS collection.
46. MS #B-222 (Knobelsdorff).
47. MS #B-006 (Beyer).
48. MS #B-002 (Sinnhuber), Hist Div files.
49. MS #B-363 (Emmerich); MS #B-214 (Mantey). The general condition of the First Army is outlined daily in OB WEST KTB (Text) (hereafter cited as OB WEST KTB) for the period. The KTB for the First Army during this period has been lost or destroyed, probably the latter.
50. Armeegruppe G (Fuehrungsabtetlung) KTB Nr. 2 (hereafter cited as Army Group G KTB Nr. 2) and Anlagen, I. VII.-30. IX. 44; see also Obkdo. Heeresgruppe G, KTB der Fuehrungsabtedung Nr. 3a and Nr. 3b (hereafter cited as Army Group G KTB Nr. 3a and 3b) and Anlagen, 1. X.-31. XII. 44 The retreat from the south and southwest has been recounted by several of the high-ranking German officers who took part. See Army Group G: Report of the Chief of Staff, MS #A-999 (Mellenthin).
51. During this same period the First Army receipts had averaged 435,851 gallons per day.
52. These figures have been compiled by R. L. Thompson of the Historical Division staff from daily reports prepared in the headquarters of the 12th Army Group, First Army and Third Army. See Thompson manuscript in Historical Division files.
53. Msg, Eisenhower to commanders, FWD-13765, 4 Sep 44, SHAEF file, Post OVERLORD Planning 381, I. The capture of Brest, earlier assigned as a Third Army mission, now was given to the new Ninth Army. The VIII Corps passed to General Simpson's Ninth Army at noon on 5 September. The Third Army retained the mission of protecting the Allied right flank.
54. Diary, Office of the Commander in Chief, under date of 5 Sep 44. This diary was kept on instructions of General Eisenhower by Capt. Harry C. Butcher, naval aide (deposited in Adjutant General's Office, Department of the Army).
55. TUSA Diary, 5 Sep 44.
56. TUSA AAR II, 5 Sep 44.
57. TUSA Diary, 7 Sep 44.
58. Gen George S. Patton, Jr., War as I Knew It (Boston, 1947), p. 119f. After the war and before his execution, General Jodl, Chief of the WFSt, told interrogators that he had feared a co-ordinated drive, supported by all of the Allied resources, straight toward Frankfurt. See interrogation by Maj. Kenneth Hechler in Historical Division files.
59. Montgomery to Eisenhower, 7 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS File, Supply Problems of Allied Advance, 400.3/1.
60. Eisenhower to Montgomery, 8 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS File, Supply Problems of Allied Advance, 400.3/1.