Estimates by the Enemy
At the end of 1944 the German training staffs published a series of "Battle Experiences,"1 containing the official enemy estimate of the American soldier, his tactics, and his weapons. For the most part this German's-eye view is presented in the form of a "catch-all" characterization of the American troops fighting on the Western Front; in numerous instances, however, generalizations are supported by examples chosen from the Lorraine sector. Since the "Battle Experiences" were prepared for and issued to the troops, they contain much that stems from the politico-military dogmas of the Nazi party or that obviously is intended to raise the morale of the individual German soldier.
Despite recognition that the individual American was a more skilled and tenacious fighter in the fall of 1944 than in the early weeks after the Normandy landings, the doctrine of the superiority of the German infantryman did not alter. Stripped of the numerous propaganda reasons put forth to support this allegation, the core of the argument is as follows: the American soldier depends upon tremendous matériel support to bring the battle to a successful conclusion; when he is denied heavy support by the combined arms the "drive" in the attack dwindles; he avoids close combat, dislikes night fighting, and surrenders readily--all symptoms of his poor quality as a soldier.
The German soldier was alerted to capitalize on several peculiarities shown by American troops. The Americans were depicted as being careless with radio conversations, although the radio silence of the Third Army armored divisions before the 8 November offensive was admitted to have been notably successful in misleading German intelligence. The Americans tended to start their attacks late in the forenoon and to "call off the war" at midnight. American security during hours of darkness was careless, particularly on rainy nights. The individual American soldier was "more tenacious" on the defensive than in the attack. American infantry and tanks tended to stick to streets and roads; tanks avoided woods and heavy underbrush.
Besides including such derogatory comments, the German "Battle Experiences" described in detail those aspects of American tactics and techniques believed to be worthy of emulation. High on all lists was the effective cooperation between infantry and tanks, tanks and planes. American artillery was an object of praise. It was distinguished, said German observers, by a speedy system of communication, accurate fire, a plentiful supply of ammunition, greater range than that of comparable German types, skilled employment of artillery planes as aerial OP's, and extensive use of white phosphorus. The American replacement system was regarded as very effective, although the German writers agreed that the national wealth of manpower was a basic factor in helping make it so. American tactical leadership was rated highly, learning with surprising rapidity, as it seemed to do, from its own failures and from the enemy.
Planning and preparation appeared to err, from the German point of view, on the side of caution. The Germans found what they considered evidence of hypermethodical thinking, and of a tendency to make success absolutely certain, in the practice of combining one armored division with two infantry divisions. They agreed, however, that the motorization of American infantry formations prevented the infantry from acting as a drag on the armor. This cautious approach to tactical problems was seen also in the practice of using battalion attacks, heavily supported by all arms, to open a hole on a narrow front. The later "Battle Experiences" noted that the Americans were trying to break away from "sterile" limited-objective attacks on a narrow front, but that when improvisation failed the American leadership quickly reverted to cautious tactics. The XII Corps attack on a broad front on 8 November was singled out particularly as evidence of an attempt to break away from small-scale and "riskless" solutions. In connection with this attack, it was observed that artillery fires massed all along the front made it impossible to determine what the points of penetration might be. On the other hand, the German observers pointed to the XX Corps attack across the Moselle north of Metz as a good example of the satisfactory results to be attained by a very limited use of artillery fire prior to the assault. The final drive toward Sarreguemines was regarded as a reversion to the tactics of improvisation and quick exploitation which, in the German view, had characterized Patton's use of armor in the break-out at Avranches. But the "Battle Experiences" expressed surprise that the American armor tended, at the close of the autumn campaign, to be parceled out in small detachments intermixed with the infantry divisions.
To what extent the above observations are valid and valuable can best be determined by the trained soldier who has made an unbiased and critical study of the operations in Lorraine and in other areas of the Western Front during the autumn and early winter of 1944. It would be a mistake, albeit human, to take satisfaction in those points chalked up to the credit of the American arms while giving arbitrary dismissal to each unfavorable item in these enemy appraisals.
Losses Suffered by the Combatants
Losses inflicted on the German forces in Lorraine were high. Although the number of Germans killed and wounded cannot be determined with any degree of exactness, it is known that at least 75,000 prisoners passed through the Third Army cages during the Lorraine operation. It is impossible to give any reasonably accurate statement of German losses in tanks, guns, and vehicles. During September the enemy had amassed the greatest number of armored fighting vehicles that he was to employ against the Third Army at any time in the Lorraine Campaign. The tank losses sustained by the German armored brigades and divisions in the September battles had been much higher than those inflicted on the American armored formations. In November and December, however, American tank losses incurred in the course of the slow advance through the Lorraine mud probably were considerably higher than those of the enemy. The damage and destruction inflicted on German transport and artillery by the Third Army and the XIX Tactical Air Command were very much greater than that visited by enemy action on the Third Army. Matériel losses sustained by General Patton's command in the period 1 September to 18 December are cited below:2
Light tanks 105 Medium tanks 298 Vehicles 1,080 Artillery (75-mm. and larger) 34
It must be added that the German ability to replace matériel losses in any category of equipment was markedly inferior to that of the Allies. If the campaign be considered as a battle of attrition, which indeed it was during
the last weeks, the Third Army had done much on this secondary front to weaken the Wehrmacht.
The Third Army had suffered 55,182 killed, wounded, and missing in Lorraine (a total casualty list substantially less than the number of Germans captured, not to speak of the enemy roster of dead and wounded).3
Killed in action 6,657 Wounded in action 36,406 Missing in action 12,119
This list of combat casualties does not represent the sum total of the American losses suffered in the Lorraine Campaign. The number of so-called "nonbattle" casualties--those evacuated because of fatigue, exposure, and disease--is officially reported as 42,088 officers and men. Statistics compiled on these cases during and after the campaign generally are unreliable and tend to minimize this type of casualty. In November, however, when the system of reporting nonbattle casualties was more or less regularized, Third Army records show a total of 15,737 nonbattle casualties as against 22,773 battle casualties; and it is probable that the same ratio continued through the first three weeks of December, if indeed the proportion of nonbattle casualties did not increase.
During November and December the front-line troops of the Third Army were hard hit by trench foot, a disease in which the feet, through continued exposure to dampness and cold, became painfully swollen, discolored, and sometimes gangrenous.4 Trench foot first attained epidemic proportions among the American armies on the Western Front about 10 November. The Third Army, which had begun the November offensive, showed a higher incidence of the disease during this initial stage than any of the other American armies. From 16 November until the middle of December the incidence of trench foot began a slow but progressive decline, this decline being most apparent in the Third Army divisions. New provision for the laundering and issue of clean socks, extensive educational campaigns, and tightened disciplinary measures helped to reduce the number of trench foot cases. But the occurrence of the disease bore a direct and demonstrable relation to the tactical situation in any given area: so long as troops had to continue in sections
of the line where there was no cover and where rotation in the fox holes could not be effected, just so long the disease continued to reduce the rifle strength.
Records of the German units opposing the Third Army make no reference whatever to trench foot and it is clear that this disease was not regarded as a problem in the enemy camp. The enemy freedom from trench foot, at a time when the Third Army was being hit severely by the malady, is difficult to explain. Contemporary interrogation of German medical personnel revealed little save the fact that at this stage of the war the Wehrmacht did not regard trench foot as a problem. The German boot, the cloth wrappings with which the German soldier bound his feet, the foot salve issued by the German medical aid men, all were analyzed without result. But it would seem that the enemy success in avoiding trench foot may be ascribed primarily to two factors. First, many of the troops facing the Third Army were seasoned veterans of campaigns on the Eastern Front. During the winter of 1941-42 the German armies in Russia, ill-prepared as they were to face the rigors of the Russian cold, had suffered severely from exposure and frostbite. The lessons of this first winter campaign were quickly assimilated by the Wehrmacht. Second, the German soldier in late 1944 lacked the mechanized transport (and the freedom to use such transport) which characterized the Allied armies. Inured to long marches on foot, the individual soldier was physically prepared to withstand foot disease and practiced in its prevention.
Combat fatigue also contributed heavily to the losses sustained by combat elements of the Third Army during the Lorraine Campaign. The practice of leaving divisions in the line for very long periods and filling gaps in the ranks with individual replacements quite naturally increased the rate of combat fatigue as the campaign wore on. Before the November drive, however, the American replacement system in the ETO was able to make good the total losses (both from battle and nonbattle casualties) of the Third Army. The bitterly contested advance in November, made under difficult conditions of weather and terrain, resulted in a high casualty rate which could not be equaled by the number of replacements available. In this month the Third Army received only 26,981 replacements, although its casualty list numbered 38,510. By 30 November there was a shortage of 10,184 officers and men--mostly infantry, tankers, and medical aid men--in the divisions. On 1 December the Third Army was 8,213 understrength in infantry alone.5 By 6 December
the Army Ground Force replacement system had broken down entirely, so far as the Third Army was concerned, and no troops were available in the army replacement depots. General Patton wished to maintain one infantry division in each corps at full strength, selecting the 5th Division for the XX Corps and the 87th Division for the XII Corps. In order to secure the necessary replacements the Third Army Commander ordered that 5 percent of all nondivisional units should be converted to riflemen, dispatching the new "infantry" to be retrained by the 87th Division which was still in the Metz area under the III Corps. On 15 December another 5 percent was cut from the army and corps troops, making a total of approximately 6,500 trainees that were added to the rifle strength of the Third Army under this plan. In the opinion of the line commanders, however, the cursoriness of the training given these replacements was a distinct liability that imposed great burdens and led to heavy casualties among the veteran noncoms and company officers.
When the Third Army started operations to force the Moselle line in early September, it was almost entirely dependent on truck-borne supply. The famous Red Ball Express was moving supplies from Cherbourg and the Normandy beaches to dumps at Sommesous, south of Reims, a round trip of 670 miles. Army truck companies carried this tonnage to army supply points, or themselves made the long journey to Normandy. Fortunately, the railroad system east of Paris was relatively intact and soon was in operation behind the advancing armies. The Third Army opened its first railhead on 15 September at Verdun. By 26 September the Red Ball Express ended the run east of Paris, limiting itself to hauling supplies from Normandy to the new rail terminals in the vicinity of Paris. Truck transport continued to move much of the tonnage coming into the Third Army dumps, but the creation of great railheads in the Reims and Toul areas made possible a considerable expansion of the army supply system. The October lull allowed the Third Army a greater degree of logistical stability than it had previously known. Reserves were created; army dumps, truckheads, and railheads moved up close to the corps rear boundaries. During October the Third Army received 97,955 long tons of supplies, most of the quartermaster items and artillery ammunition arriving by rail. By the beginning of the November offensive the supply situation
on the Continent was so much improved that the Third Army was able to make requests for specific items of supply instead of relying upon the delivery of gross tonnages. Gasoline was no longer a supply problem; during November the army received more POL than it had requested.
The battles east of the Moselle, during November and December, required a displacement to bring the army supply installations across the river. The first army supply point east of the Moselle opened about 14 November, dispensing POL. By the end of November a small quartermaster railhead was in operation at Château-Salins, using a spur from the railroad bridge that had been rebuilt north of Nancy. However, the supply shift east of the Moselle had not yet been completed when the Third Army turned north toward the Ardennes. Until the end of the Lorraine Campaign the bulk of supplies destined for the Third Army entered the Continent by way of Normandy ports and beaches, although in October the port of Le Havre began shipments to Reims, and some supplies later reached the Third Army by way of Marseille.
The rations issued to Third Army troops varied little during the campaign. As a rule 65 to 70 percent of the food supplied came in the form of the B ration, a modified garrison ration with some fresh meat, white bread, and newly roasted coffee, but with no fresh fruit (except oranges) or fresh vegetables. The man actually in the line usually lived on the C ration, its canned meat and hash hard to digest even when heated, or the K ration, with its unchanging sequence of processed meat and egg, processed cheese, and "meat component." In November a new and more palatable C ration arrived in the form of spaghetti and meat balls; the popularity of this meal was attested to immediately by numerous entries in unit journals, sandwiched in among reports on patrol activities or strength returns. The Thanksgiving dinner, for decades a high point in Army quartermaster efforts, also was a subject for enthusiastic report by troops in combat. On 23 November all the men who could be reached were given a pound of turkey, a half-pound of chicken, and as many of the conventional trimmings as the company cook could provide. Those troops in forward positions were rotated in the next several days in order that every combat soldier could have his Thanksgiving dinner.6
Morale Factors; Civilian Problems
Periodic rest and rehabilitation for troops in the line, which had been taught as a matter of doctrine in service schools between the two world wars, were limited by the practice of keeping divisions in action for long periods and maintaining their combat strength through the replacement system. In December the XII Corps set up a Rest Center at Nancy staffed by the American Red Cross, but the tactical situation on the XX Corps front precluded such an establishment in the Metz area. Rest for most troops meant a few hours in some demolished village behind the lines, a hot shower, coffee and doughnuts served by a Red Cross "Clubmobile," and the chance to see a movie or a traveling USO show. Marlene Dietrich played to Third Army audiences for nine weeks, by far the longest tour of the "name" shows, during which time over 37,000 troops saw her performance. In general, however, entertainment was provided by the lesser known USO performers, who stayed with the army throughout the campaign, and by the traveling "jeep shows," manned by two or three soldier-performers. Radio receivers for combat units arrived early in the campaign. As troops moved into billets they had a chance to hear the special programs broadcast by the Armed Forces Network, or the jazz recordings played on a popular Berlin program which began with "Over There" and signed off nostalgically with "Home Sweet Home." Much reading matter reached the troops, even those in forward positions. The daily newspaper, Stars and Stripes, which on occasion was enlivened for General Patton's troops by Mauldin's sardonic cartoons on Third Army discipline, went up to the lines with mail and rations. Yank, famous for its ultramammary and undraped "pin-up girls," came along once a week. But it is probable that of all the so-called "morale services" none were as important as mail from home and the supply of cigarettes. Early in October, when the Third Army front began to stabilize, a special daily train loaded with 400 tons of mail was run to the army area with the letters and packages that had accumulated at the beaches during the period of mobility. The "cigarette crisis" of October and early November, in its turn, was a matter of concern from the army headquarters up through the chain of higher command.
Military operations in Lorraine were little affected by the civilian life of this populous region. On the French side of the border the retreating Germans evacuated few inhabitants besides their own party and customs officials.
In Germany some large-scale movements of the civilian population took place, particularly in the Saar Basin, but even the German civilians tended to stick doggedly to their homes. Usually the civilian population, both French and German, took to their cellars while the battle, literally, passed over their heads. At Sarreguemines, for example, it was estimated that two-thirds of the inhabitants remained in the city while the American and German troops fought for its possession. Of course there was a considerable number of refugees--13,274 in the Third Army zone at the end of September and 32,735 at the close of November. Many of them were Russians, Poles, and Yugoslavs who had furnished slave labor in the mills and mines. The detachments of the 2d European Civil Affairs Regiment, the French officials, and the Third Army military police who handled the civilian population acted on "stand fast" orders designed to prevent mass movement on the main supply roads or the free circulation of potential spies. The Moselle River was marked as a "no passage" line for all civilians, partly to keep the roads free and to maintain security, but also because of the continuing fear that typhus might break out and strike the American troops.
One outstanding feature of the Lorraine Campaign was the co-operation between the XIX Tactical Air Command and the Third Army. To a considerable degree this must be attributed to the excellent relations between General Weyland, General Patton, and their respective staffs. The Third Army commander, conscious of the problems, limitations, and capabilities of air support, allowed himself to be guided by General Weyland, by Col. James Ferguson, the A-3 of the XIX TAC, and by Lt. Col. I. P. Murray, his own G-3 Air. General Weyland, in turn, extended himself and his command to meet the requests of the Third Army whenever the weather and the priorities imposed by higher headquarters permitted.
It must be said that the role played by the weather became increasingly important in the course of the campaign as a factor limiting air-ground cooperation. The fighter-bombers, from the Moselle eastward, were never capable of the continuous and spectacular support which had stamped the pursuit operations in August. The decline in the number of sorties flown by the XIX TAC, indicated in the following table, clearly shows the impact of
unfavorable seasonal weather (although it should be added that the strength of Weyland's command was reduced somewhat in the late fall).7
August 12,292 sorties September 7,791 sorties October 4,790 sorties November 3,509 sorties 1-22 December 2,563 sorties
During September the XIX TAC moved its bases eastward, as operations against Brest came to a close, setting up on airfields overrun by the Third Army in the area north and east of Chalôns-sur-Marne. By the end of the month all bases were sited within fifty miles of the army front. About 22 September General Weyland moved his advance headquarters to Etain, where General Patton was located; the two commanders lived as neighbors throughout the remainder of the campaign.
During September the XIX TAC combined efforts to interdict enemy movement into the battle area with close tactical support against objectives on the immediate army front. During the pursuit across France the ground forces had frequently been hampered by the all too effective air attacks against bridges lying in the path of the advance; as early as 1 August Patton had requested Weyland to leave intact the bridges along the Third Army axis. On 2 September the Allied Expeditionary Air Force ordered a stop to indiscriminate attacks on bridges and rail yards, adding an injunction against rail cutting, except for immediate tactical purposes. Air support in the days following tended to concentrate on strafing enemy troop movement, flying cover over the attacking ground troops, and bombing suspected German concentrations in such places as Metz, the Forêt de Haye and the Forêt de Parroy. The XIX TAC raids over the latter points were abetted by bombers from the IX Bombardment Division. As the Third Army advance came to a halt in late September, the XIX TAC reverted to its rail-cutting tactics in an attempt to prevent German reinforcement on the Lorraine front, but a stretch of bad weather intervened to cripple this effort.
The stalemate in October resulted in some changes in the air program. The Third Army artillery was emplaced in positions from which most targets to the immediate front could be handled. As a result XIX TAC, reinforced
on occasion by the IX Bombardment Division, set about strafing and smashing German supply dumps, barrack centers, and troop columns in the area between the Sarre and Rhine Rivers. Trier, Saarbruecken, Forbach, Zweibruecken, Sarreguemines, Bad Kreuznach, and Homburg appeared again and again on the target lists during these days. Uncertain weather precluded any extensive policing of cuts made in the German rail lines; therefore, on 2 October the prohibition against attacking railroad bridges and yards was lifted. The enemy, who was making considerable movement during this lull, was forced to travel on poor flying days, make his marches at night, or take his chances in the daylight. Weyland received a squadron of P-61 night fighters (the 425th) early in October, but the number of these planes was too small to have much effect.
Despite the poor weather and the short days in November the XIX TAC was able to give considerable support in the initial phases of the Third Army offensive, flying 2,114 sorties between the 8th and 19th. A concentrated effort was made, as in early October, against the Metz-Thionville position, but in general the fighter-bombers joined in the ground attack from village to village. In this fighting the XIX TAC used an extremely effective procedure: the lead planes dropped 500-lb. general purpose bombs to split the stone houses open; then fragmentation bombs were used to catch the enemy troops; finally napalm bombs set the village ablaze. The German ground forces, however, were better able to retaliate in November, since the number of Flak batteries opposite the Third Army had been greatly increased, and the low-flying American squadrons suffered considerable loss. The army met this new development with an anti-Flak program, in which the ground batteries massed their fire on all known locations of German Flak while the fighter-bombers were overhead. Reports by the American pilots indicate that this inverted type of air-ground co-operation was fairly successful.
Poor flying weather in December further curtailed the air support available to the Third Army, now battling where pinpoint bombing was needed. From 1 December until the Lorraine Campaign ended, the XIX TAC had only six days suitable for full-scale operations. Tactical reconnaissance, always an important feature of the support furnished by Weyland's command, was severely hampered by the December weather. The Third Army's own light craft, the ubiquitous and valuable artillery liaison planes, flew when they could; but they too had only limited usefulness. As a result the army fought its way forward over difficult ground and through layers of fortifications with
a patch over one eye. Nonetheless the XIX TAC and the IX Bombardment Division were able to intervene with some effect in the XX Corps battle for the Sarre bridgehead--a last contribution to the Lorraine Campaign.
Little has been said of the strategic efforts by the Allied Air Forces as these affected operations by the Third Army. Any chain of cause and effect between the thousand-bomber raids over Mannheim, as an example, and tactical events on the Lorraine front would be difficult to link together. Yet in one respect the entire course of the Lorraine Campaign was affected in demonstrable fashion by the strategic air war. Few of Patton's troops ever saw more than a single German plane at a time, although they may have been subjected to a short night bombing or may have heard a few enemy reconnaissance planes chugging overhead in the darkness, making their rounds as "bed check Charlies." The supremacy in the air achieved by the Allied Air Forces before the invasion of Normandy, and retained after D Day, allowed the Third Army a degree of tactical mobility and logistical freedom that was nearly absolute insofar as any threat from the Luftwaffe was concerned. During the first week of September, it is true, the II Fighter Corps (Jagdkorps) succeeded in breaking through in some force, striking at the 4th Armored Division and the bridges over the Meuse, but without much effect. On 6 September the II Fighter Corps recorded 110 sorties aimed at the troops and bridges west of Metz, but apparently much of this effort was deflected far short of the target area by American planes. In the meantime the IX Air Corps (Fliegerkorps) had essayed a series of night raids against the Marne and Meuse bridges held by the Third Army. Here the concentration of antiaircraft artillery made things so hot for the German bombers that they consistently missed their targets. On 7 September the Luftwaffe reported 337 planes ready for a major effort, presumably aimed at the Third Army, but poor flying weather and lack of aviation fuel kept most of the planes on the ground. In the weeks that followed, the Third Air Force, the German tactical air command on the Western Front, turned its attention to the Allied armies in the north. On the 19th of September and again on the 24th German attack planes were diverted from the northern front to fly cover over the Fifth Panzer Army, then fighting to break into the right flank of the Third Army. Either the Luftwaffe lacked the planes and gasoline to make a major effort, or the American fighters cut down the enemy short of their goal; in any case the Third Army antiaircraft batteries reported this period as a "quiet week." By the end of September the threat of German planes over the Third Army area had dwindled to the point that
American vehicles were driving as far as the corps rear boundaries with their headlights full on. Until the close of the campaign Patton's antiaircraft gunners continued to knock down German planes, but these were few in number and usually engaged in reconnaissance missions.
The impact of the great Allied air offensive against the war production of the Third Reich was undoubtedly felt by the German ground forces facing the Third Army, although this is less susceptible to documentation than the far-reaching effects of the Allied control of the air. But if the effects of fluctuations in the production of armored vehicles induced by the great bombing raids over Mannheim and Kassel did not reach as far as the German armored formations in Lorraine, it is certain that the vicissitudes encountered by the enemy supply columns and trains moving ammunition, gasoline, and heavy equipment to the Western Front must be attributed in large part to the strategic air offensive mounted by the American Air Forces and the RAF.
Throughout the Lorraine Campaign the Third Army enjoyed a marked superiority over the enemy in matériel, at least by any quantitative comparison. The employment of the artillery arm offers an excellent example of this superiority. Just before the November offensive Hitler increased the allocation of guns and ammunition on the Army Group G front; the new allocation was continued until the eve of the Ardennes offensive. During the period 11 to 20 November Army Group G used 143 batteries (approximately 600 pieces) and fired 205,660 rounds against the Third Army and the 6th Army Group. Across the lines the Third Army alone employed nearly 1,000 pieces, including tank destroyers firing in an artillery role. As contrasted with an average daily expenditure by the entire Army Group G artillery amounting to a little more than 22,000 rounds during this period, the XII Corps alone fired 17,677 rounds on 11 November and subsequently increased its fire on 25 November to 24,346 rounds. During the fight for the Saarlautern-Dillingen bridgehead the XX Corps artillery fired an average of somewhat over 15,000 rounds per day. The enemy artillery in this sector, reinforced by Hitler's orders, fired about 6,000 rounds per day.
The Lorraine Campaign was too limited in duration to see much change in armament and equipment. The towed 3-inch gun in the separate tank destroyer battalions was gradually replaced by the self-propelled, high-velocity
90-mm. gun. In general the tank destroyer functioned as an assault gun accompanying the infantry or as a field piece thickening fires by the corps or division artillery. Although often employed successfully against hostile tanks the tank destroyer usually made its kills at long ranges. Toward the end of the campaign the 540 tank destroyers then in the Third Army reverted to type as weapons for direct fire, working in close support of the infantry and armor against pillboxes, antitank guns, machine gun emplacements, and the like. In December the tank destroyers with the XX Corps fired 27,289 rounds in direct fire and only 900 rounds indirect, as compared with 24,741 rounds indirect and 2,422 rounds direct during November. The 57-mm. antitank gun remained in general use throughout the campaign, although the 6th Armored Division officially scrapped this weapon and a few other units simply abandoned the gun along the way. It had little value when employed against hostile armor, and its use against infantry was restricted by the limited issue of canister. The bazooka began to appear as a popular weapon toward the close of the campaign. There are relatively few recorded instances in which the bazooka was successfully employed against German armor, but the engineers and infantry found it useful in reducing machine gun emplacements and pillboxes. The BAR, one of the oldest weapons in the American Army, had a considerable vogue in both infantry and armored divisions. Nearly every unit carried more BAR's than called for in the Tables of Equipment--one explanation of the constant shortage of this item in the depots.
Lorraine was a good testing ground for the American medium tank, the M-4. The army commander was a student of tank warfare; moreover, he was willing to give his armored formations a free hand. The two armored divisions that continued with the Third Army throughout the campaign had won recognition even before they reached the Moselle. Patton employed his tanks under favorable and unfavorable conditions alike. They fought in large-scale armored battles, tank against tank, and supported the infantry in an assault gun role. So varied was the armored experience in Lorraine that at first glance it would seem possible to give an accurate and final evaluation of the combat characteristics of the M-4 rank as opposed to the German Mark IV and the Panther. But the battles in Lorraine were not fought under conditions conducive to a clean-cut decision on the relative merits of the opposing armor, even when, as in September, tank was pitted against tank. In the first place, the American tanks always outnumbered those thrown against them. Second, in the largest armored battles the enemy was forced to employ untrained
tank crews against the veteran Americans and French. Finally, the German tanks had to operate with no air cover and with very limited artillery support. The competing claims for German tank kills made by the Allied armor, fighter-bombers, and artillery give some clue to the crushing weight of this combination of arms when hurled against tanks fighting almost unaided.
During the Lorraine Campaign General Patton and a few of his armored commanders were called upon to furnish "testimonials" as to the efficacy in action of the M-4 tank. These "testimonials" may have had some value in building public confidence in American armored equipment, but they should not be taken as a critical evaluation of the American medium tank. The M-4, mounting the short-barreled 75, was outgunned by the Panther (Mark V). The M-4 was less adequately protected by armor than was the Panther. The American medium tank, however, had some important points of superiority. It was more mobile than either the Mark IV or the Panther, although less maneuverable than the latter. Its gyrostabilizer and power traverse permitted a greater flexibility and rapidity of fire than the enemy tanks could attain. It may therefore be said that, while the American tank at this period of the war had been outdistanced in the race to pile more armor and heavier guns on the tank chassis, certain features of mechanical superiority and weight of numbers kept the M-4 in the running. During 1944 higher American headquarters made various attempts to redress the balance in armament and weaponing. Experiments were conducted with an eye to improving the American armor-piercing projectile. A number of modified M-4's with heavier armor were sent to the European Theater of Operations, but only a few specimens of the new model reached the Third Army. The 76-mm. tank gun began to replace the short-barreled 75 as the Lorraine operations progressed and the new 105-mm. howitzer mounted in headquarters tanks proved to be very useful (particularly when fired in battery). Nonetheless the Americans fought the Lorraine tank battles with a relatively obsolescent weapon.
Characteristics of Operations
In the course of the Lorraine Campaign, the tactics of the Third Army were modified considerably by reason of the terrain, the weather, and the nature of enemy resistance. The earlier drive across western France had seen the fortunate combination of a dashing armored commander, ground suited
Last Phase of Lorraine Offensive
3-19 December 1944
for tank action, and an almost complete demoralization and disorganization in the forces of the enemy. The subsequent German stand at the Moselle line benefited, it is true, from the logistical lag in Allied operations, but in its more important implication the re-establishment of an organized front typified the amazing powers of recuperation still possessed by the Wehrmacht throughout 1944. This revival of the will to resist is shown by the fact that the Third Army took only 10,000 more prisoners in the period 1 September to 20 December than it captured during the single month of August.
In contrast to the pursuit period, operations in Lorraine were characterized by prepared assaults to gain river crossings, battles to break out of shallow bridgeheads, and limited-objective attacks against well-organized positions. Occasionally the weather, the ground, and the tactical situation permitted a wide sweep and a fairly deep penetration, in the manner so common during the August drive. Occasionally, too, the Third Army made a co-ordinated attack on a broad front, reminiscent of attacks on a much larger scale in World War I. In general, and this was particularly true of the last weeks in Lorraine, separate attacks were made on relatively narrow fronts, aiming at the seizure of one or two points and concentrating every available weapon in support. This procedure cut losses but also took much time; in addition it permitted the weaker German artillery some measure of concentrated fire. In November and December, swampy ground, a limited road net, fogs rising from the river basins, and fewer hours of daylight all combined to slow the American advance. (Map XLII) The more the attack slowed down, the more obstacles the enemy could place in the path of the advance. Patton's dictum that "the flanks can take care of themselves" required considerable revision in the last weeks of the campaign. Bypassing the enemy and operating with open flanks had proved successful in periods of rapid advance, but as the Third Army neared the Sarre and the offensive slowed to an "infantry pace" any cavalier disregard for the flanks became the exception rather than the rule. In this connection, however, it must be remembered that the strength of the German forces opposing the Third Army did not, after September, allow counterattacks on any large scale. Therefore some "calculated risk" was possible up to the close of the campaign.
The fight for observation and ground was a conspicuous feature in the early days of the battle for Lorraine. In part this resulted from the sharply etched character of the Moselle Plateau, in part from the flair for choosing and defending terrain which seemed to mark most German formations and
commanders. The resumption of the offensive after the October pause introduced a general change in which the fight was waged from village to village, rather than from hill to hill. Unusually heavy rains and bitter cold forced both sides to leave the wooded areas, which had earlier served as bivouac and assembly positions, and seek shelter in towns, villages, and farmsteads. Some advantages accrued to the American forces in this type of warfare. Villages could be readily encircled and the garrisons could be prevented from withdrawing to fight another day. The advance from village to village made it easier to keep supply routes open. Enemy troops assembled in buildings offered a better target from the air than when hidden in wood lots and forests--despite the protection offered by the stone walls and cellars that characterized the Lorraine communities. On the other hand, the task of mopping up such centers of resistance was of necessity a slow business in a populous region like the Lorraine plain.8 If the Americans occupied a village late in the limited hours of daylight they might reasonably expect to be the object of a counterattack. Furthermore, throughout this campaign the German on the defensive proved his ability to accomplish much with little; given the protection provided in one of the Lorraine villages the German was capable of a delaying action out of all proportion to his numbers.9
The relation of armor to infantry altered perceptibly as the Lorraine Campaign progressed and tank going deteriorated. This change was indicated by attempts to convert antitank gunners and other armored division personnel to armored infantry, by numerous complaints that the armored division lacked an adequate complement of armored infantry in the Tables of Organization, by the rising proportion of casualties in the infantry organic to the armored division, and by the continuing demand from armored commanders for close support by the "doughs." Patton's tanks continued to prove their worth throughout the campaign in exploitation and as weapons giving mobility and shock effect. However, the mass and depth in which tanks could be employed constricted severely as the road nets dwindled near the German frontier and cross-country movement ended in the mud. Nor did the operations in Lorraine conclusively prove Patton's contention that armor could breach fortified positions constructed in depth. Although the Germans were seldom able to
20 December 1944
collect any sizable armored formation for employment as a unit against the Third Army, the history of operations in Lorraine indicates the attraction of armor to armor. While the self-propelled tank destroyer was often able to seek out and destroy tanks, a role also common to the German self-propelled long-barreled 75-mm. and 88-mm. gun, the most successful weapon employed in Lorraine against German tanks was the American tank.
From beginning to end of the Lorraine Campaign the Third Army had liberated or conquered approximately 5,000 square miles of enemy-held territory. Tactically, the Lorraine operations of the Third Army had resulted in the loss to the enemy of three highly important defensive positions, those of the Moselle, the Nied, and the Sarre Rivers. The West Wall still stood in the path of a drive to the Rhine, but the Third Army had drastically reduced the German space for maneuver west of that river. Strategically, the Third Army campaign had resulted in the loss to the German war economy of the military production based on the mines of Lorraine and the Saar Basin, although in the latter case some work continued even after the factories and rolling mills were in range of heavy artillery. Besides, the battle for Lorraine had forced the German high command to divert substantial forces from the defense of the Ruhr. This dispersion of enemy resources, especially armor, had been particularly telling in the early phases of the battle for the Aachen gateway. General Patton's persistent offensive during November and early December also had delayed the movement of key German divisions from the Third Army front to the strategic reserve that was being assembled, trained, and re-equipped for employment in the December counteroffensive. It is true that this enemy counteroffensive worked to deflect General Patton's divisions short of the Rhine and brought the Lorraine Campaign to an abrupt conclusion. (Map XLIII) But the German forces had been so badly shattered in Lorraine that the Third Army was able to disengage on this front with relative ease as it turned to intervene in the battle of the Ardennes.10
1. OKH Gen. St. d. H., Abt. Fremde Heere West: Einzelnachrichten des Ic Dienstes West.
2. TUSA AAR, I.
3. TUSA G-1 Periodic Rpt, Nos. 5 through 43. These figures cover the period 1 September-18 December 1944.
4. Medical aspects of the operations in 1944 will be treated in the official history now being compiled by the Historical Division, Office of the Surgeon General.
5. TUSA Diary, 1 Dec 44.
6. For a detailed history of supply see Ruppenthal, Logistical Support.
7. TUSA AAR, I.
8. In November, for example, the XII Corps advance captured 279 towns and villages.
9. A number of the German commanders who were interrogated at the close of the war reaffirmed the World War I axiom that the attacker requires a three-to-one superiority over the defender so long as the latter is holding an organized position. A few German officers have set the ratio at six to one.
10. For the story of this operation, see Cole, The Ardennes, now in preparation.